Closed windows

The neighborhood has felt different to me since the boiler started its work this fall. A summer of work on the front porch and with open windows made me feel connected to the neighborhood. I was inundated with neighbors saying hello. I felt like neighborhood crime was an aberration – who could commit theft or assault when the neighborhood was overflowing with concerned citizens?

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Microsoft Store coming to Detroit

A job posting on Microsoft’s Careers page lists a position open for “Store Manager” in Detroit, Michigan. This is interesting because while many new restaurants and bars have opened, there’s been a dearth of new higher-end retail shops in the city for the last several years—especially downtown. According to the Detroit Free Press, Moosejaw is the only “significant” new retailer to open downtown since CVS in 2006.

Microsoft Retail Store Interior

Image from content.microsoftstore.com

The job posting claims the location is Detroit, Michigan. Sometimes, this means metro Detroit, but I think in the case of Microsoft Careers, they actually mean Detroit—they list other Michigan cities specifically (such as Southfield, as shown in this job search). It’s reasonably safe to assume that a retail store opening in Troy (say, at Somerset Collection) would say Troy, MI. Furthermore, a listing of other Microsoft retail stores around the country shows that in other large metropolitan areas, such as Los Angeles, the individual cities are indeed shown on the listings. Continue reading

A shooting in Woodbridge, and why I don’t feel unsafe

2013 shooting in Woodbridge, Detroit

Tonight, at least ten shots were fired from an SUV, and a man was killed on the sidewalk, about a thousand feet from my front door.

Lincoln jumped up from his chair and ran downstairs, asking if we had heard the commotion (we didn’t). He heard the gunshots and saw the SUV speeding south down Avery.

I called Wayne State Police and was told by the dispatcher that they already had several calls about the incident and they were on it, and did I have a description of the vehicle? I did not and they thanked me for the call. By the time I hung up, there were four police cars arriving on the scene; this is less than five minutes after the shooting. Both Detroit and Wayne State Police were on the scene, and EMS was on its way.

I immediately went to a private Facebook group for our neighborhood and asked if anybody knew what happened. Within moments, responses started flooding in. Continue reading

Some parts of the city are a warzone, and the bad guys are winning

Goldengate Street, Detroit.

Detroit is fascinating, wonderful, and terrible. We’ve had our share of ups and downs, and we hear gunshots at night, and there are car thefts and vandalism on our street, but none of us have any regrets about where we’ve moved, and so far at least, the positive far outweighs the negative.

But it’s not like that for everyone. We’re lucky that this neighborhood is among the safest in the city. We’re lucky that we have neighbors that watch out for suspicious activity and that watch out for each other. We’re luck that when we call the police, they show up immediately. Other parts of the city are not so fortunate as us.

A discussion on Reddit today reminds us that while positive growth is happening all over our city, other parts are a terrifying warzone, and the bad guys are winning. We can’t close our eyes to this and pretend everything’s okay—it’s not. Not by a long shot.

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Getting stuff delivered in Detroit with Konbini

Konbini employee delivering groceries in Detroit

Yesterday I was followed by a Twitter account named @Konbini_CC. The words jumped out at me immediately: “Detroit’s Delivery Service”. I dug in a little deeper and discovered that Konbini is a service that promises home delivery of sundry groceries and packaged food items anywhere in our neighborhood as well as Corktown, Lafayette Park, New Center, Downtown, and Midtown.

A few things really stood out and they are things that I believe will make this work:

  • The items themselves are reasonably priced and available in individual quantities.
  • The entire system is all e-commerce and you can use debit or credit cards
  • The delivery fee is reasonable
  • They deliver until 3am

This is a novel idea for a small business, and it’s one that I think will work in this area. It’s like other quirky, modern small businesses (such as Detroit Greencycle curbside recycling pickup in Woodbridge) that have popped up to serve the burgeoning group of connected consumers in these growing areas of the city. Continue reading

Walking

You see a lot of entertaining things when you spend time walking around the city.

Today we took a four mile walk with our dog. We went from the house to the corner of Woodward and Warren, down Woodward to Ye Olde Butcher Shoppe, and then back to Woodbridge via MLK Jr.

Walking in Detroit

Along the way, we saw a lot of entertaining and interesting sights. The first thing I noticed it that there is some kind of new art project/tagging project going on. On random sidewalk blocks and spots on the ground throughout my entire path, I saw black squares spraypainted with yellow crosses. I have no idea what they symbolize or what the message is. Continue reading

Detroit and the food desert myth

Fresh food in DetroitNot that long ago, I got into an argument with a professional acquaintance. It started off as a discussion, but the things he was saying were so blatantly false that I began to get angry. I don’t often get angry, but when people spread misinformation about something important to me, and refuse to admit that they might have their ‘facts’ wrong, it really sets me off.

The issue in question was the age-old “There are no grocery stores in Detroit” conversation. This colleague was from Grand Rapids, and he was telling this to people from all over the country. A room full of people from all over the US were hearing this guy talk smack about Detroit and how there was no food here.

Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. “That is just plain false…” and we began getting into it. At one point the words, “Why would the media lie about that?” came out of his mouth. Continue reading

My first year in Detroit

A lot happened over the last year. A lot of great, exciting things. Today marks one year from the day that I moved into my new home, the city of Detroit.

I started out in a 270 sq/ft studio apartment in a very eccentric building downtown called The Leland. I was severely overweight. I had no job and I was struggling to get by on unemployment. I did what I had to do to hustle and get by, while I volunteered my time trying to help a start-up get off the ground. My opportunities started to wear thin, and things were looking really grim. My car died and I had to rely only on my bike and our antiquated public transit system to get around. Then, I realized that my unemployment benefits were coming to an end.

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A week in Detroit

I’ve been living in Detroit for a week now. In that time I have:

  • Eaten in Mexicantown twice
  • Shopped at Eastern Market
  • Walked my dog around the neighborhood every day
  • Walked to Midtown
  • Gone to the “Dlectricity” special event in Midtown
  • Rescued a neighbor’s dog
  • Met 3 new neighbors
  • Been awoken by a midnight street party next door
  • Watched as the only favorably-viewed city official, Police Chief Godbee, resigns amid scandal

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Rescuing Tallulah

The view from our back porch towards the two privacy fences separating us.

It was Monday morning and I was working in the office at the Sullivan House. I heard a very bad noise – something like high-pitched yelling mixed with dog screeching. I walked out on the back porch where I found Brian and Nicole looking with concern toward our neighbor’s house two doors down. Joe was in his yard next door looking in the same direction and asked loudly, “Do you need help?” The reply was a mixture of more horrible noises but I caught the word ‘help’ in there.

Brian, Nicole, and Joe all started a fast walk to the front of the houses. I looked at the two privacy fences separating us and thought, “Sure why not,” and off I went. I jumped from the porch onto the first fence, eyeing Joe’s large dog Misty. “Hope she’s as friendly as I think!” I thought as I jumped into Joe’s yard and ran across it. Misty just watched. I jumped and grabbed the top of the next privacy fence and vaulted over the top. As I hit the top, I saw a woman restraining a pit bull to keep it away from a small beagle. She was frantic and yelling barely coherently. “Well, hope I don’t get mauled!” I thought without pausing and into the yard I plunged.

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On hipsters in Detroit

Hipsters take over Detroit

“Hipsters go home” was the comment on Reddit in /r/Detroit in response to an article on Huffington Post entitled “Detroit: From Ruin Porn to Cool Again“.

This is a common theme in discussions on Reddit and in other online forums. A few times a month, someone comes in to the Detroit subreddit asking about the city (I’m moving to Detroit, what’s good?) and living there (Is Detroit really as bad as they say?). Almost inevitably, there will be someone mentioning the “hipsters” and how they’re bad/good/awesome/terrible for the city.

There seems to be an undercurrent of loathing for these hipsters that are somehow ruining everything that was ever cool about Detroit. I can’t tell if it’s bitterness that suburban kids who used to party in the city couldn’t make a go of it, or if it’s somehow racially motivated (there are black hipsters too!), or if it’s just the general attitude that comes with any revival or change movement. There’s a lot of resentment, regardless. Some of it takes the flavor of “We’re doing just fine without you, stay out” while others seem to be of the mindset that hipsters are only here for the short-term, and once they realize how gritty the city actually is, they’ll bail to fairer shores.

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HDC spanks Ohio man for pillaging Detroit historic mansion

Mike Mallet of Ohio picked up a helluva deal when he bought the former Van Dyke Place restaurant for $115,000. Curbed Detroit did some sleuthing and found that Mr. Mallett is already building a home in Port Clinton. So why would he want the restaurant? Maybe to steal all its architectural details and ship them up north? Hard to say.

Well, unfortunately for the Ohioan buzzard, the Historic District Commission had something to say about that. The former Van Dyke Place restaurant is located in East Indian Village, which, like Boston Edison, is protected by a local historic district. That makes looting its architectural treasures illegal. Mallett now has until August 8th to present plans to restore the property.

Enjoy fixing up your Detroit treasure, Mr. Mallett. You’ve earned it.

The Detroit Egg debut tasting party

Detroit Eggs, after baking and before coating and frying

Detroit Eggs, after baking and before coating and frying

A couple of weeks ago I got a strange invite on Facebook to an event called “Detroit Egg tasting party at my house”. That’s a weird one, right?

The invite was from Norm “DJ Meph” Witte III, one of our very own contributors. The Detroit Egg was his baby, and he was ready to unleash it upon the city.

Here’s how the story goes:
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Cleaning up Woodbridge with the AmeriCorps

AmeriCorps board up 5259 CommonwealthThe other day a flyer was rubber-banded to our porch. I assumed it was either a grass-cutting pitch or a politcal thing, but it was neither; rather, it was a flyer asking for volunteers to come help with a “board-up” on the next street over.

A board-up is when a group of people get together to board up an abandoned or burned-out house and clean the lots. On the north end of Woodbridge, there were a couple of burned-out houses, and they were not only eyesores but also places where people could get hurt.

But why?

Why board up an abandoned home? Why cut the grass? Why trim the hedges and pick up the trash?

It sends a clear signal: We care about this neighborhood. We care about what it looks like. We care about the way people treat our block. We care about the way homes are treated here, even if they’re not ours. Continue reading

Living in the Motor City with no car

Biking on the RiverfrontFor most of the time that I have lived here in Detroit, I have not had a car. This seems to blow a lot of people’s minds who see this city as being the antithesis to the car-less lifestyle. After all, we are the Motor City, home of the Ford Model T and the Chevy Camaro. Modern Detroit gave life to the American Dream, a place where two and a half kids, a white picket fence, and a car in every garage are practically required for social acceptance.

Things changed a lot when I first moved here. During the first couple of months I started walking around Downtown, getting to know the lay of the land. Luckily we had a very mild winter, with very little snow. Most of the time a winter coat, hat, gloves and some insulated hiking boots were plenty enough protection to battle the elements. At some point I realized that I could get around a lot better if I had a bike, so I picked up my bike that had been stored at my parents’ house for nearly 15 years, fixed it up and started venturing further out.

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Marche du Nain Rouge 2012

Marche du Nain Rouge The 2012 Marche du Nain Rouge happened today in Midtown.

The Marche du Nain Rouge is a 300-year-old tradition in Detroit centered around the idea that French settler and founder of Detroit, Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, encountered a little red dwarf, or “Nain Rouge”, and struck him with his cane. The Nain cursed Cadillac and his colony. The Marche brings revelers out to chase out the Nain Rouge and undo the Curse.

While the legend is old, the tradition and parade are new. It was “re-started” in 2010, with 400 revelers turning out to chase the Nain Rouge. This year, more than 3000 showed up.
Marche du Nain Rouge 2012 Mustaches against le Nain
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Hackerspaces, biking, art, and life in Detroit

Corktown, Detroit, MichiganA lot has happened since I moved to Detroit. I recently moved from the Leland to Corktown, and have taken on a new venture, but let’s rewind back to September, just before I took the leap and moved into the city.

I was at TEDxDetroit, and I was very moved by a presentation made by Brian Mulloy, about the founding of Detroit and the role Chief Pontiac played in Detroit’s history. I learned that the French created Detroit to be a Utopian society, where the French and native Americans would live together and learn from each other, in peace and harmony, and with mutual respect. It is an amazing story, and I met him after the event at the networking afterglow. Continue reading

Woodbridge neighborhood crime watch text alert group

Woodbridge Crime Watch groupGroupMe is an app that has been around for almost two years now. Last year, I went to SXSW and used it to keep in touch with the extended group I was travelling with. It was a huge help to have a unified group messaging system that worked with a variety of devices.

Recently, I saw that Jerry Paffendorf of Loveland Technologies wrote a blog post about using GroupMe as a neighborhood crime watch alert system in Corktown, and I decided to start one for Woodbridge.

This fantastic idea is entirely Jerry’s. I’m just hoping to share the love in Woodbridge. As we’ve written about here, we’ve been the victims of petty crime and any information we can share as a community can only help us keep our neighborhood safer.

To reiterate some of the great points Jerry made on his blog post, let’s talk about what the group should and should never be used for:

Good Examples:

  • Someone just stole my car on the corner of X and Y.
  • Someone is breaking into my house at 555 Neighbor St!! Someone come help!
  • I just saw someone smash a window and get into a red van on the corner of Bad Boy and What You Gonna Do. License plate # 123 ABC

Bad Examples:

  • What’s up everybody? Enjoying a crime-free weekend I hope.
  • Help! I can’t find my keys!
  • OMG This weather is crazy right? lol.
  • lasstt caaallL @ Woodbridge Pub woooo!

In order to join the Woodbridge Crime Watch group, please send me a message on IntoDetroit with your mobile number and first and last name. Once you’re in the group, you can use a computer, a smartphone (Android or iPhone), or any phone that can send text messages.

If you witness anything going down, crime-wise, post to the group and call the Wayne State Police at (313) 577-2222 or 911. With a service like this we can start to identify patterns that will help law enforcement and help reduce crime in our community.

Taking the good with the bad

Often, when you read about all the “moving to Detroit” hype, the optimism flows like hot butter down a biscuit. People will stress and emphasize how amazing, how wonderful, how beautiful Detroit is.

While all of that is true, there is also the elephant in the room: People try to overcompensate for Detroit’s downfalls in their writing. It’s almost as if by pushing how wonderful everything is, they can hide the negativity.

It’s only natural. How else are we to be expected to make the best of a bad situation? We’re fighting a war of perception with people who desperately, for one reason or another, want us to fail.

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Detroit, or There and Back Again (Again)

The current chapter of my life might as well be called “Detroit, or There and Back Again (Again).”

I was born and raised in Detroit. I lived downtown for the first thirteen years of my life, up until my family was forced to move when they closed down our apartment building. I went to Burton International (what’s now the Corktown Cinema) from 1st to 8th grade, and probably would’ve attended Cass Tech if we hadn’t moved to Warren, a neighboring suburb. But even after moving, I continued to hang out and work there before finally leaving Michigan in 2004.

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