Hollywood Comes To TechTown


When the 2011 Hollywood feature A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas debuts, look closely and you may see signs of TechTown.

Well, the cameo actually belongs to the building soon to be known as TechTwo.

Harold, Kumar and their crew filmed at TechTown’s TechTwo facility, formerly the Dalgleish Cadillac dealership, and worked around the clock to transform the empty facility into a “New York City tree lot.” A 30-foot inflatable Santa Claus stood on the corner, colored lights hung from the building and a large “Xmas Tree Brothaz” sign covered the iconic Dalgleish name. About 130 members of the production crew worked during the night for several days, and the action closed off neighboring streets as well during the filming (even the signs pointing to I-94 were changed to I-78!). Learn more about the Harold & Kumar series here and here.

The film’s production team also shot a few other scenes in locations across the Metro Detroit area.

Harold and Kumar’s Christmas romp is one of many Hollywood productions that have turned to Michigan in search of low-cost, high quality environments. Sparked by the Michigan Film Incentive, the country’s premier film incentive program, and Michigan-based film facilities, filmmakers across the country are seeing the unequaled benefits of being made in Michigan. Henry Argasinski, TechTown’s real estate and facilities director, says Detroit’s largest small business incubator reaped a pretty important benefit as well.

“After a diligent sweep of the broom and a can of paint following the filming, our parking lot was left in better shape than before,” Argasinski said. “Talk about a Christmas in July! While we can’t discuss details, the movie’s funniest moment takes place here at TechTown.”

Cornerstone Schools will host the 5th annual “Be a Tiger for Kids” event at Comerica Park on Tuesday, August 24th.  This fun-filled, family summer event supports the children of Cornerstone by providing scholarships to prepare students for life and leadership.  A special challenge grant issued by The Wheeler Family Foundation and an anonymous donor will provide a $100,000 grant to fund two classrooms of children at Cornerstone if the “Be A Tiger For Kids” event nets at least $400,000.

Festivities kick off at 4:30 p.m. at the Rock-N-Roar tailgate party at Ford Field.  Guests will enjoy great food, entertainment, face painting, and games for all ages at the exclusive pre-game party. At approximately 6:15 p.m., party goers will collectively make their way to Comerica Park to see the Cornerstone Honors Choir perform the Star Spangled Banner and cheer on the Detroit Tigers as they play the Kansas City Royals. Game time is 7:05 p.m.

“The ‘Be A Tiger For Kids’ event is an opportunity to impact the lives, education and the futures of Cornerstone students and our community-at-large,” said Ernestine Sanders, Cornerstone President/CEO.  “And thanks to the generous challenge grant by The Wheeler Family Foundation and an anonymous donor, there is even greater reason to help us reach our fundraising objectives.”  Now in its 5th year, this annual fundraiser truly makes a difference in these children’s lives and continues our mission of ‘Changing Detroit – One Child at a Time’.”

 Over 50% of the parents whose children now attend Cornerstone are at or below the poverty line and have been negatively impacted by the economic conditions in the city. A donation to the school’s scholarship fund fills the financial gap.

There are several tax deductible donation options available ranging from $50 - $250:

Ultimate Fan Package ($250) - sends a child to school for one week per year.
Receives one premier game ticket (best seats available on a first-come, first-served basis), entry for one to the private pre-game Rock-N-Roar tailgate and a commemorative event tee shirt. As an ultimate fan, you will be eligible to win a special opportunity to attend batting practice with the Tigers.

Fan Package ($100) - sends a child to school for two days per year.
Receives a premium game ticket, entry into the private, pre-game tailgate party and an event t-shirt.

Stadium Package ($50) - sends a child to school for one day per year
Receives a game ticket, entry into the private, pre-game tailgate party and an event t-shirt.

For tickets, sponsorships or more information, please visit www.CornerstoneSchools.org or call Cornerstone Schools at 1-800-343-0951.

President Obama to sell good news of auto bailout during today's Detroit tour
Associated Press

President Barack Obama is going to the heart of the U.S. auto industry to push an important election-year claim: his administration's unpopular auto industry bailout has turned into an economic good-news story.
With Americans facing a still-limping economy and potentially pivotal congressional elections in three months, the White House sees progress in the auto industry as a concrete area of improvement — and one with direct ties to the president's own actions.

To highlight that progress, which presidential aides believe has received too little attention, Obama will stop at three auto plants over the next several days, visiting General Motors and Chrysler factories in Michigan on Friday and a Ford facility in Chicago next Wednesday. Hoping to ratchet up public notice further, the White House also had the administration's top auto officials brief reporters Thursday.

Following the government-led bankruptcies of GM and Chrysler, the companies have shown signs of improvement.

"You now have all those U.S. auto companies showing a profit. They've rehired 55,000 workers. We are going to get all the money back that we invested in those car companies," Obama said in an interview aired Thursday on the ABC daytime talk show "The View."

He said the government is on track to recover all the taxpayer money his administration poured into GM, Chrysler, auto lenders and suppliers to avert a near-certain industrywide meltdown.

However, the White House said that proclamation referred only to the $60 billion spent by the Obama administration, not the additional $25 billion funneled to the industry in 2008 under the Bush administration. The most recent government estimate found that taxpayers will lose $24.3 billion on the auto bailout.

In a report on the status of the auto industry, the White House said failing to intervene would have led to the loss of nearly 1.1 million jobs. The auto industry has added 55,000 jobs in the year since the automotive bankruptcies, making it the strongest year of job growth in the industry since 1999.

The administration pointed to several signs of progress: plans by GM and Chrysler to skip the typical summer shutdown of several auto plants to meet demand for hot-selling vehicles and the addition of shifts at GM, Chrysler and Ford Motor Co. plants. The report notes that the three companies are beginning to post profits.
White House officials estimate that Detroit automakers could add 11,000 new jobs before the end of 2010.
On Friday, Obama will visit GM's Hamtramck plant, which is planning to assemble the Chevrolet Volt rechargeable electric car. The plant is one of nine the automaker will keep open during the usual two-week summer shutdown.

In nearby Detroit, Obama will tour Chrysler's Jefferson North plant, which recently added a second shift of production, adding about 1,100 jobs. Next week, the president will visit the Chicago plant where Ford builds the Taurus sedan and plans to assemble a new Explorer sport utility vehicle.

GM has repaid $6.7 billion that the government considered loans, with the remaining $43.3 billion converted into a 61 percent stake in the company. GM is expected to conduct an initial public offering of shares in the company later this year, a move that could help the government recoup some of its investment.

United Auto Workers President Bob King said in a statement Thursday that GM would file paperwork in mid-August to start the process of selling stock to the public.

Chrysler received about $15 billion in government help and was placed under control of Italian automaker Fiat as part of its bankruptcy. The company has repaid about half of the $4 billion loan portion of its aid and is considering a public stock offering sometime in 2011.

Ron Bloom, the administration's senior counselor for manufacturing policy, said it was unclear how long the government would hold ownership stakes in the companies. "We don't like having this investment, but we're not going to sell it at a fire sale," he said.

Edsel &  Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores, Mich., continues the Ford family legacy of innovation and technology with the launch of its own iPhone and iPad application and interactive tour.  The app is now available free of charge on iTunes and as a web app for most smartphones. Pre-loaded iPod Touches are also provided on-site to guests.

The launch of the mobile app and tour reflects another crucial step in Ford House’s 2010-2015 strategic plan – increasing accessibility to the Ford Family story by sharing their personal stories of innovation and creativity, giving guests an epic visitor experience superior to anything at a museum or historic site in the United States.

In an effort to create greater accessibility, the Ford House has launched an abbreviated version of the mobile tour as a “web app” (in addition to the iPhone app), allowing most Internet-enabled smartphones to experience the tour, as well.

The app features 60 minutes of exclusive video content, an original soundtrack, and never-before-seen archival footage of the Ford family at play. The tour uses home movies, photos, an interactive map of the Ford House estate, site-specific interviews and much more, stirring up genuinely heartfelt emotion for this close-knit family. Guests literally enter the Ford story with just a few simple touches on their smartphone screen, becoming the  leader in their own journey through the estate.

Many videos were filmed by Edsel Ford himself, using his own personal camera. It’s an intimate look into the auto legend’s mind at a pinnacle time in the Ford family history. While a time machine doesn’t exist quite yet, the Ford House iPhone app is about as close as one can get to going back in time.

“It’s unlike any museum tour I’ve seen,” said Kathleen Mullins, president of Ford House.  “It literally allows visitors to enter the story by providing access to personal movies of the family when they weren’t in the public eye, relaxed and enjoying being a family.  It’s very personal and sometimes deeply emotional.  Visitors will be able to connect with this iconic family in a whole new way.”

For example, guests walking near the family swimming pool will touch the screen to begin a video of Eleanor and the children playing by the pool, standing in the space where it actually happened. Or they will be able to watch touching footage of Edsel and Eleanor ice skating before Edsel’s untimely death.

The app offers several options to users: take a guided tour; explore on your own; meet the Ford family; meet landscape architect Jens Jensen; and browse a comprehensive photo gallery.

Through exclusive video, photos and interviews, the iPhone tour explores both the interiors and exteriors of the home, including the lakeside lawn, lagoon, swimming pool, flower garden, the meadow, boat house, garage, Bird Island peninsula and more.

The Edsel & Eleanor Ford House App, produced by award-winning Audissey Media, has been in development since January 2010. (For a sneak preview of the iPhone tour, visit www.fordhouse.org).

Audissey Media is a pioneer in the high-tech tourism industry, allowing travelers to use their smartphone as a personal tour guide. In addition to Ford House, the company has created Audissey Guides for downtown Houston, Washington D.C., and Boston Public Garden.

“This mobile app puts the visitor in the driver’s seat,” said Rob Pyles, Creative Director at Audissey Media. “This technology is a sort of liberation from the traditional, passive museum experience. It’s really about you - what do you want to explore? I think Edsel would have thought it was the perfect way to share his home with visitors. This positions the Ford House as a real leader in the field.”

Approximately 75 percent of the project was funded by outside sources, including a grant from the MotorCities National Heritage Area, part of the National Parks Service, and donations received through last fall’s Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan Arts & Culture Challenge Grant program. The latter issued a challenge grant to area cultural institutions encouraging the use of web-based technology and social media for fundraising outreach.

“In the spirit of the challenge, we thought it was quite fitting to further the Ford family legacy and our use of new media by directing some of the donations received through Community Foundation’s initiative to develop this programming,” Mullins said.

Visitors may use an iPod Touch from the Ford House or download the free app from iTunes.  Most other smartphones can access the tour as a web app from their phones at www.fordhouse.org/mobiletour.

Admission and rental: Admission to Ford House, which includes a guided tour and use of an iPod Touch, is $12 per person, $11 for seniors and $8 for children six to 12 years old, with children 5 and under free. iPod Touch rental will be $5 for guests  who have purchased grounds-only admission. It is free to Ford House members. Guests may also use their own smartphone on the tour.

Edsel & Eleanor Ford House is located at 1100 Lake Shore Road in Grosse Pointe Shores.  Since 1978, Ford House has welcomed hundreds of thousands of visitors to share in Eleanor Ford’s vision of preserving the estate for future generations to enjoy through interpretive tours, family activities, lectures, exhibits and gardens and grounds events.  For more information, visit www.fordhouse.org or call 313.884.4222.

On Saturday, August 28 -- 1:00-7:00 pm, Come Hear Belle Isle is an event for young adults (targeting ages 18-34) who live in Detroit and will be the next generation of people who live and settle in the city, but all ages are welcome to attend and get involved.

The goal is to get people to come out and discover what Belle Isle, and Detroit as a whole, has to offer, while raising money for the preservation of Belle Isle.  We will have nonprofits from all over the city come out and showcase ways to get involved in the community.  Each organization will have space at a table at the event.  The event will have a music component with several bands playing to provide a festival feel.  Bands donating entertainment to the event include The Sights, Champions of Breakfast, The High Strung, Chris Bathgate, Loune, The Maunder Minimum, Doop and the Inside Outlaws, Copper Thieves and more.  This is a FREE event, with a suggested donation.

Proceeds will go back to the preservation of Belle Isle through our partnership with The Friends of Belle Isle, a register non-profit.

For more information check out our page@ http://www.facebook.com/comehearbelleisle or http://www.fobi.org
Blue Öyster Cult will rock Detroit on the GM Riverfront stage on Friday, July 30 for the second concert in the 2010 Rockin’ on the Riverfront classic rock concert series, sponsored by Andiamo Detroit Riverfront and in partnership with Detroit’s Classic Rock Station 94.7 WCSX-FM.

Since they formed in the late 1960s on Long Island, New York, Blue Öyster Cult has been one of rock’s most prolific bands. They have released 13 studio albums and scored hits such as “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” “Burnin’ for You” and “Godzilla.” With their unique sound and lyrics they influenced many talented artists such as Metallica and HIM. Their work remains timeless, with “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” being featured in various movie soundtracks, and even parodied on Saturday Night Live.

Blue Öyster Cult will play from 9 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Rockin’ on the Riverfront features classic rock headliners on select Fridays during the summer making Riverfront Plaza a great destination for food, fun and free concerts.

Additional Rockin’ on the Riverfront performers include:
Aug. 6 – Gregg Rolie
August 13 – The Romantics

Additionally, opening bands include:
July 30 – Solid State
August 6 – Salem Witchcraft
August 13 – Steve Kostan With The Eddie Leighton Project

Admission to the concerts is free and no advance tickets are necessary. Viewing space will be on a first-come, first-served basis and people are encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs and blankets. In addition, boaters on the Detroit River are invited to anchor near the riverfront and enjoy the view of the stage from the water.

Andiamo Detroit Riverfront will provide refreshment and food concessions at several locations on the plaza. Outside food, beverages or coolers will not be permitted. Andiamo Detroit Riverfront will accept dinner reservations before and after the concert and invite guests to take advantage of its outdoor patio overlooking the Detroit River.

Convenient parking is available for $5 per vehicle at the GM surface lot at the intersection of St. Antoine and Atwater, adjacent to the GM Renaissance Center.

For more information, call (313) 567-6700 or visit www.andiamoitalia.com/detroit.

Jessica Nunez


The much-anticipated Raleigh Michigan Studios will break ground today, paving the way for a 200,000 square-foot sound stage building and a possible 3,000 new jobs in Metro Detroit.

The Los Angeles-based Raleigh Studios is building its new Michigan branch at the site of the old General Motors Centerpoint business campus in Pontiac.

The making of Raleigh Studios Michigan has been underway since early 2009, and since then has faced raising $60-80 million in financing, getting approved by the city and Oakland County and other obstacles.

A. Alfred Taubman, the Pontiac-born father of American shopping malls is heading up the project, along with John Rakolta and Linden Nelson, chairman and CEO of Michigan Motion Picture Studios.

Nelson was on air with WJR's Warren Pierce before the ground-breaking ceremony and talked about how important this project is to Taubman on a personal level.

"When Alfred originally walked through the site, he said ... where are all the cars, where are all the people? And what's happening with their families? And he had tears coming out of his eyes as to what had happened in southeast Michigan."

96 movies or TV productions have been filmed now in the state of Michigan so far, and the Michigan Film Office believes the new sound stages will draw even more television production.

The studio is also going to double as a teaching venue, training people in film industry trades.

"We're going to be a teaching studio with 5 to 7 colleges and universities having classrooms on our second floor," Nelson said. "So you're able to learn your trade, get trained in the business and go right down and work on a set or a movie, in an accounting office, production office, in animation or in editing."

Nelson said they hope to have the grand opening at the end of this year and have the first production on stages in February or March 2011.

The first factory-built, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant, wheelchair-accessible vehicle will arrive in the Motor City on the 20th Anniversary of the ADA as part of a 27-city road show to reach the 14 million Americans who use mobility devices and their caregivers. The MV-1 (“first mobility vehicle”) will be at both Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan (RIM) and Lakeside Mall. Interested consumers will be able to experience MV-1’s unparalleled accessibility and learn about its car-like ride and comfort with truck-like safety and durability, and at the same celebrate the signing of the historic ADA legislation. The vehicle is built by a new American car company, The Vehicle Production Group.

In Michigan alone, 13.2%* of all residents have a disability, with 7.2% of the state population reporting ambulatory disabilities. For the city that put the world on wheels, Detroit is the ideal place to showcase this new, ADA-accessible vehicle on the 20th anniversary of the signing of the ADA.

Public Demo Events:        

Monday, July 26, 2010, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan, 261 Mack Avenue, Detroit (Main RIM entrance on Brady Street)

Tuesday, July 27 – Wednesday, July 28, 12 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Lakeside Mall, 14000 Lakeside Circle, Sterling Heights (Lot between Lord & Taylor and J.C. Penny)          
For additional information, visit www.vpgautos.com.

* Source: Disability Statistics, Cornell University (http://www.ilr.cornell.edu/edi/disabilitystatistics/)

Tiger Magglio Ordonez donates $200000 to Renovate St. Hedwig Park
Bill Shea
Crain's Detroit

St. Hedwig Park in southwest Detroit saw its two ball diamonds renamed Magglio Ordoñez Field today thanks to $200,000 in renovations made to the fields courtesy of the Detroit Tigers outfielder.

The money includes funding for maintenance and upkeep.

About 250 kids, along with Ordonez and Tigers officials, attended a rain-soaked dedication ceremony, including a community clean-up and barbecue, at the field this afternoon, the team said.

A new baseball diamond was built next to an existing field, which was renovated. A third field will be renovated this fall in time for play next summer, the team said.

The park is at 5680 Konkel Street.

The effort was made through the Detroit Tigers Foundation in cooperation with Think Detroit PAL.

The foundation has improved nearly 50 fields in cities across Michigan as part of its effort to improve youth/community ball fields suffering from financial hardship or neglect.

A Detroit public high school will receive needed repairs while being featured on a network makeover reality show expected to air this fall.

Executive Producer Denise Cramsey said Thursday that work on the exterior of the 481-student Communication & Media Arts building will run Aug. 1-7 as part of NBC's "School Pride."

The district says Communication & Media Arts was removed from a list of schools to be closed partly because of the renovations coming for the show.

Crews in Detroit on Thursday doing advance filming for the show captured student excitement after they were told about "School Pride."

Cramsey says the school was selected because its poor physical condition and passionate students and parents fit the show's profile.
Sun and Sand in the Great Lake State
Katie Glaeser

The sound of the waves helps me daydream as I watch the wind carry grains of sand across my toes. Seagulls circle the water, carefully watching their prey. My niece and nephew giggle as they build sand castles on the beach. And as I look to the horizon, sailboats speckle the water with mighty freighters in the distance.

This is my summertime resort -- miles and miles from the ocean.

Sure, many people head to Florida or Cape Cod for a summer getaway, but I head north to Michigan to play in the sun, sand and waters of Lake Huron. And this is just one of the state's aquatic attractions; visitors to the Wolverine State are never more than six miles from one of its thousands of lakes and streams.
People I talk to outside of Michigan don't seem to understand all the state has to offer and would never consider it a must-visit destination. But Michigan can provide some unique experiences for your summer vacation.

Lake Huron, the second largest of the Great Lakes, stretches along Michigan's east coast through small shore cities such as Lexington and Oscoda. It goes all the way up to Mackinac Island, a place that hasn't seen an automobile since they were banned there more than a century ago.

When you arrive to the island by ferry, it's like you have stepped into another time in history. The streets in Mackinac are filled with horse-drawn carriages and bikes. Historical buildings line the streets, including the Benjamin Blacksmith Shop, which offers live demonstrations, and the Grand Hotel, which boasts the world's largest front porch stretching 660 feet.

The perfect ending to a Mackinac Island trip is stopping in to have a sweet treat at Ryba's Fudge Shop. The island's booming fudge industry is celebrated in August during the annual fudge festival.

"Soldiers" offer re-enactments at Fort Mackinac, Michigan's only Revolutionary War-era fort.

For a quick day trip, head north from the island and cross over the Mackinac Bridge into the Upper Peninsula to experience the outdoors at places such as Tahquamenon Falls. A short drive away is Sault Ste. Marie, the state's oldest city. There you can watch as water levels are controlled to allow safe passage of boats into Lake Superior at the Soo Locks.

Travel to Traverse City, on the west side of the state, and sail the afternoon away on a replica of a 19th-century tall ship. A drive along the Leelanau and Old Mission peninsulas offers breathtaking scenery as vineyards overlook the blue waters. Stop in for tastings at one of the many wineries in the area; Ciccone Vineyard and Winery is owned by the family of Michigan's own pop sensation, Madonna. And if you're a fan of cherries, you're in luck because the fruit is abundant in the region.

A short drive from Traverse City, be sure not to miss the Sleeping Bear Dunes. Steep hills of sand rise 400 feet high above Lake Michigan as children and adventurers spend the afternoon climbing up and tumbling down. If you're not quite so thrill-seeking, you can park yourself atop the mounds and look out at the water. It's an especially beautiful site at sunset.

As you drive along the shoreline, stop to see an old military fort or a lighthouse; more than 100 of these attractions line the coasts of both peninsulas. They are full of history and most are inexpensive "field trips" that will thrill kids and kids at heart alike.

There are plenty of things to do along the water, but venture onto it and the possibilities are endless: sailing, water skiing, fishing or just lounging on a float. Loungers can get in on the action by pulling out a pair of binoculars to watch boats glide by. The annual Chicago to Mackinac race expects 3,000 sailors from around the world to cut through the waters of Lake Michigan this weekend.

So while other destinations may come to mind first, remember Michigan can offer summer fun, too. It is, after all, the Great Lake State.

Production has begun in Detroit on “Detroit 1-8-7,” ABC’s highly anticipated new drama set to premiere TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 21 (10:00-11:00 p.m., ET), after the “Dancing with the Stars” results show.
What does it take to be a detective in one of America’s toughest cities? Follow one homicide unit as Detroit’s finest unearth the crisis and revelation, heartbreak and heroism of these inner city cops in this series shot entirely in Detroit, Michigan.

There’s the damaged but driven Detective Louis Fitch, a wily homicide vet who is the most respected — and most misunderstood — man in the division; Detective Damon Washington, Fitch’s new partner, who finds the first day on the job is a trial by fire, complicated by the imminent birth of his first child; Detective Ariana Sanchez, sexy, edgy and beautiful, who has emerged from a rough background to become a rising star in the department; narcotics undercover cop John Stone, a streetwise smooth talker, clever and quick with a smile made for the movies, who is teamed with Sanchez — a combustible pairing rife with conflict and sexual tension; Sergeant Jesse Longford, a 30-year veteran and sage of the department struggling with his impending retirement from the force and the city he loves, who, together with his partner, Detective Vikram Mahajan — a fully Americanized son of Indian immigrants — form an amusing mismatch of experience and enthusiasm, intellect and instinct, old school and new world, but whose combined skills have never encountered a case that couldn’t be cleared; and all are headed by Lieutenant Maureen Mason, a strong-willed single mom struggling to balance home and work. The unit works with the primary medical examiner, Dr. Abbey Ward, who has an unusual hobby in her off-hours—roller derby.

The men and women of Detroit Homicide are as smart and tough as they come. They have to be, as they struggle with their own inner demons, using only their sharp sense of humor to keep them grounded while working the neighborhoods of the historic Motor City.

“Detroit 1-8-7” stars Michael Imperioli (“The Sopranos,” “Life on Mars”) as Detective Louis Fitch, James McDaniel (“NYPD Blue”) as Sergeant Jesse Longford, Aisha Hinds (“True Blood”) as Lieutenant Maureen Mason, D.J. Cotrona (“Windfall”) as Detective John Stone, Jon Michael Hill (Broadway’s “Superior Donuts”) as Detective Damon Washington, Shaun Majumder (“24,”“Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle”)  as Detective Vikram Mahajan, Natalie Martinez (“Death Race”) as Detective Ariana Sanchez, and Erin Cummings (“Mad Men”) as Dr. Abbey Ward.

David Zabel (“ER”), Jason Richman (“Swing Vote”), Kevin Hooks (“Prison Break”), David Hoberman (“The Proposal”), and Todd Lieberman (“The Proposal”) are executive producers. “Detroit 1-8-7” is a production of ABC Studios.
Tamara Warren
The New York Times

Berry Gordy Jr., founder of Motown Records, claimed that Detroit’s assembly lines inspired the sound of his label’s music. The originators of techno dance music, which also got its start in the city, were subject to these surrounding influences, as well, though the mood of the town had changed dramatically by the early 1980s.

Underground Resistance Michael Banks, producer and co-founder of Underground Resistance. rarely shows his face in public.
“Detroit is a cold place with a heart made of metal,” said Michael Banks, a producer and co-founder of Underground Resistance, a politically charged techno outfit in Detroit.

“For me, the car industry affected techno music by its efficiency aspects,” Mr. Banks, who also records under the name Mad Mike, explained.

Juan Atkins, a Detroit music producer, is widely credited with inventing the techno genre. He coined the term in 1984 from the novel “Future Shock” by Alvin Toffler. That same year, Mr. Atkins released the song “Techno City,” a recording that popularized the word in Europe.

Mr. Atkins drew heavily from the influence of local car culture, creating tracks like “Night Drive” and “Cosmic Cars” under the recording names Cybotron and Model 500.

What made Detroit techno distinct from other forms of early electronic music was the industrial, methodical and soulful nature of the compositions. There was minimal use of vocals, which were created entirely on synthesizers. The mechanical pulse of techno resonated with the car industry.

Mr. Atkins and his peers cited the German synth-driven music group Kraftwerk and funk legend George Clinton, who periodically recorded in Detroit, as the impetus for their work. Kraftwerk also made textured dance tracks like “Autobahn” in 1974, experimenting with the blend of synthesizers and live instrumentation.

The second wave of Detroit techno producers followed suit with car themes layered both overtly and subconsciously in the music. For example, “Landcruising,” a 1995 album by Carl Craig, included a sample in the introduction from his BMW 318i engine.

It was during this time that Mr. Banks started Underground Resistance Records.
“Just as the automakers were constantly trying to improve quality and cut costs by adding robotics to assembly lines,” he said, “back in the ’80s I was searching for ways to get rid of annoying band members who complained too much, were always late for shows and always wanted all the money. Drum machines and sequencers were the answer.”

Mr. Banks works out of a recording studio that originally housed a labor union on East Grand Boulevard, several blocks from Motown’s origins. He counts car designers from Ford, General Motors and Chrysler among the fans who come to the building to buy vinyl.

“There have been times at our small store here in the basement of the building that some rather odd customers will come through,” said Mr. Banks, an avid Chrysler muscle-car enthusiast. In 1991, his label released “G-Force” as an homage to Detroit drag racing. “These people aren’t your average dance floor D.J.’s that usually buy our products. They are young automotive designers. They listen to our music so as to inspire progressive thoughts of what automotive transportation will be in the future.”

He added, “I’m proud they come to us here in one of the most depressed neighborhoods in a massively depressed city for inspiration of what could be.”

Introducing the America’s Favorite Art Museum Tourney!
Modern Art Notes

Have you ever sat around the house on a Tuesday night thinking, “America is a land of many wonderful art museums. I wonder which one of them her smartest, most handsome residents like best?” Well, if so, then we have the event for you!

Introducing the latest MAN summer spectacular, a tournament so big, so sea-to-shining-sea-to-oil-drenched-Gulf, so shining-amber-waves-of-Agnes-Denes’-grain that only you, our loyal readers, can determine its outcome: That’s right, it’s MAN’s America’s Favorite Art Museum tournament.

Here’s how it will work: Last week we convened the tournament seeding committee: former Newsweek art critic and “Sunshine Muse” author Peter Plagens, vice president of editorial (here) at Louise Blouin Media Benjamin Genocchio and me. We each ranked our favorite art museums from 1 to 64. I turned our combined rankings into the seedings.

What criteria did we use to make our picks? We picked favorites. (Remember: We’re not asking you to vote to pick America’s best museum, just the one you enjoy most, the one in which you’d most want to spend a happy Thursday.) For me, I weighted the experience of being in the museum, in its galleries, most heavily. I also considered big-picture things that go into individual visits: its collection (or in the case of a kunsthalle its programming record) and how active an acquirer of art it is. You may choose to consider its website, the quality of its scholarship, its ethical comportment, its Twitter feed, or its bathrooms. Pick favorites.

Hurry!  Voting ends this Sunday, July 25th!  Vote for the DIA HERE!


Microsoft Corp. and the Southfield Town Center announced Tuesday it would build a 16,927-square-foot Microsoft Technology Center in the 1000 Tower of the center.

When it opens this fall, the MTC will be one of only nine such Microsoft centers in the United States.

The Detroit MTC will provide large businesses and independent software vendors with strategy briefings, architecture design sessions, and  proof-of-concept workshops.

Microsoft said its lease of the space begins Aug. 1, and its opening is planned for late fall.

The MTC will occupy space adjacent to Microsoft’s existing Southfield office on the 19th floor of 1000 Town Center Drive.  The company has been a tenant of Southfield Town Center for 19 years, and with the addition of the MTC Microsoft, will occupy 57,364 square feet of space.

“Our new Technology Center is another expression of Microsoft’s longstanding commitment to the Detroit community, and we believe it will become a valuable resource for metro Detroit businesses,” said Drew Costakis, director of the  Microsoft Technology Center. “Because of its central location in southeast Michigan, the new facility is in an ideal location for customers throughout the region, enabling them to take advantage of all our technology offerings closer to home.”

Currently, Microsoft operates eight MTCs, in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Irvine, Calif., New York, Reston, Va. and Silicon Valley.
Lauren Sternberg

Build it and they will come. Well in this case, offer an irresistible film-incentive package and you’ve got the likes of Gerard Butler, Hugh Jackman and Courtney Cox hanging out in Michigan this summer because their movies are filming in Detroit.

Movies set to film in or around Detroit this summer:

A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas
Who/What: Both John Cho and Kal Penn return to the third in the Harold & Kumar series of movies. According to an article in Hollywood.com, Neil Patrick Harris will also return.

Locations: The production filmed in West Bloomfield for three weeks in July. It also filmed at the Somerset Collection and the Detroit Opera House.

Machine Gun Preacher
Who/What: Gerard Butler was in Detroit in July to star in a movie about Sam Childers, a former drug dealer/biker who helped Sudanese orphans. The movie also stars Michelle Monaghan.

Locations: According to several sources, the production filmed at several locations in Melvindale, including Hearthside Mobile Home Park, Allendale Elementary and Jakes Crossroads Bar. It also filmed at Red Holman Pontiac, Schoolcraft Community College in Garden City and Stockdale’s Bar on Michigan Avenue in Wayne.

More Information: According to MichiganActing.com, the production was also looking to cast “chubby babies” from the Metro-Detroit area.

Real Steel
Who/What: Hugh Jackman was about town in July to play a robot-boxing promoter in the futuristic movie Real Steel. The movie also explores the relationship between Jackman's character and his 11-year-old son.
Locations: The production filmed at the Detroit Fire Department Headquarters, Nicholson Terminal & Dock, and the gravel pits in Oxford.

Scream 4
Who/What: Courtney Cox, David Arquette and Neve Campbell are back in the latest installment of Scream.

Locations: The production filmed in July at Hutzel Women's Hospital in Detroit and the New Chapter Bookstore & Bistro in Northville, as well as Livonia, Ann Arbor and Dearborn. Downtown Plymouth stood in for the fictional Woodsboro on July 19th and 20th.

The Detroit Tigers have partnered with The Salvation Army for the 2nd annual “Christmas in July” at the 1:05 p.m. game vs. the Toronto Blue Jays, at Comerica Park in Detroit.

Comerica Park will be transformed into a winter wonderland in the heat of the summer. Fans will be greeted by the sounds of The Salvation Army’s famous brass bands and Red Kettle bell ringers at gates A, B, C and D. Hundreds of children with The Salvation Army’s day camps will also take to the field prior to the game in a festive “Prance Around the Park,” courtesy of the Tigers.

The event serves as a reminder that men, women and children of all ages are in need 365 days a year.

 The Salvation Army band will also perform the Star-Spangled Banner, and Corp. Jason Hale, a paratrooper with the Michigan Air National Guard, will deliver the game ball to the pitcher’s mound. Corp. Hale is a planned giving specialist with The Salvation Army.

Children from The Salvation Army’s various metro Detroit day camps, some attending their first baseball game; Corp. Jason Hale and The Salvation Army bands and bell ringers.

Thursday, July 22
Activities Begin at 11:30 a.m.
Children’s “Prance Around the Park” at 12:35 p.m.
Anthem at 12:57 p.m.

Comerica Park
2100 Woodward Ave.

Playboy Unveils List of America’s Greatest Bars
A Coast-to-Coast Roundup of the Nation’s Best Drinking Establishments, Best Dive Bars, and Best Late-Night Eats

Looking for a great place to have a drink?  Look no further than “Playboy’s Guide to America’s Greatest Bars” in the magazine’s August 2010 issue (available on newsstands and at http://www.playboydigital.com as of Friday, July 16).

From NYC to LA to all points in between, writer at large and nightlife aficionado Steve Garbarino, along with the Playboy staff, list the nation’s best watering holes and explain why it’s worth taking a seat at a bar stool in these must-see establishments.

In addition, the article also lists the country’s “Best Dive Bars” and “Best Late-Night Eats,” two uniquely American staples of nightlife culture.  Following is an alphabetical listing of Playboy’s top spots in the nation.  A complete round-up will be available online at HERE.

— Austin: The Continental Club
— Chicago: The Map Room
— Dallas: The French Room and Rodeo Bar & Grill at the Hotel Adolphus

Detroit: Cliff Bell’s

Contrary to popular belief, you can still find real panache in Motor City. Opened in 1935 by bar czar Cliff Bell, his eponymous cocktail lounge and jazz club was once the spot—before falling on hard times. Five years ago, however, respectful new owners restored the bar to its original luster, and the best combos in town have retaken its sunburst stage, ensuring that Cliff Bell’s still emits a pitch-perfect ring. Heed the call.

— Kansas: The Mutual Musicians Foundation
— Las Vegas: The Bootlegger Bistro
— Los Angeles: Dan Tana’s
— Los Angeles: The Roger Room
— Miami Beach: Mac’s Club Deuce
— Miami Beach: The Raleigh Martini Bar
— New Orleans: Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar
— New Orleans: The Sazerac Bar at the Roosevelt Hotel
— New York City: King Cole Bar at the St. Regis Hotel
— New York City: Jane Ballroom at the Jane Hotel
— Palm Springs: Starlite Lounge at the Riviera Resort & Spa
— San Francisco: Top of the Mark at the InterContinental Hotel
— Savannah: Planters Tavern in the Olde Pink House
— Seattle: King’s Hardware

— Austin: Mean-Eyed Cat
— Boston: Lucky’s Lounge
— Chicago: Cal’s
— Dallas: Lee Harvey’s
— Lompoc, California: Jasper’s
— Memphis: Ernestine and Hazel’s
— Miami South Beach: Ted’s Hideaway
— Nashville: Springwater Supper Club
— New Orleans: The Saint
— New Orleans: Snake and Jake’s Christmas Club Lounge
— New York City: Milano’s
— New York City: Subway Inn
— San Francisco: Specs
— Washington, D.C.: The Big Hunt
— Wichita: Kirby’s Beer Store

— Baltimore: Deep-fried Cheesesteak at Hot Tomatoes
— Chicago: Led Zeppelin Burger at Kuma’s Corner
— Hollywood: 101 Coffee Shop
— Las Vegas: Pho Kim Long
— New Orleans’s French Market: Beignets at Cafe Du Monde
— New York City: Burgers at Daddy-O
— Seattle: Poutine at Smith

Christine Lagorio

Joe McClure spent his childhood in Detroit buying cucumbers and dill at farmers markets. Now, he pickles professionally.

Company: McClure's Pickles

Age: 29

Year founded: 2006

Location: Detroit

2009 Revenue: $390,000

2010 Projected Revenue: roughly $800,000

Employees: 7

Website: Mcclurespickles.com Facebook Twitter: @mcclurespickles

As Joe McClure tells it, one hot late-summer morning each year throughout his childhood, his father, Mike, would wake him and his brother Bob at the break of dawn. It was pickling day, which meant a trip to the farmers market, from which the McClure men would return home with bushels of cucumbers and fresh garlic and armloads of dill sprigs. Over the course of the next 10 hours, the McClure clan would brine some 60 quarts of homemade pickles, which Mike gave to friends and colleagues around the holidays.

Fast-forward to 2006, when the sons, now adults, started missing the annual family tradition. Bob McClure, an actor living in Brooklyn, New York, flew back to Detroit, where his brother, Joe, and family still lived. The brothers dug up their grandmother's recipe and concocted a large test batch of garlic-dill pickles. Joe took jars to Michigan markets, and Bob began distributing pickles to bars in Brooklyn. Demand was strong, so the family used $50,000 in equity on a condo they owned to finance commercial kitchen space in Detroit. "We did farmers markets just to get the name out, and get some foot traffic," Joe McClure said. "We bought all our equipment on eBay and refurbished it. Bob had a friend who designed the label for us. The website was done by a friend."

Today, an estimated 70 percent of McClures sales of pickles – a second, spicy, variety as well as new products such as relish and Bloody Mary mix – comes from retail stores, with online and market sales comprising the rest. Since landing national distribution with Williams Sonoma and Whole Foods, the McClures – Joe, his mother, Jenny, father, Mike, and a couple employees, have been hand cutting and brining up to 800 jars of pickles each day. The family is committed to using as much local produce as possible, and the jars' labels are printed using vegetable inks by a press powered by hydroelectric and wind power.

Joe, who is studying for a doctorate in Physiology at Wayne State University, runs the Detroit operation from a 2,300 square foot commercial kitchen. On pickling days, the whole crew wakes at 3 or 4 a.m., so a batch of pickles can be completed before Joe heads to school at 10:30 a.m. to work on his thesis on the neurocontrol of circulation. Asked if he plans on staying in academia, Joe says: " I originally did, but right now I'm having more fun with the pickles."
Get ready to rock the ‘D’ this summer with Andiamo Detroit Riverfront and Detroit’s Classic Rock Station 94.7 WCSX-FM as they kick off the 2010 Rockin’ on the Riverfront summer concert series on Friday, July 16. This is the fifth year for the concert series.

This year’s concerts will feature four bands from 8 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. on select Fridays during the summer.

Dave Mason will kick off the series on July 16. A seasoned musician, Mason is a singer, songwriter and guitarist, who found fame with the rock band, Traffic. Mason's best known singles include "Feelin' Alright", "Hole in My Shoe" and "We Just Disagree."

Other Rockin’ on the Riverfront performers include:
July 30 – Blue Oyster Cult
August 6 – Gregg Rolie
August 13 – The Romantics

Additionally, opening bands include:
July 16 – Standing Room Only
July 30 – Solid State
August 6 – Salem Witchcraft
August 13 – Steve Kostan With The Eddie Leighton Project

“Detroit comes alive in the summer with Rockin’ on the Riverfront,” said Andiamo President and CEO Joe Vicari. “The riverfront creates the ideal atmosphere to enjoy music and food with friends and family on these warm summer nights. We invite everyone to join us and make this experience memorable.”

Admission to the concerts is free and no advance tickets are necessary. Viewing space will be on a first-come, first-served basis and people are encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs and blankets. In addition, boaters on the Detroit River are invited to anchor near the riverfront and enjoy the view of the stage from the water.

Andiamo Detroit Riverfront will provide refreshment and food concessions at several locations on the plaza. Outside food, beverages or coolers will not be permitted. Andiamo Detroit Riverfront will accept dinner reservations before and after the concert and invite guests to take advantage of its outdoor patio overlooking the Detroit River.

Convenient parking is available for $5 per vehicle at the GM surface lot at the intersection of St. Antoine and Atwater, adjacent to the GM Renaissance Center.

For more information, call (313) 567-6700 or visit www.andiamoitalia.com/detroit.

The Salvation Army of Metro Detroit is in the running for a $250,000 grant from the Pepsi Refresh Project this month, an effort by Pepsi to grant funds to people, businesses and non-profits with ideas that create a positive impact on communities.

Each month, the Pepsi Refresh Project awards up to $1.3 million in grants to proposals that receive the most votes, giving Americans the power to decide how to fund good ideas. Pepsi accepts up to 1,000 ideas each month and posts them to www.refresheverything.com for the public to vote on.

The grants are given to the idea that receives the most votes HERE.

The Salvation Army of Metro Detroit’s proposal promises to use the $250,000 in grant money to provide an additional 155,000 meals and 1,000 more nights of shelter for Detroit’s residents in need.

In order to vote, each person must click on ‘Vote for This Idea” next to the idea and then follow the prompts and provide his/her full name and email address. Each person is allowed to cast only one vote per project each day.

 “Every day in metro Detroit, countless men, women and children face the cruel reality of having nothing to eat. It’s hard to think about, and would be especially heartbreaking if you were a child,” said Major John Turner, General Secretary of The Salvation Army of Metro Detroit. “We pray the people of metro Detroit, Michigan and the U.S. will spread the word via Facebook and Twitter, and help us do something great for our community by voting.”

According to Pepsi, its Pepsi Refresh Project had funded more than 100 projects and injected more than $5 million back into communities as of June 8, 2010.
Jessica Nunez

Thomas Jane has joined the cast of 'LOL: Laughing Out Loud,' which also stars Demi Moore and Miley Cyrus and starts filming in Detroit this month.

Thomas Jane, the star of HBO's "Hung" seems to have enjoyed his time in Detroit so much that he has signed on to a film project that will bring him back to the city.

Jane, who plays divorced dad/high school coach/male prostitute Ray Drecker in the HBO sitcom has worked in Detroit shooting scenes for the show, which is set in Metro Detroit.

The new film is called "LOL: Laughing Out Loud" and is based on a 2008 French film by the same name (the title probably sounded a lot less lame in France).

The plot revolves around a teenage girl struggling with romantic relationships and playing her divorced parents against one another. The parents in the meantime have their own secret, as they have been seeing each other behind their daughter's back.

As reported last month, Miley Cyrus will play the leading role of 15-year-old Lola, while Demi Moore will play her mother and Jane will play her father.

"Twilight" star Ashley Greene has also been cast in the role of a high school "bad girl," according to an NBC pop culture blog.

Filming could start as early as next week and we'll keep you up to date on locations and developments as we hear about them.

According to a report from The Detroit News, the University of Detroit Mercy could be one of the filming spots.

Location scouts took a tour of the campus in June.

Check out the trailer for the 2008 French version of the film to get an idea of the plot. The American version is being written and directed by Lisa Azuelos, who wrote and directed the original film.

B.J. Hammerstein
Gannett Newspapers

ABC’s new fall drama “Detroit 187” is not just using the city’s name. The entire series is going to be filmed there, producers say.

The show’s creators and its writing team wrapped up a visit and clarified that the character-driven crime series, based around the lives of a Detroit homicide unit, will be fully produced here, the first-ever network series to be shot completely in Detroit.

The show’s pilot was filmed in Atlanta.

“We want people to fall in love with this show and its characters and come back and visit Detroit every week,” executive producer and creator Jason Richman says. “It doesn’t serve us as storytellers to slam a place.”

Executive producer and show runner David Zabel (“ER”) says a studio and stage sets for “Detroit 187” are being constructed in Highland Park, Mich., before filming commences in mid-July.

A symbiotic relationship between the show and the community is a must, Zabel says, adding that ABC allocated a budget that will inject more than $25 million into the local economy through production costs for its first 12 episodes. The network plans to hire 190 full-time employees in the Detroit area, not including countless extras.

“Hopefully, this goes and goes for a bunch of year and years,” Zabel says. “This is a crime show but we will explore various nooks and crannies in the communities. And within that context, there’s a lot of opportunity to see what’s positive in the city and see what’s heroic about the people fighting for what’s best for the city of Detroit.”

egm Car Tech

Barack Obama will be making his fourth trip to the state of Michigan today since becoming the President of the United States of America. Obama will be in town to attend the ground breaking of a $303 million battery plant owned by LG Chem. The move shows Obama is serious about his goal of 1 million plug-in hybrids and EVs on the roads by 2015.

In March, LG Chem confirmed that it would build a factory to make battery cells for electric-vehicles including the upcoming 2011 Chevrolet Volt extended range electric-vehicle. Production of the plant kicked of last month.

The 650,000 sq-ft plant will be able to produce up to 200,000 EV batteries and will create 300 jobs by 2013. It is already creating hundreds for the construction of the plant.

Half of the funding for the LG Chem plant came from form a $151.4 million federal grant. LG Chem does not have to pay that money back.

Urbane Apartments has invited you to the event 'Hot On Your Heels' on THE URBANE LOBBY!

Come on our for FREE appetizers, $3 drink specials and a fun contest with $1000 in prizes!

Time: July 15, 2010 from 6pm to 8pm
Location: The Urbane Underground
Organized By: Urbane Apartments, PINK PUMP, BlackFinn

Event Description:

The Urbane Way has been reaching out to hotspots like Royal Oak’s Pink Pump shoe boutique and Blackfinn American Saloon for it’s monthly party. Urbane’s Summer Swarm continues Thursday July 15 when Urbane residents and the public are encouraged to gather at the Urbane Underground, 310 Sixth Street in downtown Royal Oak, for Hot on our Heels Contest.

The sizzling summer contest calls for all interested contestants to strut in – between 6-8 p.m. –wearing their highest or most fabulous heels for a chance to enter to win one of three fabulous prizes. Our photographer will snap you in your best Carrie Bradshaw-inspired pose. Sponsor vitaminwater will be on hand to keep us hydrated. Just be sure to check in at Urbane Underground on your smart phone.

From there, the party moves promptly down Sixth Street to Blackfinn American Saloon. Show proof of your Urbane Underground check-in or Swarm badge for VIP access, free appetizers and $3 drink specials. The Urbane staff will be on hand, along with a great BlackFinn crowd – to present and judge the winners of the Hot on our Heels competition. Must be present to win.

Winners will receive a gift card to Royal Oak’s Pink Pump worth $550 (first place), $300 (second place) or $150 (third place) respectively and we’ll randomly draw a winner for a fabulous Pink Pump swag bag worth $100 in merchandise. The Urbane Way intends to keep this Summer Swarm going every month at different metro Detroit destination. Join us, won’t you?
The Village of Milford’s Main Street corridor between Commerce and Liberty streets will close July 16-18 for the 51-year shopping tradition, Shop, Rock & Stroll. The three-day celebration will feature great deals and family fun sponsored by GM, the Milford Business Association and the Milford Downtown Development Authority.

Expect specials at many of downtown Milford’s restaurants, plus the best prices of the year at Milford’s many retailers. Dozens of Milford’s shops will hold sales for up to 75 percent off merchandise at clothing boutiques, jewelry stores, home furnishing spots and more. The shops will be open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday for this special event.

While adults snag bargains at the participating stores, children can enjoy six different inflatable rides, face painting, a game booth, a “squirt your shirt” craft activity, a stilt walker (on Saturday) and music from the students of Milford Music.

“This is a great way for the family to be together, snag some deals and have fun,” said Aaron Goodnough, event organizer and owner of For Feets Sake, one of the participating Milford businesses. “We encourage all metro Detroiters to come downtown to try the many shops and restaurants Milford offers.”

Milford restaurant Gravity Bar & Grill at 340 N. Main St. will host a food and beer tent and will feature entertainment by the Bugs Beddow Band on Friday and Milford’s own Mr. Moody on Saturday. Patrons can also dine at many of the restaurants located along Main Street during the event.

Additionally, the Motley Lights Project to honor longtime Milford supporter Tom Motley will light up for the first time on Main Street on Friday night at 9 p.m.

The eventful weekend will happen rain or shine.

To learn more about downtown Milford, visit www.meetmeinmilford.com or follow Milford news and information on Twitter and Facebook.
Detroit Gets Growing

Detroit was once the engine of America's automotive industry. Today it is a symbol of urban decay. But a daring bid to return the land to farming is sowing seeds of recovery – and could be a template for cities across the world.

Paul Harris
The Observer

Strolling around his inner-city Detroit neighbourhood, Mark Covington pauses to take in the view. The houses and shops that existed when he was a child are gone, replaced by empty lots, the buildings either burned down or demolished. In their place is wilderness. Tall grass, wild flowers and trees. "Just look at that," he says. "It could be a country road."

Such views are increasingly common all over Detroit, the forlorn former capital of America's car industry and now a by-word for calamitous urban decline. Once the fourth largest city in America, its population has shrunk from about 1.8 million at its peak in the 1950s to fewer than 900,000 now. Its streets are lined with an incredible 33,000 empty lots and vacant houses. City government is broke. The shells of dilapidated factories look out over an urban landscape that has been likened to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina – except Detroit's disaster was man-made and took decades to unfold.

Now the seeds of a remarkable rebirth are being planted – literally. Across Detroit, land is being turned over to agriculture. Furrows are being tilled, soil fertilised and crops planted and harvested. Like in no other city in the world, urban farming has taken root in Detroit, not just as a hobby or a sideline but as part of a model for a wholesale revitalisation of a major city. Some farms are the product of hardy individualists or non-profit community groups. Others, like Hantz Farms, are backed by millions of dollars and aim to build the world's biggest urban farm right in the middle of the city.

Mark Covington, 38, is one of those 21st-century pioneers, though he stumbled on his role almost by accident. Finding himself unemployed after losing his job as an environmental engineer and living back with his mother two years ago, he started tidying up an empty lot near his Georgia Street home, planting vegetables and allowing local people to harvest them for free. An orchard of fruit trees followed, as did a community centre – made by converting a pair of empty buildings – which keeps local youths off the streets. The result is a transformation of the area around his childhood home. Local kids come to movie nights held amid the crops. Residents love the free, fresh food in an area where no major supermarkets exist. The Georgia Street Community Garden is never vandalised.

Standing next to a freshly planted bed of onions, potatoes, garlic and collard greens, Covington is a genial soul with gentleness built into a giant physical frame that could play American football. As he walks his neighbourhood, it seems everyone knows his name and calls out hello. He seems unsure of whether or not he is at the forefront of a social revolution, but he does know that he has made a big difference to a part of the city where real improvements have been in short supply. "I just did what seemed like needed to be done," he shrugs.

A familiar refrain from many of the thousands of people involved in urban farming in Detroit is that they are returning the city to its pre-industrial roots. Back in the late 18th century, Detroit was a small trading post surrounded by fields and farms. "You know, this area began as farmland and we are just going back to that," says Rich Wieske, who runs more than 60 beehives in inner-city Detroit and sells the resulting honey commercially. The middle-aged Wieske sports a white beard and a passion for his bees. What began as a hobby to provide honey for making mead has now turned into a profession.

As he tends five of his hives, situated on a plot of land that used to house a grand brick mansion, but is now a pleasant patch of woodland, Wieske marvels at how suitable the environment of the inner city is for his tiny charges. Each year Wieske's apiary, Green Toe Gardens, produces about 3,000lb of honey and sells it in local Detroit markets. "Our harvests are as high as anywhere else in the US. There is so much forage, so much land for the bees," he says.

Yet the fact remains that for the past 100 years Detroit was all about industry. It was where Henry Ford invented the production line, giving birth to the car industry. Detroit became the archetypal American 20th- century metropolis on the back of hundreds of huge factories, surrounded by solid middle-class houses and a thriving downtown filled with skyscrapers. It was a magnet for immigrant workers and produced vast industrial fortunes for grand American families, becoming a centre of culture and manufacturing where politicians could dream of one day rivalling New York.

No more. The car industry faded, taking jobs with it. "White flight" saw neighbourhoods decay as the middle classes departed, ruining any chance of raising enough taxes for the city's upkeep. A once-wealthy, ethnically mixed city is now more than 80% black, with an unemployment rate believed to be as high as 50%. Since the 1970s there have been numerous efforts to stem the decline, either by trying to stop the car factories from leaving or by bringing in new industries, such as the massive casinos that have sprung up downtown.

All have failed. Detroit is not being transformed by some massive top-down initiative, but by projects like the urban farm that has emerged on Linwood Street. It's a typical Detroit scene, with burnt-out shops, empty lots and houses, plus a few other buildings where residents are barely clinging on. It is busy with the roar of traffic, as well as the sound of a small John Deere tractor which is mowing the grass around a large plot of bare earth that has been prepared for planting. There are more bare fields on nearby lots. The smell of damp earth and fertiliser mingles with exhaust fumes. The Linwood Street urban farm is now in its fourth planting season, producing a bounty of corn, squash and potatoes for local residents to harvest, again for free. Developed by Urban Farming, which was founded by Detroit singer and former Prince protégé Taja Sevelle, the movement is dedicated to turning vacant land over to food production, providing a healthier diet to city people who either go hungry or have poor nutrition.

Some of Urban Farming's projects, such as Linwood, are huge, spanning several city blocks and generating substantial amounts of food. Others, like planting single gardens on rooftops or creating "living walls", are small. Last year alone the group oversaw the creation of 900 food gardens in Detroit. Some were in people's gardens, others on land donated to charities by local people or bought from the city.

Sevelle sees what is happening as a harbinger of urban development for the western world's declining inner cities, with Detroit at the cutting edge of the phenomenon. "I see the entire world looking different. Detroit will be number one in showing people how to pull a city out of a situation like this," she says.

Not that such grand thoughts are a concern to Linwood Street residents such as William Myers, a 70-year-old retired General Motors worker. He just knows that the crops sprouting from the fields that have unexpectedly sprung up on his street are feeding many of his poor neighbours. As with many community or charity-run farms, the food is simply available free to residents. When it is ready they can come and harvest it straight from the ground themselves. Such a scheme might seem a recipe for chaos, but vandalism on the city's urban farms is almost unknown. They are unfenced, open to all, and run by volunteers or charity workers. It is hoped that residents who eat the food will also help to grow it. But there are no set rules. "It's beautiful," Myers says. "There's a lot of people around here who really need it, and they say it tastes very good."

Agriculture has long existed in the nooks and crannies of urban life. Market gardens, allotments and backyard plots have always helped provide extra nourishment for city dwellers. That's certainly the tradition that Patrick Crouch sees himself following. A red-haired man dressed in T-shirt and jeans, he is working hard in the late-spring sunshine. "Mind the asparagus!" he calls out as he pushes a hand plough through the soil of the Earthworks Urban Farm. Situated in one of Detroit's most deprived areas, it provides food for a soup kitchen, which is run by Capuchin monks and is vital for the neighbourhood's poorest residents. "I think there is a historic context to this," he says. "There is a long history of urban farming. I look for inspiration to the Parisian market gardens of the 19th century."

Crouch, who has a background in agricultural social activism, was born in Maryland, a state known for its rural farming areas. Yet he ended up in Detroit practising his agrarian skills, and Earthworks now has the potential to transform his adopted city by creating one thing the city needs more than anything else: a way to make a living. Crouch is developing a "model plot" that consists of rows of vegetables, some beehives and a compost heap. He believes that with hard work the model plot could be replicated on individual lots across the city and provide owners with the means to produce an income of perhaps $20,000 a year. In Detroit that wage could be nothing short of miraculous. "This garden could be replicated and turned over for profit. That's the goal. It could provide a living wage," he says.

The strange thing about Detroit is that the soil of its urban landscape is capable of supporting farming even after more than a century of urbanisation. Though many factory sites are contaminated, the land under the city's houses is often not. Crouch has tested the soil that Earthworks farms, and though frequently poor in nutrients, it's usually not polluted. Now, with each round of farming, harvesting and composting, it's improving every year. Earthworks' crops of vegetables and fruits are even certified organic.

There are even more grand plans afoot elsewhere. Mike Score, president of Hantz Farms, has a vision of something that no other modern city has ever attempted: running full-scale commercial farms.

Operating out of a former factory, Hantz Farms – the brainchild of John Hantz, one of the last remaining wealthy white financiers living in the city – is planning a wholesale transformation of the landscape and the creation of a proper agricultural industry. Score sees a future for farming on a large scale, on city land cleared of houses and their residents, with abandoned factories turned into hydroponic operations full of tomatoes and other crops planted all year around in artificial climates. The business could create the jobs, taxes and income that no other industrial sector in the city has provided for years. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape Detroit," says Score. "Small-scale farming cannot create jobs. We believe we can do that. We can make all the difference."

There is certainly enough land. Abandoned houses, vacant lots and empty factories now make up about a third of Detroit, totalling around 40 square miles – the size of San Francisco. Walking around the rows of houses surrounding the Hantz offices, Score envisions a landscape dominated by agriculture. With his black cowboy boots and a lilting accent that seems to hint at the South, he looks an unlikely visionary for urban Detroit as he describes vegetable plots, fields and greenhouses, all the while wielding a hefty stick to keep away stray dogs and looking at burnt-out houses sometimes used as crack dens. In among the ruins there are a few rows of neatly kept homes where brave residents continue to cling on, but Score does not see their presence as a problem. "We are not like a developer like Walmart, where we need the whole block of land to develop a new store. If someone is still living in their house and doesn't want to leave or sell, that's OK," he says. "We can just farm around them."

Score's project is not idle fantasy: Hantz Farms is expected to begin farming on a 40-acre plot in the city soon. It will be the largest urban farm in the world, and if it is successful other Hantz programmes will be implemented, and commercial farming will have begun within a few miles of downtown. This has certainly caught the attention of cash-strapped local government. Detroit mayor Dave Bing is currently working on a blueprint for the city's future, to be announced in the next 18 months, which is expected to involve concentrating Detroit's remaining residents within still-viable areas and abandoning neighbourhoods that are considered past the point of no return. The effect would be to create "nodes" of urban population surrounded by large stretches of land, likely to be largely empty. Detroit would become a more modern city, with many of its derelict and isolated buildings torn down. Its citizens could work a mix of rural and urban jobs, their health and diets nourished and improved by their own city's crops. Hantz Farms believes its large-scale farming would fit in perfectly with such a scheme.

Yet a big commercial operation like Hantz is not without critics. Community groups and some urban farming activists distrust the corporation's profit motive, accusing it of attempting a "land grab". Such criticisms are shrugged off by Score, who sees his commercial farms operating side by side with community organisations. "I don't see why it has to be an either or option, " he says. "We can both coexist in changing the city and turning it into something else." To some extent this is already happening. A city-wide alliance of non-profit organisations is sponsoring the Shar Foundation, which aims to farm up to 2,000 acres in 15- to 30-acre pods: like Hantz Farms' plans, these will be run as agricultural businesses.

Urban farms are already springing up in similar faded urban giants of the "American Rust Belt" such as Cleveland and Buffalo. Nor is the idea limited to troubled post-industrial cities: it's taking hold in vibrant metropolises like New York and Los Angeles too. Sevelle's organisation, born in Detroit, is now helping to set up urban farms and gardens nationwide. "We are doing this in more than 25 cities across the US and abroad," she says.

It is possible that the future of cities is being born in Detroit. If so, that is a vision that Wieske, the genial beekeeper, is happy with. As he drives to his hives, he disturbs a wild pheasant with his car and it bursts into the sky in an explosion of feathers – a scene common to rural America but rarely associated with an inner city. "We get pheasants around here all the time," he says. He smiles and recites the unofficial slogan of Detroit's urban farming revolutionaries: "We are turning Motown into Growtown."

To see a film of the Detroit farms, go to observer.co.uk/magazine