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Two years in, city declares Improve Detroit app a success

The city of Detroit has been trying to improve the way it handles neighborhood issues, like potholes and fallen tree removal. That's why it created the appropriately named Improve Detroit app. Now two years old, the app has "helped residents address 67,000 neighborhood issues," according to the city. 

The functionality of the app is simple: give a title and description to the issue, take a picture, and add a location. This information is then routed to the appropriate department to resolve. The app can also redirect users to sites for Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, Detroit Police Department, and more. 

The city has been tracking both the number of problems they've addressed and how long it takes to do so. According to numbers from a press release, they've addressed: 
  • 8,913 illegal dumping complaints in an average of 5.9 days
  • 5,888 potholes in an average of 3.7 days
  • 5,412 tree issues in an average of 41 days
  • 4,237 abandoned vehicles in an average of 5.1 days
  • 3,448 traffic sign issues in an average of 5 days
"This new approach to addressing citizen concerns has really transformed how the City delivers its most basic services to its residents," Mayor Duggan said, in a press release. "I run into people all the time who tell me they reported an issue through Improve Detroit and how well it worked for them."

Cobo Center recognized for meeting green venue standard

It isn't widely known, but Detroit's Cobo Center is fairly sustainable for a building of its size. And an international standards organization continues to recognized it as such. 

The Cobo Center has once again met the American Society for Testing and Materials International (ASTM International) "Venue Standard," which grades venues on such criteria as staff management and communications, as well as waste management and energy use.

The Cobo will also host this year's Sustainable Brands (SB'17) conference, which, according to a press release, is "the largest global convening of brand leaders and sustainability practitioners. 1,500 people from across the globe are expected to attend the May 22 to 25 event."

And ASTM isn't the only organization to recognize Cobo's sustainability efforts. "In 2012, Cobo became the largest Green Venues Michigan facility. In 2014, Cobo was designated an EcoWorks Sustainable Communities Champion, and in 2015 the Detroit Free Press named Cobo Center a Detroit Green Leader. In 2016, Keep Michigan Beautiful awarded Cobo Center their highest honor, the KMB President’s Plaque."

Cobo Center also lists the many "green initiatives" it's undertaken on its website. 

City of Detroit puts out RFP for affordable housing redevelopment in Banglatown

We at Model D are big advocates for strategic use of affordable housing (check out our piece from January on the topic). That's why we're excited about another affordable housing project, this one taking place in Banglatown, near the Detroit-Hamtramck border.

Curbed Detroit reports that the city of Detroit put out an RFP for a vacant Catholic school in the neighborhood. The Archdiocese of Detroit currently owns the building and will be collaborating on the project. 

21,500-square-foot Transfiguration School Building, writes Robin Runyan for Curbed, "could be converted into 15-25 residential units, 20 percent of which will be affordable housing. Many of the building’s original features such as terrazzo flooring, tin ceilings, and original woodwork are in excellent condition."

Check out the RFP here

Halfpipe to be temporarily installed in Fisher Building

In one of the more intriguing exhibits this publication has heard about, a halfpipe will be temporarily installed in the Fisher Building. Halfpipes are used by skateboarders, BMXers, snowboarders, and other practitioners of "extreme" sports to showcase in-air tricks. 

Fisher Halfpipe was designed by the group Mkr City and is sponsored by The Platform. The project, according to head curator Everard Findlay, "explores the idea of the commons, and the way that certain sports, such as skateboarding, transcend barriers of race, class, and culture to draw disparate groups into community." 

The halfpipe will bisect the main lobby with room for Fisher Building patrons to walk underneath. The ramp will be open to the public, and Mkr City will soon be posting information on their Facebook page about how to apply. 

Fisher Halfpipe will be open April 3 through 6. Check out the Facebook page for more information. 

15 Detroit businesses in running for national grant contest

Several Detroit businesses have made the semi-finals of a national, small-business grant contest. "The FedEx Small Business Grant Contest will award $25,000 and $7,500 in FedEx Office print and business services to one grand prize winner," writes Stephanie Steinberg in an article for the Detroit News

15 Detroit businesses have made it this far, but are competing against approximately 1,000 others nationally. After a round of voting that narrows the total to 100, FedEx will announce the three winners on April 25.

One of the local businesses profiled in the Detroit News piece is Detroit Bridal House, a clothing store that sells wedding gowns. "If she wins, London says she'll use the funds to move into a building on Livernois' Avenue of Fashion or in Woodbridge or Midtown."

Voting period for The FedEx Small Business Grant Contest ends April 5. 

Detroit Collaborative Design Center wins prestigious architecture award

The Detroit Collaborative Design Center (DCDC) has worked on some innovative projects since its inception in 1994. The University of Detroit Mercy's architecture and urban design firm that's partially composed of students has worked on bigger neighborhood strategies like RecoveryPark, and specific designs like The Alley Project.

And now they've been recognized for these efforts. The DCDC has been named the 2017 winner of the American Institute of Architects' prestigious Whitney M. Young Jr. Award. Named for the civil rights leader, the honor is given to an architectural organization that "embodies social responsibility and actively addresses a relevant issue, such as affordable housing, inclusiveness or universal access."

"For any architect or organization committed to public interest design, this is without a doubt the highest honor one could hope to receive," said Will Wittig, AIA, dean of the School of Architecture, in a press release.

The award will be officially presented at the AIA national convention in Orlando Florida in April. 

Major improvements coming to East Riverfront

In just the last few years, a lot of development has taken place in the East Riverfront area adjacent to downtown Detroit, such as Harbortown Apartments and Outdoor Adventure Center. Even more is still to come.

This week, the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy, City of Detroit Planning & Development Department and the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (DEGC) released a strategic framework plan for the East Riverfront.

The plan establishes an expanded riverfront "parkland" that will be "free from development forever." There will also be two additional "Dequindre Cut-style greenways" and streetscape improvements to increase connectivity to the riverfront. 

"The riverfront belongs to all Detroiters," said Maurice D. Cox, director of the City of Detroit Planning & Development Department, in a press release. "Thanks to the involvement of hundreds of residents, we have principles that frame an international riverfront that can be accessed and enjoyed by all."

The DEGC also announced an RFP for the Stone Soap building at 1490 Franklin. According to the press release: "The RFP will envision an adaptive reuse of the historic structure with a mixed-use development that will increase density along the riverfront."

Read more about the plans for the East Riverfront here


Hamtramck community space Bank Suey to host local marketplace

Bank Suey, a community space in Hamtramck, has hosted a number of creative events in its brief history. We're really excited about this latest one.

Dubbed "Shop Suey," Bank Suey will be hosting its first local marketplace. There will be clothes, jewelry, housewares, and plenty of food and drink for sale. 

Bank Suey is a flexible event space. Previously, it's hosted musical shows, art exhibits, speeches and discussions, and various popups. 

Shop Suey takes place on March 11, from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at corner of Joseph Campau and Caniff. For more information on vendors, check out the Facebook event page


Developers buy four New Center buildings for $3.1M

Optima Aegidius Group, a German-based development group, just purchased four buildings in New Center near TechTown Detroit for $3.1 million, according to a Crain's Detroit Business article.

The four buildings, writes Kirk Pinho, "total just more than 71,000 square feet. The company anticipates building additional space on top, totaling 21,000 square feet to accommodate the planned 60 units. As planned, the project would also have 29,000 square feet of retail space. Construction is expected to begin next year after financing and city approvals are received."

The group has contracted local developer Scott Lowell to carry out the project.

Read the full Crain's article here.

185-unit apartment complex set to open soon in Lafayette Park

Lafayette Park, the east-side neighborhood containing the acclaimed Mies van der Rohe townhouses, has had little new construction for decades. Until now.

DuCharme Place, a $45 million, 185-unit development comprising four apartment buildings, is set to open soon. It will be the first "new lifestyle community in 40 years," according to a Multifamily Executive article. 

The design, writes Jennifer Goodman, was inspired by Lafayette Park's own van der Rohe.

"The contemporary and energy-efficient design will feature a terraced live green roof complete with lawn, garden, fitness center, and swimming pool. Exteriors will include insulated glazing and be clad in a rain screen fiber-cement reinforced panel system with aluminum-framed windows, featuring railings of laser-cut painted metal."

Read the full Multifamily Executive article here.

BLAC Magazine lists best ways to celebrate Black History Month in Metro Detroit

Looking for ways to observe Black History Month in Detroit? Well, BLAC Magazine has compiled a helpful list of eight venues and events happening in February around Metro Detroit.

Included in the list are expected institutions like museums, libraries, and universities. For example, The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn is will, for 20 days, "explore different aspects of Black history, from the northern migration and the civil rights era, all the way to present-day issues. Activities will take place throughout the museum, including in the Michigan Café, which will feature African-American-inspired recipes."

A surprising and intriguing inclusion on the list is the downtown PuppetART Detroit Puppet Theater, which is performing "Oh Ananse!", "PuppetART's popular annual hip-hop-flavored take on a West African story."

Click here for the full list with dates and times.

Allied Media Conference seeks session proposals for AMC2017

The Allied Media Conference (AMC) is an annual conference held every summer in Detroit dedicated to using art, media and technology to advance social justice and social change. Last year was the conference's 10th in Detroit, but according to event organizer Allied Media Projects (AMP), "AMC2017 will be the most important Allied Media Conference that we have ever hosted."

One unique feature of AMC is that attendees have the ability to shape the conference. And one major way they can do that is by proposing sessions, which anyone can do until the deadline on March 12. 

[Check out Model D's article on the AMC celebrating 10 years in Detroit]

AMP has some general criteria they look for in session proposals: "We especially love sessions that share interesting ideas, strategies, and tools in an accessible way, and that offer opportunities for continued work and connections beyond the AMC."

The organization is also hosting three online information meetings for people who want more info on the process.

Click here to propose a session or for more info on the AMC and session guidelines.

Downtown synagogue hires rabbi, plans major renovations

For the first time in 16 years, Detroit's only synagogue will have a new rabbi.

Arianna Silverman was named the rabbi of Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue last year, according to an article in the Detroit News. Previously, the synagogue was lay-led, meaning members of the congregation would lead services.

Silverman, a "a 39-year-old Manhattan transplant," said a major reason she took the post was because of the youth-led Jewish revival in the city. "They are a big reason I'm here," Silverman said in the article. "We have plenty of people who attend our services who are in their 20s and 30s. Many are involved in nonprofit work, community gardens, social justice, cultural issues."

In related news, "The synagogue is preparing to launch a multimillion-dollar campaign to restore the building," writes Louis Aguilar. "They want to convert the top two floors into more office space, add an alternative chapel, as well as community meeting and rental facilities."

Homegrown comics co-create Comedy Central show, "Detroiters"

A couple of local comedians have co-created a Comedy Central show set to debut on Feb. 7.

Sam Richardson and Tim Robinson wrote and star in "Detroiters," a show about two ad-men and good friends from Detroit. The New York Times recently published an article about the show and its creators, which labeled Detroit as "Comic City."

In it, the pair talk about their distaste for portrayals of Detroit: "'The typical depiction of Detroit is this blighted, 'RoboCop' post-apocalyptic world,' said Mr. Richardson, best known for playing the unflappable aide Richard Splett on 'Veep.'

"Mr. Robinson, a featured player and then a writer for "Saturday Night Live," described the look in even darker terms. 'It's ruin porn,' he said. 'It's all burnt-out buildings. It seemed like almost everything that was getting shot in Detroit for a while was a horror movie. We just wanted to show the city the way we saw it growing up.'"

Richardson and Robinson both honed their comic skills at Second City: Detroit before it closed. And if you're lucky, you can occasionally catch them improvising at the Planet Ant Theater.

Detroit Revitalization Fellows accepting applications for 2017-2019 term

Wayne State University is once again accepting applications for its Detroit Revitalization Fellows program.

The fellowship places talented, "mid-career" individuals for two-year full-time jobs in organizations or companies "working at the forefront of Detroit’s revitalization efforts." Previous placements have been at foundations like Hudson-Webber, companies like Rock Venture, and nonprofits like Jefferson East, Inc.

Prior fellows have been impressively diverse in race, gender, and origin. And many who come from outside Detroit end up staying after the fellowship ends.

"Being a Detroit Revitalization Fellow is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play a role in the transformation of a great American city," said Asandi Conner, director of Detroit Revitalization Fellows, in a press release. "These are meaningful positions for emerging leaders ready to drive progress while building a strong network, learning firsthand about urban challenges and opportunities, and working side-by-side with Detroiters who are deeply invested in our city's future."

Other facts about the fellowship:
  • 67 fellows have completed the program since it began in 2011
  • More than 650 applications were received for the 2015-2017 program
  • Approximately 20 fellows will be selected this round
The application period runs from January 23 through February 10. To apply or learn more, visit detroitfellows.wayne.edu.  WSU is also holding a series of informational sessions to aid the prospective applicants. Here are the dates, times, and locations: 
  • Tuesday, Jan. 17 at 6 p.m. at the Arab American National Museum (13624 Michigan Ave., Dearborn, MI 48126);
  • Wednesday, Jan. 18 at 6 p.m. at the Matrix Center (13560 E. McNichols, Detroit, MI 48205);
  • Tuesday, Jan. 24 at 6 p.m. at Marygrove College, Madame Cadillac Building, Main Dining Hall (8425 W. McNichols Rd. Detroit, MI 48221)
  • Wednesday, Jan. 25 at 9 a.m. at TechTown (440 Burroughs St., Detroit, MI 48202);
  • Tuesday, Jan. 31 at noon (Virtual, visit detroitfellows.wayne.edu to register);
  • Thursday, Feb. 2 at 6 p.m. at Detroit Cristo Rey High School (5679 Vernor Hwy., Detroit, MI 48209).
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