A worker with The Empowerment Plan creates a coat that will later be donated to a homeless person. The organization works inside Ponyride, a 30,000-square-foot warehouse near downtown Detroit. The warehouse hosts other local businesses, too.
A worker with The Empowerment Plan creates a coat that will later be donated to a homeless person. The organization works inside Ponyride, a 30,000-square-foot warehouse near downtown Detroit. The warehouse hosts other local businesses, too.
Courtesy of Order & Other

Detroit is littered with empty warehouses — more than 7,000, by one estimate. They've become skeletons of the city's industrial past.

But not this warehouse, where Jennifer Blake is feeding quilted fabric through a sewing machine. She's making a coat. Fashioned with Velcro fastenings, it has a sleeping bag that slips out on the bottom, and is made of recycled car parts, she says.

Blake is one of a half-dozen women doing this in a sunny corner on the second floor of a 30,000-square-foot warehouse not far from downtown Detroit. When it's done, her coat will be given to one of the city's 20,000 homeless people.

Blake herself was homeless before she started working here. And it's the here part that's key.

Her employer, a nonprofit called The Empowerment Plan, pays cheap rent — about 20 percent of the market value — for its space in this warehouse — space where employees are expected to cross-pollinate and exchange ideas.

"We learn things from each other," Blake says. "In the end, [at] certain times we can indulge in different projects that's going on within the building. So it's fun."

It's also the larger plan — to be an incubator for small, creative, Detroit-based businesses. Right now, there are 20 groups working in this building, with 40 more waiting for space.

The Idea Of A Business Venue

This is the brainchild of entrepreneur Phillip Cooley, a 35-year-old restaurant owner. He's renovated this warehouse with help from his family. His girlfriend is the executive director. And he gave the enterprise the somewhat fanciful name Ponyride.

"When you're a kid, everybody likes a pony ride. And when you're younger, you have less hang-ups. There's less mechanism or triggers that make you say no, or puts these blocks up, and we really believe in creativity and innovation through creativity," he says. "So we want people to be as open as possible, and open to fail, open to experiment and try again."

Cooley is well-known around the city for his restaurant, Slows Bar-B-Q — a bright spot a few blocks from the ruins of the city's train depot. It's part of the redevelopment of what was once Detroit's Irish enclave, Corktown.

But the Ponyride project is his baby. He bought the warehouse — a foreclosure — for $100,000.

"Our whole landscape here is filled with them [warehouses], many of them unoccupied," Cooley says. "So we need to figure out how to unlock them for creative, productive use again."

That means a hip-hop dance studio in one corner and a row of old sewing machines for a denim company that makes $250 jeans. There's a Web design firm, a boat maker, a letter press shop and a furniture studio all in this building.

"We're really interested in seeing what happens when Detroiters have control of the landscape versus speculators and outside forces that don't have Detroit and Detroiters' interests in mind," Cooley says.

There's even a forge for metalsmithing.

Gabriel Craig, 29, one of the founders of the metalsmith studio, explains they're creating museum-style mounts for animal skulls for the Detroit Mercantile Co.

Like many of the people working at Ponyride, he grew up in the Detroit area, and he sees being here as something that could help the city's rebirth. After all, he could have put his company out in the suburbs or somewhere else entirely.

"I think that's why we live here," Craig says. "I feel like we can make a difference with what we're doing here, whereas if we lived in Portland or Brooklyn we'd just be another face in the crowd."

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I am writing today to discuss what I believe may be one of the largest sporting scandals in Detroit history, and have hope that Dunkin Donuts and Comerica Park will do the right thing before it becomes a media circus. I have had a 28 game package for the Detroit Tigers for the past 2 years now and attend even more games than that per season (including playoffs). My section is 147, which places me strictly in the "Cuppy Coffee" section of the Dunkin Donuts Race. Throughout the past two years, I can count on one hand the amount of times Cuppy has come through and won this race. What was simply a fun event at the ballpark became a minor annoyance and now is turning into a white whale. Do I want the free donut or coffee that comes with winning the donut race? No, that is not what this is about at all. This is about competitive equity.

It isn't that Cuppy Coffee doesn't win, Biggie Bagel also is constantly falling behind as well. Dashing Donut is miles ahead of its competition when it comes to consistently winning this race. Perhaps this is why the race is called the Dunkin "Donuts" race, because of the excessive number of wins by Dashing Donut. I firmly suspect that Dashing Donut is on performance enhancers. While yes, you could assert that Dashing Donut is fast because of a natural "sugar high," the same argument could be used for Cuppy Coffee's "caffeine buzz" and yet we do not see those kind of results. An investigation would be in order so that we can get the Donut into a rehabilitation program before he (she?) ruins their life. The well-being of all competitors should be looked after first.

I trust that your respective corporations will do the right thing in this instance for the athletes. In the meantime, I will still shout for my Tiger's Phil Coke, Jeff Kunkel, and Miguel Cabrera while cheering loudly for Cuppy Coffee.

Click HERE to read the equally, if not more hilarious comments....

X Games Detroit Bid - Official Video #XG2D

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Join the next generation of Belle Isle patrons as we close the Grand Prixmiere in style! 

Guests will enjoy cocktails, light fare and musical entertainment. 

Mix, mingle and dance the night away with local celebrities, friends, and Grand Prixmiere guests. 

Tickets include: Premium open bar, light fare and entertainment 

Attire: Cocktail chic

Click HERE to purchase your tickets!

Excerpt from USA Today's "America's Best Hot Dogs"

The hot dog is one of the few foods that's nearly impossible to screw up. You heat it through, tuck it into a bun, squirt on some mustard, and call it lunch. But there's a big difference between not screwing something up and turning it into a paradigm-shifting, transcendental dining experience. And there are lots of hot dog stands, restaurants, and drive-ins out there that have the power to change your life.

The perennial grill mate to hamburgers, the hot dog sometimes gets the short end of the stick, charring at the back of the grill while juicy burgers are snatched up as soon as they hit the right temperature. But there's a science, if not an art form, behind constructing the perfect hot-dog-eating experience.

That experience was introduced more than 100 years ago, when German immigrants first brought over their frankfurters and started selling them on the cheap at amusement centers like Coney Island, arguably the epicenter for American hot dog consumption. Charles Feltman is widely considered to be the first person to have applied hot dog to bun, in order to avoid needing to supply plates and silverware to customers at his sprawling Coney Island restaurant. Employee Nathan Handwerker opened his own hot dog stand a few blocks away in 1916 and sold them for less than Feltman, and became wildly popular (and remains so to this day).

The hot dog diaspora then began to take on a life of its own, as people began developing their own spice mixes and making their own hot dogs, and every region and group of people soon put its unique stamp on the snack. Greek immigrants in Michigan concocted a cinnamon-rich beef chili that came to be known as Coney sauce, but it has nothing to do with Coney Island, while 'michigans' are big in Upstate New York but have nothing to do with the state. In Chicago they top all-beef dogs with mustard, fresh tomatoes, onions, sport peppers, bright green relish, dill pickles, and celery salt. Spicy Texas Red Hots are popular in New Jersey, but not in Texas, and the uncured, unsmoked White Hot is popular in upstate New York. And the regional variations go on and on.

Sadly, there were some popular favorites that didn't make the cut. While Lafayette Coney Island in Detroit ranks high, its modernized neighbor, American Coney Island, didn't, because it lost much of its charm in the renovation. And while the pretzel dog at chain Auntie Anne's has its loyal devotees, the experience isn't exactly sublime.

Our list runs the gamut from ancient stands that have been serving the same exact product day in and day out for decades to gastropubs putting their unique stamp on the hot dog to a place where people wait in line for more than an hour for one topped with foie gras. There's one constant thread between them, though: they're the country's best.

11) Lafayette Coney Island, Detroit: Coney

One of the culinary world's greatest rivalries is between two neighboring Downtown Detroit hot dog stands, Lafayette Coney Island and American Coney Island. While the battle over which hot dog tastes better is on par with the fight between Pat's and Geno's cheesesteaks in Philadelphia, most locals will tell you that it's Lafayette all the way, for several reasons. The hot dog has a juicy, salty, smoky snap, the Coney sauce is spot-on, and the fries are crispy, but it's the experience that puts it over the top in our book: While American is shiny and charmless, Lafayette is a divey, weathered, eccentric sort of place that hasn't been renovated in many years, but the charm is palpable, especially in the staff, who'll most likely bring you your order in less than 30 seconds. In short: the perfect hot dog stand.

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Ryan Gosling may be taking a (we hope brief) hiatus from acting but while he’s still making films he’s doing plenty of good and not just for cinema sales or our viewing pleasure. The heartthrob’s upcoming project How To Catch A Monster will help develop the film industry in Detroit.

The star is playing an active part in Michigan’s business future as he unveils the picture he’s directing will be filmed in the state. And that’s not all he will also provide plenty of jobs for locals including roles in front of the lens. Yahoo! Movies report around 100 people will be hired for the film with Ryan telling Deadline Detroit: ‘We're definitely be casting locally.’

And he’s stayed true to his word as he’s already on the hunt for a small child and is hosting open auditions in the city.

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Ready to get your hands dirty?

Come join us at the Belle Isle Conservancy's Annual Spring Clean Up!

The Conservancy will supply rakes, picks and garbage bags. Wear boots & bring gloves!

 Hot dogs, potato chips and drinks will be served.

 Meet us at 9 a.m. at the Bell Isle Casino! Registration is not required, but you can contact the Conservancy at 313-331-7760 or belleisleconservancy@gmail.com if you'd like more information.

 Groups welcome!

The craft beer movement continues to boom across the USA. 10 Best editors have compiled this state-by-state guide so you can plan your next beer pilgrimage.

 5. Michigan, 102 craft breweries Michigan is quickly moving up the ladder in the world of craft beers with over 100 breweries in the state. You may not find the big name craft brews of other states, but what you will find is some hidden gems -- and maybe your new favorite -- at local institutions like Bells Brewery and Founders Brewery.

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