Gallup-Knight Foundation study finds unexpected factors cause people to love where they live; suggests new approaches to improving communities.

Detroit leaders already implementing the findings with new project

A three-year Gallup study of Detroit and 25 other U.S. cities has found that peoples’ love and passion for their community may be a leading indicator for local economic growth. Surprisingly, social offerings, openness and beauty are far more important to Detroit residents than their perceptions of the economy, jobs or basic services in creating a lasting emotional bond between people and their community.

The 26 cities in the survey with the highest levels of resident love and passion for their community, or resident attachment, also had the highest rates of local GDP growth over time.

“This study is important because its findings about emotional attachment to place point to a new perspective that we encourage leaders to consider; it is especially valuable as we aim to strengthen our communities during this tough economic time,” said Paula Ellis, Knight Foundation’s vice president for strategic initiatives.

“This survey offers new approaches for communities to organize themselves to attract businesses, keep residents and holistically improve their local economic vitality,” said Jon Clifton, deputy director of the Gallup World Poll, who conducted the survey with funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Three community qualities – social offerings, openness and beauty – have consistently emerged as the leading drivers for community attachment in Detroit and in the other communities studied over the three years of research. They beat out other possible drivers such as perceptions of local economy, leadership and safety.

Detroit residents identified education as a strength of their community, making the city unique among the 26 cities included in the survey. However, residents’ perceptions of both K-12 schools and local colleges and universities are lower this year than in 2009. 

Detroit residents feel that the city needs to improve its social offerings and openness to different types of people.  Minorities are perceived to be the most welcome group in Detroit, but young talent is the least welcome. The availability of social community events is the highest rated aspect of social offerings in Detroit.

“I feel a strong positive force within Detroit, driven by its young people, and it is concerning that they are the same group who perceive young people to be the least welcome group,” said Trabian Shorters, Knight Foundation’s vice president for communities program. “I’m looking forward to linking up with the leaders in Detroit to share the results of this study and talk about ways we can make this community a more attractive place where people feel attached.”

Detroit leaders are already using the findings. Recently, with support from Knight Foundation, CEOs for Cities recently gathered urban leaders to discuss what attracts residents to Detroit, and to develop a list of big ideas to foster a robust public life. The top ideas will then be funded and carried out. For more on this project, funded by Knight Foundation, visit

The Knight Soul of the Community survey explores the connection between local economic growth and peoples’ emotional bond to a place. Three years of survey data clearly show a significant, positive link between resident attachment and local GDP growth.

“Our theory is that when a community’s residents are highly attached, they will spend more time there, spend more money. They’re more productive and tend to be more entrepreneurial,” Clifton said. “The study bears out that theory and now provides all community leaders the knowledge they need to make a sustainable impact on their community.”

Within a smaller environment, such as a business, Gallup has been able to show that increasing employees' emotional connection to their company leads to improved financial performance of the organization. Experts continue to explore if the emotional connection to the place where one lives drives economic growth for these communities in a similar way. Gallup’s previous work in U.S. communities and abroad shows that in fact emotional connection does drive economic growth.

Despite declines in the economy since the study was begun in 2008, the researchers found some surprising constants:

•    The things that create the greatest emotional connection between people and a community – social offerings, openness and aesthetics – have remained stable for three years and are consistent among the 26 cities studied. These three things reliably had the strongest connection of the 10 community qualities that attach residents to place, which also included: civic involvement, social capital, education, perception of the local economy, leadership, safety, emotional well-being and basic services.

•    The link between local GDP and residents’ emotional bonds to a place has remained steady despite declines in the economy over the three years of the study. Communities with higher percentage of attached residents also show higher levels of economic growth.

•    Job seeking college graduates are perceived to be one of the least welcome groups across the 26 communities.

•    Perception of the local economy is not a leading reason residents create an emotional bond to a place.

The cities surveyed were chosen because the Knight brothers owned newspapers in those cities. They vary in population size, economic levels and how urban or rural they are. Gallup randomly surveyed 43,000 adults by phone from 2008 to 2010.

The following communities were included in the survey: Aberdeen, S.D.; Akron, Ohio; Biloxi, Miss.; Boulder, Colo.; Bradenton, Fla.; Charlotte, N.C.; Columbia, S.C.; Columbus, Ga.; Detroit, Mich.; Duluth, Minn.; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Gary, Ind.; Grand Forks, N.D.; Lexington, Ky.; Long Beach, Calif.; Macon, Ga.; Miami, Fla.; Milledgeville, Ga.; Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Palm Beach, Fla.; Philadelphia, Pa.; San Jose, Calif.; St. Paul, Minn.; State College, Pa.; Tallahassee, Fla.; and Wichita, Kan.

For information or to share comments about the Detroit community results, contact Trabian Shorters, Knight Foundation’s vice president for communities program at
For complete survey findings, visit
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Michigan...Worth Another Look

Michigan…Worth Another Look
Adam Babcock
Wonder Michigan

This post was written by Adam Babcock, my partner with NxtGen Marketing.  Although Adam grew up in Michigan, he has been living out on the West Coast for the past few years, until his recent move to Chicago.

I recently decided to move back to the Midwest, from Los Angeles to Chicago.  While apartment hunting in Chicago, I figured I would just stay with my parents back in Michigan.  I thought, at the most I will be home for a couple weeks, and it would give me a chance to spend some quality time with my family (who all still live in Michigan), which is one of the main reasons I wanted to move back to the Midwest.

My plan didn’t quite work out as I had hoped.  It took me much longer to find an apartment than I originally thought it would.  However, I am glad it did, because during my time back home, something truly great happened.  Something completely unexpected, yet much appreciated.  I fell in love with Michigan…again!

I absolutely loved growing up in Michigan.  And I wouldn’t trade my 4 years at Michigan State University for anything.  But after I graduated, I can honestly say Michigan wasn’t exactly my favorite place.  More and more of my friends were moving away.  I was stuck in a job I didn’t like or want.  There were very few opportunities in Michigan to do what I actually wanted to do, and the years and years of cold, grey winters had finally taken its toll on me.   So I left and didn’t look back.

When you don’t live in Michigan, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking nothing positive is happening there.  Detroit is practically looked at as a third world country by outsiders.  The only press we get is negative press.  Whenever I would go home to visit, they would be short trips focused on family.  I didn’t have time to get out and see what was going on around the community.  So when I recently came back, I came back with the same mindset I had when I left.  “I don’t want to be here.”

It didn’t take long for that mindset to change.  The very first weekend I was home, there was Arts, Beats and Eats in Royal Oak, the Detroit Jazz Festival, and Eminem and Jay-Z, two of the biggest names in hip hop, were putting on show at Comerica Park.  We played host to a number of high profile events, such as TEDxDetroit and 140 Conference Detroit.  I saw Transformers 3 being filmed in Detroit, and heard countless stories from friends and family of all the stars they have been seeing around town.  And as great as these things were, it was the little things that really helped me fall back in love Michigan.  Taking my dog on walks through all the beautiful neighborhoods.  Seeing the sense of community among the residents.  Even the fall foliage!  These are things you don’t necessarily get outside of Michigan.  And quite frankly, I didn’t realize how much I missed them until I came back.

There were two questions people always asked me when I met them for the first time after I had moved away:

1.)   Why did you leave Michigan?
2.)   Would you move back?

I do not regret my decision to move.  I learned a lot over the past 3 years and they have helped me grow to be the person I am today.  But my answers to these questions have certainly changed. 3 years ago, I would have told you, I left because I wanted to live somewhere I could have fun in the sun, and that I probably don’t see myself ever going back.  While the answer to the first question might be the same, my answer to the second question is dramatically different.  Would I ever move back to Michigan?  I not only hope to, but I plan on it!

My question to you is, have you taken another look at Michigan lately?
The Salvation Army of Metro Detroit and Channel 955 are issuing a million dollar challenge to the Clear Channel radio station’s listeners to help the nonprofit raise much needed funds for its annual Red Kettle Campaign this holiday season.

Beginning on Monday, Nov. 1 and running through Friday, Nov. 12 all Channel 955 on-air personalities will be asking the station’s estimated one million unique listeners to give at least $1 to Channel 955’s online Red Kettle at

 “We have a Red Kettle campaign goal of $7.8 million this year. With the Michigan’s unemployment rate at 13 percent, and the poverty rate at approximately 14 percent, the need has never been greater – and we need the community’s help now more than ever before,” said Major John Turner, general secretary for The Salvation Army of Metro Detroit.

“Every donation counts – no matter the size. The challenge that Channel 955 is issuing to its listeners will help us make a great impact in this community. In fact, just $10 helps feed one person for an entire month.”

All donations raised during Channel 955’s Million Dollar Challenge will go directly into The Salvation Army of Metro Detroit’s iconic red kettle to help provide a solid foundation for the nonprofit’s 119th annual Red Kettle campaign which runs from Nov. 12, 2010 through Jan. 31, 2011.

"All seven Clear Channel Detroit radio stations share an ongoing and dedicated commitment to serving our community and The Salvation Army,” said Til Levesque, president/market manager of Clear Channel Detroit. “Channel 955/WKQI is honored to be supporting The Salvation Army's 2010 red kettle campaign and its mission to bring needed relief to the members of our community who need help."

Red Kettle donations are used throughout the year to help provide vital services such as food, shelter, utility assistance, free legal aid, after school programs, counseling, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, disaster aid and so much more.

The Downtown Detroit Partnership (DDP) today announced the launch of a new photo contest for metro Detroit amateur photographers that invites them to find and showcase hidden gems and unique destinations of Downtown Detroit. The contest will run now through Friday, November 12, 2010.  During that time, entrants may submit photos to or the Dig Downtown Facebook page. The public will vote on the best photo from each of the five districts (Downtown, Midtown, Corktown, Eastern Market and New Center).

The winning photograph from each district will be featured on and the photographer will receive a $100 gift certificate. One grand prize winner will receive a $250 gift certificate in addition to having their photography featured on and Dig Downtown promotional materials.

The contest is part of an overall campaign to raise awareness of the depth and quality of events and activities taking place in Downtown Detroit every day. Dig Downtown gives definition to greater Downtown Detroit, and for the first time gives a cohesive identity to its five districts (Downtown, Midtown, Corktown, Eastern Market and New Center) – all while showcasing the unique assets and characteristics of the individual districts.

Dig Downtown’s website, provides unique itineraries with insider tips for families, groups and individuals of all ages. The brochure lists a broad sampling of all of the food, fun and events taking place, as well as maps to help people get around in each district.
About Downtown Detroit Partnership:

 The Downtown Detroit Partnership (DDP) is a private/public partnership of corporate and civic leaders.  DDP engages business, government, and civic leaders in developing initiatives to strengthen Downtown Detroit’s employment, entertainment and residential assets, as well as advancing diversity, vitality and economic health for Southeast Michigan’s urban core.  For more information, visit

Theatre Bizzare Gets A Nod from the New York Times

Detroit Reins In an Annual Halloween Revelry
Mary M. Chapman
New York Times

The arts community here is abuzz over the potential dismantling of the site of Theatre Bizarre, an 11-year-old party and macabre neighborhood carnival that is part Ringling Brothers, part “Dawn of the Dead,” and features makeshift rides, punk rock bands, over-the-top costumes, a haunted house, burlesque sideshows and other performances, some of them involving fire.

Its success may have been its undoing.

Each year for the past decade on a Saturday just before Halloween, as many as 3,000 revelers have clogged an east side residential neighborhood — whose blight and desolation complement the leitmotif — all for a funereal fantasy festival. Advertised by word of mouth, the outre masquerade has always danced under the radar of official Detroit.

That is, until this year. On Oct. 22, the day before the party, its founders, Ken Poirier and John Dunivant, learned of possible ordinance violations, including the failure to obtain a temporary liquor license. The event was moved to the Fillmore Detroit, a mixed-use entertainment site downtown. Mr. Poirier, an out-of-work home renovator, said the place was packed.

“People appreciated the fact that we didn’t quit,” he said. “We didn’t give them the environment that we have at the Theatre, but we gave them a show.”

A few days later, citations for other code violations were issued, requiring quick compliance. Otherwise, the site will be razed.

“It’s a pretty unusual situation,” said Kimberly James, director of the city’s Buildings, Safety Engineering and Environmental Department. “There are electrical wires all over the place. Somebody could get hurt on a carnival ride.”

To some residents, Detroit’s move to shut down the popular underground bash signals a commitment to law and order. To others, it symbolizes a disconnect with a burgeoning creative class in a city battling to reinvent itself.

Mr. Poirier, 45, said that he had always tried to be lawful, but that he would not fight the orders. Instead, he plans to pull the all-night party above ground, moving it across the street to the State Fairgrounds, which lost its fair last year because of state budget problems.

A permanent location could help the venture become profitable, Mr. Poirier added. As it is, the proceeds from ticket sales pay about 300 entertainers and 100 other workers.

“It’s sad that it had to happen this way, but it was inevitable,” Mr. Poirier said. “We pushed it as far as we could, the way we were growing.”

Some 700 people attended the first Theatre Bizarre, which was financed mostly with credit cards. Now, the site comprises nearly a block of the backyards of houses owned by Mr. Poirer, and mostly occupied by Theatre participants. One of those residents is Flec S. Mindscape, who juggles fire and also eats it.

“I have rolling-fireball scars,” he said with a chuckle, “But this is a great crew of people who appreciate circus art, juggling and magic. I’m very upset by what’s going on now.”

Mr. Dunivant, a freelance illustrator who conceived the Theatre and designs many of its stages and props, is “heartbroken” but philosophical. “We couldn’t have gotten away with this anywhere else in the world except Detroit, the city we love, because they just weren’t paying attention,” he said of city officials. “Now, they are paying attention.”

Some say unduly so. Ed Gardiner, a television producer and events promoter, had planned to host a Halloween party in his Detroit studio. That is, before a visit by the fire marshal. Unable to afford permit fees, he moved the event to a suburban hotel.

“They keep saying they want to attract a creative class to the city, but they squash everything that comes up,” Mr. Gardiner said. “There’s no understanding of the arts community here, and artists are the only ones doing anything.”

After the scandal-plagued administration of Kwame Kilpatrick, Mayor Dave Bing vowed to restore order and stability. That includes an uptick in ordinance enforcement, said Dan Lijana, a spokesman for Mr. Bing.

“We were supportive of them having their event, and we are going forward,” he said of the Theatre. “You just have to follow procedures and zoning requirements.”

At the site of the Theatre Bizarre this week, Mr. Poirier and a handful of others were surveying the work ahead. A Ferris wheel stretched above a six-foot wooden fence.

“You know, I’ve watched all the houses in my neighborhood burn down. I saw a school stripped right next door,” he said wistfully. “In the meantime, we were just trying to do something here a little fun and exciting.”

Detroit Shoppe Opens Nov. 1 at Somerset

Carol Hopkins
For Journal Register Newspapers
Macomb Daily

The Detroit Shoppe at Somerset Collection in Troy. The 4800 square-foot space has museum like exhibits Detroit memorabilia and iconic Detroit brands such as Better Made, Faygo among others. The shoppe will be open through the end of the Auto Show with proceeds going to charity.

Vernors, Hudson’s, Motown, Detroit Red Wings, Faygo — the names  alone evoke so many memories for native metro Detroiters.

Those iconic brands — along with memorable Detroit photographs and artifacts — are being featured at The Detroit Shoppe, which opens Nov. 1 at Somerset Collection in Troy.

The 4800-square-foot space next to Macy’s on the mall’s second floor, is curated in part by the Detroit Historical Museum. The store has a limited shelf life. It will be open through Jan. 23, the end of Detroit’s North American International Auto Show.

The space offers a sampling  of area museums. In one corner is a recreated Vernor’s soda fountain. In another, visitors can see Pewabic pottery tiles.

Guests are bound to linger over a corridor lined with black-and-white photos showing scenes from Detroit’s past.

Officials said they were inspired to create the shop after the success of a Somerset Collection advertising campaign featuring Detroit’s most famous spots.

“Detroit is talked about in documentaries of America,” said Linda McIntosh, Somerset Collection’s marketing director, “and the people, places the products of Detroit helped move the country forward.

“The shop is a billboard for the City of Detroit saying, ‘You belong here.’ We want people to experience what the city has to offer — whether it’s a trip to the Henry Ford Museum, or a night of jazz or to take in a hockey game.

“Our goal is to help people decide where to go in the city and encourage them to do that,” McIntosh said.

The store — which includes historical pieces loaned by private collectors — allows visitors to savor what has made Detroit great.

Small niche areas invite people to peek inside. One features a glimpse of the Detroit Hudson’s flagship department store, complete with a preserved store directory. Another space welcomes people into  a recreated 1960s-era Motown studio with handwritten music on display.

Many items are for sale. People with a hankering for Sanders hot fudge and other food products will be able to purchase them at the shop.

Detroit-themed books, calendars, collectibles, clothing and photographs are also on sale.

Debuting at the store is a $20 T-shirt emblazoned with the “Detroit Moves Me” slogan. Proceeds from shirt sales go to the charities. Shoppers can select six designated items for their “Great Detroit 6 Pack” and receive a $10 Somerset gift card in return.

The Somerset Foundation operates the store, with all proceeds from the sale of merchandise going to Detroit nonprofits and cultural institutions.

McIntosh credited the shop sponsors including Southeastern Michigan Lincoln Dealers and Quicken Loans for contributions.

“They’re the reason we can give every penny back,” said McIntosh.


Tours of famous Detroit area venues are being promoted by the Detroit Shoppe with free  shuttles provided from the Troy store. Reservations can be made in person at the store or by calling the store at 248-816-5470. Guests pay for their own costs at the venue, including tickets and food. Upon returning to the Detroit Shoppe, guests will be given time to shop and enjoy Sanders hot fudge sundae “shots.”

1 p.m., Nov. 7. Visit Cliff Bell’s Detroit jazz club and restaurant. Meet at The Detroit Shoppe for mimosas and Motor City Mary’s, then enjoy a jazz brunch at Cliff Bell’s.

10 a.m. Nov. 12, Greenfield Village/Henry Ford Museum. Meet at The Detroit Shoppe for continental breakfast. Guests will be shuttled to the Dearborn attractions.

6 p.m. Nov. 18, Pewabic Pottery. Meet at The Detroit Shoppe for appetizers courtesy of Eastern Market. Guests will enjoy champagne toast at Pewabic.

6 p.m. Dec. 3, Detroit Institute of Arts. Meet at The Detroit Shoppe for appetizers courtesy of Eastern Market. Tour of the art museum follows.

6 p.m. Dec. 10, Motown Museum/American Coney Island. Guests meet at The Detroit Shoppe for appetizers courtesy of Eastern Market. They tour the museum and shop in its gift shop using a $10 Motown gift card.

 7 p.m. Dec. 16, Museum of African American History. Guests tour of museum and view the special exhibit “Music at the Apollo.” A reception at Cliff Bell’s follows.

The Detroit Shoppe is located next to Macy’s on the second floor (above the Apple store) of Somerset Collection North on Big Beaver Road in Troy. Guests may purchase memberships to any of the museums and institutions in the shop, and with each membership receive a $25 Somerset gift card. Call 248-816-5470. The store will be open during mall hours, visit
During the months of November and December, Operation: Kid Equip will award more than $1 million in books to each of the higher-poverty public schools the organization serves in Macomb and Oakland Counties. Roughly 90 schools will each receive an award valued at $10,000 in new reading and educational books.

Operation: Kid Equip works to increase the reading skills and academic achievements of children in need.

“This special award will allow children to claim reading as their own,” said Michael (Menachem) Kniespeck, founder and general director of Operation: Kid Equip. “Many teachers have told us about the excitement children feel when they receive a new book. Some teachers have told us that the books Operation: Kid Equip provides were often the first or only new book a child has ever received.”

During the next month, each of Operation: Kid Equip’s board members will also select a public school or nonprofit group of their choosing in southeastern Michigan to surprise with a $10,000 book grant. Each school, district or organization receiving an award will be able to schedule picking up the books from Operation: Kid Equip starting the second week of November.

Operation: Kid Equip works with publishers who donate book overruns and excess stock. The organization also receives books through its partnerships with other aid agencies around the nation. For this special award, a private donor helped cover the costs of transporting the books to Operation: Kid Equip for distribution.

As an all-volunteer organization, Operation: Kid Equip provides free supplemental school supplies, books, hygiene and food items for local children in need. Currently, the organization serves about 38,000 children a month across 90 schools in Macomb, Oakland and parts of Wayne County. Operation: Kid Equip works with public schools with 70 percent or more of the enrolled students eligible for the free and reduced-priced lunch program.

To learn more about Operation: Kid Equip, sign up to volunteer, or make a donation, visit the organization’s web site:
Joann Muller

When General Motors went into bankruptcy, it had too many brands, too many factories and too many dealers. So GM did what most companies with too much capacity do--it cut to the core, saving only what was viable. Today GM is a smaller but much healthier company.

Can a city follow the same path? That's essentially the controversial plan of Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, a basketball Hall of Famer who ran his own automotive supply company for three decades before his election in May 2009. He wants to strengthen Detroit's viable neighborhoods and raze or recycle the rest of the city--some 40 square miles in all, or 30% of its land--for new industries, sprawling residential lots, public parks and urban farms. But that means trying to entice the remaining residents of the failed neighborhoods to relocate. The carrot? He's fixing up some of the 50,000 foreclosed homes owned by the city in more stable areas--and offering each for a nominal sum to those willing to relocate there.

The mayor vows that people will not be forced from their homes as the city is reshaped. But he's counting on the lure of safer streets, convenient shopping and modern services to convince residents in dying areas to move. By concentrating limited resources in areas with the highest population density, he's hopeful Detroit can be saved. Still, this is no easy task. "I am not naive," says the soft-spoken 66-year-old Bing. "We are asking people who have lived here for generations to change. But if we don't change we'll fail, and I don't want to be part of that failure."

Geographically Detroit is a huge city; the urban footprints of Manhattan, San Francisco and Boston could fit inside its limits. But m any neighborhoods are virtual ghost towns. The city has lost 60% of its population since 1950, when it was home to 1.85 million people.

On the 13300 block of Flanders Street, for instance, there's an eerie emptiness to the neighborhood. Three elderly women live alone on the block in tidy wood-frame houses, with neatly trimmed lawns and colorful gardens surrounded by chain-link fences. The rest of the houses on Flanders are boarded up, burned out or otherwise abandoned.

"If there are only 50 houses in a neighborhood where there used to be 2,000, is that really viable?" asks Karla Henderson, who oversees Bing's Detroit Works Project. Of the city's 54 neighborhoods only 15 have been deemed healthy by city officials. "Even our stronger neighborhoods are tipping," she says. Over the next four years Bing will use a threefold increase in federal neighborhood stabilization money to tear down 10,000 dangerous structures in all-but-abandoned neighborhoods.

Bill Keveney
USA Today

The detective chases the suspect into a huge, abandoned building, a decaying structure that has the air of faded majesty.

It's clearly not a Hollywood soundstage, nor one of those all-too-familiar landmarks of New York or Los Angeles. It's Michigan Central Station, built in 1913 and captured in ABC's new cop drama, Detroit 1-8-7.

From the streets of Miami to downtown Honolulu, more network and cable TV series are being filmed across the states, with authentic backdrops that give viewers a refreshing break from the Hollywood sign and the Brooklyn Bridge.

Lower costs and tax breaks help, but studio executives say creative advantages are the top reason for moving beyond the filming capitals; the location becomes an additional character in the drama.

"You can invite the audience into where they actually are," says David Stapf, chief of CBS Television Studios, which produces Hawaii Five-0. "A scene that normally might take place on a stage, you can have take place on the beach."

Numerous first-year series are being filmed where they're set, or nearby, including 1-8-7 and Five-0; NBC's Chase (with Dallas substituting for Houston); Fox's The Good Guys (Dallas); and A&E's The Glades (South Florida). Fox's Lone Star and ABC's My Generation, both canceled, filmed in Texas.

They join other series shot on location, such as NBC and DirecTV's Friday Night Lights (Austin), USA's Burn Notice (Miami), FX's Terriers (San Diego's Ocean Beach) and HBO's Hung (Detroit). And new shows Blue Bloods on CBS and Law & Order: Los Angeles on NBC make New York and L.A., respectively, integral to the stories rather than just making use of the cities' industry infrastructure.

Hawaii Five-0 already has taken viewers to the International Market Place in Waikiki; the Manoa Valley; the surfing-heavy North Shore; and the Kahala Hotel, famed for its dolphins. 1-8-7 has gone to Hart Plaza, near the landmark Renaissance Center; Grosse Pointe; Dearborn; and Hamtramck. Good Guys viewers have seen the architecturally distinctive Dallas City Hall and Fountain Place.

'Landscape tells the story'

Shooting on location "profoundly affects the storytelling," says Matt Nix, executive producer of Good Guys and Burn Notice. Burn Notice originally was to be set in Newark; the shift to Miami meant a substantial atmospheric change.

"The first level is, 'Oh, there's a neighborhood called Little Havana. Let's shoot there,' " he says. "By the fourth season, you're into Little Dominica. You're into a distinction between Hollywood Beach and Miami Beach. If you're on the run from the law, you're more likely to hide in Hollywood than Miami Beach."

And for the cast, location filming can be an eye-opener. "Little did I know Detroit is such a fabulous town," 1-8-7 co-star James McDaniel says. "Detroit is sorely misunderstood by the nation. We finished working in a place called Palmer Woods, which is a glorious, beautiful neighborhood. We were shooting in this dentist's house, (which) was more a museum of black American art than you've ever seen."

Since many series succeed without being shot on location —CSIs set in Las Vegas, Miami and New York are all filmed in L.A., as is D.C.-based NCIS— why shoot somewhere else? More important, do audiences know or care?

Viewers need to be transported into the world of a show, whether it's filmed in L.A., as is New York-set Castle, or on location, as is 1-8-7, says ABC executive vice president of creative Barry Jossen, whose studio produces both shows.

"It needs to feel real. Anything that feels unreal or incongruent creates a disconnect," he says. "As it relates to Detroit 1-8-7, one of the great qualities that shooting in Detroit offers us is not just verisimilitude but authenticity. There are certain architectural looks to the city. There is the actual demographics of the population base. Wherever you point the camera, it is real Detroit."

The audience does notice the city, 1-8-7 star Michael Imperioli says. "It's visually very specific, and the landscape really tells the story of this city and what it's been through, the ups and downs and difficulties. It's also really helped our writers to tailor the stories to what actually happens here. There is a feeling that it's about the city and specific issues they deal with."

Some places just can't be re-created. "If it was me and I'm watching the show as a fan, something like Hawaii Five-0 I would want to feel was shot there. Other shows (film in Los Angeles) and do such a good job," says executive producer Peter Lenkov, a veteran of L.A.-filmed CSI: NY. "It's just the legacy of this show, being shot in Hawaii. I couldn't do this show anyplace but Hawaii."

Detroit offers a different look, with sites such as the train station pulling the viewer right into the Motor City, 1-8-7 executive producer Kevin Hooks says.

"It's still a landmark of Detroit. It was once just a grand, old building," he says. Such locations "give us an opportunity to speak in a voice that is truly unique and is something that has not been seen by TV audiences."

For all the authenticity and creative opportunity, money remains a major motivation. About 40 states offer a range of incentives, such as a tax credit of up to 42% in Michigan, which is enjoying its best production year. Hawaii offers a 15% rebate for production money spent on Oahu and 20% on the other islands; Texas, enjoying the most productions it has ever had, provides a 15% cash rebate.

The amount of shooting in Texas "is directly attributable to the incentive program we have in place. I assure you they wouldn't be here if it didn't make financial sense," Texas Film Commission director Bob Hudgins says.

Studios get savings that can make a project affordable, while the state enjoys tax, job and other benefits from millions of dollars injected into the economy. A record $391 million is expected to be spent on TV and film production in Hawaii this year.

Been there, done that

Experienced film crews also attract producers. Nix says that was a plus in choosing Dallas for Good Guys and Miami for Burn Notice. "One of the great things about both cities is they've had action shows shot there. When you go to Dallas and much of your crew worked on or worked with people who worked on Walker, Texas Ranger, nobody bats an eye when you say you want to drive this car off the side of a parking garage.

"In Miami, having had Miami Vice, it gets down to stuff like, 'We can spin a car out at that corner, and there's a pylon, which is a great place to smash it.' They know every place you can do a car chase, every place you can flip a car," Nix says.

States also gain exposure, which helps with anything from tourism to image. Lost, which was supposed to be on a mysterious island, and Five-0 show off the beauty of Hawaii in different ways, says Daniel Dae Kim, a star of both shows.

"On Lost, we were using a lot of jungle locations, being very careful not to use any sign of civilization. Hawaii Five-0 has a lot more leeway and can actually serve as a postcard for Hawaii. It can show off the natural and man-made scenery."

There is a risk, however, in setting a show about homicide detectives in a city like Detroit; it could simply reinforce a downtrodden image. Cast and crew say they're sensitive to that and try to balance the portrayal.

"There's a lot of crime and decay here. I don't want to paint a false picture. But I don't think (1-8-7) exploits that nor is it the single focus," Imperioli says. "We're not just telling stories about gang violence and drug crimes and drive-by shootings. The city has a lot of different elements. There are wealthier neighborhoods, middle-class neighborhoods and poorer neighborhoods. We're going into all of that."

"We're not doing Cops here," 1-8-7's McDaniel says. "If we were to just show Detroit from the lower-depths standpoint, that would be what journalists do. Dog bites man, over and over again."

And when it comes to escap-ism, a place like Hawaii can just make Hawaii Five-0 a pleasant show to visit. "In the dead of winter, when it's 30 degrees outside, I think (viewers) really want to believe Hawaii is that beautiful and warm and the actors are actually there," Kim says.

Imperioli, center in suit, shoots a scene on location in Detroit for the episode titled "Murder in Greektown/High School Confidential."
Yahoo News

Molly Abraham, Special Edition to the Detroit News

Twenty Detroit-area restaurants have been named among "America's Top Restaurants" in the 2011 edition of the influential national Zagat guide. The slim maroon book, which rates 1,552 restaurants in 45 major cities, arrives in bookstores today.

The rankings represent the opinions of ordinary diners who register on to comment about the food, decor, service and cost of restaurants selected by editors of Zagat, one of the best known but most mispronounced names in the world of restaurant ratings — zuh-GAT (rhymes with cat) is the way to say it.

"Anyone who is passionate about food can be one of our surveyors," says Tiffany Herklots, communications director at The 2011 guide ($15.95) represents a cross-section of the views and comments of more than 153,000 diners who have visited the restaurants they vote for in the past year.

Ten Detroit area restaurants achieved the top tier ranking of 28, 27 or 26 points out of a possible 30. That's pretty much as difficult as batting over .400. Another 10 local restaurants receive the designation of "other noteworthy places." That might seem akin to coming in second in a beauty contest, but it's solid recognition nonetheless.

Bacco Ristorante in Southfield and the Lark in West Bloomfield Township are the only local spots to get 28 points out of the possible 30. In the Zagat guide, Bacco fans call it "superb" and a place to "see-and-be-seen," while the Lark draws such comments as "still the top of the heap" and "old-school elegant."

Bill Roberts, the only local proprietor with not one, but two, restaurants in the top tier — the Beverly Hills Grill in Beverly Hills, which has made the list before, and Streetside Seafood in Birmingham, which shows up for the first time — says it's "thrilling" to be included.

"It's great to be acknowledged by our guests, who are the ones who write in and get the ratings to the guide," he says. "Our staff does such a good job. We tweak and change and try to make things better, and this sort of recognition makes it all worthwhile."

Guests of Streetside Seafood quoted in the guide call it "happening," "a neighborhoood favorite" and say it has "fantastic seafood."

Craig Common, chef/proprietor of the Common Grill in Chelsea, also is not a newcomer to the Zagat ratings yet excited to be included.

"This will probably be the sixth or seventh time, but I'm never tired of it," he says. "It's nice to be recognized, and it's a good feather in the cap of the staff. The guests who've supported us all these years will be excited, too." Comments from Common Grill patrons include "worth the drive" and "uncommonly good."

The Zagat guide originated in 1979 as a hobby for husband-and-wife team Tim and Nina Zagat, but now rates hotels and resorts as well as restaurants and has a staff of 100 in New York, an online shop and international scope.

With an e-mail address and ZIP code, diners can register at to provide feedback about restaurants from a list created by Zagat editors in that area. There are two ways to contribute: by participating in surveys throughout the year, or going to a restaurant's Zagat property page and providing feedback after a dining experience. Restaurants with a lot of positive feedback are included in the "America's Top Restaurants 2011" guide, with some editorial discretion to include restaurants that are particularly well-known.

Zagat's Detroit top food rankings

The Lark, 6430 Farmington Road, West Bloomfield Township. (248) 661-4466.

Bacco Ristorante, 29410 Northwestern Highway, Southfield. (248) 356-6600.

Common Grill, 112 S. Main St., Chelsea. (734) 475-0470.

Zingerman's Delicatessen, 422 Detroit St., Ann Arbor. (734) 663-3354.

Cafe Cortina, 30715 W. 10 Mile, Farmington Hills. (248) 474-3033.

Beverly Hills Grill, 31471 Southfield Road, Beverly Hills. (248) 642-2355.

Saltwater, 1777 Third St., Detroit. (313) 465-1646.

West End Grill, 120 W. Liberty St., Ann Arbor. (734) 747-6260.

Streetside Seafood, 273 Pierce St., Birmingham. (248) 645-9123.

Logan, 115 W. Washington St., Ann Arbor. (734) 327-2313.

Other noteworthy places

Assaggi Bistro, 330 W. Nine Mile, Ferndale. (248) 584-3499.

Atlas Global Bistro, 3111 Woodward Ave., Detroit. (313) 831-2241.

Capital Grille, 2800 W. Big Beaver Road, Troy. (248) 649-5200.

The Earle, 121 W. Washington St., Ann Arbor. (734) 994-0211.

Eve, 1415 N. Fifth Ave., Ann Arbor. (734) 222-0711.

Hong Hua, 27925 Orchard Lake Road, Farmington Hills. (248) 489-2280.

Rattlesnake Club, 300 River Place, Detroit. (313) 567-4400.

Roast, 1128 Washington Blvd., Detroit. (313) 961-2500.

Rugby Grill, 100 Townsend St., Birmingham. (248) 642-5999.

The Whitney, 4421 Woodward Ave., Detroit. (313) 832-5700.

Photo Credit

Living With Mies

The New York Times Opinionator 
By Danielle Aubert, Lana Cavar and Natasha Chandani
Photo by Corine Vermeulen

Corine Vermeulen Lafayette Park is an enclave of modernist townhouses designed by the architect Mies van der Rohe.

A few blocks east of Detroit’s downtown, just across Interstate 375, sits Lafayette Park, an enclave of single- and two-story modernist townhouses set amid a forest of locust trees. Like hundreds of developments nationwide, they were the result of postwar urban renewal; unlike almost all of them, it had a trio of world-class designers behind it: Ludwig Hilbersheimer as urban planner, Alfred Caldwell as landscape designer and Mies van der Rohe as architect.

The townhouses, plus three high-rise buildings, were built between 1958 and 1962 on land previously occupied by a working-class African-American neighborhood, Black Bottom. While much of Detroit began a steep decline soon after, Lafayette Park stayed afloat, its residents bucking the trend of suburban flight. Lafayette Park today is one of the most racially integrated neighborhoods in the city. It is economically stable, despite the fact that Detroit has suffered enormous population loss and strained city services.

We wanted to hear how residents — especially people with long-term, intimate knowledge of living with Mies — think about this unique modernist environment and how they confront and adapt it to meet their needs. During our research, we were struck by the casual attitude that many residents have toward the architecture. Then again, Detroit has an abundance of beautiful housing options: one can live in a huge Victorian mansion, a beautiful arts and crafts house or a cavernous loft-conversion space in a former factory. Living in a townhouse built by a renowned architect isn’t as noteworthy as one might think. At the same time, such nonchalance is a mark of success: the homes are great because they work, not because they come affixed with a famous name.

Indeed, their beauty isn’t always obvious. There is a kind of austere uniformity to the Lafayette Park townhouses when viewed from the outside. Some visitors find them unappealing; one contractor described them as “bunkers.” The interior layouts are nearly identical. The units are compact in size and some people find them too small, though the floor-to-ceiling windows on the front and back of each building open the living spaces to the outside.

To be sure, there are people who live in Lafayette Park who are architecture enthusiasts, keenly aware of Mies van der Rohe’s place in history, who were drawn here specifically because he designed these buildings. But they are a minority. Many more residents were attracted to the lush landscape, the sense of community, the gigantic windows and the convenience of living downtown.

While they may have strong aesthetic preferences, the residents we spoke with do not necessarily favor midcentury modernism in their interiors or architecture. But they make it work: several people remarked on the way the interiors in the Lafayette Park townhouses can function as blank canvasses for a variety of decorating styles. Indeed, the best design doesn’t force a personality on its residents. Instead, it helps them bring out their own.

Interactive Feature: See how residents live in their spaces and hear about what Mies’s design aesthetic does and does not mean to them.

Danielle Aubert, Lana Cavar and Natasha Chandani work together on Placement, a transient, site-specific project about the interaction of people and places.
Houses Being Given Away in Detroit
iReport CNN

It’s not the fact that they cost only $100 and they seem to be free; a new grassroots organization is literally giving away two houses this summer—completely renovated—and anyone can apply.

Habitat for Hamtramck is a grassroots organization with the goal of rehabilitating houses in the Hamtramck area of Detroit and then giving them to families that can help further the positive redevelopment of the area.  By accepting donations from the public then redistributing the accrued funds vis-à-vis cash payments to local workers and cash purchases of the building material which can then be gifted to the jobsite, the organization can bypass bureaucratic hassles and tax impediments, speedily accomplishing tasks that may otherwise take months to complete by larger, less pragmatic organizations.

“I wanted to create a new model for community service,” says director and founder Ian Perrotta, “based on action and result. Too much of community service is hands off these days. Raise money for an organization and wonder where it goes. Drop some change in a bucket during the holidays. Add a dollar to your purchase and get a shamrock to cure cancer. While there is nothing inherently wrong with any of these, they’re all hands-off. Habitat for Hamtramck will not only give the public a chance to donate money, but to also see—and sometimes vote—where it goes.”

The organization will use a joint account that has the name of a public official on it, and every bank statement will be made public through a website that keeps real-time updates on projects, funds, and other developments, proving to the public where all funds come from and go to. Occasionally, the public will have the opportunity to vote on various tasks, like what kind of appliance to buy or what color to paint a wall. And if that’s not enough, for those who want to participate, that too is an option.

“My goal is to find a good, solid crew of local Detroit workers to pay, but we will need a lot volunteers to help out, too. Anyone with any skill—carpentry, masonry, plumbing, marketing, clerical, whatever—can help out. We’re also looking for businesses to help donate or discount supplies and other services.”

The reason Hamtramck was chosen is a mixture of economics, politics, and coincidence. Because home prices in the Detroit area fell to record lows as a result of the economic recession, the city of Hamtramck (fully encompassed by the city of Detroit) was also affected. However, rather than let the circumstances hold the city back, the progressive attitudes of both the Mayor and City Council, as well as the willingness of the citizens to embrace and institute change, has allowed the city to flourish, emerging as a model for a urban rejuvenation, with a locally owned and operated economy comprised of citizens from all around the world who have made Hamtramck their home.

On Friday, March 20th 2009 ABC aired a 20/20 episode titled “20/20: Living on the Edge in Today’s Economy.” It featured a segment on the housing market in Detroit that focused on the story of artists Mitch Cope and Gina Reichert, who recently purchased a house for $1,900, as well as the two adjacent lots. After buying the house next door for $500, they sold it to their friends for a $50 profit and focused on a $100 house down the street, which they then helped their friends John and Sarah buy. Word of the Detroit area real estate phenomenon spread, and a group of architects and city planners in Amsterdam started a project called the “Detroit Unreal Estate Agency” and, with Mitch’s help, found a property around the corner. The director of the Dutch museum Van Abbenmuseum has called it “a new way of shaping the urban environment."

     Watching this episode was Ian Perrotta and his twin brother, Andrew. They were curious and did some research to see if houses could really be purchased for $100. After a chance encounter with a Craigslist ad that was listed as “deal of a lifetime: 50 houses for $75,000,” they located a few houses in the Hamtramck area and arranged to meet the seller’s agent the next day. By the arranged meeting time--10 a.m.--they were in Detroit. By the next week, five Quit Claim Deeds totaling $1,400 were in hand.

After the initial trip, both brothers decided to move to Detroit. Ian sent the mayor of Hamtramck, Karen Majewski, an e-mail informing her of his decision to move, volunteering whatever services a recent graduate with Political Science and English Writing degrees had to offer.  Amazed and curious about the offer, she agreed to meet to have coffee and discuss the e-mail and the potential for Hamtramck’s future. It was at this meeting that the idea for Habitat for Hamtramck was presented and met with encouragement by the mayor, and at this point when the idea started to become a reality. “At the end of the meeting, Mayor Majewski offered her services in any way she could help,” recalls Perrotta.

The project begins on June 1st, 2009. The Habitat for Hamtramck website features a blog, pages about both houses slated for renovation, as well as links to Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, and other resources. Additionally, donations are now being accepted through Paypal. It is the embracement of these technologies that makes Perrotta believe his organization will succeed.

“Modern technology can be used the wrong way, like texting during class or talking on your phone instead of paying attention to the road, but it can also be used the right way, like creating a network of people with the resources and talent to enact a positive change. That is what Habitat for Hamtramck has the potential to become. And it doesn’t have to stop there. There is no reason there can’t be a Habitat for Pittsburgh, Habitat for Boston, Habitat for Manhattan, KS”

This attitude is shared by the website’s first Guestbook signer, Judith Vollmer, a renowned poet and professor at the University of Pittsburgh-Greensburg, Perrotta’s alma mater. Her belief in and optimism for the organization are clear:

“Wishing you good luck and much joy in your great project. I look forward to visiting.”

 Ian Perrotta with Hamtramck Mayor Karen Majewski during the meeting at Cafe 1923 on March 27, 2009.