Thursday, August 28, 2008


It looks like the aerotropolis idea, which has been thrown around for some time, is really taking off.

"Chicago is in the crosshairs, and North Carolina is the goal.

That's the message from the backers of the plan to develop an “aerotropolis” of aviation-reliant business and industry in the area anchored by Detroit Metropolitan Airport and Willow Run Airport. Backers want to attract investment to 5,000 targeted acres among 60,000 acres — over 25 years — on what is now largely undeveloped land sprinkled with some industrial and airport-related businesses.""

The potential economic results are eye-popping: A Jones Lang Lasalle aerotropolis study earlier this year estimates that construction-related economic impact, both direct and indirect, would average $173 million annually over the 25-year build-out, or $4.3 billion total."
(Bill Shea/Crain's Detroit

For more information see here

Detroit Army

Friday, August 22, 2008


In the cutthroat business of upscale food products, Rocky Peanut Company certainly has the variety and quality of products to give any store in Eastern Market a run for its money. Rocky Peanut Company prides itself on the quality of its products and its commitment to providing the freshest, tastiest, and many times healthiest food products available. These products include, bulk candy, meats, cheeses, bulk coffee, spices, and of course, raw nuts and dried fruits. Additionally, Rocky Peanut Co. also has a coffee bar where patrons can sit down and relax after a long day at the market.

According to their website, "Rocky Peanut Company buys raw nuts and dried fruits right at harvest, directly from growers and processors all over the world to assure that all we roast and process is the freshest and best quality. In our oil roasting process, we use Canola oil, which is lower in saturated fat then Cotton Seed or Peanut oil-the oils that most roasters typically use."

Yet, as much as the glorious selection of nuts, coffee, spices, cheeses, deli sandwiches, and bulk candy, satisfies my urge to purchase high quality food products, I still can't get over the fact that R. Hirt Jr. company just looks so much more like the real deal. I also realize that R. Hirt Jr. really holds itself out as more of a general store, where the store snob would want to shop, while Rocky Peanut Company prides itself on being a store where the uppity food snob would want to shop. And, while in many cases each store carries very different types of products, they do sell some similar items, mostly in the vein of meat and cheese.

Until I'm proved differently, which I'm open to, if I'm going to spend an absurd amount of cash on cheese or meat, I'm going to R. Hirt Jr.. Hirt is, what I like to call, the "OG" or "Original Gangster" store in Eastern Market, which garners the utmost respect from all the newer stores on the block and whose reputation precedes it. Rocky Peanut is that newcomer on the scene who decided to go bold and take the old guy head on.

In actuality though, Rocky Peanut Company is really not that new at all. The company traces its roots all the way back to 1969 when Rocky (Rocco) Russo purchases a small peanut roasting business and began selling bagged peanuts to Tiger Stadium in Detroit, along with local street vendors. By 1971, Rocky had expanded his nut operations to the point where he needed a new location. The new store was opened in Eastern Market on the corner of Russell and the Fisher Freeway Service Drive.

Within the next 10 years Rocky had moved his operations again and relocated down the street from the previous location, although still within Eastern Market. In 1993, Rocky Peanut Company created a wholesale distribution business with its distribution center located in Ferndale and run by Rocky's son, Joseph Russo.

In all, Rocky Peanut Company has has all the upscale food products that you could want or need and they provide those products with a great presentation, a health conscious approach and respect for their patrons. Maybe then I'm being unreasonable by proclaiming that somehow the vibe at Rocky Peanut Co. takes away from its products. Maybe it doesn't make sense to downgrade the unbelievable array of high quality items due to the ambiance inside the store. Or maybe I'm just right. Still, you'll be hard pressed to find a better high end food market in Metro Detroit.

Below are photographs from Rocky Peanut Co. along with a link to the entire Flickr set.

Complete Rocky Peanut Co. Flickr Set

Rocky Peanut Company
2489 Russell, Detroit, MI, 48207
(800) 437-6825
Rocky Peanut

Detroit Army

Monday, August 18, 2008


Originally Posted 4/22/08
Updated 8/18/08

There was big news yesterday in the basically non existent world of mass transit in the Detroit area, which could have huge implications for the future world of mass transit in our region.

The Free Press reports "Detroit took a small but significant step Monday toward a long-envisioned proposal to construct a two-rail rapid-transit system along Woodward Avenue from downtown to 8 Mile."

The Free Press goes on to explain, "A study group recommended construction of an estimated $371-million light-rail system that would allow commuters to park in 400 spaces at the State Fairgrounds and ride to and from downtown with stops at 13 to 15 sheltered stations."
Source: Detroit Free Press

The Detroit News reports, "City leaders have pinned their mass transit hopes on an eight-mile stretch down Woodward Avenue that connects the State Fairgrounds with downtown, calling the $371 million project a "first step" toward the return of light rail to Metro Detroit."

The Detroit News states, "Construction could begin in three years, with an estimated 11,000 riders a day by 2013."
Source: Detroit News

Model D points out the obvious obstacles that still remain. "There are still, of course, the nagging questions of getting approval for federal funding, finding a local funding source and traversing the minefield that has blown up so many other well-intentioned mass transit initiatives in the past. All important concerns, but not enough to take away from the big-picture changes that would come with creating the line."
Source: Model D

There is so much excitement, so many opinions, and so much skepticism about this plan, that it is hard to sift through all of the information. I, for one, am not sure how this plan will ultimately turn out, and I'll use a cautiously optimistic approach being that it is so early in the process and taking into account Detroit's track record with regard to transit.

It is true that there have been plenty of mass transit initiatives within the last 30 years which have fizzled, but there is no denying that this study, recommendation, and gathering of multiple groups, all with the intention of making light rail a reality, can only be a good thing.

Below are links to the news sources mentioned above as well as others so that you can find as much information about this potentially pioneering plan as possible.

Detroit Free Press
Detroit News
Model D
Crain's Detroit

8/18/08 Update

More details have emerged regarding the light rail proposal by the Detroit Department of Transportation. It appears that the details of this plan differ from the minimal information that we are aware of regarding the privately backed light rail proposal from the likes of Illitch and Dan Gilbert.

"The $371.5 million light-rail system Detroit has proposed to build along Woodward Avenue features the type of passenger boarding the city argued was too dangerous as part of its justification to switch from streetcars to buses in the 1950s.

The layout also isn't as conducive to economic development along the route as lines that offer curbside service, some transit insiders say. Atop that, there's a privately funded Woodward rail plan, backed by at least two of Detroit's billionaires and kept mostly secret, that does offer streetside service.

Backers of the city's proposal say it's both safe and every bit a driver of revitalization."
(Bill Shea/Crain's Detroit)

Again, more details to follow.

Dueling transit plans differ on station placement

Detroit Army

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


The Vernor's sign out front says it all. GS Market just south of Lincoln on Woodward in Royal Oak is a traditional liquor store which carries wine, beer, soda, cigarettes, and snack items, but what makes the market a Royal Oak favorite is its wide selection of local products including Vernor's, Faygo, Better Made Chips and locally brewed beers. The building in which GS Market sits was built in 1938 and while it has changed hands four different times, the current owner and family have operated GS Market out of the building since 1976.

Personally I don't think enough stores in the metro Detroit area carry a sufficient amount, but GS Market takes its Faygo products seriously. Cans of Faygo including flavors such as Grape, Moon Mist, Cola, Orange Soda and of course Red Pop are offered, along with glass bottles of Red Pop, Orange Soda, Vanilla Creme and Root Beer. Better Made products such as pork rinds, wavy chips, orignal, caramel popcorn and the party mix are available.

As for beer, the selection is great. Of course GS Market carries the normal name brand beers, but the store also carries a multitude of beers from local breweries along with lesser known beers from other parts of the country. Liquor is shelved along the front wall behind the counter and most standard liquors of your choice are displayed.

The local products at GS Market are an obvious draw, and their selection of beverages, whether it be alcoholic or otherwise definitely are more plentiful than many of the "convenience" stores from the Metro Detroit area, but besides those, albeit, important factors, there is nothing special per se about GS. Yet, every time I drive by I find myself stopping in, even when I don't have anything particular in mind to buy.

It's unclear though what exactly the future holds for GS Market. I was told by one of the owners that they plan on remodeling the entire store within the next couple months and change the format. The new GS Market will be re modelded and re branded as an upscale wine shop. I was assured though that the products made (or formerly made) in Detroit will still be available for purchase. Unfortunatley though, the great Vernor's sign which is displayed so prominently out in front will be coming down. I sincerely hope the impressive selection of local products that GS Market currently carries do not suffer the same fate.

Below are photos from the store, along with a link to the entire flickr set.

GS Market Flickr Set

GS Market
25852 Woodward Ave.
Royal Oak, MI

Phone: 248-541-0212

Detroit Army

Thursday, August 7, 2008


The R. Hirt Jr. Co., located at 2468 Market St. in Eastern Market, is a specialty goods store founded in 1887 by Rudolph Hirt Jr. The store makes you feel like you walked into a time machine and came out a century earlier in the middle of a bustling general store. The immediate smell that engulfs you is the smell of over 300 varieties of cheeses, almost none of which the kind individuals at the Rudolph. Hirt Jr. Co. won't let you try.

On Saturdays, a line starts at the front of the counter and continues to find its way right out the front door. With the quality products that R. Hirt sells, the line is understandable. Not only is cheese aplenty, but other products sold are meats, bakery loafs of bread, tea, chocolates, sauces, oils, pastas and pickles. On the top floor, the store has an extensive collection of wicker including baskets and related items. Apparently I'm more interested in the cheese.

If cheese is your pleasure, do some research before you jump into line. Otherwise you'll be in for a rude awakening once you realize that there are 300 different types of cheese, you don't have any idea what the differences are between them, and no one there is going to sit around explaining each type to you when there are what seems like hundreds of other customers in line.

Adding even more character to this hip and historic Detroit landmark is the fact that R. Hirt Jr. Co. was fined and put on probation in 2001 for allegedly buying $328,000 in stolen cheese. I'm not condoning these actions in the least, but the ridiculousness of the whole thing has to make you shake your head and smile. I mean, we're not talking about stolen diamonds here. For that matter, we're not even talking about television sets or MP3 players. We're talking about cheese, and a huge chunk of over $300,000 of it. Where do you even steal cheese from? Do you have to keep it refrigerated when you're transporting it from the location you stole it from? Either way, the cheese is what this store is all about.

R. Hirt Jr. Co.'s selection is great, the atmosphere is old world, and the clientele is of all shapes and sizes. There's no denying that R. Hirt Jr. Co. is a great place to visit in Eastern Market.

Below are some photos from the shoppe (I think the double p and added e are necessary in this situation), along with a link to the flickr set.

R. Hirt Jr. Co. Flickr Set

R. Hirt. Jr. Co.
2468 Market St
Detroit, MI 48207-4597
Phone: (313) 567-1173

Detroit Army

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


While the sad fact remains that the city of Detroit loses way more people than it gains every year, the Detroit Free Press makes note of the emerging trend of new 20-30 something metro Detroit suburbanites moving downtown to enjoy a more urban lifestyle. Many of these young individuals are moving from suburban Detroit where they have lived since they graduated college, while a significant amount are former metro Detroiters who lived in large cities across the country, but are now returning home and are eager to continue living in an urban center.

While most neighborhoods in the city, with the exception of a few, continue to be in disarray, the influx of young generation X and generation Y transplants have helped downtown Detroit, along with midtown, formerly known as Cass Corridor, reinvent themselves. These areas are in the midst of a renaissance considering the condition both downtown and midtown were in just under 10 years ago.

Jarrid Mooney, a former Ann Arborite, "is among hundreds of young people choosing the city over the suburbs. They say they like the underground vibe of city dwellers who enjoy art, culture and a walkable community. They also want to join the movement to reinvigorate Detroit's neighborhoods near downtown.

"'There are lots of hidden gems and so much positive energy,' said Mooney, who is also applying for jobs in the city so he can be in Detroit full-time. 'It's a city but it's also a small town in terms of who you run into.'"

(Margarita Bauza/Detroit Free Press)

To see the full article click here

Detroit Army

Sunday, August 3, 2008


After so much talk about the impending demolition of Tiger Stadium, some of us at Detroit Army couldn't help ourselves. We had to check out for ourselves what was taking place at Michigan and Trumbull and what we found was more than what we bargained for.

There were about 50 eager onlookers taking pictures and catching their last glimpses of the stadium at the corner. Most of the left field bleachers were torn out and a fence surrounded the stadium with a green tarp wrapped around it so that gawkers were unable to see through. The tarp had a specific purpose, but that didn't stop overzelous fans from attempting to rip holes through it to gain a better perspective. With everything going on, the lone security guard at the corner had his hands full. I stopped to talk to the guard and asked him if this might be the most annoying security job that he's ever been a part of. He wholeheartedly agreed with the assessment without missing a beat.

Detroiters can be both stupid, and over the top, and when you mix that with the demolition of a Detroit landmark, the end result is entertaining to say the least. The security guard told me that a couple days earlier one guy tried to hop the fence surrounding the stadium with a running start. Needless to say, the stunt backfired and the fence jumper ended up stuck on top of the fence with steel rods lodged in his stomach. Apparently the guard had to pull him off before the ambulance came, but not before he asked the guy who at this point was screaming in pain whether the failed attempt at trying to be smart was worth it. I never heard anything about this incident in the Free Press or the News, so I can't vouch for its accuracy, but I'm choosing to believe that the story was rooted in truth. Its funnier that way.

After talking to the security guard, we proceeded to walk up the ramp to the bridge that crosses over the Fischer Freeway so that we could get the best shots of the partially torn apart stadium. Plenty of other onlookers had taken this route as well and most conversations tended to contain one person waxing poetic about the great stadium with the other nodding in agreement. A guy named Bill stood on the bridge selling pictures of Tiger Stadium that he supposedly took from a helicopter two weeks before demolition began. I wasn't able to ascertain what his credentials were and how he had access to a helicopter, but the shot he was selling was impressive because it was taken from the Northeast looking down over the stadium towards the Southwest which is an angle you usually don't see as most photographers choose to shoot from the opposite angle so as to see downtown in the background.

Bill had a good schtick. He was only selling the photos so that people would "have something to remember the stadium by." I'm sure it had nothing to do with the hundreds of nostalgic fans that pass through each day, including myself, who have no problem parting with five dollars for the photo. Actually, the security guard told me later that Bill usually sells the photos for ten dollars on game days. Looks to me like Bill is turning a substantial profit on a photo that is unclear as to whether he took it, and even if he did, when the photo was taken. Good for him.

After taking multiple pictures of my own from different angles through the wide open hole in the left field wall, I proceeded to walk back to my car where more and more enthusiasts continued to make their way to the stadium. On my way out I noticed three blue collar guys working together to get the best photos possible. One guy stood on a ladder in order to see over the fence with a professional looking camera, while the other two handled the different lenses and anchored the ladder which was less than sturdy. I tried to take a picture of the three everymen clumsily trying to take photos from above the fence, but as I looked through my digital camera to take the picture I was greeted with a less than friendly "You better not be taking a picture of me." I asked him if he was being serious and he looked at me like he was ready to take my head off. Needless to say, I wasn't able to capture the moment.

In all seriousness though, I left Tiger Stadium not with a feeling of nostalgia, but instead with a feeling of wasted opportunity. This demolition should have happened almost ten years ago when the stadium was abandoned in the first place. While there was not, and for that matter still is not a plan in place regarding what to do with the space at Michigan and Trumbull, a quick teardown of the stadium would have allowed the surrounding Corktown neighborhood to move on from its former Tiger Stadium centered past and possibly re-develop the area for the future. The fact that it's been standing without tenants for so long says something about the speed with which city leaders moved forward.

The city, along with the stadium, deserved better treatment. To leave Tiger Stadium deteriorating at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull for 9 years without any real action was counter productive. Too many times this city doesn't take the efficient road, and how this situation was handled is a great example of that inefficient mentality.

While I can only dream that this can be a lesson for the future, I'm not going to hold my breath. What's important now is that Tiger Stadium is finally coming down and although I sincerely hope the Tiger Stadium Conservancy finds a way to come up with the necessary funds so that part of the stadium can be saved, whether they do or they don't, demolition is not only necessary, but already 9 years late. Corktown is on the rise, and once Tiger Stadium's deconstruction is finished, the neighborhood can fully move forward. The huge hole where the left field bleachers once were is not a travesty as many have proclaimed, but instead long overdue progress and finally a first step in the right direction.

Below is a sampling of photographs taken at Tiger Stadium on August 2 during the early stages of demolition. A link to the entire Flickr set is also included.

Tiger Stadium Demolition Flickr Set

Detroit Army