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Posts Tagged ‘Detroit’

Plans to save Old Tiger Stadium–the Tigers moved to Comerica Park in 1999–have slowly declined in scale and ambition. But the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy, with the help of long-time Tiger broadcaster Ernie Harwell, is still fighting to preserve one wall of the Stadium, from dugout to dugout, as a nod to the history of the site. The City last week issued a reprieve to the group, giving them a few more months to raise the $15 million price tag of that preservation plan. Detroit may be able to find a balance here between making way for needed new development, and being grounded in a proud history. But it will unfortunately just come down to that $15 million, to be raised by a group for whom I can’t find a website.

Pat Clark in Pittsburgh forwarded this poignant photo testimonial to the old ballpark. There is something inefficient and about the way we are willing to pave over this history, in desperation for the next silver bullet development. I know we need the revenue, but I can’t help but think there’s a more creative solution.

I’m also struck by how little coverage this is getting in Detroit, perhaps due to issue fatigue? (Compare the Freep article linked above to this New York Times article from a month ago.) I’m struck by the closing sentence, a quote from Timothy McKay, head of the Greater Corktown Development Corporation. “This is an old city. But history here is discounted by a lot of people.”

Our history’s not all roses, but back me up–how can we know where we’re going if we don’t remember from where we came?

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At the Detroit Sticky meeting, we had a hard time choosing which neighborhood to highlight for the “Our Favorite Neighborhood” feature. I don’t think I’ve ever before been a part of a debate about which is the BEST neighborhood in Detroit, so the experience was refreshing. We settled on Midtown, and the list of assets we produced will make it easy to see why. But also under consideration were Southwest Detroit – which has a history of hosting every immigrant population to come through this city, and is currently home to Mexicantown and some of the only grocery stores within city limits – and Northwest, with its neighborhood sensibilities and the presence of Marygrove, U of D, and other schools.

But Midtown won – and you’ll see from this impressive list of assets that Detroiters value everything from the anchor institutions to the sidewalks to the optimism of the student population.

List of Assets:

Wayne State, College for Creative Studies, Detroit Institute of Art, Science Center, Museum of African-American History, Skillman Building, MOCAD, Majestic Complex, Orchestra Hall, Hillberry Theater, Henry Ford Hospital, Avalon Breads, Traffic Jam & Snug, Bureau of Urban Living, Beans & Bites, Honest Johns, the Inn on Ferry, Circa 1890, WDET, Woodward Avenue, the Whitney, the 1st Unitarian Universalist Church, Buddhism Center, sidewalks, regular buses on Woodward, The Hub (bike shop), view of downtown and the New Center, proximity to the Lodge and 75, recycling facility, college students, “best water in the world,” diversity, housing in various ranges (crumbling to new), walkability, “newness,” optimism of academia: flow of ideas and “note of idealism,” perception of new development as a positive: “activity as an intangible”

It’s not perfect though, and our group did have a few recommendations:

greater police presence, more mixed-use development, incentives for small businesses and grocery stores, live-work developments

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On Tuesday, the Detroit Free Press published an Op-ed by GLUE friends John Austin and Bruce Katz of The Brookings Institution arguing that a change in federal policies could have a real and lasting benefit to Detroit and Michigan. But their assessment is by no means limited to one state.

All of the things Detroit and southeast Michigan are trying to do — largely unaided — to transform the regional economy could be significantly helped by a federal government that was a partner, not a delinquint.

Check out the examples they give, ranging from transportation policy to next generation energy investments to Great Lakes restoration — and others.  In addition to having partners in other GL cities and states, we should have a partner in the federal government — which will only happen if we demand it of our next president.

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GLUE Co-Founder Sarah just wrapped up a week-long stint as a guest blogger on MetroMode, a Detroit online magazine. She used her space to discuss Detroit, what “young talent” want, and different kinds of change-making opportunities that GLUE members in other Great Lakes cities have shared. Click here to read her posts.

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Here’s a post from our friend Sultan about his filmmaking work with young people in the Detroit metropolitan area.

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EFEX Project
Encouraging the Filmmaking EXperience

The EFEX project is a community outreach effort that brings together University students with middle and high-school students from metro-Detroit, engaging them in the production of film projects. Please see below for more information on the pilot project and visit our website: www.studentefex.net. (The website includes a short two-part video documentary which you can access by clicking on the “visitors” tab, then by clicking on the links to the documentary at the top of the screen.) The project focuses on combining filmmaking with service learning and community engagement. It serves as a new model for interaction between academic units and their surrounding artistic communities in an attempt to provide pathways for access to underrepresented communities to the University of Michigan.

www.studentefex.net: The Creation
I’ll never forget the instant in which I was struck with the idea and motivation for the EFEX project. It wasn’t necessarily that the idea was about that one instant but rather the fact that this particular moment served as the straw upon the weary camel’s back; it was a tipping point if you will. But I’ll back up a bit…

It was the summer of 2005 and the shoot for the feature film The Spiral Project had been going exceptionally well. Despite the fact that none of the 30 or so students working with me had ever worked on a feature film before, we all understood that in was in everyone’s best interest to do the best job that we could and to be as professional as possible. No one was getting paid, but we all wanted hands on experience and this film was the perfect opportunity to get that. We were shooting for a minimum of twelve hours a day so, after a while, things started to feel a bit like a film summer camp. I have to admit, there were days on set where I would just sit back and watch people working and interacting and felt a sense of pride in our accomplishment. I felt that, regardless of the success of this film, what we were doing had quality to it and it was a process that should definitely be repeated.

However the shoot was not without some lapses in professionalism; particularly when it came to pride in the Detroit Pistons. Now I love the Pistons as much as the next Detroit native, but making a schedule for a feature film with un paid actors (some of whom were taking classes and/or didn’t have a car or a cell phone) was probably the most difficult thing I had ever done in my life. I was scheduling around people’s jobs, parents’ vehicle schedules, travel times, classes, location availability and much more. Yet several crew members came close to all out refusing to work if we were working during the Pistons games (who were in the NBA semi finals then finals with a chance to win a 2nd national title). So on top of everything else, I tried to schedule around the games or at least make sure there was a TV on set.

About 2 weeks later we got to the section of our script entitled “EXT SLUMS NIGHT” which, due to rules of standard stereotyping, was shot in Detroit. The location scouts had found a great looking abandoned building on the East side of Detroit and we were planning on shooting all night from sun down to sun up. One problem though; several crew members refused to stay out on the street all night in Detroit with a truck full of expensive equipment. Everyone quickly came out with horror stories of what happened to someone they knew, or so and so’s car was stolen, etc, etc. Now I’m not saying Detroit doesn’t have its share of crime, however, these were the same people that two weeks earlier were showing up to set with Ben Wallace afro’s and running off as soon as they heard “Cut” to check the status of the game. I had gone to elementary school about five blocks away from the location so I couldn’t really understand their reluctance and eventually a two day fight soon broke out. In the end we only took five crew members and 1 actor to the set.

When you shoot “night” over the summer the shoots typically range from 7p.m. to 7a.m. We had a dusk shot or “magic hour” shot so we got there at 6p.m. to give us enough time to set up our dolly. So imagine the first thing I see when I pull up outside this huge abandoned building: seven or eight little kids from three years old to twelve playing in their swim suits in the water from a fire hydrant. I was shocked. As a black kid growing up I always scoffed whenever I saw the black kids playing in the fire hydrant in movies. I would say to myself, “Are you for real?! They trippin’. Nobody actually does that”. And until this day I had never actually seen kids playing in the water from a fire hydrant. But here they were, in their little swim suits having a good ole time. Out of pure shock I just began to laugh. The more I reflected on the situation, the more surreal and amusing it became and the more I would laugh.

That was the moment, but it represented so much more than that moment. We were a group of University of Michigan students, trying to be professional, saying Detroit this and Detroit that left and right, but simultaneously looking at Detroit from a distance as this generically “slummy” area. That moment triggered so many other childhood memories of getting upset at how Detroit always got portrayed in every movie I saw. Robo-cop, Beverly Hills Cop, Precinct 13; if it had Detroit in it, somebody was getting robbed, or shot, or selling drugs, or doing drugs, or stealing something. I remembered being a kid and wondering where all this crime happened because we were in Detroit everyday and didn’t see it. Who would tell the story of what these kids did see? Didn’t they have families, and hopes and dreams? Didn’t they live and love and hate just like we did? I found myself shifting from being one of the crew members to being one of those kids. Who would tell our story and how would it get told? Would we get a say in it, would we get to participate in it, or would you just use us and walk away?

It all amounted to one answer: I had to do something and I had to do it now. If not for anything else, to right the wrong I was contributing to by conforming to the stereotypical mode of filmmaking with its stereotypical representations. Thus EFEX was born.

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