“City ‘til I Die” is the motto of the Detroit City Football Club (DCFC), a member of the National Premier Soccer League, the largest soccer league in the U.S. Now, the team is asking its fans to put their money where their motto is to help restore a historic neighborhood soccer stadium. DDFC is looking for a new home now that their fan base has outgrown their current home field, Cass Tech High School Stadium, just outside of downtown Detroit, “The success of the 2015 season saw us turning away people at the gates," DCFC co-owner Alex Wright said at the launch of the teams ambitious funding campaign. "It was a clear sign DCFC is ready to take the next step, and grow as an organization. Come spring of 2016, Keyworth Stadium will be the home field both our supporters and the residents of Hamtramck deserve.” The Keyworth Stadium Wright refers to is a small neighborhood stadium that is currently owned and used by the Hamtramck public school system. Hamtramck is a small city that is nearly completely surrounded by the city of Detroit, and sits five miles north of the downtown. The low concrete stadium sits directly in the neighborhood with small bungalows coming right up to its outer walls. As the first major Works Progress Administration (WPA) project in the Detroit area, Franklin D. Roosevelt was on hand to dedicate the stadium in October 1936. Now in great need of restoration, DCFC has an unorthodox plan to raise the needed funds to save the 80 year old stadium. Leveraging new state legislation, DCFC is looking to its fans to help finance the estimated $3 million it will take to fully rehabilitate Keyworth Stadium. Under the Michigan Invests Locally Exemption (MILE) Act, local businesses are able to receive investments from Michigan residents anywhere from $250 to $10,000. This means that individual fans are able to lend money to the team in order to move the stadium project forward. Investors will then be paid back with interest from team revenues. This model of fundraising is a stark contrast to how many sports teams use tax payer money to fund stadium projects, and DCFC is very proud of this. Wright points out, “On our way to saving history, Michigan residents will have the opportunity to make history, by joining us to complete what we believe to be the largest community-financed project in U.S. sports history." The funding project, run on MichiganFunders.com, is hoping to raise $750,000 to add to the team's own funds. Improvements to the stadium will include much needed structural reinforcement to the grandstands, new bathrooms, locker rooms, lights, and press box. A first phase to bring the stadium up to usable standards is expected to be complete by April 2016. When finished, the stadium will hold between 6,000 and 7,000 fans, which is more than double the capacity of the Cass Tech stadium.
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Detroit has joined 16 other cities designated by UNESCO as a City of Design as part of its Creative Cities Network. Detroit is the first U.S. city to be named a City of Design, and one of only five other cities in the U.S. to be inducted into the Creative Cities Network. Detroit’s application for inclusion in the UNESCO program was submitted by the Detroit Creative Corridor Center (DC3), the creative industries advocacy organization responsible for the Detroit Design Festival. Detroit has seen a renaissance in its downtown, as it draws on its own historical background as a city of design and manufacturing. According to DC3, “Metropolitan Detroit is home to the highest number of commercial and industrial designers in the country.” This results in the creative fields being the third largest employer in Detroit, only behind healthcare and general business, with over 12,300 individuals working in the creative fields. As part of the application DC3 produced a film with local director/filmmaker Stephen McGee to highlight the diverse breadth of the Detroit design scene. The short film includes scenes of the much talked about Detroit watch makers Shinola, the quickly revitalizing Detroit Riverfront, Detroit-based architecture firm LAAVU, and the much lauded College of Creative Studies, along with over 40 other architectural and design highlights from around the city. https://vimeo.com/140651533 Founded in 2004, the UNESCO Creative Cities Network’s goal is to “promote cooperation with and among cities that have identified creativity as a strategic factor for sustainable urban development.” Along with design UNESCO recognizes cities for six other fields including Crafts & Folk Art, Film, Gastronomy, Literature, Music and Media Arts. Detroit joins 116 other cities, including this year’s class of 47 cities from 33 countries, as part of the Creative Cities Network.
Farming Detroit: City considers expanding urban agriculture to include raising and slaughtering livestock
Adding to its normal population of lions and tigers, Detroit may be gaining a whole new demographic of furry inhabitants if proposed legislation passes in the spring allowing urban farmers to keep livestock in the city limits. In many American cities urban agriculture means community gardens set up in empty lots. Detroit is no exception in this respect, but things might be getting a little more rural soon in the Motor City. After a year-long initiative to discuss the potential of urban farming throughout urban centers in Michigan, new legislation may be put before the local government as early as next spring concerning urban agriculture. The issue at hand is a question of raising, breeding, and slaughtering livestock in city limits, greatly expanding the definition of urban agriculture. Currently keeping livestock in the city of Detroit is illegal. This has not stopped many from keeping chickens, ducks, and occasionally a few goats. Advocates of urban livestock point out the many advantages of urban agriculture, along with the addition of benefits that only come with keeping animals. Though community gardens have the capacity to produce no small amount of fresh vegetables, as well as providing a community developments space, livestock are able to produce meat, eggs, and milk, all while keeping overgrown abandoned lots trimmed through grazing. Opponents to the idea of keeping animals in the city cite concerns about health and safety of the public as well as the animals. With empty lots often strewn with litter, broken glass, or building ruins, some have concerns that animals will be in danger. Addressing the concerns of both sides of the issue was the task of an urban livestock working group set up in 2014. The 20-member urban livestock working group was formed specifically to discuss the possibility to allowing livestock in urban centers around Michigan. Cities such as Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti already allow limited livestock, and were used as examples by the group. Made up of state and local government representatives, farmers, environmentalists, and veterinarians, the group looked at economic, health and welfare, and land use issues. One of the pressing concerns of all sides of the discussion was the care of the animals. With many urbanites not familiar with raising and caring for animals, the future legislation is planned to have considerations for ensuring that animals are not neglected or mistreated. The legislation will also most likely set limits on the types and numbers of animals allowed. The large number of empty lots in Detroit, as well as in other post-industrial cities, have long been a discussion for urban planners hoping to revitalize blighted neighborhoods. With new ideas of how cities can define themselves through local production and self-sufficiency, many feel urban agriculture is a logical solution. And many also believe there is nowhere better than Detroit, a city built on production innovation, to experiment with an ancient occupation in new ways.
According to the American Public Transportation Association, a public transit advocacy group, there are more than 90 cities in the United States that are actively considering implementing streetcar systems. Of those 90, over a quarter are in the Midwest. Though all in different stages of planning, development, and construction, a handful are well underway, with service beginning as early as 2016. Kansas City and Cincinnati are both in the process of live testing their newly manufactured cars, while Milwaukee debates expanding its current plans. Though hundreds of cities across the country once had streetcars, by the 1960s most had been dismantled with the rise of the private automobile and public bus systems. The current renaissance of streetcar construction is often attributed to cities interested in bolstering downtown transit options, and encouraging more ecologically sustainable modes of transportation. Downtown Kansas City, Missouri, may be the first of the new Midwest streetcar lines to open in early 2016. Dubbed the RideKC Streetcar, the light blue electric trolleys will services a 2.2-mile street along Main St. The system will have four cars running between 16 stops for 18 hours a day. Similarly to streetcars of the past, electricity will be drawn from overhead wires. Unlike past services, the new cars will be wi-fi enabled and free to ride. This first leg of construction is being positioned as a first step in a much larger plan to link the entire Kansas City region with multi-model integrated transit system. Detroit’s new streetcar system will be unique in that it was masterminded by a private non-profit organization. The M-1 Rail, to open by 2017, draws on the economic power of small and large businesses along its route, philanthropic institutions, and a close tie with city government to realize a complex funding and administrative system for the public-private venture. At one point the project was envisioned to expand to a 9 mile route, with more involvement from regional transit partnerships. After multiple feasibility studies it was found that, for economic reason, the 3.3 mile current route was more viable, with possibilities of expansion in the near future. The path to building streetcar systems is often far from smooth. With resistance from state and local governments, it took Cincinnati voters electing new city councilors and rejecting multiple anti-rail ballot initiatives to realize their new transit system. With discussions starting in earnest in 2007 and construction starting in 2012, it will be nine years in the coming when the system finally opens in September 2016. The 3.6 mile loop will service the Over the Rhine neighborhood and the downtown, highlighting the original intent of the system to encourage development in both districts. The Over the Rhine neighborhood, a member of the National Register of Historic Places, has been experiencing a renaissance in the last 10 years, after decades of struggles with crime and declining population. In the case of Milwaukee’s streetcar project, set to open in 2018, the resistance has not been coming from the government as much as from a small group of vocal opponents, who have taken issue with the $124 million project. Though, with a recent failure of a petition to stop further expansion of the already approved first leg of the system, the opposition seems to have dried up. The majority of the funding for the Milwaukee Streetcar is coming from U.S. Department of Transportation grants and Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) Districts. The city and the federal government are betting on the street car to relieve vehicle congestion and pollution while raising property values along the route. Anticipating the rail’s impact on downtown Milwaukee, a 44-story residential tower by local architects Rinka Chung is planned to begin construction in 2016. The base of the project will integrate a streetcar stop along with shopping and office programs. Though it may have been 50 years since many U.S. cities have had street cars, the next five years will see large moves to reverse that situation. Along with KC, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Detroit, St. Louis, MO, and St.Paul, MN, are making moves to implement their own streetcar systems. With the rise of the suburbs and automobile travel often being blamed for the decline of the streetcar, it would seem that this new trend might be pointing towards yet another indicator of the tendencies of contemporary city dwellers. A greater environmental consciousness, neighborhood investment, and a shifted understanding of economic stability, define the values of a young population that streetcar systems across the Midwest, and the entire country, hope to leverage into success.
Detroit has begun the search for planners to envision new development along its East Riverfront of the Detroit River. Penned by the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy (DRFC) and the City of Detroit Planning and Development Department, a request for qualifications is now open until December 4th. The DRFC and the City are looking for multidisciplinary teams with experience in public/private partnerships, completed work of similar scope and scale, as well as an understanding of the immediate context. The ultimate goal of the City and the DRFC is to develop a district plan to stimulate mixed-use development by re-connecting the city to the river. With a growing density of residence in the downtown, public access to the river and new recreational space are a high priority for the nearly 400 acres to be developed. Recent success of the Detroit RiverWalk, as well as riverwalks in other urban centers, has helped to refocus city attention on downtown river areas. Along with economic benefits, ecological improvements are major part of the city’s redevelopment. The new plan will include improved public transit and bicycle access, as well as wetland areas and storm water retention infrastructure. The plan, to be implemented immediately, will comprise of outlines of Community Engagement, Land Use, Infrastructure, Market Assessment, and Stakeholder Engagement. The comprehensive nature of the plan will hope to address the growing needs of the downtown area that has recently seen a resurgence of interest from young residence. Despite past hardships, Detroit’s downtown has a 98 percent housing occupancy rate. With the increase in demand for housing has come an increase in demand for amenities. Along with the proposed developments, three miles of the river front have already been improved, and a planned bike share program may be launched as early as spring 2016. Restaurants, jobs, and cultural attractions have also added to the downtown's revitalization. This includes the $300 million renovation of the river front Cobo Convention Center. The deadline for the RFQ is December 4th, with interviews of shortlisted teams taking place before January 14th. The winning team will have 120 days starting in March 2016 to produce the report, working with the community and civic stakeholders.
Detroit will soon be joining the over 70 other U.S. cities with bike share programs. The 350-bike, 35-station system is on track to open in 2016, with recent monetary support from public and private sources. The Henry Ford Health System/Health Alliance Plan has agreed to three years of support with an undisclosed amount to help with the estimated $1 million annual operating cost. An additional $1 million has been awarded to the program by the Federal Highway Administration's Transportation Alternative Program Awards, offsetting a large portion of the $2 million startup costs. Despite its moniker as the Motor City, Detroit has had the fastest-growing bike ridership in the country over the last 15 years. Compiling data from the American Community Survey, the American League of Bicyclists found that Detroit’s bike ridership has grown by 403 percent since the year 2000. At the same time another study coordinated by Wayne State University investigated the feasibility of a bike share program in Detroit. That study, conducted in 2013, also presented an optimistic outlook on a bike share program, noting, “In particular [a bike share program] offers a means to strengthen connections between neighborhoods, complement existing and future transit services, serve as an amenity to both residents and visitors, and support the revitalization of Detroit.” That same study outlined a possible phased implementation as well as economic/administrative model for the program. It is from these suggestions that the city has settled on the 35 station initial launch, as well as its public/private funding of the system. The next steps will be to find a vendor and operator, which the report suggests should be a non-profit organization specifically set up for the program. Luckily for Detroit, there are now many precedents to follow in launching a bike share system. Cities like Philadelphia are providing models on which to base successful programs in cities historically dominated by car travel.
Dan Gilbert, billionaire founder of Quicken Loans and champion of downtown Detroit commercial real estate, last week announced he will buy the long-vacant 38-story Book Tower skyscraper and two other adjacent buildings on Washington Boulevard. The latest in a series of acquisitions for Gilbert sizable portfolio under Bedrock Real Estate Services, the buildings will cost about $30 million total, to be paid to Vancouver-based AKNO Properties. That's for the 1926 Book Tower, the 13-story Book Building and an adjacent 2-story community center. Read our Q+A with Gilbert’s real estate partner Jim Ketai here. The Detroit Free Press quoted Gilbert as saying he's planning "a game-changing, mixed-use development.” The tower and the Book Building have been vacant since 2009, and renovations are expected to cost more than $100 million.
Unmasking the Motor City: New mapping software by LOVELAND Technologies is helping to fight blight in Detroit
Detroit is in the midst of the single-largest tax foreclosure in American History. More than 60,000 foreclosed properties are clustered in the Motor City. The threat of eviction looms over remaining inhabitants and poses the larger long-term threat of a spike in homelessness. The root of the problem—unpaid property taxes—seems untenable when viewed alongside the resulting greater city-wide disaster. Auctions selling newly "vacated" houses—of which half are still occupied—for around $500 are becoming increasingly common. Any hope for a stab at renovating some of the vacant properties that litter the city, however, is outweighed by the uncertain outcome interested investors face at the prospect of having to devote their time and money to transforming blight-stricken zones into livable residences. Fortunately, public database LOVELAND Technologies has taken on the challenge of brightening Detroit's future. Founded by Jerry Paffendorf, LOVELAND started out by mapping tax-foreclosed and auctioned properties. The company took off when Detroit's Blight Task, founded by President Barack Obama, grew interested in LOVELAND's mission and hired them to map every property in the Motor City. LOVELAND Technologies has since developed into a team of employees located throughout Detroit, Michigan and the San Francisco Bay Area. The company's aim is simple; to put America online, "parcel by parcel." An app called “Blexting” gives the public a medium through which to record and publish information and photos regarding abandoned properties, while the more recent "Site Control" gives people the opportunity to create their own custom maps on Loveland Technologies through personal accounts at $30 monthly and group accounts at $10,000 yearly. Allowing the public to have access to information regarding tax foreclosures and blight that is often withheld by the government opens up the playing field to authorities and investors. The power to research and gain a deeper understanding of the planning and development that may be needed for a parcel is readily available at LOVELAND online. LOVELAND promotes the belief that giving the public the tools to become more informed is key to finding a solution for Detroit's blight. As the company propels itself further into action, we're hoping they're right.
There are few buildings as emblematic of the urban blight in Detroit as Michigan Central Station. That changed slightly this week, when new windows appeared in some of the historic building's vacant frames. FOX 2 reporter Jason Carr spotted the new fenestration earlier this week. Michigan Central Station's neoclassical entryway and mighty Beaux-Arts towers once welcomed rail passengers to Detroit like royalty, but the building has been empty since 1988. Manuel "Matty" Moroun owns the building through his company NBIT. Last year the company got permits for $676,000 of rehabilitation work, from installing new elevators to repairing the roof. Mlive reported that NBIT had invested more than $4 million on "security, preparation and interior improvements" on the building to date. A few new windows may be little solace for those hoping to mount a full restoration, which could cost $300 million. But as FOX 2 observed, some are happy anythings being done at all:
"I love it," said another passerby. "I want good things to happen here."
More than 50 years after its construction, the single-largest collection of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's built work is now a national landmark. The National Park Service on Tuesday designated Detroit's Lafayette Park its 2,564th National Historic Landmark, validating the efforts of the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office, which began the documentation and nomination process in 2012. Quinn Evans Architects of Ann Arbor led those efforts as part of the preservation group's Michigan Modern Project. A collection of buildings in the now-ubiquitous International Style, Lafayette Park first cut its steel-and-glass silhouette across the Detroit skyline in 1959 with the completion of the Pavilion Apartments. More structures followed, including some which still command high rents today. As reports the Detroit Free Press:
The two-story Mies Townhouses are some of the more desirable pieces of real estate in Detroit, routinely fetching $150,000-$200,000 a pop for the three-bedroom, one-and-a-half bath units. The twin Lafayette Towers were added to the skyline in 1963. There are also a number of other buildings in the development designed by other architects, though they all follow Mies' lead.The buildings received their landmark status in part for their racial integration—a rare example of urban renewal done right, according to Ruth Mills, architectural historian for Quinn Evans. Again, the Free Press' Dan Austin:
Indeed, U.S. Rep. "Charles Diggs, (Judge) Wade McCree, Judge George Crockett and others all lived in Lafayette Park," said Ken Coleman, an author and expert on black history in Detroit. "Even Berry Gordy had a condo there by 1965."
The implosion of an historic Detroit hotel on Saturday helped clear the way for a $650 million hockey arena that developers say will more than pay for itself in economic ripple effects, but critics see the demolition as the latest casualty of an ill-conceived scheme receiving public financing. The Red Wings will skate in a new arena slated to open in September 2017, the team and owner Mike Ilitch announced last year with splashy renderings and a pledge to "stabilize and develop dozens of underutilized blocks, create more jobs more quickly, and allow the city to spend public funds on other priorities.” But coming just weeks after Detroit became the largest city to declare bankruptcy in U.S. history, the Red Wings' management came under fire for their plan to use $283 million in public money (mostly in the form of tax increment financing). Vacant since 2003, the 13-story Park Avenue Hotel apparently stood in the way of the new arena's loading dock. Designed by Louis Kamper and completed in 1924, the Park Avenue Hotel was demolished over the weekend, its collapse captured in the drone video above. Since its glory days as a symbol of glitz in ascendant Detroit, the hotel had become a senior housing center and later a rehab facility. Locals gathered to bid the building farewell, reports the Detroit Free-Press. Meanwhile the public financing of arenas including the Red Wings' has sparked debate about whether wealthy private interests need such incentives from cash-strapped municipalities and states. The same day Detroit leveled the Park Avenue Hotel, late-night comedian John Oliver ridiculed the taxpayer funding of sports arenas on HBO, calling out the Red Wings and Ilitch in particular. The Red Wings responded today with a statement, saying "This project is about so much more than a world-class sports and entertainment arena; it's about transforming a core part of our city for the benefit of the entire community.” They did not, however, address Oliver's disdain for Little Caesars pizza, which Ilitch founded.
Detroit's 90,000 vacant homes and residential lots have proven to be fertile ground for artistic exploration, giving rise to verdant floral installations and canvases for sought-after graffiti artists. Now architects and artists from The D and beyond hope to turn an abandoned property at 1620 Morrell Street into something truly surprising. Dubbed House Opera | Opera House, the project aims to turn a decrepit, 2,000-square-foot house into a public performance space “where Detroiters could tell stories through music,” according to a Mitch McEwen, the project's principal architect. She spoke to WDET for their story, “From Blight to Stage Right”:
It evolved from a small group of artists in New York to a large group of folks across the country … neighbors have started to talk about performances or people in their families who perform that might get involved. And so we've really expanded from an immediate, emergency kind of dialogue to one that's about culture and talent that's already in the neighborhood, and how it can have a stage there at the House Opera.McEwen bought the two-story home for just $1,200 in a public auction, paid off its delinquent property taxes, and got to work raising money for its second act. So far the project has received financial support from Graham Foundation, Knight Foundation, Taubman College – University of Michigan, and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, as well as numerous individual benefactors including Mark Gardner, Theaster Gates and Dr. Larry Weiss.