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Traveling exhibitition featuring Star Wars costumes comes to DIA

Are you a Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) member and a fan of Star Wars? If so, there's great news: you get exclusive access to an exhibition featuring iconic costumes from that far away galaxy. 

"Star Wars and the Power of Costume," is a traveling exhibition that features more than 60 hand-crafted costumes from the Star Wars films, including Darth Vader, Princess Leia, Stormtroopers, Chewbacca, Han Solo, C-3PO, and more. In addition to showcasing the costumes, the exhibition explores both the challenges in dressing the actors, as well as the connection between character and costume. 

"This exhibition allows visitors to explore the creative processes behind the art of costume design, while discovering the unexpected ways in which these works relate to art from the DIA's collection," said Salvador-Salort-Pons, DIA director, in a press release. "It also connects directly with our Detroit Film Theatre program, which has shared the art of film with hundreds of thousands of visitors over its 42-year history."

The DIA is the last stop on the exhibition's tour, which runs from May 20 through Sept. 30. If you're a DIA member, you can attend a members-only preview on May 18 and 19. 

Lunch pop-up confronting racial inequality comes to Detroit

How would you feel about being charged a different amount for a meal depending on your race? Would it make you glad, curious, angry? So long as you have a response, Tunde Wey has done his job. 

Wey is a Detroit chef who moved to New Orleans and has been encouraging provocative discussions ever since. Earlier this year he started a pop-up, Saartj, which served vegetarian Nigerian out of a food hall in New Orleans.

But what really distinguished it was that after patrons purchase their food, Wey gives a speech about America's racial wealth gap, then gives them two options depending on their race: White customers can pay $12 or the suggested price of $30. Black customers pay $12 and have the options of accepting the $18 difference paid by white customers as a small-scale form of wealth redistribution. 

Now, Wey is bringing Saartj to Detroit. This unique popup and discussion platform will pop up downtown from April 29 to May 5. Malik Yakini of the Detroit Black Food Security Network will be a guest speaker. 

A profile of Wey for Civil Eats explains the origin of the pop-up's name: "Saartj is named after Saartjie Baartman, a Black South African woman who was lured to Europe by a doctor in the 1700s, and renamed Venus Hottentot. Wealthy Europeans could pay to have her come to their home where they could watch a 'demonstration' or touch her body. When she died, her body was dissected and her brain, breasts, and butt put on display at a Paris museum until 1974."

Wey made some fascinating discoveries during its New Orleans incarnation. 78 percent of white patrons paid the higher amount, and 76 percent of black patrons refused to accept the $18. 

He believes that "white guilt" influenced many of the patrons' decisions: "Refusing to pay more comes off as anti-social and people don’t want to be judged for that," Wey said in the Civil Eats piece. "People look on the other side of the till and see me standing there and they're thinking that I'm judging them. … If they couldn’t pay a higher amount, they gave a me a list of caveats why they couldn't."

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

Retail-design executive says look to Detroit for future of retail

The future of retail will be in Detroit, said Ken Nisch, chairman of JGA Inc., during a presentation at the National Retail Federation's Big Show in Manhattan. According to an article in the Detroit News, the large crowd included major international retail executives and experts who wanted to understand how to best integrate online shopping with brick-and-mortar stores. 

Despite the fact that upscale shopping has not been central to Detroit for 40 years, few national vendors opened stores in the city, and shopping malls have never had a place here, Detroit is well positioned in retail. Shopping malls are beginning to die out, after all, and Nisch thinks Detroit is well-positioned to thrive.

Todd Sachse, vice president of Broder & Sachse Real Estate, agrees with Nisch. He says that about $5.2 billion has went towards development projects downtown Detroit, and that more retail will follow. 

Louis Aguilar writes, "Detroit's emerging scene of DIY retailers is full of unique customer experiences, Nisch contends. They include Detroit is the New Black, an apparel and accessories shop focusing on local designers; and the Peacock Room, a women's apparel and accessories store with a vintage bent. And it's attracting more unique retailers such as City Bakery, a New York cafe and bakery with locations in Manhattan, Tokyo and now, the Fisher Building in New Center."

Nisch thinks it's possible national chains like Target might locate in Detroit in the coming years, but the stores would be smaller and offer products that coincide with the city and its people.

Have thoughts about downtown Detroit? The Downtown Detroit Partnership wants to know them

Do you go to downtown Detroit often? Do you live, work, play there? And if you don't, why not?

No matter your level of engagement with downtown, The Downtown Detroit Partnership (DDP) and the Downtown Detroit Business Improvement Zone (BIZ) want your input. And your thoughts will help shape, and hopefully improve, services and future planning downtown.

DDP and BIZ have put together a survey, which takes about 15 minutes to complete, that includes questions about the activities you engage in downtown, whether you think there's a good mix of retail, if it's easy to access, and more. Your answers are completely confidential. 

By providing feedback, you're eligible to win one of four prizes: two tickets to the Tigers 2018 Home Opener, a MoGo Detroit's bike share Annual Pass, People Mover Annual Pass, and QLINE Annual Pass.

Take the Downtown Detroit Perception Survey here

EcoWorks sustainable neighborhood initiative now accepting applications

We've heard a lot about green infrastructure and green building design in Detroit. But what about green neighborhoods? That's what Eco-D wants to help build.

An initiative run through Eco Works, a Detroit-based sustainable development nonprofit, Eco-D provides neighborhood groups with technical assistance to carry out local sustainability projects. Working with The Greening of Detroit, Community Development Advocates of Detroit, and Detroit Department of Transportation, Eco-D can provide assistance in community engagement practices, tree planting, conservation workshops, and much more. 

There's also a peer learning component to the program, in which neighborhood groups will have access "exchange opportunities," like workshops and events, where people can learn from each other and connect to service providers. 

The goal of Eco-D is to make Detroit "a 21st century model for urban sustainability."

Current neighborhoods in the program include HOPE Village and West Village, and EcoWorks is currently accepting applications for two more. Eligible neighborhood groups include those based in Detroit, Hamtramck or Highland Park, are "guided by a community-driven green plan that seeks to improve the financial, social, and environmental health of the community," and have a vision for a sustainable project. 

If you are part of a neighborhood organization that has a sustainability project, apply to the Eco-D program here. The deadline for applications is March 26. 

An inside look at the bailout of Marygrove College

Last year, when Marygrove College announced that it would become graduate-only, many wondered about the future viability of the college. While that's still somewhat of an open question, it's been stabilized for the near future thanks to a big boost from the Kresge Foundation.

But it's not simply a matter of shoring up Marygrove's finances. A lengthy article in the Detroit News details the restructuring that will take place at the institution "thanks to an ongoing multimillion-dollar rescue by the Kresge Foundation and $10 million in loans and guarantees from the IHM, its founding order," writes Daniel Howes.

Marygrove reached out to Kresge in February 2016, detailing all of its ongoing issues. The school was in a dire financial situation, even after receiving an emergency loan back in 2015, because its undergraduate enrollment fell by 50 percent between 2013 and 2016. 

As a result, they ended their undergraduate program, and cut faculty by 75 percent. 

But there won't be only cuts. Plans are in place to improve programs and services, such as benefits for employees, utilities, and payroll. Academics will receive special attention as well to improve the programs that the college has to offer.

The funds were also used to establish a nonprofit, the Marygrove Conservancy, "that would be responsible for maintaining the campus and relieving the school of a pressing financial burden." The Student Transition Fund also offered $1.2 million to distribute to students to aid in transferring to other colleges or universities.

Marygrove College was a women's-only college when it was first established in 1905. After the Detroit 1967 uprising, education at Marygrove expanded its opportunities to minority women. The college has always been involved in the social change of the community.

Can government stop tax foreclosures? Model D contributor says yes

Why have there been so many tax foreclosures in Detroit over the past decade? As we covered in our two-part series on the topic, it's a complicated issues with numerous causes. We also learned that there are viable solutions that many in government are overlooking. 

That's what regular Model D contributor Michele Oberholtzer argues in a column she wrote for the Detroit Free Press titled "Government can stop tax foreclosure."

The lowest hanging fruit is the "Step Forward" program created by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority. Because of strict rules and standards in the application process, every year the program "denies assistance to hundreds of applicants."

Similar issues plague applying for the poverty tax exemption. "A retroactive poverty exemption could annul foreclosures for hundreds or thousands of at-risk Detroit homeowners who are losing their houses for taxes that they could have had waived," Oberholtzer writes.

She also thinks pro-ownership programs like Right of Refusal are being underutilized. In 2017, this program saved 80 homes from the tax auction, allowing homeowners to buy them back for $2,000 to $5,000. 

"If this program was expanded to include all occupied foreclosed homes, this would mean that 2,000 homes might be diverted from the grips of foreclosure onto a common-sense affordable path to homeownership."

Oberholtzer also wrote a column for Model D last year proposing that city-owned homes be sold back to their occupants. 

New award to recognize exceptional Detroit craftsmanship

It used to be, in Detroit and elsewhere, that exceptional craftsmanship was recognized and appreciated. The Parducci Society, a nonprofit named after the famed Detroit sculpture Corrado Parducci, and dedicated to the preservation and promotion of architectural craft, is hoping to change that.

The society has announced its first presentation of the Craftsman Award, which "will recognize a craftsman, tradesperson, or design professional who has made a lasting contribution to the vibrancy of architecture and the built environment in metro Detroit."

"The need for an award grew from our Detroit Design Festival panel discussion in September where we had a really rich conversation based on craftsmanship, preservation, and Detroit's revitalization," said Jennifer Baross, president of the Parducci Society, in a statement. "It was apparent that there is a void of such a recognition in Detroit—and Michigan."

[Read our interview with Baross about Parducci's legacy in Detroit]

Nominations are being accepted between now and Feb. 23. The award will be presented at the Parducci Society's 5th Annual Tribute Party at Meadow Brook Hall on Thursday, March 22nd. 

Eligible nominees must have made "architectural ornamentation projects both new and restorations, that show outstanding skill and merit and that have been completed within the past two to three years."

Nominate a project for the Craftsman Award here. Tickets to the Parducci Society's annual tribute can be purchase here.

Is regional transit in Southeast Michigan dead?

In September 2017, we reported on the state of the Regional Transit Authority's efforts at funding a regional transit system after a ballot initiative in 2016 narrowly failed to pass. Unfortunately, it looks increasingly unlikely that the system will be funded anytime soon. 

In his annual State of the County speech, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said that only those voters who use the SMART bus system should be included in the millage vote. Some of the Oakland County cities that voted 'no' for the millage were Waterford, Novi, Bloomfield Hills, Keego Harbor, Rochester Hills, and Sylvan Lake.

Patterson says that the people who use the system are the ones who receive the benefits, therefore, people who don't use it shouldn't have to be a part of the plan. 

"I want you to know, I will not force those communities into a plan that will not benefit them. I can't do it, I won't do it, and I will never—ever," Patterson said, interrupted by applause and the loudest cheers of the night, according to the Detroit Free Press.

In order for partial inclusion of Oakland County in the millage proposal, the RTA charter would have to be written by the Michigan Legislature.

In a scathing rebuttal, Mayor Duggan said, "What is so hard to understand is that it was Patterson himself who lobbied for and helped pass Public Act 387 in 2012, the law that requires the RTA to have countywide transit plans."

Many transit advocates believe that a lack of a regional transit system was one of the reasons Southeast Michigan didn't make the cut as one of the final 20 cities to host Amazon's new headquarters. 

"Some day, Southeastern Michigan will join the rest of America in recognizing the critical importance of regional transit," said Duggan. "But it will take regional leaders to build a regional transportation system."

Street Court relaunches to help low-income Detroiters resolve legal obligations

When you have a warrant out for your arrest, which can be issued simply from unpaid fines, it's almost impossible to put your life back to together. That's why Street Outreach Court Detroit (SOCD) was founded. And it just re-launched on Jan. 31 this year. 

Commonly referred to as "Homeless Court" and facilitated by the 36th District Court, SOCD holds hearings at the Capuchin Soup Kitchen to help low-income Detroiters resolve legal obligations, like civil infractions and certain misdemeanors. It does this through the creation of "Action Plans," where the defendant must complete milestones in job training, education, drug rehabilitation or mental health treatment, after which fines or jail time is waived. 

"Street Outreach Court is a revolutionary program that helps homeless individuals turn their lives around," said Judge Cylenthia LaToye Miller, the first judge to preside over the program. "We've been remarkably successful in achieving lasting results, reducing costs to taxpayers, and helping people begin, and remain, on a path forward."

"It is important that the Court demonstrates through these types of initiatives that not only is assistance available for our community's homeless, but also that humanity and compassion exists within the justice system," stated Nancy M. Blount, Chief Judge of the 36th District Court. "I am pleased that the program is resuming and look forward to its ongoing success."

SOCD was started in Detroit in 2012, but took a hiatus before starting again this year. It was the 23rd Homeless Court in the country the year it was established, and remains the only one combining criminal and civil pro bono counsel. Free legal representation is provided by Street Democracy, a nonprofit organization providing legal aid to homeless individuals and veterans.

What's happening in Detroit on almost every day of Black History Month

Looking for a way to engage with Black History Month in Detroit? We've got you covered. Here's a guide to events happening on almost every day in February this year. 

Be sure to comment below or tweet us @modeld to let us know what events we missed. 

Lecture by Dr. Na'im Akbar

Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History
Tuesday, Feb. 6, from 6 to 9 p.m.
Clinical psychologist Dr. Na'im Akbar will give a lecture about how black men and women have been affected socially, politically, psychologically, and spiritually within society. 
Admission to this event is free. 

The Colored Museum

Wayne State University's Hilberry Theatre
Wednesday, Feb. 7 through 18 (various times)
A performance that explores African American stereotypes and what it means to be black in America.
Tickets range from $10 to $25 and can be purchased here.

"The Black History of the White House" with Author Clarence Lusane

Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History
Thursday, Feb. 8, from 6 to 8 p.m. 
Author Clarence Lusane will discuss his book, "The Black History of the White House," which covers the generations of enslaved people who helped to build it to the Obamas. 
Admission to this event is free.

The Music of J Dilla

The Detroit Institute of Arts, Rivera Court
Friday, Feb. 9 at 7 and 8:30 p.m. 
Music from legendary Detroit hip-hop artist J Dilla has been rearranged by composer Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, and will be performed by musicians from Rebirth. 
Admission to this event is free.

Reflections: Intimate Portraits of Iconic African Americans

Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History
Saturday, Feb. 10 at 2 p.m.
A showing of photographer and author Terrence A. Reese photography series of influential African Americans. The gallery "Reflections" is based off of Reese's book, "Reflections: Intimate Portraits of Iconic African Americans."
Admission to this event is free.

Black History Month Through Music

Metropolitan United Methodist Church, 8000 Woodward Ave.
Tuesday, Feb. 13, from 6 to 8 p.m. 
In a tribute to African American performers, local performers will be singing and tap dancing. 
Admission to this event is free.

Drink Detroit: Black History Month Edition - Black-Owned Bar Tour

Flood's Bar & Grille, Mix, Queen's Bar
Thursday, Feb. 15, from 6 to 9 p.m. 
The Detroit Experience Factory is hosting a tour of some of downtown Detroit's black-owned bars.
Participants must be 21 or older. $15 tickets can be purchased here.


Saturday, Feb. 17, from 7 p.m. to midnight
The Jam Handy
The Legacy Gala celebrates local black artists through of dance, music, and theater performances. Selections from Dreamgirls, The Wiz, The Color Purple, and Porgy & Bess will be featured in this fundraiser to support The Helping Hands Campaign for the Arts. 
$50 tickets, which include drinks and food, the reception, performances, and after party can be purchased here

Honoring African American Scientists

Sunday, Feb. 18, from 9 to 11 a.m.
The Masjid Wali Muhammad at 11529 Linwood St.
Mathematics and science accomplishments by African Americans will be honored during a community breakfast. 
$7 tickets can be purchased at the door.

A Conversation on History Education

Tuesday, Feb. 20, from 6 to 8 p.m.
The Detroit Historical Museum
Brenda Tindal, the museum's new director of education, and Alycia Meriweather, deputy superintendent of Detroit Public Schools Community District, will be discussing the history of education. A reception will follow.
Admission is free. To reserve a seat, pre-register here.

Jazz on the Streets of Old Detroit

Thursday, Feb. 22, from 6 to 9 p.m.
The Detroit Historical Museum
Legendary Detroit guitarist Dennis Coffey will perform "Jazz on the Streets of Old Detroit." The event is hosted by the Black Historic Sites Committee.
Tickets are $20 at the door, or $15 in advance here.

Perception vs Reality

Saturday, Feb. 24, from 1 to 4 p.m.
The International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit, 111 E. Kirby St.
The Caribbean Community Service Center will host a panel to discuss how the world portrays African Americans.
Admission to this event is free.

Oh, Ananse!

Sunday, Feb. 25 at 2 p.m.
Jazz Cafe in the Music Hall, 4841 Cass Ave.
PuppetART Detroit will perform the West African story of Kwaku Ananse. 
Tickets for children and adults can be purchased here.

A Flame Superior to Lightning, A Sound Superior to Thunder: Haiti's Revolutionary History

Tuesday, Feb. 27, from 2 to 4 p.m.
Wayne State University Law School, 471 W. Palmer St.
Haitian culture and history will be discussed by Millery Polyné, an associate dean for faculty and academic affairs and associate professor at New York University. This event is open to students, faculty, and the community.
Admission to this event is free.

DC3 and Urban Manufacturing Alliance release report on Detroit's manufacturing potential

As we detailed in an article in December 2017 about whether Detroit can become a textile manufacturing hub, a study was in the works to help answer that very question. The Detroit Creative Corridor Center (DC3) has been partnering with the Urban Manufacturing Alliance (UMA) to analyze manufacturing needs, assets, gaps, and opportunities in Detroit and five other similarly-sized cities. 

"It was important to us Detroit be included in this national study because designing and manufacturing is in our community's DNA," Olga Stella, executive director of DC3, said in a statement. "With the Detroit City of Design initiative and other efforts underway, now is the right time to focus on this sector."

That 40-page study, "The State of Urban Manufacturing," has been released to the public, and details five key findings:
  1. Small-scale manufacturers want to grow, but are having trouble finding technical support
  2. There is ample land in Detroit, but few options for manufacturers who want to expand their capacity
  3. More capital is needed
  4. Businesses are having trouble retaining and training skilled labor
  5. While there is a rich network of industrial suppliers in Southeast Michigan, little information is available about how to access them
The report also offers some recommendations. Much like Detroit Future City, UMA believes that, "An appropriate stakeholder agency might undertake a market study to help private sector developers to warm up to the opportunity to create clean, flexible, move-in-ready space for makers—and to identify any subsidy that might be needed."

To help in this effort, the partnership also created a Detroit manufacturing ecosystem map. 

There's clearly a lot to do, but this study helps provide a roadmap for how to create longterm, sustainable manufacturing in Detroit. 

Read the full report here

City of Detroit lays out plan to bring every rental property up to code

The city of Detroit has issued itself an important, albeit monumental task: make sure every rental property in the city is up to code. Starting Feb. 1, an initiative will begin to have landlords renovate their rental properties to make them follow all of the city's regulations and safety standards.

The initiative starts in the 48215 zip code near the Grosse Pointe border, which will undergo a six-month compliance period. Landlords have until May 1 to register their rental properties.

Properties will then be inspected to assess renovation plans and receive a certificate to confirm the compliance period, which begins Aug. 1.

The city plans to add a new zip code approximately every month for inspection. After the zip code 48215 launch begins, the next will be 48224 (March 1), 48223 (May 1), 48219 (June 1), 48209 (July 1) and 49210 (Aug. 1). Information about the rental property repairs will be sent out to residents as the start date nears.

The city will also safeguard renters from a variety of outcomes. For example, landlords will not receive payment from renters if the property has not been registered for the compliance period. If the landlord does not register the property, renters will be granted their money back without being evicted.

And if landlords meet all the guidelines, there will be fewer inspections on their properties. 

Public records will be posted on a website to show what properties have been registered and certified. Registration of a rental property can be completed here.

Kresge Foundation to support neighborhood projects with an additional $6M over three years

From 2015 through 2017, the Kresge Foundation helped fund 40 neighborhood projects in Detroit through $5 million in grants. And the foundation just announced that they will commit an additional $6 million over the next three years.

The funds will go towards projects that make their neighborhoods safer, healthier, and more equitable.

There are a few changes for this three-year funding cycle. Kresge Innovative Projects: Detroit (KIP:D) will streamline the application process, provide greater project flexibility by elongating the time period of project completion to 24 months, and more technical assistance through a $500,000 yearly commitment.

In a press statement, Bryan Hogle, Kresge Detroit program officer, says that they are looking for projects that advance health, art, and education.

Examples of previous winners and projects of KIP:D grants include Grandmont Rosedale Development Corp., which created a community hub on Grand River Avenue, Oakland Avenue Artist Coalition, which built a multipurpose art and performance pavilion in the North End, and much more. 

To be eligible to apply, organizations in Detroit must be two years old and either a non-profit or affiliated with a college.

The Kresge Foundation is hosting an information session for interested organizations on Jan. 31 from 12:30 p.m. - 2:00 p.m. at TechTown Detroit located at 440 Burroughs St.
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