Click HERE to Reserve Your Spot Now!

National Geographic Travel Magazine is singing the praises of one Oakland County Community.   Ferndale is one of just five communities from across the nation chosen for a "Great American Main Street Award."

The award is given to towns who create jobs, get the community involved and demonstrate an authentic American Culture.

In an article titled, "Take A Stroll Down Main Street," the magazine notes that the city has managed to cut its downtown business vacancy rate from 30-percent to six-percent over the past ten years, despite Southeast Michigan's economic decline.

But Mayor Craig Covey says there's one thing in particular he loves about his town. "My favorite thing about downtown is the walk-ability. I don't have to drive my car," Covey told WWJ.

"You know, I've had a car all my life, and I can drive it if I need to. But, at this point in Ferndale's history and in my own history, I can leave my car in my driveway and I can walk to the bank, I can walk to the drug store, I can walk to the gym, and I can walk to the bar or the nightclub or the restaurant, and I just love doing that," Covey said.

Coveys says such national distinction is great for Ferndale.

"We're now seeing and hearing from people in cities like New York and Los Angeles that have heard of Ferndale -- that  blows my mind!   And we have people moving here, that are coming to the Metro Detroit area, and when they select a place to live, they're picking Ferndale," he said.

Over the past decade, Ferndale has seen $35 million in private investment and created 700 new jobs.

Other winning towns were Columbus, Mississippi; Fairmont, West Virginia; Lee's Summit, Missouri and Paducah, Kentucky.
Eur Web

Spike Lee, Magic Johnson and Kimberly Locke will join first lady Michelle Obama in Detroit on Wednesday to stress the importance of being a mentor, the White House announced Monday.

The forum will be held tomorrow morning at Wayne State University. A limited number of tickets were made available to the public until 8 p.m. last night.

Also joining the first lady will be Michigan dignitaries Gov. Jennifer Granholm and first gentleman Dan Mulhern; Detroit Mayor Dave Bing; Detroit Democratic Reps. John Conyers and Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick; Denise Ilitch, whose family owns the Detroit Red Wings; and former University of Michigan football coach Lloyd Carr.

A special lunch with young people will be held after Mrs. Obama’s speech, which is “designed to engage, encourage and inspire,” the White House stated.

The Detroit trip is part of the first lady’s mentoring outreach. In March 2009, during Women’s History Month, she paired high school girls in the D.C. area with female staff in the White House. Obama went to Denver last November on a similar trip.

Featured in this month's issue of Imbibe Magazine is a list of the 25 Most Influential Cocktails Over The Past Century.  Making the cut is "The Last Word," it's origin straight out of the Motor City during the Prohibition Era from the Detroit Athletic Club.

While the drink eventually fell out of use, it has recently enjoyed renewed popularity after being rediscovered as a cult hit in the Seattle area by Murray Stenson, a bartender at the Zig Zag Café.

How to Make The Last Word

1 oz gin

1 oz maraschino liqueur
1 oz Chartreuse
1 oz fresh lime juice

Shake well with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Shut up and drink.
As a way to bring attention to the exciting, unique, creative and often unnoticed places and events in the city of Detroit, Garden Court Condominiums, Detroit’s premier high-rise living complex, is launching the first-ever “I Love Detroit!” video contest—asking the community to show their love for Detroit by capturing a video of themselves doing what they love most in the city. The announcement was made by Carrie Cohen, Sales Director for Garden Court Condominiums.

“Detroit is a place that offers its residents the living experience of an exciting urban lifestyle—built upon the city’s long-lasting history of thriving on a creative spirit,” said Cohen. “From Motown to the automotive industry, the people of Detroit have always made their presence known worldwide. However, through this initiative, we want to raise local visibility of all the ongoing things that make Detroit great—the people, the sights, the sounds, the hidden gems that often go unnoticed—all while providing the community with a unique platform to share their love for the city and live rent-free for one year at Garden Court Condominiums.”

Beginning May 23, participants can upload their 2-minute video submission to First, participants must create an account, then click “submit video” to upload their submission. The contest will conclude on Monday, June 21, with the winner of the contest being announced at a “Wrap Party” happening from 6-9 p.m. on Tuesday, June 29 at the luxury rooftop at Garden Court Condominiums overlooking the Detroit River.

At the event, the winner will be announced and awarded the grand prize to live rent-free at Garden Court Condominiums for one year. During the year, this individual will subsequently chronicle their day-to-day experiences participating in Detroit’s culture, dining and sporting events through a blog. The blog will offer those considering a move to the city an unprecedented birds-eye view into the amenities that living in the city of Detroit can offer. A panel of notable southeastern Michigan-based personalities will select the winning video.

Participants can submit their videos and view contest rules at between May 23 and June 21. FOX 2 News is serving as the “I Love Detroit!” video contest’s promotional partner and will showcase video submissions on-air during the duration of the contest.

Designed by famed architect Albert Kahn in 1915, Garden Court Condominiums is a mid-rise condominium complex located in the East RiverWalk District of Detroit with spectacular views of the City and the River. It features 65 superbly renovated residences that seamlessly blend the beauty of the historic architecture with today’s modern amenities. For more information, please visit:

There are over 125 Bars and Restaurants in Downtown Detroit and many of them are dog friendly. This tour will take you to 3 of them.

Below is the itinerary for the night. All of the bars are located Downtown within just a few blocks of each other. Brought to you by Canine to Five and Inside Detroit this special Drinking with Dogs will include:

Drink specials at each location.

Introductions to owners, bartenders and others.

Personal guide who leads the group and makes sure everyone has a good time!

The Well  - 6:00 – 7:00
1228 Randolph
A funky, friendly pub that has a unique outdoor patio and the owners bartending. A 100-inch projection screen TV and great drink specials make it a favorite neighborhood spot and a great place to catch the game!

Pulse Lounge – 7:00 – 8:00
156 Monroe
One of Downtown’s cooler spots this simple yet sophisticated cocktail lounge has a great environment, an amazing martini menu and some of the best DJ’s in town.

Beaubien Street Saloon – 8:00 – 9:00
641 Beaubien.
More than just a great sports bar. The Beaubien is Detroit’s version of “Cheers”. Cheap beer, free popcorn, pool, darts and by your second visit everyone knows your name.

Click HERE to reserve your spot!

Reel Chicago

After a comparatively quiet first quarter, Michigan is looking forward to a tremendous amount of spring and summer activity.

It gets off to a high octane start April 18 in Detroit with Sony Pictures’ action-adventure “S.W.A.T.: Fire Fight,” based on the 1970s TV series, directed by Benny Boom (“Next Day Air”) and starring Robert Patrick.

“Salvation Boulevard,” the Pierce Brosnan comedic thriller will get underway in May. Horror comedy “Vamps,” starring Alicia Silverstone, commences in June. Wes Craven’s “Scream 4” comes to film in Ann Arbor in mid-June.

Also scheduled for Detroit principal photography are “A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas,” “30 Minutes or Less,” “The Double,” “Transformers 3” and “Northern Lights.”

The biggest-budget production will be DreamWorks' “Real Steel,” an action boxing drama starring Hugh Jackman, set in the near-future where 2,000 pound robots that look like humans do battle. Filming will start June 15 for 70 days in the Detroit area.

Last year, Michigan was host to a total of 49 projects, mostly features, but also a TV series and several feature-length docs. (See list below.)

But in order for Michigan to keep pace with the increasing flow of entertainment projects it needs to build a sustainable infrastructure.

Towards this end, the Michigan Film Office in late 2009 hired Richard Jewell as its workforce development director.

His main task it is to standardize and organize the many different skills needed to support a new creative economy.

Jewell, who is developing a basic competencies document, is leading a skills’ alliance of educational institutions and other stakeholders.

An example of this alliance is a very promising educational opportunity: the partnering of Wayne County Community College and IATSE.

This partnership provides for Detroit residents to receive grants for classroom training by IATSE members. They are then embedded into working film sets where they are paid to work alongside union workers, as a fast track to union membership and more feature film opportunities.

This model may be duplicated in other parts of the state.

The goal of the Michigan Film Office Advisory Council (MFOAC) is to increase the film labor pool in a short time. The current number of ready local crew available depends on who you speak to, but seems to be in the range of two to four films.

Through the recently unveiled MFOAC multi-university program, students would be trained in above- and below-the-line skills. Students in this pilot program, which is a collaboration among Wayne State, Michigan State and the University of Michigan, would work together to develop, script, shoot and edit a film.

Organizations such as the Michigan Production Alliance (MPA) have taken it upon themselves to fast track an indigenous creative community. Incentives have kick-started the industry here, although Michigan has been a commercial production center for over 50 years. Now it’s up to the local industry to make it all stick.

On April 22, non-profit MPA sponsored a summit for investors and their agents to understand what to look for in pitches from filmmakers. Until now, Michigan hasn’t had enough reason or interest to support a financial/legal community with expertise in film financing.

Like the entire landscape, this is changing. The hope is to create foundations that will allow the community to grow and maintain Michigan as a viable production center in the United States.

For more about the Michigan Production Alliance, see

Completed 2009 Michigan-made Productions

“Up in the Air” - Paramount Pictures

“Betty Ann Waters” - Innocence Productions, Inc.

“Hopeful Notes” - Red Future Entertainment, LLC

“Oogie Loves in the Big Balloon Adventure” - Big Balloon Adventure Movie, LLC

“Caught in the Crossfire” - Caught in Crossfire, LLC

“Stone” - Stone Productions, Inc.

“The Irishman” - Sweet William Productions, LLC

“Hung” TV series - Hangman Films Inc. / HBO

“What If” - What If Productions, LLC

“The Lake Effect” - Growing Up, LLC

“Crash Course” - Crash Course Productions, Inc.

“Meltdown” - Meltdown Productions, LLC

“Clark Family Christmas” - Karew Records, LLC

“Capitalism: A Love Story” - Front Street Productions, LLC

“Flipped” - East of Doheny

“Jump Shipp” - Dot&Cross, LLC

“The Genesis Code” - American Saga Productions, LLC

“Trivial Pursuits” - 3,4 Women Productions

“The Next Great Mission” - 45 North Productions, Inc.

“Little Murder” - Cine Grande Films

“Fitful” - Fitful Film Associates, Inc.

“Daisy Tells a Secret” - One of Us Films, LLC

“Annabelle and Bear” - Radish Creative Group

“John, The Revelator” - Revelator Movie, LLC

“Alleged” - Dean River Productions

“You Don't Know Jack” - Royal Oak Films, Inc.

“Grey Skies” - Grey Skies, LLC

“The Domino Effect” - Detroit Film Production Services, Inc.

“Highland Park” - Highland Park Productions, LLC

“What's Wrong With Virginia?” - Tic Tock Studios

“Vanishing on 7th Street” - Vanishing Film LLC

Game of Death - Game of Death Productions, LLC

Mooz-Lum - Peace Film, LLC

Secrets In The Walls - Prospect Park Productions, LLC —Ruth L Ratny

On Saturday, May 22 from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m., American Express will work with United Way for Southeastern Michigan, an affiliate of HandsOn Network, City Year Detroit and The Greening of Detroit to plant an urban garden designed to expose Osborn High School students and the community to international and locally-grown foods.

Volunteers will also build benches, a rain-catching gazebo and decorate flower pots to create a welcoming space surrounding the garden. Students will continue to care for the garden throughout the school year and the community will benefit from the foods harvested.

Following the garden planting, Chef Edward Bailey, executive chef of Andiamo Detroit and 1998 Osborn alum, will provide a cooking demo for students.

American Express and Delta employees will work hand-in-hand with students, parents, teachers and community members on each project element. The spring gardening event is the third in a series of “Travel with Your Mind” volunteer events that kicked off in fall 2009. The “Travel with Your Mind” program was designed to help revitalize a local school through a series of transformational projects and multi-cultural initiatives. The projects have all been travel-themed and aim to expose students to the new possibilities travel creates without leaving their own backyard.

*Note: Due to the possibility of Osborn closing in the fall, the urban garden will be planted between Osborn and Brenda Scott Middle School, where the students will be placed at the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year.

Volunteers interested in participating should register at Volunteers must be at least 10 years of age and be accompanied by a parent.

Volunteers will meet at Brenda Scott Middle School located at 18440 Hoover in Detroit.

Elaine LeBalme
Pop City

I know, I know – what could we possibly want from Detroit?  They have a 30% unemployment rate, entire neighborhoods filled with abandoned houses, and the Detroit Lions.

But. This desperation is fostering creation, not only from the artist class that tends to gravitate toward seemingly hopeless situations (hey, cheap studio space!) but from local officials, the business community and universities which have banded together with a can-do spirit borne from the realization that there's nowhere to go but up.  'Burghers would be wise to adopt a similar "we can't wait!" attitude.

The Greening of Detroit
The Greening of Detroit is an organization that has teamed up with Michigan State, the Detroit Agriculture Network and EarthWorks Urban Farm to facilitate urban agriculture.  Created to counteract the "food desert" that city-center Detroit had become, the program currently supports 877 urban gardens manned by individuals, families or community cooperatives.  For a minimal annual buy-in ($10/families, $20/communities), farmers are provided training and materials (tools, seeds, organically-grown trans-plants) so they can grow food on their own land or on the many parcels of vacant land throughout the city (permitting arranged, though the group is not beyond guerrilla gardening).

"Local is the new organic," enthuses Rebecca Salminen Witt, president of The Greening of Detroit.  "This movement is exploding, making it easier to raise money from corporate donors and foundations.  We might not be doing this if the auto companies were still cranking out cars, but there's a pioneering spirit now.  There's also an agricultural heritage in this state and with improved growing techniques, we can now grow 51 weeks a year.  This can change people's lives and already, it's making us all feel better."  A fertile idea for Slow Food Pittsburgh?

Tech Town
Putting people to work indoors is TechTown, a research and technology park at Wayne State University in downtown Detroit.  Acting on its plan to re-engineer Detroit's economy, this business incubator has taken $5 million in funding from ten foundations and placed roughly 40% of its bets in the hi-tech sector (alternative energy, life sciences, homeland security and advanced engineering), with the remainder going to services and lifestyle companies that are putting Detroiters back to work.

There are over 200 companies on the TechTown campus, a 1,200-acre spread that is an amalgam of repurposed auto industry buildings.  The program provides a full spectrum of services, including funding, to these nascent ventures.  "There's a culture of innovation here," says Randal Charlton, executive director of Tech Town, "and we figure if you keep them close, they'll help others.  The plan is the cavalry ain't coming and while (Detroit) may get help from the Feds, we have to provide our own solutions.  It's time to put aside old tribalism and get to work."  Charlton hopes to have 1,200 companies up and running in the next three years and early successes include Asterand, a human tissue bank that went public in 2007 and whose shares were the top performer on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) in 2008.  Hmm, if CMU could get an old plant from U.S. Steel...

M-1 Rail Project
Yet another example of the community coming together is a novel public/private partnership that's spearheading a light rail system in Detroit.  As the only major city in the U.S. without  a rapid transit system, Detroit finally approved the M-1 Rail project, only to find itself without funding.  With the facts on their side, e.g. every dollar spent on transit yields $4-8 of new development around it, city officials approached the business community and found them eager to plead their case.

Local mega-millionaires Roger Penske (racing) and Dan Gilbert (Quicken Loans) took the lead and soon brought in Mike Illich (Little Caesar's Pizza, Detroit Tigers) and Peter Karmanos (CompuWare), all of whom made personal contributions in the millions of dollars, along with the Kresge Foundation, which contributed $35 million.  The consortium raised over $100 million, which generated a match of $400 million from the Federal government.  The initial 3.4 mile line will run along Woodward Avenue, the city's grand boulevard and site of many of its cultural institutions, sports venues, the Henry Ford Hospital and Wayne State University, with planned spurs that reach the 8-mile city limit and beyond.  This approach gives me hope for rapid transit from downtown Pittsburgh to Squirrel Hill and I'm fine with plastering the names of benefactors at every T station. First stop:  Super Mario station at Consol Energy Center?

Saved by Art
Equally novel yet inspirational are the urban canvasses created by Detroit artists from the blight and desolation of their city.  This guerrilla art is at its best at The Heidelberg Project, a blocks-long installation by artist Tyree Guyton that runs primarily along Heidelberg Street, part of a once-thriving middle-class neighborhood where the artist grew up and that was home to musician Wilson Pickett, Motown founder Berry Gordy and longtime UPI reporter Helen Thomas.

Now one of the three poorest ZIP codes in the country, the project is all about healing and in the hands of Guyton, it is a colorful pastiche of found objects ("faces in the hood" painted on rusting car hoods, shopping carts perched precariously from battered tree limbs) on and around empty, dilapidated houses.  The artist's penchant for polka dots serves to illustrate that we're all shapes and colors and the poignancy of his vision attracts 275,000 visitors from a hundred countries every year.  On a more modest scale is Hamtramck Disneyland, where a visionary artist from a once-Polish enclave has plastered a series of handmade whirligigs on the roof of his house.  It's whimsical and hopeful at the same time.

More somber in tone is Project Orange, where a group of artists has painted some of the city's most barren houses a bright orange hue as a stark reminder of work to be done.  New mayor Dave Bing is listening, selectively razing structures that will never again be useful to a city whose population has declined from two million residents to 900,000.  Many of the city's edgier artists create, and collaborate, at the Russell Industrial Center, a sprawling former auto parts plant where artists once squatted an entire floor.  Oneita Porter, principal of grrlDog Design, revels in the wall of gaslight windows that brighten her space and supports the building owners' vow to never gentrify.

The Food Scene
Flashier and far more mainstream are the celebrity chefs seizing on Detroit as the new frontier.  Iron Chef Michael Symon of Lola fame in Cleveland has opened Roast in the lobby of the Westin Book Cadillac, a hotel which has undergone a $200 million historical re-creation that is as sumptuous as Symon's food.  The "roast beast of the day" is muscular in size and pairs beautifully with many sides and there's no denying that young sommelier Joseph Allerton is the toast of the town.  Across town, chef, restauranteur and cookbook author Michael Mina has opened SaltWater and Bourbon Steak at the MGM Grand Detroit and his buzzy, beautiful rooms are equal to the food.  Down-market eats are also popular in The D as seen in Greektown and Mexicantown, ethnic neighborhoods chock-full of mom-and-pop eateries serving delectable meals (the Astoria Pastry Shop in Greektown and Panaderia La Gloria in Mexicantown are confectioners without peer).  Somewhere in the middle is Slow's Bar-B-Q, a five-year-old establishment that's already a Corktown institution thanks to heaping plates of 'cue served in a hipster-laden room.

Despite its many challenges, Detroit still glitters at night and the twinkling lights that extend across the Detroit River into Windsor, Ontario are only part of it.  All three of the city's casinos have built 400-room hotels atop their gaming halls as permitted by the state of Michigan and nowhere is the result more impressive than at the MGM Grand.  "Absolutely, the hotel has improved our bottom line," proclaims Chris McClain, Hotel Director, who is delighted that MGM has built an entirely new facility from the ground up to replace its previous casino.  "Across the street, it was a gambling hall.  Here, it's a resort with everything you need."  Could this be a winner of an idea for the Rivers Casino and a way to maximize the North Shore Connector that will soon stop at its door?

Speaking of winners, here's hoping the Penguins and Red Wings face off again next season.

Photographs courtesy Marvin Shaouni
Meg Mott
Brattleboro Reformer

Along with the drifting pollen and darting swallows, the other airborne substance in these May breezes is the question, "Where are you going after graduation?" In years past the answer might have been, "I've got an internship with an NGO in Guatemala," or "I'm off to Brooklyn to write music reviews for the Huffington Post," or "I'm going to Japan to teach English." Not that all our seniors go far and wide. Indeed, a reliable number of our graduates settle down on Green Street or in the woods of West Halifax. Their college education may have introduced them to canonical texts and historical methods of research but their hearts and eyes fell in love with the hills and seasons of Windham County. To the question, "where are you going after graduation?" many answer with a knowing smile, "Go? Why do I have to leave?"

And indeed, compared with the over-development and unemployment of much of the United States, this corner of Vermont has much to commend it. Unlike California and Nevada, Vermont's economy is relatively stable. Unlike other small cities, Brattleboro hasn't been taken over by big box stores. We've got farmers' markets and gallery walks, street music and CSAs. The eateries up and down Main Street provide enough shifts to keep a recent graduate in rent and Frisbee games for the foreseeable future.

Lately, however, Detroit is showing up on the short list of places to go after graduation. For one thing, housing is cheap -- one student claimed he found a house for sale for under $15,000. But the big draw to the Motor City isn't just the squatting opportunities, it's the farming possibilities. Detroit is quickly becoming the model city for urban agriculture.

Fifteen years ago, Detroit had very few vitals signs. Manufacturing plants had closed and people who could flee did. As in other post-industrial cities, arson was rampant and dumping was routine. As the population plummeted, more and more buildings were abandoned, leading to a dangerous cycle of fewer firefighters and police to serve the needs of increasingly depopulated neighborhoods. It reached the point in certain parts of the city where firemen never knew if the building in flames was inhabited or what was being stored inside. Detroit firemen were more likely to be killed in the line of duty than their counterparts in any other American city. By 2005, it was estimated that 40,000 lots stood vacant in Detroit.

In the past, those neighborhoods would have been bulldozed to make way for freeways or public housing or industrial parks. The city would have condemned a district on the grounds that a brand new industrial park would bring more jobs to Detroit. That argument might still work in those parts of the country that only recently saw a drop in employment, but Detroit has been living in economic distress since the 1980s. Now, rather than putting their hopes in some multinational corporation or public works project, the residents, themselves, are putting those vacant lots to use.

The growth in agricultural production within the city limits has been astounding. The 2009 growing season provided enough produce to keep six farmers markets operating year round. During that same season, the Grown in Detroit Cooperative sold over 23,000 pounds of fresh produce and donated 1,100 pounds to the local soup kitchen. Besides providing residents with fresh food, these farming endeavors are providing employment opportunities for the city's young people and restoring dignity to some of its elders. 

Grandmothers teach techniques in canning and preserving. Domestic arts that were almost lost during the heyday of industrialization now add value to the garden produce.

The sound of urban renewal in post-industrial Detroit is the sound of roosters crowing and bees buzzing. The city is in the process of changing its ordinances to allow for more community and institutional gardens -- already 600 and counting -- easier permitting for livestock, and fewer obstacles to the distribution of local agricultural products to schools, residential facilities, and hospitals. The Detroit Urban Garden Education Series offers over 50 workshops each year for both novice and seasoned gardeners. Want to know how to compost? There's a workshop nearby. Interested in how you can extend your growing season? There's a Web site with useful information.

The proposal for an Urban Agricultural Policy, filed with the City Council this past spring, uses a "triple bottom line" to make its case. Not only do urban gardens provide jobs and economic stability, they also improve the environment and the community. As young people learn the joy of growing their own food, soil is improved and the neighborhood becomes safer. Growing tomatoes in a vacant lot doesn't just benefit the pantry, it also benefits the city. The agricultural use of vacant land means that Detroit firefighters won't be killed because a meth lab exploded.

The effect of all this hoeing and planting and weeding and herding is that the citizens of Detroit are building a city worth living in. By engaging in a community development program that builds soil, food security, and neighborhood stability, the triple bottom line, Detroit is showing the rest of the nation how to rise out of the rubble. For a young college graduate trying to implement the values of a liberal arts education in an uncertain world, the post-motor city seems like a good place to go.

Even during the most tedious moments of weeding, Detroit's road to recovery gives our future leaders much to think about.

Todd Scott
Momentum Planet
With its humble beginnings as a French outpost in 1701, the city of Detroit, Michigan has seen more than its share of booms and busts. A century of modest growth ended with the great fire of 1805, which gave the city its motto: ‘We hope for better things; it shall rise from the ashes’, a motto that remains valid more than two centuries later.

But while Detroit looks to move forward, it’s also looking back. Certainly, alternative energy, new vehicles and medicine are the future, as are urban agriculture, streetcars and bicycling.

And for most residents outside the city’s boundaries, it’s a tough sell to imagine Detroit – a metonym for the American auto industry – as a great bicycle city rather than just the “Motor City.” For those living within the city limits, there’s a growing recognition that this is one of America’s best urban biking environments. Even David Byrne lists Detroit among his top eight favorite biking cities in the “Great rides where you least expect it” category.

Wide Open Roads
Detroit has the basic ingredients for bike-friendliness. The terrain is flat and the streets are in well-formed grids. From here, though, Detroit’s path to bike-friendliness doesn’t follow the commonly accepted route.
This is a city with a road network built for nearly two million residents. It later invested heavily in a well-connected urban expressway system that pulled vehicles from the main arterials. Then a million residents left the city to sprawl across the suburbs.

Unlike most other cities where traffic engineers struggle to carve separated biking areas from busy roads, Detroit’s streets have excess travel lanes. Motown cyclists may not always have their own four-foot bike lane, but they often have their own 10-foot vehicle lane – or two. With the same amount of car traffic, a five-lane road in many cities is a seven- or nine-lane road in Detroit.

Still, Detroit is investing in bike facilities to encourage more riding. In 2008, the city council passed an ambitious non-motorized transportation plan that called for nearly 400 miles (643.7 kilometers) of bike lanes, nearly all of which were to be created through road diets. That plan’s implementation is underway with 30-some miles of new bike lanes planned for 2010 alone.

Cassandra Spratling, a newspaper reporter who enjoys riding to work and to Belle Isle, says “there’s a misconception that these city streets are bad for biking. The opposite is true. The key is knowing the streets with the least traffic.”

Growing Trail Network
There has been a substantial public and private investment in off-road bicycle facilities too. There are a dozen non-profit organizations planning, developing and maintaining trails within Detroit. These organizations – along with government officials and other stakeholders – meet on a regular basis as the Detroit Greenways Coalition. The Coalition has developed a 70-plus mile (112.6 kilometer) interconnected greenway network vision. A couple of the highlights are the existing RiverWalk and Dequindre Cut trails. There are also plans to run a trail from the river to Eight Mile and an ambitious greenway that would loop around the entire city.

Detroit also has singletrack! Rouge Park on the west side has a modest 1.5 mile (2.4 kilometer) hiking and mountain biking trail. The plans are to expand that to a three mile loop in the near future.

Metro Detroit Cycling
It should be noted that while the city of Detroit offers great bicycling infrastructure, the surrounding suburbs typically don’t. The inner ring suburbs – those designed and developed during Metro Detroit’s streetcar era – offer decent cycling opportunities. These older suburbs also offer many weekly rides for the go-fast Lycra crowd.

Unfortunately, as is too common across America, the metro area’s newer suburban communities are auto-centric. Rides there often begin by loading the bike onto the car. The unfriendly roads keep cyclists mainly on rail-trails and at Metro parks.

Community Challenges
Detroit faces many challenges. Bicycles are often pegged as a last choice mode of transportation, i.e. riding a bicycle means one cannot afford a car.

Nationwide, bicycling advocacy is not very diverse. Detroit’s large African-American, Hispanic, Arabic and Muslim populations are all too often under-represented and under-served in the cycling world. Detroit bicycling advocates look to be leaders in diversifying the cycling movement.

While on the subject of “under-served,” Detroit is nearly 140 square miles (363 square kilometers) yet one cannot buy a Trek, Giant or Specialized within the city. In fact, no city shop fully stocks new bicycles. Filling that gap are bicycle co-ops like The Hub of Detroit – Michigan’s First Gold Level Bicycle Friendly Business. Their popular Earn-A-Bike program and bike shop are helping get a lot of Detroiters on the saddle.

Joey Rodriguez-Tanner, The Hub administrator added, “There’s still a lot of room to grow.” As a positive sign, during a recent ride into work, Rodriguez-Tanner noticed many other riders on the road – and he didn’t recognize any of them.

A related challenge is improving access to healthier food within the city. One result has been a major push into urban agriculture. According to Ashley Atkinson with the Greening of Detroit, there were 11,000 Detroiters engaged in urban agriculture in 2009. “Detroit has the highest participation rate for any major urban area,” said Atkinson. During the summer, cyclists can see this “growing” movement through farm-to-fork bike tours or the Detroit Agriculture Network Tour scheduled for August 4, 2010.

Looking Ahead
Bikes Belong and REI have recently awarded a $15,000 grant to the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance. This grant will be used to help Detroit gain recognition as an official Bicycle Friendly Community in the League of American Bicyclists program. Applying for Bicycle Friendly status may be illuminating since the current process isn’t geared towards cities that have become bike-friendly by reverting to their pre-WWI population levels.

Detroit is not Portland. Or even Los Angeles.

LA artist Alex Aranda, who now lives in Detroit, added, “Compared with Los Angeles, the Detroit biking scene is a smaller community where you tend to know most everyone. Also, riding here is not just a fashion statement. People often ride out of need rather than to be seen.”

The city of Detroit is also continuing their Safe Routes to School efforts and is exploring a possible Complete Streets ordinance.

All told, Detroit is clearly more than just the Motor City.

Photos by AJ Manoulian Vanessa Miller Geronimo Patton/Heidelberg Project Archives

Free Is My Life

Java and Jazz at the Library- Thornetta Davis

Tuesday, May 18, 6:00 p.m.

Thornetta has opened for legendary blues and R&B greats such as Ray Charles, Gladys Knight, and Smokey Robinson. It's clear that the Motor City knows just who Thornetta is and now it is time the rest of the world discovered it as well.

Join us for a magical evening, we like to call Thornetta Live! At Main Library, 3rd floor, Old Fine Arts Room, free and open to the public. 6:00 - 7:45 pm. Comerica Java and Jazz at the Detroit Public Library, 5201 Woodward, North of Warren in Midtown Detroit. 313-481-1339.

Matt Roush

When it comes to Michigan's film and video production tax credits, most of the talk has been about movies like "Gran Torino" and celebrity sightings around the state.

But the credits have also spawned a growing video game and animation production industry here.

A perfect example is Pixofactor Entertainment, where six partners and an ever-changing cast of contractor animators and graphic artists work on a wide variety of projects.

Principal and president Sean Hurwitz, a serial entrepreneur and one of the six partners, said the company was created in 2007 and took its present form in September 2009, when it took on a couple of video game creators, Michael Bolden and Jeremiah Strackbein, who are graduates of Lawrence Technological University and the College for Creative Studies respectively. The two initially set up their company in Florida but returned to Michigan in 2008 to take advantage of those much-discussed state tax breaks for the movie and video industries.

Hurwitz said the company conducts three major kinds of work:

* Work for hire on projects, in both live action films and animation for video games. "We build pieces of both of them," Hurwitz said.
* Licensing of content and getting local investors to develop that content. Pixofactor is currently working with local angel investors on project development, including Farmington Hills-based Envy Capital.
* Creating its own content and trying to develop it into films or games.

"We've got this team of experts now and we're in a position of strength and opportunity," Hurwitz said.

Projects now under way include a TV series based on a graphic novel called 'The Hunter,' which shows the aftermath of a coordinated series of terrorist attacks on the United States, including an A-bomb explosion at LAX in Los Angeles, an oil refinery sabotage in Houston, a toxic chemical release at the New York Stock Exchange and a biowar release in Boston.

"It's in development now as a pilot," Hurwitz said. "The intention is to take the pilot to several interested networks prior to distributing across digital platforms."

Other conversions of graphic novels are also in the works.

The company has also attracted local video veterans like Gary May, who is the company's head of live production, and Chris Firestone, head of creative services, who brings 20 years of experience in digital production and who has developed relationships and alliances throughout the Hollywood entertainment and production industry. They have also attracted people back to Michigan like Nancy Kelley, Pixofactor's marketing and business development leader, who spent the past 10 years at several startups in the Silicon Valley.

The company is based in some very cool real estate on the fourth floor of a downtown Royal Oak building on West Fourth Street.

Whatever your opinion of the film tax incentives, Hurwitz wanted to make one thing clear.

"Without those incentives in Michigan, this doesn't happen," he said. "We wouldn't be hiring local talent. We wouldn't be leasing this building. We wouldn't be getting investor money."

More -- including some amazing and fun demo reels -- at Or join their Facebook page at

Jen Carlson

Over the weekend Patti Smith and Jonathan Lethem went face-to-face in the Great Hall of Cooper Union to discuss, you know, stuff. The Q&A format had Smith on the receiving end of questions from the author as well as some audience members. According to VanshingNY, one woman asked if it was still possible for a young artist to come to New York City and find a similar path that Smith and her contemporaries found themselves on decades ago.

The Godmother of Punk recalled coming to New York in 1967 when she was broke and the city was "'down and out,' and you could get a cheap apartment and 'build a whole community of transvestites or artists or writers.'" But today, she says, "New York has closed itself off to the young and the struggling. But there are other cities. Detroit. Poughkeepsie. New York City has been taken away from you. So my advice is: Find a new city."

And with that, we're now living in a world where Patti Smith and Sarah Jessica Parker are pretty much telling us the same thing. Heavy.
Jessica Nunez 

Hugh Jackman will play a robot boxer builder and trainer in the upcoming sci-fi film 'Real Steel.'
The action movie "Real Steel," which will film in Detroit in late July, is looking for people who own military uniforms -- from any branch -- to act as extras in the film. says to send a photo of yourself dressed in uniform to, and to put your name and the word "Uniform" in the subject line. Also, be sure to include your phone number in teh email.

They are asking that no emails be sent for other inquiries at this time.

"Real Steel"  takes place in the future and stars Hugh Jackman as a fighter who is suddenly without a job when robots take over the boxing industry.

He decides to reinvent himself as a robot builder and trainer. the movie is based on a story by Richard Matheson ("I Am Legend"), and is produced by Steven Spielberg and Stacey Snider.

"Real Steel" will be directed by Shawn Levy (the "Night at the Museum" films).

In addition to Detroit, filming will take place in parts of West Michigan and at a restaurant in Leslie, Mich., near Jackson.

The film has a budget of $80 million, the biggest in Michigan so far since the tax incentives were inititated in 2008.

John Cutts    
Real Estate Pros Articles 

Despite the continued increase in Detroit foreclosure auctions, high rate of unemployment and image problems, a big portion of Detroit residents still love living in the city.

A survey conducted by Intellitrends showed that 50 percent of residents of Detroit and other areas of Southeast Michigan love living where they are and 91 percent of them believe that Southeast Michigan has been portrayed negatively by media practitioners. 

Additionally, 51 percent of people who have moved to Detroit said they found what they were looking for and that their expectations were met. A whopping 31 percent even said that what they are experiencing as new residents exceeded their expectations. 

With these positive feelings about Detroit, investors planning to buy properties through auctions for sale in the city and then resell them at a profit in a few years would likely achieve their investment goals as there are a lot of people still believing in the ultimate recovery of Detroit.

In the third quarter, the number of residential properties that were repossessed through Detroit foreclosure auctions and properties notified of pre-foreclosures increased year-over-year by 48 percent to a total of 13,192 units.

Similarly, the number of properties taken back by lenders through public home auctions in Michigan and properties notified of pre-foreclosures in the first quarter increased by nearly 11 percent to 45,732 units. Of these units, a total of 18,604 units became bank owned homes.

On the whole, real estate investors and home buyers planning to profit from properties listed for Detroit foreclosure auctions are right on track, as there are still a lot of people confident about the recovery of Detroit.

A passion for both the sport of bowling and for the care of animals comes together in an annual charity event!  Professional bowling champions Aleta Sill and Michelle Mullen are co-owners of Aleta Sill’s Bowling World, the host of Bowl-4-Animal Rescue! This 5th annual event has a goal to once again raise thousands of dollars for the Michigan Animal Adoption Network (MAAN) and the Friends For The Dearborn Animal Shelter (FFDAS).

The event takes place on Saturday, August 7th at Country Lanes in Farmington Hills - Located at 30250 W. 9-Mile Road, west of Middlebelt Road.  Sponsorship levels vary in cost but Sill points out that everyone can help.

“We look for partners to help from simply buying a ticket and bowling, to providing auction items, to pledging a donation, to being official sponsors. We have some very valuable marketing opportunities in conjunction with this event, not to mention that sponsors will be doing a good deed!”  
***100% of the proceeds will benefit FFDAS and MAAN!*** 

To find more about sponsoring the 5th Annual Bowl-4-Animal Rescue, contact Michelle Mullen at 248-217-8275 or

Sill and Mullen share an enthusiasm for helping animals.  They have adopted eight animals themselves! “The homeless animal problem in Metro Detroit has reached an epidemic level and we want to do anything we can to alleviate the problem,” said Mullen.  In 2009, the event raised $15,000 for FFDAS and MAAN.

Tickets to Bowl-4-Animal Rescue are $25 in advance (or $30 at the door) and include three games, food and shoe rental.  There will be auctions, raffles, door prizes, music, karaoke and a cash bar.  Bowlers can even have one of the professional bowlers throw a strike for them! Tickets may be purchased by calling Aleta Sill’s Bowling World at 248-615-9060 or via email:

For pledge forms, photos and event flyers, please visit: