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City of Detroit launches $250 million initiative to preserve and build affordable housing

Last week, we wrote about the potential effects of Detroit's inclusionary housing ordinance on development and low-income residents' ability to afford housing in the densest parts of the city. One aspect of the ordinance that was less clear, however, was the The Detroit Affordable Housing Development and Preservation Fund, which was supposed to set aside $2 million a year to use towards housing projects affecting people at 50 percent AMI or lower.

Well it appears that the city of Detroit will massively increase the amount of money set aside for projects like that. In his State of the City address, Mayor Mike Duggan announced plans to establish a $250 million multifamily affordable housing fund, and the city has just released more details about it. 

The city hopes to accomplish two goals by 2023: preserve the affordability of 10,000 units of multifamily housing, and build 2,000 new affordable multifamily housing units. It plans to do so in targeted areas along existing commercial corridors such as Gratiot Avenue, Vernor Highway, Mack Avenue, and others.

Money for the fund, called The Affordable Housing Leverage Fund, will come from grants, low-interest loans, federal subsidies, and the city's budget. 

"The preservation and creation of affordable housing is the cornerstone of our growth strategy," said Mayor Mike Duggan. "Affordable housing offers stability for the city's low-income residents and provides options to households at a range of incomes in all neighborhoods. This is what we are talking about when we say that we are building one city for all of us."

Part of that strategy will include shoring up existing affordable housing through enhanced oversight and assistance, addressing chronic homelessness by improving supportive housing, and much more. 

Read the city's plan for the Affordable Housing Leverage Fund here

Detroit City FC to open indoor sports facility in 2018

Whether it's donating proceeds from ticket sales to a charity or giving fans the opportunity to invest in the club, Detroit City FC, the city's popular amateur soccer team, has continually found ways to engage the community. And it will continue doing so with a new development project.

In September 2018, the Detroit City Fieldhouse will open its doors, taking the place of the former practice arena of the Detroit Red Wings. 

The 75,000 sq. ft. space will consist of two fields, one open and one boarded, to host more than one game at a time. Both recreational and professional soccer will be allowed in the facility.

[Read Model D's article on how Detroit City FC is exploring becoming a pro club]

Detroit City FC has signed a five-year lease, according to Crain's Detroit Business

The club has been extremely popular with its fans, attracted up to 5,000 attendees to games. With this new facility, they hope to create lifelong fans of the sport and team. Adults and children will be able to use the facility to hold leagues and practices. Flag football and lacrosse can also be played.  

DCFC owners plan to keep prices to rent or play affordable. 

There will be spaces for sports-related small businesses to open, allowing people to purchase what they need at the facility. There will be a kitchen and bar as well, so that people can eat during their activities.

The facility will also use energy-efficient lighting and new additions to beautify the former Red Wings ice rink.

The Detroit City Fieldhouse will be located at 3401 E. Lafayette St.

City of Detroit puts out RFP for Lee Plaza and Woodland Apartments, totaling 250 units

The Lee Plaza, an Art Deco apartment building built in 1927 on W. Grand Boulevard, was perhaps the most ornate of its kind in Detroit. According to Historic Detroit, "The Lee was decked out in extravagance by sculptor Corrado Parducci. The first floor was filled with marble, expensive woods, and elaborate plasterwork; its ornamental ceilings craned necks."

But after the Lee closed in 1997, scrappers ravaged it, even stealing the 50 terra cotta lion heads on the building's exterior. Dreams of redevelopment seemed doomed. No longer. 

The thirst for historic redevelopment in Detroit is so great that the city is seeking requests for proposals to redevelop Lee Plaza, as well as the Woodland Apartments on Woodland Street just east of Woodward. 

According to a press release, the two projects would total nearly 250 mixed-income units, 20 percent of which must be set aside for individuals making $38,000 a year or less.

"For years these buildings have been seen as a symbol of our city's decline. In partnership with developers in the community, they will become examples of the city's resurgence that is now reaching into more neighborhoods and becoming more accessible to people of all income levels," said Mayor Mike Duggan. "We've seen progress in the areas around both Lee Plaza and Woodland Apartments. While these are challenging projects, these buildings can become major anchors in these communities."

The development of Lee Plaza, which is expected to take several years, would also include the adjacent land. As for the Woodland, "the city is also encouraging developers to consider the site for permanent supportive housing for individuals experiencing homelessness."

Renovations complete, programs commence with journalist Stephen Henderson's Tuxedo Project

Around this time last year we reported on an interesting project—one that even made our list of the 7 most exciting developments in Detroit for 2017—spearheaded by Stephen Henderson, a Pulitzer-prize winning columnist for the Detroit Free Press. Henderson had just completed a successful Patronicity campaign to purchase his childhood home on Tuxedo Street, which had fallen into a state of disrepair, so he could renovate and transform it into a literary arts and community center. 

We're happy to report a year later that the Tuxedo Project is moving along almost exactly as planned, and then some. Yesterday, with the help of the Detroit Land Bank Authority and the Adamo Group, the dilapidated home next door was demolished. Adamo donated the demolition, estimated at a cost of $18,000. 

Renovations were completed on the Tuxedo Project house itself this summer, and an English professor-in-residence, Rose Gorman of Marygrove College, moved there in August. Already the house is active with literary events—Gorman has hosted a poetry slam and her creative writing class meets there. 

"It's a literary center," Gorman says. "And the easiest way to start doing the work that we hope to do in the future is by doing, well, literary stuff."

On the newly-vacant adjacent lot, Henderson plans to build a community space with easy indoor/outdoor access, and perhaps an urban garden.

This project is intensely personal to Henderson—he grew up on the block, in the very house that was renovated, and is using it as a platform to uplift people through writing and reading. "The literary arts are what carried me from this house to all the other opportunities I've had in my life," Henderson says. "And that should be available to everyone."

17 of the 35 houses on the block were abandoned when Henderson launched The Tuxedo Project. Three houses later—two demolished plus the literary house—and there's still much work to be done. His goal is to demolish or renovate all of them.

Henderson is quick to note that Tuxedo Street is not unique. 

"I hope it's eventually possible for projects like this to take place throughout the city using market tools … This happens to be my house, that's why I focused on it, but there's hundreds of blocks like this throughout the city."

Bedrock to invest $2.1B in downtown Detroit development projects

Bedrock, the real-estate and development firm headed by Dan Gilbert, has already reshaped downtown Detroit by buying and redeveloping dozens of historic buildings and populating them with tenants. But its project of remaking downtown Detroit has just begun.

Bedrock just announced that it plans to invest an additional $2.1 billion in large-scale downtown developments. The projects include: the Hudson's Site, Monroe Blocks, Book Tower, and One Campus Martius expansion. 

"Detroit is going vertical," said Gilbert in a press release. "In fact, that is the only way to create any type of significant expansion in the city because we are virtually at full occupancy for residential and commercial space in both downtown and midtown. Transformational projects like these are necessary to both accommodate the expansion of current downtown businesses as well as making Detroit a legitimate competitor for new businesses and massive opportunities (like Amazon's HQ2), and attracting vital talent from all over the country and world."

The biggest development will be the 1 million-square-foot development on the Hudson's site, and cost an expected $900 million. Bedrock also claims it will have the tallest tower in the city. 

This publication is especially excited about the $313 million redevelopment of the Book Building and Tower, which Bedrock describes as "one of the most significant historic rehabilitation projects ever undertaken in Detroit." The Book Building has been abandoned since 2009, but was acquired by Bedrock in 2015 and got a power wash to its dirty limestone earlier this year. 

[Check out this Model D article on a Detroit company that specializes in historic restoration and worked on the Book Building]

Stephen Ross, Ford Foundation to invest millions in Detroit neighborhood housing projects

Earlier this year, we covered The Platform, a development firm that's investing millions of dollars outside the 7.2 square miles of greater downtown, and trying to be inclusive at the same time. 

Two major backers have clearly been encouraged by the work, and are inventing huge sums of money in the project. According to Crain's Detroit Business, billionaire Stephen Ross and the Ford Foundation have pledged $7.5 million and $10 million respectively towards The Platform Neighborhood Initiative. The Platform itself has pledged an additional $10 million, bringing the total to $27.5 million. 

"Each of the three investors bring something," write Kirk Pinho and Sherri Welch. "The Platform with the neighborhood development plan, the Ford Foundation with its mission-related investment and broader strategy to support equitable revitalization in Detroit, and Ross with a connection to his hometown and the ability to influence future investment."

Echoing statements made by The Platform executives about equitable development, Xav Briggs, vice president of economic opportunity for the Ford Foundation, said that "investments that displace people from a place they call home are anything but positive."

The Platform has development projects in the works throughout the city. While its most notable purchase was the Fisher Building in New Center, The Platform also does work in Islandview, North End, Live6, and more. They're also one of the development leads, along with Century Partners, on The Fitzgerald Revitalization Project, a massive housing project in northwest Detroit. 

Read the full Crain's article here

Downtown architecture exhibit to showcase the future of design in Detroit

September is filled with dozens of events relating to design in Detroit. We detailed many of the ways the city is celebrating its history of design, plus current and future efforts, which are all part of the Detroit Design Festival spurred by UNESCO endowing Detroit with its prestigious "City of Design" designation.

Much of this work is to determine what Detroit's urban environment will look like and how design can contribute to it. And that's exactly what an architecture exhibit opening downtown hopes to showcase. 

Called "Detroit Design 139," the exhibit will highlight 38 development projects throughout Detroit's 139 square miles. It is presented by Bedrock and the city of Detroit. The architectural designs on display include a mix of redevelopment efforts, like the David Whitney Building downtown, the Fitzgerald Revitalization Project in northwest Detroit, and the redesign of the East Riverfront. 

The exhibition also put forth "10 Design Principles" to demonstrate what kinds of designs will lead to a healthy, attractive city. They're interesting and worth listing in full:
  1. Advance design as a means to improve the quality-of-life for all people
  2. Balance function and beauty
  3. Advance a thoughtful design process rooted in meaningful community engagement
  4. Seek creative solutions to solve long-standing urban issues
  5. Honor context and history through contemporary design
  6. Activate the public realm
  7. Balance community cohesion with aesthetic diversity
  8. Impress the value of design on all projects and all audiences—emphasizing equity, design excellence, and inclusion
  9. Explore new ways to live, work, and play together in the 21st century city
  10. Celebrate Detroit's design legacy, while contributing to the city's design future
"Detroit Design 139" will be on display at the ground floor of 1001 Woodward in Campus Martius starting Sept. 14. It is free and open to the public from noon to 7 p.m., seven days a week.

City of Detroit sends message to speculators, issues 700 lawsuits

One common concern amidst Detroit's economic resurgence is the way speculators, many from outside the city, have acquired swaths of land only to sit on it. One WDET segment on Detroit Today estimated that speculators own 20 percent of all parcels in Detroit, but "have no real obligation to insure that land is well kept or fits into an overall neighborhood community."

That is, until recently. According to a Crain's Detroit Business article, the city of Detroit will be filing 700 lawsuits against negligent speculators. Writer Chad Livingood estimates that the number of individuals and companies affected by the lawsuits may climb to 1,500 by November. 

"The lawsuits target banks, land speculators, limited liability corporations and individuals with three or more rental properties in Detroit who typically buy the homes for cheap at a Wayne County auction and then eventually stop paying property tax bills and lose the home in foreclosure."

[For more information on the tax auction and foreclosures, check out Model D's two-part series on the topic]

Speculators swallowed up this land because it was sold, in some cases, for hundreds of dollars. The city had already filed nearly 70 lawsuits in August for owners who had more than $25,000 in unpaid property taxes. 

The article also states that, "the lawsuits do seek to establish a legal means for going after investors who buy cheap homes at auction and either rent them out and not pay the taxes or walk away from the house because it's damaged beyond repair, [attorney Andrew] Munro said.

"'That's the kind of behavior the city is trying to change,' he said."

September in Detroit means Design: 2017 Detroit Design Festival kicks off

In Detroit, you might as well call September "Design Month." Thanks to the efforts of Detroit Creative Corridor Center (DC3), a variety of design-themed events have been planned for the month as part of the Detroit Design Festival (DDF). 

The month kicks off with the Detroit City of Design Summit from Sept. 8 through 15 (last year's inaugural summit was covered by Model D). The event was spurred by UNESCO endowing Detroit with its prestigious "City of Design" designation—the first city in the United States to receive one. It will explore how Detroit can harness the designation and the efforts made towards that goal in the last year.

From Sept. 9 through Oct. 7, guests can view "Footwork," an exhibition put on by a series of partners on the future of work. Model D covered the group that went to St. Etienne, France where the exhibition was originally on display. 

The "festival" portion unofficially begins with a Drinks x Design on Sept. 14, where attendees can grab a program guide and tour some design-centric businesses and organizations. 

As usual, DC3 has helped organize the wondrous Eastern Market After Dark and Light Up Livernois events—annual displays of the ways art and business and historic public spaces can enliven each other. 

The 2017 Detroit Design Festival is taking place throughout most of September and some of October. Most of the events are free. View the whole DDF schedule here

Pure Detroit offers public walking tours of Packard Plant

For years, the Packard Plant has been a kind of mecca for urban explorers. It's no wonder—the 3.5 million square foot ruin has been abandoned for decades and is a marvel of might and blight. 

But soon, you won't have to be a trespassing explorer to see in inside of the Packard Plant. Pure Detroit, in partnership with Arte Express Detroit, will offer public walking tours of the historic Packard Plant on Saturdays, beginning August 12. 

The tours will last 90 minutes and cost $40. With space limited to 30 adults per tour, you'll have to reserve your spot in advance.

"Pure Detroit is excited to help highlight the extraordinary history of the Packard Plant with our partners Arte Express Detroit and the Packard Plant Project," said Kevin Borsay, owner of Pure Detroit, in a press release. "Our walking tours will offer a unique and enriching experience that focuses on the plant's past, present, and future contribution to the vitality of the city."

There have been rumors floating around about redeveloping the Packard Plant for years. Developer Fernando Palazuelo had said he plans to invest $500 million into the project. According to an article in Curbed Detroit, the first phase, a $16 million renovation of the Administration Building, will be completed by the end of 2018. "The building will be renovated for offices, with restaurant, gallery, and event space on the first floor."

Register for a tour of the Packard Plant here

A new program teaches Detroiters how to invest in property to profit from city's real estate boom

Wealthy developers are snapping up properties left and right in Detroit, leaving many residents to wonder if they'll be left with just the scraps. But, according to a City Lab article titled, "Can Detroiters Finally Get a Stake in the City's Real-Estate Boom?", a new real estate program looks to give Detroiters the information they need to invest in property.
The article details "Better Buildings, Better Blocks," "a neighborhood-based real-estate class that provides education and resources to residents of Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park," writes Andrea Penman-Lomeli.

"It was recently selected as one of the 33 winners of the 2017 Knight Cities Challenge, which will provide three years of funding for the class. Individuals who take the course learn firsthand how to invest in properties, focusing on acquisition, financing, and project management for small-scale projects. The goal of the program is to create a network that ensures that communities can sustainably rehabilitate residential and commercial spaces and that Detroiters can finally articulate how their city is remade."
The program is run by Chase Cantrell, of Building Community Value, who was featured in a Model D article about combating income inequality where he talked about the course, which he was in the process of designing.
"Part of the model is to create a fund that'll serve a singular purpose to invest in projects that come through the cohorts," said Cantrell in November 2016. "Once you go through the program, if you have a promising project, you can get a loan or equity investment from the fund."
According to the City Lab article, much of those original goals are still in place. Sessions will be taught by local developers, based on a curriculum designed by University of Michigan professor Peter Allen. 

Learn more about the "Better Buildings, Better Blocks" course here.

Details of Free Press Building redevelopment emerge

Among the numerous downtown redevelopments taking place in Detroit, perhaps none is more exciting than the old Detroit Free Press Building. 
The architecture and interior design firm Kraemer Design Group (KDG), in a newsletter, released some of the details of its renovation. There will be "structural updates, complete masonry restoration, new energy-efficient windows and a fresh interior design." The final result, which seeks to preserve the historic elements of the building, will be a mixed-use retail, office, and residential. 

Bedrock owns the building, which is expected to reopen in 2020 at a cost of nearly $70 million. According to a Crain's Detroit Business article, "Asbestos and lead abatement, demolition and hazardous material removal will earn Bedrock about $7 million in brownfield tax abatements."
The Free Press Building is one of the more iconic structures in downtown Detroit. Designed by Albert Kahn, it has some impressive limestone carvings, statues, and reliefs done by Ulysses Ricci. It was constructed in 1925 and has been abandoned since 1998. (Source: Historic Detroit)

Local media outlet to explore impact of neighborhood redevelopments

The city of Detroit, foundations, and major developers have been increasingly active in neighborhoods outside the city's urban core. The impact of all this new investment on residents hasn't come close to being grasped. Some organizations and media outlets are trying.

Last month, TheHUB Detroit, a magazine that focuses on Detroit's neighborhoods, launched a "year-long in-depth report on neighborhood-specific investments." In an article outlining the aims of its investigation, editor Jackie Berg writes, "We'll take an in-depth look at the size and scope of neighborhood redevelopment efforts and examine commitments being made by developers to build or preserve affordable housing for low-income families and seniors, explore whether gentrification without displacement is a threat or boon to Detroit, and we'll examine the impact of minority contractor awards associated with related construction efforts."

The series, called "Living In and Loving Detroit," will begin with District 5, which covers wide swaths of midtown, downtown, and the east riverfront. "We discovered half a billion dollars in neighborhood investments underway in District 5 alone. These include residential developments and mixed-use projects that combine housing and retail or office spaces, renovations of historic industrial spaces to a modern healthcare facility."

While few specifics were laid out in how the investigation will proceed, or how deep it will go, Model D will certainly be paying attention. 

Massive Herman Kiefer development progressing

Just because no shovels have hit the dirt, that doesn't mean there hasn't been progress at the vacant Herman Kiefer Hospital complex development near Detroit's Boston Edison neighborhood. 

According to a Detroit News article, head developer Ron Castellano is set to take over the site this spring as part of a $143 million, "multi-year development agreement to rehabilitate and reuse the seven medical complex buildings and 462,605-square-foot main hospital, the former Hutchins and Crosman schools, as well as the JTPA nursing school."

The deal was approved in 2015, but because of the complicated funding package and phased development plan, it took time to transfer the properties. "Castellano explained each piece of the project should raise enough money to support itself and also help fund another piece of the development," writes Christine Ferretti. 

An important piece of the total funds will come from potential brownfield development reimbursements totalling $47.7 million to clean up waste from prior developments. 

Also noteworthy, the project may be the first in the city to operate under Detroit’s new community benefits ordinance. "The law, approved in November, lays out a process for engaging the community to negotiate job guarantees and other factors for projects worth at least $75 million. The multiphase project is expected to produce at least 1,067 jobs."

Read the full article here.

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

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

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."

Plans in the works for revitalization of Fort Wayne

Fort Wayne, the historic star-shaped fortification located in Detroit's Delray neighborhood, is an underused landmark in the city. Aside from weekend visitors and the occasional event, the fort sits largely unused. But in the coming years, Fort Wayne may get considerably more use, perhaps even tenants.

The Kresge Foundation recently awarded a $265,000 grant for a two-year project of renovation and strategic planning.

The grant will help fund a project director, National Park Service urban fellow David Goldstein, to guide the planning process. "The consultant will also be charged with creating a leasing program for the City of Detroit, which will allow for the renovation and use of the more than 30 military buildings in the fort complex," according to the press release. "An RFP is expected to be released by spring 2018 to seek proposals from prospective tenants, including community and cultural organizations, to renovate and lease buildings on the fort grounds."

"For nearly 175 years, Historic Fort Wayne has stood as a cultural and historical landmark, today attracting some 150,000 visitors a year, from neighborhood soccer leagues to Civil War re-enactments," said George Jacobsen, senior program officer in Kresge’s Detroit Program, in a press release. "As we think about its place in the fabric of Detroit now and in the future, Historic Fort Wayne holds great promise as an active and connected point for the Southwest Detroit and broader communities to recreate, as a space to celebrate contributions of multiple cultures, and as a potential location to support the development of small and creative-sector businesses."

The project is a partnership between the City of Detroit, the National Park Foundation (NPF) and the National Park Service (NPS) Midwest Region.

Photographer lists Detroit buildings that should be saved

Detroit has a mixed record of historic building preservation. Thanks to recent economic developments, many of it's building are not only being preserved, but restored.

[Check out this Model D article looking back at the last decade of historic preservation in Detroit]
But that doesn't mean there aren't buildings at risk of demolition. And one young photographer put together an excellent list titled, "Buildings in Detroit That Need to Be Saved in 2017."
Eric Hergenreder included seven buildings (many of which he photographed as well) in his list, such as the Belle Isle Zoo and Free Press Building.
Hergenreder also includes nice write-ups of each building, like this one for the United Artists Theater: "The United Artists Theater, which is currently owned by the Ilitch family, is in desperate need of a miracle. The Tigers Tycoon has threatened it with demolition a handful of times, but at this point, it still stands. The building has been secured (for the most part, my shattered heel says otherwise) and it sits empty on the corner of Bagley and Clifford."
Check out the full list here.

Bedrock Real Estate to spend an estimated $400 million on restoration of Book Tower

In one of the more surprising stories about redevelopment in a city full of them, the Book Tower and Book Building will get an estimated $400 million worth of restoration, according to a recent Crain's Detroit Business article.

It's all part of Bedrock Real Estate's massive investments along Washington Boulevard and downtown generally. "The projects range from new apartments, to retail, to renovated housing for low-income seniors in what developers predict is going to build upon the brothers' original vision," writes Kirk Pinho for Crain's.

The price tag is so high for the Book Tower, vacant since 2009, because of the numerous features in need of repair, from the windows to the comically-long fire escape to its mansard roof.

Here's a great description of the building from Historic Detroit: "No skyscraper in Detroit, let alone the Midwest, looks quite like the Book Tower on Washington Boulevard. It's a rather awkward-looking building, whether you look at its unusual maze of an external fire escape or the intricate, over-the-top details on its crown that are tough to appreciate without a pair of binoculars. It's an undeniably unique piece of the city's skyline and a rare breed of classical Renaissance-style architecture and skyscraper."

In surprising turn, classic Detroit venue may reopen

John Gallagher of the Detroit Free Press opens his article on the potential reopening of the Vanity Ballroom with these hopeful words: "Whenever I get discouraged about Detroit's redevelopment efforts I think about all the projects we once thought utterly impossible that eventually opened and thrived."

The glorious venue on the far east side of Detroit, whose facade is adorned with Aztec-influenced tiles, hosted many seminal musicians throughout the years before closing in 1988. Today however, it's "in rough shape," according to Gallagher. "Scrappers have been working, the ceiling is open to the sky, debris litters the floor everywhere. But it's still possible to glimpse the former glory."

Jefferson East Inc., the economic development organization supporting neighborhoods in and around East Jefferson Avenue, is putting together redevelopment designs and a funding packaging for the ballroom.

The plan is to have mixed retail on the ground level with the whole project as the centerpiece for much bigger development efforts along the Jefferson corridor.

Next High Growth Happy Hour focuses on real estate

Detroit's rapidly fluctuating real estate market has no shortage of entrepreneurs breaking into it. There's an opportunity to hear from two fast growing local startups at the next High Growth Happy Hour, August 3rd from 6 to 8 p.m., in Detroit’s North End neighborhood.

The speakers will be David Alade of Century Partners, a real estate development company with a holistic revitalization and innovative funding approach, and Max Nussenbaum, CEO & co-founder of property management startup Castle (read Model D's profile on Castle and their rapid growth). David and Max will share insights into Detroit's real estate market, including how they have broken in and created a new model for their businesses.


6:00 - 6:30: Networking & Drinks

6:30 - 7:30: Casual chat and Q&A with attendees

7:30 - 8:00: Networking

RSVP here to attend. Space is limited for this free special event. Drinks and light appetizers will be served, and you’ll also get to be the first to see a brand new space Century Partners is redeveloping into a restaurant at 9425 John R Rd., Detroit.

Learn more about the High Growth Happy Hour series, which connects entrepreneurs and inspires them to scale in Metro Detroit.

Subscribe to our sister publication Southeast Michigan Startup to follow more companies scaling in Detroit.

Article explores overlooked beauty of east riverfront housing

Former Model D managing editor Matthew Lewis wrote an article for Hour Detroit about the attractive, and relatively overlooked housing on the Detroit River. Titled "Strait Outta Downtown," the article profiles apartments and houses in The Jeffersonian, "a 30-story, 410-unit midcentury masterpiece," and the Joseph Berry Subdivision, "a small neighborhood consisting of just four streets and fewer than 90 homes."

"But the beauty of its residences—and the influence of its residents—are outsized," writes Lewis.

The article notes that the East Riverfront is a potential growth spot given the skyrocketing real-estate values in downtown and midtown, and its location along Detroit's most distinctive natural feature.

The Jeffersonian, Lewis writes, "features views of cityscapes that are uniquely Detroit—the downtown skyline, blocks of the near east side that are lush with greenery and sparse of houses, Chrysler's sprawling Jefferson North assembly plant, Waterworks Park, and the tidy Berry sub immediately below."

The article then profiles the 5,200 square foot Georgian Colonial located in the Joseph Berry Subdivision and owned by the Linn family since 1983. The houses in the subdivision Lewis writes, "rarely go on the market. A non-waterfront, 5,200-square-foot Tudor described as a 'renovation opportunity' sold last year for $220,000. The Linns' newest neighbor, Kid Rock, moved in two years ago to a house on the west end of Dwight Street."

The article also lists other housing options along the riverfront and is accompanied by attractive photographs of housing, owners, and views of the river and city. 

Community space hosts small scale development "walk and talk" in downtown Hamtramck

Those interested in local, brick and mortar development should attend a walk and talk this Monday in Hamtramck. The event will take place around 4:30 pm at Bank Suey, a community space on Joseph Campau that's undergone a number of transformations since its construction nearly a century ago (it was once a former bank branch, then bar, then Chinese take-out). 

Minneapolis-based IncDev's executive director Jim Kumon will begin the proceedings with a talk about small scale development. Then attendees will continue the dialogue with a walk along Hamtramck's main commercial thoroughfare, Joseph Campau. The tour will end its journey at Bumbo's for drinks and pizza. 

This walk and talk is an example of the kinds of events Bank Suey plans to host in the future (the space is active, but still being renovated). Their website states: "We want to explore new ways to fill main street spaces...We want to create a space that supports community ideas and needs, focusing on the value of local economy and building community wealth."

The event is donation-based, and you can reserve tickets here

Disclaimer: The publisher of Model D, Alissa Shelton, is the owner of Bank Suey and an enthusiastic supporter of development in Hamtramck. 

Fort Street drawbridge over Rouge River reopens

In May 2013, the Fort Street drawbridge that spans the Rouge River in southwest Detroit closed for repairs. Built in 1922 by the Bethlehem Steel Corporation, the bridge serves as an important connection point between Detroit's Oakwood and Delray neighborhoods, as well as between the Downriver region and southwest Detroit. Yet its closure might have proven only a minor inconvenience to area motorists and pedestrians had the West Jefferson Avenue bridge two-thirds of a mile to the south not closed in the same month. That bridge was damaged when its operator, who was suspected of being intoxicated, lowered the span on top a passing ship.

Since then, people in the area have had their options for crossing the Rouge cut in half: they could either take the Dix Avenue Bridge in Dearborn or the I-75 bridge in Detroit, making their journeys more circuitous.

That changed, however, on Thursday, Dec. 31, when the bridge finally reopened after 31 months of repairs that cost the Michigan Department of Transporation $46 million. The Detroit News reports that the repairs were completed nearly a year behind schedule because of the complexity of the job and interference by river traffic. Currently one lane of traffic is open in each direction, but MDOT told the News that it expects to open the bridge's three other lanes by the end of January.

The West Jefferson Avenue drawbridge is expected to reopen in August.

Check out this time-lapse GIF of the reconstructed Fort Street Bridge in action:

Read about locals' reactions to the reopening of the Fort Street Bridge: Inside Southwest Detroit.

Read more: Detroit News

The insidious setback to recovery in Detroit's neighborhoods

In a 4,500-word longform piece for Next City, Detroit author and journalist Anna Clark digs deep into a setback to Detroit's recovery more insidious than high crime rates or a sluggish economy--the mortgage industry.

Clark describes a serious disconnect between prices reached between would-be home buyers and sellers and the appraisals banks conduct before they issue mortgages. In many Detroit neighborhoods, auction sales of tax-foreclosed properties for $500 or $1,000 could be the only available comparables, making it difficult to arrive at appraisals, which are based on sales of nearby homes, that reflect the actual price buyers are willing to pay.

"The result is a system where loans are not available across most of the city," writes Clark. "In Detroit, only 12 percent of home sales are financed, compared to 65 percent in Ferndale and 90 percent in Grosse Pointe. And they are not all at those infamously low price points. An $87,000 house in the Woodbridge neighborhood was recently bought with cash. So was the $1.6 million Fisher Mansion in Palmer Woods."

Clark reports that only 462 single family homes sold in Detroit in 2014 were purchased with a mortgage, and that nearly 87 percent of sales were cash deals, more than double the national average.

To learn about why the conventional mortgage system is failing Detroit and how groups like the Detroit Land Bank Authority and Talmer Bank are working to fix it, read more in Next City.

'Give grass a chance,' says Navin Field Grounds Crew about Tiger Stadium site

Since the demolition of Tiger Stadium in 2009, a group of unpaid volunteers calling themselves the Navin Field Grounds Crew have worked to maintain the site where the likes of Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, and Hank Greenberg all played. Since then, countless people have enjoyed the historic site, from youth and vintage baseball players to Corktown residents walking their dogs to people trotting around the bases while imitating Kirk Gibson's legendary 1984 World Series home run off of Goose Gossage. A handful of couples have even gotten married at home plate.

The way people enjoy the historic site of Navin Field could soon change, however. Last summer, Detroit PAL, a sports organization serving youth in the city, was granted development rights for the site at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull. The group's plans call for housing, retail, and office space around the perimeter of the playing field, which will be replaced with artificial turf for the purposes of continuous youth sports programming.

That's where the Navin Field Grounds crew takes issue.

"All we are saying is give grass a chance," says Dave Mesrey, co-founder of the Navin Field Grounds Crew, which recently printed shirts sporting the same slogan.

Mesrey and the Grounds Crew point to recent stories suggesting that artificial turf could have negative health effects on children, as well historical importance of the original field as reasons for keeping the grass.

On Wednesday, Oct. 28, the Navin Field Grounds Crew and the Corktown Community Organization are hosting a forum on the future of Navin Field at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers local at 1358 Abbott St. in Corktown. The event, which starts at 6:30 p.m., will feature a public discussion on public access to the Navin Field site, artificial turf versus natural grass, retail and residential development, and more.

Representatives will be on hand from the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy, the Navin Field Grounds CrewDetroit PAL, and Tiger Stadium Partners.

To learn more, click here.

Sick of potholes, Hamtramckans take to the streets with shovels and cold patch

Michigan's roads are in bad -- frankly deplorable -- shape. And thanks to budget cuts, inaction by the state legislature, and voters' unwillingness to approve a tax hike to pay for repairs, our surfaces streets are going to continue to deteriorate for the foreseeable future.
But in Hamtramck, a group of residents fed up with the status quo have decided to take matters – and shovels – into their own hands to improve road conditions in their community.
According to Dustin Block of MLive Detroit, "a group of six residents purchased 900 pounds of cold pack and spent the morning filling potholes along Lumpkin Street" on Saturday, July 25. The group hopes to raise $5,000 via a Go Fund Me campaign to pay for additional materials to fix other Hamtramck streets.
Read more: MLive Detroit

Write a House begins second chapter of literary neighborhood development

Last year, Casey Rocheteau, a poet formerly based in Brooklyn, moved into a newly rehabbed house in a Detroit neighborhood just north of Hamtramck. This wasn't some ordinary lease, however. As the winner of the inaugural Write a House prize, Rocheteau was granted that home, which she now owns free and clear.
A nonprofit organization, Write a House's mission is to "leverage Detroit's available housing in creative ways to bolster an emerging literary community to benefit the city of Detroit and its neighborhoods." It does so by renovating vacant homes and granting them to worthy writers who submit a simple application and writing samples that are reviewed by a jury of writers. Think of it as a permanent sort of writers residency.
The group purchased three homes in the 2012 through Wayne County's annual auction of tax foreclosed properties. The first of those was rehabbed and given away to Rocheteau last year. This year, a second Write a House home will be awarded to another writer. The application process is currently open.
After a successful inaugural process, this year's application is much the same as last year's.
"Honestly, in terms of judging, we're using the same process as last year," says Sarah Cox, director of Write a House and vice president of its executive board. "Our app is so simple, we're sticking with it."
Applications and writing samples will be judged by a jury that includes local and national writers.
For tips on writing a successful application, check out this blogpost from inaugural Write a House resident Casey Rocheteau.
Cox expects a deep pool of applicants as Write a House begins its second chapter. "I feel like we have a much wider reach this go around," she says. "I'm excited to see who applies."
To find out more about the Write a House application process, click here.

Foreign billionaires are on a Detroit real estate buying spree

Dan Gilbert, local billionaire and downtown's most prominent investor, famously cited a "skyscraper sale" as motivation to begin adding downtown Detroit properties his portfolio in 2007. Gilbert founded Bedrock Real Estate in 2011, and that company now owns over 70 properties accounting for over 11 million square feet of space in the city's central business district. Adding to that portfolio may not be as cheap as it once was, however, as foreign investors take interest in Detroit real estate.
In 2013, Fernando Palazuelo, a Peruvian billionaire of Spanish extraction, made some of the biggest headlines in Detroit real estate when he purchased the Packard Plant, an infamous, 3.5-million-square-foot industrial ruin on the city's east side that has been abandoned for half a century. He revealed some of his grand plans for the site in a February 28 feature in Crain's Detroit Business.
Now Crain's is reporting that one of the richest men in Mexico, Carlos Slim Helú (net worth approx. $77 billion) has purchased the Marquette Building, a 115-year-old, 164,000-square-foot vacant office building in downtown Detroit.
Crain's Kirk Pinho writes, "Nico Gatzaros, managing partner of Detroit-based 400 Monroe Associates LLC and son of the late Greektown Casino-Hotel developer Ted Gatzaros, whose estate sold the building to Helú, said offers from 'all over the world' were made on the building."
On April 7, Pinho once again broke a story of large-scale foreign investment in Detroit real estate when he tied the purchases of 31 Detroit properties to Jimmy Lai, a Hong Kong tycoon.

For more breaking news on foreign investment in Detroit real estate, follow Pinho's writing for Crain's Detroit Business.


Is the development craze in Midtown spreading to nearby Milwaukee Junction?

In a longform piece for Bridge Magazine, veteran Detroit journalist Bill McGraw takes a deep look at Milwaukee Junction, an old industrial district that is quickly attracting the interest of local real estate developers.
Home to Ford Motor Co.'s original factory, The Ford Piquette Area Plant, Milwaukee Junction was one of the city's most productive industrial areas in the first half of the 20th century. "At its peak in the 1940s, some 33,000 people worked in Milwaukee Junction, and there were 33 heavy manufacturing plants," write McGraw.
Though its former glory as an industrial hub of Detroit has mostly faded (it's still home to a handful of industrial businesses), McGraw describes a growing interest in the neighborhood by real estate developers. Currently, the area only has a small amount of housing, but McGraw sites its proximity to other quickly gentrifying Detroit neighborhoods like Midtown and New Center, as well as its closeness to the under-construction M-1 Rail line, as reasons for its imminent development.
Think Milwaukee Junction is Detroit's next hot neighborhood?
Read more in Bridge Magazine.

Packard Plant developer outlines grand plans for Detroit

Peruvian developer Fernando Palazuelo made big headlines in 2013 when he purchased the long-abandoned Packard Plant on Detroit's east side. The property, which consists of 47 buildings and spans 40 acres, is perhaps the most daunting re-development project in all of the city of Detroit, which is saying a lot. Nonetheless, Palazuelo appears to be moving forward with plans for the massive ruin. According to Crain's Detroit Business, he has retained an architecture firm (Albert Kahn Associates) and a general contractor (O'Brien Construction Co.) to begin work on the rehab of a 150,000-sq-ft administrative building on the Packard property.

According to the same Crain's piece, however, those plans represent only a fraction of Palazuelo's Detroit ambitions:

"[Palazuelo] said in an interview with Crain's last week that he plans to make offers to buy five of greater downtown's most storied buildings: the 255,000-square-foot Book Tower and adjoining 260,000-square-foot Book Building; the 996,000-square-foot Penobscot Building; and the Albert Kahn Building and Fisher Building in the New Center Area, which total 925,000 square feet."

The Peruvian developer claims that he has the backing of a Lima-based private equity firm with over $500 million in assets.

Read more about Palazuelo's Detroit plans in Crain's Detroit Business.

Mayor Duggan sites 20 to 40 percent affordable housing goal in downtown, Midtown areas

The Detroit Free Press's John Gallagher reported last week that Mayor Mike Duggan's administration is pushing developers who are receiving public subsidy for projects to set aside 20 to 40 percent of new units for lower-income renters.
The Free Press quotes Duggan saying:

"We are, on a project-by-project basis, going to negotiate as much as we can commensurate to our contribution, but I would like to see 20% to 40% affordable housing mix in everything that we support because great cities include everybody.
"As we rebuild the housing in this city, we're going to make sure everybody can live there."
Duggan's comments were made at a media event celebrating the coming renovation of the vacant Strathmore Hotel building on Alexandrine in Midtown, where 40 percent of the housing units will be reserved for low-income renters.
The mayor's comments come in the midst of an ongoing conversation about gentrification in Detroit, particularly its downtown and Midtown neighborhoods, which have experienced a remarkable uptick in new residential and commercial developments in recent years.
Read more in the Detroit Free Press.

Pilot reflects on 34 years of photographing Detroit from above

In the Sunday, Dec. 7 issue of the New York Times, Alex S. MacLean, a Massachusetts-based artist, pilot, aerial photographer and trained architect, reflects on his 34 years photographing the city of Detroit and its suburbs from a small plane. According to MacLean, the city's struggles were evident when he began photographing metro Detroit by plane during the Reagan-Carter presidential campaigns, but today there are signs of change. He writes:

"From the air today, the decline appears to be slowing. The spaces once covered in rubble are cleared and mowed. Open green spaces, along with new community gardens and orchards, look almost bucolic against the downtown skyline. From my plane, I sense the potential for resurgence in these areas. I can see how neighborhoods could become more walkable and support mixed-use development, with new shops, public transit and nearby parks and schools. However, this resurgence relies on a city that is stumbling out of bankruptcy. It also depends on an agency with the authority to consolidate abandoned lots for development and open spaces."

Accompanying MacLean's reflection is a series remarkable photos. The amount of green space in the city is striking, as are the overhead views of urban gardens and farms. Also striking is the stark contrast between the highly occupied, dense neighborhoods of Grosse Pointe Park on the east side of Alter Road and the neighborhoods of Detroit's far east side just to the west.

Read MacLean's full reflection and see his photos in the New York Times.

Meet funk pioneer George Clinton at book signing on Dec. 20 at United Sound Systems in Midtown

That's right, George mutha funkin' Clinton will be in Detroit on Dec. 20 for a meet-and-greet/book signing at the legendary United Sound Systems Recording Studios (5840 Second Ave.).

Clinton is promoting his new book entitled "Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain't That Funkin' Kinda Hard on You?: A Memoir." Tickets to the event are $40 and can be purchased via Eventbrite.

Clinton has deep ties to Detroit, where he spent much of the 1960s as a songwriter and producer for various Detroit soul record labels, including Motown. He recorded several records with his band Funkadelic at Detroit's United Sound Systems, including notable albums like "Free Your Mind...and Your Ass Will Follow" (1970), "Maggot Brain" (1971), and "One Nation Under a Groove" (1978).

According to the United Sound's Eventbrite page, "United Sound Systems Recording Studios (USSRS) was established in 1933, making USSRS the first independent major recording studio in the nation.  The studio gave artists, musicians, writers, and producers a place where they could cut a record and get it played on the radio without being signed to a major label. Today, the Studio is under new ownership and is striving to preserve the history. United Sound houses three functional recording studios and offers guided tours of the facility to the public. In addition, the facility is utilized for Venue Rental to host special events, birthday parties, lectures, and seminars."

Can you get to that?

Brooklyn's Galapagos Art Space to make new home in Detroit, buys property in Cortown, Highland Park

Galapagos Art Space in Brooklyn, apparently, is a really big deal. So big, in fact, that the New York Times referred to it in a Dec. 7 article as "a performance center and cultural staple in Brooklyn for nearly 20 years."
But Galapagos's tenure in NYC is drawing to a close, its last day of programming scheduled for Dec. 18. But that doesn't mark the end of Galapagos's existence. According to the art space's website, Galapagos is moving.
"After nearly 7,500 programs and just over 1,000,000 audience members through our doors, Galapagos Art Space is moving to Detroit," writes Galapagos's executive director Robert Elmes.
Elmes is giving up on New York because "Simply put, New York City has become too expensive to continue incubating young artists. The white-hot real estate market burning through affordable cultural habit is no longer a crisis, it's a conclusion.
In Detroit, Elmes hopes his art space can take advantage of the three ingredients he feels are necessary for a creative ecosystem to flourish: time, space, and people. Elmes believes that Detroit has both time and space in abundance and that the city "is gaining its critical third component - artists - at an astonishing rate."
Galapagos's new website, galapagosdetroit.com, claims that the arts space has already secured over 600,000 square feet of real estate in Detroit's Corktown neighborhood and the enclave city of Highland Park "for the price of a small apartment in New York City." According Galapagos's Detroit website, one of the properties is the old Highland Park High School and Junior College building located between Second and Third avenues on Glendale (For an incredibly detailed history of that building, check out this profile from Detroit Urbex.), and another is a vacant manufacturing facility located at 1800 18th Street.

In an interview with Crain's Detroit Business, Elmes says, “We are not coming with $60 million to $90 million. We are there to build a venue and build studios and some lofts. As that gains traction, we’ll add more parts to the whole and that’s the goal of the project.” 
The website also makes two bold promises: 1) one of Galapagos's properties will feature a 10,000-square-foot man-made lake, and 2) the art space will host a 2016 Detroit Biennial. (Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit is currently hosting its "People's Biennial" through 2015.)
Galapagos will join 333 Midland as the second prominent art space to locate in Highland Park in recent years.
The news of Galapagos's relocation occurs in the midst of Berlin electronic music label and club owner Dimitri Hegemann's repeated expressions of interest in creating a venue for electronic music performances and entrepreneurship in one of Detroit's vacant factory spaces.
Model D will continue to follow all of these stories as they develop.

Detroit man claims he's the high bidder on $3M bundle of 6,350 properties in county auction

As the Wayne County Treasurer's annual auction of tax-foreclosed properties winds down -- or up, depending on who you ask -- information has emerged on what might become the largest purchase of tax-forclosed property in the history of the auction.

According to the Detroit News, Herb Strather of Detroit is claiming to be the leader of a group of investors who bid over $3 million on a bundle of 6,350 of properties in the city. The bundle represents over one third (and the most dilapidated, at that) of the over 18,000 properties available in this year's auction, the largest of its kind in the world.

According to The News:
"Wayne County Treasurer Raymond Wojtowicz, in collaboration with Mayor Mike Duggan, bundled the properties in hopes of discouraging tax deadbeats. If no buyer came forward, the Detroit Land Bank was expected to take the homes, demolish the rundown ones and auction those that are salvageable to qualified bidders."

The minimum bid for the bundle of properties was set at $3.175 million. Currently a single bid of $3,183,500 has been placed. While the county will not reveal the identity of the high bidder until after the auction, Strather has claimed to be the person who placed the bid.

The News writes:

"About 2,000 of the properties in the bundle are vacant lots and 3,000 need to be razed, said Chief Deputy Treasurer David Szymanski. Another 1,000 are considered salvageable homes."

For more information, visit the Detroit News.

Study questions inclusivity of revitalization efforts in Detroit

The revitalization of Detroit -- or at least certain parts of the city -- makes big headlines these days. But local data analyst and blogger Alex Hill argues that African Americans are largely left out of such narratives in part because they are under-represented in programs focused on the city's revitalization -- despite the fact that the city's population is almost 83 percent black.

According to Hill, "Detroit’s revitalization is completely one-sided. The surge in investment in this majority black city is not going to black residents."

Hill analyzed participation rates of different racial and ethnic groups in nine revitalization-oriented programs in Detroit (Disclosure: Urban Innovation Exchange, a project of Model D's parent company Issue Media Group, was included in his study). He concluded that "across all of the programs, 69.2 percent of individuals were classified as White and only 23.7 percent as Black (1.6 percent Latino, 4.8 percent Asian, 0.7 percent Arab)" and that "it is clear that there is a serious imbalance of both opportunity and outcomes in Detroit."

While Hill admits his calculations are based on his own "assumptions and perceptions of race" (his numbers were determined by examining "headshots from individual biographies posted publicly on fellowship programs, academic profiles, and many 'About' pages" on the websites of different revitalization-oriented organizations), his study may be the first attempt to quantify the representation of different races in Detroit's revitalization efforts.

Hill concludes his blog post about his study by asking a provocative question: "Mayor Duggan has said that every neighborhood has a future, but does every neighbor have a future in Detroit?"

Visit Alex Hill's website to read more about his study.

Got what it takes to make a whizbang website for Hamtramck?

The city of Hamtramck, Michigan's densest city, is requesting quotes for the redevelopment of its website.

According to an Request for Quotes, "The City of Hamtramck seeks qualified vendors to provide professional Internet web site design, development and implementation services for the redesign of the Cities [sic] current Website located at http://www.hamtramckcity.com. The city is seeking a redesigned modern work product with an enhanced graphic identity, value added features to provide capabilities and functions not currently available and capabilities to encompass emerging technologies such as GIS and streaming video for future enhancement.

Quotes must be submitted to:

City of Hamtramck
Clerk’s Office
3401 Evaline
Hamtramck, Michigan 48212

Quotes are due by September 23, 2014 at 10:00 a.m.

Local governments in metro Detroit don't have a great track record of building great websites -- anyone who's spent time on Detroit or Hamtramck's sites can attest to that. This is an opportunity to help a local government enter the 21st century.

Midtown Inc. closes in on $50K fundraising goal for green alley project

Midtown Detroit Inc. is seeking to raise a total of $50,000 towards the development of the district's second green alleyway. If the organization succeeds in raising the funds through its Patronicity campaign, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation will match the funds. At the time of this writing, donors have pledged just over $30,000 to the campaign.

The project is planned for an alley right-of-way bounded by Second Avenue, Selden, the Third Avenue alley, and Alexandrine. According to the project's Patronicity page, "the project will "transform the 415 foot long alley with the purpose of connecting future developments, promoting walk-ability and community connectivity - opening up business for restaurants like the Selden Standard."

For more details, visit the green alley project's Patronicity page.

Re-examining the $500 house: You get what you pay for

Good Magazine makes a compelling argument with which many who have bought "cheap" homes in Detroit might agee: When it comes to the $500 house, you often get what you pay for. In fact, these houses often carry a negative value.

"Here’s why very cheap can mean very big trouble," writes Good's Angie Schmit. "Houses, in addition to the land they occupy, are the sum of their parts. That key threshold where "affordability" turns into market collapse is when housing becomes so cheap that the cost to repair the structure is more than someone is willing to pay for the house. Just because houses might sell for peanuts in Detroit, doesn’t make, say, roofing materials or lumber any less costly. In other words, if your home is worth less than it costs to fix the roof, there’s strong incentive to walk away. And that’s what thousands of people have done in cities like Detroit, Youngstown, Ohio, and Buffalo, New York."

In other words, cheap houses generally require large investments of time and money, which Good Magazine's Angie Schmitt argues is a big problem, especially for the working poor who inhabit cities where this is the case. She suggests that the solution to this problem is actually the addition of more expensive housing to weak markets like Detroit, as well as an overall a reduction of the supply of housing.

Source: Good Magazine

Video: The case for historic preservation, not just demolition, in Detroit's war on blight

Last week, Mayor Mike Duggan and other dignitaries celebrated the city's efforts to remediate blight in conjunction with the demolition of a 19th century warehouse building on Fort Street. The building was demolished at the expense of its owner, the powerful Detroit International Bridge Co., which is controlled by the Moroun family.

According to the Detroit Free Press, Mayor Duggan praised the Bridge Co., saying, "If you’ve got a vacant commercial building in this town and you don’t have the ability to reuse it, we need you to step up and knock it down...We are going to need the business community to do what the Moroun family is doing here."

Yet the decision to tear down this structure was met by the skepticism of some who felt the building's historical and architectural significance and potential for redevelopment warranted its preservation. 

Blight and vacancy -- of land and buildings -- are two of Detroiters' greatest concerns when it comes to the livability of their neighborhoods. It's undeniable that Detroit has myriad structures that require demolition; yet demolition is not the only solution to Detroit's blight and vacancy problems.

In this video, the Michigan Historic Preservation Network argues that historic preservation and adaptive reuse are key elements to redevelopment efforts in the city.

In the words of Jerry Esters, preservation advocate and owner of the repurposed auto shop that Practice-Space calls home, "I can take you and show you buildings that have been refurbished and they're much nicer than seeing a vacant field."

Source: Michigan Historic Preservation Network

Second Avenue reconfigured for two-way traffic, gets bike lanes

Starting today, when we look out of the bay window of Model D's office at 4470 Second Ave. and see a car traveling southbound, we will no longer have cause for concern.

That's because Second Avenue is being reconfigured as a two-way street for the first time in decades. Sorry folks, but the pastime of watching cars going the wrong way down Second from the porch of the Bronx Bar is a thing of the past.

Second Avenue will now feature bike lanes, two-way traffic, and parallel parking (replacing angle parking on the west side of the street) between Cass Park (Temple Street) and the campus of Wayne State University (Warren Avenue). It's a similar transformation to those which occurred in recent years on Third Avenue and the portion of Second Avenue between Palmer Street and West Grand Boulevard just north of Wayne State's campus.

The conversion of two-way streets to one-ways became a trend in American cities after World War II as a means of relieving traffic congestion. In recent decades, as traffic counts have declined, a movement to convert one-way streets back to two-ways has emerged with the goal of calming traffic and spurring economic development along two-way corridors.

Source: Curbed Detroit


Weigh in on the idea you like best to replace downtown's I-375

Local planners have unveiled six options for transforming I-375, a downtown freeway that divides Detroit's central business district from near east side neighborhoods including Lafayette Park and Eastern Market.

The Detroit Downtown Development Authority (DDA) is inviting members of the public to learn about and comment on these six design alternatives at a community forum on Thursday, June 12, 2014.  The open house event will be held from 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at Detroit Eastern Market Shed 5 (2934 Russell St.).

I-375 was built in 1964. Black Bottom, the neighborhood that served as the one-time center of economic and cultural life for Detroit's black community, was razed to make way for the freeway and urban renewal housing projects adjacent to it. In recent decades, the efficacy and overall usefullness of the freeway have been brought into question as traffic counts along the route have declined.

The six options for removing the freeway and replacing it with more pedestrian and environmentally friendly alternatives vary in cost from $40 million to $80 million.

To learn more about the proposals, visit http://i375detroit.com/.

Two national urban experts criticize Detroit's demolition plans

Two national figures widely considered experts on urban issues have weighed in on a local taskforce's recommendation to spend $850 million to demolish blighted structures in the city of Detroit. Stephanie Meeks, president and chief executive of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and Andres Duany, an architect and founder of the Congress for the New Urbanism, both wrote short letters to the editor of the New York Times suggesting that Detroit think beyond demolition when addressing its blight problem.

Meeks suggests that preservation ought to play an important role in Detroit's attempt to reinvent itself.

"Preservationists understand that demolition must be part of the strategy for Detroit's future," she says, "but we need to ensure that the city's most important historic buildings are spared so they can become building blocks for the future."

Duany sees more value in funding young entrepreneurs than he does in spending $850 million on demolition.

"At $50,000 each there would be 17,000 loans or grants possible. Detroit would explode with activity and success. Its emerging reputation as the 'next Broolyn' would be fullfilled, even more quickly," he says.

Read both op-eds in the New York Times.

Local professor: To stop blight, first stop suburban sprawl

George Galster, a professor of urban planning at Wayne State University, is encouraging policy makers to stop taking a myopic view of Detroit's blight problem. He contends that blight in Detroit is not a problem the city can solve in isolation because it is the result of regional economic forces related to excessive housing development on the suburban fringe of the metropolis.

Says Galster:

"Since 1950, two-thirds of the city’s population has systematically been siphoned off by the region’s housing 'disassembly line.' In the tri-county metro area, developers have in every decade since 1950 built many more dwellings -- an average of more than 10,000 per year -- than the net growth in households required. Developers figured that their new suburban subdivisions could successfully compete against the older housing stock. They were right. As households filled these new dwellings they vacated their previous homes, which other households decided to occupy because they were viewed as superior options to where they were previously living."

Galster recommends the region establish a "a metropolitan growth boundary" to limit suburban development and stem the tide of blight in Detroit.

Read Galster's op-ed in the Detroit Free Press.

Detroit Future City to host "Blight Bootcamp"

On the heels of the release of the most comprehensive data set ever on blight in the city of Detroit, Detroit Future City (DFC) is hosting its first ever "Blight Bootcamp."

This Saturday at Wayne County Community College District's Downtown Campus (1001 W. Fort St.), DFC is putting on a series of free workshops that will equip ordinary citizens with tools to address blight in their neighborhoods. Sessions include:

Transforming Blight into Gardens and Farms
Securing Vacant Properties
Community Art to Fight Blight
Green Space Solutions
Blight Mitigation Resources
Data Driven Decision Making
Blight and Public Health
Resident Led Neighborhood Safety
Deconstruction vs. Demolition
Repurposing Commercial Vacancies
Youth Engagement in Blight Mitigation
Advocating for your Neighborhood

Those interested in attending Blight Bootcamp can register here.

Visit Detroit Future City's website for more information.

Another green alley coming to Midtown

"Another Green Alley." No, we're not talking about a new album by Brian Eno. We're talking about a transformation coming to the alleyway between Cass Ave. and 2nd Ave and Willis and Canfield Streets. The alley's cracked concrete will be replaced with brick pavers and green infrastructure. 

According to Midtown Detroit, Inc. the Alley's transformation will begin later this month.

This will be Midtown's second green alley. The first is located between Prentis and Canfield off of 2nd Ave.

Source: Curbed Detroit

Read more here.

DetroitUrbex launches new site that visualizes city's evolution

DetroitUrbex.com, a site well known for its visual documentation of the city of Detroit over the years, has launched a new project that showcases the stark changes in the city's lanscape over the last 134 years. The site, entitled "Detroit: Evolution of a City," features images of a location overlaid with images of that same location from a different era. The result is truly mind blowing.

Visit for yourself: http://detroiturbex.com/content/ba/feat/index.html

New Packard owner joins Freep Film Fest panel

Great to hear Fernando Palazuelo, who bought the Packard Plant in last year's foreclosure auction is in town and talking publicly about his massive redevelopment project.

Curbed Detroit reports that at last week's premier of the doc Packard: The Last Shift he told the audience that he will have a redevelopment plan for the site within three to four months. Sounds mighty good to us.

Read on here.

Curbed Detroit updates Gar Building progress

It's good to get a progress report on the rehab of one of Detroit's most fascinating turnaround building projects, as seen in Curbed Detroit:

Where most people saw an abandoned castle with an attic full of bird turds, local production company Mindfield saw office space. Roughly two years have passed since we first wrote about the impending renovation. According to the original timeline, the GAR should be little more than a good Swiftering away from its debut. Alas, intense renovation work continues, with an updated goal of opening this fall.

Read more here.

We'll drink to that: Hopcat to open at M-1 Rail stop

The building at 4265 Woodward (most recently inhabited by Agave) is being converted into the new Detroit home for HopCat, which will become city’s largest beer bar featuring 130 taps with an emphasis on Michigan craft beers.

The business is reportedly investing $3.3 million into the building at the southwest corner of Woodward and Canfield, vacant since 2006. The location is where a stop on the M-1 Rail streetcar line will be.

The Detroit location will feature an outdoor beer garden and live music. Read more here.

Video report: Mapping Detroit blight

A newly formed task force has been charged with spearheading an effort to electronically catalog blighted properties in the city. That's certainly a good start to addressing a complex problem. Watch this Voice of America report on the Motor City Mapping Project in this video.

As a bonus, here's the Freep's John Gallagher asking "what's next" after the rubble has been cleared. Will measures that came out of the work done by Detroit Future City, including building on urban ag and other green and blue (daylighting subterranean creeks that exist on the city's east side) projects, be implemented? Good questions, John.

See Gallagher's piece here.  

City seeks proposals for Brush Park developments

In a story penned by the Freep's John Gallagher, the question "just what's happening in Brush Park?" is close to being answered. We're happy to keep the discussion going. An excerpt:

Austin Black II, a real estate broker active in the greater downtown area, said the project is important because it promises to deliver much-needed new residential units to the market. There’s a shortage not just of rental apartments but of for-sale condominiums and townhouses, too.

Developers have until Feb. 5 to submit their proposals to the city. The request for proposals can be found on the city’s website here by clicking on "departments," then on the Planning & Development Department page, and then clicking on for request for proposals.

The city’s request said a decision will be made later in February.

Read on here.

Freep's Gallagher: New Detroit developments expected in 2014

It's alway good to look ahead to projects that are about to go forward or are getting into position to make a spalsh in the near future.

In the Detroit Free Press, John Gallagher updates several projects that are close to breaking ground in the new year.

An excerpt: 

St. Louis-based McCormack Baron Salazar has won approval for a $60-million complex east of the Renaissance Center featuring three- to four-story townhouses and apartment buildings. Detroit native Richard Baron, the group’s chairman and CEO, heads the project.

Baron has a significant record doing projects like this elsewhere. Detroit’s vacant waterfront parcels almost certainly will see expensive housing lining the RiverWalk one day just as it lines the waterfronts in so many other cities. Whether it starts to happen in Detroit this year or later will be something to watch.

Read more here.

Two Hamtown buildings could be bargain for right bidder

Two buildings on Jos. Campau in Hamtramck could be just the prime ticket for the right developer, if you read between the lines in this article on an upcoming closed bid in the Hamtramck Review. An excerpt:

The first to go up for bid is a partially developed loft space on Jos. Campau and Goodson, a former veterans post.
The city acquired the property for $40,000 after a developer failed to finish the project. The city, however, ran out of time and perhaps money to complete the project. The city will be seeking sealed bids for the property.
It could be quite a steal for the lucky bidder. The upper floor has already been converted into two lofts, while the downstairs is open for any configuration or purpose, including turning it into a retail space.
The next city-owned building to be put up for bid is the largest in the Jos. Campau business district, at the corner of Belmont. The four-story building came into the city’s possession due to a foreclosure.

A would-be developer had a state grant to tap into to help with rehab costs, but he could not secure a bank loan to finance the project.

The potential for this building is unlimited, and for the right developer a goldmine. Read the rest of the story here.

Sounds good to us. To submit a sealed bid, mail it to:

City of Hamtramck, Office of the City Clerk, 3401 Evaline, Hamtramck, MI 48212

Minimum bid is $145,500 and every bidder must submit a certified check in an amount equaling 10 percent of their bid. Make check out to Treasurer, City of Hamtramck. Bids are due Dec. 18, 3 p.m. That's this Wednesday. 

To see photos of the Goodson building, inside and out, go here.

Detroit to receive PlacePlans econ assistance

Detroit is among eight Michigan cities selected to receive technical assistance with key economic development projects designed to attract and retain residents and employers. Specifically, Detroit will get help in designing a new neighborhood center on the city’s southwest side.

Detroit, along with Cadillac, Flint, Kalamazoo, Holland, Jackson, Marquette, and Midland, will participate in PlacePlans, the Michigan Municipal League announced last week. The eight cities were selected as part of a statewide application process.

PlacePlans is a joint effort between the MML and Michigan State University to help communities design and plan for transformative placemaking projects. The PlacePlans are done with support from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) and Governor Snyder’s MIplace Partnership.

The Southwest Detroit Business Association’s plan for the Vernor Livernois Project will support the redevelopment of a vacant and blighted property in the heart of one of the city’s strongest commercial districts. The plan will design a new neighborhood center area on what is currently a 6.9-acre brownfield site at West Vernor Highway and Livernois Avenue in the heart of southwest Detroit. The Vernor Livernois Project will become a focal point for this vibrant and diverse community, providing a public square, locally oriented retail and community meeting space as well as new employment opportunities.  

Gary Heidel, chief placemaking officer for MSHDA, said the eight communities selected are from all areas of the state and the projects involved range from revitalizing a historic downtown block in Cadillac to transforming a key commercial corridor in Detroit.

News' Daniel Howes: Next wave entrepreneurs making big impact

It's always good to get validation in print for something many of us already know and spend a good deal of time advocating. That is, cultivating entrepreneurship in its multiple forms, as a way of driving economic development in Detroit, the region and the state.

Here's Daniel Howes' take in his Detroit News column. An excerpt:

And partly it’s because the state’s homegrown entrepreneurs, born from the rubble of Michigan’s economic implosion, are ahead of the capital they need to grow and to prosper. Their success, their stories, would help to change the conversation about a state marked by the traumas of federal bailouts, municipal bankruptcy and the edge of financial collapse.

"None of us were around to remember when GM was just another startup," said Jeff Helminski, managing director of Blackford Capital LLC in Grand Rapids. "Of what? Two hundred auto companies."

More than three, anyway. That’s the power of entrepreneurialism -- someone wins, big.

Intriguing, yes? Read more here.

DTE Energy partners with Eastern Market on $750K social space

Fabulous news from the ever-growing-in-all-the-right-ways Eastern Market, which is rapidly becoming exactly what it promises to be: a 24-hour neighborhood with food, social and cultural options galore.

An excerpt from the News:

"The DTE Energy Plaza will serve as a convivial gathering place to create a stronger market, and we are very grateful for the DTE Energy Foundation’s generous support and naming of this new community asset," Dan Carmody, president of the Eastern Market Corp., said in a statement. "The DTE Energy Plaza will be a welcoming place where people will gather to enjoy each other and the bounty of Eastern Market."

In June, the Michigan Economic Development Corp. awarded the farmers market, which is open year-round on Saturdays and on Tuesdays in the summer and early fall, a $1 million grant for the renovation. The project has received funding from other foundations, corporate sponsors and the city, which is supporting it through bond revenue valued at $1.5 million and a community development block grant for $330,000.

Read on here.

Curbed Detroit: Avenue of Fashion, before and after

Livernois has long been one of Detroit's great north-south thoroughfares, from Fort Wayne at the southern end to the Ferndale city limits at the northern end. 

It's the latter part of Livernois, the historic Avenue of Fashion, that has been getting much love and new investment of late. We thought this story in Curbed Detroit, including before and after pics, was worth another look.

An excerpt: 

Over the summer, a contingent of retailers, artists, and designers descended on a sleepy stretch of commercial frontage on Livernois Avenue. The city once referred to this district as the Avenue of Fashion, but years of decline had left the storefronts largely vacant. Fueled by grant money and assistance from the REVOLVE program, several of these spaces have been woken up with new shopping opportunities and art installations. Check out what was achieved in just a few months.

Read more here.

Proposals for Grandmont-Rosedale business revitalization due by Oct. 7

The Grandmont-Rosedale Development Corporation (GRDC) is seeking proposals from businesses and entrepreneurs wishing to locate in the Grandmont Rosedale area. 

The deadline for proposals is Monday, Oct. 7. GRDC works with local business owners to promote storefront design that is good for business and good for the neighborhood.

For more info go here.

MSNBC drops in on city's green scene

Sure, we all know urban farming has been a big part of the Detroit redevelopment narrative for some time. But it's still awfully nice to see national media paying attention and updating the story. Make that multiple stories.

Check out MSNBC's report here.

Tonight at WSU: "Beauty in Unexpected Places"

Can beauty be used as a catalyst for urban revitalization? The 2013 Van Dusen Urban Leadership Forum at Wayne State University will pair a nationally renowned author, public art specialist and creative entrepreneur with existing and emerging community leaders to explore this very idea.
Speakers include author of The Geography of Bliss and Man Seeks God, Eric Weiner; ArtWorks Cincinnati’s Executive Director Tamara Harkavy; and Alison Cross, Founder of the Atlanta-based BoxCar Grocer.
The public lecture and panel discussion begins at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 10 -- that's tonight -- in Wayne State’s Community Arts Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public. RSVP here.
Additional details and speaker bios are available here.
The 2013 Van Dusen Urban Leadership Forum is being presented by Wayne State University, with support from: Hudson-Webber Foundation, D:hive, Model D Media, DPTV and Recycle Here.

Freep: Next five years likely better than the last 10 in downtown

Detroit John Gallagher reporter lists the developments that are changing downtown for the better, creating a more vibrant place for people who work, live and visit there. We see it happening before our eyes.

Read his report here.

Shinola opens flagship store in Midtown this weekend

Well, that didn't take long. The Shinola Store and Bicycle Assembly Headquarters officially opens to the public this Friday, June 28 during normal business hours, 10 a.m. - 7 p.m. 
A public Grand Opening Celebration will be held the next day, Saturday, June 29, 1-4 p.m. Shoppers will be treated to music from DJ Amy Dreamcatcher, MotorCity Brewery beer, samples of DROUGHT juice and limited edition letter press posters (while supplies last).

Head to where the action is, 441 W. Canfield, Detroit, MI 48201 (between 2nd Ave. and Cass Ave.), this weekend.

SEMCOG meeting on freeway widening recapped

This wrap up of last week's SEMCOG meeting appeared in HuffPost Detroit and Mode Shift Move Together, two of our media partners.

An excerpt: 

Citizens also turned out in force to speak out at a lengthy public comment period during the meeting. Dozens voiced their opinions, including members of the Sierra Club, the Michigan Suburbs Alliance and Transportation Riders United; none favored the highway expansions. Many, like Nowak-Boyd, objected to the toll they could take on local communities.

Members of the Detroit Sound Conservancy expressed concerns that a building that once housed United Sound Systems, a studio that recorded tracks by musical legends like John Lee Hooker, Aretha Franklin, Funkadelic and The Red Hot Chili Peppers, would be destroyed by the I-94 renovation.

Read on here.

HuffPost Detroit slideshow rounds up 2013 development

With Detroit's first Whole Foods Market opening this Wednesday in Midtown and other quality of life developments in the greater downtown area, there is a palpable commercial buzz in the air.

HuffPost Detroit can feel it. Here is a piece that rounds up some of the best developments we've experienced in the last 5-6 months.

An excerpt: 

Austin Black, President of the City Living Detroit real estate brokerage, told The Huffington Post that residential demand in downtown and Midtown has increased steadily over the last three years. He calls the opening of the Whole Foods grocery store in Midtown, in particular, "a game changer" that has encouraged people to start businesses and relocate downtown.

Well said, Austin. Read more here.

Detroit 2020: Midtown rolling with momentum

It was nice to see Channel 7's Detroit 2020 focus on the recent successes of Midtown and, in particular, the dedicated vision and leadership of Midtown Inc. president Sue Mosey.

An excerpt: It takes a quick pace to keep up with Sue Mosey.

She’s the dynamo leading the redevelopment of Detroit’s Midtown neighborhood. "It’s taken a very long time to get to the point where acceleration is moving very quickly, but I think we’ve reached that point now," Mosey says.

Read on and watch the segment here.

Detroit Archdiocese relocates to Capitol Park

There are a couple of promising developments in one move here: Capitol Park gets an anchor tenant in the Archdiocese of Detroit; and its vacated properties -- most spectacular among them the gorgeous Chancery bilding on Washington Blvd, adjacent to St. Aloysius church -- are being put on the market. The Freep got the story first but Curbed got the pictures.

Take a look here.

HuffPost Detroit: Mapping new tools for land reuse

We have supported the restlessly energetic endeavors of Jerry Paffendorf ever since he moved to Detroit a few years and joined (nay, helped start) the local social innovation revolution.

HuffPost Detroit has also taken notice, like this piece last week on an update to Paffendorf's website.

An excerpt:  

Loveland Technologies
, the firm that mapped the city of Detroit's foreclosure crisis in stunning detail as thousands of land parcels were auctioned off by Wayne County, introduced a sophisticated update to the WhyDon'tWeOwnThis? website on Friday.

WDWOT 2.0 is the result of four months of development, design time, "soul-searching and talking," said Loveland's founder, Jerry Paffendorf.

See more here.

Gilbert thinking retail ahead of M-1 dig

Our favorite extravagant but hardly reckless spender Dan Gilbert is ahead of the pack again, hinting that once the M-1 is fully developed (by 2016) more Woodward corridor retail will be waiting for it.

Excerpt from the Detroit News:

And Gilbert, one of downtown's major employers and private land owners, said his group has "definitely gotten commitments" from retailers who will be ready for business when the M-1 debuts.

"That's the goal as we work behind the scene, versus just taking a rough shot of opening one (retail store) at a time here and there," Gilbert said. He would not specify which retailers have made commitments.

Since August 2010, Gilbert's portfolio of companies has moved 7,000 workers downtown.

Rock Ventures owns 15 properties and is working on buying its 16th at 1001 Woodward, across the street from Campus Martius and Quicken Loans' headquarters in the Compuware Building.

For more, go here.

Juxtapoz mag documents Power House project it helped finance

Three years ago, California art mag Juxtapoz hooked up with the Power House Productions team in NoHam to re-do some homes in need on Moran St. This month's edition of the magazine includes a sweet overview of the project.

An excerpt:

Juxtapoz invited Swoon, Retna, Ben Wolf, Richard Colman, Monica Canilao, and Saelee Oh to paint and reimagine the residences.
Three years later, the neighborhood is beginning to take shape, and this past summer, the Ride It Sculpture Skate Park was built on four vacant commercial lots along East Davison Freeway, another creative endeavor that fuses art and community.

Lots more to see and read here.

HuffPost Detroit: Loveland's Paffendorf essays advice for county property auction

When Jerry Paffendorf is talking about Detroit properties and tax foreclosure auction in the same sentence, we're listening.

An excerpt:

Let's strap on our Detroit x-ray glasses at whydontweownthis.com, look at what's happening with the 20,000 properties at the Wayne County Tax Foreclosure Auction, and get real about improving land use strategies, informing the public, advertising the problems and dealing with all the properties left behind.

Well said. Here's the rest of the story.

Remake, remodel: East Riverfront's Globe to become DNR adventure and education center

Our hearts leap each time we hear about a new redevelopment project on or near Detroit's riverfront or the Dequindre Cut, like this one regarding the vintage late-19th century Globe Trading Co. building that was announced to much fanfare last week.

An excerpt: 

Under a deal for the building, the Detroit Economic Growth Corp., a quasi-public board that holds title to the Globe on behalf of the city, will sell it for $1 to a local entity created by the Roxbury Group, a Detroit-based developer. Roxbury will then develop it to the DNR's specifications with the help of a construction loan from Key Bank.

Read more in the Freep here.

Forbes weighs in on 'Another Detroit is Happening'

Freelancer Tamara Warren attended a recent Corktown summit and penned this stylish report for Forbes.

An excerpt: Detroit is a fascinating backdrop as a metaphor for America -- its hidden cultural gems, its industrial revolution legacy, the fortitude of diligent business owners and its stark and vivid displays of neglect. But what made this visiting group different was the caliber of insight offered by the attendees whose list of accomplishments is nothing short of outstanding.

Well said. Read on here.

Dan Gilbert's entrepreneurial mission gets noticed

We've written plenty, and so have others in Detroit, about Dan Gilbert's voracious appetite for vertical downtown properties. It's nice when others notice, like MedCity News, based in Cleveland (he has several holdings there as well, including the Cavaliers NBA franchise).

Read the Q&A here.

Atlantic Cities: Detroit's "dark euphoria"

Any piece about Detroit that leads with a quote from Sci-fi scion Bruce Sterling passes our cultural literacy test. Not to mention some other juicy wordsmithing by philosopher-superstar-entrepreneur Josh Linkner, who tells Atlantic Cities: "I'll put a Detroit entrepreneur up against anyone from the coasts and I think we'd kick their ass." Yeah, man. We like that kind of real talk. He also takes on the city's notorious lack of density, saying:  "Things tend to be spread out," he said. "Something on one block and something else four blocks later. We don't have a place you can stroll around for eight square blocks."

Right again, Josh. Read the entire story, largely about the national buzz being generated by the M@dison Building, here.

Next step forward for urban ag: soil remediation

What to do when you want to farm in the city but the ground needs a little help to get well? Soil remediation might be the answer, reports David Sands in HuffPost Detroit.

Ann excerpt:

"This is all very experimental," he said, "We figured it was a decent spot and it was a safe place to practice, he said. "We'll have things like bonesett, like yarrow and goldenrod and perennial sunflowers, which are all dynamic accumulators of different toxins."

Those plants remove hazardous materials such as heavy metals from the ground and hold them in their bodies, making it easy for people to dispose of dangerous substances through incineration or placement in a special landfill.

Read it all here.

Curbed Detroit says financing, construction coming soon for Whitney Building

We've been waiting to hear that the Whitney Building was ready to start redevelopment work ever since last October, when we held our Next Big Thing event there. We'll be waiting to get the official word and will bring that to you as soon as we have it.

In the meantime, check this out:

The Roxbury Group is the project developer; these are the same people behind The Auburn in Midtown. They have told Curbed that they are currently almost done gathering all the finances together and construction will begin immediately after.

Read more here.

RiverWalk's $44 million in upgrades to include improvements to Mt. Elliott, Gabriel Richard parks

Wonderful news from the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy: more funding is headed Detroit's way for upgrades to the RiverWalk. An announcement Monday morning by heavyweight government officials zeroed in on improvements to two significant parks east of downtown. More work is planned on that stretch of the walk, plus an extension that will take pedestrian and non-motorized traffic west to the Ambassodor Bridge.

An excerpt from the Detroit News: 

The state's Department of Natural Resources awarded the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy a $15 million check at the groundbreaking ceremony. The conversancy has also received a $29 million federal highway appropriation, which U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Detroit, helped secure and the state's Department of Transportation gave to the river project.

Officials from the conservancy, MDOT, DNR and others applauded the partnership that will transform the river. Read the rest of the story here.

Corktown gets front page love in the News

Nice to see a major feature on one of our neighborhood gems -- Corktown -- in one of the Detroit dailies. So what if we were there first -- about seven years and a month or two earlier. But who's bragging? Love the deep(ish) dive and the awesome quotes. Kudos.

An excerpt:

Among the new business owners are Jason Yates and Deveri Gifford, who opened a breakfast spot, the Brooklyn Street Local.
The Canadian couple chose Corktown after staying at Hostel Detroit and realizing the neighborhood was "the perfect spot" for their restaurant.

Fellow business owners have been overwhelmingly supportive.

"It's a collaborative effort, rather than competitive," Yates said. "It's fun because we're all doing this at the same time."

Read on here.

Recovery Park goal includes indoor urban ag, horse stables, neighborhood employment

Gary Wozniak sees himself as a food systems developer and a job creator. And no, he's not running for president but rather looking to redevelop a 3-square-mile area on Detroit's East Side into self-sustaining farms with their own production and distribution systems. Ambitious enough, we think.

An excerpt from The Hub:

Recovery Park started as leaders from SHAR (Self Help Addiction Rehabilitation) were looking to create jobs for people with barriers to employment. Looking at the talent pool and the physical resources Detroit abundantly has--land, road infrastructure, access to fresh water--the natural conclusion was urban farming and food system development.

The difference between Recovery Park and other urban farming/ urban redevelopment programs is in both size and scale. While most community farming produces few jobs that are often dependent on grant funding, Recovery Park’s model aims toward something more self-sustainable.

"We’re taking a look more at commercial indoor agriculture so that the jobs are year round," Wozniak says. "We can get three, maybe four, growing seasons working indoors."

Intriguing stuff, yes? Read more here.

MSU invests $1.5 million in Detroit farming project

It's nice to see Detroit going green. Yes, we're talking about the accelerating urban agriculture scene, but we're also cool with the increased presence by Michigan State University in the city. Sparty and Detroit are collaborating on a massive $1.5 million farming project.

An exerpt from HuffPost Detroit:

As the earth's population continues to concentrate in cities and resources become more scarce, the university believes that the world will become increasingly dependent on urban farming to meet its food needs.

"By 2050, food production will need to double -- using less water and energy than today," MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon said in a release. "We see great opportunity to do good locally and connect globally."

More here.

Detroit "digital revolution" gets video attention from NBC cable

It's somehow gratifying to see and hear, on a national cable TV broadcast, that there are so many young, tech-savvy workers employed downtown that there is not enough places for them to live. Well, let's fix that. More residential construction and reconstruction, please.

Let's go to the video here.

Community rebuilds Scripps Park at historic Woodbridge corner

We know this story but love it when people tell it again and again, as does Donna Terek in the Detroit News.

An excerpt: 

A group called Forward Arts Detroit -- headed by Dominic Arellano and Lou Castanelli's Access Arts -- teamed with the Woodbridge Neighborhood Development Corporation and Friends of Scripps Park last summer to clean up, and call attention to, this shaded and walled oasis of calm at one of Detroit's most bustling crossroads.

Read it all here.

Cass Park, Masonic Temple renovation in the works, says Detroit News

When we need to catch our daily real estate buzz we turn to Curbed Detroit to turn us on. This time the thrills come in seeing the possibilities for development in the newly-Curbed-christened LoMidTo neighborhood. Check out an excerpt:

The Masonic Temple could be getting a pile of money for renovations, but like other LoMidTo property deals, the details are cloaked in secrecy! The Detroit News reports that in the lower Midtown area (Masonic's home) there have been 22 property deals under confidentiality agreements.

Stop us if you've heard any of this before. The rest of you join us here.

Hamtown Farms to bear rare fruit trees

We've been following the progress of this Hamtramck tree planting project for the past month or so, and we're happy to see that the ground-breaking of Hamtown Farms was a success. Check out this excerpt: 

Dozens of hands dug, pulled, rolled, shoveled and tamped the rock-hard earth in the hopes of eventually harvesting a pawpaw orchard, hazelnut bushes and vegetables near the flowers and open space of Michigan’s most densely packed city.

Wow, love that description, by Detroit Free Press staff writer Megha Satyanarayana. And the picture of cool Mayor Karen Majewski, ready to dig in. Read more here.

Kick some cash over to Hamtramck creatives converting cop station to art center

Hatch: A Hamtramck Art Collective purchased an abandoned building from the city of Hamtramck for $1 with plans to convert it into an art center.  The building was initially a dormitory for nuns from the 1920s to the late 1960s, then became a police station (complete with jail cells and the rumor of ghosts).

The group is close to being able to occupy the building, which will feature low cost studios for artists, an art gallery, a workroom that will include Detroit’s only public darkroom, a classroom, and more.

They need some help to finish the rehab. You can be part of that help by supporting the project on Kickstarter. Give Hatch some ($$$) love here.

Henry Ford to develop 300 acres at cusp of Midtown and New Center

And that's not all. folks. HuffPost Detroit rounds up a few projects (including the $500 million development in the headline above) re-shaping Midtown.

Read about it here.

'Detroit Rising' video series continues on Atlantic Cities

Thanks, Richard Florida, for tightening the focus on how Detroit is moving forward from the ground up. Here is the third video in the five-part series "Detroit Rising." The links to the other two are here, too.

Check 'em out here.

Richard Florida kicks off 'How Detroit is rising' video series

Creative class scholar Richard Florida is dedicating a career to finding out what works to make cities vital and vibrant. This first piece in a series now running in Atlantic Cities jumps on the multiple ways Detroit is shaking off its rust and finding new ways to thrive.

An excerpt: Detroit’s new generation of place makers and city-builders draws deeply on the city and the region’s many assets. Yes, urban renewal devastated parts of the city, and yes, it’s true that there are too many empty lots and abandoned buildings. But a walk through and around the urban core evidences a fabulous urban fabric with fantastic historic buildings of the very sort that Jane Jacobs was talking about when she said that old buildings give rise to new ideas.

Much more here.

Freep: Options for Detroit Works includes "green residential"

Yes, we know Detroit Works planning and discussion has been underwhelming at times. But we still believe the only solution to addressing a shrinking population within a 140-square mile area is smart decision-making about how to use land rapidly "going back to nature." 

First read this excerpt from a piece by the very busy John Gallagher and then get on with the rest of the story.

What the Detroit Works planners call building blocks and other planners have called neighborhood types include districts devoted mostly to retail or industry, districts with a mix of homes and urban farms, and districts devoted to a blue-green landscape used for storm-water retention or natural wetlands.

We can't hide our love for the concept of "green residential," by the way. Read about that and more here.

Vote for project finalists in Let's Save Michigan placemaking contest

Click on the thumbnails to view the project details, read any comments, and cast your vote. Check out all the finalists and feel free to vote for multiple projects. You may only vote for the same project once a day, and all voting is subject to verification. For more on the contest details and rules -- and to vote -- go here.

American Prospect goes long form in telling story of Detroit's fall and rise

We caught up to this story by chance and found this excerpt especially good:

One morning at Motor City Java House, I’m introduced to a 30-year-old visual artist named Amy Kaherl, who is part of that fast-growing demographic. Kaherl runs Detroit SOUP, an organization that gives "micro-grants" of up to $1,000 for projects benefiting the city. It hosts monthly dinners: Five dollars buys soup, salad, pie, and a vote. Entrepreneurs present their ideas, and the winner of a secret ballot takes home the evening’s proceeds. SOUP has funded everything from a community radio station to an enterprise involving winter coats that double as sleeping bags, produced by (and distributed free to) homeless Detroiters. She has come to the Java House today to discuss the possibility of a SOUP dinner in Brightmoor.

Read more here.

Power House Productions on list of NEA grant winners

We were thrilled to see our friends Gina Reichert and Mitch Cope from Power House receive a $15,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to help convert a vacant lot in the neighborhood north of Hamtramck into a skateboard park.

See all the statewide winners here.

Yamasaki's McGregor Memorial at WSU to get $1.8 million restoration

Last week we were pleased to report that the Society of Architectural Historians held their recent conference in Detroit, including sessions inside Wayne State's McGregor Memorial Center, designed by Minoru Yamasaki.

Right on cue, another local story appeared in HuffPost Detroit on the great architect who began his practice in Detroit in the 1950s. An excerpt::

The jewel-like McGregor Center has long been considered by many to be among the finest buildings designed by Yamasaki, the Detroit-based architect best known for designing the World Trade Center towers in New York City. Yamasaki died in 1986.

The McGregor Center was built in 1958. The pools remained filled with water until the early '80s, when leaks and other functional problems led Wayne State to drain them. The pools have remained empty and something of an eyesore ever since.

Read more here.

Plant your vote for Hamtown Farms in Communities Take Root project

We chanced upon this little gem when cruising the interwebs the other night. It's all about green space, public space and density--all near and dear to our hearts.

Best of all it's about a project called Hamtown Farms, which is competing with other worthy projects as part of the nonprofit Communities Take Root program, which aims to plant fruit-bearing trees in parks and low-income neighborhoods.

If you like what looks like a cool reuse of long vacant land on the south end of Hamtramck, vote for Hamtown Farms here.

Sean Mann and Sarah Szurpicki convert passion into getting things done

We've said it before, we'll say it again: do yourselves a favor and make regular visits to the Economics of Place site. We never fail to find good stuff, like this well-deserved nod of approval to two prime Detroit movers, Sean Mann and Sarah Szurpicki.

They get our nod, too. Read on here.

Gilbert scores again, this time with $500K residential building on Washington Blvd

We never get tired of Dan Gilbert (or anyone else -- c'mon anyone else, step up and put down some cash on Detroit real estate) buying downtown properties. This time it's a residential building on Washington Blvd. that you've seen a million times but never guessed at its endless possibilities. Get the lowdown in Crain's here.

Richard Florida weighs in on what downtown Twitter presence means for Detroit

Take a look inside Startup News to get our own Jon Zemke's take on Twitter coming to Detroit here.

But before you go, take a look at what Richard Florida has to say in this op/ed from Atlantic Cities. 

An excerpt:

Now with his development company, Rock Ventures, (Dan Gilbert) owns nine buildings downtown and has attracted 40 companies to those buildings all in a very short time. Twitter is, by far, his most high profile catch.

Read more here.

Dime building welcomes Chrysler suits to downtown digs

Though Chrysler nor Quicken Loans people are commenting, sources tell Detroit Free Press columnist Tom Walsh that the Auburn Hills-based automaker is moving up to 70 people to offices in the Dime Building downtown.

That's great news for the Woodward Corridor. Keep 'em coming and read more about it here.

Freep's John Gallagher takes a deeper dive into downtown and Midtown

When John Gallagher of the Free Press talks, we listen. When he writes it, we read it. Like this timely push back at those who suggest that all the metrics don't add up to success for downtown and Midtown.

An excerpt:  

Yet at a casual glance, the downtown and Midtown markets appear to be booming. Rental apartment buildings are filled to capacity and running waiting lists. Downtown's newest hotels, including the Westin Book Cadillac and Doubletree Fort Shelby, enjoy healthy occupancy rates well above the local average.

There's more. Read on here.

Nain Rouge makes Atlantic's list of imaginary city monsters

It was hard to resist the rest of the story when it began like this: "If you want to catch a cryptid doing its thing in America, common sense would deem you drive far out into the woods where humankind rarely ventures. After all, it's typically hunters and hikers who wind up having awkward run-ins with Bigfoot or the Flatwoods monster."

Even better is that Atlantic Cities, where we found the piece, went on to include our very own red dwarf of evil renown, the Nain Rouge. Keep reading here.

Midtown garage opens its fabulous house of green

For all of you who have marveled at the transformation of a historic Midtown automotive facility to a cutting edge model for sustainability and all things green, here's your chance to see up close and personal.

The Green Garage has an open house this Thursday, March 29, 3-8 p.m. And you're invited! Go here for details.

Nain Rouge, Midtown and placemaking

We found this last night while scouring the interwebs looking for quirky Detroit stuff to share. It comes from Dan Gilmartin and his ever-inspiring Economics of Place blog:

The Marche du Nain Rouge is the brainchild of Francis Grunow, a midtown resident and a big player in the turnaround of the historic Cass Corridor neighborhood. When I was in high school the area (which is part of greater Midtown) was #1 on the list of neighborhoods that you didn’t want to venture into at night. Today, however, it boasts some amazing new residential loft developments, authentic retail shops, great restaurants, and an energy approaching what you might find in some of the more well known "comeback" neighborhoods in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco.

Well said, and thanks for giving some deserved love to Model D stalwart contributor Grunow. 

Read the rest here.

Place is what you make it

Find an underutilized space in your community. An alley, a pocket park, a vacant lot. With a group of neighbors, friends, business owners, or other community members, create a plan and design for turning that underutilized space into a community place.

The best part: there is potential funding at the end of your project.
Let’s Save Michigan will award up to three prizes, ranging from $500 to $1000, to partially or fully fund your project. Your community will be more attractive, more welcoming, safer, and more economically successful.

Get more details here. Look for a feature next week that aims to entice you even further.

Inc. mag calls out Detroit as innovation hot spot

You know the social innovation scene is pretty sweet when Inc. Magazine says the downtown tech enclave dubbed Webward Avenue is poised to become "Detroit's own Silicon Valley." We felt that exact vibe at our last speaker series event held at the M@dison so we're not caught off guard by that statement.

Read the rest of the story here.

OCD hackerspace gets some love from Detroit Yes!, Metro Times

We've been fans of OmniCorpDetroit before the Eastern Market hackerspace even had a name or a permanent space. We've seen some of the crazy-good work produced there for the annual Maker Faire. And have even been impressed with stuff that never made it out the door. That's how good these creative people are.

Check out this nice spread in Detroit Yes! here. And in the Metro Times here.

Hey, developers: why not ask us what we want in our neighborhood?

Here is an idea that could not have come at a better time. It's being called real estate crowdsourcing, at least it is by the forward-thinking folks at Atlantic Cities.  

Here's an excerpt: If the concept proves workable, Miller and his colleagues envision expanding it -- to other neighborhoods and other real-estate developers, other cities and even other parts of the planning process. Matching a business to a vacant space is just the first step. What if that business also wanted to gab with the local community on everything from what to put on the menu to how to design its patio to where to find the financing?

Good stuff. Read all about it here.

Citizen Effect making connections via social networks

Earlier this year, Dan Morrison of Citizen Effect introduced himself in Model D. Now read up on his group's progress in HuffPost Detroit. An excerpt:

So what did all this work on Twitter get us? A good but not ridiculous list of 831 Twitter followers? Actually, a hell of a lot more than that. First, a launch week that made it feel like we were a much larger operation than we are (which has its ups and downs). We had two articles in the Detroit Free Press, air time on WDET, a feature on Model D, two invitations to blog on Huffington Post Detroit, blog posts on Positive Detroit, Xconomy, Detroit Half Full, The Detroit Hub, and others. Most important, social media allowed us to get physical. Over 200 people came out for our happy hour and nearly 200 people inquired about how to be a Citizen Philanthropist for Detroit4Detroit. Not bad for a few social media hacks.

Read the rest of the story here.

Brooklyn is so last year; now Detroit might be the new Austin

Guess what? There is a new round of urban hipster-centric comparisons that includes Detroit in the conversation. This time the standard of cool is Austin, not Brooklyn, and cities like Asheville, Chattanooga, Burlington and, of course, Detroit are in on the chase. Or so says Culturemap.

It's not horrible. Read it here.

Like the Broderick Tower? So do we

We were trolling around Facebook the other day and found this page dedicated to the Broderick Tower, one of downtown's skyscraping gems. No, scratch that. It is one of the great buildings to ever rise over the North American continent -- and you can quote us on that.

Find the page, and "like" the great tower,  here.

Freep editorial: New RTA would be hub for critical transit projects

A new regional transit authority would coordinate all transit service in southeast Michigan, including a number of transit initiatives and agencies, the Detroit Free Press says in an opinion piece this week.

That includes high speed bus transit, light rail on Woodward from downtown to New Center and commuter train service from Detroit to Ann Arbor.

Let's get it done. That's our opinion. Get all the details here.

'9 Businesses' highlights indie Detroit entrepreneurship

Screened last week at Eastern Market's Signal Return, the short film 9 Businesses aims to give a taste of how small business energy can help catalyze, revitalize and inspire neighborhood life.

Need some inspiration? Watch this.

AIA: Detroit part of "New Big Three" for practicing architects

In the voluminous, intriguing scholarly piece, writer Wellington Reiter describes Detroit, New Orleans and Phoenix as U.S. cities "that have visited the frontlines of the future and are reporting back to the rest of the us, a bit wobbly and worse for wear, but still standing and in some respects, regaining their footing."

The rest of his paper is even better. Read it here.

Bethany Shorb's 'ties that don't suck' make Etsy's list of 1,000 handmade sellers

Etsy, as many of you know, is an international marketplace made up of a community of artists, thinkers, doers, makers, sellers, buyers and collectors.

So it's none too shabby when you're biz places 20th out of 1,000, as did Bethany Shorb and her Cyberoptix line of ties. Look for her moniker, Toybreaker, hit it and check out Shorb's fab collection of hand-printed wearables, all produced in a studio on Techno Boulevard (that's Gratiot, on the southern edge of Eastern Market).

Michigan Municipal League touts economic importance of immigrants

A new report by the Immigration Policy Center shows Michigan's immigrant population growing, excelling educationally and contributing to the state's economy.

Using the latest census data, the report shows that in 2010, immigrants made up 6 percent of the state's population or 587,747 persons. This compares to 1990 when the figure was 3.8 percent.

Follow Model D's coverage of this topic in the pages of Model D in the coming months and read more about the Immigration  Policy Center report here.

Atlantic Cities profiles downtown catalyst Dan Gilbert

Dan Gilbert has been making plenty of news locally with his purchases of properties in the lower Woodward corridor. He's been getting some love from the national press, as well, like this Q&A in Atlantic Cities.

Read more about Gilbert's lifelong downtown love affair here.

Photography beyond the 'poetic inconsequence' of ruin porn

Dave Jordano was a student of photography at the College for Creative Studies in the early 1970s. Following the example of his photography heroes -- Walker Evans, Robert Frank and others -- he set out back then to photograph his city.

He came recently back to "re-photograph" the city. The result is an overall picture of Detroit that connects decades 40 years apart.

Take a look at the entire piece here.

BBC reports: Space for growth in Detroit

Sure, you may have heard much of this before -- that the city is underserved by national food chains, the manufacturing base has collapsed and population has been on a decades-long decline -- but it does feel kinda good to get the BBC to weigh in on urban farming, Eastern Market, the importance of Whole Foods entering the marketplace and, of course, the creative possibilities of having incredible amounts of space as an asset.

Read it all here.

'Work, Reimagined': Detroit producer pens a piece for Yes! Magazine

Independent radio producer Zac Rosen takes a dive into Detroit's creative communities and comes up with some blueprints for the changing nature of work. COLORS--Detroit, On the Rise bakery and the Boggs Educational Center are part of "a revolution of values," he writes. Nicely put.

Read the whole story here.

Giddy up: Pony Ride nurtures creative life in Corktown

You heard? A group of outside the box investors, including Phil Cooley of Slows, purchased an 80-year-old factory on the corner of Vermont and Porter streets last spring and created a community empowerment project that enables artist and social innovators to get massive amounts of space at an affordable price. You probably did, since we ran this story about the Corktown incubator in November.

But that's OK, because it looks even better in this video clip. Roll the tape and check it out here.

DC3 helps grow collective voice for Detroit creatives

The Speakers Bureau is an initiative by the Detroit Creative Corridor Center to help establish a voice for Detroit’s creative community. This collective voice is that of many people and businesses who demonstrate forward progress in the city.

All of these individual entities have worked with or work alongside the DC3 in Detroit. Maybe they’ve participated in the Creative Ventures Program or consulted with the DC3 staff on a location for their business. Whatever the case, this is the story of Detroit’s forward movements through our lens. Read all about it here.

HuffPo Detroit rounds up Dan Gilbert's greatest hits of 2011

Most of us have followed the multiple stories of Quicken Loans founder/chairman Dan Gilbert buying up Detroit skyscrapers in the lower Woodward corridor. His newish company, Bedrock Real Estate Services LLC, manages the properties.

And there are hints of more to come. While we wait, HuffPost Detroit editor Simone Landon maps out Gilbert's real estate scores -- purchased for a cool, cumulative $50 million -- here.

HuffPost Detroit's top 11 tech startups for 2011

Our friends at HuffPost Detroit are ending the year with some best of lists and roundups just like we are. This week, a list of the 11 top tech startups is making the rounds around the webs.

Check it out here.

Detroit Revitalization fellows announced

The Detroit Revitalization Fellows Program is a partnership between Wayne State University, the Kresge Foundation, Hudson-Webber Foundation and the Skillman Foundation that brings together talented professionals in Detroit. They will participate in a program combining two years of full-time employment with executive development-style education, networking opportunities and professional coaching and mentoring.

See the list of fellows here. We'll follow this story as it develops.

Bizdom chief calls Detroit "entrepreneurial field of dreams"

Dan Izzo zeroes in on a topic near and dear to our hearts: young and hungry thinkers, doers, builders and makers finding opportunities to do business in Detroit 2.0. Some of them have no ties to the city but come ready to plant their vision in this fertile place, says the Training and Launch Chief for downtown's Bizdom U.

The piece first appeared in HuffPost Detroit. Read it here, get inspired.

Wheelhouse pops up at Compuware HQ downtown

Co-owners Karen Gage and Kelli Kavanaugh say they have always wanted to operate their Wheelhouse Detroit bike shop year round. The next best thing is a pop up shop in a great location. And it doesn't come much better than the Compuware Building, across from downtown's Campus Martius.

It's now open through Christmas Eve. Get all the info you need to go shopping here.

Bright lights, our city: New docs focus on future of Detroit

Local production company One of Us Films is working on a documentary film that tightens the focus on the potential of smart urbanism around the world. Using the thesis laid out in Detroit Free Press writer John Gallagher’s "Reimagining Detroit," the documentary looks to Detroit’s future, and to the future of cities everywhere.

Check out a clip from director Carrie LeZotte's work in progress here. And while you're in a video-watching mood, check out a preview of another intriguing work in production, Keys to Detroit. We like it, and plan to keep our eyes on both.

Curbed Detroit new architecture critic issues challenge to status quo

Cheers, Curbed Detroit, for jumping into our moribund media marketplace and fearlessly mixing it up with business owners, designers, realtors, rabbis, Patti Smith fans and now the preservationist community. We didn't know we needed you until we needed you.

Welcome new architecture critic Kelly Ellsworth, who challenges all who love Detroit buildings to not only be passionate -- but proactive and effective.  

Let the arguments begin here.

Video: Phil Cooley's Pony Ride incubator hits the ground running

A dance group, a furniture-maker and an old-school typesetter from New York City -- they're all the newest tenants of Phil Cooley's Pony Ride, the Vermont St. space he bought for $100,000 with the idea of hatching an incubator for creators and innovators in Corktown.

Check out this video to hear Cooley talk about the 30,000 sq. ft. building -- and the community they're building inside.


But perhaps the most interesting aspect is watching this patchwork group of entrepreneurs pitch in to restore the building, a microcosm of what could potentially save the city.

Click here to watch.

Xconomy makes the Detroit-Silicon Valley comparison

Locally-based social entrepreneurs are repositioning the nation's geographic emphasis on Silicon Valley, attracting a business incubator at Wayne State, a venture capital fund based out of U of M, and the attention of tech wizards and venture capitalists on the West Coast.

At the Blackstone LaunchPad incubator at Wayne State, a diverse group of student entrepreneurs are being trained in running a business -- but locating those future companies in Metro Detroit is part of the program. And they're inspired by young social entrepreneurs like EnGarde Detroit's Bobby Smith and Veronika Scott of the Empowerment Plan to do more than just pay the bills.

Smith says his long-term goal is to help transform Detroit into the "Silicon Valley of social entrepreneurship. Detroit is the perfect place for it -- Detroit created the middle class. People here are not afraid of hard work," he says.

Read more here.

Peering into Detroit's future through its alleys

Across Midtown, a new appreciation for the humble alleyway is resulting in creative re-adaptations as entryways, pedestrian corridors and outdoor spaces all their own.

The Detroit Idea Factory examines three varied uses for the alley around Midtown. Outside Motor City Brewing Works, the Canfield Green Alley beautifully connects Second Ave. and Canfield without sacrificing the tenets of sustainability. Over in the Sugar Hill Arts District, new restaurant Seva will open an outdoor patio in the alley, dismissing the typical exterior seating outside of the storefront. And Hatch finalists Alley Wine say they hope to open their future vino bar in a Cass Corridor alley.


The master plan for Sugar Hill links up walkable alleys with the Midtown Loop, a pedestrian greenway. The culture of a walking city is part of our history, and our urban bones still support it. The intricate network of alleyways and narrow sidestreets are waiting to happen.

Are alleys the next big thing? Click here for more.

Real estate professionals learn best practices for selling Detroit

Selling real estate in Detroit has been a uniquely difficult challenge since the 2008 recession; the city is now prime territory for reinvestment and development.

On Nov. 8 and 9, real estate professionals, developers and students of land-use topics will convene at Cobo for "Detroit: Forged By Innovation," a two-day conference sponsored by the University of Michigan and the Urban Land Institute. Manhattan-based creative developer Tony Goldman and Peter D. Cummings will headline the speakers' list -- workshops, walking tours and bus trips around the city are on the list for the conference, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

Click here for registration information and more.

Detroit: a test case in the role of art in a city's revival

In Kansas, a battle between Governor Sam Brownback and the National Endowment for the Arts has resulted in the NEA pulling all arts funding for the state, according to Grist. In Detroit, partnerships between major institutions and artistic-minded entrepreneurs have launched partnerships like the FAB lab, which offers metalworkers, mixed-media artists, woodworkers and digital fabricators the (often expensive) tools and space needed to practice their craft. Which seems like a growth strategy?


"Detroit has always been a place where things have been made," says Alex Feldman, one of the project's creators, who works on economic development strategies with the company U3 Ventures. "That tradition is still alive here. But it's starting to shift in a small way to a more (artistic) culture of manufacturing and creation."

Tap into the scene here.

Downtown GAR building gets a makeover

Downtown Detroit's castle, the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Hall at Cass and Grand River Avenue, will be renovated into creative offices for Mindfield, according to the Freep.

After purchasing the GAR building from the City of Detroit for $220,000, developers Tom and David Carleton and Sean Emery said they hope to open in 2013 after a $2 to $3 million renovation. In addition to offices for Mindfield, a boutique media production firm with offices on Library St., the building will include retail and restaurant space, as well as a Civil War memorial to honor the building's history.


Designed by architect Julius Hess in the castle-like Romanesque style popular in the day, the GAR Building was built in 1899 as a meeting hall for Union Army veterans. As those veterans died off, the building took on other uses, but closed more than 30 years ago.

Find out more here.

W Magazine: Art thrives in Detroit, "the city of tomorrow"

Art-world darlings like Chido Johnson and Matthew Barney are just two of the creators giving rise to the continued comparisons between Berlin and Detroit. W Magazine's five-page spread goes beyond the big names to capture the industry of art -- from the hunt for buildings to the scene's connectivity -- now rivaling the automobile as this city's signature export.


"It’s all about reinvention now," said Oren Goldenberg, the film’s director. Like many artists here, he returned to the city from the suburbs in 2007. With him was Sterling Toles, the composer building the film’s sound track from a mixture of angry rap and more delicate sounds. "I think of Detroit as illumination training school," he said, pointing to a bumper sticker in the room that read f**k cool cities. "It was so dark. Here, you become the light."

Read it here.

Pop-up stores offer new solutions to recession

Pop-up retail is spreading throughout Metro Detroit (other than the annual Halloween shops, we're going to give the credit to Joe Posch's Hugh for this one). The Somerset Collection's CityLoft luxury shopping experience downtown will extend weekend shopping hours through December for the holiday shopping season. The article also caught up with 71 Pop's Margarita Barry, who offered a convincing argument for many entrepreneurs to scout the market by opening temporary retail.


"It's a good chance for me to learn whether I really want to run a brick-and-mortar business," Barry said. "What are the price points that work? What does the community want? The pop up idea is offering me a great chance to learn."

Find out more here.

Imagination Station outpost skirts demolition -- for now

Tensions between city officials and artists over building demolitions are at heart in this article chronicling the Imagination Station's continued work to save a blighted Corktown property near the Michigan Central Depot from demolition.

The home in question featured an installation by artist Catie Newell, which was deconstructed for Grand Rapids' annual Art Prize competition (it won a juried award). The city's given Imagination Station more time to create a plan to fix the property before it's scheduled for demolition.


DeBruyn was among the group of community activists who bought the Imagination Station homes on 14th Street, next to Roosevelt Park, at the request of the Wayne County Nuisance Abatement Program. They paid $500 apiece, plus back taxes. "So much of the art inspired in this town is inspired by the blight," DeBruyn said. "We are part of the movement that's trying to do something positive about it."

Get more here.

One house at a time

Juxtaposing the imagination of Power House Productions and architect Catie Newell's adaptive reuse of abandoned homes in Detroit with the bureaucratic mechanism of the Detroit Works Project, it's clear that the city could take a page from our local artists' imagination. Metropolis wonders why the Detroit Works Project is focusing on shrinking, not saving blighted structures across the city. This writer's idea? Rename the whole thing the Detroit Dreams Project. That's quite an idea.

Catie Newell teaches at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, but her built work -- if that’s what you can call it -- is mainly in Detroit. "Anything that's new construction, particularly in this urban landscape, looks entirely out of place here," she said to me. "Maybe that's where the offensive part comes in." She was saying that new construction -- in Detroit, where so many old buildings stand empty -- was not only a bad idea but an offensive one. This, from an architect?

Dig in here.

The business of art, and Heidelberg Street

While art and commerce can be uneasy bedfellows (how to put a price on creativity; and whether it should be judged in those terms), a new study from the Center for Creative Community Development at Williams College proves one Detroit attraction satisfies both spheres.

Tyree Guyton's Heidelberg Project is more than an indoor-outdoor art exhibition -- it's a serious revenue-builder for the city. The study found that the project attracts $3.4 million in economic activity to Wayne County every year. That's partly because 70 percent of the more than 50,000 visitors who make their way to Heidelberg Street every year are from outside the county. Guyton's vision has also created 40 jobs in the region.


"The Detroit and wider Detroit region faces a wide array of challenges," Sheppard said. "I don't think it's correct to say that art and cultural organizations and projects alone can completely turn around the economy of Detroit ... but I think arts and culture projects like the HP are (part of that)."

Connect the dots here.

Honor + Folly bed and breakfast -- coming soon

Detroit's newest bed-and-breakfast will offer guests a dose of original style along with their pillow and key.

Meghan McEwen, founder of the amazingly cool DesignTripper blog, posted a few thoughts on her latest venture, Honor + Folly, which will bring the inn concept to Corktown's Michigan Ave.

Writes McEwen, "I’ve been so inspired by all the people and places I’ve been writing about for the past year, I’ve decided to join ‘em. I don’t have photos yet ... and you’ll have to bear with me while I paint, stock, source, sand furniture, adorn walls, make beds, knit pillows and hang a shingle."

While details are limited, McEwen tells us Honor + Folly will feature cooking classes and lotsa cool furnishings from local designers. It will open to guests in mid-November.

Click here to read McEwen's post, and keep tuning into Model D for more Honor + Folly.

Detroit leads Philly in BME Challenge

When it comes to sharing the positive tales of black men in and around Detroit, our residents haven't been shy.

Detroit currently leads Philly 1064 to 1017 in the Black Men Engagement Challenge (called BME or "be me" for short), which has called for recognizing local leaders, inspiring doers and change agents in the African-American community.

There's just four days left to vote for your inspiration, Detroit -- don't miss the chance to recognize the people you know who are making their communities a better place to live. Go to bmechallenge.org for more information.

Tyree Guyton: new children's book and a farewell show

Readers as young as six can now enjoy the brilliant spectacle of Tyree Guyton's work -- without leaving the house.

A new picture-book biography, "Magic Trash: A Story of Tyree Guyton and His Art," was released by author J.H Shapiro and illustrator Vanessa Brantley-Newton. The story details Guyton's transformative powers on his East Side neighborhood.

Bid farewell to Guyton, who is heading to Basel, Switzerland, for a one-year arts residency, on Friday, Oct. 14 at 8 p.m. Kresge Eminent Artist honoree Marcus Belgrave will perform his unique new composition, All That Jazz: The Heidelberg Suite, with Anthony Wilson and the Detroit All-Star Jazz Orchestra. The concert was made possible through a $50,000 gift from the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation. The fete takes place at the First Congregational Church at 33 E. Forest. Tickets are $25. The concert is in partnership with the Arts League of Michigan.


Guyton is headed to Basel, Switzerland in late October for a prestigious, one-year residency at the Laurenz House where he will reflect on 25 years of the Heidelberg Project through a series of manifestos. This work is a component of his 2009 honorary PhD from the College for Creative Studies. Guyton has also been invited to participate in the international 2012 Art Basel, called “the largest art show in the world.”

Purchase your tickets and find out more here.

Know This! takes a tour of Detroit's creativity

Know This! took a tour through Detroit, catching up with 71 Pop's Margarita Barry, Detroitbigfdeal's Tunde Wey and Bureau of Urban Living owner Claire Nelson along the way. The host says they're hearing a lot of new concepts in the city, "because people are really innovating, people are really connecting and they're bringing a lot of creative ideas to revitalize the city." Hear, hear.

Check the video out here.

Andrew Zago goes on LA's KCRW, talks Detroit architecture and urbanism

A segment of Monday's KCRW's To The Point newsmagazine used the current negotiations between the Big Three and the UAW to begin a larger discussion on Detroit's architecture and urbanism. Andrew Zago is the owner of Zago Architecture, which has offices in Detroit and Los Angeles (notable works include MOCAD.) He says the auto industry and union's struggles play out in the city's physical condition (no surprise) and architectural history. The future, he says, lies in attracting projects that command a larger scale of urbanism than a single storefront could produce; while avoiding the massive RenCen types of projects that corrupt the city's character.


"There is this incredible sort of grassroots creativity. But somehow, it never kind of brings about ... it never can cohere into significant urbanism, and the top-down models tend to be too sterile. I think what Detroit really needs and where its future is, is to find a kind of middle ground. Projects that are real and true to Detroit, warts and all; but at the same time, can rise above the most minute scale of grassroots efforts -- and I think we're starting to see some of that."

Listen to the program here (Zago speaks at minute 42).

Can the arts spur more development? Here's $1.3 million toward the cause

The arts can do more than just enrich our daily lives -- they can also serve as the catalyst for urban economic development. That's why a new national initiative called ArtPlace will invest $11.5 million in 25 cities across the country. And, make no mistake, Detroit is on this pilot program's radar -- the D received more funds than any other city (well, besides New York).

Notably, Midtown Detroit Inc. received a $900,000 grant to advance the development of the Sugar Hill Arts District, creating a bridge between the Detroit Medical Center and Midtown's Woodward Ave corridor. Midtown Detroit Inc. will use the funds to purchase an abandoned church in the district, which will be renovated into a performing arts space. MOCAD and Tech Town also received grants.


If ArtPlace seeks to jump-start struggling neighborhoods, Sugar Hill looks like the ideal poster child, since its two blocks were largely abandoned, apart from the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit and the N'Namdi Center for Contemporary Art. In the past year, Midtown Detroit has renovated a derelict apartment building at the district's heart, and is about to launch new construction.

Find out more here.

Inside Detroit to raise funds with downtown scavenger hunt

Who better to design a clue-laden scavenger hunt through the streets of downtown than the CBD's foremost tour guides at Inside Detroit?

A new fundraiser for the city's welcoming team asks Detroiters to park their cars and hit the pavement for an Amazing Race-style contest testing denizens on their knowledge of local history, businesses, culture. Teams of 4 have two hours to master a 50-clue scavenger hunt -- and possibly win a $500 bundle of gift certificates and prizes. The $120 team registration benefits the nonprofit Inside Detroit and downtown's Welcome Center. It all begins at 3 p.m. Oct. 1, with an afterparty at Hard Rock Cafe at 5 p.m.

Register your crew at Inside Detroit's website.

Ruin porn, dreamers and you -- a meditation on Detroit's future

Adhering to the axiom that art is meant to be controversial (nay, even prescriptive), a recent essay from NYC-based website The Awl attempts to justify "ruin porn" -- a new term for the practice of capturing cities in destruction that's become shorthand for a culture of photography in the D. This bitter, often sarcastic piece won't be for everyone, but it's the latest attempt to justify the competing narratives for the city's present state and the shaping of its future.


With so much of Detroit about to disappear, does this not provide us with an excellent opportunity to document that which we will not be able to document in the near future? Instead of decrying voyeurism, why not consider these photographs and stories a reminder that in America we actually do abandon our neighbors and let our cities die, time and time again.

You can find the essay here.

SmartBuildings Detroit awards almost a half million in grants to downtown skyscrapers

10 buildings in greater downtown will receive energy-saving improvement grants from the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) of the City of Detroit, totalling $447,000.

The grants, capped at $100,000, are expected to leverage $5.2 million in additional building investments from property owners and other sources. In the CBD, Broderick Tower, Chase Tower, the Dime Building and the Madison Theatre Building received sizeable grants to help fund energy-efficient HVAC equipment, among other uses.

Detroit's EDC is implementing the SmartBuildings Detroit program by way of a $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to encourage energy-saving improvements to optimize real estate values in the greater downtown district.

Find out more here.

Shimmer on the River to benefit Detroit Riverfront Conservancy

Shimmer on the River, the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy's largest fundraising celebration of the year, will celebrate the waterfront promenade's continued development with an elegant dinner and dancing event along the Detroit River.

The fundraiser, which takes place on Thursday, Sept. 8 from 6 to 10 p.m. at the GM Plaza, will honor U.S. Senator Carl Levin for his continued support of the Detroit Riverfront. Guests will enjoy a strolling dinner of Michigan-made products and local favorites, and jazz artists the Les Williams band and One World Island will grace the stage.

"This is an evening for every Detroit Riverfront supporter to come together and not only celebrate what's been accomplished, but to also play a role in its continued transformation and growth," says Detroit Riverfront Conservancy CEO Faye Nelson.

A range of ticket levels, including Young Professional and VIP prices, are available. Visit detroitriverfront.org to purchase tickets and learn more.

Downtown's Capitol Park neighborhood up for grabs

A transformation of Capitol Park, a historic neighborhood located on the near west side of Woodward in downtown, could begin by 2011's end.

The City of Detroit is asking for "high-quality, transformative" proposals to renovate three vacant commercial buildings along Griswold. RFP information is available on the DEGC website; proposals are due Oct. 14.


The city has already remade the streetscape of the small wedge-shaped public park at the center of Capitol Park, so named because it was the site of Michigan's first state capitol building. That work included the relocation of the burial site and monument to Michigan's first governor, Stevens T. Mason, from one portion of the park to another.

More available here.

Spirit of Hope urban farm brings bounty to blighted neighborhoods

In Detroit, it's still illegal to plant a garden on an empty lot without a primary house. That's the main reason Kathleen Brennan says she began farming on the grounds of Grand River Ave.'s Spirit of Hope Church.

Four years later, four parcels of land produce an overwhelming bounty (just a quarter of the year's produce helps stock 160 different food pantries) and an education on using what's around (old tires as soil beds, for example) to build something beautiful.


Spirit of Hope fills what used to be four residential parcels, and it's nowhere near the largest in the city. Brennan says that the urban gardening community is tight-knit, and organizers and volunteers feed off one another's energy and dedication. "It's technically illegal, so it's good to hang out with other people doing illegal stuff," she laughs. On a more serious note, she continues, "For the city as a whole, the whole gardening movement is good. It gets people active, healthier."

Dig in here.

PBS examines city's urban garden and sustainability issues

Journalist Desiree Cooper asks the tough questions about urban farming and Detroit's future on the DPTV series Sustainable Detroit, which aired its second episode Sunday nationally on PBS. She talks of the next wave of fortune-seekers to the city -- not property-flippers, but hoe-wielding gardeners who see promoting urban agriculture as a necessary next step for repairing, as Cooper says, the city's social fabric.


"If you're a caring person and you're surrounded by what seems to be just nothingness, it's a heavy, heavy burden," said Myrtle, adding that the gardens are a visible sign that someone on the block values the land, themselves and others. "When property is neglected, it says, 'We don't care, we can get away with dumping, and we can get away with vile behavior because nobody is watching.'" What they are really planting, said Myrtle, is a revolution in values.

Check out Cooper's blog, and cllick here to watch the video.

Midtown incentives so good, they're (almost) gone

Call this year's Live Midtown incentive program a roaring success -- after just eight months, roughly $1 million put up by three anchor institutions (Wayne State, the DMC and Henry Ford Health System) is committed, and new applications are on hold.

That's all gravy to the 197 new Detroit residents who've taken advantage of the incentives to buy, rent or fix up properties in Midtown, New Center and Woodbridge. But high occupancy rates (approaching 95 percent) in Midtown and the CBD have stymied potential newcomers like WDET afternoon host Travis Wright, who'd like to move but can't find a vacancy.


"I love these incentives," Wright said this week. "It's just frustrating that there's not a whole lot of options for 1,300 square feet for $1,300 a month. I'd totally jump on it. It's just not there."

Listen up, developers. It's time to get bullish on Detroit again. Restore, rehab and build, build, build! 

Read more here.

New doc: Detroit in Overdrive

The Discovery Channel's new miniseries, Detroit in Overdrive, appearing on Planet Green, digs in deep. While familiar faces like Motor City Denim's Joe Faris and Kid Rock get their due, this vid searches out the "tangible faces behind those big buildings" for the three-part special, which originally aired Aug. 4. That means Maria's Comida, the Sphinx Organization and CCS student and designer Veronika Scott are among the long list of the city's community members and do-gooders sharing the spotlight with Detroit's superstars. We like it.


The Russell Industrial center functions as a community space for artists, craftspeople, and small businesses. Edith Floyd stands up for what she believes in by building an urban garden where abandoned houses once stood. Last, Kristyn Koth and Malik Muqaribu feed Detroiters in their 1956 Airstream, the Pink Flamingo, bringing fresh organic food to Detroiters in a unique mobile food truck, spearheading a local food movement.

Find out more about Detroit in Overdrive here.

Detroit is the new ... Detroit!

We're still trying to track down the origin of the Detroit-Brooklyn comparison. Perhaps it was Patti Smith's urging for punk kids to live the true rock & roll lifestyle, or a recent NYT article comparing Detroit's nightlife and entrepreneurs to that of a burgeoning Brooklyn. While the analogy's gained steam outside our borders, this new essay posits a new sort of regrowth in Detroit -- one based as much on building community as building cool.


And while this most recent wave of media attention is refreshing considering the post-apocalyptic alternative, to suggest that Detroit is the new Brooklyn misses the point entirely. Detroit will never be what Brooklyn is. But at the risk of sounding like the girl who didn't get asked to prom telling us that she "didn't really want to go anyhow," I don't think that the people that make Detroit exciting are looking to recreate Brooklyn; they're looking to revitalize the city they love. They aren't attracted to an anonymous blank slate, but to joining a community committed to doing good in a big city.

Here's to doing it our way. Read more here.

Music, good times roll at Roosevelt Park thru end of August

Community members have worked hard to jazz up the green space at Roosevelt Park in Corktown, and there's something to be said for partying in the shadow of the Michigan Central Station. The new weekly CityBuild parties feature Slip & Slide, dodgeball, food, drinks and tons of great Detroit bands in the lineup.

Model D swung by the first CityBuild happening in Roosevelt Park and had ourselves a blast. See you there every Sunday in August, from 2 to 8 p.m.

Peep the flyer here.

Rustwire: Do major foundations wield too much power over Woodward transit?

Perhaps the biggest issue in bringing mass transit down Woodward Avenue is a disagreement over whether the trains should run down the middle or the sides. Proponents of rail stations along Woodward's sides see real estate profitability and retail options; while, as this video shows, running passenger transit down the center of M-1 is safer for commuters. Transit advocacy group Transport Michigan agrees -- as do we at Model D, incidentally.

The heads of major foundations, like Kresge Foundation's Rip Rapson, are also getting in the mix -- private donors like Kresge will pay for 20 percent of the light rail price tag.  Below, the blog Rustbelt.net debates whether public policy decisions are the right place for private foundations.


Investors like Rapson weren't elected by the people of Detroit. He came to Detroit a few years ago from the McKnight Foundation in Minneapolis. He lives in some fancy suburb outside Troy. But as the Wall Street Journal points out, private individuals like Mr. Rapson are wielding a lot of power in Detroit. They are threatening to dictate the terms of a project that will nonetheless be funded 4-1 by public money.

Read the editorial here.

Young Broke & Beautiful: The new IFC series gets wild in the D

"Young, Broke & Beautiful" -- there's no way a TV show aiming for that demographic could pass up a night in our fair city. This intrepid series from the Independent Film Channel spotlights indie culture and creators across the nation. Their hour-long travelogue on the D makes friends with plenty of our favorite people and places, from the Imagination Station and DJ Kyle Hall to late-night parties and Coneys (natch).


Stuart will pull the Scion into the most beautiful, broken down parking lot in the world. There's no doubt that all these YBB's will know where the dopest, most off the chain, unsanctioned warehouse party is happening, and Stuart will find himself closing down the night, partying with his people.

IFC will rerun the Detroit episode all week, beginning Tuesday at 6 p.m. Find out more about the channel's tour Detroit here.

One dream, many voices: the battle to redesign Detroit

The Christian Science Monitor made Detroit the subject of an exhaustive cover story on the struggle between the city's power players -- union heads, city officials, neighborhood leaders, and more -- to create a plan for right-sizing both the city's landscape and services it provides to citizens. This article digs beyond the cliches to provide a balanced look at the varied interests and stakeholders involved in Detroit's immediate plans for renewal, from the Mayor's office to the one-acre urban farm.


Evidence of that small-town environment is the escalation of urban farms in Detroit that are repurposing empty lots. There are 875 urban farms and community gardens operating throughout the city, a network of which is providing affordable, pesticide-free food at neighborhood farmers' markets, restaurants and retail outlets, according to Detroit Works Project data. Green growth is everywhere – from small tomato plantings in a patch of a corner lot on a residential street to large orchard tracts planned by John Hantz, a local businessman who plans to build "the world's largest urban farm" in Detroit.Read the rest of the story here.

Bullish on the Brewster Projects

Only in 2008 were the Brewster Homes, located near the junction of I-75 and I-375, formally abandoned. Four of the six towers constructed in 1993 remain, along with several rowhouses and low-rise buildings. The 15-acre site, which straddles Brush Park, Eastern Market and downtown Detroit, are a tough sell -- consider the cost of demolishing the towers, a $3 million price tag and the clearance needed from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to make the sale. Yet Midtown's strong development clip has some local real estate experts speculating about the possible investment potential of the Brewster site.


But Bieri thinks the site has potential -- good visibility, and proximity to Midtown. "One of the issues in Detroit is trying to acquire sites of size without strings attached, because there are so many issues with regard to quiet title, or redevelopment districts with strings attached," he said. "If the site were actually available with no strings attached, it could be a viable opportunity for developers."

Find out more here.

Go (Mid)west, young man -- Detroit, the new frontier

A century and a half ago, adventurers, dreamers and gamblers alike headed west to seek freedom and fortune. A new article in YES! Magazine hails Detroit as the new American frontier for the modern-day visionary. Urban agriculture, cheap land, yes -- Detroit has these things, and more. But, author Aaron M. Renn notes, the city's relatively lax attitude avoids a pattern of interference, which often hampers development in stronger cities. And that's birthed a community of "self-determinants," working together to create something closer to utopia out of the ruins.


Whether this trend really pumps life back into Detroit remains to be seen. But it has done one essential thing: it has created an aspirational narrative of success in Detroit that other Americans might imagine themselves being a part of. If that starts to attract people in sufficient numbers to reverse core city population decline, Detroit could be at the start of the long road back.

Say yes. Read more here.

Place blogger tightens focus on Corktown's Michigan Avenue

Economics of Place is the blog of Dan GiImartin, the executive director and CEO of the Michigan Municipal League. He's also an urban thinker with an eye for the small, oft-unnoticed changes that can make "places" out of streets and buildings. Here's a great example: Gilmartin examines the width of roads in vibrant urban neighborhoods like Toronto's Queen Street West and Washington DC's Adams Morgan. His conclusion? At nine lanes wide, the sheer size of Michigan Avenue hampers Corktown's energy and possibility, creating, as he writes, "a faceless drive" for motorists to speed through.


Similar neighborhoods in cities across the world are seeing communities reinvigorated because of these simple strategies. More of it needs to be done in places like Detroit and elsewhere.  It makes an urban neighborhood cheaper to maintain, better for business and more fun to be around.

Read more here.

Downtown Detroit: a steal of a deal

Taking advantage of a decade low point in price-per-square-foot costs, Dan Gilbert has purchased four downtown skyscrapers this year, amassing nearly two million square feet of building space near his Quicken Loans headquarters. The Wall Street Journal calls Dan Gilbert's real estate spree the "Deal of the Week." Will Gilbert's plan to fill these empty high-rises with his own employees and thousands of young people broaden efforts to repopulate downtown? We have a hunch it will.


Real-estate brokers bet Mr. Gilbert won't follow the path of other opportunistic buyers who have taken advantage of low prices to cut rents, continuing what some see as a downward spiral of Detroit property values. Rather, Jim Ketai, who co-founded Bedrock last year with Mr. Gilbert, says he expects the company to invest millions of dollars into modernizing the buildings.

Read what else WSJ has to say here.

Windsor Star calls Detroit a creative "mecca"

Cyclists, can-do spirit and a hip youth culture -- all reasons why the Windsor Star pegged Detroit as the latest American city to undergo a massive transformation from decrepit to desirable in recent years. In particular, the city's wave of new entrepreneurs speaks to a new post-industrial mindset in the ersatz Motor City.

While Detroit once attracted new residents with the promise of a comfortable factory gig, it's now seen as the new destination for creatives hungry to build their own dream jobs.


Very few of the many new businesses sprouting up are getting outright government grants or tax breaks, said DC3 director Matt Clayson. But micro-loans, venture capital investment, mentoring, cheap work spaces, tools and equipment and help with market exposure are among the resources made available to just about anyone with a viable idea.

Philip Cooley, the owner of the wildly successful Corktown restaurant Slows Bar BQ, said Detroit was once a city that relied on large companies employing a large workforce in big factories. "How complacent we became, and we fell apart as a result," said Cooley, a 33-year-old business school dropout.

Find out what else our neighbors to the north (or to the south, in the case of Windsor) have to say about us here.

Why Forbes named Detroit a best place to do business

When Forbes put Detroit on the cover of its recent issue profiling the best places to do business, Detroit bureau chief Joann Muller called it an "unorthodox" decision. But Muller gets it right in this column, noting that the abundance of skilled workers, cheap real estate and revamped business tax structure all point to a tagline we rather like: "land of opportunity."


Still, there are plenty of  "green shoots" that shouldn't be ignored. While families with young children especially were fleeing the city at a rapid rate, the number of college-educated people under 35 living within 3 miles of downtown grew by fifty-nine percent. And the manufacturing industry is adding jobs at a rapid clip, contrary to what's happening in other industries.

Read more, and watch some local leaders talk about doing business in the D, here.

Why we love the city -- and what we're granted in return

A recent column by the Detroit News' Nolan Finley examines the psyche of the Detroit-lover. What makes us remain hopeful, in the face of massive deficits and long delays, unanswerable questions and dark days? Why do we remain here, determined to stick out the fight, when nothing stops us from leaving?

Maybe we're gluttons for punishment, Finley writes. But he found some perspective at last weekend's River Days festival, surrounded by thousands of people lured downtown by sunshine, music and the beauty of the revamped Detroit RiverFront Conservancy.


The work done by the Riverfront Conservancy to revive the riverfront is an example of the huge returns you can reap in Detroit when you invest a bit of hope. Polish one piece of this jewel and it makes you eager to shine another. In a landscape so devastated, everything you do to makes a noticeable difference. So maybe we love Detroit because it needs us so much.

Click here for the rest of the story.

Grace Lee Boggs: How a Detroit Summer plants the seeds of revolution

When longtime Detroit activist Grace Lee Boggs started the Detroit Summer program in 1992, her vision was of a multi-generational collective sharing ideas and efforts to rebuild the community. She knew the work would be slow -- one empty lot, one potluck, one garden at a time.

But in a passage from her new book, The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the 21st Century, Boggs says she rejected the more typical (and large-scale) frameworks of a left-wing organization or sizable nonprofit, noting, "the system continues to function because neither carries the potential to transform society."


" ... our hope was that Detroit Summer would bring about a new vision and model of community activism -- one that was particularly responsive to the new challenges posed by the conditions of life and struggle in the postindustrial city. We did not feel this could be accomplished if control of our activities was ceded to the dictates of government or the private sector, even though this meant that we would be working on a small scale. However, by working on this scale, we could pay much closer and greater attention to the relationships we were building among ourselves and with communities in Detroit and beyond.

Read more here.

The future of Cass Avenue, a struggle between commercial growth and gardens

Mlive's Jeff Wattrick produced an in-depth commentary on the fate of the two Cass Corridor land parcels sold to Midtown doggie daycare Canine to Five. The land's been informally used by Birdtown Gardens for urban gardening.

As Wattrick writes, this was about more than just one garden -- it's bound to be a guiding case for City Council as Detroit attempts to rectify its interests in urban agriculture with the needs of local entrepreneurs like Canine's Liz Blondy. And while Wattrick supports the desires of urban agriculture, he warns that, without entrepreneurs, gardening alone won't save the city.


Still, Detroit has 60,000 vacant city-owned parcels. Even if gardening doesn't help make Detroit "look like Chicago," to quote Councilman Ken Cockrel, it is an exponentially better use for vacant land than ad hoc tire dumps or shooting galleries for dopeheads. Even the densest of cities, say Manhattan, find small pockets for green space. In other words, there is plenty of room for Detroit to be a real city while accommodating reasonable urban gardening.

Read the whole article here.

Green Garage to expand by summer's end

Between five and eight environmentally-focused companies will move into Tom and Peggy Noonan's Green Garage in Midtown, which will roll open its doors to offer Detroit a sustainable center for going green. The couple, who purchased the warehouse with retirement money, have transformed the vacant building into an almost completely efficient building (think rain water catching systems, solar panel energy and more). A team of entrepreneurs working out of the Garage are also doing business by the same ethos.

One company moving into the Green Garage is building furniture -- but this isn't your ordinary hand-crafted stuff.


Their merchandise will be made from wood and other materials they gather from abandoned homes in Detroit. The entrepreneur plans to purchase the materials from the rightful owners, such as the city or a bank. To make the furniture more meaningful, the owner plans to engrave the house address that the materials came from right onto the furniture. He also plans to include a brief history of the home the material came from so the owner of the furniture can own a small piece of Detroit's history.

Check out the story and slideshow here.

Juxtapoz artists make permanent home in Detroit

Detroit News columnist Donna Terek says she wasn't thrilled with last year's Juxtapoz art project, in which the California-based mag turned six national artists loose in an East Side Detroit neighborhood to work their magic on a street of abandoned homes. But two of those "fly-by-night" creatives are making a permanent nest in Detroit, and brought five more with them.

Artist Ryan Doyle, along with his family, will continue working on the three-story art installation he calls the "Treasure's Nest" while running an informal artists' hostel and planting an urban garden. And Doyle already sounds like a resident: "I don't know why everyone doesn't want to move to Detroit," he says.


In a way, what they're doing seems a hipster cliche by now: move to Detroit, buy a cheap house, plant an urban garden. But so what? Cliches develop because they are methods that work. Detroit could use more like these.

In fact, it can use a lot more. In a city bleeding population, can we afford to look askance at a transfusion of creative plasma like these enthusiastic Detroit-ophiles? We need as many of them as are willing to come. And, while I was skeptical about the magazine's helicopter artist drop, this is exactly the kind of thing that creates buzz about Detroit on the coasts where the majority of cultural opinion makers resides and publishes.

Check out the rest of the story here.

Detroit's journey from mean to green wins admiration from the Times

"The gardens are everywhere," writes food scribe Mark Bittman in a moving editorial in the New York Times Opinionator blog. His chronicle of a visit to our city describes Detroit's burgeoning food movement powered by the breadth of our residents' imagination -- and the belief that only we will turn this city around. Local food in public schools. The Peaches & Greens produce truck. And acres and acres of cultivated land, harvesting not only food, but a key to this city's future. If the journey is as important as the destination, Bittman concludes, Detroit's back-to-basics green revival is already a success story.


As Jackie Victor, co-owner of the Avalon Bakery, an unofficial meeting place for the Detroit food movement, says to me, "Imagine a city, rebuilt block by block, with a gorgeous riverfront, world class museums and fantastic local food. Everyone who wants one has a quarter-acre garden, and every kid lives within bike distance of a farm."

Imagine. Read more here.

Shrinking cities syndrome: Detroit's not alone

We won't deny that a rivalry exists between the D and Chicago. Maybe it's the legacy of competition for bragging rights as the Rust Belt capital. While it's Detroit's problems that usually capture the national media's imagination, Chicago isn't safe from the population exodus documented in the 2010 Census.

It's considered a global trend that people are pouring into cities. But, with the exception of Indianapolis and Columbus, every city in the Midwest lost population in the last ten years. Even Chicago. That fact, says Richard C. Longsworth, senior fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, should give Detroiters pause.


The fact is that Chicago, for all its glamor and all its success, supports 25 percent fewer people and has 25 percent fewer jobs than it had at the height of its industrial power. Yes, it's more beautiful, and cleaner, more connected to the world than before. But all this glitz and all this new economy doesn't add up to a city as rich and vibrant as the old City of the Big Shoulders.

This tells us something about this new global economy and its ability to support the people who live within it. If even a place like Chicago is a "shrinking city," what does this mean for Cleveland, St. Louis, Detroit and other less favored places?

Read more here.

Detroit CDCs dig in for the fight

Community Development Corporations (CDCs) normally ignite a neighborhood's development. So what do CDCs do when a city is shrinking? This article takes a look at community development groups working on the ground in here and in Clevelend, where our Rust Belt friends are feeling a similar loss of population. As this article notes, our CDCs have been imagining Detroit as a smaller city long before the Detroit Works Project -- and they're leading the way to transform meta ideas on strategic framework into practical plans to revive neighborhoods.


Meanwhile, Detroit's CDCs have not been idle. Once the CDAD report came out, its members turned to the tough task of figuring out how to bring the framework down to the ground. During the past year, a CDAD working group led by Sam Butler, former executive director of Creekside CDC on Detroit's East Side and now part of the Detroit Vacant Properties Campaign, partnered with Data-Driven Detroit (D3) to develop indicators of neighborhood conditions that could be used by CDCs and neighborhood groups to evaluate their own conditions. "We're trying to make information accessible," says Butler. "We need to give residents a way to talk about their neighborhoods, to empower them to think strategically."

Read the rest of the article here.

Editorial: What North Carolina can learn from Midtown

North Carolina's Research Triangle is often described in national media as a triumph of large entities coming together to create a haven for educators and innovators. But the area's News & Observer writers note, as Durham announced a new initiative through the Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network that will provide $3.6 million in targeted technical support to the region's growing entrepreneurial community, the Triangle would be wise to look to Midtown Detroit for guidance.

Midtown's "bold, comprehensive" plan, anchored by public and private entities, is now becoming a model for regions around the nation hoping to kick-start their market for high-tech jobs.


The investments in turn are part of the Kresge Foundation's nine-part strategy to revitalize the city, ranging from fixing the city's education system and reforming health care to driving sustainability and creativity as signatures of the new economy. This comprehensive approach is also present in the mayor's Detroit Works Project and its ambitious agenda to responsibly restore, build out, and connect its most vibrant neighborhoods while connecting it with the broader region. Detroit's future is far from certain. But its all-hands on deck, well-capitalized, comprehensive approach to entrepreneurial growth is instructive.

Find out more about what North Carolina thinks we're doing right here.

What do Detroit and Lodz, Poland have in common? Fund this new film to find out

Detroit isn't the only industrial city challenged with remaking its identity. On the other side of the pond, Polish city Lodz was once the European leader in textile production -- until the fall of the USSR, when the city suffered massive depopulation. Now, Lodz joins Detroit as a city full of empty factories -- and even more potential.

Detroit Lives! wants to talk to urban planners, entrepreneurs and artists from both cities to jump-start the conversation on how former industrial giants can reshape themselves. Their Kickstarter won't fund their plane tickets (they already have those), but it will help pay for things like post-audio engineering, translation services and film festival fees.


We've lined up interviews on both continents with top city officials, best-selling authors, and pioneering artists.  PLUS, the American Film Festival in Poland has already expressed interest in premiering the film (and we haven't even begun shooting)!

Wanna fund, or find out more? Click here.

PBS examines Detroit's right-sizing efforts

The national PBS program Need to Know ran two stories on the future of our city last week. The issue? 40 square miles of vacant land within Detroit's borders, containing as many as 80,000 empty homes.

Former Freep columnist Desiree Cooper discusses the Detroit Works initiative and the Live Midtown residential incentive. PBS also aired a Detroit Public Television segment on some great new ideas from citizens who aren't old enough to vote. A group of Northwest Detroit students, through a program called Future City, are creating virtual models of their dream urban metropolis.

What does Detroit look like 150 years into the future? Or even next year? Find out more about Detroit's youngest city planners here, or click here to watch the report on Detroit's downsizing movement.

How many creatives does it take to save a city?

How many artists, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders does it take to change a light -- wait, remake an entire city?

Peter Kageyama is the author of "For the Love of Cities." Appearing at the Rust Belt to Artist Belt conference, he says one-tenth of one percent of a population can reshape an urban area's destiny. In other words, Detroit needs roughly 719 doers and dreamers to thrive.


If you could add 719 of the right people, think of the extraordinary things that could happen. If you added a few more Tyree Guytons, or Phil Cooleys, or Claire Nelsons -- those people who are making exraordinary things happen in their own neighborhoods. That's what I'm talking about. That secret sauce.

Find out what else Kageyama has to say about Detroit here.

BusinessWeek gets down with Dave Bing

"The only way to fix this city is to deal with reality." If Dave Bing sounds like a pessimist, calling this moment in Detroit's history akin to "Custer's Last Stand," he certainly is candid in this interview with BusinessWeek magazine. He says he's focused on creating vibrant communities to attract young professionals, restaurants and businesses, while tearing down vacant homes elsewhere in the city.


As an athlete, you understand the excitement of winning, but you have to deal with losing, too. There are some days when I wonder whether or not I made the right decision in becoming mayor, but I am not quitting this city.

Read the rest of the article here.

Rustwire photo essay hits the streets to find beauty beyond the blight

Rustwire.net's Richey Piiparinen was in town for last week's Rust Belt to Artist Belt conference, but he admits his attention was waning. So he snuck out for a photo adventure -- to find the art in our city. It was easier than he imagined. A perfectly placed Church's Chicken, a Communist-eque building facade, Tyree Guyton's new exhibit, fake flowers in The Whitney gardens. Sometimes it's worth seeing your everyday surroundings through the lens of an outsider.


And while the goal of my journey was to find the art of Detroit as opposed to hear how art's going to "remake it" what I found was a city percolating with life just fine: with people, and buses, and stretches of vacant-less blocks. And yes, I found signs of a death. But in this death I found something else. Something that a one-time giant has that current day giants are incapable of having given the fact these latter giants haven't yet needed to be reborn.

View the photos here.

City's planners debate right-sizing in the NYT

Most urban planners work to grow cities -- the odd challenge, here, writes the New York Times, is that our planners are charged to do the opposite. This latest article on the Detroit Works Project talks to Marja M. Winters, deputy director of the city's planning and development department. From mapping and calculating to meeting with the community and dispelling rumors (one, that neighborhoods will simply be shut down), it's a rare look into the daily life and challenges of a planner in Detroit.


Though the city will offer some kind of incentives for people in miserable neighborhoods to move, no neighborhood will be simply shut down, she said. A place deemed not worthy of new residential investment might see subtle shifts: services like garbage pickup, she said, could slow to every 12 days from once a week. "We want to reduce the city's cost of delivering services, but we also want to support a baseline quality of life -- the key is how do we balance that out?" Ms. Winters said.

Read the rest of the article here.

Model D's Walter Wasacz visits WJR's "Destination 313"

Model D captain Walter Wasacz's vision of Detroit is sent to your online mailbox every Tuesday. He got the chance to elaborate on Detroit's development from the ground up during a recent broadcast of WJR's "Destination 313" radio show, hosted by Paul W. Smith and Quicken Loans VP Stephen Luigi Piazza.

Managing editor Wasacz joined a group of movers and shakers from many different worlds in Detroit, including President and CEO of Olympia Entertainment Tom Wilson, Friar Ray Stadmeyer from the On The Rise bakery, and Blue Cross Blue Shield VP Tricia Keith.

Not to stroke our ego, but Luigi Piazza tossed us some rather high praise.


I really believe in the Model D magazine. It's a lot of feet-on-the-street stories, the stories that, again, Paul says don't get covered: the smaller stories. We had Tom Wilson on, and he was talking about the young kids that really and truly talk about all the different communities that are being established, all the different little restaurants that are there, the things that you can do in the city, that, at 70 miles an hour, we don't see driving around the expressway. You cover that, right on the street, down to the nitty-gritty.

Find out more about the show and listen to the podcast here.

USA Today looks to Detroit for city center re-population trends

Call them the young and the restless. The Census stats are in, and while Detroit's depopulation woes have made national headlines, the city center's re-population adds another element to the story. Since 2000, Detroit's downtown population grew by 59 percent, as at least 2000 residents moved to the downtown area. Detroit's growth mirrors a trend across the nation, as two-thirds of the nation's largest cities reported population increases in the heart of the town. Those new residents, says USA Today, are by and large well-educated: young people with college degrees are 94 percent more likely than their less-educated counterparts to live in an urban area.


"It tells us we've been on the right track," says David Egner, president and CEO of Detroit's Hudson-Webber Foundation. Three anchor institutions -- Wayne State University, Henry Ford Health System, Detroit Medical Center -- recently launched "15 by 15," a campaign to bring 15,000 young, educated people to the downtown area by 2015. Among the lures are cash incentives: a $25,000 forgivable loan to buy (need to stay at least five years) downtown or $3,500 on a two-year lease.

Check the stats out here.

Rick Snyder and Dave Bing take some tough questions on Detroit 2020

"Tough times, real answers." WXYZ's Detroit 2020 project recently hosted an interactive version of a town hall meeting with Rick Snyder and Dave Bing. Hosted by Stephen Clark and Carolyn Clifford, viewers submitted their questions to our governor and mayor, which they answered live during the show's one-hour special.

To hear what Snyder and Bing have to say about Detroit's Census numbers, mass transit and building a second bridge span to Canada -- with viewpoints from both our state and municipal leaders -- click here.

Grandmont Rosedale citizens rally together to keep neighborhood alive

The New York Times' recurring Detroit Journal column took a journey to the stately brick homes and graceful tree-lined streets of Grandmont Rosedale to capture the spirit of a neighborhood anchored together to keep the streets plowed, lawns mowed, and homes full. While the population of this collection of neighborhoods dropped 14 percent during the 00s, Grandmont Rosedale's citizens, with their community meetings, crime patrols and sports leagues, won't give up without a fight.


And if falls to people like Tom Goddeeris, a resident who leads the nonprofit Grandmont Rosedale Development Corporation, which has been using donations and grant money to buy vacant properties, rehabilitate them and sell them -- typically at a loss -- to protect against the decay that follows emptiness and neglect.

"We're a neighborhood that can recover and return to stability," he said. "You can't say that about the rest of the city."

Check out the article here, or view the accompanying slideshow.

Detroit Fellows program attracts great young minds

A key component of Detroit's revitalization involves attracting talent from across the nation to relocate to the 313. This idea just received a huge boost with the announcement of Wayne State's Detroit Fellows Program. Initial funding from the Kresge Foundation and the Hudson-Weber Foundation will make it possible for WSU to recruit and develop up to 25 outstanding mid-level candidates in the nonprofit and economic development spheres to relocate to Detroit for two years of grant-funded professional work.

During the first phase, Fellows will receive executive development training, as well as a two-year stint at participating organizations, including the University Cultural Center Association, NextEnergy, Downtown Detroit Partnership, Invest Detroit, the City of Detroit, the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation and the Woodward Corridor Initiative. 


"The Kresge Foundation is pleased to support Wayne State University in this unique endeavor to advance the revitalization of Detroit. As we align efforts to re-imagine Detroit, we hope to include a new generation of leaders from within the city and beyond," says Rip Rapson, President and CEO. "The Detroit Fellows Program will provide vital energy, high performance and capacity-building resources for Detroit as we maximize the opportunities before us."

Make sure to check Model D Buzz for more updates on this story as it unfolds.

Find out more about the Detroit Fellows program here.

Wrap the train station in solar panels? LTU thinks green for Southwest Detroit

Imagine the Michigan Central Station covered in solar panels and wind turbines, providing energy to the surrounding neighborhood. Sound crazy? That might be one way to describe this team of thinkers from Lawrence Technological University (LTU) in Southfield -- but their ideas for making Southwest Detroit the city's first net-zero community, meaning it would produce more energy than it uses, recently won LTU Professor Constance Budurow's Studio (C) a $50,000 grant from the Ford Foundation.


Beyond producing some alternative energy for the district, the LTU team sees the idea as a catalyst for further experimentation, said Jordan Martin, 24, a recent LTU graduate in urban design. "We want to start that brainwork and then hope that that would spark further growth and opportunities for the people," Martin said. Other tactics suggested by the team include creating more public transit and more green infrastructure, like the planned extension of the RiverWalk west of downtown.

Tap into the LTU buzz here.

Hack into Eastern Market's OmniCorp Detroit

Hidden within a once-abandoned Eastern Market warehouse, a group of 20 techies, inventors and artists have assembled a DIY playhouse of future inventions, known around the city as OmniCorp Detroit. The Detroit News peeks inside this collaborative studio, part of a growing nationwide movement, where innovators are taking things apart, dreaming new designs and sharing their knowledge with other tinkerers around the D.


"I was developing and gathering information to bring to Detroit," said Sturges, a former architecture student at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills. He moved to Detroit in 2009, found like-minded creatives and set up shop in a 3,200-square-foot warehouse space on Division Street. The operation runs completely on monthly membership dues, and its members -- 20 and growing -- include recreational metalsmiths, professional electric engineers and computer programmers.

Hack the rest of the story here.

Local entrepreneurs launch city's extreme makeover in USA Today

A column in USA Today highlighted Detroit entrepreneurs like Phil Cooley, I Am Young Detroit's Margarita Barry and Mental Note's Thahn Tran as examples of the city's welcoming environment for potential small business owners and former auto workers (backed up by a study from the Kaufmann Foundation, which found the rate of adult entrepreneurship doubled in Michigan from 2006 to 2009). While the low cost of living and growing openness to start-ups and short-term contracts certainly bear a mention, we at Buzz liked the nod to our creative energy and down-home loyalty best. Well done!


And finally, unlike in some more cut-throat cities, those who haven't fled Detroit are eager to see risk-takers succeed -- even another restaurant on the same block. "We're desperate for companionship," Cooley jokes. People buy local when they can and create two-hour lines outside Slows in nice weather. A civic spirit of us-against-the-world has neighbors turning vacant lots into urban farms and sculpture parks, and building a bike track next to a burned-out house.

Read the rest of the story here.

Rust Belt to Artist Belt conference connects the post-industrial dots

The next challenge to fostering creative entrepreneurs involves creating a supply chain that connects artists and business owners to prototype engineers, manufacturers, textile producers and the like. Bringing all these agents together to build a sustainable creative economy in the Midwest is the subject at the Rust Belt to Artist Belt Conference III, a two-day meeting of regional minds that kicks off April 6 at the College for Creative Studies. Originally conceived by the Community Partnership of Arts and Culture in Cleveland, the diverse list of speakers includes local names like Jerry Paffendorf, Joel Peterson, Gina Reichert and Randal Charlton.


Mid-west rust belt cities like Detroit are the perfect proving ground for this type of exploration, due to our creative culture, entrepreneurial commercial approach, and adaptable manufacturing base. To highlight this fact, the conference is looking for involvement from municipal leaders, neighborhood enthusiasts, community and economic development authorities and you! Please join us as we develop deeper strategies and discussions that will continue to cultivate and strengthen our creative ecosystem.

Early bird registration is available through March 21. Sign up or find out more here.

Oh, and about your ruin porn ...

Considering pornography, it's fair to suggest that what gets people riled up isn't the obscenity on display, but the degradation of the subject. It's no less true with buildings than budding starlets. "Ruin porn" -- the act of finding and photographing abandoned and desecrated structures -- makes sport of our failures as urban citizens, while exploiting the broken, beat-up buildings among us as fodder, cheap thrills for the less adventurous.

A new essay from a blogger named Rayne takes issue with the porn you've been sending around -- specifically, the ruin porn we're all sick of finding in our emails. Send this rant to your favorite train station urbanophile today!


Yes, it seems like dry and ancient history to you, but Detroiters are living it and they are surviving it, and they have a thing or two to teach the rest of this country about recovery and greatness. Go on, revel in the "ruin porn" you so enjoy -- but when your city's turn comes, well, let's hope you can handle it with as much grace. And come it does, like the failed levees came for New Orleans and the economic downturn came for Las Vegas and all of California.

Read the essay here.

The path to cultivate urban farms? It's a winding road

For two years, John Hantz has kept a dream alive -- building the world's largest urban farm within Detroit's city limits. But a new editorial in The Detroit News reveals he's been waylaid by plans for the Detroit Works Project and uncertainty over applying the Michigan Right to Farm Law to an urban environment. Meanwhile, Hantz, who has already invested over $1 million into his project, is cooling his heels, with word on the street that one project will soon come up for a vote in front of City Council.


The Hantz project will allow him to clear about 5 acres, create a 1-acre berry farm and use a high-tech approach to growing apples on a grid. Instead of selling food, Hantz, the capitalist, agrees not to sell. It's a U-Pick, U No Pay plan that's far from the entrepreneur's original -- and eventual -- intention. The deal allows Hantz to buy 20 city lots on Brimson, Dwyer and St. Louis streets for $6,800 -- a pittance until you realize that he's going to tear down a vacant building, clear the land and return abandoned property to the tax rolls.

Read more here.

West Philly university district's success shows Midtown's potential

Not long ago, the West Philadelphia neighborhood surrounding one of the jewels of the Ivy League -- the University of Pennsylvania -- was not the kind of place you walked alone after dark.

Now it's a fantasy of urban living come to life, a district lined with graceful three-story historic homes, dotted with restaurants and bars and shops, embraced by former suburbanites, city dwellers and young families as the future of Philadelphia.

What can we learn from Philly? Lots. And Omar Blaik, who was the first Penn planning employee to take advantage of rental subsidies to purchase a home in West Philly, is now consulting with UCCA and other Midtown partners to take what Philly learned to grow the Wayne State University district.


As Blaik tells it, interest in Midtown Detroit is "much, much higher" than it was when the West Philly effort was getting off the ground. And if the necessary elements are successfully stitched together there -- as he, the anchor institutions and UCCA President Sue Mosey are hoping -- it could create an "eds and meds" model that could be reproduced in cities around the country.

Read the Free Press report here.

Hamtramck seeks historic designation for Negro League ballfield

There are only five ballparks left in America that once housed Negro League ball clubs -- and one of them is right in Hamtramck.

The years haven't been kind to Veterans Memorial Field, which opened in 1930 as Roesink Stadium and housed the Detroit Stars (and thousands of African-American fans) for decades. Now, a team of preservationists are working to have the field added to the National Register of Historic Places. That's the first step to renovating the diamond (at a cost of $500,000 to $750,000, it's an excellent candidate for restoration) so that, once again, this field can house the boys and girls of summer.


Mayor Karen Majewski said the project unites many interests. Nettie Mae Stearnes, 92, the widow of Norman Thomas (Turkey) Stearnes, an outfielder who joined the Detroit Stars in 1923, said her husband played at the stadium and that it had importance to African Americans during racial segregation."It was beautiful to see," she said. "Those who loved baseball would be there."

Find out what Hamtramck's doing to save its ballpark here.

If Detroit's future is the canvas, Midtown holds the brush

If you feel that it's impossible to turn on the news or pick up a paper without hearing about Midtown, it's because of a revolutionary partnership of change agents, funding and big ideas that are turning Detroit's cultural district into a laboratory for repopulating the city.

More than 30,000 employees of Henry Ford, Wayne State University and the Detroit Medical Center are eligible for the "Live Midtown" program, which will offer downpayment assistance and rent subsidies to suburbanites willing to relocate to the D. Along with a new push by Mayor Dave Bing to attract police officers to Detroit's neighborhoods, "Live Midtown" is one piece of the puzzle that's brought in such heavyweights as the Hudson-Weber Foundation and the Kresge Foundation to battle the city's declining population numbers.


It's a piece of a larger program called "15 X 15" that hopes to attract 15,000 young people with a four-year degree or more to repopulate Detroit by 2015 that Gov. Rick Snyder touted in his State of the State address. The two initiatives are among a number of efforts to revitalize Detroit, including bringing light rail up Woodward Avenue, attracting more grocery stores and encouraging business to invest where new residents live.

Find out more about what's happening in Midtown here.

An Australian's Detroit diary is gorgeous and gritty

Journalists from as far away as Australia are being sent to cover what's happening in our city. Paul Toohey saw the good and the grim of Detroit while he visited Michigan this winter. But as far as tour guides go, Paul Toohey's tour of the D is clearly superior -- he saw the city with Lowell Boileau, the founder of the Detroit Yes! online forum. His read on Detroit is realistic and touching.


A small downtown bar called Greenwich Time has watched its Friday night crowds dwindle over the years from three-deep at the bar to just a handful of locals. Owned by a family of Albanian-Mexican heritage, the way they see it is that they've been down so far the only way is up. Recovery is possible; life will go on. The people who drink at this bar are different to us wait-back-and-see Australians. They do not wait for polite introductions. They address you directly, ask your story, engage in raging political debates, and insist you share their food. There is good in this town, which, as Eminem said, has been to hell and back. It has a story to tell.

Read the rest of the story here.

Whither Robocop?

In a sentence we're sure to use again this decade ... it all started with a Tweet.

"There are not any plans to erect a statue of RoboCop. Thank you for your suggestion," wrote Mayor Dave Bing.

But if suggestions are like seeds, Twitter must then be the fertilizer. For the Tweet spread like dandelion weeds throughout Detroit's social media community; a good joke. The Facebook page asking Dave Bing to change his mind attracted 6,000 followers -- grassroots success.  And then the Kickstarter page went up: "Part Man, Part Machine, All Crowd-Funded" (backed by the good folks at the Imagination Station, it's since raised over $16,000 of its 50k goal). From Popular Science to MTV, this tribute to bad 1987 sci-fi was the story on Detroit this week.

So: does Detroit need a tribute to its dystopian and crime ridden alterna-future, to the fantasy cyborg-cop patrolling streets so mean, no human could dare police them?  Resistance sprouted, quickly; Supergay Detroit's widely-read post argues the movement should remain a farce, no more:


A Robocop statue, with money that will no doubt be raised primarily from outside the city limits, can be seen as the constant reminder (potentially right in the middle of one of our more vibrant neighborhoods) that Detroit will never move past its reputation as hopelessly corrupt and crime-ridden. And will be celebrated by many more non-residents than residents, for sure. Way to put a city in its place.

(We at Buzz support the public debate about public art -- noting the process can occasionally get messy. We support creativity and bold action, and encourage more of each. Much more.)

Diverse (soup) city to fund community projects in Hamtramck

Building on the success of microfinancing projects like Detroit Soup and Soup at Spalding, we hear there's another community soup dinner setting the table for guests in Hamtramck.

Hosted by Marie Pronko, owner of Hamtramck's Mex/Asian fusion restaurant Maria's Comida, Diverse (soup) city will also bring soup-lovers and do-gooders together for a collective meal to raise funds for creative projects in Hamtown.


Tell your friends; SOUP is…a collaborative situation, a public dinner, a theatrical environment, a platform for performance, a local experiment in micro-funding, a relational hub connecting various creative communities, a forum for critical discussion, an opportunity to support creative people in Hamtramck.

The first Diverse (soup) city takes place Sunday, Feb. 20 at Maria's Comida, and will meet the third Sunday of the month thereafter. The cost is $7 for a big bowl of goodness -- and not just the kind you can spoon.

Send your micro-finance ideas here by the Friday before every dinner, and check out the website for more details.

Bing encourages public safety officers to move to Detroit

More incentives are in place to encourage suburbanites to return to Detroit. This time, Mayor Dave Bing plans to target the city's public safety officers.

Until 1999, the city maintained a residency requirement for all members of the police and firefighting forces. Bing's program will give some of the city's most appealing housing stock, in neighborhoods like Boston-Edison and East English Village, to Detroit cops (and eventually firefighters) for as little as $1,000. The city will pay to renovate the homes, which are vacant, and will also help cops with the down payment.


The city is using $30 million of its $41 million from the Neighborhood Stabilization Fund, a federal program to revitalize neighborhoods, to pay for the renovations, down payments and forgivable loans. The other $11 million is being used to help lower-income residents buy houses. The incentives won't cost the city a dime, Bing said.

"We hope this can be a model for the nation," the mayor said.

Read more here.

Detroit featured in February issue of Delta Sky magazine

Detroit joined the mile-high club this month, thanks to a 40-page spread in February's Delta Sky magazine. This month's issue, which appears on all Delta flights, features interviews with Dave Bing, Strategic Staffing Solutions' Cynthia J. Pasky, Dan Gilbert, Detroit native Judge Mathis (who knew?) and Lions' Rookie of the Year Ndamukong Suh.


With its ideal geographic location and unrivaled labor pool (the region has the highest concentration of engineers in the United States and remains the country's premier precision-manufacturing base), Detroit is ready to lead the way once again. Only this time, Motor City is looking beyond its automotive underpinnings and building out new industries that will flourish with the region's ambitious nature, unchallenged work ethic and uncanny ability to conceive almost anything imaginable.

Download or view a PDF of the issue here.

Mitch Cope and Gina Reichert got the Power in February's Juxtapoz

If you haven't picked up the February issue of Juxtapoz, hurry to your local independent book retailer or check out the stunning visual evidence online. For the uninitiated, the San Fransisco-based art and design mag teamed up with local artist collective Power House, led by Mitch Cope and Gina Reichert, to turn part of an abandoned block into livable, re-imagined abodes of art. Juxtapoz sent major artists and cash to the D; plus their own staff, to document the creative process. And while the pictures truly are incredible, this detailed Q&A with Mitch and Gina also begs your attention.


A lot of what we do is a conversation piece with the artists here. Before that, a lot of times, we would meet our neighbors through crime, and we would form a coalition of neighbors through that, which is good in that you get to know your neighbors, but it's bad in that you get to know your neighbors through crime. So we're trying to have another element to meet our neighbors, a positive element which is the art, and that's what's happening now more so than ever on Moran Street, because it is such a concentrated effort with four houses being worked on by six different artists.

Read the story here.

In Guernica, WSU professor dissects 'Detroitism'

Wayne State professor John Patrick Leary takes on the oft-controversial topic of ruin porn; specifically, the works of Andrew Moore's Detroit Disassembled, Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre's The Ruins of Detroit and Dan Austin and Sean Doerr's Lost Detroit.

His diagnoses (namely the section on the three kinds of Detroiters) are both cynical and cutting, rooted in postmodern theory and a sense that our city exists only as a precursor for a larger discussion about the American Dream. The discussion is rich. Join in.


Photographs like Moore, Marchand, and Meffre's succeed, at least, in compelling us to ask the questions necessary to put this story together--Detroit's story, but also the increasingly-familiar story of urban America in an era of prolonged economic crisis. That they themselves fail to do so testifies not only to the limitations of any still image, but our collective failure to imagine what Detroit's future--our collective urban future--holds for us all.

Leary's article, along with photos by Marchand and Meffre, can be seen here (scroll down to find his suggested reading list).

City's unique assets will fuel next real estate boom

Local real estate and financial insiders were bullish on Detroit's next boom at the Model D IdeaLab conference Thursday at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The event brought together creatives and finance types for a fast, TED-style forecast of Detroit's economic future.

The Freep quoted local movers and shakers on their successes in the real estate market in 2010: two in particular were City Living's Austin Black and Richard Hosey, senior VP at Bank of America's Detroit office, who pulled together the recent $55M deal to renovate downtown's Broderick Tower.


One of the city's main assets for both commercial redevelopment and for residential development, Black said, is the unique architecture. Hundred-year-old homes in Palmer Woods, for example, appeal to buyers because the architecture cannot be replicated.

"Detroit is getting into that stage right now where …settlers are moving in. Not just pioneers," said Randy Lewarchik, a real estate developer.

Read the rest of the story here.

Lincoln's TED-sponsored talk focuses on technology and transit

A star-studded group of writers, entrepreneurs and thought leaders gathered at Lincoln's TED-sponsored conference at the North American International Auto Show. Called "New Tomorrows," the list of presenters included Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, conceptualist Lisa Gansky, Maker Faire founder Dale Dougherty, and locals John Gallagher and Jessica Care Moore.

What's the future? A city of hacker dens uniting creative energy with technology, local farms supplying fresh produce, local bike paths along streetways and light rail.


Ms. Gansky touched on the success of the Zipcar company and encouraged automakers to propagate car-share models -- a concept she explores in her 2010 book "The Mesh: Why the Future of Business Is Sharing." "I really wanted to bring up the discussion of transit and how data could be used to do so much more," she said. "The car is a platform for people."

Read the post here.

Jack White, Lily Tomlin remember old Cass Tech on NPR's Morning Edition

Over 4,000 students graduated from the old Cass Tech high school before its closing in 2005, including a roster of Detroit's most famous former students, like Diana Ross, John Delorean and Ellen Burstyn. NPR interviewed several of Cass Tech alums, including Jack White and Lily Tomlin, about their memories of the almost century-old industrial Gothic building, which is now slated for destruction.


Ray Litt, who graduated from Cass in 1948, walks over broken glass inside the building. He has been its unofficial caretaker since it was abandoned.

"This whole business of clearing up this eyesore and being concerned about the safety of our students because of the shape of the building is being used as an excuse," he says.

Demolition crews are using generators to help rip out the metals and equipment still left inside. Litt has been trying to rally the 60,000 alumni for money and ideas.

Listen to the story here.

Vanity Fair digs Detroit's salvaged treasures

VF.com correspondent and Detroit native Brett Burk (who colorfully describes himself as "a cheerful bitch...writing gaily about culture, politics and cars"), wanted to report on something different while attending the North American International Auto Show this week. So he journeyed around the city studying what we Detroiters stockpile and salvage from the past, from piles of Christmas trees and tires to antique toilets at the Architectural Salvage Warehouse.


What to do with all the broken mirrors, bedsprings, saw blades, girders, roofing tin, and rusty paint cans you have lying around the house? Lie them around the house--on the outside, that is--like at the crazy compound/sculpture "garden" created by these clever folks at the African Bead Museum on Grand River.

View the slideshow here.

Live Midtown to incentivize city living to 30,000 potential new residents

Workers at the Detroit Medical Center, Henry Ford Hospital and Wayne State University will be the beneficiaries of a $1.2 million program to incentivize employees to move to Midtown, Woodbridge, New Center and Virginia Park neighborhoods.

The program will provide eligible employees with rental allowances up to $2,500 or forgivable loans to the tune of $25,000 over five years.


The Michigan State Housing Development Authority and the Hudson-Webber Foundation are matching the anchor employers' first-year investment, bringing the total to $1.2 million for this year.

In a release, the organizations said the Troy-based Kresge Foundation also plans to provide some investment for the pilot project, with the anchor employers continuing funding in subsequent years.

Read more here.

Rep. Hansen Clarke gets the Newsweek star treatment

U.S. Representative Hansen Clarke's reach-across-the-aisle style has already raised eyebrows in Washington. This profile on the first-term elected official spends much time drawing contrasts between Clarke and another (in)famous Detroit politician, but it also raises interesting questions about who Clarke is, and the national implications of his victory.


Our first stop was a mission where Clarke addressed a crowd of some 200 homeless Detroiters. Clarke said that he sees himself in the faces of the street people. His mother, who worked as a school crossing guard, sent him away to school with winnings from the street numbers. When she died, while he was at Cornell University, he left college and drifted, unemployed and living on food stamps. Eventually he pulled himself together, returned to Cornell and then went on to law school at Georgetown, but he says, "All my life I've been afraid that I'm going to wind up on the streets."

Read the profile here.

Community resilience and the American Dream: Shareable Cities blog takes a Detroit joyride

Milicent Johnson is a New York native who got plenty of stern warnings -- and pepper spray -- when she decided to journey to the D to uncover our city's spirit of community. What she found, after ditching the Mace, was a warm and vibrant population who welcomed her with open arms. From Rachel's Place, to crepes, to even milking a goat, Johnson got the true D-town experience. Which led to some pretty interesting ruminations on Detroit's role in shaping ideas for rebuilding 21st century cities. And it seems this Shareable Cities post made at least one convert.


So, here's my final confession: I want to move to Detroit. Having lived in New York City, D.C, Boston, and now, San Francisco, I'm used to comfortable city life that caters to the young. But never have I experienced a place thriving with talent, energy, passion, and determination to make their city, and by association, the world, a better place. If you are looking for a place to develop your dream, whatever it may be, consider trying to do so in Detroit, in the place I am now dubbing the birthplace of our collective new American destiny. See you there.

We're baking that "Welcome to Detroit" casserole, Milicent, so hurry on back. Read the whole post here.

Freep reports on investments, creative projects on rise in Detroit

Media everywhere has seemingly caught wind of the cyclone of attention, investor dollars and cool new projects popping up in neighborhoods like New Center and Woodbridge, including this dandy report in the Detroit Free Press over the weekend. Winning news: not only did foundations spend up to $250 million on development within city limits in 2010, but there's lots more to come in 2011. Much is discussed of Midtown's future, which currently holds a 92% rental occupancy rate.


With the demand for housing on the rise, developers are in various stages of at least seven ambitious condo and apartment projects, most in ornate, historic buildings that had stood vacant for years. Since 2009, more than $425 million has been invested in building new housing, according to the UCCA.

Thousands of students who used to commute to WSU and CCS are moving within walking distance of classes because of the theaters, bars, restaurants and art galleries, officials from both schools said.

"Detroit is getting a reputation as a very lively, hot place to live," said Richard Rogers, CCS president. "People are gravitating here because they are finding a high quality of life."

We're lovin' it! Read the whole article here.

HuffPo gives center stage to Granholm's race to the top proposal

It's like an arms race, but with jobs. Gov. Granholm took to the Huffington Post this week to give her idea for a Jobs Race for the Top that would allow poorly-funded states the chance to receive a portion of the nation's economic development dollars (there's about $170 billion). Granhom's argument cuts across political platforms, as well as state lines, with rewards in place for creating clean energy jobs, establishing public-private partnerships and rewriting policy. And Granholm used Michigan as the example of a state that's done it right:


In just over a year, we have attracted 18 domestic and international companies, projected to create 63,000 private-sector jobs in Michigan. With breathtaking speed, we built an entire advanced battery "ecosystem" for the purpose of electrifying the automobile. If the states are the laboratories of democracy, Washington can take a lesson from what is happening in Michigan. 

We are really appreciating the HuffPo love for Detroit these days. Read more here.

Blank Blank Toy Toys opens pop-up toy shop in Hamtramck

Three College for Creative Studies students are trying to take the consumerism out of the Christmas gift-giving tradition -- and an abandoned house near the Zen Center in Hamtramck may see some new life.

The students recently explored the abandoned house before it was razed to document its history. Inside, they found hundreds of childrens' toys, which they decided to clean and sell online. Not only is Blank Blank Toys Toys an inexpensive pop-up toy shop advocating that we re-use what we've made, the students also decided to dedicate the proceeds to further another possible project on the land.


We partnered with a woman who wanted to take the lot after the house is demolished and turn it into a community park or pool. The money we generate will be donated to our partner to help create this positive change for the community. We believe there are ways of creating positive change in and around our communities that will renew usable resources as well as create new possibilities.

There's a G.I. Joe figurine for $1.99, and plenty of other cool toys for you to check out here.

Rick Snyder envisions Detroit outpost, talks strengthening urban areas

The buzz with the biggest political implication this week? It's the news that governor-elect Rick Snyder may create a state office specifically devoted to his urban agenda: and he's working with the city of Detroit to bring it here.


Unlike some Republican candidates for governor, Snyder campaigned actively in Detroit before the Nov. 2 election and repeatedly said in campaign speeches that revitalizing urban areas is a priority. He also said Michigan can't be a great state again until Detroit is once again a great city.

The article notes Gov. Granholm, like other governors, has a state office in New Center's Cadillac Place building (incorrectly identified in the article as Midtown). But if he succeeds, Snyder will be the first governor to open the first Detroit office specializing in urban areas. Rick, we like the way you're thinking.

Read more here.

New life for downtown's Broderick Tower

Downtown Detroit's long-dormant Broderick Tower may soon begin a second life as renovated residential apartments. The word on the street? Ann Arbor's J.C. Beal Company is representing the owners for the sale, with Bank of America handling the financing. We're excited to see the downtown revitalization spearheaded by Quicken Loans continue to steamroll, not to mention major banks getting behind Detroit again.


Robert Kraemer, president of Kraemer Design Group, a Detroit architectural firm working on the project, said the financial closing is expected to be finished by early next week, with Bank of America and other financial entities providing financing.

"It's as real as it gets," Kraemer said. "It's exciting. It's a real deal."

Stay tuned to Model D as news from Broderick continues to unfold. Read the rest of the story here.

Bing blogs Turin's turnaround

A recent fact-finding mission to Detroit's twin city, Turin, Italy (known to natives as Torino) showed Dave Bing there's a lot about redevelopment we can learn from that European auto town. Like Detroit, the Italian Motor City has lived through its share of crises. Almost destroyed in WWII, the city was rebuilt during the post-war boom. And like Detroit, Turin suffered during the automotive recession of the 1970s and 1980s, losing nearly 30 percent of its population in three decades.

Mayor Bing filed daily reports from Turin, which is currently experiencing a turnaround both in population and international stature. He says he's most impressed by the density of the central city.


In spite of having nearly the same number of people, Turin has a land mass that is only one-third of Detroit's. This creates a feeling of activity, provides access to resources, services and amenities. And, most important, according to one Turin official, it creates a feeling of safety. This is because there are more people in the available space.

Read more here.

MSU study claims city's vacant land has green growth potential

The concept of urban farming shouldn't be new to any regular readers of Model D. But here's something buzz-worthy: the city's publicly-owned land could transform the Motor City into a post-industrial land of plenty.

The New York Times Green blog sourced a Michigan State University study that claims the city's vacant land has the potential to produce 75 percent of the city's vegetable supply and 40 percent of non-tropical fresh fruits for local residents.


The study identified 44,000 parcels totaling nearly 5,000 acres, with no existing structures, that were owned by the city, surrounding Wayne County or the state of Michigan. Land in and around parks, golf courses, cemeteries, schools, churches, hospitals, jails, utilities, right-of-ways and privately owned property was not included.

"Our totals are conservative," said Mike Hamm, a professor of sustainable agriculture at Michigan State University. "But it may be closer to representing the quantity of land more readily available for urban farms and gardens because these parcels are publicly owned and clear of any buildings." The post also suggests proposals for large-scale agriculture in the city remain on the drawing board. Your move, Detroit.

Read the post here.

Opportunity knocks for Detroit, and it's a sound heard 'round the nation

Is this a "golden moment" for cities like Detroit?

There's a conscious reason the national group CEOs for Cities, which has celebrated urban growth since 2001, chose Detroit for this year's annual conference (and got schooled on Tech Town, the Detroit Declaration and more). A new article from Citiwire.net says it's the growing appreciation for cities' inherent resources that makes now, not the future, the time to capitalize on building our nation's cities of tomorrow.The article also illustrated a few comparisons between Detroit and Atlanta, which has experienced steady revitalization in the past decade.


The Detroit initiatives that may seem "against all odds" do in fact mirror trends working for American cities. Reports are multiplying of a growing cohort of talented young people, many of them college graduates, drawn to cities by their dynamism and excitement ... Then there's a clear trend, notes Carol Coletta, president of CEOs for Cities: recognizing, then exploiting, cities' sometimes hidden assets. A prime example is the Atlanta Beltline, a year a forlorn and abandoned 22-mile loop of rail lines now being made into a linear park of 1,200 landscaped acres with recouped industrial sites and transit service for 45 neighborhoods.

Read it here.

Is it TIME to shrink this city?

The journalists on the ground from TIME's Assignment Detroit have written a thesis statement of sorts -- or maybe it's appropriate to call this article on re-sizing the Motor City a call to action. According to the article, TIME's reporters combined observations and ideas from hundreds of interviews conducted in the city to create a blueprint for Bing's proposed city-wide redevelopment. While many of their recommendations are spot-on, it's these writers' hopeful view of Detroit, as seen from a weekend at Eastern Market, that we found so endearing.


Nearly 40,000 people from throughout the metropolitan area flock to the market for the best produce from the Midwestern countryside, and also for the very urban experience of being part of a multifarious, multigenerational and multicolored crowd. The Eastern Market vibe is evident, too, on those summer nights when the Tigers game at Comerica Park ends at around the same time as the soul act across the street at the Fox Theatre and the last notes of La Bohème die out around the corner at the Detroit Opera House. As the three crowds swirl together on the rim of Grand Circus Park, you'd think you're in a version of the ideal 21st century city.

Read the whole article here.

More Quicken Loans employees move downtown

After stating his commitment to moving another 2,000 employees  downtown, it seems Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert isn't wasting any time. The Detroit News confirms Quicken will purchase the Madison Building, which overlooks Grand Circus Park from Broadway near Witherell St. The Madison is also home to Angelina Italian Bistro -- but with 43,000 available square feet, there should be room for an army of Quicken employees.


Quicken signed a five-year lease for four floors in the Compuware building in August to house 1,700 workers but still doesn't have enough space to bring all of its Michigan-based employees downtown. Quicken founder and Chairman Dan Gilbert said in August he wanted to move an additional 2,000 workers downtown. He said then that he hopes to attract more businesses downtown and create a technology hub that will help downtown's Woodward Avenue be known as "WEBward Avenue."

Read the whole scoop here.

Corktown's blue-collar Victorian cottages tell immigrants' stories

Detroit's Victorian-era homes are often associated with the opulence and grandeur of the city's wealthiest former residents. But Metro Detroit, and Corktown in particular, are home to collections of Victorian-style row cottages, built by immigrants who came here for blue-collar jobs in lumber and steel mills during the late 1800s.


When these workers earned enough money, they built homes for their families. And like the rich folks of that day, they wanted Victorian. But they weren't able to afford large, fancy homes. So they built tiny houses on lots 20-25 feet wide.

How did Detroit's workers end up in row cottages, while East Coast immigrants largely lived in tenements? Read more about the history of these Corktown cottages here.

Hamtramck elementary brings the green to paved paradise

At Dickinson Elementary, staff and students are proving it's never too early to go green. From a project to turn milk cartons into benches (the only of its kind in the area), Dickinson kids raised $4,000 to transform the school's outdoor land into usable green space, while volunteering their time to personally complete the work. The breadth of their vision should inspire every potential do-gooder to get outside this spring!


In addition to tearing out the concrete near all the entrances and then replacing it with garden space that includes ground cover, shrubs and trees, a number of benches and tables will be added to create an outdoor learning environment. Moreover, large planters will be placed at each entrance, the playground will be resurfaced and the playscape replaced and relocated.

Read more about this grade school green space here.

Southwest Housing Solutions wins $2M grant

A total of 137 single-family and multi-family housing units will be built and rehabilitated in Southwest Detroit with a $2M community development grant awarded by the U.S. Treasury.

Announced by Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, the Community Development Financial Institution Capital Magnet Fund requires applicants and awardees to show a factor of ten for all leveraging targets. That means Southwest Solutions will leverage the $2M grant into $20M worth of total leveraged dollars for the Southwest community.


"We received this Capital Magnet Fund award because of our strong partnerships with city, county, state and federal agencies, as well as other organizations working to revitalize communities, such as NeighborWorks," said Tim Thorland, executive director of Southwest Housing Solutions. "The award is an important investment in our community projects and will also enable us to leverage financing from other sources to support their development."

Find out more about Southwest Solutions here.

City Journal explores Detroit and Newark's similar journeys

City Journal, a quarterly institute of urban affairs published by the libertarian-leaning Manhattan Institute, celebrates two maverick mayoral figures, Newark's Cory Booker and Detroit's Dave Bing, in an exhaustive new article. While New Jersey and Michigan's largest cities shared a troubled past, much of the article discusses their shared future and creative solutions to offering city services during financial setbacks, making this read a thorough look at post-industrial cities in the 21st century.


Bing has been even more adamant about streamlining and professionalizing. During the campaign, Bing suggested that his private-sector experience -- after playing in the NBA, he founded a steel company, built it into a successful manufacturing conglomerate, and managed it for 30 years -- would help him transform city government.Shortly after taking office, he announced a new dress code at City Hall, required workers there to be at their desks by 8 a.m., and asked them to sign a pledge to adhere to the city's ethics policy. He also commissioned a panel of experts to identify ways to overhaul the city's creaky government. It came up with dozens of recommendations that could save some $500 million over several years, including privatizing crucial city assets like airport management and consolidating and downsizing the government.

Read more here.

Living Cities will re-densify Midtown

Living Cities, a NY-based consortium of 22 nonprofits, announced plans last week to award Midtown with a sizable grant to continue development efforts -- $2.75 million in grant money, $4 million worth of investments and $15 million in commercial debt to help offset the commercial lending freeze.

Though the likely projects haven't yet been identified, the Detroit News say 200 mixed-income living units, a charter school, healthy food initiative and community land trust are all possibilities for the neighborhood.


"If Detroit is going to turn (around), it's going to happen in Midtown," said David Egner, president and CEO of the Hudson-Webber Foundations and executive director the New Economy Initiative for Southeast Michigan. That initiative includes a plan to attract 15,000 new, young talented Detroiters to live in the city's core by 2015.

Read more here.

Sugar Hill district takes shape

With the opening of the giant-sized N'Namdi Center for Contemporary Arts on E. Forest, George N'Namdi is helping redevelop a once-barren block-and-a-half south of the Cultural Center into the city's newest arts neighborhood. And proving growth brings more growth, the Sugar Hill Arts District's immediate plans include the almost-renovated artists' lofts at 71 Garfield, a parking deck, a new five-story building and dual east-west pedestrian walkways.


Come early next year, it will also include a wine bar and vegetarian bistro run by Ann Arbor's highly successful Seva restaurant, which N'Namdi says should open around the first of the year. (They're just nailing down the liquor license.) Curious how cool-looking N'Namdi's complex is? Here's a clue: the Microsoft Corp. rented it several weeks ago to stage a fancy corporate event.

Read more about Sugar HIll here.

Sue Mosey called "Midtown dynamo" in Detroit News piece

Detroit News columnist Laura Berman celebrates the good works and deeds of Sue Mosey, the president of Midtown's University Cultural Center Association. Her universe extends from New Center to Brush Park, where she lights streetlights, builds sidewalks, guides new development projects and serves as a resource for new business owners. She's also earned a reputation as a fundraiser extraordinaire.


Over two decades of political change, bankruptcies, market crashes and mayoral scandals, Mosey has kept sight of the ideas that animated her as a Wayne State University grad student: The vision of a city built for people -- walkable, diverse, connecting people and places -- has always been hers.

In Detroit, though, visionaries show up and disappear. Mosey has fixed her gaze, and energy, on a particular place over a sweep of time. Instead of making a fuss, she has gotten things done.

Read the column here.

Forbes examines Mayor Bing's plans for rightsizing Detroit

A new profile on Dave Bing's strategy to shrink Detroit by 30 percent calls the new plan "controversial," but also necessary.

Only 15 of Detroit's 54 neighborhoods are considered viable by Detroit city officials. As the Forbes article points out, geographically, Detroit is so large that Manhattan, San Francisco and Boston could fit inside the city limits.


"I am not naive," says the soft-spoken 66-year-old Bing. "We are asking people who have lived here for generations to change. But if we don't change we'll fail, and I don't want to be part of that failure."

Read the entire article here.

Profiling the "Disney-sized imagination" of Loveland's Jerry Paffendorf

With the Loveland "inchvestor" program and Corktown's new Imagination Station, Jerry Pafferndorf is no stranger to kooky ideas or good press. This three-page profile on Xconomy.com examines how the digital maps from Loveland could be seriously significant to the city's controversial land-shrinking program.


What Detroit really needs, Paffendorf says, is fine-grained "digital social map" that could aid in Mayor Dave Bing's program to "resize" the city. By some accounts, two thirds of the land in Detroit is unoccupied, which means services such as police and fire protection and water and sewer maintenance are stretched needlessly over a vast area.

The problem, says Paffendorf, is that "they're drawing up a master plan for how to intelligently deal with this Swiss-cheese environment, and they're trying to do it with no maps."

Can Paffendorf and his Loveland team map out a future plan to reimagine Detroit? Ponder that thought here.

Saginaw Valley student paper says ignore stereotypes, focus on Detroit's potential

We're always eager to grab some Detroit love from wherever it comes. An editorial in the Valley Vanguard -- the student paper of Saginaw Valley State University -- shows some future journos are interested in peeling away those tired, old stereotypes to find out what's really going on along Woodward Avenue.


But most importantly, more and more young adults ages 19 through 30 are coming to Detroit to discover the same things their grandparents did 50 or 60 years before. They realize that Detroit is still a blank canvas. They see a place where they can work and accomplish something.

Preach it, Aaron. Read more here.

Transformation Detroit tours show national journalists some urban goodness

Seeing is believing. That's why a new tour, heralded by Mayor Dave Bing during his recent speech to the Detroit Economic Club, invites journalists from all over the state and across the nation to take a positive trek through the city.


Scores of abandoned or rundown buildings are being renovated. Blight is blossoming into green space. Businesspeople who took a gamble are now cashing in.

The tours take place every Saturday afternoon beginning in November and are hosted by Inside Detroit. Watch the video here.

Soup at Spaulding Courts raises money to rehab residential castle on Rosa Parks

Soup at Spaulding is a weekly dinner in North Corktown that seeks to get local projects up and running while supporting the rehabilitation of Spaulding Court, a community owned castle complex turned village center.

Watch the video and get the rest of the story on Kickstarter.

Detroitblogger John takes Metro Times' readers inside historic St. Albertus Church

The social history and the present day struggles at Detroit's St. Albertus Church combine to create one of the city's most compelling stories.

Detroitblogger John writes about this Poletown institution in this week's Metro Times.


Step inside St. Albertus and it's easy to see why the church generates such devotion from its caretakers.

The outside is relatively plain, but the interior is astonishing. Color and texture and detail shine out from every direction. It's psychedelic, bizarre, otherworldly; like some mystical experience expressed in architecture. A plaster St. Albertus looks down from above the main altar, surrounded by angels of various hierarchies floating alongside him, standing on platforms, leaning out from walls. There are flowers and candles everywhere, and little flames cast flickering shadows onto the kaleidoscope walls.

Read the entire story here.

Old Free Press building slated for residential apartments

The old Detroit Free Press building, which the paper moved out of in 1998, has a plan in place that will turn it into residential units.

Excerpt from the Detroit Free Press:

A $70-million plan to remake the old Detroit Free Press building downtown into residential apartments, office and retail space inched forward Wednesday as the Detroit Brownfield Redevelopment Authority approved incentive financing for the deal.

The project still needs to overcome hurdles, including finding market-rate financing in a tight credit market. But Wednesday's action shows that the deal is moving ahead.

The building, at 321 W. Lafayette, is owned by Free Press Holdings, a Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.-based real estate partnership headed by investor Emre Uralli. The partnership bought the building in late 2008 from a local partnership that included the Farbman Group real estate firm.

Read the entire article here.

Architect Magazine finds the buzz in Detroit

Can Detroit turn itself around? There is certainly potential and the buzz is out. Architect Magazine is pulled in by that buzz.

Excerpt from Architect Magazine:

Despite the challenges, though, residents believe they can turn this baby around. Developers are using tax credits—for preservation, green renovations, workforce housing, and more—to leverage Detroit's incredible stock of architecture. And over the past 10 years, more than $15 billion has been invested in the city.

Young people, drawn by a thriving arts scene and low cost of living, are infusing Detroit with new energy. "There's a great momentum among the post–baby boomers, who really do want to make things happen," says native Michael Poris of McIntosh Poris Associates. The younger set is jump-starting the small business sector. And the New Economy Initiative for Southeast Michigan is driving growth in the aerospace and alternative energy industries.

In March, the Kresge Foundation announced it would pay the undisclosed salary of urban planning expert Toni Griffin. Griffin, who directed Newark, N.J.'s revitalization effort, will spearhead the shrinking of Detroit's urban footprint. "The solutions—urban agriculture, intensifying certain areas, allotting resources for others—aren't from left field," says Archive Design Studio principal Mark Nickita. "It's not a new idea, but this time it feels more formal."

Read the entire article here.

Rebuilding Detroit through a successful barbecue joint

Phil Cooley is no strangers to press. Whether it's the New York Times or our little rag, he's in the spotlight. All he did was open a barbecue restaurant, but his subsequent actions just might help rebuild the city.

Excerpt from the Detroit News:

In early April, the principal guy behind Detroit's Slows Bar BQ was talking up the city at the Creative Cities summit in Lexington, Ky., a national conference on attracting and retaining urban talent. After that, the 32-year-old flew to Los Angeles on his own dime to meet skateboarding superstar Tony Hawk about a skate park in front of the Michigan Central Depot, a landmark Cooley wants to see reused.

Since launching the perpetually packed Slows five years ago, Cooley has morphed into one of the city's most-visible urban activists -- a grass-roots champion of sustainability, community and treasuring what makes Detroit unique. Up for grabs, however, is whether longtime Detroiters will buy into the progressive agenda of this small-town transplant and his like-minded allies -- mostly young, white and suburban-raised -- and their affection for the city's Rome-like ruins.

"What Detroit needs is 1,000 more Phil Cooleys," said Karla Henderson, director of the city's Buildings & Safety Engineering Department. "And if we get them, I tell you, we're going to be fine."

Read the entire article here.

Public radio's The Takeaway broadcasts from Detroit, offers great perspective on the city

NPR's the Takeaway focused on Detroit all of last week -- even broadcasting from Detroit's WDET 101.9 FM's Midtown studios. Their coverage got a lot of people talking and thinking about the city. We suggest reading the comments, there are some great posts from people in Detroit offering their POVs.

"I think that 'Dateline' didn't lie in what it showed; it just lied by omission. So my takeaway is, let's tell the story ourselves and stop depending on people who come in and do...drive by knocks at the city when the city is really trying to turn itself around." -- Rochelle Riley

Read the entire article here.

Four pages from the Associated Press: Daunting task ahead to secure Detroit's future

The AP (via the Washington Post) did a big spread on Detroit, and highlighted Brightmoor's efforts to revitalize.


This is Brightmoor, one of the most blighted neighborhoods in a blighted city. But Talbert, president of an organization that provides technical support to faith-based and community agencies, sees hope in a place that seems so hopeless to the rest of the world.
"You have a lot of vacant facilities. You have a lot of burned out facilities," Talbert said. "But you have these pockets where people have been for a long time and take care of their property. They love their property, and they consider Brightmoor home and they're never going to move."
Mayor Dave Bing, too, sees promise in places like Brightmoor. With $20 million in federal funds, he is pushing forward with a plan to resuscitate dying neighborhoods by tearing down 10,000 dangerous, vacant houses. Meanwhile, the Kauffman, Skillman, Kresge, Hudson-Webber and other foundations are throwing millions more into job creation, a public schools rescue and various quality of life programs.

Read the entire article here.

Right-sizing in the news: Bing's not planning to shrink borders; Marketplace takes interest

The media is all over Detroit's right-sizing story. And last week, Bing was saying he won't shrink the city's size, which we really didn't think he was going to anyway. It's not the size that matters, it's how you use it, right?

Here's the latest round-up of coverage:

Excerpt from Michigan Public Radio that aired nationally on Marketplace:

So officials are considering a radical idea - shut down whole areas of the city, and move residents from decaying neighborhoods to more viable ones.

Read more and listen here.

Excerpt from the Detroit News:

Annexation is off the table, but mothballing neighborhoods isn't as Detroit draws plans to deal with its glut of fallow land, an aide to Mayor Dave Bing said Thursday.

One thing is for sure: Whatever emerges won't be called "downsizing," said Dan Lijana, a Bing spokesman.
"Downsizing implies that certain areas of the city could be something else at a later date," Lijana said. "That's not true."

Read the entire article here.

Excerpt from the Freep:

While on the campaign trail, during his State of the City address and in interviews with local and national news media, Bing has heralded the importance of a long-term strategy that would use the city's 140 square miles more productively, calling such a move critical to Detroit's survival.

Yet on Wednesday, Bing's staff backed away from what was first characterized as downsizing the city, saying, "We are stabilizing neighborhoods and the city as a result of a reduced population by centralizing resources, not shrinking its borders."

Read the entire article here.

Plans for Midtown development project at odds with push for historic designation

Midtown's developers have made the neighborhood one of the city's best; however, a new project is getting push back from the UCCA. Is preservation worth turning off an investor? It's an interesting dilemma for Midtown.

Excerpt from the Detroit News:

Schaefer didn't anticipate a roadblock by the University Cultural Center Association, which has spearheaded the effort to have the area declared a historic district. The UCCA has helped create many historic districts in Midtown, including one to save the buildings that are now the Inn on Ferry Street, and proponents consider them a key part of the area's success.

The chances of Schaefer's housing complex coming to fruition are slim if the City Council approves the proposed Woodward-Palmer- Cass-Kirby Historic District.

"We've supported many new developments, and we will do so again in the future," UCCA President Susan Mosey said. "But one of the reasons people are attracted to the area is it doesn't look like everywhere else."

Schaefer said he's already spent more than $1 million trying to upgrade the apartment buildings, but he says the result of further spending will still be antiquated, small rental units with no parking. That's why he wants to start over and build the complex.Read the entire article here.

Metro Times: Midtown is coming into its own

Over the last decade Detroit's Midtown are has exploded along Cass Corridor. Most may remember it being vacant, empty, destination-less, but it isn't like that anymore. And with the expected light-rail project coming to Woodward, Midtown will continue to grow, and, more importantly, could grow faster.

Excerpt from the Metro Times:

This area known as Midtown — roughly between downtown and the New Center — has a growing energy and the promise of more if a planned rail project is installed along Woodward. With its independent businesses, continued investment from Wayne State and a new mind-set about walkability, rideability and marketability, the area is a unique and colorful section of Detroit. And the strip along Willis at Cass is becoming one of its most vibrant components.

"What we have now is a lot of bubbling up. It's like a brew," says Harriet Saperstein, a former city of Detroit planner and current chair of the Woodward Avenue Action Association, which works in Wayne and Oakland counties. "With lots of these bubbles, some of them are going to dissipate, but some may have more flavor and staying power."

Read the entire article here.

The Urbanophile takes a look at the Michigan Central Station

The Michigan Central Station, though the Urbanophile guy calls it the Depot, for 20 years has been a question mark. What to do with it? Tear it down, moth ball it, redevelop it? And then where does the money come from? The Urbanophile, and maybe more like him, suggests turning it into an attraction, like the ruins in Europe. Make it safe, make a path, and have a few tours. People are doing it anyway, just illegally. So, why not? Start thinking Detroit, otherwise we might be here for another 20 years asking the same thing about the same building.

Excerpt from the Urbanophile blog:

I realize full well this is the type of suggestion that, when it comes from an outsider, infuriates locals. But hear me out.

Detroit has a vast supply of decayed and vacant buildings, many of them architectural treasures. Even if MCD is somehow restored, it will be one of only a handful saved, while so many others will languish for some time. Many, like the Lafayette Building, may become so damaged that they have to be torn down.

What if instead of spending a huge amount of money to try to save one building, the city found a little bit of money to do basic maintenance to preserve the structural integrity of many buildings – and create a safe path through parts of them that tourists could walk through similar to how ancient ruins are displayed in Europe. Heck, don't even clean the buildings up. That saves money and makes them even more impressive to visitors. This could preserve more structures for the long haul, and create a tourist attraction. The structures can always been renovated later when demand warrants.

Read the entire post here.

Shrinking Detroit: NPR talks with Metzger; Fast Company looks at farming vs. density

More national media discussions of Detroit's land use issues.

First, Kurt Metzger, director of Data Driven Detroit, talked with NPR about the survey his firm conducted and how it will play into Detroit Mayor Dave Bing's plan for downsizing Detroit. There are a lot of questions and not many answers. But the good news is that these questions are now being raised from the top, not just the bottom.

Excerpt from the NPR transcript:

NORRIS: How do you compensate people who have to move? Because as I understand it, they're entitled to 125 percent of taxable value for their property. But their property values have plummeted; have deteriorating along with the surrounding property, so how do you make them whole?

Mr. METZGER: That's a great question and that's one of those questions that I don't know that we have the answer for. I mean, I think we just can't give money and say: Good luck. Go find a place to live.

I think we have to come up with those housing alternatives and work with them both to relocate them into a home that's better - whatever that means. And I think that's something that still has to be worked out. I think we're going to have to really work with individuals, work with the neighborhood groups and other providers in the area and try to really understand how best to move them, keep them whole where they still are more or less with people that they've been around or that they feel comfortable with.

Listen to the report here.

And then we have this from Fast Company, examining the proposed Hantz farm and other urban farming ideas. Will farms exacerbate Detroit's problem of too much unused land, destroying hopes for rebuilding density.

Excerpt from the Fast Company story:

Together, Bing's and Hantz's plans must sound like a model city for locavores, urban farmsteaders (although Detroit's are actually suspicious of Hantz) and anyone concerned about the fate of sprawl in the era of peak oil. And that might have been so, were it not for the fact that Detroit doesn't fall away to the real prairie at 8 Mile Road. The city of Detroit may be a shadow of its former self, but metropolitan "Detroit" and its suburbs still contain 4.4 million people, more than metropolitan Phoenix, San Francisco or Seattle. And while Detroit may be shrinking in area, "Detroit" is doing anything but.

This fact, which is so often absent from reports about the city's plight, fatally undermines Bing's best intentions. His plan won't make Detroit any denser, but the opposite.

Read the full story here.

New York Times asks: What's to be done with Michigan Central Station?

What should we do with the Michigan Central Station? A lot of ideas have slipped through Detroit's hands since the behemoth building went vacant more than 20 years ago. Everything from extreme games park to aquarium has been suggested. And, still, behind it all is an owner with an iron grip. There are a lot of hurdles to jump when it comes to the MCS, but maybe some of the more recent suggestions -- Michigan State Police HQ -- might have legs.

Excerpt from the New York Times:

Mr. Blashfield said his company was not interested in demolition, but needed an anchor tenant or at least "a critical mass" of businesses or government agencies before it could pay for any renovation. And that is the hard part; grand and varied plans have been proposed over the years, with none coming to fruition.

But there is new hope that momentum is building for Michigan Central to become a hub for some government security functions, like the Detroit headquarters of the Michigan State Police, some state and federal Homeland Security offices and, given Detroit's location close to the Canadian border, a center for trade inspections, Mr. Blashfield said.

Plans are preliminary, but they offer the most promise of anything proposed lately, especially if federal stimulus money can be used.

"I think this window of opportunity is very narrow, and if we don't seize the moment, we may lose it," said Cameron S. Brown, a Republican state senator who supports having security agencies use the building. "The clock is ticking."

Read the entire article here.

Downtown Detroit Partnership's annual luncheon features Ficano, Bing

The Downtown Detroit Partnership's annual luncheon will take place on Thursday, March 4, at the Marriott in the Ren Cen. This year's featured speakers will be Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing. Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm has been invited as well. Kresge Foundation CEO Rip Rapson and M-1 Rail CEO Matt Cullen will discuss the perspectives of mass transit in Detroit. DDP CEO Ann Lang will also speak.

For more information and to register go here.

Fixing Detroit with inches

While there may be dozens and dozens of square miles vacant in Detroit, Jerry Paffendorf has gone about it a little different. He's selling Detroit by the inches. The project sells square inches for a dollar and those who invest can do with the inches as they please.


Paffendorf has been selling 10,000 square inches of land on the city's east side in a project he calls Loveland that combines art, entertainment and real estate.

The 69 square feet sit on an empty lot down the street from homes on East Vernor Highway. Loveland's buyers technically don't own the land. But for $1, Paffendorf plans to let them use it as they wish.

Nearly 600 "inchvestors," as Paffendorf calls them, hail from as far as Australia and have bought inches ranging from one to 1,000. They plan to put up tiny buildings, a life-size mailbox and even tiny virtual cities in their Detroit inches.

The plot is slated to go up in the spring. Paffendorf plans to hook up a camera to the site so video of the land can be streamed on the Internet.

Read the entire article here.

Detroit News Editorial: Detroit needs to fit itself to its population

Detroit is like wearing a size 12 shoe when you're supposed to wear a size 9. This Detroit News editorial says Detroit needs to chuck the size 12 and get a shoe that fits.


That's the challenge. Shrinking Detroit, which was built for more than 2 million people and now has less than 900,000, will be an emotionally wrenching exercise. People who live on blocks containing only one or two houses are as attached to their homes as those who live in crowded neighborhoods.

Also, closing off sections of the city or shifting them to agricultural or recreational uses will signal to some a giving up on Detroit's potential.

That's why it is essential to begin rallying the public to the benefits of right-sizing. The most obvious upside is that Detroit will be able to deliver better services -- including police and fire -- if the population is more concentrated.

Read the entire article here.

NBC Nightly News: Detroit's environmental future

Last week we posted a video segment that NBC Nightly News did on the entrepreneurial spirit of Detroit, focusing on TechTown. This week they are back with another one of Detroit's hot button stories: Urban agriculture and Detroit's environment.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Taubman Center goes back to the future

The Argonaut Building was where the modern car was invented decades ago. Today, it's CCS's Taubman Center, a place where design is just important now as it was back then. Metropolis magazine writes about it this month.


Creating that level of student engagement was a goal of CCS's president, Richard Rogers, when he undertook the restoration of this historic building in Detroit's New Center district. Originally called the Argonaut, the Art Deco structure was designed by Albert Kahn in 1928 for General Motors, and it housed the first design department in the history of the auto industry. The structure takes up an entire city block, and when GM relocated its headquarters more than a decade ago to the Renaissance Center on the waterfront, the building joined the growing number of vacant sites in downtown Detroit.

In July, at the tag end of a $145 million historic restoration undertaken by CCS, the Argonaut was rechristened the A. Alfred Taubman Center for Design Education. The building, which was donated to the school by GM, now serves as a second campus for the college, just a few miles from its first. It is home to CCS's five undergraduate design departments and its new M.F.A. degree programs in design and transportation design. The restored building contains classrooms and faculty offices for the college as well as loft-style residence halls for up to 300 students. It will have retail and offices, both aimed at reinvigorating the street. Eighty thousand square feet have been set aside for future development, including incubator space for start-up design companies. Rogers envisioned a building where design practice could thrive, from early education to professional development and production.

Read the entire article here.
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