Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Cass Tech Changing...again

New Cass Tech high school

In yesterday's post, I gave some information about Cass Tech high school, a fantastic establishment that has been around Detroit for over 140 years. Today, I wanted to let you in on another secret about Cass Tech: it will soon have a new building!

Funded from a 2001 taxpayer bond, the new Cass Tech - pictured above - is a modern urban masterpiece. From looking at the building in progress, you can just tell that it is going to be spectacular. The large amount of windows alone give it a huge advantage over the old brown building. In addition to this feature, however, one of the most amazing things about the school is the fact that it lies on just 18 acres of property - tiny in comparison to the national average of 55. How did developers and architects deal with this major obstacle in designing the school? Since they were limited in space horizontally, they decided to build up! Although the building is still a work in progress, I have read in the local newspapers that it is forecasted to be 5 stories tall and that students will eat lunch on the roof. From their new "cafeteria", they will enjoy beautiful views of the Masonic Temple and Cass Park, as well as downtown Detroit's skyline.

The new building is slated to be completed sometime during the 2005-2006 school year. No definitive plans have been made as to what will become of the old building, although I am told that many alumni would like the building to remain and possibly be used in conjunction with the new facility.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Don't know much about...Cass Tech High School?

Current Cass Tech high school

It has been home to thousands of students - including some famous ones, like actress Lily Tomlin and singer, Diana Ross - since first opening its doors in 1917. What is this brown building, you ask? It's Cass Tech High School, the well-known college-prep school located at the cusp of Downtown Detroit on Woodward.

Originally named Cass Union School, the establishment shown in the picture above was created from a land grant given to the city of Detroit by former Michigan Governor and Secretary of State, Lewis Cass. The building above, however, was not the first place that Cass resided; in fact, the school has been around Detroit in one form or another since 1861.

Although it was first created to teach woodworking and trades in metal, Cass Tech's curriculum has grown to offer 20 programs today, including such disciplines as fashion illustration and design; automotive; and, robotic engineering.

A school that prides itself on offering its students diverse learning experiences and the opportunity to participate in a variety of extra-curricular activities, Cass Tech truly is one of the best college preparatory schools in Detroit - its website boasts that 95% of its graduates attend college.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Noel Night at DPL

The Main Branch of the Detroit Public Library will be continuing its yearly tradition of crafts and songs at the library's 32nd annual Noel Night on December 4, 2004.

The program - which runs from 5:00 - 9:00 pm next Saturday - features a variety of live music, as well as different crafts that are sure to entertain the entire family. In addition, for just $3, your child (or adult!) can have a picture taken with Santa.

Visit the Detroit Public Library's website for more information.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Detroit No Longer America's Most Dangerous City

According to a new study out by Morgan Quitno Press, Detroit has been surpassed by Camden, NJ, as America's most dangerous city. The study - which looked at 354 cities across the U.S. with populations greater than 75,000 - based its rankings upon 2003 crime rates in six different areas: murder, aggravated assault, rape, robbery, burglary and auto theft. Crime data came exclusively from city filings with the FBI.

Camden and Detroit fell into the first and second most-dangerous slots, respectively. They were followed in descending order by Atlanta, St. Louis, Gary, IN, Washington, DC, and Hartford, CT.

Morgan Quitno Press is an independent, private research firm based out of Kansas. It began publishing reference books which looked at comparison results amongst cities and states in 1990. Its reference books can be found at most public libraries across the nation.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Downtown YMCA

Detroit's New YMCA
One of the many projects currently under construction in the downtown Detroit area is a new YMCA. Located on the corners of Broadway, Grand River, John R., and Farmer, the new Downtown YMCA broke ground in October 2003 and is set to be completed at an unspecified date in 2005.

Located in central downtown to provide club access to a larger population of Detroit's citizens and workforce, the YMCA is a non-profit organization that seeks to provide children, teens and adults with a community center that offers a broad range of activities related to health, sports, personal growth, and the arts at a price affordable to people at all income levels.

For more information on the construction of Detroit's new YMCA or its current facility and programs, visit http://www.ymcametrodetroit.org/factsata.asp.

The Webmaster's Choice

With Jay at Bookies

Yesterday, I was checking out the website of one of my favorite bars in downtown Detroit when I discovered that a picture of me (located above) was listed on the site! "How exciting," I thought to myself. I am definitely not the showy type, but who doesn't want 15 minutes of unsolicited fame?? "I wonder if he liked my hair that day...or was it my outfit? My jewelry? What about me stood out to cause him to display this picture, amongst the many others Bookies takes on a nightly basis?" After 20 or so minutes of fierce examination of the shot, I gave up analyzing and called Gideon to tell him that my picture was on Bookies' website (and, to get his opinion of why they chose me)! Well, it just so happened that Gideon was with Jay, the owner of the bar, when he answered his phone. And, in typical guy-fashion, he asked Jay about it right then and there (I was so embarrassed). Jay's response? Oh, yeah - she is featured on the website. I didn't have anything to do with it, though. That picture was the webmaster's choice. Go figure! "Well", I thought, "I may not be turning any heads at the bar, but I am the webmaster's choice!" : ) To see more pictures of Bookies patrons in action, check out their website and click on the "Events" tab.

Thank you, Mr. Webmaster, for making a girl's day!

Friday, November 19, 2004

Pistons/Pacers Brawl: Utterly Shocking

What I thought was going to be an ordinary (actually, boring) Friday night of studying turned out to be anything but that. In fact, it turned out to be one of the most shocking and disturbing nights in NBA history. What started with a hard push by Ben Wallace to Pacer Ron Artest quickly turned into a chaotic mass of fighting amongst players of both teams and Piston fans alike. When it was finally over, several fans had been escorted out of the arena by police, Ben Wallace and Ron Artest were facing fines and future game suspensions and the viewing audience was left in disbelief over the final minutes of the game.

The brawl, which was ignited when Artest threw a hard foul on Ben Wallace as Wallace attempted a shot, ignited the quick-tempered Wallace, causing him to throw a hard push at Artest's upper chest region, a move that threw Artest to the court floor. Almost immediately, players and staff members flooded around the two players, desperately trying to stop the feud that had already caught the attention of everyone in The Palace.

Ron Artest - who, at this point, lay horizontally on a table located in line with the players' benches - was then the target of a disgruntled and unwieldy fan, one who somehow felt justified in attacking Artest by throwing a plastic glass of beer straight at the player's head. The moment the beer hit Artest, the 25-year old Pacer flew into the stands with a ferocity that caused me to shudder as I watched the event unfold on the television screen. And, keeping with the ridiculous and immature events of the night, Artest and his teammate, Stephen Jackson, began fighting with the fans, throwing punches and trying to tackle the beer-throwing perpetrator and anyone else who got in the way. Let me make this clear: a professional sports player should never, ever jump into the stands. I realize that the fan made a very poor judgement call by throwing whatever he did at Artest, and he deserves whatever punishment he gets for this action. However, if Artest had an ounce of maturity in his body, he would have walked away from the incident.

At this point, former Piston Bad Boy, Rick Mahorn, stepped into the fighting scene, trying to break things up, but everything just seemed to get worse. Although Artest was grabbed and calmed down after his initial jump into the stands, a few other Pistons fans decided to continue the national humiliation of the Pistons by prolonging the fighting, which they did by throwing punches and chairs. As a result, the screaming and hollering continued, and another fan, who I first thought was a Pistons towel boy but was later corrected on by ESPN broadcasters, was punched in the face by the Pacer star, causing a further escalation of the chaos. This was mistake #2 for Artest.

The game, which was eventually ended 45 seconds early and announced as a Pacer win, wouldn't have been a win for either team, no matter who won. In fact, it was a total and utter embarrassment. Wallace pushed things a bit too hard in his roughness, a few Pistons fans acted like children, and Ron Artest made two critical missteps. It will be interesting to see what the NBA does about all of these incidents.

Grand Opening of Campus Martius Park Tonight

Four years following the vision for Campus Martius Park, downtown Detroit's newest gathering spot, the much-anticipated park will celebrate its Grand Opening tonight. Following is a list of scheduled events:

5:00 pm: Activities, ice skating demonstrations and entertainment
5:15 pm: Cass Tech High School Marching Band
5:15 - 5:30 pm: Onyx Skating Academy Demonstration
5:30 - 6:00 pm: Arts Academy in the Woods Brass Choir
6:00 pm: Ribbon-cutting ceremony of Campus Martius Park
6:15 - 6:45 pm: Salvation Army Band
6:45 - 7:00 pm: 2nd Ebenezer Baptist Church Mass Choir
7:00 pm: Detroit Hockey Mini-Mite Game
7:15 - 7:20 pm: Marcus Belgrave and Steve Carryer
7:25 - 7:55 pm: Michelle Griffin and Voice of Faith Choir
7:30 pm: Special television presentation of the Park's opening, brought to viewers by WXYZ Channel 7
7:55 - 8:40 pm: Opening Night Skating Extravaganza
8:40 - 9:00 pm: Paul King and the Rhythem Society Orchastra
8:40 pm: Tree-lighting ceremony by DTE Energy
9:00 pm: Conclusion of special events

Along with Channel 7's special broadcast, WDIV-Channel 4 will also be on hand covering the events during part of its nightly 5 pm and 6 pm broadcasts.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

MEGA Awards $9.6 Million for Brownsfield Developments in Downtown Detroit area

Thanks to the approval of a $3.8 million single-business tax credit by the Michigan Economic Growth Authority yesterday, 1001 Woodward Office LLC - a developer - can move forward with its plans for a $50.5 redevelopment at Woodward and Michigan avenues.

Along with two other unnamed development companies, the people at 1001 Woodward Office plan to raze several vacant properties in the area and are aiming to construct an 18,000 sq retail area, along with a new parking structure. According to an article in Crain's Detroit Business yesterday, the developers also intend on renovating a nearby existing 21-story office building, which will include condominums on the upper floors.

MEGA's approval of the 1001 Woodward SBT was not the only positive news the organization gave to Detroit yesterday, however; it also approved a $5.6 million brownsfield SBT for an area along Detroit's eastside. The site, which will be located on seven acres of the riverfront, will assist developer River Pointe Development Company Limited Partnership in its $56 million vision to build six to ten new office buildings. Yesterday, Crain's Detroit reported that the developer aims to create 300 new housing units amongst the new buildings.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Catch the Fever for CMP

I am ecstatic about the Grand Opening of Campus Martius Park this Friday night. Last week, I randomly discovered the Park's website - http://www.campusmartiuspark.org - an informative and visually-pleasing group of web pages detailing everything from the Park's proposed layout to its hours of operation. And, somebody over there had the genious to add a live web cam that enables site viewers to access real-time aerial shots of the Park.

If you aren't familiar with the Park or want more information relating to its funders, developers, or anything else, I would highly suggest checking out the site. Once you do, I bet you'll catch the CMP fever, too.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

The Haunting Train Station

The Decaying Central Depot

Left vacant in 1988, the Michigan Central Depot in Detroit has suffered years of abuse due to inclement weather, trespassers, and who knows what else. Somehow, though, it is nearly impossible to stave off the chills that creep up your spine as you stand before this magnificent and haunting structure.

Last March, Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick publicly announced plans to renovate the old station with the goal of making it the new headquarters of the Detroit Police Department. To date, no concrete development plans have been released.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Campus Martius Park: Under Construction

The soon-to-be Campus Martius Park

With Captain Steve Yzerman overlooking their progress, workers employed to bring the 1.6 acre Campus Martius Park to life by November 19, took no time off during the weekend. Instead, they continued toiling away well into the later hours of Sunday afternoon, as curious onlookers and passersby admired the strengthening urban landscape around them.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Another one bites the dust

Woodward Avenue, just west of Compuware

This picture, one of many we took on our Sunday excursion in the D, captures the remnants of the former Hughes and Hatcher building, a long-time eyesore of Woodward Avenue. The building was demolished to make way for a new parking garage.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Spending Sunday in Detroit

Downtown Detroit Skyline

For weeks, I have been itching to take my camera downtown for an unstructured photography adventure. Finally, last Sunday turned out to be my day. It was a chilly Autumn afternoon, and one of the first Sundays in a long time that neither Gideon nor I had anything planned. So, arm-in-arm, we walked the streets of downtown Detroit, snapping pictures and enjoying the sunshine. The above shot was taken from the parking deck of River Place, which is about a mile and a quarter from the Renaissance Center. Check back often in the next few weeks for more shots from our Sunday in Detroit!

Thursday, November 04, 2004

It's Time to Start Becoming Believers Again

The implosion of the Hudson's building in downtown Detroit over six years ago was a difficult thing for many metro-Detroiters to handle. The building, which is said to have brought people from all around the city to its doors, symbolized one of the last memories of "old Detroit"; the one that was bustling with people, young and old, and was "the place to be". Following the demolition of the Hudson's building, many of the last supporters of Detroit finally began to agree with what their suburban counterparts had been saying for years: the city was in chaos and was not coming back. Finally giving in to defeat, many packed their bags and exited Detroit, following in the footsteps of the masses before them.

What they didn't know, however - or, perhaps, didn't have the energy to believe - was that a small redevelopment effort was about to get under way. Talks to woo the tech giant, Compuware, to relocate its headquarters from the Detroit suburb Farmington Hills into the city, were looking up. Then-mayor Dennis Archer was brainstorming with urban planners and designers about ways to utilize historic Campus Martius to create a centralized area in the downtown area that was pedestrian friendly, well laid-out, and took advantage of the intersection where five different blocks collided. The Detroit 300 Conservancy, headed by Edsel B. Ford II, was pushing for use of the organization's funds to revamp the area, and hoping that a strong vision and carefully-selected design team would assist in creating a new haven for Detroiters to gather in.

By 2002, the deal with Compuware had been sealed - the Fortune 500 company would be moving to Detroit. Cheers were heard across metro Detroit, although many people pessimistically rejected the announcement, saying, "I'll believe it when I see it." And, of course, they did become believers; Compuware moved its 4,000 employees to the new building in 2003. Shortly after, rumors about a Detroit Hard Rock Cafe and Borders bookstore started flying and, again, the same people said, "I'll believe it when I see it." And, of course, they do believe it now; both Hard Rock Cafe and Borders opened in November 2003. A month later, Kinko's announced a new store for itself in downtown Detroit. And guess what the majority of metro Detroiters said? I'll believe it when I see it. And, again, they are believers now, because Kinko's opened in 2004.

With the spectacular Campus Martius park set to open downtown in just a few weeks, I know the pessimists out there are still thinking that negative thought, I'll believe it when I see it." And, guess what? You will believe it on November 19.

Campus Martius: 1906

Campus Martius, 1906
Photo credit: Detroit Publishing Company, Library of Congress

In yesterday's blog, I talked about the unveiling of the new Campus Martius park in downtown Detroit, set to open on November 19. While surfing the web last night, I came across this beautiful black and white photo that depicts the Campus in 1906. The stunning short building to the right of the street intersections is Detroit's old City Hall. Built in 1871, Detroiters of the time regarded it as the city's finest masterpiece. According to this article in The Detroit News, the structure's greatest characterstic was its tower clock: a massive - yet intricate - piece built especially for Detroit by W.A. Hendrie of Chicago. When the Detriot's City-County building was constrcuted in 1946, the uses for he spectacular old City Hall became numbered. It was razed in 1961 to pave the way for a parking structure.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Campus Martius park to become reality on November 19

It's been a long time coming, but it doesn't make the announcement of the unveiling of Campus Martius' 1.6 acre ice rink/green space development any less exciting. Although there has been a whirlwind of building and residential development in Detroit in the last two years, nearly all of the new projects have been new buildings or renovated spaces; there has yet to be a major land area beautification that has been completed. That is, until now. In just a few short weeks, the city of Detroit will unveil a new land area in Campus Martius that is designed to be the focal point of the area. Located across the street from Compuware, the park is a 1.6 acre development of land that, in the winter months, will be used as an ice-skating pond the size of the one in Rockefeller Center. In the remainder of the year, the park will contain lush green spaces for city-goers of all ages to enjoy concerts and outdoor events, or simply a day at the park.

The plans for the park, spearheaded by former mayor Dennis Archer and funded by the Detroit 300 Conservancy - led by Edsel B. Ford II - began in 2000 with the vision to create a park surrounded by retail stores, restaurants, and businesses. The area of Campus Martius has long been a significant one in Detroit, with its constant draw of citizens that made it the center of social activity and business opportunities.

Geographically located within the blocks of Kern, Hudson, Crowley, Monroe, and Kennedy Square, Campus Martius park is sure to be another outstanding edition to the "new" downtown Detroit. For more information on the history of Campus Martius, as well as some great photos of the area during the late 1800 and early 1900s, see this article from The Detroit News' Rearview Mirror collection, a set of articles on various historic places and figures in metro Detroit.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Number of Angels rise, but so do fires

Yesterday, Detroit officials announced that the number of Angels' Night volunteers reached an all-time high this year: 56,480. Unfortunately, this increase in participants was not enough to stop the 141 fires that were set during the three-day period of October 29-31, a period notorious for arson, and known on the street as Devil's Night.