Thursday, March 31, 2005

Downtown Detroit set to have new tenant

Detroit's CBD set to get new, modern tenant

One loop around downtown Detroit is all it takes to reach the conclusion that the buildings in the area are old. When I say old, I am not saying they are old and decrepit - I am a huge fan of the 1920s skyscrapers that jut into the sky - I just mean that they are chronologically old. Really, other than the Compuware building, the Ren Cen, and a few others, Detroit is permeated with structures of yesteryear.

According to this Detroit Free Press article, though, plans are in the works on a brand-new, 10-story office tower that will be built near the Kennedy Square area.

The new building, which is stated to be designed by Southfield-based Neumann/Smith and Associates, will be sharply different to its neighboring counterparts in that it will be a highly modern building, created with steel and glass.

Construction on the 240,000-square foot building is tentively scheduled for summer or fall of this year.

The aforementioned article also noted that Redico, the developer of the property, is in negotiations with Visteon to bring about 500 of the suburban-based company's employees to the tower.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Governor Announces Cleanup Plans for Detroit Areas

Michigan's first female Head of State continues to amaze me. Today at Tri-Centennial Park in Detroit, the pro-Detroit Michigan governor announced plans to speed-up the beginning of the Clean Michigan Initiative bond program. The CMI will start this spring rather than during the next ten years, as originally planned.

The Clean Michigan Initiative bond program will target 47 places around the state that are desperately in need of environmental cleanup. The selected areas will share the $38 million.

Of the 47 areas across the state set to receive funds, three spots in Detroit will benefit. The particular areas and the funding they will receive are as follows:

*Detroit Riverfront Promenade: $1.5 million
*Wayne County Detroit: $2 million
*Detroit: $200,000

The CMI is part of the Governor's Jobs Today Initiative, a plan she described in her 2005 State of the State address, which is designed to put thousands of unemployed workers in Michigan back on the job.

According to this press release issued by the Governor's office today, the Jobs Today Initiative also contains two other programs targeted at accelerating the cleanup of abandoned and hazardous areas in Detroit communities before the arrival of the Super Bowl next year. The details are as follows:

*$75 million in brownsfield grants and loans are available to qualifying areas. Grants/loans for this project must be applied for.

*$124 million is available for the cleanup of abandoned and hazardous gas stations through the Refined Petroleum Fund.

For more information on the Jobs Today Initiative, visit this page at the State of Michigan's website.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Soldiers and Sailors Monument

A beautiful piece of Civil War history lies right in downtown Detroit, and many Detroiters aren't even aware of it.

The Soldiers and Sailors monument - which is located at the southern point of Campus Martius Park - is, according to
Detroit's Historical Museum, one of the oldest Civil War monuments in the United States.

After 2 years of searching through designs submitted by way of an advertisement in the Detroit Free Press, the 111-member committee overseeing the monument's creation chose to move forward with the work of Randolph Roberts, a resident of Ann Arbor, MI.

In 1869, the Soldiers and Sailors' cornerstone was laid. It features an 8-sided platform, upon which four tiers were placed. The first tier is adorned with four scupltures representing Artillery, Calvary, Infantry and Navy. The second tier's figures portray Emancipation, History, Union and Victory. The top tier of the monument features a female figure, representing the state of Michigan.

The Soldiers and Sailors Monument was completed and unveiled in 1872. The entire cost of the project was $65,000.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

World Water Day and Detroit

In honor of World Water Day today, what better time than now to learn some fun facts about the Detroit River.

A View of the Detroit River Posted by Hello

With 72 miles of shoreline, the Detroit River is both an international boundary and the home of 21 islands.

The river covers 39 square miles and is partially responsible for its city's namesake, which means "city of straits" in French. In fact, the river itself is actually a strait - it is the connector between Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie.

Waterborne commerce at the Port of Detroit topped 19 million tons in 1998. The majority of imports during that year were iron ore, cement, coal, and steel. Most of what leaves the port of Detroit for other countries is petroleum.

The website for Friends of the Detroit River - - has some great aerial shots of the river around Belle Isle, as well as lots of information on ways to help preserve and maintain it.

Want to know what's going on at the river at this very moment in time? Visit the Live Detroit River WebCam courtesy of the Great Lakes Maritime Institute's website.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Motor City Blight Busters, Inc. - the Detroit non-profit group aimed at reducing poverty within the city - recently announced the undertaking of an incredible project: the rehabilitation of 40 run-down homes in time for Superbowl XL, which comes to Detroit next February.

According to its website, Motor City Blight Busters - currently run by founder John George - is accepting donations of vacant and abandoned houses in Detroit. Once a property is handed over, George and his crew will work their magic to transform the houses into safe, livable homes for low-income families.

According to
this March 4 story from Channel 7's website, George's mission is two-fold: he hopes to assist in the clean-up of Detroit in time for Superbowl XL, and to provide better living conditions for area citizens that desperately need it.

So far, the group has 2 donated properties. With the sheer number of abandoned homes in Detroit, though, I don't anticipate it'll be long before MCBB has the full forty.

Visit for contact information, tax deductibility of donations, and for a running tally of donated houses.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

James Scott fountain in Detroit

James Scott fountain

The James Scott fountain on Belle Isle is an excellent example of the many unknown treasures of Detroit. Located on Belle Isle, the fountain's marble facade becomes visible to travelers as they head west on the island from the MacArthur Bridge.

Created from a $500,000 bequest to the city from its infamous bachelor, James Scott, the gorgeous marble piece was designed by Cass Gilbert, the man also responsible for designing the main branch of the Detroit Public Library.

The James Scott fountain was completed in 1925 and is truly one of Detroit's most beautiful pieces of history. The fountain was constructed purely of white marble and contains several small bowls suspended over the fountain itself. Small statues depicting turtles, lions, the greek God, Neptune, and cherubs were created and intricatly placed at different places throughout the piece's structure.

Lions and cherubs adorn the top tiers of the fountain

Monday, March 14, 2005

Plans Unveiled for East Detroit Neighborhood Makeover

An unkept neighborhood on Detroit's east side plagued with abandoned homes, high levels of crime, and broken-down cars littering its streets will have a chance to shine once again if the plans of four development companies are carried out.

According to this story published in the Detroit News' Online Edition on March 10, two local and two out-of-state companies plan to buy the land that the Fox Creek neighborhood sits on and will develop over 3,000 new homes over the next decade within the area that lies adjacent to Grosse Pointe Park.

Once a clean, vibrant community, suburban flight over the past 50 years has left Fox Creek largely in shambles. The four development companies - American City Vista, Kimball Hill Urban Centers, Phoenix Communities and U-SNAP-BAC - hope the $257 million project will restore the community to its better days.

Both Phoenix Communtes and U-SNAP-BAC are Detroit companies.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

New Interactive Map Helps Navigate Detroit

The Southeast corner of Detroit's CBD

Have trouble getting around downtown Detroit? Aren't sure how to get where you're going? Fret no more. The creative geniuses at Technology Productions have spent many long, sleepless nights studying every nook and cranny of Detroit's Central Business District to provide Detroiters and tourists with a new, free, interactive mapping system of Detroit, complete with landmarks, parking areas, entertainment venues and more.

Launched just last week, TP's brainchild - located on the web at - puts online map-kings like Map Quest and Yahoo! Maps to shame with its clean design and intricate graphics.

According to this article in the Detroit Free Press, the CBD mapping service was created without any sponsors or financial backing as a service to the city, and to showcase its abilities to other municipalities and venues in need of online interactive mapping systems.

If you get lost every time you venture downtown (read: my suburban friends), check the site out: its user-friendly, clean design and helpful tips make navigating around downtown Detroit a breeze.

Thursday, March 10, 2005


The entryway of the aquarium

Sadly, it looks like another glorious Detroit landmark will soon be closed. According to numerous articles, the 101-year old Belle Isle Aquarium has been a financial drain on the already fiscally-troubled city of Detroit.

Crowds gathered at the aquarium on Saturday afternoon

In this week's issue of Metro Times, Jack Lessenberry writes that the aquarium costs approximately $500,000 per year to operate, yet only brings in about $115,000, making it a prime target for shutdown. To make matters worse, the Albert Kahn-designed building would need a new roof, a fixed cost that would add another $500,000 to the bill.

This aquatic creature gives new meaning to the term "Big Fish"

Although the dedicated members of the group Friends of the Belle Isle Aquarium have made numerous pleas to Mayor Kilpatrick, Governor Granholm, and the Detroit City Council to keep the nation's oldest aquarium up and running it has struggled to raise the half a million dollars it needs for the next year. As of tonight, the FOBIA has raised about $22,000, an amount that would stave off closing only for a few weeks.

The bright spot in this whole story, though, is that the aquarium is not closed yet, meaning you still have time to visit. I went with my fiance last Saturday and we had a blast. So whether you live in the city or the suburbs, go alone or with a group, get there and enjoy this treasure before it closes on April 3.

The Belle Isle Aquarium Celebrated its 100th Birthday in 2004

Although the Mayor's office has repeatedly stated that the aquarium will close, the Friends of Belle Isle Aquarium has generated much local interest within the short month that it has been in existence, thereby lending the small chance that the property could stay open. To donate, lend your ideas, or talk to others that are trying to help stave off the aquarium's closing, please visit the Friends of Belle Isle Aquarium website.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Tour the Renaissance Center

The Renaissance Center

Ever wonder what the inside of the Renaissance Center looks like? Although the unique towering property appears to resemble some sort of outerspace hub, real people do work there. Don't believe me? Go see for yourself. You can now take a guided tour of the magnificent building, which houses the global center of General Motors, a branch of the IT firm EDS, and several retail establishments.

Free tours are offered every Sunday through Wednesday at 4:30 pm. Interested "tourists" should go to the Wintergarden where they will be met by a Martian - um, I mean, a guide : )

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Yes, there are Grocery Stores in Detroit

Farmer Jack on East Jefferson

Despite what you may have heard, there are grocery stores in Detroit. I am always surprised to hear outsiders of the Motor City tell me that they could never live in the city, because they "wouldn't have any place to do their grocery shopping". This statement - which I had someone tell me at a bar in the D in January - always unnerves me, because it just isn't true.

In fact, the Farmer Jack on East Jefferson in Rivertown is a great example that proves the fallacy of this Detroit myth, often held by city-outsiders.

Built in 2003, this FJ is, according to New Detroit's website, the largest and most advanced store of its kind in the entire state of Michigan. Along with the Detroit grocery chain, the plaza also contains other retailers such as Payless Shoes, Rainbow kids, DOTS, Sally Beauty Supply, a Standard Federal bank branch, and an Athlete's Foot, amongst others.

There are two Farmer Jack grocery stores located in the city of Detroit, as well as three Food Basics stores, which were all previously Farmer Jack stores; they were converted last year as a cost-cutting measure by the chain's parent-company, A&P.

The One-and-a-Half Year-Old Farmer Jack on Jefferson Avenue

Along with the above-mentioned stores, Detroit also has a Kroger, and
many other non-franchised grocery stores, such as Harbortown Market. And lest we forget the 200-year old Eastern Market, the original metro Detroit farmer's market located between Rivard, Division, Gratiot and Riopelle.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Detroit to be highlighted on "The View"

Monday's Show Selects Detroit as One of America's Up and Coming Cities

It turns out that I am not the only one who thinks Detroit's real estate market is white-hot - a pool of 3700 real estate brokers also agree. According to this press release issued today, the brokers' opinions were utilized to pinpoint the nation's five most "up and coming cities" - of which Detroit is one.

Campus Martius Park is one of the spots in Detroit to be highlighted on Monday's episode of "The View"

Barbara Corcoran, an author and high-profile real estate broker in New York, will be featured on Monday's episode of ABC's "The View", where she will discuss the hot property market in Detroit, as well as the four other cities.

The press release I mentioned above noted that Campus Martius Park, the Lofts at Merchant's Row and the Riverwalk. These are all great reflections of Detroit's revitalization, but I am equally excited to see the part of the segment featuring my favorite Detroit-bar, Bookies, which played host to filmmakers of the piece last Friday night.

Look for the segment on the growing popularity of real estate in Detroit on Monday's episode of "The View".

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Launch Party for Metro Times Blowout Tomorrow

Detroit music-lovers are in for a big treat the next few days: the 2005 Metrotimes Blowout. Featuring over 200 acts at 20+ Detroit-area venues, the MT Blowout is sure to put some spring in the steps of this city's snowed-in residents. The musical extravaganza kicks off Wednesday night at Detroit's eclectic hot spot, The Majestic. The property - located along Woodward in downtown Detroit - is three-party-spots-in-one: it houses the Majestic Theater, the Magic Stick, and Garden Bowl. Tomorrow night, each will play host to a different type of musical genre. For those plan-ahead people out there, you've been reading the ads in MT every week and have already snagged your event-required wrist band, which only cost you $10. For the other 90% of you, the special is over, meaning you'll have to cough up the regular price of $20. With full access to the entire show, though, it'll be well worth it.

For band schedules, venues and times, visit