Monday, January 31, 2005

Pistons Visit the White House

The Detroit Pistons, along with Coach Larry Brown, made the journey to Washington D.C. today to meet the President in honor of winning the 2004 NBA Championship.

My only question is: when will they be making the permanent visit to Detroit to play their games? With the Lions, Tigers, and Red Wings playing in venues downtown, hopefully it's only a matter of time.

Congrats, Pistons!!

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Mayor Begins Weekly Press Conferences

Following the local and national headlines surrounding a $24,995 Lincoln Navigator leased in December 2004 for his wife with city-taxpayer funds, Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick announced last week that he would begin holding weekly press conferences in an effort to create an atmosphere where he and the media could directly communicate with each another.

Kilpatrick rested much of the blame surrounding the hype of the Navigator incident on the poor communication his staff had with the media and has initiated the weekly press meetings to help combat that in the future.

When first questioned, Kilpatrick denied that the Navigator was leased for his wife. However, after vehement prodding and questioning by several local reporters - including Steve Wilson of Detroit's WXYZ Channel 7, who was shoved into a wall by one of Kilpatrick's bodyguards - Kilpatrick eventually admitted that the luxury SUV had been purchased for the police department to drive the Mayor's wife and three sons around. Although there is nothing that specifically prevents the Mayor from purchasing a vehicle for his family with taxpayer funds (who made that rule up?), the Detroit public was admittedly upset that the Mayor had purchased such an expensive car in the wake of Detroit's massive financial crisis.

Friday, January 28, 2005

The Wayne County Building

Wayne County Building, also called the Wayne County Couthouse

Although scaffolding covers up its tower, the lavish Wayne County Building at the eastern end of Cadillac Square in downtown Detroit is hard to miss.

Designed by Englishman John Scott during the last few years of the 19th century, Scott's vision of an extravagent structure came to life in 1902 and, at the time, was considered the most splendid building in the state.

Sticking with the Italian Renaissance theme of architects immediately preceding him, Scott had rusticated granite used for the building's ground and first floors and ohio sandstone for its three upper levels. A variety of granite flanks its interior. According to W. Hawkin Ferry's book, The Buildings of Detroit: A History, the four bronze figures that adorn the tower colonnade parapet represent Law, Commerce, Agriculture and Mechanics.

Side View

With the creation of the City-County Building in the 1950s, most of the governmental offices occupying the Wayne County Building were relocated to the new structure on Woodward Avenue. As a result, Scott's baroque masterpiece was left empty and began to decay.

Talk of razing the building surfaced in the 1980s but, fortunately, ceased when - in 1987 - private organizations teamed up with historical preservationists to restore the building to its grandeur of earlier years. The building was deemed a State Historic structure in 1974 and was placed on the National Historic list in 1975.

Today the Wayne County Building stands in its original spot, on Randolph between Fort and Congress. It is home to the offices of the Wayne County Commissioners, as well as other county and private organizations.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Detroit's Compuware Posts Positive Unexpected Earnings

Compuware's Headquarters in downtown Detroit

Although layoffs plagued the technology company in 2003 and 2004, the difficult cuts seem to have aided Compuware, which was reflected in its Street-beating earnings report, released after the close of the bell this afternoon.

The earnings report - which proclaimed 11-cent per share earnings - nearly doubled the tech company's earnings over the same quarter last year, which came in at 6 cents a share.

Compuware is a technology company that focuses on providing IT and software to assist businesses in getting the most out of their technology systems. With over 4000 employees in its global headquarters in Detroit, Compuware has become a cornerstone of the redevelopment effort within Detroit's Central Business District.

Compuware moved from nine separate office buildings in the metro Detroit area between the years 2000 and 2003 and into a brand new, 1.1 million-square foot building in downtown Detroit. By doing this, the IT company brought all of its employees under one roof, was given $80 million in tax incentives, and has positioned itself closer to its customers.

The Compuware HQ houses its employees, as well as nearly 60,000 square feet of retail space, including Michigan's only Hard Rock Cafe. It also contains a Borders Books & Music store, a Jimmy John's sandwich shop, an optical store, and other retail shops. Its employees also have access to an on-site fitness facility, as well as dining and daycare areas.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Winter Blast a Hit

Campus Martius Park during Sunday's Motown Winter Blast

If you missed last weekend's Motown Winter Blast, you may have missed the cold and snow, but you also missed much more: ice skating, snow sledding, Model-T rides, food, and plain old fun with thousands of fellow Detroiters.

The 200-foot-long snow slide

Created as a run-through for Superbowl XL being held next year in Detroit, the Winter Blast - hosted by the Superbowl XL Committee - was garnered a hit by both the Free Press and the Detroit News. I attended the festival on Sunday afternoon and agree that it was a definite success - I had a blast! (no pun intended). I am looking forward to seeing the expansion of next year's festival.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Players' Playhouse

The Historic Players' Club

Nestled on Jefferson Avenue between a monstrous new commercial property and the old Berke Clinic lies a little slice of Detroit history and culture: The Players.

Be forewarned, though: if you're driving down Jefferson in a hurry, you might blink and miss its red brick facade and gallant doorway. No matter how fast you're going, though, I do have to admit that The Players is hard to miss - its early-20th century architecture and design definitely catch the eye on this section of the street that has, in recent years, become laden with strip malls.

Established as a 501(c)(3) company in 1911, The Players is a Detroit gentleman's club that was created to promote amateur theater. The Playhouse - shown above - was created as a permanent spot to showcase its members' talents. From the time between 1911 and the playhouses opening, Players constantly migrated from stage to stage in Detroit, because they had no official home. This nomad lifestyle ceased, though, when the Playhouse - created mainly of cinder blocks - was unveiled and opened in 1925.

Still following Shakespearean tradition to this day, all Player theater roles are played by gentlemen. In addition, Player members also contribute to the direction, production, set-making and makeup artistry for their shows.

According to its website, The Players put on shows on the first Saturday of every year during the months of October-April. Each show includes three one-act plays, called a Frolic. The Playhouse can also be rented out for special occasions.

For more information on The Players, becoming a Player, or attending a show as a guest, please visit the organizations website:

Friday, January 21, 2005

New Rehabilitation Institute in Detroit is a Novelty for Michigan

Innovative Neuroscience Inpatient Unit is First in Michigan

On January 25, The Detroit Medical Center's Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan will put intensive medical treatment for people suffering from brain injuries, strokes, and other neurological disorders within reach when it opens the doors of its newest addition: the Neuroscience Inpatient Unit.

Designed to provide a comprehensive approach to diagnosing, evaluating, and treating victims of neurological disorders, the Neuroscience Inpatient Unit - a 26-bed facility of private and semi-private rooms - has its own staff of doctors and nurses, as well as the accessibility of Detroit Medical Center (DMC) specialists, including speech and occupational therapists, social workers, neurosurgeons, and more.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony and opening celebration is planned for Tuesday, January 25, from 4-6 pm. The Neuroscience Inpatient Center is located within the DMC's Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan at 261 Mack Avenue.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Winter Blast Bounce

How's this for a deal: not only are all of the events at the Motown Winter Blast free, Bounce - Detroit's rendition of a bar crawl - will get you into six of Detroit's hottest nightspots for only $10.

Presented by radio stations 93.1 and 96.3, Real Detroit newspaper and Coors Light, Friday night's Winter Blast Bounce begins at 9 pm and ends at 2 am. Complimentary shuttle service will be available to transport barflys and partiers between the participating venues, which include: Bookies, Town Pump Tavern, Envy, Good Life Lounge, Fifth Avenue Downtown, and The Zoo Bar.

Wrist bands for the event can be obtained at any of the participating bars.

Motown Winter Blast Begins Tomorrow

In case you've been on another planet for the last week and have missed all of the news about Detroit's newest winter extravaganza - Motown Winter Blast - here's some information:

The Blast starts tomorrow, and will be open from 11 am - 11 pm Friday and Saturday, and from 11 am - 8 pm on Sunday. Several events will be going on throughout these times, including the following:

Ford Motor Company's Family Fun Zone: Located in and around Campus Martius Park/Ice rink and the Compuware building's lobby, Ford is putting on an outdoor winter wonderland, which includes ice skating; skating lessons and demonstrations by the Detroit Skating Club; a giant snow slide; Model T rides; and, more fun winter activities for the entire family.

GM's Snow Spectacular and Ice Show: Located just east of Campus Martius on Monroe, General Motors has brought in some of the world's most famous and decorated ice sculptors to compete in their craft over the three-day period. The world's largest automaker will also be providing laser light shows every evening starting at 5 pm and continuing on the hour through 9 pm. For more information on GM's events, click here.

Chrysler Jeep Dodge Taste of Detroit: Located in the Campus Martius Park area between Woodward and the Kennedy block, this event will feature 20 of Detroit's finest restaurants, as well as several musical performances. Marshmallow roasting will also be available. For a list of performers and restaurants appearing at this event, please click here.

Detroit Sports Bowl: This is the "Greek Week" for corporate employees. Anyone working at a Detroit area company/corporation was eligible to participate in this event, which will pit co-ed teams of six people (four men, two women) against one another in events such as soccer shot, pit crew challenge, hockey slap shot, and football throw. Teams with the most points at the end of the events will be given prizes like a suite to a Detroit professional sporting event, a membership to Lifetime Fitness health club, or dinner at an area restaurant. The first-place team will enjoy tickets to Super Bowl XL.

This event will run from 9 am - 10 pm at Detroit's Ford Field on Saturday only. Registration to participate in the event was closed on January 10, 2005. Please click here for more information.

Tour d'Art: For those out there that would rather be inside instead of out, several of Detroit's cultural venues will be conducting tours throughout the days of the Winter Blast. Admission is free to all and, by getting a stamp at institution visited, you are entered into a drawing for some fabulous prizes, including two tickets to Super Bowl XL. For information on the venues participating in this event, as well as contest rules, please click here.

For more information on any of the events above or for information about parking, please visit the Motown Winter Blast website. I hope to see you there!

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The Ren Cen's Facets

Downtown Detroit, looking toward the Renaissance Center.
Stroh's River Place can be seen in the distance to the right side of the Ren Cen.

It began with the removal of the once-intimidating dual beams at the front of the Renaissance Center between 2001 and 2002, and has progressed rapidly with no end in sight. I'm referring to the world's largest automaker's plans to turn its global headquarters into a top-notch entertainment and shopping destination for everyone to enjoy.

In fact, just last week, GM unveiled the RenCen's transformed entrance - named the Jefferson Avenue plaza - a beautiful, inviting glass and steel structure that is aimed to send an inviting signal to the public. Also part of the new two-acre entrance are various areas of greenery, as well as a sleek granite stairway which leads into the pavilion.

What will one find once inside the building? The 6000-square foot lobby is impressive and designed with a modern, clean look. In a
press release dated January 11, 2005, GM announced plans to also add a 50' x 25' glass wall sculpture to the wall of the lobby.

Aside from the lobby, there are numerous restaurants - including Seldom Blues, which is co-owned by retired-Detroit Lion Robert Porsche, and the Riverfront Shops, which include retailers such as Brooks Brothers, Casual Corner, Jos A. Banks, and Pure Detroit.

Of course, there is also GM's Winter Garden - a fabulous area to stroll around in, sit and relax, or look at the river and our lovely Canadian neighbors.

In addition to opening the new facade on its headquarters, GM also opened and dedicated its Riverfront Promenade in mid-December 2004. This area - located at the rear of the Renaissance Center - signifies GM's participation in Detroit's Riverwalk, a $500 million development designed to create a walk/bike path on the edge of the Detroit River between the Ambassador and Belle Isle bridges. Here is the post I wrote on the Riverfront Plaza and Promenade.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Detroit's Argonaut Building Given $5.6 million Tax Credit

Once the headquarters of General Motors, Detroit's Argonaut Building - located in the New Center area near the Fisher Building - got the seal of approval from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation today for a single-business tax credit of $5.6 million.

The credit - which will be combined with $64 million in private funding - allows the current owner of the building, Midway Corporate Plaza, LLC, to go ahead with its plans to redevelop the 75-year old structure into a mixed-use development.

The majority of the space inside the 11-story property will be converted into 250 lofts. Office space and retail shops will make up about 27% of the Argonaut's 510,000-square feet.

According to, the word 'Argonaut' means someone who is engaged in a dangerous, yet rewarding quest. It became the name of one of the many buildings by famed-Detroiter Albert Kahn, a man who is still considered one of the best architects in the nation.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Remembering a Legend

As many people in the nation stay home from work and school today due to a national holiday, I hope that everyone takes at least a little time to reflect on the lifetime of work that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. dedicated himself to and what his work did for our country.

The civil rights leader, born in 1929 in a segregated section of Georgia, was known as a stellar student whose high intelligence propelled him through high school, which he completed at age 15. By nineteen, he had received his B.A.

A lover of education, King went on to complete a B.D. three years later. He then enrolled in Boston University, where - in 1955 - his hard work and dedication earned him a doctoral degree.

At the conclusion of his formal education, King became a pastor in Alabama, while sitting on the Executive Board of the NAACP. It was at this time that Dr. King became intently involved in seeking equality for the African American race. This was evidenced when King led a 382-day nonviolent boycott of the Montgomery, Alabama bus system, an action that was prompted by Detroit's own Rosa Parks - an Alabama-born seamstress who was arrested after refusing to vacate her bus seat to a white person. At the conclusion of the bus boycott, the Supreme Court declared the Alabama segregation laws for buses unconstitutional, causing a major victory in civil rights around the country.

Although his house was bombed during the bus boycott, Dr. King was not scared off; in fact, many would argue that the hate crimes directed towards him further instigated his desire to bring peace and equality among people of different races within the United States. According to the biographical account of Dr. King on the Nobel Peace Prize's website, the civil rights activist "...traveled over 6 million miles and made over 2500 speeches between 1957 and 1968". Dr. King was assassinated in April 1968 while protesting with garbage pick-up workers that had been unfairly treated on the job.

For more information on Dr. King's marches and speeches, including full texts, visit Stanford University's Martin Luther King Jr. Paper Project

NPR also has several interesting radio clips and articles relating to Dr. King, including a replay of the June 2003 conversation between Tavis Smiley and Commentator Michael Eric Dyson about Dr. King's delivery of his famous "I Have a Dream" speech in Detroit on June 28, 1963 - the first time the speech was delivered.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Charity Preview Event a Hit

2005 Auto Show Charity Preview

Amongst 17,000 other people, I had the privilege of attending Michigan's largest fundraiser on Friday night - the North American International Auto Show's Charity Preview Event.

Decked out in tuxes and formal evening gowns, we drank champagne, strolled around Cobo Hall, and admired the auto industry's newest creations: the new 2006 Dodge Charger; the Honda Ridgeline - the Japanese automaker's first pickup; and, the Hummer H3 - a cheaper, smaller version of the original Hummer.

Although the cars were cool, the greatest thing about the event was that it met its goal: to raise money for local children's charities. According to this article in the Free Press' online edition, the Preview garnered over $7 million for the fifth straight year.

Here are the charities that benefitted from this year's affair:

Barat Child and Family Services
Boys and Girls Club of Southeast Oakland County
The Children's Center
Children's Homes of Judson Center
Children's Services of Northeast Guidance Center Assistance League
Detroit Auto Dealers Association Charitable Foundation Fund
The Detroit Institute for Children
Detroit Police Athletic League
Easter Seals Michigan
March of Dimes

Thursday, January 13, 2005

It's Auto Show Time, Detroit

Detroit Publishing Company photo, Library of Congress Print Archives

Detroit is big in the news this week. I have seen, skimmed and read at least a hundred different articles related to the Motor City's Auto Show, from the broad presence of the hybrids to the new Scion, to Chrysler's very own phoenix - the Charger - which seems to have risen back from the dead. Like any Detroiter, I have been waiting in anticipation for the debut of the public show which, according to the North American International Auto Show's website, boosted Detroit's economy by $553 million in 2004. And, thanks to some very generous people, I will only have to wait one more day to surroud myself in Detroit's automotive past and future - my fiancee and I were given tickets to the Auto Show Charity Preview Event happening tomorrow night.

The Charity Preview, which began in 1976, has raised over $51 million for 11 different local charities. And, last year alone, the event brought in an impressive $7 million. Known as the place to spot the "who's who" in Metro Detroit, the Charity Preview drew 17,500 last year who shared in giving to the community while gazing at the newest designs and concept vehicles in the automotive world.

Check back later this weekend for pictures of the gala event!

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Council's Dumbfoundedness is No Excuse

Over the last few days, I have watched two different meetings of the Detroit City Council, which are broadcast on Detroit's Channel 10 following the meetings. (Although I would love to watch every publicly-televised meeting, I have yet to find a schedule listed on the Council's website or the city of Detroit's. When I do, I will let you know). Aside from the sluggish, disorderly nature in which these meetings are conducted, the biggest concern I have after watching these meetings is the claim by many of the Councilpersons that they were not aware of Detroit's budget crisis. While I am pleased that they have been brainstorming ideas to plug the city's mounting deficit, I am utterly astounded that they claim to have had no advance notice of it. Even the Council President, Maryann Mahaffey - who has served on the Council since 1974 - claims she wasn't aware of the severity of the budget problems.

Although members of the Council stated in these meetings that Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has not provided them with ample information about the budget, and has ignored their request to have a private meeting about it, I found two reports published for the Council that prove otherwise. If you go to the Council's website, you can find the Auditor General's reports on both the 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 Proposed Budgets of the Mayor, which both convey the A.G.'s concern about the economic and fiscal sustainability of the city of Detroit under the Mayor's fiscal planning propositions. In the report on the 2004-2005 proposed budget, the Auditor General clearly states that the city is in an urgent situation with regards to its finances and that strict actions need to be taken. In addition, the Auditor's report for 2003-2004 states that the City Council has continually ignored warnings about the city's financial ability, citing an instance from "a few years ago" (the report was from April 2003) when Dennis Archer advised of an $860 million budget shortfall over the next 10 years, which was disregarded when, according to the report, someone the Council hired said the figure was wrong.

Aside from the fact that the City Council is a full-time elected body that should be aware of every penny that the city is spending, even if Mayor Kilpatrick is not supplying the Council members with the full budget picture, they can access any of the information on their own through the Freedom of Information Act. But, the Council doesn't even need to put that much effort into it - they have appointed members, such as the Auditor General, whose sole jobs are to provide Council with research reports on the budget, amongst other city-related issues.

The Auditor General did his job with the preparation of these reports - they are well-written and researched and clearly point out the faulty areas of the Mayor's proposed budgets. It is the Council who did not do their jobs and no one should take the blame for that except for them.

Monday, January 10, 2005

A New Discovery on Council's Salaries

On Saturday, I wrote about an increase in the City Council's individual budgets, which they each spend at their own discretion. This information, which was obtained from a December article in the Metro Times, also pointed out that the Council's salaries come from their allotted budgets. Although the article did not specifically mention that the Council members would be getting pay raises from their increased budgets, that is what I assumed.

However, after watching Council's videotaped session from Friday, January 7, on Detroit's Channel 10, I was surprised to hear President Maryann Mahaffey state that the Council has not received a raise (including cost of living increases) since 2000. Mahaffey also stated that even when the rest of the city workers had received raises, the Council had not. Furthermore, Mahaffey requested the release of Council's payroll records - an appeal she made to correct some of the "misinformation" that has been in the media regarding her and her eight elected colleagues that serve the city.

I am anxious for the day that these records are gathered and do become public knowledge, because I am tired of having to speculate and would like to set the record straight on this issue. If, in fact, the Council has not had a raise for the past four years and everyone else in the city has, I will be the first to say that the council should not take a pay cut in light of the city's budget situation. Until then, I await the figures and maintain my stand that the council's budgets of $750,000 each and $1 million for Mahaffey should be reduced.

Once I do get word about the figures on these records, I will let you know. Please e-mail me at if you have any comments or feedback on this post.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Pay Cut for Council Long Overdue

Both the state of Michigan and the city of Detroit are facing upcoming budget crises. The state is staring at a $370 million deficit, while the much-smaller city of Detroit forecasts a $214 million shortfall if it cannot balance its budget by July 1, 2005.

Cost-cutting - including layoffs and department mergers - as well as possible tax increases, are some of the options that both offices have considered as possible means to fill-in their budget shortfalls. And, just a few weeks ago, the public became privy to another possible solution - self-imposed salary cuts by governmental officers. In fact, Governor Granholm proposed a 5% salary cut for herself - which has already been approved by the Michigan Legislature - and has also requested a budget freeze for both herself and Michigan's Lieutenant Governor, John Cherry, which will extend through 2008. On a related note: Granholm also requested a 5% salary cut for Cherry, who the Free Press quoted as making an annual salary of $123,000.

Following the lead of Granholm, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has stated that he, along with three of his key cabinet members, will also take a reduction in pay in the upcoming fiscal year. Kilpatrick, who pulls in almost $177,000 per year, has yet to specify the exact reduction he or his officers will take. This article in the Detroit News stated that Kipatrick's top aides - Chief of Staff, Christine Beatty; COO Walter Watkins; and, new Deputy Mayor Anthony Adams - all make somewhere in the $140,000 range.

Although I would love to say that Detroit's City Council followed the examples of both the Governor and Mayor by voluntarily agreeing to cut their $81,000 salaries, this is not the case. And, not only have they not cut their salaries, this Metro Times News Hits article from 12/22/04 reports that the Council actually increased the size of its budget this year - to $16.9 million. This new figure allots $731,000 to each council member to spend at will, except for Council President, Maryann Mahaffey, who gets $1 million.

Hmmm...I just can't figure it out: we have a council with several members that are vehemently against layoffs, but keep making poor decisions in the wake of a major budget crisis. They continue to increase spending and their budgets, while the tax base continues to erode. I mean, What are they thinking? The only answer is that they are not (thinking).

I'd like to give them something to think about, then: Get with it, Council. It is time to step up - cut your salaries.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Houston Now Nation's Fattest, Not Detroit

According to the seventh annual, "Fattest and Fittest Cities in America" put out by Men's Fitness magazine, Detroit is no longer the nation's fattest city - Houston is.

Detroit isn't number two, either - that title belongs to Philadelphia. Coming in third: Detroit. (Hey, it's better than being first or second.) Coming in fourth: Memphis. The fifth-ranking fatty? This honor is bestowed on our Midwestern neighbor, Chicago.

Seattle ranked number one as America's "most fit city".

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Don't Crowd the Plow

Detroit has been blanketed by snow during the past 24 hours, and weather forecasters are predicting more of Mother Nature's white powder throughout tonight and tomorrow. (Hey, this wouldn't be Detroit without a 61 degree day on Sunday and a blizzard a few days later).

In the spirit of the cold, white weather we have all experienced today, I thought it would be fun to share some information on Detroit's salt mines, the intriguing and mysterious "other world" that lies just below southwest Detroit and its close suburban neighbors, Allen Park and Melvindale.

Located 1100 feet below Detroit's surface, lie over 100 miles of tunnels - salt mine tunnels - that, up until 1983, were filled with miners that worked to bring the salt to the surface. As Detroit was the first place in the nation that rock salt was used for ice control on roads and highways, the city experienced great profits from its natural resource. In addition to ice control, the products of Detroit's salt mines have also been used for meat preservation, as well as in the chemical industry. Due to falling prices and competition from Canadian salt mines, Detroit's salt mines closed in 1983. They were briefly reopened in 1998, when Crystal Mines bought the company and made tours of the mines were available. In 2000, the Detroit Renaissance - a private, non-profit group established in 1970 to help Detroit bring itself back to its former glory - assisted in securing funding for the mine's reopening as a salt production center. Bought from Crystal Mines at that time, the Detroit Salt Company, LLC, discontinued mine tours due to safety reasons.

Detroiters aren't the only ones who use the natural products from Michigan's salt, though. According to a report on the website of the Salt Institute, much of the nation's rock salt comes from the mines under Detroit. In addition, scientists believe that the natural resource was also used by prehistoric animals, such as the mastodon, in the form of natural salt licks.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Traffic affects more than those caught in it

I-75 headed towards Detroit

I cannot tell you how much I love my commute to and from work every day - no, I am serious: I love it. It is so great to know that I am driving 8 miles and it is only going to take me about 13 minutes. No congested traffic to worry about; no stop-and-go, stop-and-go; and absolutely, positively, no stress or pounding my fists against the dashboard when I have only moved a quarter-mile in 20 minutes.

I know all of you out there that live in the second and third ring suburbs know exactly the type of traffic congestion I am talking about. I knew it firsthand when I used to live in Shelby Township and had to drive to work in Royal Oak every day. Even though it was only a 20-mile drive, it would take me 45 minutes or more to get to work everyday! It was nuts. After a year of wasting precious hours behind the wheel, I finally decided I had had enough - I moved.

Along with the stress and wasted time that comes with living so far away from your job, though, there are numerous other negative effects that urban sprawl, or the act of moving further and further away from urban centers, cause. For example, did you know that air pollution, one result of the dangerous fumes emitted from vehicles, are a contributing cause of nearly 100,00 premature deaths each year? According to "Highway Health", a report done by Sierra Club International, this is double the number of people that die in car accidents each year. Also mentioned in the report are the effects sprawl has on the average worker's commute time - which increased by 1/3 from 1983 to 1995 - and the increased reliance we have on automobiles, which are now necessary in order to get from one store to another in the same shopping mall, resulting in less natural exercise.

Have a comment or question for me on this post?
Feel free to e-mail me at

Saturday, January 01, 2005

History of Detroit's Pontchartrain Hotel

Detroit's Pontchartrain Hotel

The hotel that occupies the address
2 Washington Boulevard in Detroit sits on what most people consider the oldest French settlement in Detroit. Where the Pontchartrain now sits was where Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac - founder of Detroit - began construction of a fort on the river in 1701.

Fort Pontchartrain after the French government's Minister of the Colonies at the time - Jerome Phlypeaux, Compte de Pontchartrain - Cadillac called the area inside the fort Ville de Detroit, which means city or village of the straits. The original fort, which was bound by downtown Detroit's Washington Boulevard, Griswold, Larned and Atwater streets, served as a lookout facility to fend off the British and served the needs of the explorers and defenders of the French-occupied territory.

In 1760, the fort was taken by the British after the French's surrender in Montreal. The ownership of the land was then transferred into the hands of the United States in 1783 as a result of the Treaty of Paris.

The current occupant of the former fort's northwest corner is the Pontchartrain Hotel, aptly named to honor Detroit's first French Settlement. As a reminder of its roots, the lobby of the hotel features a plaque denoting the historical significance of the space.

The current hotel, built in 1963, contains 413 guest rooms and offers spectacular views of the Detroit River, as well as Windsor's skyline. The hotel's lobby, lounge and dining area were renovated in 2003.

More information on rates, as well as additional amenities for the Pontchartrain Hotel can be found on its website.