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Artist Charles McGee, 92, paints 11-story-tall mural and opens exhibition

One of Detroit's most accomplished contemporary artists, at 92 years old, is still searching. 

That's the theme for his latest exhibition, "Charles McGee: Still Searching," which is presented by the Library Street Collective and opens on June 1. According to a press release, the exhibition "traces McGee's 70-year-long career through an array of works that encapsulate two of the artist's most enduring themes: chronicles of the black experience and a love of nature. The retrospective also reflects McGee's evolution across mediums, with works ranging from charcoal drawings and photography to avant-garde three-dimensional and multimedia pieces."

One block from the gallery, coinciding with the exhibition, McGee's 11-story-tall mural "Unity" will also be unveiled at 28Grand, a new micro-loft apartment building constructed by Bedrock. 

McGee has accomplished much over his 70-year career in art. His work is on permanent display at the Detroit Institute of Art and Museum of African American History. He's also one of the founding members of the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit. 

"Charles McGee: Still Searching" opens June 1 at 1505 Woodward Avenue, a pop-up gallery, with an artist reception from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. 

News and observations from QLine's opening weekend

The QLine's first weekend came and went. And Model D is here to recap opinions, observations, news, and more on the first streetcar to drive along Detroit's streets in over 60 years. 

Crain's Detroit Business put together a useful primer on the QLine in one of the publication's Special Editions. Check out articles on potential expansion, construction timeline, and safety, which has been a concern amongst transit experts.

There's even a safety video on the QLine's own website (see below). 

Riders could take the QLine as much as they wanted on opening weekend. They rode so much, in fact, that the system saw some delays, according to an article in the Detroit Free Press. Because of a few issues on opening weekend, the QLine will continue to be free all week, according to the Detroit News. 

During normal traffic hours, it will take around 20-25 minutes to ride the length of the 3.3-mile track. The QLine does not have right of way, must obey traffic lights, and cannot exceed Woodward Avenue's 30 MPH speed limit. 

Also, check out this blog post on all the destinations riders can visit along each of the QLine's 12 stations.

QLINE Detroit - Driver Safety from M-1 RAIL Detroit on Vimeo.


For fourth consecutive year, NEIdeas Challenge to award $400,000 in grants for small businesses

Attention small business owners: the New Economy Initiative (NEI) is now accepting applications for its NEIdeas Challenge. For the fourth consecutive year, NEI will award 20 already existing small businesses with $400,000. 

To apply, a business must have been founded at least three years ago and have a demonstrated need for capital in order to grow. There are two tiers to the program, $10,000 and $100,000, depending on how much a business grosses.

According to a press release: "Since its launch in 2014, NEIdeas has awarded 96 local businesses a total of $1.5 million to help them realize their ideas for growth, as well as connected hundreds of others to technical assistance opportunities. Nearly 70 percent of past NEIdeas winners are minority-owned businesses, and 65 percent are woman-owned businesses."

As they do every year, NEI is holding a series of information sessions for prospective applicants. There are still three more remaining at the following dates and locations:
  • May 18, 6 to 8 p.m. at Grand River Workplace (19120 Grand River Ave., Detroit, MI 48223)
  • May 22, 6 to 8 p.m. at SER Metro Detroit (9301 Michigan Ave., Detroit, MI 48210) – bilingual session in Spanish and English.
  • May 30, 6 to 8 p.m. at TechTown (440 Burroughs St., Detroit, MI 48202)
Learn more about or apply to the NEIdeas Challenge here

Detroit's new bike-sharing system, MoGo, to launch this month

Bike-sharing is finally here. Detroit Bike Share released more information about its program, dubbed MoGo, launching later this month. The "Mo" in MoGo comes from Motown and Detroit's nickname as the Motor City.

The system will have 430 bikes at 43 stations throughout the city. Passes, which range from daily ($8) to annual ($80), can be purchased online, through the Transit App, or at stations. Users can also pay in cash at 7-Eleven, CVS, or Family Dollar with the app. 

After buying a pass, users can ride a bike for up to 30 minutes with no additional charge. Bikes can be returned to any station. 

"We are thrilled to introduce Detroit to MoGo," said Lisa Nuszkowski, executive director of Detroit Bike Share, in a press release. "Today's announcement continues the city's mobility evolution, providing Detroiters and visitors alike with more accessible options to move around the city."

Detroit Bike Share is a collaboration between the city of Detroit, Henry Ford Health System, and Health Alliance Plan.

Detroit Bike Share was recently featured in a Model D article about the present state of Michigan Avenue. 

Get more information about the Detroit Bike Share system here

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. 

City partners with Detroit hospitals to train and provide jobs to 240 Detroiters

One strong industry in Detroit is healthcare. With three hospitals in the city limits, there's plenty of jobs available, and more in demand. It's also a sector Mayor Mike Duggan knows well, as he was CEO of the Detroit Medical Center (DMC) for eight years prior to running for mayor. 

As part of Duggan's Detroit at Work initiative, the city's three hospitals—DMC, Henry Ford Health System, and St. John Providence—have partnered with the city to provide job training for entry-level positions to 240 Detroiters in the healthcare industry. 

According to a City of Detroit press release, "All of the trainees will be identified through the Detroit at Work website or DESC One-Stop Service Centers and receive their instruction through a single program. Once the workers are trained, all three of participating health care systems will recruit from the same pool of talent."

The training will be three to eight weeks depending on the position and conducted by Focus: HOPE and the Oakland University School of Nursing Continuing Education. 

"The need to fill healthcare jobs continues to increase, especially the need for patient care associates," said Focus: HOPE CEO Jason Lee, in the press release.

Enrollment for the program is open through the first week of May. Register online here, and then visit one of three career centers located at 5555 Conner, 9301 Michigan Avenue and 18100 Meyers.

Detroit's Bunche Academy partners with wildlife refuge to foster environmental stewardship

Did you know that Metropolitan Detroit is home to the only International Wildlife Refuge in North America, the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge? The Refuge and Detroit Public Schools Community District’s Ralph J. Bunche Academy have entered into a partnership to enhance conservation education and inspire a sense of wonder for natural resources in students. That makes Bunche Academy the first partnership school of the only international wildlife refuge in North America.

This partnership will continue for years to come. Each year, 4th, 5th and 6th graders will get multiple in-class visits from Refuge staff and a fieldtrip to the Refuge each fall and spring. All of the programs presented through the partnership are curriculum-based following the Next Generation Science Standards. Students have the opportunity to explore the natural world and all aspects of nature through hands-on educational activities. 

"The objective of this partnership is to help students to recognize that each and every one of them is a naturalist," says Jennie Braatz, park ranger at Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge.  "We start the year off by having the students make their own nature journals that they will keep with them throughout the year. We discuss what a naturalist is and we learn about famous naturalists, both historical and modern. The point we want to drive home is that no matter what the future holds, no matter what careers the students go into as adults, they can all be naturalists."

The Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge is unique in that it is one of only 14 priority urban refuges in the nation charged with bringing conservation to cities and helping make nature part of everyday urban life. The Refuge stretches from southwest Detroit to the Ohio-Michigan border and as far east as Point Pelee National Park in Ontario. It focuses on conserving, protecting, and restoring habitats for 300 species of birds and 117 species of fish. In total, over 18,800 acres of land in southeast Michigan and southwest Ontario are now being cooperatively managed for conservation and outdoor recreation for nearly seven million people living in a 45-minute drive.  

We should care about this because 80 percent of all Americans and Canadians live in urban areas, and most are disconnected from the natural world. This disconnect cannot continue. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is committed to providing the reasons and opportunities for urban residents to find, appreciate, and care for nature in their cities and beyond.  That's why inspiring a sense of outdoor wonder in students and fostering a culture of stewardship are critical. All of this is being done to help develop the next generation of conservationists in urban areas because that is now where most North Americans live.  

The visits of Bunche students to the Refuge are made possible by travel funding from the Bruce Jones Environmental Education Fund of the International Wildlife Refuge Alliance. 

John Hartig is Refuge Manager at Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge.

Crowdfunding platform ioby to host first convening in Detroit

Neighborhood initiatives, spurred by crowdfunding, have allowed Detroiters to upgrade parks, reduce blight, and install public works of art. 

One of the newer platforms in Detroit's crowdfunding scene, ioby, is having their first-ever convening in the city later this month. Called "Conversations. Connections. Impact: Making change in our backyards," the event will "bring together residents, community leaders and activists to explore placemaking and racial justice, and to share ideas and tools to build and maintain better and more equitable public spaces in Detroit," according to a press release.

First there will be a speech given by Mitchell J. Silver, commissioner of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, followed by breakout discussions lead by community leaders on topics like "preserving black spaces in Detroit" and "social justice and public safety."

The event is free and open to the public. 

ioby's Detroit convening will be held at the Downtown Boxing Gym on Saturday, April 29th from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. In order to attend this free event, you must RSVP here

Grand Circus offers scholarships to coding bootcamp valued at $8,500

Coding is an in-demand skill. It also has a high learning curve and requires a great deal of training and patience to become proficient. That often means people can't afford the initial investment of money and time to learn how to do it. 

If that sounds like you, consider applying to Grand Circus's "Develop the Mitten" coding scholarship, designed for Michigan residents interested in becoming web developers. "The scholarship is open to Michigan residents and covers the full cost of a 10-week, full-time coding bootcamp," according to a Grand Circus press release. "Two applicants will be awarded; one to attend the bootcamp at the Grand Rapids campus and one to attend at the Detroit campus."

The bootcamp takes students through a course that culminates in a "demo day," where students "present a fully functional web application to an audience of potential employers, members of the Michigan tech community, as well as friends and family."

Each scholarship is valued at $8,500. 

Apply for the "Develop the MItten" scholarship here. Applications are due May 3 by 12 p.m. and winners will be announced on May 15. The winning candidates will begin coding bootcamp on June 26.

First Capital Fund established to help Michigan's early-stage startups thrive

Young startups across Michigan will get a helping hand from a new multi-million-dollar fund managed by Invest Detroit Ventures and supported by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the New Economy Initiative (NEI).

 

The First Capital Fund's goal is to raise $4.2 million in two years and offer up to $150,000 in capital to tech companies in the earliest stages. MEDC has made an initial $2 million investment in the fund, which Invest Detroit aims to double by bringing private capital into the fund. NEI will support the fund with $800,000.

 

Adrian Ohmer, principal with Invest Detroit Ventures, says the fund does not require startups to bring along any additional financiers because funding for early-stage startups has become harder to find.

 

"Something we've observed in our seven years of existence is that a lot of the capital pegged as early stage has moved down the pipeline," Ohmer says. "Even angel investor groups only want to fund startups in the post-production phase."

 

Ohmer says awarding up to $150,000 to startups means they don't have to spend months on the road, raising more capital from various investors, in order to move on to the next level and then do another road trip to raise even more funds a year later.

 

"We want to make sure they have enough money to meet certain milestones that we work with them to set in order to get them to a fundraising round that makes sense for them in their industry," Ohmer says.

 

While Invest Detroit is based in Detroit, it has always had a wider focus, Ohmer says.

 

"With the rebirth of Detroit, the city is certainly central to a lot of what we care about, but our team has always had a statewide focus," Ohmer says.

 

That focus includes Ann Arbor, which Ohmer calls a "hotbed for startups."

 

"Ann Arbor companies are more than likely going to be a prominent part of our fund," Ohmer says.

 

He notes that the fund hopes to engage a broad range of Michigan startups, including those in the Upper Peninsula.

 

"Companies from the Upper Peninsula have always come down to big events that the state hosts, like the Michigan Growth Capital Symposium, so we're going to find ways to establish a presence there, though it might be mostly through web-based meetings," Ohmer says.


Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township. You may reach her at sarahrigg1@gmail.com.

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.

Two years in, city declares Improve Detroit app a success

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

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

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

Cobo Center recognized for meeting green venue standard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out the RFP here

Halfpipe to be temporarily installed in Fisher Building

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

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

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

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