Posts tagged with "Detroit":

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Detroit kicks off seventh annual Design Festival

As this dust settles in Chicago after the opening of the second Chicago Architecture Biennial, things are picking up in Detroit for the seventh annual Detroit Design Festival (DDF). This year’s festival runs from September 26 through September 30 in venues all over the city. Named the United States’ only UNESCO City of Design, Detroit has a long history of creative production spanning from design through fabrication and manufacturing. Hosting this year’s event is the Detroit Creative Corridor Center (DC3). DC3 is an economic development organization focused on encouraging and connecting the city’s growing creative community. The center is a partnership between Business Leaders of Michigan and the College for Creative Studies. Every day of the festival is filled with public programming. From studio visits and gallery openings to lectures and workshops, the festival hopes to reach the widest audience possible. Some highlights include Eastern Market After Dark, the Design Village, Light Up Livernois, Hamtramck Design Showcase and Designer Putt Putt. The Design Village will take place at the Ponyride Studio in Corktown, and will present the work of Detroit designers and makers for sale on Friday and Saturday. Light Up Livernois will explore the future of Detroit’s historic fashion district, while Hamtramck Design Showcase, will be a self-guided design tour of the city within a city. Designer Putt Putt is exactly what it sounds like. Inspired by similar events in London and Los Angeles, five designers were selected to design and install fantastical putting greens at Eastern Market. The designers, who were chosen through a competition include Indigo Carr, O2, ROSSETTI, Nick Tilma and Stephan Busscher, and Ciara Lindon. The public will be able to play the course during the Eastern Market After Dark and Light Up Livernois events.
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Yamasaki is reborn in Detroit

Nearly eight years after closing shop, noted Detroit-based Yamasaki will be reborn with a new headquarters in the recently renovated Fisher Building. Founded in 1957 by Minoru Yamasaki, the firm survived after his death in 1986 until 2009. Now under the leadership of Robert Szantner, one of Yamasaki’s long-time employees, the firm will reopen with other former employees who were able to buy the firm's intellectual property out of receivership. Yamasaki is responsible for such iconic projects as the World Trade Center, Seattle’s Rainier Tower, and the Federal Reserve Bank. After graduating from New York University and working for Shreve, Lamb & Harmon, designers of the Empire State Building, Yamasaki moved to Detroit where he would eventually found his own firm. Throughout his time working in New York and Detroit, Yamasaki narrowly avoided being sent Japanese internment camps with the help of his employers, despite being born in Seattle. Once established, Yamasaki also became one of the few architects to grace the cover of TIME magazine. The new iteration of the firm hopes to build on the legacy of the famed architect and take part in Downtown Detroit’s recent construction uptick. Five of the 12-person firm formerly worked directly under Minoru Yamasaki in the original firm. “The marketplace has provided us with an opportunity to bring back the Yamasaki name to its roots,” said Szantner in a press release. “Detroit is about to grow in every way, including vertical. That fits into the experience of our professionals with urban projects of all types, so we want to play a role in the transformation of this city, as we have in so many projects here and around the world, while always being based in Southeast Michigan." The new Yamasaki headquarters will take up 3,000 square feet of the Joseph Nathaniel French and Albert Kahn-designed Fisher Building. Listed as a National Historic Landmark and included on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, the Fisher Building recently underwent a multi-million-dollar redevelopment. “We are reinterpreting Yama’s values, that we learned from him,” explained Szantner, looking to the firm's future. “Simplicity in design, the use of sustainable materials, buildings that enhance social interaction – those are all qualities that buildings need now, with new applications.”
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How a $500 house tells the story of a changing Detroit

Something about Detroit awakens a feeling in many that can only be described as a frontier romanticism. But just like the American West was not uninhabited, free for the taking by European settlers, Detroit is a city with existing communities, existing assets, existing problems, and existing potential. It is a city with 700,000 inhabitants that have watched as their surroundings have crumbled into an uncanny post-industrial landscape. What to “do with” tens of thousands of vacant structures and vacant lots is a perennial discussion among architects, planners, developers, and politicians. When 23-year-old Drew Philp bought a house for $500 in the Poletown neighborhood, he was less concerned with solving the city’s problems than he was with surviving Detroit’s brutal winters without heat. In his first book, A $500 House in Detroit, published by Scribner, he tells a story of struggle and triumph as he rebuilds a dilapidated Queen Anne, one piece at a time. When Philp moved to Detroit, he was in the final year of his undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan. With little in the way of a plan or a mission, he worked and lived hand-to-mouth. Slowly making friends, he found himself part of an urban farming community called the Yes Farm. Still without a permanent place to stay, he learned of the county’s annual property auction. The auction sold off county-owned properties, bidding starting at $500. The house he would end up buying was barely a shell, and it would take years to bring it up to a livable condition.
This story, of a white kid from Anywheresville, Michigan, moving to the predominantly African American Detroit to find himself, sounds more like a veiled gentrification narrative than a worthwhile topic for a critical look at the city. Yet, experiences like Philp’s, while not completely unique, have rarely been told in such detail, or with as much awareness of their inherent cultural worldview. Throughout, Philp questions his place in his community, conscious of every interaction with his neighbors. Five years of experiences, traumatic and joyful, and firsthand lessons in community politics, give him a perspective that is insightful and measured. Intertwined with his account, Philp includes historic anecdotes explaining the events leading to the current conditions of inequality, corruption, and vacancy in Detroit. One of the most powerful accounts discusses how entire neighborhoods were destroyed when the interstate was driven through the heart of the city. While this is a story that has been told in nearly every American city, it has special meaning in Philp’s case, as his grandfather built his home, well outside of Detroit, from the reused wood from those forcefully demolished homes. Events like this forced Philp, and now his readers, to contemplate guilt, reparation, appropriation, and race relations in a very real, very personal way. Philp also points out that much of the book was literally written at the kitchen table from that same house.
Told in a typical Midwestern voice, Philp’s writing will be clear and familiar to anyone who grew up in Middle America. Even so, many will find it hard to see themselves in his shoes, but this may be a strength for the book. Rather than fetishizing the experience, Philp constantly questions his actions. Less a how-to than a cautionary tale, few will feel any urge to attempt to re-create his experience. The timing of the book, taking place roughly from 2009–2017, happens to coincide with major changes in Detroit, which have yet to be proven good or bad. An influx of young white people, Philp arguably being part of the first wave of them, and global interest in the critically distressed city, has made it a space of pilgrimage and settlement by many more with more social and economic privilege than those who have stuck it out over the years. This underlying theme of a changing city plays itself out over and over again throughout the book, with Philp often stuck awkwardly in between “progress” and empathy. The genesis of A $500 House in Detroit came when Philp wrote a short piece for BuzzFeed. If the story would have ended there, a few thousand words bookended by stories like “15 Celebrity Tweets You Missed This Week,” it would have simply become yet another one-dimensional anecdote about a city that is in dire need of having its complex story told. And while A $500 House never professes to tell the whole story, it does add a significant voice to the dialogue, without fetishizing or romanticizing the city and the lives of those who live there.
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Renderings revealed for Schmidt Hammer Lassen’s first U.S. project

Plans have been announced for the first U.S. project by Denmark-based Schmidt Hammer Lassen. Monroe Block will bring over 1 million square feet of office space, retail, residential, and public space to downtown Detroit at the confluence of Cadillac Square, Camus Martius, Library Square, and Woodward Avenue. The development will be one of the largest developments the city has seen in decades. Bedrock Detroit is acting as developer for the project while Detroit-based Neumann/Smith Architecture is the architect of record. Bath, England–based engineers Buro Happold and Copenhagen-based landscape architects SLA are also part of the team. "Detroit is a unique place, I believe everyone living in the Western [world] has at some point been influenced or touched by Detroit,” said Kristian Ahlmark, senior partner at Schmidt Hammer Lassen, in a press release. “We all know or can relate to its legacy: the U.S. automobile industry, the architecture of Albert Kahn and Woodward, and obviously the music.” Along with 24-hour public plazas and green spaces, the development planned to include grocery stores and food markets, entertainment and sport facilities, and possibly exhibition and performance spaces. Along with the office space, the project will also include 480 residential units. The announcement follows closely on the heels of the proposed 52-story SHoP-designed tower along Woodward Avenue. Both projects are being developed by Bedrock, a firm that plays a large role in nearly $5.5 billion of ongoing development in the city. While Schmidt Hammer Lassen has never built in the United States, it has projects in Canada, as well as across northern Europe and eastern Asia. The firm’s Halifax Central Library, in Nova Scotia, Canada recently won the Governor General Medal in Architecture of Canada. “Our Scandinavian heritage has a strong influence on the way we approach city building on this scale. We always try to think urbanism, city space and the built environment in that order,” added Ahlmark.
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Mies’s Lafayette Park gets first new project in 40 years

For the first time in 40 years, Detroit’s famed Lafayette Park has a new addition. Designed by Detroit-based McIntosh Poris Associates, DuCharme Place is a 185-unit apartment community comprised of four midrise buildings. Adding to the Mies van der Rohe–designed historic district, the new development plays liberally with many of Mies’s original concepts. The long history of Lafayette Park includes the “slum” clearing urban renewal of postwar urban centers, the rise of modernist housing blocks in the U.S., and the realization of one of Mies’s largest housing projects. The first projects to be completed in the development were the Mies-designed Pavilion Apartments and a series of townhouses that are most often associated with the neighborhood. After those initial buildings, a handful of architects, including Gunnar Birkerts and John Macsai, added a school, shopping center, and more housing, with the last major project finishing in 1967. Ludwig Hilberseimer, Alfred Caldwell, and Joseph Fujikawa played an important role on Mies’s planning and design team for the project from the beginning. McIntosh Poris’s contribution, entitled DuCharme Place, draws on many of the modernist ideas designed into the historic portions of the district. Starting with the material palette of brick, metal, and glass, the project also makes larger formal moves that echo Mies’s master plan and design. The four buildings define three large courtyard terraces reminiscent of the iconic courts of Mies’s townhomes. Residents also have access to additional outdoor spaces including private balconies and private green roof terraces, which include a pool and a zen garden. The project’s green roof is the largest in Detroit. “DuCharme Place builds upon the vision of the park’s original development team by creating a community integrated with nature to support the existing historic district,” explained Michael Poris, principal of McIntosh Poris Associates, upon the project’s completion. “To respect the site, we wanted the relationship with nature to be a driving factor behind the design. We organized the buildings around landscaped courtyards, while also creating street walls on Lafayette Street, Orleans Street, and DuCharme. Every unit has great views and abundant natural light.” Hoping to attract young professionals, couples, and empty nesters, the projects is filled with one- and two-bedroom units ranging from 500 to 1,100 square feet. Located a walking distance from downtown, the units provide an alternative to the quickly rising rent in the city center. Lafayette Park also has direct access to the Dequindre Cut, a two-mile greenway built on along a former rail line leading to the waterfront. In 2015 Lafayette Park was designated a National Historic Landmark District. Yet, it is not a neighborhood locked in time. Instead, as it was designed to be from the beginning, it is a living, growing neighborhood.
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This designer created a live-work prefab development for Detroit’s growing creative class

Detroit is full of surprises. From the Mies-designed Lafayette Park to the currently disassembled Heidelberg Project, small enclaves throughout the city challenge the perceived image of a city that has lost 60 percent of its population in the last 50 years. Tapping into this potential of small community spaces, Edwin Chan and his Los Angeles–based design practice EC3 have recently completed True North Detroit, a half-acre live-work community.

Specifically designed to cater to Detroit’s growing creative population, True North comprises nine lightweight prefabricated Quonset huts in the Core City neighborhood about two and a half miles northwest of the downtown. Core City has not seen any significant construction in over 60 years, and the area surrounding the project mostly consists of vacant lots.

“The majority of Detroit’s housing stock is either out of date or completely dilapidated,” Edwin Chan said. “Rather than being determined by ‘market demands,’ True North’s design is an inclusive and aspirational vision to create a new typology of affordable housing and to promote alternative, creative lifestyles in one of the world’s most iconic cities.”

The small complex of vaulted buildings is arranged in such a way as to provide access from the street and produce open outdoor communal spaces. Security, views, and privacy were also considered in the strategic orientation of each structure. The shape of the Quonset huts was also modified from the typical semicircular section to better serve the targeted residents.

Elongated and heightened wall space was produced for hanging art for production and exhibition. Kitchens, bathrooms, and utilities were moved into a center “island” and built out of a durable polycarbonate. Translucent and transparent polycarbonate was also used throughout to provide generous light and extra security. Radiant concrete floors, finished plywood, and other inexpensive materials and construction methods help keep the spaces affordable. The apartments range from 475 to 1,600 square feet, all with a lofted space above the kitchen area that can be used as a bedroom or additional workspace.

Even before its completion early this summer, True North received an honorable mention in the 64th annual P/A Awards in the community category. Far from the massive developments happening in the city’s downtown, projects like True North attempt to add to the city in more elegant way. As such, True North is the first of an iterative plan designed by EC3 to build on another seven acres in the neighborhood. It would seem that it is unavoidable that Detroit is going to be a testing ground for architectural and urban innovation. Projects like True North will hopefully prove that this can be a positive, and truly progressive, experience for the city.

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Designers propose park with rippling landscape for Michigan Central Station

It isn’t just the Michigan Central Station that is being eyed for redevelopment. Spread out before the domineering structure is what was once an ornate manicured garden known as Roosevelt Park. Designers and community members are hoping to transform the scruffy patch of green, which marks the intersection of Detroit's Corktown and Mexicantown neighborhoods, into a public asset. A direct result of the City Beautiful Movement at the turn of the 20th century, Roosevelt Park was originally designed by Daniel H. Burnham and Edward H. Bennett. The park was specifically crafted to work with Judge Augustus B. Woodward's original plan for Detroit, which called for broad green boulevards and numerous public parks. This park was meant to be a grand welcoming space for the local community and those arriving to the city by train. The current project is being led by San Francisco–based Assembly Design Studio and Detroit-based community research consultants Human Scale Studio. Through a series of meetings with city officials and community workshops, the park's design now has three distinct paths forward in the form of three conceptual proposals. Each proposal addresses the concerns of the city and the community while focusing on a different theme and spatial arrangement. The first of the proposals holds closest to the original park while working to improve access and safety. Currently, the park is a traffic island, inaccessible except across multiple lanes of traffic. This plan calls for the removal of some roads that travel through the park while improving crosswalks, parking, and bike lanes around its perimeter. The second proposal responds to the greater city grid with changes to the surrounding and on-site roads. New pedestrian and bike-only paths would be added to the park, which is divided by several roadways. New sports fields, hardscapes, and softscapes would reflect back to the park’s original form and relationship to the train station. The final proposal is by far the most drastic of the three. Unified into a single large park space, the plan calls for large landscaped ripples emanating from the northwest corner of the park. Areas for food trucks and an area for a farmer’s market will provide food options, while an area for special events and an amphitheater will bring entertainment programming to the park. A formal gateway is also part of the proposal, as well as sports field and playgrounds. While these may not be the first new proposals for the oft overlooked park, they may have the best chance of succeeding. (In 2009 and 2010 two other groups began the process of bringing the park back to life.) With a “green light” from the City of Detroit, these current proposals also have support from business leaders and community members in Corktown and Mexicantown. While trains may not be returning to the area anytime soon, with a little love, people may find a reason to come back to Roosevelt Park.
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Under Armour opens new Brand House in Detroit’s historic Kresge Building

Detroit is now home to the newest Under Armour Brand House. The multistory sports-apparel showroom and store is housed in the historic 1917 Kresge Building in downtown Detroit. Local Kraemer Design Group (KDG) worked as historic consultant and architect of record on the project, and Sachse Construction was general contractor. Working with Bedrock, the building owner, KDG worked to maintain protected historic features throughout the project including the original marble walls and the brass handrails in a monumental staircase. At the same time, the space was altered to fit Under Armour’s brand. Since much of the space is on a mezzanine level, a new elevator was added, but otherwise the existing conditions in the one-hundred-year-old building were left undisturbed. The 17,000-square-foot store is just the latest of in a series of recently opening and planned flagship retail stores in Downtown Detroit, including a large Nike store and a future Warby Parker.

Under Armour Brand House 1201 Woodward Avenue, Detroit Tel: 313-335-3162 Architect: Kraemer Design Group
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Tony Hawk is building a skate park in downtown Detroit

Thanks to Tony Hawk, downtown Detroit will soon be home to a new skate park. The pro boarder is supervising the design of a 4,600-square-foot modular skate park that will be located just north of Campus Martius, the Detroit Free Press reported. Called Wayfinding, it's set to open on August 16, right in the middle of peak summer shredding season. Library Street Collective, a contemporary art gallery, partnered with developers at Bedrock, Quicken Loans companies, and the Cranbrook Art Museum to produce the project. Wayfinding has six skating areas and viewing platforms for onlookers; artist Ryan McGinness—whose work is influenced by the surf and skate culture—will create bold neon graphics for the site.

“It was a great opportunity to get something in the downtown area that is a proper skate park,” Hawk told the Free Press. “This one is exciting, although it’s not our usual style of skate parks. At the same time, I want to support anything that is public and will be available for people to skate.” A skate park without a concrete base can be challenging to build, he said, but noted that modular skate ramp technology has improved considerably in the last ten years.

Wayfinding is only temporary at this location, though. It's holding ground until Bedrock's latest development, Monroe Block, breaks ground in early 2018. The pieces will be moved to another part of the city when construction crews take over the site. Though the park is new, Hawk is no stranger to Detroit. He and his wife bought a home there last year, and in years past his eponymous foundation has donated to local philanthropic causes.
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Life returns to Michigan Central Station for first time in decades

No building has been used to represent the decline of Detroit more than the Michigan Central Station. Towering over the Corktown neighborhood just south of the city’s downtown, the once bustling train station has lain vacant since the last train pulled away in January 1988. Today the building’s owners, the Moroun family of companies, is hoping the iconic building can become the symbol of the city’s renaissance. For the first time in decades, a private event will be held in the vacant building. Slated for later this summer and produced by Crain’s Detroit Business, the fourth annual Detroit Homecoming is an event which brings back Detroit “expats” in a bid to bring investment into the city. The event will take over three days, starting on September 13th, and will bring together hundreds of former Detroiters and local business investors. The opening dinner will take place in the grand 53-foot-tall lobby. Tours up to the 13th floor will allow guests to look out over Detroit. Opened in 1913, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1975, the building has had brushes with restoration as well as demolition over the years. In the mid-2000s the city moved to demolish the building, which led to a lawsuit to protect the building. Designed by Warren & Wetmore and Reed & Stem, the 230-foot-tall Beaux Arts tower was once the tallest train station in the world. At one point, over 200 trains passed through the station every day and 3,000 office workers worked in the 500,000-square-foot building. In recent years, restoration has begun on the building. According to the Moroun’s, over $8 million has been spent on asbestos abatement, vandalism cleanup, initial interior work, and other early-stage renovations. Most visible of the changes to the building was the installation of 1,100 new windows in 2015. It is estimated that to complete the restoration will cost over $100 million. And though work has begun, no official word has been given on what the station may become. In the past, ideas have been floated including a convention center, a casino, Michigan State Police headquarters, and Detroit Police headquarters.
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Cataloging Detroit over 25 years, Camilo Jose Vergara has documented the city’s decline and decay

Every so often, images of abandoned buildings circulate cyberspace, populating blogs or other online outlets in the form of slideshows and photo series. Chances are that if you have come across such photography, that you have seen the work of Camilo Jose Vergara. The photographer and writer specializes in capturing ruins and settings in states of decay and has become known for revisiting sites and producing a chronology of their fate. In 2013, he received the National Humanities Medal from President Obama, being the first photographer to be awarded the medal. Vergara is prolific. The 73-year-old from Santiago, Chile has produced seven books that document dereliction in Los Angeles, Chicago, Newark, Camden, New York, and Detroit. His work builds on that of Jacob Riis, a 19th-century documentarian who published the landmark book, How the Other Half Lives, in 1890. Times have indeed changed since then, however, and Vergara's work remains relevant. "All of this comes from the idea that the real poor and segregated neighborhoods are different in every aspect," he told me as we drank beers on the rooftop of his Morningside Heights apartment. "It's the idea that you have separate Americas... what really fascinates me is the history of places that are in decline because everybody concentrates on the history of places that are moving up, but the other process is just as interesting. It involves people, people coping with their circumstances and its arresting visually too." Over the course of numerous decades, Vergara, a MacArthur Award winner in 2002, has revisited the aforementioned cities, capturing their evolving urban and suburban environments. His methodology is meticulous, returning to the exact same point time and time again to take the same photograph, while also speaking to the local residents. While he occasionally takes portraits of those that approach him, Vergara prefers to shoot buildings and streetscapes as they represent, in his eyes, a place more accurately. "You develop a relationship with the city," he said. "You don't declare that you're going 'steady' with that city until you're going to be back unless you have some assurance that you're going to do it—it's like having a girlfriend." So how do you do it? "You need the money to go there on a regular basis; you need somebody to put you up, or enough money to pay for a hotel; you need money to rent a car, and all of those things are expensive," he explained. Detroit, in particular, became available to Vergara on a regular basis in 1991 when his brother-in-law purchased a building there that was only ever two-thirds occupied. All he needed, he proclaimed, was a mattress and he was set. Before the internet, getting back to an exact location required lots of notetaking. Besides location, Vergara added, the same lens is required and the lighting needs to be similar, if not the same (so you have to be there at the same time of day). "And then sometimes it is rush hour and traffic is in the way, or you have you park your car in the middle of the street and stand up on the roof," Vergara continued "I do that all the time! The car is running, I'm up on the roof, but I can get away quickly if I needed to." But sometimes this zealousness has its consequences. In Detroit, Vergara was once reminded of the city's tensions. "One time a man showed me his gun, he didn't point it at me, just showed it to me." He laughed, apparently unphased by this experience. "I went to the police station and told them and they said, 'What business do you have coming to this neighborhood?' Apparently, I didn't have the right to complain." Other dissenters of Vergara deride his (and his contemporaries') work as socially irresponsible poverty porn. Vergara considers this an "absurd accusation." His view is that derelict structures have permanency, history, "feed the imagination," and sometimes, can be a device to propagate the development of their surroundings. "A problem folks who are interested in poverty and ruins deal with is that ruins tend to be very beautiful," Vergara elaborated. "The most magnificent ruins are from buildings that were spectacular to begin with." "There is more than one way to look at my work," he continued. "One way is to look at it, say 'nice' then forget about it. But then maybe other people want to find out more about what they are looking at. Those people would find what I am talking about—the context." Vergara couples short essays and interviews with his work; he is a sociological documentarian more so than just a mere photographer. "The context I think adds interest and gives it relevance." As for carrying out his work, Google Maps, he said, is making things easier. "It has changed they way I work tremendously. Before I go back to reshoot a location, I look at my old photographs and think to myself, 'What's around this place?' There is no way in the world I am going to photograph every building in Detroit so I use Google Streetview, using the time sequences they offer as well as my own work. After all this, I have a pretty good idea of what I want." Both online and in real life, Vergara has been roaming Detroit's poor neighborhoods, visiting housings projects and rooftops. I asked him if, despite being from Santiago and now living in New York, if he felt like a citizen of Detroit. "I feel like I am a citizen of the ghetto because those are the places I know the best," he replied, referencing the ghettos of Camden, Newark, South Chicago and Harlem as well. Detroit, though, has been Vergara's main focus. It was the city where his love of ruins brought him to and it is also the city on which he focuses on in his latest book, Detroit Is No Dry Bones: The Eternal City of the Industrial Age. Every year, for the past 25 years, the documentarian has visited the city for at least a week. The book catalogs Detroit's ill-fated suburbs, the city center's partial revival, as well as murals, churches, and signage. The latter is indicative of Detroit's changing landscape and morphing typologies. "The signs I photograph stand for the culture that has been developed over many decades," Vergara said. The subject of signage is even more poignant in Detroit, too, in a city that once produced the automobiles of America—cars that symbolized success and the American dream. Over time, the city's car mechanics and garages transformed into cheaper-to-run car washes, and drive-ins, as money left the area. "It's not just the white flight, it's the money flight," Vergara remarked. More than automobile imagery, Vergara argued religious signage is more representative of Detroit's visual culture. It's residents, he says in his most recent book, are waiting for God to save the city. In one instance, on 14849 Livernois Avenue, a church photographed in 2000 changes to become home to "Motor Sales." Vergara, on his rooftop with me, called these "storefront churches." This theme has been prevalent in his work for some time, most notably seen in his book, How the Other Half Worships, an explicit nod to Riis that tracked how poor neighborhoods embraced religion. Murals and signage are important to Vergara. In 2015 he was invited to speak at the Black In Design conference at Harvard University. "You think they're going to get the sign painter that worked for car washers in Detroit?" he asked me. "No. They got designers that went to Ivy League schools and worked at high-end firms. "That leaves out this visual culture." "I like to call attention to this," he continued, evidently agitated. "You can't just ignore segregated areas like you get in Detroit where people have been there for decades and don't have the money to move." Another annoyance of his is how new, predominantly white residents, who set up shops, bars, and restaurants in Detroit's downtown, display images from the 1930s and '50s. "My beef is, why don't you use the visual culture that was born from the riots?" (This year will be the 50th anniversary of the Detroit riots. A film called Detroit is coming out this August to mark the event.) In a lecture at M.I.T. this year, he furthered this sentiment, pointing out how neighborhood artists are unaware of how to publicize their work due to issues such as not having an email account of having their phones disconnected. Of the artists he had spoken to, some had either done time in jail, were homeless, sick, or made money away from art. "In contrast, white artists are often represented by galleries and are able to apply for and receive foundation grants," he said. "Local sign painters and commercial artists with a shrinking neighborhood market see their work further diminish as handmade signs are replaced by vinyl signs made inexpensively by commercial printers." In that same lecture, he added that it is his goal to acknowledge the "history and achievements" of people from Detroit's segregated neighborhoods, "no matter how insignificant they may seem to the rest of the nation. I also try to answer the question, 'What happens next?' as I track these neighborhoods within the city’s larger evolution." Vergara's answer to that question is bleak. To him, there appears to be "no way" of improving the living conditions of the majority of the population. "A dual city continues to develop in which a growing educated population is surrounded by 131 square miles of decline, where poor African Americans survive amidst decaying buildings and empty lots." As the original population flees the poverty stricken suburbs, local businesses such as dry cleaners or barbershops become unsustainable, a scenario Vergara only sees worsening. "Already a quarter of a century ago, black Detroiters believed that the city might not be theirs for very long," he said. "Now throughout Detroit one can find adumbrations of a white paradise of bed and breakfasts, fruit orchards, woodlands, goat farms and artists’ lofts." And as for what happens next to his own work? "Whether or not my work is used in 30 years time, I do not know," he answered. "But it will be preserved because the library of congress purchased my collection." Vergara does, however, have a proposal for Detroit. "As a lifelong documentarian of the ephemeral visual culture of the American ghetto, I believe that the weathered commercial signs with their whimsical lettering, the religious imagery, the Afrocentric historical murals and the memorials to the dead found in the city’s neglected neighborhoods are defining elements of the Detroit spirit." This visual culture, he attests, is overlooked by companies such as Shinola who prefer to reference the industrial age of Motor City. The artwork and signage by locals, argues Vergara, must be preserved and thus acknowledged by the National Museum of African American History and Culture and furthermore, this art should be encouraged. In addition to this, he calls for the production and worldwide marketing of luxuries (such as the products from Shinola) made out of street art, with some of the profit going back to the neighborhoods. "Detroit has a history that hasn't been told all that much, if at all. This is what I am trying to do."
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Nonprofit developers propose $32 million mixed-income project for Midtown, Detroit

The transformation of Midtown Detroit symbolizes much of the wider change that is happening in Detroit. For good and for bad, areas of Detroit are quickly being developed, and with each new announcement comes questions of responsibility to the very people that have stuck it out in the economically-depressed city. Unlike much of the development, which is being funded by some of the city’s wealthiest, one recently unveiled project is being led by two nonprofits. This mixed-use mixed-income housing development will be located at the corner of Garfield Street and John R. Street, across from the John D. Dingell VA Medical Center, in the Sugar Hill district. Working with the City of Detroit to realize the project are Develop Detroit and Preservation of Affordable Housing, Inc. (POAH). Both developers are members of the Housing Partnership Network (HPN). Develop Detroit was founded in 2016 in the wake of the city’s municipal bankruptcy. POAH has been behind a handful of mixed-income complexes across the South Side of Chicago. "We’re partnering with this outstanding team because of the city's strong focus on equitable and inclusive development," said POAH Managing Director Real Estate Development Rodger Brown in a press release. "This transformational project is completely aligned with our core mission and we’re confident that in partnership with Mayor Duggan and Develop Detroit, our team can create a project that will further enhance the Sugar Hill Arts District and contribute to the economic growth of the city of Detroit.” Comprised of 84 units and 7,000 square feet of commercial space, the project will cost $32 million. Notably, 25 percent of the units will be designated as affordable housing for residents making between 50 and 80 percent of the area’s median income. Units will include studios, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom layouts. The residential units and the commercial space will also be served by 300 parking spaces and green alleyways. Construction is tentatively expected to begin by September 2018, pending full city approval. Phil Freelon, design director at Perkins + Will is leading the design in partnership with Detroit-based McIntosh Poris Associates. "Our work in Detroit continues to be an exciting and energizing experience for me,” said Freelon in a press release. “I look forward to the Sugar Hill project and expanding our partnership with the city as we work to implement innovative strategies that contribute to Detroit’s resurgence.”