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Is street art becoming a crime in Detroit?


Update: Mayor Duggan's office has lifted all violations issued against property owners along Detroit's Grand River Creative Corridor after considerable public outcry in response to reports from the Motor City Muckraker that the Buildings, Safety, Engineering and Environmental Department had issued tickets to the owners of buildings with murals that were declared to be graffiti. The mayor himself personally apologized to Derek Weaver, founder of the Grand River Creative Corridor. The mayor's office also issued an apology to the Motor City Muckraker for claiming that there were errors in the site's initial reports when they in fact were accurate.

Read the latest developments in this story on the Motor City Muckraker.

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According to recent reports from the Motor City Muckraker, the city of Detroit has declared war on street art by ticketing building owners along the Grand River Creative Corridor, declaring murals that adorn the sides of their buildings to be graffiti. Before the launch of the Grand River Creative Corridor initiative in 2012, the buildings  were frequently the targeted by taggers.

According to Steve Neavling of Motor City Muckraker:
 
"Derek Weaver, who started the Grand River Creative Corridor in July 2012, received about $8,000 in fines and has been ordered to remove "graffiti" from his buildings. He and several others were detained for about an hour last week by four cops who temporarily seized cameras from a PBS film crew that was documenting an artist painting a mural.

“We were treated like criminals,” Weaver said. “They threatened to arrest us.”

More than 100 local, national and international artists are involved with the GRCC, and hundreds of volunteers have helped clean up trash and vandalism along Grand River, making it a popular destination. In 2012, Gov. Rick Snyder honored the GRCC with a “Keep Michigan Beautiful” award."

A source in Corktown told Model D that the Brooklyn Street Local restaurant has also received a graffiti ticket for the mural adorning the side of its building.

Let's make a clear distinction between street art and graffiti.

Street art is commissioned, sanctioned work intended to beautify a building or public-facing surface. In many instances, building owners and neighborhood groups commission street art murals in order to prevent unwanted graffiti (In Detroit, blank walls attract taggers like lightbulbs attract moths).

Graffiti, on the other hand, is the unsanctioned tagging of buildings or public-facing surfaces by individuals for little more reason that getting one's name up and marking territory, much like a dog that pees on a fire hydrant.

Neavling points out the absurdity of the city's quest to punish building owners who commission or allow street artists to use their property as canvases:
 
"Among the unanswered questions is why police are bothering with murals painted with permission when an increasing number of graffiti vandals are targeting occupied and historic buildings, freeway signs, schools, churches, cars, houses, light poles, mailboxes and playground equipment."

Model D will continue to follow this issue as more news develops.

Source: Motor City Muckraker

Berliners want to invest in Detroit, but you already knew that because you read Model D


Berliners want to invest money in Detroit. Big news, right? The Wall Street Journal thinks so. They recently ran a story about how Dimitri Hegemann, owner of Berlin electronic music label and club Tresor, is in love with the idea of opening a techno club in Detroit's long-abandoned Fisher Body 21 plant.

As quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Hegemann had this to say: “Fisher Body is my first real love.”

Of course, if you read Model D, this isn't really news to you at all. Walter Wasacz, Model D's former managing editor and a frequent contributor, worked with Hegemann to put on "The Detroit-Berlin Connection," a forum that happened in conjunction with the Movement Electronic Music Festival on Memorial Day weekend. (Check out Wasacz's recap of the forum.) Wasacz recently traveled to Berlin to partake in the Atonal Festival, of which Hegemann is the founder, and wrote this reflection on what Detroit can learn from Berlin.

Also, in case you missed it, be sure to check out our Q&A with Dimitri Hegemann from back in May.

Model D will continue to follow developments in this story.

NY Times: Mass mobs are the latest trend in Rust Belt Catholicism


Detroit is a city of beautiful churches, particularly the ornate Catholic parishes dating back to the late 19th and early 20th century. Yet as the city has lost hundreds of thousands of residents over the last half century (a result of suburbanization and the stagnation of regional population growth), many of the city's Catholic congregations have dwindled, forcing the consolidation of many parishes and the closure of others.

But, according to The New York Times, a new trend, the "Mass mob," is breathing life -- and money -- into under-attended churches in cities throughout the Rust Belt.

The Times describes a Mass mob as "part heritage tour and part mixer" that brings "thousands of suburban Catholics to visit the struggling, in some cases closed, urban churches of their parents and grandparents." Social media is used to organize groups that will join together to attend Mass at a given parish.

The Mass mob movement began in Buffalo, NY in November 2013 and has quickly spread around the Rust Belt to cities like Cleveland, Detroit, and Chicago.

In addition to filling pews, Mass mobs are also boosting the coffers of these financially struggling  churches, notes The Times:

"Several dioceses are now helping to promote Mass mobs through their newspapers and social media, and some bishops are openly welcoming the effort, particularly in Detroit, the metropolitan area that has lost the most Catholics since 1950. A side effect of the Mass mob phenomenon is that people often donate during their visit: An organizer of Detroit Mass Mob, Thom Mann, said participants had given nearly $100,000 to the six churches visited thus far."

At the time of this writing, Detroit Mass mob participants are celebrating Mass at St. Francis D'Assisi Catholic Church in honor of that parish's 125th anniversary.

To learn about future Mass mob events in the city, visit the Detroit Mass mob Facebook page.

Source:
The New York Times
 

Survey wants your insights on downtown Detroit


If you haven't been to downtown Detroit in say the last decade, you might not recognize the place. It wasn't long ago when the center of the 14th largest metropolitan area in the United States could feel like a ghost town on weekends and after working hours. Today, cranes and construction equipment -- along with significant increases in pedestrian and small business activity -- signal a new era for downtown Detroit.

As it plans for the future, the Downtown Detroit Partnership (DDP), a group of civic and corporate leaders that "advocates and develops programs and initiatives designed to create a clean, safe, and inviting Downtown Detroit," wants to know how you perceive the downtown area and what you think it will take to make it a better place. The survey will be accepting responses all of October.

DDP says that it intends to "proactively use survey results to inform our programs and services to better serve businesses, residents and visitors contributing to Downtown’s revitalization" and "wants to tell the positive stories about living, working and experiencing the Downtown neighborhood."

Those who complete the survey are eligible to win $100 gift cards from Pure Detroit and Blumz by JR Designs.

You can complete DDP's survey here: http://www.downtowndetroitsurvey.com/

Source: Downtown Detroit Partnership

The strange tale of the Garwood, an inventor's mansion that became an iconic rock-and-roll squat


In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Detroit's rock-and-roll scene was at an apex. Legendary venues like the Grande Ballroom and the Easttown Theater were premier spots to see performances by local bands like the MC5, the Stooges, SRC, and the Bob Seger System, as well as internationally renown touring acts like The Who.

But one of Detroit's best venues to see live rock-and-roll wasn't really a venue at all -- it was a mansion on the east riverfront.

In 1927, legendary Detroit speed boat racer and inventor Gar Wood had a mansion built on Grayhaven Island on Detroit's east riverfront. After Wood retired and sold his home in the 1940s, the mansion that came to be known as "The Garwood" went vacant until it was leased by 19-year-old Mark Hoover in 1969.

According to the Detroit Free Press:

When Hoover started throwing rent parties with live music in the mansion's cavernous ballroom, his more conventional roommates fell away and were replaced by a different cast of characters. They coalesced around a rock band called Stonefront, and the house took on the air of a commune dedicated to countercultural enterprise.

The Garwood eventually became a destination for touring acts travelling through Detroit:
 
The uniqueness of the surroundings and the loosey-goosey atmosphere of Hoover's parties soon attracted rock royalty. Some bands would finish their shows at the Grande or the Eastown and then repair to the Garwood, where they'd perform another whole set. The acts that unexpectedly graced Gar Wood's beautiful ballroom included Van Morrison, Sly & the Family Stone, the Allman Brothers, Cactus, Ted Nugent & the Amboy Dukes, Tim Buckley and Mountain. Leon Russell recorded one of his performances there. Johnny Winter loved the place so much he inquired about renting a room.

"They were madness. They were barely controlled chaos," said Merryman of the rent parties. "But in all those nights, there was never a fight, not one. Well, except for the time Hoover had to throw Alice Cooper out because he was too drunk. Considering the thousands and thousands of people that came through the place, there was no violence. None."

Eventually, however, the authorities shut down the parties and the tenants were evicted. A short time later, the house was struck by lightning and burned to the ground.

Read more about this amazing chapter in Detroit rock-and-roll history in the Detroit Free Press.

How Detroit grew around Hamtramck and Highland Park


If you have studied a political map of Detroit, you've probably wondered how the city ended up with two separate cities inside of it. Thankfully, WDET has explained how the cities of Hamtramck and Highland park came to be surrounded by the city of Detroit.

According to WDET:
 
As Detroit’s population grew, so did its landmass thanks to annexation. Surrounding townships didn’t have a local government and only existed for election and property tax purposes. So cities could easily swallow up them up. By 1891, Detroit had annexed its way to the modern day southern borders of Hamtramck and Highland Park. 

An encroaching Detroit spurred the areas to take action. And to strengthen local government, Highland Park incorporated as a village in 1889 and Hamtramck two years later.

 
When the state of Michigan passed the Home Rule Cities Act in 1908, Hamtramck and Highland Park were able to incorporate themselves as cities, thus protecting the economic interests that had grown within their borders.
 
By the time the Home Rule Cities Act was introduced, Henry Ford had already purchased land in Highland Park to build his Model T complex. The Dodge Brothers were two years away from opening the Dodge Main in Hamtramck. And as 1915 rolls around, Detroit started moving north again, annexing more and more of Greenfield and Hamtramck townships. Within a year, Detroit had completely surrounded the villages. 
 
At around the same time, the two villages exploded in population, thanks to the auto industry. This growth was enticing to Detroit. There had been formal attempts by Detroit to annex Highland Park and Hamtramck after 1908 but they failed to even make it to a vote. Why? Lupher says the answer is simple. Corporate power.
 
Read more about the origins of Hamtramck and Highland Park at WDET.org.

Write A House selects first winner, poet Casey Rocheteau of Brooklyn


Last week, Write A House, a group awarding free houses in Detroit to writers, selected its first winner, poet Casey Rocheteau of Brooklyn.

Rocheteau was selected from a field of hundreds of applicants from around the country by a panel of judges that included former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins and local writers dream hampton and Toby Barlow.

According to Write A House's blog:

"Rocheteau is a writer, historian, and performing artist. She has attended the Callaloo Writer’s Workshop, Cave Canem, and Breadloaf Writers’ Conference, and she has released two albums on the Whitehaus Family Record. Her book, Knocked Up On Yes, was released on Sargent Press in 2012, and her second collection, The Dozen, will be published in March 2016 by Sibling Rivalry Press. Rocheteau can be found online at www.caseyrocheteau.org and @CaseyRocheteau."

Write A House purchased a house in Wayne County's annual auction of tax-foreclosed properties last year and partnered with Young Detroit Builders, a 10-month training program that helps 18-24 year old students working towards their GEDs develop skills in the building trades, to renovate it. Rocheteau will move into the house in November.

In the mean time, Write A House will install a house sitter at the home.

Write A House opens a new round of applications in early 2015 for its next set of houses, which are located in the same neighborhood where Rocheteau will reside. Until then, the organization will continue to raise funds to purchase and renovate Detroit homes for its residency program. Donations can be made through Fundly.

Source: Write A House
 

The New York Times wants to hear from real Detroiters like you


Detroiters often criticize non-Detroit media organizations for failing to dig deep for sources when they cover the city. Case in point: a story entitled "A Gleam of Renewal in Struggling Detroit" that The New York Times ran in June. Aaron Foley of Jalopnik Detroit took The Times to task for its lazy coverage that excluded minorities and used the same sources it had in two previous stories.

Noted Foley, "There used to be a time in Detroit when the city's populace would be giddy about getting coverage in The New York Times, especially if the paper wrote something flowery about how things are slowly improving. These days, not so much."

Well, it looks as if The Times is making a real effort to deepen its coverage of Detroit. The Old Gray Lady has issued a call for Detroiters -- current, former, and new residents -- to share their experiences living in the city. The paper will use these submissions to inform its coverage of the city's emergence from bankruptcy.

According to the New York Times:

"As part of our reporting on Detroit and the city's emergence from bankruptcy -- the largest municipal bankruptcy in United States history -- New York Times journalists would like to hear from current, former and new residents. Did you leave because of the bankruptcy? Or did you stay? Perhaps you moved there recently because of cheaper housing prices or an entrepreneurial opportunity.

Your name and comments may be published, but your contact information will not. A reporter or editor from The Times may contact you to learn more about your story."


Detroiters can submit there stories here.

Source: The New York Times

Park(ing) day comes to Detroit on Sept. 19

On Friday, September 19, Park(ing) Day comes to Detroit. 

A one-day, global event where "artists, activists, and citizens collaborate to transform metered parking spots into temporary public parks," Park(ing) Day happens annually on the third Friday in September. The tradition began in San Francisco in 2005 and has since spread to cities around the world. The idea is to reclaim, if only for a day, a small amount of precious urban space that we have sacrificed to the automobile.

This year, Wayne State University will be facilitating the temporary conversion of three parking spaces on Cass Avenue at Putnam into mini-parks. For a schedule of activities, click here.

 

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.

Finally! A biergarten on Belle Isle

Since the state took control of Belle Isle, police officers have begun to enforce the city's rules banning alcohol on the majestic island park. On Saturday, September 20, however, you can enjoy a tasty brew on the island with complete impunity.

The Belle Isle Conservancy Emerging Patrons Council is creating a pop-up beer garden to raise funds for the installation of bike racks on the island. The beer garden will be located on the grounds of the White House, the oldest building on the island, built in 1863.

Atwater Brewery will be serving a variety of beers at $5 a pop. Tickets for the event cost $10 in advance or $15 at the door. All proceeds will go to the island's "Bike Rack Fund." Purchase beer garden tickets via EventBrite.

Detroit Food Academy is raising funds to support young food entrepreneurs

A non-profit organization that partners with Detroit high schools, the Detroit Food Academy is in the midst of a $12,500 Patronicity crowdfunding campaign to raise money to fund its operations. 

According to Detroit Food Academy's Patronicity campaign page:

"The Academy is a 25-week program during the school year. Participants graduate with a polished values-based food product, a certificate in food entrepreneurship, a network of potential employers, and an opportunity to enter our summer employment program.

Small Batch Entrepreneurship Camp is a 6-week summer program that puts Academy graduates in the driver's seat of their food business. They are paid a stipend and employed 25 hours per week to launch, operate, and perfect their triple-bottom-line food business at farmers' markets and retail outlets across the City. The summer culminates in the 'Summer Finale Event’, where DFA’s young leaders pitch their businesses and leadership stories for a chance to win endorsements from the DFA Mentorship Board, scholarships, internship opportunities, and the addition of their handcrafted product to our emerging line, Small Batch Detroit."


Money donated to DFA will support these programs.

Bus rapid transit comes to Michigan

Last month, Grand Rapids became to first Michigan City to complete construction of a bus rapid transit (BRT) line.

The $40 million Silver Line connects Grand Rapids, Kentwood, and Wyoming, mainly serving the Division Avenue corridor.

Rapid Growth's Tommy Allen had this to say about riding the Silver Line for the first time:

"As I rode the bus on Monday with others who sat in the seats for the first time, a new chapter began. And I loved how people conversed with one another (those who did not engage were often caught eavesdropping, as a slight smile would emerge, giving away their hidden giddiness).
 
"At the Central Station launch of the Silver Line, Michigan Department of Transportation's Director Kirk Steudle shared that being first comes with many eyes watching what we do here, while we're hoping to replicate the successes of other cities in the U.S. who have seen a positive benefit as a result of the BRT lines."


Bus rapid transit, a less expensive alternative to fixed-rail rapid transit systems, features buses with signal priority traveling in dedicated lanes.

Read more about the Silver Line in Rapid Growth Media.
 

Senior housing at risk in revitalization of downtown and Midtown Detroit

Downtown and Midtown Detroit are in full-tilt development mode as rental occupancy hovers just below 100 percent and rent prices near the magical $2-per-square-foot over which housing developers and landlords drool.

While these numbers are welcome news to many, they come at a cost to some of the most vulnerable residents of downtown and Midtown Detroit: senior citizens. According to a story by MLive Detroit's David Muller, senior housing complexes in those neighborhoods are threatened by the desire of developers to convert them into market rate apartments.

A group of Metro Detroit housing experts called the Senior Housing Displacement-Preservation Coalition recently issued a report saying, among other things, that "at least a dozen senior apartment buildings in Detroit's Midtown and downtown areas could convert to market rate apartments in the next 10 years, forcing thousands of seniors to find new homes."

The coalition formed in response to the of the death of a senior in his apartment at 1214 Griswold after he and other tenants received eviction notices so that construction could begin to convert the building from senior housing to market rate apartments. 1214 Griswold's developers, Broder & Sachse Real Estate Services, Inc., are renaming the building "The Albert" and marketing its redeveloped apartments towards young professionals who want to live in downtown Detroit.

The MLive story (a part of Aging Together, a collaborative effort of MLive Detroit, WDET FM, and Model D that examines issues around aging in metro Detroit) raises questions about what measures can be taken to ensure the inclusion of seniors and other vulnerable residents in visions for a revitalizing greater downtown Detroit.

Read more on MLive Detroit.

Knight Arts Challenge People's Choice vote ends August 29

While four small business vie for $50,000 in startup funding in the Hatch Detroit contest, five arts organizations are vyeing for a $20,000 People's Choice Award in the Detroit Knight Arts Challenge.

As a way to shine the spotlight on smaller groups, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is asking the public to vote by text for their favorite of the five nominees to determine the People’s Choice Award winner. To vote, the public can text the nominees individual code to 22333 in the U.S. or 747-444-3548 toll-free, through Friday, Aug. 29. The effort is part of the Knight Arts Challenge, now in its second year funding the best ideas for the arts in Detroit.

The Knight Arts Challenge People’s Choice nominees are:

A Host of People: a theater group celebrating the do-it-yourself movement in both food and the arts by creating a site-specific piece to be performed in community gardens around the city; (Text Detroit1 to 22333)

African Bead Museum: a center for African culture that wants to renovate its facilities and create more exhibition and programming space; (Text Detroit2 to 22333)

ARTLAB J: a troupe strengthening Detroit’s dance community by presenting Detroit Dance City Festival, a three-day celebration highlighting both local and national artists; (Text Detroit3 to 22333)

Ballet Folklorico Moyocoyani Izel: a dance group that wants to bring the traditional dances of Mexico’s La Huasteca region to Detroit by teaching the choreography locally; (Text Detroit4 to 22333) 

Detroit Drumline Academy: a group of former drummers from Detroit-area schools that wants to prepare the next generation of percussionists by teaching and mentoring middle and high school students. (Text Detroit5 to 22333)

For more on Knight Foundation’s arts initiative and to view a full list of Knight Arts Challenge winners, visit www.KnightArts.org. Connect on the Knight Arts Facebook page here and via @knightfdn and @knightarts on Twitter.
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