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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.

NPR host Michel Martin to visit Detroit for national radio series


Longtime National Public Radio personality Michel Martin is coming to Detroit on May 21, when she will lead a panel discussion at the Carr Center about the role of creatives in redefining the city. The conversation, which organizers are calling "Motor City Drive," will be a part of NPR Presents, "NPR's multiplatform national live events initiative that furthers the mission of public radio."
 
According to WDET, Detroit's local NPR affiliate, Martin's conversation will feature panelists Jessica Care Moore, CEO of Moore Black Press; "Detroit Unleaded" filmmaker Rola Nashef; fashion designer Char Glover; theater director Samantha White; executive chef for Union Woodshop restaurant Aaron Cozadd; urban farmer, Kate Daughdrill; and marketing executive, Bridget Russo.
 
Martin joins PBS's Tavis Smiley as the second national public media figure to turn their attention to Detroit in the last month.
 
For more information about Martin's visit, visit WDET's event page.

Detroit Tigers to become one of five Major League franchises to host LGBT pride night

 
Tony Paul of the Detroit News is reporting that the Detroit Tigers will host the first LGBT pride night in franchise history on June 3 when the Oakland Athletics will be in town for an inter-divisional matchup.
 
The announcement, which was made Monday (2015 Opening Day), comes on the heels of the A's announcement that they will host their own LGBT night on June 17. That announcement was met with some opposition by some season ticket holders, which prompted Eireann Dolan, girlfriend of A's pitcher Sean Doolittle, to offer to buy any unwanted tickets so they could be donated to Oakland-area LGBT youth organizations.
 
The News reports that no such opposition has been voiced by Tigers season ticket holders.
 
Four other major league franchises are scheduled to host LGBT pride nights this year: the Oakland A's, the LA Dodgers, the San Francisco Giants, and the Chicago Cubs. Like the Tigers, this year marks the first that the A's, Dodgers, and Giants will host pride nights. The Cubs have hosted them since 2001.
 
The Tigers become the second professional sports franchise in Detroit to recognize Detroit's LGBT communities. Last year, the Detroit City Football Club sported limited edition jerseys bearing an equal sign to promote marriage equality in Michigan. The jerseys were later auctioned to benefit the Ruth Ellis Center, a Highland Park organization that provides support services to runaway, homeless, and at-risk LGBT youth. To date, the soccer club is the only professional sports organization in Michigan to take a stance in support of marriage equality.
 
Read more in the Detroit News.

WDET to produce its first podcast, 'The Beginning of the End"

 
The era of the podcast is upon us. In reality, it has been for some time. Independently produced podcasts like WTF, Hardcore History, and 99 Percent Invisible are more popular than ever, while Public radio stations around the country have gained national renown thanks to the popularity of their downloadable productions. These days, WBEZ's "This American Life" and WNYC's "Radio Lab" are practically household names.
 
Now Detroit's own WDET 101.9 FM is joining the podcast craze with "The Beginning of the End," a bi-weekly production hosted by Alex Trajano "featuring people who feel the winds of change blowing (and messing with their lives)." According to WDET's website, the show is "coming soon."
 
The show's producers are currently soliciting stories about the endings of the following things:
 
A Secret
A Career
A Winning Streak
A Grudge
A Fear
A Value System
Living at Home
The Old You
 
You can contribute a story by recording of a voice memo on your smartphone and sending it to beginningoftheend@wdet.org.
 
Learn more about "The Beginning of the End" here.

Slow Roll to require paid memberships in 2015

 
The Metro Times is reporting that Detroit's favorite weekly bicycle ride, Slow Roll, is requiring its participants to purchase memberships if they want to keep riding with the large group that meets every Monday.
 
Slow Roll co-founder Mike MacKool sites the fact that the ride's parent organization, Detroit Bike City Inc., is now a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, as well as its deepening partnership with the city of Detroit, as reasons why Slow Roll now needs to have waivers and weekly check-ins at each ride.
 
According to the Metro Times, memberships will cost $10 or $50. Those who pay $50 will receive a T-shirt among other non-specified benefits. For those who can't afford memberships, ride organizers promise to waive fees, no questions asked.
 
In just a few short years, Slow Roll has grown from humble grass roots ride to a massive weekly event that has been featured in a national Apple iPad commercial.

The first Slow Roll of 2015 departs from Eastern Market's Shed 2 on Sunday, March 29 at 11 a.m. Cyclists can become members of Slow Roll by visiting the event's membership page.
 
For more information, visit the Metro Times.

Take a tour of the hidden collections of the Detroit Public Library


This week, the Detroit Public Library kicks off the celebration of its 150th anniversary. (Click here for details about a March 25 anniversary event at DPL.) In the meantime, you can take a virtual tour of the stacks of DPL's Burton Historical Collection, which are normally hidden from public view. Click here to explore the stacks with the help of a cool feature by the Detroit Free Press and discover some of the city's hidden history.
 

Knight Arts Challenge launches for third year


What's your best idea for the arts in Detroit?
 
It's a simple question, and your simple answer could land you some money to help make your idea a reality.



On March 16, the application period for the third annual Knight Arts Challenge opened. In this round of the challenge, Detroiters have until April 13 to apply for a share of $3 million. To date, the Knight Arts Challenge has award 114 winners in Detroit about $5 million.
 
Knight Foundation will host a launch party and a series of community Q&A sessions throughout Detroit to answer applicants' questions. The launch party will be held at Bert’s Marketplace in Eastern Market on Tuesday, March 24 at 6 p.m. At the launch event, applicants can get to know Knight staff and past winners. The community Q&As will offer tips to applicants on creating standout applications and provide information on the challenge timeline and more.
 
The following are the dates and times of upcoming community Q&A sessions:
 
-March 23, 6 p.m. at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn
-March 24, noon at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (light lunch provided)
-March 25, 6 p.m. at the Mexicantown Mercado in Southwest Detroit
 
For more information about the Knight Arts Challenge in Detroit, click here.

Tavis Smiley, late night king of PBS, to tape five episodes in Detroit

Tavis Smiley, the king of late night television on PBS, is coming to Detroit. 

On March 23, 24, and 25, Smiley, will tape five episodes of his show in front of live audiences at the Community Arts Auditorium on the campus of Wayne State University. Each episode will focus on the city and its rebirth, including examinations of the city’s Downtown resurgence, the challenges facing long-time residents of the city, the Arab American community in Dearborn, the arts community, and education. The week will conclude with a Detroit town hall meeting.
 
Detroit Public Television (DPTV) will provide the crew and state-of-the-art facilities to help produce the shows in conjunction with Wayne State University.
 
You are invited to be part of the live audience. Sign up by visiting www.dptv.org/tavissmiley.
 

Marche du Nain Rouge seeks businesses to host parade parties


According to a press release, organizers of the Marche du Nain Rouge are seeking local businesses to serve as "Preparer le Nain." In other words, they want Detroit businesses will to host parties and events before, during, and after the parade, which is scheduled for Sunday, March 22 from 1 to 3 p.m.
 
Preparer le Nain events will take place starting Monday, March 16, concluding on Sunday, March 22 after the Marche. Prepare le Nain events may be for only one day or the entire week. They can include art events, performances, parties, specials, discounts, or whatever creative ideas you have. After parties, a.k.a. Apres le Nain festivities, are also welcome.
 
To be included on the Marche du Nain Rouge's list of Preparer and Apres events and offers, submit your ideas to marchedunainrouge@gmail.com with the subject line "Preparer le Nain" by Friday, March 6, 2015.

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.

Rocket Fiber, a super-fast fiber Internet service, coming to downtown Detroit

If you're just learning about Dan Gilbert's proposal to outfit the greater downtown area with hyper-fast fiber optic Internet service, you're probably connecting to the Internet with a dial-up modem. (For you youngsters who have no idea what "dial-up" means, read this.)
 
According to Crain's Detroit Business, Gilbert's spokespeople have confirmed their plans to launch Rocket Fiber, an "advanced fiber-optic Internet network that will serve residents, local government and businesses in and around downtown Detroit," providing them with connection speeds that are over 100 times faster than what is currently available.
 
According to Crain's, Rocket Fiber's network "originates west of downtown Detroit, and the initial scope covers the central business district from M-10 to the west, I-75 to the north, I-375 to the east and the Detroit River to the south." Eventually the network will be expanded to other areas of the city. More details on roll out of the service to come.
 
Read more in Crain's Detroit Business

Neighborhoods to square off in new co-ed basketball league

 
In recent years, Detroit has seen the launch of several co-ed, neighborhood-based rec sports leagues like the Detroit City Futbol League and the Detroit Neighborhood Softball League. This March, a basketball league will join their ranks.
 
Registration for the Detroit Hoops League is currently open. According to the league's website, the new co-ed, neighborhood-based recreational basketball league "brings together teams representing neighborhoods across the city to play and compete for the love of the game."
 
The league will feature eight neighborhood teams competing on a weekly basis over the course of  eight weeks, plus playoffs and a championship game.
 
The league is open to adults (ages 21+) who pay a $40 registration fee. Those interested in playing are invited to attend an open gym at the Jam Handy Building (2900 E. Grand Blvd.) on Wednesday, Feb. 25 from 7 to 9 p.m.
 
Registration closes on Saturday, Feb. 28.
 
Practices will be held on Wednesdays (Feb. 25 and April 15), 6 to 10 p.m. at the Jam Handy (2900 E. Grand Blvd, Detroit). Games will be held on Sundays from 2 to 6 p.m. at the Osborn Matrix Center Gymnasium (13560 E. McNichols Rd., Detroit). The season starts March 1 and ends April 19. Games will last 40 minutes and feature a referee and scoreboard.
 
For more information, visit http://detroithoopsleague.com/.

Philip Levine, poet of working-class Detroit, dies at 87


Philip Levine, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and former U.S. Poet Laureate, passed away on Feb. 14 at the age of 87 at his home in Fresno, Calif.

Born in Detroit in 1928, Levine graduated from Central High School, then went on to attend Wayne State University (then simply known as Wayne University), where he earned a bachelor's degree in English. During and after college, Levine worked in several auto plants, experiences which would serve as inspiration for many of his best known poems.

According to the Free Press, "Levine won the Pulitzer Prize for "The Simple Truth" in 1995 and two National Book Awards for "What Work Is (1991) and "Ashes: Poems New and Old" (1980). He served as the country's poet laureate in 2011-12. He wrote 25 books of poetry, the last, "News of the World" was published in 2009."

Below is a video of Levine reading some of his most beloved poems, including the Detroit-centric "What Work Is."



Read more in the Detroit Free Press.

How did Detroit transit get so bad? The Free Press has answers


Last week, the story of James Robertson went viral, filling up Detroiters' Facebook news feeds and making headlines on national news programs. The story, which originated in the Detroit Free Press, highlighted the unfathomable 21-mile walk Detroiter James Robertson makes each day in order to get to and from his job in Rochester Hills, a suburb that has opted out of participating in the region's SMART bus system.
 
The Detroit Free Press's Dan Austin followed up Robertson's story with an account of how Detroit's transit system arrived at its deplorable current condition. According to Austin, "At the turn of the 20th Century, southeast Michigan had the largest and one of the best mass transit systems in the country. Today, we have one of the worst."
 
Austin lays out Detroit's transit history in three stages of its development: subways, streetcars, and buses.
 
At the turn of the 20th century, proposals existed to build a subway system to serve Detroit. These, unfortunately, were never realized. Detroit would, however, develop one of the most extensive regional streetcar and rail networks in the world during the first half of the century. But with the rise of the highway system, the increased affordability of cars, and racial tensions fueling decisions about regionalism, the streetcar system was scrapped, the last line ceasing regular service in 1958.
 
In the postwar era, Detroit's rails were replaced with buses. According to Austin, "After the streetcars, buses were hailed as the future of public transit in metro Detroit. They were said to be cheaper to maintain and could go anywhere streetcars could — plus they weren't bound by tracks."
 
He goes on to explain in detail how separate suburban and city authorities developed and the dysfunction of the region's bus network deepened over time due to racial and political tensions. He also discusses the recently created Regional Transit Authority, which has the potential of reunifying the fractured system.
 
Read more in the Detroit Free Press.
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