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15 Reuse / Rebuild Articles | Page:

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

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.
 

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.

Michigan Urban Farming Initiative intern to live in city's first shipping container house

A lucky intern at the nonprofit Michigan Urban Farming Initiative will become the first person to inhabit a house made from a shipping container, reports the Detroit News.

The container is currently being converted into occupiable housing in the parking lot of General Motor’s Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant. Once completed, it will be moved to Michigan Urban Farming Initiative's headquarters on Brush Street in New Center.

The nonprofit purchased the container for $3,000, but estimates that it will cost between $20,000 and $25,000 to convert it into a home. According the News, "Local GM workers will volunteer to convert the container into a home and 85 percent of the materials will be scrap from local GM plants."

Read more in the Detroit News.

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.

Link Detroit, extension of Dequindre Cut, set to begin construction

Our friends at Mode Shift Move Together updated a story near and dear to us: the extension of the greenway that currently cuts through the near East Side from the riverfront to Gratiot, just south of Eastern Market.

An excerpt:

To start with, Eastern Market will be getting a major upgrade. The street curbs on Russell Street will be lined up in a consistent manner, and the area will be spruced up with trees and greenery. In addition, new bike parking structures will be installed at the district's main parking lot and at the corner of Russell and Wilkins.

The market will also feature easy access to the Dequindre Cut, a below-street level biking and walking path built on an old railroad line in downtown Detroit, which will be extended as part of the project. Currently, it runs from Woodbridge Street near the Milliken State Park at the riverfront to Gratiot Avenue. The extension will take it a mile north to Mack Avenue. Three bridges spanning the Cut will also be repaired and another taken down.

Read more here.

Curbed Detroit: Palmer Park rises again

We love Palmer Park. The residential buildings, the accessability of nearby Palmer Woods, Sherwood Forest, the Avenue of Fashion and other leafy neighborhoods. Not to mention the lovely green space itself.

Curbed Detroit updates impressive work being done on the apartment houses here.

Open house at 71 Garfield previews new classes

Sugar Hill Clay first opened in 2011. Located in the lower level of the renovated 71 Garfield building in Midtown Detroit, the studio is about as "green" as a ceramic studio can get. The work tables, shelving, cabinetry and countertops were all constructed from reclaimed wood and operate on a combination of geo-thermal energy that is generated in our building and a 20-kilowatt solar array.  
 
Sugar Hill Clay is currently undergoing a lot of changes in operations.
 
New classes begin in August. Including: Intro to wheel throwing, which is covers the fundamentals of wheel thrown pottery; a handbuilding class focused on tableware; an Altered Pots class that combines wheel throwing and handbuilding techniques to create new and more complex forms; and "Playing with fire: Raku" which will cover a range of clay projects with a special focus on Raku firing. All adult classes include open studio hours so students may come in at their leisure to work on their projects outside of class. 
 
There is also "Adventures in Clay" for the kids. This class is for children ages 6-12, and will explore many techniques from handbuilding to surface decoration, and the chance to play on the potter's wheel for those interested. The kids will have the opportunity to make functional pots, as well as sculptural pieces. 
 
In addition to the classes, Sugar Hill Clay can be booked for private parties and events.
 
Things are kicking off with an open house this Friday, July 12 from 6 to 9 p.m. Tour the studio, meet the instructors, learn about new classes, and have the opportunity to play with some clay. Light refreshments will be served and a free class will be given away to one lucky attendee.
 
For more information, go 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.

Fast Company: How social entrepreneurship is rebuilding Detroit

Fast Company jumps into the early 21st century Detroit narrative, complex and ever-changing as it is to us here on the ground, in this feature published this week.

An excerpt: 

But the city's depression -- and the depressed real estate prices that came with it -- created opportunities. And opportunity lures entrepreneurs. The startup types, like Paffendorf. And the ones with lots of money, like Dan Gilbert, the founder and chairman of Quicken Loans, the third-largest mortgage provider in the country; he moved 1,700 employees downtown in 2010, giving him 7,000 employees there and making him Detroit's third-largest landowner (trailing only the city and General Motors). With slicked-back hair and a perpetual poker face, Gilbert has just gotten started on his plan to transform the area.

More to dig into 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.

Pot & Box coming to former Michigan Avenue gas station

Social entrepreneurial whiz kid Andy Didorosi, founder of the Detroit Bus Company, has a dandy new renant for a foreclosed gas station he bought at auction. It's Lisa Waud, an Ann Arbor-based biz whiz in the process of relocation to Detroit. Sounds like a groovy collab in the works. 

Excerpt:

Lisa's goal is to get Pot & Box open near the end of the year, though patrons looking for a taste of what's to come are very much in luck. She's teaming up with Andy to host venders from all across Detroit for a Valentine's Day Market at the gas station. Pot & Box will be selling flowers (Lisa mentions an old ice cream truck she's repurposing for the task) while merchants like City Bird will set up under a giant tent out front.

Read more in Curbed Detroit here.

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.

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.

'Motion to Makeover' project transforms Southwest park

Any news about people volunteering to clean up and "makeover" a Detroit city park is good news. All the better is that the project is being headed by some law students. 

An excerpt:

The 313 Project, started in 2009 by then first-year law students Aisa Villarosa, Erika Riggs and Juliana Rivera as a community-service student group, offers free legal clinics to underserved groups. But they also spend time each month with their Motion to Makeover project, which took on a major project -- Southwest Detroit's 26-acre Romanowski Park.

What started as a casual idea to work on a park took root when the group decided on Romanowski and approached Home Depot about getting materials, not expecting it to turn into a $16,500 grant from the company's foundation.

Read the rest of the story in HuffPost Detroit here.
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