Life at The Leland

The Leland Lobby

The Leland Lobby

I have now been living in the city of Detroit for a bit more than three months. I can say that it has been everything I hoped for and more. Some of it has been a struggle, but there’s nothing about this city that doesn’t keep me going every day. A lot is changing, and I’m starting to feel like a real Detroiter. Just knowing what that means is satisfying enough for me.

The building I live at, The Leland, is a constant source of entertainment for me. When I signed my lease (while sitting at the bar, mind you), the bartender was arguing with a hooker about moving her furniture up the wrong entrance. The hooker thought she was being profiled for the way she dressed, but the bartender eventually convinced her that the rules were the same for everyone. Did I mention that I pay my rent at the bar? With my debit card!

Art Show by German Art Student, Max Brand

Art Show by German Art Students in The Leland Ballroom

My childhood band teacher, the one who taught me how to play trumpet and read music, told me that he had known some people that lived in this building and that I would like it very much. He said that there is quite a Bohemian spirit here, and I have found this to be true. A few days after I moved in, some art students from Germany moved in right next to me. Before they left to go to New York, they organized an art show in the Leland Ballroom, and it was everything that I imagined an art show put on by German art students would be like. Sometimes I come home and hear the most beautiful guitar solos echoing through the hallway. I just stop and listen for a while. My life has become the musical, Rent.

The floor I live on is one of two floors with laundry machines, so I always come home to the smell of laundry and weed—probably two of my favorite smells. I meet a lot of people in the building who ride the elevator and get off on my floor with me, even if they are just here to do laundry. Everyone is very sociable—maybe sometimes a bit too much. Hang around the lobby bar long enough and you’ll soon hear some gossip about something going on between two residents. I try to stay out of that kind of stuff, which has been really easy since I quit drinking.

Detroit Sunset

Breathtaking View of the Sun Setting on the Detroit River, from the roof of The Leland

Some friends came by, one of whom was visiting from Ann Arbor, and we got a chance to explore the building a little bit. We peeked into the Mezzanine, but there wasn’t much going on there—just unfinished construction projects. We also went up to the roof and checked out the view from up there. We could see the Detroit Princess coming in to dock, and had a great view of the West side of Downtown and Corktown. It was quite breathtaking. My King of the World moment.

With a laundromat, a bar in the lobby, a nightclub, convenience store, diner, and ballroom that is available for parties, The Leland really is a well-oiled machine. Proof of this can be found in the sub-basement, where you might find a 12ft oil pit. God knows what’s in that pit. The Leland was once a big hangout for the Purple Gang, and is one of the potential spots where Jimmy Hoffa could have met his doom. The 4th floor, where the Purple Gang hung out, is said to be haunted, but they keep it on lockdown so I might never know for myself.

Detroit Riverwalk

Ice crunching in the Detroit River during a Sunday morning bike ride

I was hoping that I would be able to ride my bike more when I moved here. I ride my bike so much now that I ended up loaning out my car to a colleague that needs it more than I do. It’s a bit cold to ride in the winter-time, but at my work we are designing a product specifically for people like me who choose to ride in the cold. I also visited a non-profit bike shop called The Hub a few days ago, to get a lock and reflector kit for my bike. After visiting, I have a few more ideas now that I think will bring me back there soon. Over the weekend I took the bus up to Lake Orion to see my parents. The bus system in Detroit is a bit wonky, but I’m starting to understand it more now and I realize it can get me pretty much anywhere I want to go in Metro Detroit.

Since I moved here, I have lost 45 pounds on the Keto diet, and through exercise. I have found many restaurants around here that cater well to the diet. Mudgie’s, for instance, is a sandwich shop that serves the dopest salads. I really need to get the recipe for their Maurice dressing too—I’ve never had one like it. There are three restaurants in walking distance that focus on meat, including Texas de Brazil, a Brazilian steakhouse, Roast, which features a variety of roasted meats, and Rub BBQ and pub, which is arguably better than Slow’s. There is also a place called Bucharest Grill that stays open late and allows you to order through the internet. I can get a shawarma salad there for $10 that will last me three days. I can even get Jimmy Johns to deliver their delicious #12 unwich straight to my door. In fact, it’s actually quite surprising all of the things I can have delivered. Detroit is a provider!

Detroit Fashion Collective Design Studio

Detroit Fashion Collective - Corktown Design Studio

The startup I’m working with acquired a 4,800 square foot warehouse that we are currently using as a design studio. There will be room in the building to expand as we receive manufacturing jobs as well. When we moved in, and we were cleaning up the building, the owner of the building stopped by to ask what we were using the building for. When I told him that we would eventually be manufacturing clothing there, his eyes lit up like fireworks. Since then he has done everything but break his back to help us with everything we’ve needed. We have received an outpouring of support from the community as well, and things are really moving along for us.

I’m really excited now that Brian and Lincoln are moving to Woodbridge. The Icrontic community has become some of my best friends over the last few years. To have us all together in the city of Detroit for future gatherings will be an amazing experience, and I look forward to creating new memories with them.

Ice Skating at Campus Martius

Ice Skating at Campus Martius, Downtown Detroit

As for The Leland, I realize that it’s is not an ideal living place for everyone. Keep in mind, I only have 270 sq ft, but my rent is the lowest I’ve ever paid in my life. To me, The Leland is great because I have grown fond of the people in this city and The Leland represents the quintessential Detroiter. You don’t want to cross the wrong person here, but we also look out for each other. If you’re stuck in the social hierarchy of the suburbs, you probably won’t get along here. If you approach the city with empathy, you might be surprised by the kindness and good nature of the people here. I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.

7 thoughts on “Life at The Leland

  1. Great stuff, really like the pictures. Tell Lincoln to install a "Lightbox" plugin so we can have the images pop up on the page :)
  2. Plugins may be limited due to the fact that this is a Vanilla site with Wordpress integration, but I'll bring it up next time I see him. Thanks for the kind words!
  3. Looks like an absolutely beautiful building. A tiny apartment in a good location can definitely be worth the affordable rent, which I can relate to! Love hearing about the characters, definitely makes coming home fun. Would love a tour of the building sometime.
  4. When I was a very little girl in the early 80s, I lived in the Leland with my mother in a 10th floor corner suite. The day we moved in, the lobby was taped off as a crime scene (I think someone had been stabbed.) I had a babysitter who, I think, ran numbers. It was one of most magical places I can recall, and probably still the only time I had a bathroom all to myself. Cheers.
  5. Elisa, The Leland most definitely is a magical place. It's so funny you said that because I say that all the time. I even thought about saying that in this article, but I didn't think anyone would understand. I'm so glad that you do. If life ever brings you back here, I think you'll find that it's still a magical place. Cheers!
  6. Love the article Norm. I am so happy to see other people move here and fall in love with the city as I have. There really isn't anything like it. I was telling someone the other day that if you meet someone and they tell you they live downtown Detroit you are pretty much automatically friends. I think it is because people who live here are unique and share a common bond.

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