Saturday, July 30, 2005

Score Another Point for the Riverfront!

With miles of riverfront and one of the busiest international waterways in the world, it's hard to believe that Detroit's residents and neighbors have lived so many years with such little access to actually enjoy the Detroit riverfront.

Since 2000, the
Detroit Riverfront Conservancy (DRFC) has diligently been working to change that, and the passing of a federal transportation bill last Friday - which promises an additional $29 million in funding for the western riverfront and $3 million for the eastern side - gives the non-profit group the extra support it needs to continue moving forward with its riverfront projects, mainly the creation of a RiverWalk from the MacArthur Bridge at Belle Isle to the Ambassador Bridge, one of two main connectors between Detroit and Windsor.

Designed after the bustling and popular riverfront pathways that can be seen in cities like New York, San Francisco, and Chicago, Detroit's RiverWalk is being designed by the renowned architectural firm SmithGroup, whose vision calls for a 62-foot-wide walkway that will easily allow visitors to comfortably enjoy the RiverWalk experience. More than fifty-percent of the eastern phase of the project is expected to be completed by the end of 2005, and the timeline for the western phase calls for completion in 2007.

sales of land parcels along the riverfront, as well as the DRFC's acquisitions of key pieces of land close to the RiverWalk's projected path continue to garner interest from area developers, who foresee the need for additional residential and commercial establishments that a large project like the RiverWalk is likely to bring.

Visit the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy's
website for more information.

Have a question or comment on this post? I'd love to hear from you! E-mail me at

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

View Ford Field from an Insider's Prospective

Ever wonder what it would be like to run out of the tunnel at a professional football game? Thanks to the friendly people over at Ford Field, you have the chance to stop dreaming about it and actually do it!

Although unbeknownst to many, public tours of the three-year-old facility - which include that coveted tunnel visit - are offered twice a day, every Monday through Friday, at 11 am and 1 pm.

Arrive fifteen minutes early and be prepared to catch some rare glimpses of areas in the stadium that are accessible only to players, coaches, and VIPs during regular games, like the official locker room or the luxury suites. You'll also get a chance to walk on the field's turf, and imagine the stadium through the eyes of a professional athlete.

Lasting approximately one hour, public tours of Ford Field cost $7 for adults and $5 for seniors and children over age four. Kids five and under are free.

Visit Ford Field's website for more information on public tours, event hosting, and photos of the stadium.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

The Park Shelton

Located on Woodward just north of the DIA, lies The Park Shelton - another glorious Detroit structure brimming with grand memories and a bright, new future.

Below is a brief history of the building, and some details on its recent conversion from rental units to condominiums:

Created in 1926 by the architectural firm Harley & Ellington - the team that is also responsible for designing Stroh's Brewery and the Horace Rackham Building - The Park Shelton is located in Detroit's Midtown district at the corner of Kirby and Woodward.

The building's lobby

A gorgeous 12-story structure, The Park Shelton was designed in the popular Art-Deco style of the era, and nicely compliments area-buildings like the Detroit Public Library and Kahn's Maccabees Building.

Originally named the Wardell Apartment Hotel, after Fred Wardell, founder of Detroit's Eureka Vacuum Cleaning Company, the 650-room building was also called the Wardell Sheraton Hotel and The Sheraton Hotel before it finally adopted The Park Shelton name.

A view from one of the units

When it was originally created, the building was an apartment-hotel - a term that has largely become extinct in the United States today - and served to provide a place for traveling actors, artists, and other individuals to stay for extended periods of time, usually a month or more. One of The Park Shelton's most famous guests, Diego Rivera, lived at the hotel for nearly a year while working on his murals at the Detroit Institute of Arts. His wife, Frida Kahlo, also spent time in The Park Shelton during her husband's stay in Detroit. Its close proximity to the DIA surely wasn't Rivera's only reason for residing there, though; other famous guests like Bob Hope, George Burns, and Raymond Burr also used
The Park Shelton as temporary homesteads in the city.

As society evolved and the need for apartment-hotels like The Park Shelton declined, the building's purpose shifted from its original use to one that provided permanent rental housing to individuals living in the community. Composed of a diverse mix of tenants representing Midtown's medical, academic, artistic, and technological communities, The Park Shelton's rooms served as rental properties until August 2004, when three area developers formed a partnership to renovate and transform the building into luxury condominiums.

Featuring a variety of floor plans, The Park Shelton's $15 million renovation allowed many of the property's original details to be restored, such as its fireplaces (seen below), and original hardwood floors and molding.

Some of the amenities of the newly-refinished condos include standard features like stainless-steel kitchen appliances, mosaic tile, granite countertops, in-unit washers and dryers, high-speed internet access, and original ceramic tile and refinished deep-soaking tubs in the bathrooms of all of the units.

And, if all of that isn't enough, The Park Shelton also offers substantial extras like a 24-hour concierge and door attendant; a private, secured parking garage (currently under construction); an on site dry-cleaner; a sauna and fitness area; a rooftop solarium; and, a sundeck.

Units in The Park Shelton are priced under $100,000 for studios, and between $100,000 and $300,000 for one- and two-bedroom units, respectively. The Park Shelton's Sales Center is open daily from 11 am - 6 pm.

Please visit for more information or call Juliette Johnson - the very friendly and helpful sales associate that escorted my fiance and I through some of the models - at 313.872.PARK.

Have a question or comment on this post? I'd love to hear from you! E-mail me at

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Construction on new Como's begins in downtown Detroit

Woodward Avenue in downtown Detroit is set to have another new tenant this winter.

Como's Pizzeria, Inc., the company that owns Como's Restaurant and Pizzeria in Ferndale, recently began construction on a second restaurant, which will be located at 1550 Woodward Avenue in Detroit.

The new Como's eatery will have a 4,000-square-foot ground floor and a 2,000-square-foot deck above it. The project is estimated to cost about $1 million.

Dining at the Ferndale Como's is kind of like Arnold's Restaurant on Happy Days, except with more Italian accents; it's that classic, 1950s-style family eatery, complete with the tall, chrome pizza stands and green and white patio awnings.

Although Como's does offer burgers and a multitude of other deep-fried appetizers, it is most popular for its pizzas and pastas, which range from about $7 - $25.

The new Detroit Como's is scheduled to open in January, 2006.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Eighty-year old historic Detroit hotel to be revamped

Last Friday, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) announced its support for the restoration of Detroit's Eddystone Hotel, an 80-year old structure located in the Detroit's Midtown area.

The Hotel Eddystone was designed by Louis Kamper

The MEDC has approved a $641,000 brownfield SBT (thanks, Brian) to assist with the costs of refurbishing the 13-story building, which will be redeveloped into approximately 60 condominium units. The project's developer, Eddystone Development, LLC, will put up $6.4 million of private funds for the Eddystone, which will also include two 2,000-square foot retail areas on the ground floor.

Retail areas will also be incorporated into the redevelopment

Set to open in Spring of 2006, the single-story loft-style condos will be built as either one- or two-bedroom units, and will range from 875- to 1500-square feet. Prices are estimated to run from about $135,000 to $195,000.

In addition to the proposed internal upgrades to the building, the MEDC's press release on the subject notes that its exterior and the areas immediately surrounding it will also be redeveloped.

Visit the University Cultural Center Association's website for more information on the numerous projects and developments currently underway in Midtown.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Concert of Colors this Weekend

Free event showcases music of diverse entertainers

This weekend marks Detroit's thirteenth annual Concert of Colors, a three-day festival celebrating the rich culture of the D through the sounds of musicians from all over the world.

This year's event - which is sponsored by ACCESS and New Detroit - offers an array of different musical groups representing various genres - Afro-Latin, bluegrass, dance, and jazz are a few varieties that will be performed this weekend. Hailing from places as far away as Zimbabwe and Brazil, and as close as Canada and Ann Arbor, each of the concert's 35 musical acts brings its own distinct sound to the stages of the summertime event.

This year's Concert of Colors will once again be held at Chene Park; however, for the first time in its history, the event will kick off its first night, which is tonight, at the Max M. Fisher Music Center. Performances last from 6:00 -11:00 pm in both the Music Box and Orchestra Hall, and begin at Chene Park tomorrow at 2:30 pm and run until 10:15 pm. Sunday's performances will also be at Chene Park, but begin at 1:45 pm and end at 10:30 pm. Please click here for a complete schedule of performances, show times and stages.

ACCESS, the Arab Community Center for Economic Development, is a non-profit organization that was created in metro Detroit in 1972. Its main purpose is to assist the region's large Arab American population with the unique economic, social, and cultural issues they face living in Detroit.

New Detroit, Inc., is a non-profit organization composed of leaders from a variety of area businesses, social and civic programs, grass roots groups, educational institutions, and religious organizations whose mission encompasses many areas - to uncover social and cultural distress within the community; to foster and promote positive cultural experiences; and, to serve as advocates and liaisons for Detroit's cultural environment. New Detroit, Inc., was established by J.L. Hudson almost 40 years ago in response to the fragile social and cultural environments of Detroit in the late 1960s.

For more information on the Concert for Colors, visit:

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Spotlight on: Detroit's Maccabees Building

Although he is best-known for his design of the highly-acclaimed Fisher Building in Detroit's New Center area, the architectural mark left by German-born architect Albert Kahn can be seen in several places throughout Detroit. The Maccabees Building - located on Woodward at Putnam - is one such place.

The front of the Maccabees Building

Created originally for the Maccabees, a fraternal society that moved from London to Detroit in the late 1800s, the 14-story structure is exemplary of Kahn's no-nonsense commercial design style.

A View of the building from the opposite corner of Woodward and Putnam

Although initially created as a headquarters for the Maccabees, the structure was also home to one of Detroit's first radio stations, WXYZ. Coincidentally, the radio station was also the birthplace of the Lone Ranger, which was broadcast live three days a week from WXYZ's offices in the building.

The intricacies of the main arch around the building's entryway exude the Art Deco style and Romanesque details Kahn incorporated

The Maccabees left the building in 1960 and moved to Southfield, MI, but Kahn's limestone beauty did not stay empty for long; the Midtown building became the headquarters of the Detroit Public Schools that same year. DPS called the structure home until 2002, when it moved to the New Center area.

In 2003, Wayne State University purchased the Maccabees Building - along with two other area structures - for $9.2 million. Shortly after taking ownership, WSU hired Chezcore, Inc., to repair a portion of the building's limestone exterior, which was replaced with panels from the same Indiana quarry as the originals.

Today the building is home to WSU's Office of Records and Registration, as well as five of the university's departments - English, African Studies, Philosophy, Women's Studies, and Humanities. There have been rumors that another Au Bon Pain, like the one at Campus Martius Park, will be opening in the building next year.

Have a question or comment on this post? I'd love to hear from you! E-mail me at

All photographs were taken by Jaime Halaas unless otherwise noted

Monday, July 11, 2005

Whitlock's ESPN article packs a positive punch for Detroit

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Since beginning this blog last August, I cannot tell you how many times I have come across negative articles and news stories about Detroit. If I had to make a conservative estimate, I would say that I see at least one per day; other times, though, there are two or three dozen in a day.

Whether the story is on the local news or one written on Yahoo! Sports, it never gets any easier to read or hear the negative, stereotypical comments that seem to stick to Detroit like Velcro. This is a city that has made significant progress in the last decade, yet continues to suffer regular beatings by the media.

The pain I feel when reading articles or hearing news stories that point out all the "wrongs" of Detroit doesn't lesson or get any easier for me; but, it does make reading articles like this one - written by Jason Whitlock, a sports writer with The Kansas City Star - much sweeter.

Thank you, Mr. Whitlock, for your awesome article on the Detroit sports scene and for being one of the few in the media with the integrity, maturity, and guts to admit that ragging on Detroit may be the easy thing to do, but it isn't necessarily the best, or most truthful, thing to do.

Detroiters: if you only read one article this week, I urge you to make it this

Have a question or comment on this post or my blog? I welcome your input! E-mail me at

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Detroit's All-Star Weekend

Get ready Detroiters: All-Star mania is upon us.

With a mere 5 days until the 2005 All-Star Game, big-game fever has already begun taking hold of the D.

For weeks, small signs of baseball's midsummer soiree have been emerging. We've had city-wide cleanups. We've seen banners go up on downtown lampposts and the emergence of bold, red billboards with game-day countdowns. And, just recently, we watched as a massive baseball graphic was placed on the side of GM's World Headquarters at the Ren Cen. Tomorrow morning, the fun finally begins.

Check out some of the star-studded events happening this weekend, only in downtown Detroit:

John Hancock All-Star FanFest:

In its 15th year providing entertainment for the All-Star Game, this all-ages fan spectacular is the world's largest baseball event and will feature more than 30 attractions that are sure to satisfy the entire family. Get autographs from famous-name players, evaluate your batting and pitching skills in the video cages, talk about your game with MLB coaches and umps, or pose for your very own Major League Baseball card. All-Star FanFest begins tomorrow morning and runs through Tuesday at Cobo Hall. Tickets are $16 for adults, and $11 for members of the military, seniors (65 years and older), and children ages 2-12. Kids 2 and under get in free.

Taco Bell All-Star Sunday:

If the All-Star Fan Fest isn't enough to satisfy your baseball fancy, have no fear - Sunday is jam-packed with even more opportunities to do just that. Starting at 4 pm, Comerica Park plays host to the All-Star Futures Game - an annual contest that pits the best minor league players from the United States against the league's best international players. Get roster information, buy tickets, or find out more about this event

Last, but not least, Detroit's All-Star weekend festivities end with a bang on Sunday night at the annual Legends and Celebrities Softball Game. Featuring baseball greats like Ozzie Smith, Willie Hernandez, Bo Jackson, and Dave Winfield, this year's game is sure to be another fan favorite.

And that's just the weekend! Monday is the Home Run Derby and Tuesday is the All-Star Game - Detroit is set for a week of fun.

For more information on Fan Fest, Taco Bell All-Star Sunday, or the Legends and Celebrities Softball Game, visit Also check out my fellow-blogger's Tigers site at - he has some great tips on parking, information on a FanFest BBQ, and more.

Have a question or comment on this post? I'd love to hear from you! E-mail me at

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Local Filmmaker Shines Spotlight on Detroit

I have always enjoyed watching movies that are filmed in Detroit.

Whether it's seeing Chin Tiki or the old Michigan Theater garage in Eminem's runaway-hit 8 Mile, or catching a glimpse of familar Eastside streets in the '99 Soderbergh remake of Out of Sight, a movie filmed in the D seems to evoke a sense of pride in me; it's kind of like watching your child score the winning goal at a soccer game, except instead of smiling and saying, "Yes, that's my son," I smile and say, "Yes, that's my city".

Given my love for all things Detroit, you can probably imagine, then, the utter joy I experienced last week when I learned that the individual I was talking with at the time was involved in a Detroit film project of his own. Here's a little bit of what I uncovered about it, and links to further information on it:

Created and produced by Detroit's Prince Igor Productions, the film is a documentary that focuses on one of the D's most beloved structures: the Book-Cadillac Hotel.

A view of the Book-Cadillac Hotel from the corner of
Washington Boulevard and Grand River

Although the film's creator, Frank Nemecek, didn't go into depth with me about the specifics of his movie, I imagine that it'll include some shots of the once-glorious hotel's insides (which are heart-wrenching, to say the least), as well as some little known information he uncovered while researching the mammoth 1200-room structure, which was once frequented by the likes of Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn, Harry Truman, and John F. Kennedy.

A picture of downtown Detroit that I took last year.
The Book-Cadillac Hotel is the highlighted building on the far right.

Of course, I am sure the film is made up of much more than those two things, but that's all I can offer you for now. Well, that, and a small preview.

If all goes as planned, though, you'll be able to find out all of what Frank uncovered in his
Book-Cadillac studies sometime during late August or early September, when he plans to show the documentary at the Detroit Film Theater.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Happy Fourth of July, Detroit!

It's been a fun and busy weekend, so, instead of writing a post tonight, I am giving you some of my pictures from this year's Freedom Festival Fireworks show instead. I hope you enjoy them. Please feel free to e-mail your comments or suggestions to me at

Happy Independence Day!

Boats on the Detroit River await the show

These were worth the wait!

A view from the top floor of the Book Tower

Comerica Park during the show