Friday, December 31, 2004

Unusually Mild Temps in Detroit today

Detroit River, looking at Belle Isle

No, you're not dreaming, really is 58 degrees outside right now. And the picture for this post was actually taken this afternoon when I ventured out to the edge of the riverfront on this unusual, but welcomed, mild December day.

Although today's high temp in the D hit 61 degrees, it wasn't high enough to qualify as a record-breaker. According to the National Weather Service forecast office, the Motor City hit 68 degrees one day during December 1998.

One thing I can say about today, though, is if today's weather is any indication of the year ahead for Detroit, I must say: it's lookin' great.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Celebrate New Year's Eve at Belle Isle


It's time once again for Belle Isle's annual four-mile run/1-mile walk celebration. Taking place on the afternoon of New Year's Eve for the past 35 years, the event is currently run by Jeanne Bocci, an avid supporter of running events who has been directing the race since it began. (A cool side note: Bocci was the first Michigan woman to run the Boston Marathon in 1974 and she and her husband, Jerry, recently completed their lofty goal of participating in a run/race-walk event in each of the 50 states plus D.C.)

Festivities for this year's event begin on East Jefferson at the U.S. Marine Corps. Armory training center at 3:00 pm., followed by a race warm-up at 3:15 pm. The one-mile walk begins at 3:30 pm, followed by the run at 4:00 pm - the fitness and race-walks begin at 4:05 pm.

Articles in both the Free Press and News estimated that 1,000 runners will come out for the event.
The cost of the race is $25 for adults and $15 for kids 12 and under.

Contact (313) 886-5560 for more information.

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Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Detroit is Serious in Fight Against Blight

Detroit unveiled a promising step in its fight against blight this morning - it announced the creation of a new department whose sole existence is to stop dumpers and neglectful property owners from dirtying the city.

The new action team - named the Department of Administrative Hearings - will open its doors Tuesday, January 4, 2005, and will begin exercising its new authority: hunting down property owners of below-code residences and buildings, as well as the infamous dumpers of the Motor City, and bringing civil penalties against them.

With the power to fine violators up to $10,000 for each infraction, the Department of Administrative Hearings has made it clear that Detroit will no longer put up with blight. Those served with blight notices will be required to attend a scheduled hearing in front of the department sometime 14-30 days after being given the notice. Those violators that choose to ignore notices will then be considered default.

Although the department has yet to open, this article in today's Free Press online edition quoted the department's director as estimating the number of hearings per year at 70,000. Currently, the number of blight violators that are prosecuted is approximately 50 per month, or 600 per year. The current system criminally prosecutes violators and is the responsibility of the Detroit Police Department.

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Monday, December 27, 2004

Detroit Skyscrapers

Downtown Detroit, 2004

I took the above picture a few months ago when I lived on the 25th floor of an apartment building right in the heart of downtown Detroit. From the far right is the Renaissance Center, and next to it is One Detroit Center, also known as the Comerica Building. One Detroit Center is partly covered by the tall, slim reddish-orange David Stott building. The other reddish-orange building in the back is the Guardian building. The tall, tiered building to its right is the Penobscot. The large building that is sideways in the photo is the Book-Cadillac hotel.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Real Detroit Weekly Recognizes Bookies

Bookies Tavern - my favorite bar to kick back and relax at in the D - is profiled this week in Real Detroit Weekly's, "Raise the Bar" column.

I started frequenting Bookies a few months after its opening in July 2003, and knew that it was destined for Detroit success - so I am ecstatic that its finally getting the nods it deserves.

If you haven't yet been to this 1920s themed bar, I urge you to check it out - its located at the corner of Washington Boulevard and Grand River in the fabulous Book Tower. You can learn more about the venue, as well as nightly specials and live music line-ups in this week's issue of Real Detroit Weekly. Although RD Weekly's website is under temporary construction, you can snag a copy at numerous locations throughout the Metro Detroit area, including most restauarants, libraries, local bookstores and bars. While you're at it, check out the bar's website:

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Give Yourself the Gift of Detroit History

Have some time off this holiday season? Instead of wasting it away in front of the television watching reruns or A Christmas Story ten times, why not take a short drive to Detroit's fabulous Historical Museum and spend the day immersed in Detroit history and culture.

The Detroit Historical Museum has several exhibits of interest, including:

American Icons: Detroit Designs, which pays homage to Detroit designers such as Euro Saarinen, reponsible for designing the famed Gateway Arch in St. Louis, and Minoru Yamasaki, the metro Detroit man responsible for designing the World Trade Center.

Frontiers to Factories, an exhibit that examines 164 years of life in Detroit, beginning with its founding in 1701.

Motor City, a permanent DHM project that examines the influences the automobile had on Detroit and that Detroit had on the automobile. A must-see for anyone that claims to be from the Motor City.

Enterprising Women, a touring exhibit that examines two and a half decades of women that played significant roles in shaping American business. Although this exhibit profiles 40 women from across the country, two of the profiled women have Detroit roots: one is Mary Stratton, founder of Pewabic Pottery; the other is Brownie Wise, the Detroit woman that created the idea of Tupperware parties. In addition, several local business and non-profit organizations - including Ford Motor Company, Style Magazine, WJR, Crain's Detroit Business, Greater Detroit's Chapter of National Association of Women Business Owners and Detroit's Women's Economic Club - provided funding to create the local exhibit, "With Style and Service: Detroit's Enterprising Women". "With Style" examines the lives of six Detroit business women that played integral roles in the area's business development.

The Detroit Historical Museum is open Tuesday - Friday from 9:30 am - 5:00 pm, Saturday from 10:00 am - 5:00 pm and Sunday from 11:00 am - 5:00 pm. Adult tickets are $5 each ,and students, youth and senior citizens pay just $3. Children under four and Detroit Historical Society members pay no charge to visit the museum. Every Wednesday, the museum runs a special in which all tickets are just $1.

The museum is located on Woodward Avenue at Kirby in Detroit's Cultural District, near Wayne State University, the DIA and the Detroit Public Library. More information on museum membership, volunteer opportunities and future exhibits can be found on the DHM's website at

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Central United Methodist Church

Central United Methodist Church, located on Adams and Woodward

Sitting on the northern border of Grand Circus Park, Detroit's Central United Methodist is probably one of the most highly recognizable establishments in Detroit because of its close proximity to Comerica Park and Ford Field, as well as its visibility from I-75.

Although many people can recognize the beautiful Gothic Revival-style church, however, did you know that it has been around since 1867? How about that it is the oldest continuing Methodist church in Michigan?

Designed by the prominent 19th century Michigan architect Gordon W. Lloyd, Central United Methodist was placed on Michigan's Historic registry in 1977 and on the national registry in 1982.

So, the next time you're at a ball game or come downtown to see a show at The Fox, take a moment to appreciate this beauty that has survived all of Detroit's ups and downs and still remains a strong part of the city's landscape.

Friday, December 17, 2004

GM Dedicates Riverfront Plaza and Promenade

Behind its headquarters in the Renaissance Center today, General Motors dedicated the first section of Detroit's Riverwalk, a $500 million project that will create a pedestrian-friendly path between Detroit's Belle Isle and Ambassador bridges.

Today's unveiling, which is being called the Renaissance Center's plaza and promenade, features rows of well-maintained trees, sitting areas and a fountain that children can run through. It was made possible by a $25 million donation from General Motors.

Today's dedication marks the first in a series of phases for the $500 Riverwalk development which, when completed, will span nearly six miles. The Riverwalk project is headed by Detroit's Riverfront Conservancy, a non-profit organization created in 2002 to supervise the development of and maintain the riverwalk. More detailed information about the conservancy and its planning, organizational structure and vision can be found on its website at

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Detroit's Renaissance Center

Renaissance Center

It's tall and modern-looking, almost like something out of the Jetsons. It's the beautiful Renaissance Center, located on Detroit's east riverfront and shining magnificently in this picture I took a few weeks ago from Campus Martius.

Built in the early 1970s to help Detroit recover from the devastating population flight it experienced during the latter decade, the Ren Cen - as it is commonly known - was funded by five organizations that contributed a combined $350 million to the project.

Considered the biggest project ever undertaken by the city of Detroit, the Renaissance Center's slim design and glass exterior was not without its critics; in fact, many architects and designers publicly ridiculed the buildings, calling them such things as "horribly designed glass towers that separate the riverfront from the city".

Their critiques, however, did not stop the popularity of the unique project, which was purchased in 1996 by General Motors and made into the automaker's world headquarters.

Detroit's love affair with the Renaissance Center has continued to this day, apparent by the building's newest tenants, which include EDS, Julian Scott, Brooks Brothers and many others.

Monday, December 13, 2004

St. John's in Detroit to Expand

During the next five years, the area at Moross and Mack in Detroit will see a large development: 288,000 square feet, to be exact. That's because, a few days ago, the occupant of the land - St. John Hospital and Medical Center - announced plans to add on a $141 million hospital tower and a $15 million emergency department addition.

The expansion, which will take place over the next five years, will raise the number of private rooms by 144 and will double the current size of the emergency department.

Funding for the project will come from a mixture of the sources, including part of the hospital's retained earnings; a bond offering through its parent company, Ascension Health; and, private donations.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Shady Welcomes You

Today while I was driving home, I noticed a really cool billboard that said, "Welcome to the D". Sure, it' a simple phrase, but it really stood out as I was rounding up the exit from 96 to 94 East. I am not sure how long it's been there because this is a new route for me, but it's a really cool- looking sign. It's set on an all-black billboard and has a type-style similar to some of the graffiti that can be seen around town. Oh, and not to mention that it came from our hometown hero, Eminem, and his friends at Shady Records. I was so struck by it when I saw it that I immediately started to think of a way that I could take a picture of it to upload to my blog. Although, I'll have to investigate that more the next few times I pass it because it is located on a very sharp turn and might not be possible...

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Detroit Public Schools to Receive Help from Governor's Team

Yesterday, Michigan's governor, Jennifer Granholm, announced a plan that could enable the struggling Detroit Public School system to get a grip on its spiraling debt problems.

The district, which is currently $48 million in the red, has been run by a state-appointed Board for the last four years. Under its supervision, numerous complaints from DPS students and their parents have been made, citing crowded classrooms and a lack of textbooks for pupils. More recently, the public learned of the massive deficit that the Board has created during the short time it has been overseeing the school district.

After shooting down the highly-controversial Proposal E in the November election, Detroit citizens have made it clear that they want the power of the district to rest with a school board that they elect. However, with such a large deficit, as well as the negative track record of previous boards, Granholm has been thrust into a difficult situation. Unfortunately, the situation has gotten uglier by the day; just recently, the state's Superintendent of Instruction called upon DPS to submit two- and five-year action plans for alleviating its financial crisis, both of which are due at the end of this calendar year.

With compliance deadlines looming and a loyal public looking for her support, the governor has been forced to examine alternative measures that could assist the district in meeting its goals, while not snatching away the citizens' desire to elect its own board. Yesterday afternoon in a public press conference, Granholm announced one of these alternatives: to create a special team to assist the district during its time of need.

Although she was vague in reference to possible team members, the governor did make it clear that she envisions a team of experts made up of individuals from a broad array of professions.

Granholm also noted that she is seeking flexibility with the December 31 deadline that Tom Watkins, Michigan's Superintendent of Instruction, imposed for receipt of the district's two- and five-year budget plans. She also added that refinancing the district's debt is an option to create immediate cash flow, although she does not believe that it will be a long-term solution.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

You're Too Much, Readers!

When I started out doing this blog a few months ago, I had no idea the response I would receive from family and friends - not to mention complete strangers. It is so cool when I log into my e-mail and have a message from someone in the Detroit area - or somewhere on the other side of the country - that happened upon my blog and took the action to write me a quick note about it.

Along similar lines, you may have noticed that my old blog address,, is no longer in commission. My decision to change the address was prompted by two things. First, I have had some issues lately with my personal information getting into the wrong hands; therefore, I am safeguarding these possessions by any means possible, which includes axing my old blog address. Second, after blog-writing for almost three months, I feel that now is a good time to begin improvements on Girl in the D - thus far, my blog is only in "rough draft mode". To get it to the next level, I have been examining - on a large scale - what is good about it and what is not so good. At the top of that list is a goal to have the entire blog more focused on information relevant to Detroit. Therefore, having the blog address as my own name was one of the first things that needed changing.

Check back often to see if I am keeping up with my goal. And, of course, please feel free to e-mail me any comments or suggestions you have - I love to hear outside opinions.



Monday, December 06, 2004

Statler Hotel Saved From Destruction...for Now

A round of applause goes to the Friends of the Book-Cadillac Hotel and its supporters, who were successful in staving off the go-ahead for the destruction of the once-popular Statler hotel, which is located on Washington Boulevard in the Grand Circus Park area.

The hotel, which has stood vacant since 1975, was approved for demolition in May 2004 by the Detroit Historic Commission after no serious buying inquisitions were made following a $4.1 million clean-up of the property. Detroit's development office publicly stated that demolishing the hotel would be the most cost-effective method for the land area the Statler sits on, although demolition figures have not been released.

Friends of the Book-Cadillac and other preservationists filed a restraining order against the city, which was granted by Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Wendy Baxter. The restraining order is in effect for two weeks - at that time, the city will go before her in an attempt to appeal her decision.

The Statler hotel was built during 1914 and opened its doors the following year. Each of the original 800 guest rooms featured a private bath - a unique feature the Statler was proud to offer at the time. Later that year, the popularity of the Statler paved the way for an addition - a wing with 200 rooms - bringing the total number of rooms to one thousand.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Newly Opened Detroit Hospital for the Mentally Ill

When I first read about the construction of Circle of Life, a behavioral hospital set to open its doors in 2004 in downtown Detroit, I have to admit: I was more than a little skeptical.

Beginning in 1991, Michigan's government
fought to close (yes, you read that right) the state's 12 mental hospitals. In what it deemed as the best way to "bring the deficit down", the government, led by John Engler, succeeded as the last mental hospital in Metro Detroit - located in Northville - closed its doors. Luckily, Engler ran into a little road block called term limits, and Jennifer Granholm - the newly-elected governor - created a task force on mental health just weeks after she took office.

Mentally ill adults and children, though, were still confronted with the fact that the only available public mental health care available in Metro Detroit was the Walter P. Reuther Psychiatric Hospital in Westland for adults, or Hawthorne Center in Livonia for children.

Considering that the majority of seriously mentally ill people do not have the ability nor conscientiousness about their disease or condition to get themselves to a mental hospital (take a walk or drive around downtown Detroit and you'll see quite a few mentally ill people haphazardly walking the streets), it is absolutely
absurd to believe that they would be able to get to Walter Reuther Hospital - a 30-minute drive from downtown. They cannot really go to ER's anymore, either; the decade of downsizing of mental hospitals in Metro Detroit has caused an increase of 45% in the number of mentally ill patients going to the ER departments of public hospitals. As a result of this increase, there are now increased waiting times, errors in diagnosis, and many more negative effects. So, basically, at the end of 2002, our mental health system was under suffering severely.

But then, almost out of nowhere, an investor decided to buy the old Saratoga Hospital on Gratiot, which he planned to turn into an office building. However, in a surprising and awesome turn of events, he met someone (a clinical psychologist) who explained the lack of mental health care in Detroit and the need for more facilities. And, almost like that, the plan for Circle of Life,
the first behavioral hospital to open in Detroit in 30 years - was conceived. Check back tomorrow for detailed information on Circle of Life and how it is making the city of Detroit a better place.