Last weekend in Detroit?

Our university research here in Detroit is going well; we are collecting responses in the selected areas and all the work that we made in the first part of our stay is really paying of (networking, meet people involved in local organisations and local activities, find event and community meeting etc…). Unfortunately we haven’t yet reached the required number of responses in order to conduct a research statistically valid and so, in accord with our professors, our contact here in Detroit and, especially, our families we decided to stay a little bit more. We changed the return flight (now it’s on May 31), we’ve extended the lease of our car and also for our room: fortunately there weren’t any requests for it. So we can officially say “Detroit, we’re still here!

We went in Eastern Market for buy fruit and vegetbles and, since we missed Italy a little, we stopped at Supino for a pizza (seriously guys, here pizza is pretty much the same as the real Italian one!). We discovered also a Record Store just on the other side of the street and so we spent more or less one hour for find some good deals. Peoples Records: a ery nice place with very good prices!

Peoples Records

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It’s time to get working, now. After we finished with the organisation of the extension of our stay we continued the work for our thesis: we read local newspapers, we sent emails and we started to organise our extra month in Detroit. Fortunately our contacts here suggested us some events and community meeting organised in May to which we could take part.

Finally is Saturday evening and so… El Club! It is an all ages arts venue in Southwest Detroit, we listened live thecno music and it was pretty nice!

El Club

On Sunday we passed the morning at home and in the afternoon we had in plan a Soup in Spaulding Court (Corktown area) but once there we discovered that the event has been postponed until next Sunday so, since we had free time, we went to the Avis office near the airport for renew the rental agreement of our car and after that we’ve been to Macy’s!

Macy’s Fairlane

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Walking in the Neighborhood

In view of the O’shea Solar community meeting on May 4th, today the District 7‘ staff was in charge of distributing flyers home to home in the O’shea neighborhood. This is a little neighborhood in the Detroit’s west-side marked by ten acres of solar panel arrays, that previously were vacant. The Solar Park was finished few months ago and today generate enough energy to power over 450 homes.

Moreover, thanks to this and its more than 6500 solar panels, Detroit got one of the largest urban solar arrays in the country.

O’shea Solar Park

Talking about this morning, the District 7′ staff invited us to walk with them around the neighborhood. Obviously we accepted the call and we met them at 10am in front of the Solar Park. Here, we teamed up in three groups and started to put flyers on every single door in the neighborhood. We took also the opportunity to leave some of our questionnaires to inhabitants, with the hope that someone will fill out our survey and release this to us at the meeting on Thursday.

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After that, we were invited by the team to have lunch together; so, thanks to K., the Mexican girl that worked with us in the morning, we went to Mexican Town. Here we tryed mexican food at Taqueria Nuestra Familia for the first time: tacos, tortillas, enchiladas, tortas, quesadillas and more served with guacalmole and chili sauce. And, to all this, how could miss a good Margarita to drink?

Taqueria Nuestra Familia

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The work continues…

Like usual, we attended at the meeting of the Department of Neighborhood. Now everyone at 11th floor know us: the receptionist at the entrance asked us “girls, but do you work here now?!?”. Anyway, the meeting was held like usual and every District Manager spoke about what happen in his area. Now we understand better about what they’re talking about and also in what consist their job.

Finally an afternoon of shopping! We discovered some local clothes shops and so we spent a couple of hours shopping. After that, we returned at home for continue our research and then a drink at the evening at The Old Miami pub.

The day after, today Thursday 27th, we passed all the day to work on our blog and for organise events in the next days. In the evening, the East Jefferson Soup. It was nice and everyone that was here completed our survey. THANK YOU ALL!

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Tuesday, April 25th

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Need coffee? For Italians people find a good coffe here is hard… too hard…  Fortunately we discovered some coffee houses where it’s possible find a reasonable coffee. One of them is Eleos Coffee12041 Dexter Ave, Detroit, MI 48206. That’s where we met J. and B., two member of District 7 teem. We met them yesterday at the Motor City Makeover Kick-off event and they were very kind with us! So today we ran into each other for better discuss with them about District 7 work.

In particular, they explained to us about the structure of the government of Detroit and, in more detail, about the Department of Neighborhood structure and organisation. Once we’re more in confidence we asked them about Detroit issues, controversies and outstanding problems. They have our same age so we spoke openly and this was very helpful also for improve our english.

In the afternoon we attended at a community meeting organised in our neighborhood (Dexter-Linwood) by a local organisation: Life Remodeled. The discussion with the community verted on different topics and one of them was the reconversion of the Durfee Building, an edifice part of the Central High School. The plan involves turning Durfee into a small-business incubator but this progect of reconversion of this building has created some controversies in Detroit, so maybe it’s for that that there weren’t a lot of people. In general this meeting was not helpful for our research but was interesting anyway.

Eleos Coffee house

LifeRemodeled

DETROIT FREE PRESS – Durfee Building

[Motor City Makeover] kick-off in District 7

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Motor City Makeover is a new and interesting project developed by the City Hall that concerns an annual citywide volunteer cleanup and beautification initiative. Cleanup efforts are scheduled by Council Districts on specific weekends in May. In particular there will be three Saturdays (May 6th, for District 1 and 2, May 13th, for District 3, 4 and 5, May 20th for District 6 and 7) in which a lot of volunteers could meet to clean together their own neighborhood.

So, after a morning spent at home to prepare ourselves for the following week events, we went to the Adam Butzel Recreational Center to meet the District 7 staff in their own office. They in fact organized for today the first kick-off of Motor City Makeover and the District manager invited us to help them with the set up of the event. And, in return of this, they enabled us to distribute the questionnaire during the event. Moreover, they invited us also to other similar community event during May that could be useful for our research. (Thank you so much guys!)

Today’s event provided the kick-off of the materials needed for cleaning up the city. Partecipants were mostly leaders of different block clubs working on the ground; to them were given trash bag, gloves and t-shirt that they can distribute to volunteers who will take part in following events. We think that this event was successful, thanks to the great partecipation and to the interest shown by everyone in the room.

To help us meeting people and distributing our survey, we have been assigned by the team to the table for receiving visitors. It was very nice for us! Talking with people, explaining to them our work ans saw some interest in our research was great! Everyone was kind with us and we were able to collect almost 25 questionnaires.

Motor City Makeover meeting

Motor City Makeover on Facebook

Department of Neighborhoods

Adam Butzel Recreational Center

Detroit CityWide Soup

Today we attend at the CityWide Soup at 2900 E Grand Boulevard. Here we met Amy Kaherl, the girl that found this organization in 2010 and that we contact to ask help with the distribution of our survey. She is a very kind person and she told us that we can do everything we want to do, no permission necessary! This is in fact the motto of those events: the association give the opportunity to share your ideas and your projects, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from!

The Soup of today was a city wide soup, meaning that all projects presented were related to all the city of Detroit, so people that attend at the event were from all parts of the city and near suburbs. This was exciting: we had the possibility to set up a table near the entrance, distribute our questionnaire, talk to everyone who was interested in our work and made a lot of useful contact. At the end of the soup people returned us the survey completed…we’ve been able to collect even seventy results in just two hours! Unfortunately, as shown by the great participation of suburbs inhabitants, approximately half of the answers won’t help us with our idea to compare different neighborhoods in Detroit city, but we hope that those could be useful for us to understand why some citizens choose to live in their suburbs at the expense of the Inner City.

The Soup was a a great opportunity for us and our research, so we hope to be able to do the same at the next soup in some neighborhood of Detroit, like East Jefferson Youth Soup on April 27th and Spauling Court on April 30th.

For today that’s a wrap, everyone!

Ps: we almost forgot to tell you that the location was amazing! Check out the following link to know and see more!

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Detroit Soup

Location – the jam handy, 2900 E Grand Blvd, Detroit MI

“Spring Forward on Six Mile”

In those two days we were involved in the event “Spring Forward on Six Mile“. This was a community meeting organized by the Planning and Development Department, the District 2 staff, the DCDC of the Detroit Mercy University and the Live6, a local organization active in this area of the city. The event included different things: first of all it was intended like a party for the community, with a little market organized by residents and a lot of activities suitable for all ages. Second, the event was used to be a prototype of the development proposal for McNichols Road. The block between Praire St and San Juan St was modified in the street structure to show people what it could be if the project will be carried out: the existing carriageways and the parking side were a little bit reduced to host cycle paths on both side of the road. Moreover, during the day, the PDD distributed a survey to partecipants to understand what people think about this project and if they think that there are some aspects to add or modify.

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The title of the event was “Spring Forward on six mile“, and the spring really came out! Volunteers and organizers provided flowers, little trees, plastic flamingos, tables with sun umbrellas, lawn chairs and more to set up the spring in this block. Also the road surface has a spring aspect: a lot of painting flowers spruced the grey hues of the asphalt, designing dehors and crosswalks. It was really beautiful, thanks also to clouds that leave the sun out! There was a significant partecipation at the event and everyone that crossed by car McNichols Road this afternoon stopped traffic to understand what is happening.

The party was this afternoon from 2pm to 8pm but the set up started Thursday April 20th. A lot of volunteers (including us!) were involved in the construction and there was really a lot of things to do: removing the garbage from the lot, painting the street, providing materials, redesigning the carriageways and much more! Moreover the road can’t be closed to do this, so we had also to directing traffic and painting the flower-crosswalks in only ten second during the red light! Felt like the Formula1 pit stop! It was really funny and this afternoon we were really proud of what we were doing!

Live6

CDCD – Detroit Mercy

PDD – Spring Forward on 6 mile

Spring Forward on six mile

Detroit Sip

Food for thought #7

With little effort, in two hours we cleaned up pratically 65 ft (≈20 meters) of a road! It would take only a nudge to make Detroit’s neighborhoods clean! Motor City Makeover (we’ll talk about this initiative in next items) is a great idea and it seems an handsome initiative for citizens. It takes a lot of effort for involve inhabitants in community activities (and Detroiters in general are involved more than people from other American’s cities). If everyone does it part Detroit would be entirely “fixed” in no time!

Detroit City Planning Commission

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After a morning at home for work on our thesis, in the afternoon we attended at a public meeting of the City Planning Commission in the City Hall, 13th floor.

The City Planning Commission consists of nine members who are appointed by the City Council to three-year terms. Members serve without pay and must be residents of Detroit. The Commission provides recommendations to the City Council on the physical, social and economic development of the City including the Five-Year Capital Agenda, Master Plan, and other proposals and ordinances for the regulation of development and land use, as required by the City Charter. The City Council may adopt the recommendations or reject them.

Today’s Agenda included, after an Opening Session (Call of Order, Roll Call and the approval of Agenda), one Public Hearing and two Presentations.

The first Public Hearing concerned the request of Brush Park Development Partners LLC to modify the provisions of existing PD (Planned Development) zoning districts to better facilitate the development of the mixed-use residential structure on the western portion of the subject block.

The first of the two presentations instead, concerned the proposal of redevelopment of 1206 Woodward Ave (Hudson’s block). Even if the first topic concerned an area that was interesting for us because is one of the neighborhoods that we choose for our survey, the presentation of redevelopment of 1206 Woodward Ave was very interesting. The building is part of an estimated $775 million development proposed by an entity linked to billionaire Dan Gilbert. The project for the empty Woodward Avenue block where the J.L. Hudson department store once stood is one of the most expensive and ambitious plans introduced in a decade that has seen many blockbuster deals. At the Presentation was present a delegation of the studio who designed the building and a manager of Bedrock Inc., the largest real estate partner in downtown Detroit. They presented the project to the members of the City Planning Commissions who were very attracted by Renders and 3D reconstrucions. In gereral we can say that the meeting went well!

Food for thought #6

Wonderful renders, nothing to say, but maybe too much people? Let’s not forget that we’re in Detroit! Renders always attracts people, also if they are a little bit unrealistic.

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The second presentation concerned a request of Huntington National Bank but since the speech it wasn’t inherent on our research topic and previously we planned a dinner in a restaurand in Farmington hills (a Detroit’s suburb) we left the meeting.

Detroit City Planning Commission

City Modern Project

DETROIT FREE PRESS – Detroit’s tallest building on old Hudson’s site

THE DETROIT NEWS – Tallest building in Detroit planned for Hudson site

CLOCKONDETROIT – New building on old Hudson’s site

Dan Gilbert

Bedrock Inc.

Back to Italy for one night!

After a meeting there’s nothing better that a dinner! We had the chance to be invited at the Café Cortina, the A.’s family restaurant. No words: it was amazing! For one night we felt like we’re come back in Italy.  The food was great, waiters were nice, the lounge was welcoming and we felt tike two princess (there was also the parking attendant :-O). So thanks A. for this amazing evening! When you come in Italy we’ll try to return worthily the favour! GRAZIE

Cafe Cortina

Wednesday April 19th

The day started with the meeting of the Department of Neighborhood in the City Hall. This was our second meeting and it was useful for better understand how the Government of Detroit is structured and how the Department of Neighborhood works. We better understood issues that were discussed and references mentioned by everyone and, since we attended at the previous meeting, we saw the progress of the team work. Like the previous meeting there were also deputy of differents other Department, the Land Bank, the Media office and people with new proposals for the community.

Some infos about the Department of Neighborhood…

Mayor Duggan created the Department of Neighborhoods when he took office in 2014 to establish a more direct connection between the Mayor’s Office and the city’s many neighborhoods. District Managers are charged with addressing blight in neighborhoods, organizing block clubs and community organizations and helping residents access City services.

There are two managers serving each of the seven City Council districts: of these two, one is the “District Manager” and the other is a “Deputy District Manager“. The difference between these two positions is that the District Manager works more with the Government, politicals and he covers a more institutional charge; the Deputy District Manager is a figure that works more with the community, organise meetings with inhabitants and community events. Anyway every District can have a different structure and the reciprocal roles of every Manager and the District’s staff can changes.

The division of Detroit in 7 District goes back to 2012, when the Detroit City Council has approved a map (between differents options) thet divides the city in seven districts. This division also serves for the elections of the nine Council member: one for every district and two citywide members. Before that, all nine members were elected at large and there were only two District Managers for all Detroit!

So, we can say that this transition was a big changes for the City for two main aspects: in therms of citizens, now they can dialogue better with the municipality and they can have the opportunity to be more actives in decision-making processes and on city development; in therms of the government, it has the possibility to better control it’s territory and be aware on what heppens in Detroit with weekly reports and updates.

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Department of Neighborhoods

Detroit District division

Detroit Council Districts

Detroit City Council

Maps of the 4 Options for the Proposed City Council Districts

An Impassioned Plea for District Democracy

Grand River Northwest community meeting

Today, April 18th, at the Pure Word Missionary Baptist Church the Planning and Development Department organised a community meeting with the inhabitants of the area. This kind of event is called “open house“,  a day during which the City of Detroit staff & design team meet residents to discuss strategies for the neighborhood development.

The entire planning process was structured in four meetings with the populations of the area and today’s meeting was the third (the first was on February 15th, the second was on March 22nd and the fourth will be on May 23rd). Today’s event was entitled “how can we get there?” and there has been a debate concerning different landscape strategies proposed by urban designers. In particular these strategies concerned Grand River streetscape alternatives, the creation of “The Rougeway” (a greenway along the Rouge River) and the creation of a green stormwater infrastructure (GSI).

PDD’s staff and two members of the “Designworkshop” studio collected inhabitants preferences about proposals and tried to understand how they image the future of their neighborhood.

The event was structured into two different parts: a briefing with a group of inhabitants more involved in the development process and a survey for all people that came at the open house. The form of the survey was interesting because it was not a “classic” questionnaire but was subdivided in four differents postcards, placed in four differents workstations and containing questions about the different topics.

Moreover, we had the chance to meet the managers of the initiative, such as the Design Director and urban planners of the PDD and the Landscape Architects charged to design the strategies.

City of Detroit – Northwest area

Designworkshop