Into Detroit

•February 16, 2012 • Leave a Comment

I encourage everyone to check out a blog by two young tech professionals who recently made the move from suburban Detroit to the Woodbridge neighborhood. The blog, Into Detroit, chronicles the transition through amazingly real and entertaining writing.  The story follows the two during their daily struggles of getting used to the change from suburb to city (some good, some not so good), from Detroit visitor to Detroit resident.  It follows them as they rehab a beautiful Woodbridge home. The writing convincingly conveys the joy and frustration, the confidence and questions associated with the move.  This is a great first hand account of how one house in Detroit goes from vacant and rundown to occupied and energized.  Into Detroit may be the story of two dudes from the burbs and the home they are revitalizing, but their story mirrors so many others occurring throughout the City.   Click on the link above to get to the blog.

In Anticipation of a Detroit Bankruptcy

•January 20, 2012 • Leave a Comment

You’ve heard? So have we. Detroit’s financials are not in good shape.  The City has reached its reckoning time. It’s high noon and the tumble weed is blowing, the locals are hiding in the saloons, and the creditors are standing waiting for the showdown.  The City of Detroit can run and hide or it can face the ugliness standing across the way.  Despite the City’s decision, you can rest assured we will be treated to months of Detroit Armageddon stories on CNN, CNBC, and all the other national media outlets.  One decision is to accept a future with a financial manager, the other is Bankruptcy…in reality both will probably happen.

All of this uncertainty will lead many to question the prudence of moving to, investing in, or opening a business in, Detroit.  Without a doubt many people, locally and outside of the region, are considering such moves.  News of artists moving to the City, billionaires on building buying sprees, hipsters in bike-riding heaven and the success of some BBQ joint opened by some dude named Phil have been peaking the interest of people all over the globe.  What to make of all of this when Bankruptcy is looming? When City financials are a mess? When the government can’t get their shit together?

What should be made of this conflicting news is this…it isn’t conflicting news.  The stories of artists and businesses, hipsters and billionaires doing what it is they do should make clear that the redevelopment of Detroit is taking place on the backs of the residents and business owners of the City, not on the vote of some council member.  Once again I stress that the actions of the many working in the neighborhoods far outweigh he inaction of those siting around a table at City Hall.  Your effort is needed, little ‘ol you can make a difference.  Your money and time will cause change. Your presence on the streets will change minds. Your investment in a property will open eyes. Detroit is arising from its slumber. Detroit is arising despite its elected officials, not because of them.

Detroit Light Rail Plan Falls Apart…Again

•December 14, 2011 • 2 Comments

Once again the story of light rail in Detroit ends with scrapped plans instead of shovels in the ground. The story of failed attempts at mass transit in Metro Detroit reads like a dissertation on all that is dysfunctional with our region…lack of political cooperation, race based decisions, lack of funding, lack of leadership, lack of reason. The story of a viable, efficient, meaningful transportation system in Detroit and its neighboring communities is not over, but this chapter, like all preceding chapters, ends with disappointment. The sad reality is that it will probably be many years before a new chapter is penned. The next chapter will have to wait for new leadership, led by a new generation, and with a new sense of urgency.

It is easy to let the news take the wind out of the sails of progress. It is easy to become discouraged. It is easy to doubt the mechanisms of progress that have been pushing forward the past several years. Be assured, Detroit will continue to move forward. Detroit will continue its path of revitalization. It is easy to let the news of failed rail overshadow the other news reported on December 13th, news that a new boutique hotel will open at the currently abandoned Whitney Building, that Dan Gilbert’s people are buying another downtown property, that a new bed and breakfast is set to open in Corktown. Things will move forward, they may not move by train, but they will move.

We must remember that Detroit’s success will occur despite the actions of our local, regional and state government, not because of it. The real progress happening in Detroit is evidenced by the filling of apartments and lofts, storefronts and bike lanes. Detroit’s real progress being done by residents, not politicians.

It is easy to become disillusioned. It is easy to say that this changes our hope for progress. It is easy to say that the failure of the light rail plan casts doubt on the ability of this region to move forward. However, the true failure would be letting this transit debacle derail all the other individual efforts being made by those committed to seeing Detroit succeed.  The death of this project is not the end of the line. It is only a stop along the long track of redevelopment.

Dan Izzo: Go Midwest, Young Entrepreneur

•December 13, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Check out this article about the influx of entrepreneurs into Detroit.  The City is no longer a gamble.  If you go to the City it is no longer viewed as a risky move.  Detroit is where the smart money is going.  It is where those ahead of the curve are planting their stakes in the ground. It is time.

Dan Izzo: Go Midwest, Young Entrepreneur.

The Lions of Detroit

•November 9, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Anyone who is a fan of the Detroit Lions (and yes, if you are emotionally attached to the team you are still a fan even if you don’t admit it in public) can tell you that this season has been one of the most frustrating and emotionally draining of any season in recent history despite the fact that the teams play on the field is greatly improved.  Maybe its the close calls on the scoreboard, maybe its the bad calls from the officials, maybe its the same dumb mistakes despite an obviously new feel to the team. So why do we care? Why do we check in to see how they are doing, why do we go to the games or spend our Sunday on the couch watching?  Why does this team matter to us?  There could be lots of reasons, but one in particular comes to mind.  The struggle of the Detroit Lions, in so many ways, mirrors the struggles of Detroiters and their City.  Lets take a quick look…

Go to http://www.re-detroit.com/ to read the full post.

WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LEMONS…

•October 24, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I would like to join a number of other Detroit bloggers helping to spread the word on Lemonade Detroit. Lemonade Detroit is a film being produced that shows the other side of what is happening in our City. The trailer looks amazing. The films creators are attempting to raise funds for completion of the film by selling “frames” of the movie to individuals who donate. By donating money to the film you receive a producers credit in the film and on IMDB. Check them out here: http://buyaframe.lemonadedetroit.com/

The People of Detroit

•July 19, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Local photographer and writer Noah Stephens has undertaken a project that captures the pulse of the City.  Entitled “The People of Detroit,” Noah photographs and interviews various individuals throughout the City providing a great ground level perspective of our neighbors and guests.  You can check it out here: http://www.thepeopleofdetroit.com/.

Farewell Ernie

•May 5, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Bye-Bye Baseball

Last night, as we all know, Detroit, Michigan, and the World lost an amazing example of all the greatest characteristics of humanity one man can embody. Ernie will be greatly missed by many.

What He Meant To Me:

Ernie was a glue. Some of my earliest memories are of me sitting on my father’s lap, cold lemonade in hand, watching the Tiger’s game with the volume turned off and Ernie Harwell’s voice over the radio. The love my father felt for me during those times was undeniable and visa versa. However, as I grew older and more rebellious the relationship between my father and I deteriorated and a great rift grew between us. During those years, one of the few memories that helped to keep me bonded to my father was the taste of that lemonade and the sound of Ernie’s voice. Every time I heard his voice during those years of conflict, I could recall my father’s love. This is what Ernie was to me, one story of millions floating around Detroit, Michigan and no doubt the Country today. God Bless you Mr. Harwell. Share your memories in a comment.

Detroit, It’s What’s for Dinner

•April 15, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Just a quick FYI for everyone out there.  Tomorrow is the beginning of Detroit Restaurant Week (running April 16-25).  This is a great opportunity to try some of the finest restaurants in Detroit at a price that doesn’t reflect just how fine they are.  Participating restaurants will offer three course meals for a price tag of $27.00 per person.  The following is a list of the restaurants participating in the event.

  • 24Grille – Westin Book Cadillac Detroit
  • Andiamo Detroit Riverfront – GM Renaissance Center
  • Atlas Global Bistro – Midtown
  • Coach Insignia – GM Renaissance Center
  • Cuisine – New Center
  • Da Edoardo Foxtown Grille – Fox Theatre Building
  • Detroit Fish Market @ Paradise Valley
  • Forty-Two Degrees North – Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center
  • Iridescence – MotorCity Casino-Hotel
  • Mosaic Restaurant – Greektown
  • Opus One – Downtown
  • Rattlesnake Club – Stroh River Place
  • Roast – Westin Book Cadillac Detroit
  • Roma Cafe – Eastern Market
  • Saltwater – MGM Grand Detroit
  • The Whitney – Midtown
  • Wolfgang Puck Grille – MGM Grand Detroit
  • Here is a link to the events official website:

    http://detroitrestaurantweek.com/

    Also coming up in Detroit:

    • Eastern Market Flower Day – May 17 (Grab some flora for mama at what is one of the largest gathering of flower venders in the country,  just in time for Mother’s Day) here is a link to the events site:   http://www.detroiteasternmarket.com/page.php?p=2&s=30

    Part Of The Solution

    •April 14, 2010 • 1 Comment

    Upon returning to Detroit after living in Chicago for several years I was determined to make a difference in the City. I was partnered up with a few associates/friends and we had the pieces is place to start a small property redevelopment company. Our focus, the City of Detroit. Our shared commitment to the City embedded within us a resolute determination to make a difference…then the bottom fell out. Several months after my return the economy tanked, the real estate market took a nose-dive and all of our potential investors went running for the hills as if the flood waters were close behind. The core members of the group continued to push for making several projects happen, but without the cash committment nothing materialized. We slowly let the business plan slip away. Many years worth of market research, property hunting, learning Detroit, learning the business of real estate development, learning, searching, looking, reading, analyzing, writing, proposing, pitching, pitching, more pitching…for nothing. We became discouraged and stopped trying. The death-blow finally occurred when my partner, the nuts and bolts contractor of the group, passed away of a heart attack. The effort was officially over.

    I spent the next year or so hearing about all the locations we pitched being bought and watching as they began to be redeveloped.  I was thrilled to see the work being done but angry that I was doing nothing to participate in the efforts.  I observed others doing great things (redevelopment related or otherwise) in the City and I felt I had missed my chance and fell short of my self-imposed goal of coming back to Detroit to make a difference. I was a failure, just sitting on the edge watching others do what I wanted to, participate in what I know will be the greatest urban resurgence in the history of industrialized world (I know it is a bit dramatic, but it’s true).  However, as time passed I began  to see things differently.

    Without a doubt those who participate in doing grand things in the City are much deserving of praise, as their efforts are both necessary and encouraging.  However, it does not take opening a business, starting a non-profit, or rehabbing an abandoned property, to make a difference in Detroit. In fact, some of the greatest contributions to the growth of Detroit are much less celebrated but equally important. Going to the City to eat and shop and relax and play and work and spend money and plant trees and volunteer to fix-up a park…all of those things make a difference. While it is true that no one is going to recognize the $50.00 I spend on dinner at my favorite little spot, it is not about personal recognition, it is about the community getting better.  The fifty dollars spent by the hundreds of people who go out-of-the-way to make efforts to spend their money and time in the City sustain small businesses which in turn provides incentives for other small businesses to take the risk and set up shop in the City.  Simply walking the streets of Midtown, Downtown, or New Center adds to the vibrancy and foot traffic that those neighborhoods so desperately need.  Deciding to forgo a pay increase by moving to Dallas and making the committment to remain in the Metro area is part of the solution.

    While living in Chicago, it always astounded me how many Detroit expatriates lived in the City.  It was impossible to go anywhere without seeing an Old English D or hear someone talking about their pride in being from Detroit.  What would happen if half of those people made a commitment to return to the City (including anywhere in the metro area)? How many jobs would they create, businesses would they sustain, housing units would they fill.  When a City is in need of as much help as Detroit needs, the smallest efforts go the farthest. 

    So, this weekend, grab a cup of coffee in Midtown, walk the neighborhood and enjoy the sounds and sights of our urban environment.  Catch a game at Comerica or a show at the Fillmore, but after, don’t simply jump back in the car and head back to Birmingham or St. Clair Shores or Canton or where ever you may reside.  Walk over to Lafayette Coney Island and grab a coney, sit down at the Park Bar and grab a drink.  Walk the Riverwalk or bike the Dequindre Cut.  Go shopping at the Bureau of Urban Living, buy some artisan bread at Avalon Bakery (also try their cookies…awsome!) or check out some used books at John K. King.  Grab a slice at Supino’s Pizza in Eastern Market or a steak at Roast.  Pick-up some brew at Motor City Brewing Works or view the art at Detroit Artist Market.  Walk and shop and eat and drink…these things make all the difference.  The result, there will be more people on the street, eventually, more places to eat, drink and shop, and ultimately it will spur the creation of the type of urban space that so many run off to Chicago and New York and wherever to experience.  It will develop the kind of urban space we can be proud of and enjoy and use to attract more people and more businesses and more jobs…and the cycle will continue.  It will feed itself like a snowball growing as it rolls down a steep snow-covered hill. 

    Make a difference, enjoy Detroit.