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

* Source: Disability Statistics, Cornell University (

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, 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, 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 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: 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

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 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 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

Unity Studios (Unity) announced the production of “War Flowers,” its first feature length film. The Civil War-era family drama, produced and financed by Unity and directed by veteran filmmaker Serge Rodnunsky is being filmed on the studios’ sound stages and at select off-site locations around southeast Michigan. “War Flowers” all-star cast was partially packaged by ICM and includes Christina Ricci (The Addams Family, Penelope), Jason Gedrick (Backdraft), Tom Berenger (Platoon, Major League) and introducing Gabrielle Popa.

“When I founded Unity Studios and the Lifton Institute for Media Skills (LIMS) my goal was two-fold: to bring a new industry to my home state and to put people to work,” said Unity Studios president Jimmy Lifton. “This movie is the embodiment of those goals because it is being crafted entirely in Michigan, and 55 LIMS’ graduates have been hired to put the skills they’ve learned to use as members of the crew.”

“War Flowers,” features a heartfelt family-focused storyline about Sarabeth (Ricci), a young mother whose husband has left her and her daughter to fight for the South in the Civil War. It follows the havoc and hardships the war creates for Sarabeth and her daughter, and explores their hopes, faith and belief that the man they love will return. All the while, they must decide the fate of a Yankee soldier (Gedrick) who enters their life. The movie also features impressive battle sequences and Civil War re-enactments.

The project, produced by Lifton, is in collaboration with Trivision Pictures and Interlight Entertainment.  Distribution demand for “War Flowers” has fast tracked delivery in time for the Fall Markets.

Unity Studios and LIMS recently announced that more than half of the LIMS inaugural class, which began in October 2009, reported finding work on at least one film, TV or music video production within 90 days of their January 2010 graduation. LIMS’ second class graduated on June 21 and its third class begins this August.

The American Beauty Mural Unveiled

Artist Halima Cassells explains the message behind  “American Beauty”  a public art mural project commissioned by TechTown and Wayne State University, with support from the University Cultural Center Association.  Working with 31 Detroit children ages 6 to 19, Cassell  and seven other artists  from the Detroit Mural Factory have turned a  faded architectural gem into a community focal point once more.  Here’s a look at her vision of the project. ~Nichole Christian

“As a returning native-Detroiter, I am encouraged by the amount of opportunity and talent that abounds in our city.  This mural project serves to show how transformative public art can be for a space, as well as how art brings people and community together. Through collaborative vision and work we at the Detroit Mural Factory were able to turn an eyesore into a focal point; wrapping a block-long blighted building with a vivid modular mural in three weeks.  The American Beauty | Detroit Mural depicts our past, present, and future in terms of our legacy of rich culture and industry.  The motif of light is used throughout to represent Detroit as a seat of ingenuity, and a symbol for our resilience.

The Woodward Avenue view pays homage to the unique history of people and industry in the New Amsterdam area, and marks a tipping point towards the new green industry now blossoming in this place.
The Burroughs portion depicts our ingenuity and forward movement toward green technology and industry and urban agriculture.  The large wooden, student-painted butterflies symbolize our spiritual and industrial metamorphosis and demonstrate artistic collaboration, as they are part of artist Chazz Miller’s 2010 Papillon Effect Project.

The Cass Avenue view shows a snapshot of the future,  surrounded by flourishing clean technology, while being cradled by the Spirit of Detroit.

It is our belief that art becomes more powerful as the number of hands that participate in the creation increases.  It is our hope that more Detroiters will view boarded buildings as canvases and create art for community across Detroit.”

The Spirit of Detroit
Autumn Wolfer

I have to first start out by saying that I’ve been writing this post for about a month now. It was extremely important to me that this particular post turn out JUST RIGHT, because it really does mean that much to me. Most of you also know my inherent ability to be extremely hard on myself to the point where I doubt this post will live up to my own expectations for what I had planned, but here goes. My only hope is that you enjoy reading it, as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Not too long ago, I was asked why I always post stories and videos about Detroit on my Facebook page. I think the most obvious of the many reasons I do is the fact that I, along with my entire extended family, was born and raised in the city and a majority of them still live in the area.  And while I’ve lived in Chicago for almost nine and a half years now, I still like to keep up on what’s going on at “home.”  

Both of my parents, as well as all of my aunts and uncles were born and raised in the City of Detroit.  East side.  The Wolfer’s in the “house on Runyon” and the Lehman’s in “the house on Rochelle.”  I, too, spent the first year and a half of my own life in the house on Runyon; the house on Rochelle, I’ve heard, is no longer standing.  Both were blue collar families.  My Grandpa Wolfer, as many of you know, drove a Wonder Bread truck, while my Grandma worked as a nurse’s aid at Holy Cross Hospital, where my brothers and I were all born. Until the day she died, my Grandma would constantly be telling me stories of how the nurses at the hospital would always ask, “How’s Autumn?” remembering me as “Mary’s granddaughter” because of my unique name. Caring like a second family. My Grandpa Wally (Lehman) worked for the city, servicing the city’s landscapes and trees on its streets and in its parks, while my Grandma Rosie worked at home, raising their five children – all of them products of Detroit Public Schools.

And it wasn’t just my “family.”  I’ve watched several home videos of my parents growing up – playing with the neighbor kids, learning to ride bikes on Runyon and Rochelle.  Stories from my father about his childhood friend – known to me as “Uncle Jimmy” – and the mischief they caused.  Family names like the Kuhn’s, the Armstrong’s, the Finkbeiner’s, and the Tarte’s – I can’t remember faces, but know from stories that all of these “names” made up a big part of my parent’s extended families.

Their Detroit family.  A family that shocked even my father this past February at my grandmother’s funeral, when news literally spread like wildfire of her passing.  Deciding to have only one viewing day, since we didn’t think many people would come, when instead they came in droves.  All the “kids” from the old neighborhood coming to say goodbye to “Mrs. Wolfer,” some even crying as if it were their own mother’s passing despite the fact, to quote my father, “I haven’t seen him since we were kids.”  While no longer in touch, that spirit of family, of their times growing up in Detroit, was still alive. And to quote one of my favorite authors, also a Detroiter, Mitch Albom, in one of my favorite articles that he’s ever written, it was a reminder that it was “Family.  We’re all in this together.”

And THAT is the Spirit of Detroit.

A couple of weeks ago, Time Magazine dedicated a series of stories to the City of Detroit. The cover of which contained the headline, “The Tragedy of Detroit” complete with an online photo show blasting the title, “The Remains of Detroit.”  A dead city.  A calamity.  The heart of the city: broken.  And while the articles painted a picture of despair, of the physical destructions of the city, what they also spoke to is what I know will 100% make this great city even greater once again – the heart of its people.  The pride. The “spirit.”  It’s unfounded.  I can’t explain it.  While it’s been well over a decade since the last time I lived full-time in the Detroit metropolitan area, I felt it last April when I saw all my friends posting pictures of their trips downtown to cheer on the Spartans during the Final Four. Vibrance. I felt it again, when my brother, who has been unemployed, like a lot of people in Detroit and Michigan for quite sometime now, was accepted into the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers – Detroit.  Elation.  I felt it again recently while watching a video of the remains of old Tiger’s Stadium being demolished. Memories. Progress. And most recently, I felt that spirit again, alone in my own apartment, while watching the Tigers lose to the Minnesota Twins in one of the most adrenalin-filled, heartbreaking losses I’ve ever witnessed. Intensity. Only proving that although you can take the girl out of Detroit, you can never take the Detroit out of the girl – it is a part of me.  It lives inside of me.  So much so, that to echo what I said in the first paragraph about this post not living up to my own expectations, I simply cannot find the words to express it.  It’s a strength, a courage, and sorry for reusing this word so many times, but a spirit that cannot be mimicked.

Detroit IS and always has been a great and special city. We’re a little down on our luck right now, but the foundation is still there.  A foundation that my Grandpa Wally planted its parks and on its streets, a foundation that’s built on strength and perseverance.  Knock us down?  Not a chance.

And one thing is for sure: As many articles as I read written by “visitors” to Detroit that call the city “dead” or “dying.” As many news stories that I hear about unemployment rates, or the numbers of foreclosed and vacant homes and businesses I see when I return. One thing is constant – that spirit. The pride for a “dying” city. That sense of we really are all in this together. Fighting, crying, hoping, and working… together. I still feel it – and I haven’t lived, full time, near Detroit since I was in my teens. It’s alive in streets named Gratiot, Woodward, 8 Mile and Trumbull. It’s alive through names like Tiger Stadium, Joe Louis, the People Mover, Trapper’s Alley and Greektown, some replaced now by the bright lights of the casinos, Comerica Park and Ford Field – lights that I’m proud to say were wired an installed by my Uncle Dale and his brothers from the IBEW at Motor City Electric – the same union that my own brother now belongs to, and the same company my brother now works for.  

So, you see. The Spirit of Detroit is far more than just a statue on Woodward Avenue. The true Spirit of Detroit is in the hearts of all those the city has touched, and who have been touched by the city. My grandfathers and their fathers, my parents, and their siblings and mine. And someday my children and grandchildren.  I’m not going to pretend that I know where life is going to take me. Whether I stay in Chicago, or one day move back “home.” But I do know that regardless of my permanent address, I will take my children to Comerica Park and Ford Field. To Belle Isle and for “rides” on the People Mover. They’ll wear Honolulu Blue and Silver, and hats with an Olde English D. And they’ll learn that the only thing that matters in life is heart and spirit. And it’s because of this, that I truly believe the pulse that beats through the empty, but not forgotten streets of Detroit, will be “alive” once again.

All my love forever to the D!
Sam Logan Khaleghi
Special to The Oakland Press

Sitting in a makeup chair, a young girl looks up yawning, before laughing and then immediately apologizing.

“I’m sorry, I’m just so tired, we were filming pretty late yesterday,” she says. “Call time yesterday originally was 5 o’clock, and for some reason the camera broke, and I was like ‘I’m sleeping.’”

The girl is 14-year-old Alora Catherine Smith, a Bloomfield Hills resident.

Alora is preparing to attend Andover High School in the fall, having already worked with an Oscar-nominated director.

Rob Reiner (“A Few Good Men”) auditioned Alora last autumn after surveying a plethora of potentials for the role of Melanie Humes for his upcoming feature film “Flipped.”

The film is a drama based on the book of the same title from author Wendelin Van Draanen.

Although Alora didn’t only read for that specific part, she says she was excited when her agent arranged the auditions and that she was, “ecstatic when I got to go in and meet Rob Reiner during the callbacks at their offices in Ann Arbor.”

When she heard the news that she had landed the role, it became an echo all around her.

She goes on to explain that the news that she got the part was soon shuffling through the locker rooms and hallways at her junior high school as she informed all her friends who wanted to know all the details about the film.

“Everyone asked me a lot of questions, but I didn’t know anything yet,” she recalls.

Alora was not familiar at first with the classic résumé of her new boss, which includes such films as 1989’s “When Harry Met Sally,” though she was well aware of the reputation of the writer, director and producer.

Alora admits, “I saw Rob Reiner actually for the first time as an actor on Disney’s ‘Hannah Montana,’ which is how I knew about him.”

Sitting in the green room in a Grand Blanc mansion awaiting the assistant director to call her to the set of a promotional piece for an upcoming horror film, she fidgets with the rubber animal wristbands that are covering her right arm and pulls one off to display.

The bracelets that have been a cause of much trouble in grade schools across the country are one of her favorite wardrobe pieces that she gets to keep after filming is complete.

Though not allowed to say much about this other project because of confidentiality agreements, Alora assures that the project is fun and scary, with a plotline that revolves around a babysitter who is hired to take care of a young boy inside what is revealed to be a haunted house of sorts.

Who or what is doing the haunting?

She pauses for a moment to take into consideration how much she can reveal as she lifts her head to look at her mother, Julie Smith, for confirmation.

Alora says that her mother is her talent manager and therefore needs to talk with her before conceding story details.

From Motown to Hollywood

As the manager, Julie organizes Alora’s trips to Los Angeles.

Alora and her mother are back and forth like a game of tennis with the details of her first trip to Hollywood.

Julie and her husband Clay Smith are also artists and both are graduates of Detroit’s College for Creative Studies. Julie works as a freelance graphic designer alongside her husband who teaches industrial design at their alma mater. Alora’s father also contracts out as a production designer for film.

Alora says she feels proud of her parents’ efforts and is thankful for everything they have done to assist in her in following her passion.

Julie laughs out when asked about her reaction to Alora’s initial interest in acting at the age of 10.

“I thought, maybe it will pass, maybe she’ll stop asking one of these days,” she says.

Like most parents would be, Julie was protective and remained well informed about the chances her daughter had, as young actors are up against time and money.

Julie began briefing on how she financed and enrolled Alora for a series of on-camera summer programs in Los Angeles two years in a row.

Reminiscing of her workshops in Los Angeles at Young Actors Camp, Alora says, “The second year I went there, I met Selena Gomez ... she’s so nice. I had a tea party with Selena and we did acting games and people asked her questions.”

Alora even had an opportunity to tour the set of TV’s “Wizards of Waverly Place” with the stars of the show.

Words of wisdom

Julie also warns parents of scammers who arrange acting and modeling conventions with promises that are a bit fraudulent.

Thanks to a previous event that left Julie with mixed feelings and empty pockets, she warns parents, “Here I thought we passed these auditions, however, I didn’t like some of their practices.”

She tells of a contract that was thrown in front of her to sign immediately before they could even talk to the agents or managers that were advertised to be at the event.

“You have to commit like 10 or 15 percent of any income you make for the next three years to them.”

Alora pushes in her own thought with her hands in the air questioning, “When they’re not doing anything?”

Julie also advises the future parents of young thespians, “Absolutely read what you’re signing ... It was quite a learning process.”

With a few years of acting under her belt, Alora poises with confidence before giving her honest advice to other would-be thespians: “Well, definitely if you don’t get a part it’s not always your fault. They’re looking for something specific. Even the greatest actors don’t make it because of what they look like, if you make a mistake (in an audition), don’t beat yourself up about it because something else is going to happen, and it was meant to be.”

Sporting a high level of charm and professionalism, Alora carries herself up from the chair when the assistant director finally pushes in and request that she be on set in five minutes.

Warner Brothers’ “Flipped” opens in theaters Aug. 6 in limited release and nationwide on Aug. 27.

Andrea Isom
My Fox Detroit

42 girls from metro Detroit are on their way to ruling the world. All of them are absolutely amazing, and in just one week, they were able to accomplish what some people never will.

These young girls are ready to show the world what they're made of -- sugar, spice and everything nice and throw in some math, science and technology, too.

"It's a wonderful experience.  Even if you hadn't considered technology as a field, this really opens your eyes," said 7th grader Lauren Pankin.

"At first, I thought it was impossible. I thought that you had to do all these lists of things, but now when I just look at it, it's looking like wow," said 6th grader Leanna Toles.

"I never really was interested in technology before this, but now it's really fun, and I think want to get a job in it," said 5th grader Grace MacLellan.

Camp Infinity is a program designed for girls in grades 5 through 8 all from Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties.  Thanks to the Michigan Council of Women in Technology, generous sponsors, educators and volunteers, the campers are introduced to video game and web design and some really cool robotics. Keeping these kids on the cutting edge is the key.

"The biggest thing is we found high school's too late," said Camp Director Julie Patterson.

"Plant the seed in these girls' minds while they are young so that they can latch on to the technology when they get older," said volunteer Madhuri Raju.

"Sometimes they get outshone by the boys, and you've got to have a way to draw the girls out and give them a confidence that they might not get at home or at school," said Marcy Klevorn with the Ford Motor Company.

"The percentage of women achieving college degrees is going up. The percentage of women achieving degrees in technology is going down. So, it's actually getting worse instead of better. So, it's really important that we find our best and brightest and we encourage them to consider technology for a career," Patterson said.

It's tremendous what these young minds managed to master in just five days.

"We come out with great robots, excellent web pages.  I mean, they look professional, great use of color," Patterson said.

"These are the kind of employees we need in the future," Klevorn said.

"I want to work in some place like Google or something like that, and do something in math or science," said 7th grader Prerana Shenoy.

"I want to become a politician, but I think I now have a greater understanding of the technological field of website creation. I need a campaign after all," Pankin said.

Their parents are proud and very impressed.

"My daughter came home the first day more excited about this than about the first day of dance or the first day of soccer," said parent Joe MacLellan.

"Amazing and talented, and it's great to have young ladies being involved in technology. I think we need more women involved. This is a great start for them, as well," said parent Dewayne Toles.

"I still don't know what I want to do with my computer science degree, but I know that I love computers and you can just do anything," said volunteer Devan Sayles.

An experience like this is priceless, but Camp Infinity is free. For more information, visit

Although he retired long ago, Eddie Edwards has found work that keeps him busy for much of the year: staving off blight on his block.

This summer, the 63-year-old Mr. Edwards is chopping down tall weeds in empty lots and cleaning the alleyways behind his home and across the street. He also routinely takes care of the street sweeping, using just a broom and dust pan.

"It is time-consuming," says Mr. Edwards, who spent his professional life molding glass into windshields and tail lights for Chrysler. "But I don't have anything else to do."

Across Detroit, do-it-yourselfers such as Mr. Edwards are rolling up their sleeves and opening up their wallets to provide basic services that the financially strapped city can no longer manage on its own, from boarding up vacant homes to mowing lawns to maintaining parks. In some areas, residents also partner with city agencies or look to philanthropies for help.

"My cellphone is full of people" who do upkeep on their own, says Brad Dick, deputy director of Detroit's General Services Department. Many think they are going it alone, he says. "They're always shocked they're not the only one."

To serve an area of roughly 140 square miles, the city has 106 grass cutters, but also contracts with three vendors to mow vacant lots twice a year. If not for individual residents stepping in, Mr. Dick says, the city would be in much worse shape.

Mr. Edwards and his neighbors say it has been several years since the city provided many maintenance services on their far East Side block. In the winter, he also pays out of pocket for snow removal for most of his tiny block. Another neighbor has agreed to cover the rest of the block. That keeps residents from being snowed in at home, neighbors say.

"That's the reward," says Mr. Edwards. "They thank me all the time."

Southwest Detroit is home to some of the most active residential groups in the city. On one block, residents received a grant earlier this year to begin boarding up vacant homes. A nonprofit has pledged to demolish one vacant home on their own and turn another into a multipurpose space with public art.

The 30-acre Clark Park on the Southwest Side is mainly kept up by a nonprofit, community group that partners with the city. As a result, Clark Park has play grounds, fencing, baseball and softball fields, an ice hockey rink and a recreation center. Since 1991, the city has paid the utilities, trimmed the grass and collected the garbage, with the Clark Park Coalition pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations into everything from maintaining play grounds to providing summer camps and recreational sports leagues for youth. A number of similar groups exist to support other city parks.

In the Corktown community west of downtown, Howard King Jr. maintains more than a dozen empty lots, two of which he farms for his 87-year-old mother.

The 60-year-old youth advocate and part-time landscaper pays teens in his neighborhood to mow lawns and trains them to trim hedges, hoping to keep them out of trouble.

"It's like therapy to me," he says. "I like to see the vacant lots beautiful."

As Detroit continues to lose population and taxpayers, Mayor Dave Bing has been struggling to control a budget deficit in the hundreds of millions of dollars. He cut roughly $100 million in spending from his latest budget, but tried to avoid cutting into city services such as grass cutting and street cleaning, which tend to shape people's perceptions of neighborhood quality and safety.

A tussle over the budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year, which began July 1, left him and the City Council struggling to avert the closure of 77 of Detroit's 308 parks. A deal reached last month restored millions of dollars to save the roughly 1,400 acres of parks. But that plan depends on individuals continuing to shoulder much of the maintenance burden.

"Sometimes we really can't do much," says Mr. Dick, the General Services official.

One park spared was the 300-acre Palmer Park on the northwest side. Regulars there credit the condition of the tennis courts to William Martin, a 56-year-old psychiatrist and Detroit native who lives in the wealthy suburb of Grosse Pointe but still has a private practice in the city.

In recent years, Dr. Martin has spent thousands of dollars on filling cracks in the asphalt, putting up wind screens on the fencing and purchasing park benches. When the chains he bought to secure those benches failed to deter thieves, he bought thicker ones.

For the annual amateur tennis tournament he holds there, he called in someone to cut the grass near the courts. The city hadn't done that in weeks, if not months, he says. He also paid for a portable toilet, as there is no functioning toilet nearby.

"If I had to have the city's permission, it would have never happened," he says. He points up to the busted lights around the courts, noting that he hasn't been able to fix those. "To have the city represented like this" is unfortunate, he says. "This is supposed to be like Central Park in New York."

Residents know the city's straits and have been generally understanding, says Mr. Dick, of General Services. When they call, often "they're not saying send in 20 lawnmowers," he says. "They're just simply saying we need some trash bags."