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.

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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.

    The Future of Detroit, Midtown.

    •April 6, 2010 • 2 Comments

    Midtown is all the buzz the past few years.  From new residential options to new retailers, new employment opportunities to the prospect of new entertainment venues, there is no shortage of new in the neighborhood.  Midtown, more than any other area of the City, is overflowing with potential to be the livable, walkable, vibrant urban neighborhood that so many people in Detroit are looking for.  Several factors make Midtown poised to continue its prosperity.  This post will look at a few of those factors and provide a quick survey of what is goin’ down in Midtown. 

    The Infrastructure: Perhaps the most significant asset to Midtown is the blessing of an infrastructure conducive to dense urban development.  The “grid” layout of the neighborhood with blocks upon blocks of mixed-use real estate make it the kind of place one normally finds strong urban neighborhoods.  More importantly, those blocks and blocks are not occupied by the thing that take up so much space in Detroit and stands in the way to the revitalization of other neighborhoods, single family homes.  In so many areas of the City, an individual can drive dozens of blocks before ever coming to a mixed-use, retail/residential thoroughfare.  Many of the City’s hoods resemble suburbia more than they do the largest urban city in the State.  The mix of uses and the existence of multi-unit housing and retail in Midtown make it the logical place for urban roots to flourish.  Quite simply, Midtown’s historical and current layout provides it the best launching pad for continued growth.

    The Location, Location, Location: The next, and perhaps the most obvious, benefit is Midtown’s location.  As the name would suggest, midtown is…well, in the middle.  The middle of what? It is in the middle of many of the City’s other vibrant areas.  New Center, Downtown, Woodbridge, Eastern Market, all border Midtown.  Sometimes, good neighbors make all the difference. 

    The Institutions: When developers look to build a mall or a large shopping center they always attempt to secure anchor tenants first.  Typically, without an anchor tenant the project will not proceed and potentially never become a reality.  The same can be said for neighborhood redevelopment.  When it comes to anchors, Midtown leads the City and metropolitan region by leaps and bounds.  Wayne State, Center for Creative Studies, The DMC, The DIA, Detroit Historical Museum, Science Center, The Charles Wright Museum of African American History, The MOCAD… the list seems to never end, The Max Fisher Music Center, The UofM and MSU satellite facilities…you get the point.  All of these institutions are unique to Midtown and cannot be replicated.  These institutional anchors increase foot traffic during business hours and, because workers choose to live near where they work, in non-business hours as well.  This increased foot traffic and vibrancy increases the motivation for retailers who service those people to set up shop.  The presence of those retailers adds to the vibrancy and attracts more residents and then more retailers…the cycle continues.

    The Housing Options: Midtown may be home to the widest variety of housing options anywhere in the metropolitan region.  The Studio One Apartments, rehabed Brush Park Mansions, Ellington soft lofts, Willy’s Overland Lofts, Single Family masterpieces on Perry, college dorms, Canfield Lofts (pick one of the several buildings).  Midtown has seen a boom of new construction and rehabs and the trend seems to be continuing despite the economic conditions.  Diverse housing options means people with diverse preferences and lifestyle desires.  Midtown is one of very few places in Metro Detroit that addresses the huge demand for housing options that do not fall into the categories of single-family and suburban.

    The Safety: One of the big things that we hear over and over is that safety concerns keep many potential City Dwellers from living in Detroit.  One of the other things we often hear is that Midtown is not like other places in the City.  The presence of Wayne State Police in the area makes Midtown the benefactor of additional police presence and significantly increased police response times.  Residents of the area know it, and so do potential criminals and thugs.  This awareness often means that the wrongdoers are more likely to do their wrongdoin’ somewhere else. 

    The Proof: Ok, so I’ve tried to make the case that Midtown will continue to grow and become THE center of Detroit’s resurgence.  What do I know? Nothin, so don’t take my word on it, here is an incomplete list some of the happenings that are going to make Midtown the epicenter of a renaissance. 

    Residential: 

    • The Ellington: 55 soft loft condos at 3670 Woodward Ave.
    • Crystal Lofts: 17 luxury condo units at 3100 Woodward Ave.
    • Moorie Townhouse Estates: 20 condo units in a rehabbed Brush Park Mansion
    • Park Shelton: Over 200 condo/rental units in the rehabilitated high- rise just north of the DIA
    • Springfield Lofts: 10 condo units in a rehab on W. Alexandrine
    • Willy’s Overland Lofts: 75 Loft condo units on W. Willis
    • Studio One Apartments: 124 new construction market rate apartments on Woodward
    • Beethoven Apartments: 30 rehab apartments on Second Ave.
    •   Canfield Lofts: 35 units
    • Art Center Towne & Carriage Homes: 100 units
    • Brainard Street Townhomes: 120 units
    • Brush Park Manor: 213 units over two phases of development
    • Forest Arms: Redevelopment of 74 unit apartment building gutted by fire several years ago
    • Woodward Place @ Brush Park: 200 units
    • Dozens of other projects (small and large) that are done or in the works

    Commercial

    • Biggby’s Coffee
    • Avalon Breads
    • Bureau of Urban Living
    • Canine to Five (Dog Daycare)
    • Curl Up and Dye Hair Salon
    • FedEx/Kinko’s
    • Starbucks
    • Good Girls Go To Paris Creperie
    • Honest John’s
    • Hub Bicycle Shop
    • Lefty’s Lounge
    • Leopold’s
    • Midtown Corner Deli
    • Motor City Brewing Works
    • Shangri La
    • Starter’s Bar and Grill
    • Wasabi
    • T-Mobile
    • Barnes & Noble
    • Einstein Bagels
    • La Pita Mediterranean Grill
    • Goodwells Natural Market
    • Flo’s Boutique
    • Re:view Contemporary Gallery
    • Traffic Jam Bar
    • Bronx Bar
    • Union Street
    • Ye Olde Butcher Shoppe
    • Many more

    Big Stuff On The Way?:

    • A little project known as the M-1 Light Rail Line
    • Vanguard Health Systems $850 million dollar investment into the renovation and expansion of the DMC
    • Land speculation in the southern end of midtown has many whispering that the new home of the Detroit Red Wings will be built there.

    Go visit the shops in Midtown, check out a rental unit when your lease expires in Royal Oak, hit up the MOCAD.  You will be surprised at what you find.  Already there? Leave a comment with other great things happening in the neighborhood.

    Detroit’s Strength…The Pride of Its People

    •March 31, 2010 • Leave a Comment

    Below is a link to another example of why Detroit will rise from it’s current condition. The people of this City have taken it upon themselves to make the City the kind of place they want to live. The people, the people, the people. So many Detroiters have taken an interest in the reinvention of Detroit that it cannot help but move forward. The link below is to a site developed by a student at CCS and relatively new Detroit resident who is working on a project regarding Southwest Detroit. Stop by the site and see if you can do anything to contribute. The student’s name is Tinne Van Loon. Here is a link to the site.

    http://tinnevanloon.com/projects/southwest/process/

    A Sober Detroit

    •March 25, 2010 • Leave a Comment

        Yesterday was the State of The City Address given by Mayor Bing. The address, Bing’s first as Mayor, was a perfect reflection of the changes that are talking place in the City’s government.  In years past, the State of The City address was more closely recognized as a fiction intended for bolstering public relations  than an assessment of the City’s real world status.  This perversion of the State of the City mirrored the blinders that those administrations had in when approaching the City’s systemic problems and the falsehoods it sold to the City’s people.   As the saying goes, the first step to recovery is to admit that you have a problem.  Past administrations refused to confront their demons for fear of loosing favor with the public they continually pandered to.  Mayor Bing’s address was something very different.

    The sobriety with which the Mayor spoke was, well, sobering.  It was both shocking and empowering, it felt real and clean and refreshing.  The reality is we have problems.  For the first time in decades we have an administration willing to acknowledge the full depth of those problems.  As a result, we are able to start our recovery.

    While there is no denying that the solutions to Detroit’s problems will be many years and several Mayors away, those solutions will only become a reality when we start from a position of understanding.  I applaud the Mayor for his reality check and for resisting the temptation to pander to the masses by attempting to spray a rose scented perfume over the rotting stench of Detroit’s problems.

    I will be the first to state that many positive things are happening in Detroit and that there is plenty of reason for Detroiters to be optimistic. The people in charge are taking care of business, business leaders are taking part in expanding the infrastructure and employment base within the City, non-profits and foundations are filling in gaps for funding essential services, citizens are taking responsibility for their property and their neighborhood. All of these efforts will combine to improve the City and get us on the road to recovery.  But it is equally true that to keep things moving forward we must know what direction we are moving in any why.

    Spring Cleaning!

    •March 10, 2010 • Leave a Comment

    I know spring is still a few weeks away, so this post may be early.  That said, for the past several months I cannot get over the feeling that the City of Detroit has been undergoing a Spring Cleaning of sorts.  Since the ouster of Kwame and Conyers it feels like we are throwing away the useless items we accumulated over the last several decades and scrubbing the City clean of old habits and bad decisions. 

    With the election of Dave Bing, a new City Council, the talk of “right-sizing” the City, Robert Bobb’s tough actions with the Detroit Public Schools, citizen efforts (e.g. the Detroit Declaration, etc.) and the host of other activities occurring in the City, it just feels like the City is awaking from a long winter slumber and getting moving.  Will transit rescue the City…no. Will Dan Gilbert rescue the City…no. No one thing will, but it all makes a difference.

    Will all of the positive things lead to a cleaner, safer, more vibrant Detroit? Who knows, but one thing is for sure, it feels good to see things changing for the better. It feels good knowing that there are what appears to be competent people at the steering wheel.  It feels good to be a Detroiter!