AS PROUD METROPOLITAN DETROITERS, IT IS OUR RESPONSIBILITY TO REVITALIZE THE ATTITUDES OF OUR CITIZENS, THE POLITICAL, ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL ATMOSPHERE OF OUR STATE, AND THE PERCEPTIONS OF OUTSIDERS.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Detroit College Promise 5K Run/Walk

EVENT ANNOUNCEMENT

While posts may be slight as of now, DetroitArmy will always live on.

www.justsayrun.com


The Detroit College Promise is excited to announce the first ever “The Detroit College Promise 5K Run/Walk” that will take place on Saturday, October 10th, 2009 at the Detroit Riverfront. Registration until October 1st is $15 for students/seniors and $20 for adults. Registration after October 1st will be $20 students/seniors and $25 adults. The registration fee includes a t-shirt, event entry, food and entertainment.

The Detroit College Promise provides Detroit Public School students scholarship opportunities to public colleges in Michigan. The group motivates students and parents to plan for a college education and encourages them to move into the Detroit Public School System. Not only does The Detroit College Promise support higher education, but it also promotes economic development in the Metro Detroit Area.

The event is currently looking for participation, sponsorship and volunteers. The Detroit College Promise 5K Run/Walk is a great way to support the charity and show the community you care about education and the future of Detroit's students. For more information on how your group or organization can become involved in this great cause, or to register, visit www.justsayrun.com. Or call Chris Ogden at 734.891.1639. A registration form in PDF format is available at Detroit College Promise.pdf

WHAT: The Detroit College Promise 5K Run/Walk

WHERE: Detroit Riverfront, near Atwater and St. Antoine

WHEN: October 10th, 2009

CONTACT: Chris Ogden

Event Director

Phone: 734-891-1639

Email: DCPRun@justsayrun.com

For more information:
Detroit College Promise

Detroit Army

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

EMAGINE THEATER PLANS NEWEST VENUE FOR DOWNTOWN ROYAL OAK

It seems like an obvious concept, but around Metro Detroit, Emagine Theater was the first to do it. It, in this case, is serving beer and hard alcohol during movies. Emagine now plans to open its newest theater in downtown Royal Oak. Ultimately, the question will be, can crowds of drunk twenty somethings be able to control themselves?

Apparently Emagine Entertainment founder Paul Glantz thinks so. In a statement in the Detroit News recently Glantz stated, "We're at the very outset but we're very excited about the process and hope to get all the government applications wrapped up this summer. "First we're applying for a liquor license and then we'll have to apply to the building department for a construction permit."

This could be a lot of fun for a growing downtown...or be a complete drunken catastrophe. Let's hope for the former, or if it suits you better, the latter.

For more details on the proposed Emagine Theater Royal Oak, click here

Detroit Army

Friday, April 24, 2009

COLLEGE FOR CREATIVE STUDIES' RENOVATION OF ARGONAUT BUILDING ON TRACK FOR SEPTEMBER

The $145 million renovation of the Argonaut Building at 2nd and Milwaukee in Detroit's New Center neighborhood is moving full steam ahead. Abandoned by General Motors in 1999, Detroit based College for Creative Studies (CCS) announced plans to transform the Argonaut Building into a second campus in 2008, and as of now, completion of the $145 million renovation is scheduled for September.

DBusiness magazine reports that the new campus will include a partnership with the University of Michigan's Stephen M. Ross School of Business which will enhance already established CCS programs providing practical business skills for students. Additional highlights include 150 dorm rooms, studios, fitness rooms, game rooms and all CCS undergraduate design departments, along with a color and materials library, continuing education classes, community arts programs, public galleries, and 80,000 square feet of commercial office space. An art centric middle and high school are also planned for the new campus and will be run by Henry Ford Academy.

Once the new campus is finished, CCS will expand its current programs at the school's main campus in Midtown including fine arts, illustration, entertainment arts, and photography, among others.

For more details see the May/June 2009 issue of DBusiness Magazine as well as the Detroit News here.

Detroit Army

Monday, April 20, 2009

CAFE CON LECHE

While he at first did not succeed, Jordi Carbonell is trying again. Actually, he wasn't the one who did not succeed, but instead, it was the the initial location of Jordi's neighborhood coffee shop, Cafe Con Leche, inside the Mexicantown Mercado at Bagley and 21st, which failed and, which is now padlocked, unfinished, and void of even a single business. (For more information on the mercado's circumstances click here) After less than a year at the Mexicantown Mercado, it was readily apparent to Jordi that he needed to move his business to a new location if it had any hope of surviving.

With floor to ceiling windows, painted walls, and art on display and for sale, Cafe Con Leche in its new location facing Clark Park at W. Vernor and Scotten in the Carnival Bar's former location, is doing more than surviving, it's flourishing. The comment overheard which I found most entertaining as I enjoyed my espresso was from a young lady who exclaimed, "Wow, this place is really nice, I don't feel like we're in Detroit." While a bit back handed, the message was clear.

Jordi believed he could do better in a new location, but Cafe Con Leche's instantaneous success was a surprise. According to Jordi, revenue increased two times over within the first month. Located nearby on Scotten, students and teachers from Western International High School continually stop in, along with passersby, and even customers from the coffee shop's Mexican Mercado days who just can't do without caffeine from Jordi. Inside, Spanish was the predominate language spoken, and it adds to an engaging ethnic atmosphere.

Cafe Con Leche serves up standard coffee shop fare such as freshly brewed coffee, and espresso drinks, but features some interesting options such as Cuban Coffee. Drink prices are more than reasonable which was even more painfully evident when I ordered the same triple shot of espresso in Birmingham at Java Hutt II and paid 50% more.

Additionally, sandwiches are catered from (I believe) Lunchtime Global, located downtown, in the First National Building, 1/2 block east of Woodward on Congress (CORRECTION: Sandwiches are catered from "Lunchtime", in New Center, located next to the Fisher Building in the New Center One Building at 3031 W. Grand Blvd.). Donuts, croissants, and home baked pastries, including brownies, and pecan pie were displayed on the counter. Wifi, and newspapers, both in English and in Spanish, are also available.

Even with all that's available, Jordi seems to be a main attraction for adoring customers, and I have to admit, he seems like a good guy. I immediately took to him, when, after a bottle of the Mexican soda, Jarritos, caught my eye, I asked him if he had the grapefruit flavor and he assured me that while he did not, he would get it.

When I first walked in, it crossed my mind that Jordi wasn't from Latin America, yet he spoke Spanish with customers and, hey, it's Southwest Detroit we're talking about here. Turns out he's from Barcelona, which was a nice surprise, as I'm not aware of too many Spaniards living in the Metro Detroit.

As a tapas fan, I asked him if he knew of any good tapas restaurants here in Metro Detroit. His response was drawn out, but it was evident that his answer was some version of "no." When I pressed him further, he said that if one was to eat tapas here, Sangria in Royal Oak is not somewhere he would recommend, and while downtown's Vicente's tapas weren't completely up to his standards, Vicente's paella was the closest that he has tasted to that of his native land.

Apparently Jordi is in Detroit because, but of course, his wife is from here. He told me that he met his wife while she was studying abroad in Spain. I don't know the details, but the bottom line is that he's here now, and he's brought a refreshing coffee shop option to Southwest Detroit. Just as Charles Sorel and Le Petit Zinc are great additions to Metro Detroit, Jordi and Cafe Con Leche are as well.

Below are photographs taken at Cafe Con Leche.

You can find the entire flickr set from Cafe Con Leche here.





Cafe Con Leche
4200 W Vernor Hwy
Detroit, MI 48209
(248) 736-1196
Detroit Army

Thursday, April 16, 2009

FILM STUDIO ANNOUNCES $146 MILLION ALLEN PARK PROJECT

In possibly the biggest film news in Michigan to date, Unity Studios plans to turn a shuttered Visteon Corp. facility in Allen Park into the state's largest integrated entertainment production house. Credit can be given to Jimmy Lifton, a native Metro Detroiter as well as a Hollywood executive and veteran sound producer, who is responsible for spearheading this project. The Detroit News reports that,

"Officials said the project will be built in phases, the first of which is expected to open by this fall. That will bring sound stages and production facilities online, as well as a skills training center that will educate up to 1,000 students per semester.

Later phases will bring more sound stages and production facilities and eventually incorporate retail and housing components in the middle-class Downriver community of 27,500 residents, officials said."

For details on Michigan's newest proposed film studio, see full articles from the Detroit News here and here.

Detroit Army

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

FERNDALE FIRST INITIATIVE STRIVES TO PROMOTE LOCAL ENTREPRENEURS

A few weeks ago, the Ferndale Chamber of Commerce, the City of Ferndale and the Ferndale DDA promoting plans for Ferndale First! — Keeping Your Business First. Jennifer Roosenberg, executive director of the Ferndale Chamber of Commerce, stated in hometownlife.com, "A collaborative effort of the three organizations, the Ferndale First initiative is meant to educate the community on thinking locally first and supporting your local community. The goal is also to help promote local business and provide sustainability to those businesses."

The breakfast meeting on March 26, 2009, held at the Emory, located near Woodward and 9 Mile, was to educate and provide awareness to local businesses of the wealth of information and resources available to small businesses, as well as to launch the Ferndale First business consultation program which makes businesses located in Ferndale, along with members of the Ferndale Chamber and Ferndale DDA, eligible to receive a 90-minute evaluation of their business from a team of five small-business experts.

While some of the programs announced are new, many of the programs of which Ferndale is touting for small business have been in place for some time, but awareness of such programs was lacking. Programs such as this one are worth noting in order to bolster Michigan's reputation for starting new businesses.

If you own a business located in Ferndale or are interested in starting one, you can learn more about the program here.

Questions can also be directed to Jennifer Roosenberg, executive director of the Ferndale Chamber of Commerce, at jennifer@ferndalechamber.com

Monday, April 13, 2009

TECHNOW09 EVENT CELEBRATING MICHIGAN BASED TECH COMPANIES SET FOR APRIL 23

If it isn't clear by now that the auto industry isn't going to be around forever, or at least not as behemoths with which we have become accustomed, well, it should be. What course of action the State of Michigan takes right now will have a profound effect on the future. That said, although it is increasingly clear that updating DetroitArmy with every event occurring in Metro Detroit is futile, the TechNow09 event caught my attention.

Three young twenty something entrepreneurs, Zach Lipson, Jordan Wolfe and Mason Levey, decided that they're sick (so am I), of hearing doom and gloom regarding young educated individuals leaving the state after school. In response, they've decided to plan TechNow09, an event which will be held at the Royal Oak Music Theater on April 23, which will include Michigan based tech company presentations, an interactive panel discussion with Michigan business leaders, a networking cocktail hour, and finally a concert by latin rock influenced Michigan band, Manolete.

Please take a look at the website for the TechNow09 event here. Tickets can be purchased for as little as $1 (or as much as you like) and will be donated to the Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Such events provide the perfect opportunity to help Michigan regain its stature as the nation's leader in innovative ideas and technology.

Detroit Army

Saturday, April 11, 2009

NEW BAR AND GRILLE PLANNED FOR BIRMINGHAM

Larry Bongiovanni, owner of Salvatore Scallopini, hopes to bring some additional activity to the north end of downtown Birmingham with plans for a new bar and grille, two doors down from his current restaurant on Old Woodward. Proposed for the former home of Aunt Olive's Good Food to Go at 525 N. Old Woodward, Bongiovanni's plans state that he will serve classic American bar and grille food, which is really something downtown Birmingham is lacking.

The plans also include a request for the Birmingham specialty, a bistro liquor liscense. It's the first bistro liquor liscense request of the city commission for 2009. Two liquor liscenses are available from Birmingham each year, which are defined by rules regarding seating, entertainment, and hours. Outdoor dining will also accompany the bar and grille, if approved.

You can find the entire article in at hometownlife.com here.

Friday, April 3, 2009

PLANS FOR HANTZ FARM IN DETROIT UNVEILED

I can already see the hipsters squirming. While multiple community gardens have sprung up around the city of Detroit, serious talks of a commercially run urban farm had not yet been floated, until now. John Hantz, of the financial services firm Hantz Group, unveiled plans for "Hantz Farm", in the city of Detroit yesterday, which would convert vacant parcels of land into a full scale farm. While the details of the plan are unclear Hantz hinted to the Detroit Free Press that his farm could, "...grow everything from Christmas trees to fruits and vegetables, with amenities such as a cider mill or horseback riding available."

Meanwhile, since Hantz released the plans for the urban farm yesterday morning, an article in the Detroit News stated that city officials formerly announced that more than 70 acres of vacant land on Detroit's lower east side are slated to be used by Hantz to create the world's largest urban farm.

Moreover, the Detroit News article states that Hantz farm will use Michigan State University as consultation on agricultural and soil science issues, along with W.K. Kellogg Foundation, a national leader in community-based food systems.

We'll keep you updated...

See the entire article in the Detroit Free Press here, along with the entire article in the Detroit News here.

Detroit Army

Thursday, April 2, 2009

SHOPPES AT GATEWAY PARK READY TO MOVE FORWARD?

Although all recent news, or lack thereof, seemed to leave the Shoppes at Gateway for dead, the Detroit News reports today that developers at Gateway Park LLC, are moving forward with plans to build the open air mall at Woodward and 8 Mile, by the state fairgrounds. Plans are in order for 40 shops between 5,000 and 10,000 feet, with a mix of medium to upscale discount, and as one investor proclaims, there will be no dollar stores. That it had to be mentioned that there would be no dollar stores involved is...well...funny.

In any event, the plan has always been to attract shoppers from both Detroit proper and bordering cities close to the 8 mile and Woodward border. Some in the industry are not optimistic about those chances, but the Detroit News reports that, "More than 60 percent of the retail space in the 365,000-square-foot mall has been leased, and the developers are in talks with two major retailers -- one for a 190,000-square-foot anchor store and the other for a 40,000-square-foot space, according to Bernie Schrott, one of five partners in Gateway Park LLC." Which stores might be the new anchors are unclear. JCPenny was announced as one anchor in 2007, but subsequently backed out of its commitment as the economy faltered.

Many missteps have occurred, and plans have gone awry since this project was first announced about 3 or 4 years ago, but the most recent news can be seen as encouraging. At the same time, the project was granted tax and other incentives when it was first announced, and those incentives expire July 1, which may have something to do with the Developers' latest proclamation that the mall is moving forward.

Either way, we'll keep you updated...

See the entire Detroit News article regarding the Shoppes at Gateway here.

Detroit Army

Monday, March 30, 2009

LE PETIT ZINC

As the entrepreneur who opened popular eateries such as Chez Oskar, and Cafe Lafayette, in the Fort Greene neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, Charles Sorel knows how to create a successful cafe. Now, as Sorel moves forward with newly opened French bistro, Le Petit Zinc, in Detroit city, the question becomes whether his past success can be replicated here. If the plan is to continue serving simple and delicious French fare, from a quaint building on the corner of Trumbull and Howard, in hipsterish Corktown, I can't think of a reason why not. (The previous sentence could be misconstrued as sarcastic, and subconsciously maybe I meant it to be, but i'm telling you right now, it's not sarcastic...well, at least I don't think it is).

Le Petit Zinc's owner, Charles Sorel, was raised in Paris, and subsequently moved to New York City, when after September 11th, he, his wife, and three children moved to Brazil. They lived in Brazil for the better part of this decade until they chose to move back to the states, specifically to Detroit, which Sorel believes is the greatest city on earth.

Actually, I just made that up that last part. Sorel didn't say that. In truth, Detroit is the hometown of Sorel's wife Karima, and presumably she lured him back to her old stomping grounds in an act of defiance of which only we as Detroiters have the chutzpuh to even attempt to pull off. (I can relate).

From there, Le Petit Zinc was born. Small and cozy, the restaurant only seats 25 inside. The interior is painted with an array of colors ranging from yellow, to turquoise, and to green. Outside, the garden patio is an ideal spot to sip espresso and enjoy a crepe during the summer months. This is exactly what I did on an unusually warm day in March, as did Sorel, who sat next to me at an outdoor table and spoke in French to an acquaintance through a new model Macbook. In case you were not yet aware, yes, it's that kindof place.

Le Petit Zinc's menu ranges from light breakfast offerings to hot drinks, lunch, dinner and dessert. The simple breakfast at Le Petit Zinc might remind you of your time spent abroad, when a delicious toasted baguette and cup of espresso was the perfect start to the day. The espresso is excellent, and as one patron proclaimed, it helps heal the wounds left by the cheered opening and unexpectedly swift closing of Mercury Coffee Bar on Michigan Ave. earlier this year.

Lunch options at Le Petit Zinc include salads, sandwiches, and classic fare, all created with French influence. Seeing that I have a problem describing French fare with any semblance of eloquence, it's become readily apparent that reading Le Petit Zinc's online menu just makes more sense.

I can tell you that I was tempted to try almost every crepe on the menu. Possibly tapping into Detroit's French roots, crepes have now apparently hit it big in the Metro, with options such as Josephine Creperie in Ferndale, Crepes Cafe on Evergreen Rd. in Southfield, and Good Girls Go To Paris, a crepe stand across from the Metropolitan Building on John R near Woodward, which is already expanding with a new location in "Midtown," and another somewhere in the Pointes of Grosse.

At Le Petit Zinc, crepe options span both sweet and savory. I chose one filled with goat cheese, pine nuts, and spinach, which was extremely refreshing and not overly cheesed. In most cases, a bold decision such as using only a "normal human being" portion of cheese wouldn't be an act destined for praise, but in this setting, I found it spot on.

Meanwhile, while I've overly pandered to Charles Sorel throughout this post in light of his ambitious foray into the world of Detroit dining, in reality, all of us at Detroit Army get the feeling that he isn't too pleased with what the process of opening a restaurant in Detroit entailed. One could interpret Sorel's statements as evidence that if Detroit wasn't wifey's hometown, opening a restaurant here probably wouldn't be a top priority. This has nothing to do with the city itself, which Sorel genuinely believes has similar attributes to the home of his former New York City bistros, the Fort Greene neighborhood in Brooklyn, which emerged within the past few decades as a desirable locale after previously being left for naught.

Instead, its apparent that Sorel's frustration has everything to do with the long, and costly process with which he continues to deal, at the hands of government officials as he attempts to get Le Petit Zinc off and running. As of now, Sorel has been unable to obtain a liquor license for the restaurant, and while he still plans on securing one, he politely, but openly, questions why it will cost him approximately $30,000 dollars in all to receive approval from the city, when the same license costs $1,000 in Brooklyn. In fact, when Sorel spoke with the Detroit Free Press (R.I.P. tangible version 3/30/09 ), he stated that everything about opening a business in the State of Michigan takes longer and costs more than doing so in Brooklyn. Sorel though is quick to share that while the process hasn't been easy, city of Detroit residents deserve credit for their ongoing support, along with Phillip Cooley, most notably of Slow's Bar BQ fame, for helping him navigate the permit process.

All things considered, Sorel's experience is not exactly a ringing endorsement for Michigan business policies. Instead, it's an important message for state, city, and local legislatures, and one of which we as members of the Detroit Army should ensure they are well aware.

Detroit Army is proud that a man like Charles Sorel is willing to take a chance on a niche restaurant here in the midst of uncertain economic times. And yes, he still deserves major credit, even if it's possible that his wife forced his hand in moving to Metro Detroit in the first place. If that is what happened, Mrs. Sorel, Detroit Army can't thank you enough.

Below are photographs from my visit to Le Petit Zinc.

To view the entire Flickr set, click here.





Le Petit Zinc
1055 Trumbull Ave.
Detroit, MI 48216
(313) 963-2805
Le Petit Zinc

Detroit Army

Friday, March 27, 2009

MICHIGAN ACTORS STUDIO OPEN IN FERNDALE

Yet another sign of the impact of tax incentives for films, the new Michigan Actors Studio in Ferndale is holding an open house on April 2 to provide information about upcoming classes and workshops. Next thing you know, people will be telling their friends that they're moving to Michigan to follow their dream of becoming an actor/actress. (sorry, that was overzealous)

Find details here

Detroit Army

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

ARTIST VILLAGE PROJECT PRIMED TO THRIVE

The long awaited Old Redford Artist Village is almost complete, but it still needs a strong push to cross the finish line. Thanks to Motor City Blight Busters, the non-profit group behind the project, the formerly almost vacant strip near Grand River and Lahser already houses a studio, gallery, computer lab, and open mic venue where artists can converge and converse.

Still, John George, founder and director of Blight Busters says that a cafe and central meeting spot is still missing, which is why the group is looking to the public to raise the $50,000 needed to get Motor City Java House off the ground.

Read the article in its entirety here

Learn more about Artist Village Detroit here.

Learn more about Blight Busters and how they are able to accomplish so much here.

Detroit Army

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

LOCAL INVESTMENT FIRM CONSIDERS HOLLYWOOD FILMS

Bits of news continue to trickle out in reaction to Michigan's recent passage of tax incentives for films. Plans for permanent studios and local financing are just two signs that the movie industry could become a nice niche market for Michigan.

Excerpt:

Joel Eisenstein wants to make a hit movie in Michigan.

The Hollywood deal maker is with the All Cities Media Group, a Los Angeles film networking organization that helped finance The Hulk and other summer blockbusters. He's meeting next month with O'Keefe Investment Banking in Bloomfield Hills to consider forming a local partnership.Eisenstein said it will be the first time ACMG set foot outside of Southern California. If the deal works, it could end up paving the way for hundreds of millions of potential investment dollars for the Michigan film industry.

See the article in its entirety here

Detroit Army

Thursday, March 19, 2009

EXTENSIVE IMPROVEMENTS PLANNED FOR EASTERN MARKET

It's like night and day at Eastern Market since non profit group Eastern Market Corporation was given control of operations. The market has always been a great place to buy and sell flowers, meats, and produce on a nice Saturday morning, but the Eastern Market Corporation has worked feverishly over the past couple years to return the market to its prominent place as one of our nation's finest. With extensive updates to multiple sheds and improvements to streetscapes already in place, Eastern Market Corporation is now ready to take the next step and rebuild Metro Detroit's local food system, with Eastern Market acting as the main hub.

As reported by Model D Media, just last week Eastern Market Corporation President Dan Carmody outlined the organization's future plans for the entire Eastern Market district. The goals are both lofty and extensive and include the following:

Shed 4 will be a new two-story market hall built on the lot just north of Shed 3. It will host approximately 14 food processing vendors on the ground floor -- think artisanal cheeses, organic tortillas and pastas -- and a teaching kitchen and classrooms on the second level. Plans call for Shed 4 and Shed 3 to share a geothermal heating and cooling system.

Shed 5 will be rehabbed with a focus on horticulture. The narrow Shed 6 will be widened for weather protection and a wind collector will be installed on top. The existing parking garage will be improved, and solar panels will be installed on its roof. Carmody says EMC's goal is for 15 percent of the market's energy needs to come from renewable sources.

Shed 7 will be substantially improved as a Growers Terminal, with an eye to improving the viability of the market's wholesale business. It will include a new terminal and docking facility and will be refrigerated.

Greening of Detroit is expected to break ground this year on a 2.5-acre market garden that will have a greenhouse and hoop sheds to extend the growing season. Carmody says the garden is about both food production and economic development -- the intent is to quantify job production as a function of garden acreage. Current estimates suggest that if just 20 percent of Detroit's food was produced locally (currently, that number stands at 2-3 percent), 4,700 jobs would be created, which would generate $20 million in taxes and $125 million in income.
(Model D)

Like I said, night and day...

Detroit Army

Monday, March 16, 2009

CAFE VIA

After months of work, Cafe Via is now open in the former Marty's Cookie's location on Maple Rd. in Birmingham. The restaurant is described by part-owner Carol Cahalan as an "American bistro with European flair." Exciting features of the restaurant include a bistro license which allows it to have a small bar area, along with patio seating tucked in back and surrounded by the Briggs Building giving diners a nice quiet space to relax and enjoy their meal.

The crowd can be a tad stuffy (to be expected), and the food is expensive, although not at all outrageous for the cuisine served. The inside is decidedly upscale and with flair, yet comfortable and secluded, as it is sectioned off into smaller rooms for privacy. Patrons who spoke to us at the bar gave their approval for the food (some had been there seven times since its opening nine days before) and on a Saturday night recently there was an hour wait even after nine o'clock. Hopefully that's an indication of how much restauranteurs enjoy the food and not solely due to Cafe Via taking over as the trendy restaurant in town...

See the article in the Detroit Free Press about Cafe Via's opening here.

Detroit Army

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A GRAY FOX IN DOWNTOWN DETROIT?

Originally posted 3/12/09

My girlfriend and I saw Minnie Driver last night. We also saw what I believe was a Gray Fox. Sorry Minnie, the fox wins. How do you like them apples?

After eating dinner at Eph McNally's for the Detroit Synergy Diner's Club, my girlfriend requested that we take a look at the filming occurring at the old Wayne County Building for an upcoming Hillary Swank/Minnie Driver movie. Within minutes, Minnie Driver hopped out of an unmarked white van (oooh they really tricked my girlfriend, me, and the 0 other people around) and my girlfriend nonchalantly said, "Minnie, welcome to Detroit." She said thank you and something about being cold, which is really completely unimportant because moments later was when I saw the "big cat", stealthily sneak through the night around the South end of the building. As it scampered into the bushes though, I could tell that it wasn't a cat at all.

Laying on my stomach on the old Wayne County Building lawn, I could see that this animal was a canine, and not in the form of a domesticated dog. As much as I cringe at giving those annoying independent movie makers more ammunition in their continuing "artistic" quest to show the world how the city of Detroit is returning to its roots and reverting back to prarie land, I must admit that it was immediately apparent that this animal was wild. A member of the film crew shone his flashlight on the animal, which showed a gray coat, and a black stripe on its tail.

Now after hearing about the animial's colors I know you're all thinking, "This guy is an idiot, it was a raccoon." Listen, I know what a racoon looks like, and this was no raccoon. After doing some due dilligence, I found that the Gray Fox is found throughout North America and is distinguished by its gray coat and black striped tail. After examining a picture of the Gray Fox online, I'm sure a Gray Fox is what I saw.

Unfortunately, I was only able to get close enough to the fox to take a picture while it was under the bush. Of course, once it was out in the open, my camera froze up and the lens would not emerge.

Below I've posted a picture of a Gray Fox in the wild, and subsequently the picture I took of the fox below the bushes that night. It's extremely hard to see the animal in my picture, but its two eyes are unmistakenly seen glowing from the reflection off of my camera's flash.


Is there any possibility that I have even the slightest idea about what I'm talking about? Let me know what you think, but trust me, it wasn't a raccoon, damnit.

Update 3/15/09: A friendly reader of Detroit Army did me a favor and lightened up the picture I took through photoshop. While the fox is still hard to make out, the lightened picture does make it slightly easier to see the animal hiding behind the bushes.

See the lightened picture below:

Detroit Army

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

TIGER STADIUM SLATED FOR DEMOLITION

Originally Posted 4/23/08
Updated 6/29/08

Updated 7/9/08
Updated 7/31/08
Updated 10/3/08
Updated 10/12/08
Updated 1/20/09
Updated 3/11/09

Lost in yesterday’s big news regarding the proposed rail system was another inch forward towards the demolition of Tiger Stadium. “Detroit’s Economic Development Corp., a quasi-public arm of the city, awarded the demolition contract to a joint venture of MCM Management Corp. of Bloomfield Hills and The Farrow Group of Detroit.” (John Gallagher, Detroit Free Press).

I drive by “the old ballpark” occasionally (well just to get a burrito in Mexican town most Tuesdays), and with every pass by the corner of Michigan and Trumbull my memories of the events that took place there fade further away. However, I’m not writing my first post on Detroit Army because I want to reminisce. That is not what we are about.

After reading Detroit Army and reflecting on the comments by its readers, I realize that we all want to move forward, and part of moving forward, is leaving behind the past. While the idea of saving a corner of the existing structure would be a deserving tribute to the greats that roamed the field for over a century, it would be another contributing factor adding to an already complicated, costly and tumultuous process. I’m not saying throw the idea out completely, but we should not let our fondness for our past detract from our future once again.

Anonymous

See John Gallagher’s article about the project below.
Group lobbies to save part of Tiger Stadium after Detroit awards demolition contract

Update 6/29/08

On June 25, 2008, Mike Hicks of the Detroit News writes that the preparation for Tiger Stadium's long awaited demolition has begun.

"MCM Management Corp. of Bloomfield Hills and Farrow Group of Detroit have started the process of obtaining permits to raze the stadium and sell parts for scrap, according to the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. The city's quasi-public agency handles development and is executing a plan approved by the City Council and Mayor Kilpatrick."

On the other hand,

"Kilpatrick set an Aug. 1 deadline for the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy Group, which has said was enough time to prove it has a $12 million to $15 million financial plan to save the baseball diamond, 3,000 seats and an area that would house Hall of Fame broadcaster Ernie Harwell's sports memorabilia collection, some of which is now at the main Detroit Public Library."
(Mike Hicks/Detroit News

It's unclear whether the conservancy will be able to come up with the money in time, but it is worth noting that the conservancy group finally has a website up and running which states that "The reports of Tiger Stadium’s demise are greatly exaggerated." I don't know if they know something that we don't, but it's clear that they do not have the money to move forward with their project yet as they have consistently missed deadlines set for them. Additionally, considering that the Tigers moved out of Tiger Stadium eight years ago, to put it mildly, the website campaign seems oddly late to the party.

Tiger Stadium Conservancy

Update 7/9/08

"This time, it has really, really started."

"Ferocious-looking stadium-demolishing machines are ripping apart the wall and everything behind it on the north side of the stadium, near the Fisher Freeway service drive, along what used to be called Kaline Drive. In baseball terms, that would be the area between the centerfield bleachers and the left-field seats."
(Bill McGraw/Detroit Free Press)

Tiger Stadium's demise assaults senses
Tiger Stadium walls are coming down
Tiger Stadium turning to dust
Tiger Stadium's outfield walls begin coming down

Update 7/31/08

"At the urging of City Council, officials from the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy board and the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation sat down for more than an hour to strike a deal after debating in council earlier Tuesday -- at times contentiously -- on what to do with the old stadium that has been partially torn down."
(Detroit News)

"...preservationists must create escrow accounts of $300,000 and $69,000 by Aug. 8, when the issue will be brought back to council.

The Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy, a preservation group, also must get complete funding for a museum in place by March 1, 2009, under the agreement. The amount needed is about $15.6 million.

The plan includes preserving the baseball diamond and 3,000 seats, and building a museum."
(Detroit Free Press)

Tentative deal saves part of Tiger Stadium
New plan hatched to save portion of Tiger Stadium

Update 10/3/08

The chance that any piece of Tiger Stadium will be saved now seems to be gone. Ernie Harwell has cut ties with the group that is trying to save the old ballpark and is returning the donations that he has raised in connection with the project back to the original donors. The group has until Tuesday October 7, 2008 to come up with an initial $219,000 in order to save a portion of the stadium.

This isn't going to end well for preservationists...

"Tiger Stadium preservationists have until Tuesday to come up with a total of $219,000 to keep their effort to save a dugout-to-dugout portion of the stadium from demolition, a Detroit City Council committee decided today."

"But the effort suffered a major setback when S. Gary Spicer, the attorney for former Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell, whose foundation has raised $500,000 toward the project, said that the foundation is returning the money to donors because its proposal to limit the project to a museum for Harwell’s memorabilia and the playfield was taken off the table."

See the entire article here

Update 10/12/08

The Detroit News quotes Tiger Stadium Conservancy vice president Thom Linn as saying "'We will be successful,"' at a downtown Detroit press conference. He went on to state "This will be a catalyst for Corktown development.'"

As for now, the Tiger Stadium Conservancy is proving my prediction that it will not be able to save a portion of the old ballpark wrong.

"The group working to save part of the stadium raised $219,000 and signed a city agreement that allows members to continue with their estimated $12 million to $15 million plan to renovate the site as a recreational and educational complex."

Still, the conservancy's task is far from complete and plans for Tiger Stadium now become much more detailed and even more expensive.

"By Dec. 1, the conservancy must show it has a detailed plan that, among other things, shows how the group will raise the rest of the funding and how it will construct the project. Members have until March 1 to raise the money. If things go as planned, construction could begin next summer and be completed within 18 months.

The conservancy has said that it has already identified up to $7.5 million in tax credits and has money earmarked for the project by U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Detroit, in the next federal budget."

Find more information from the Detroit News, and the Detroit Free Press

1/20/09 Update

Apparently the race to save Tiger Stadium is neverending. At this point, I don't have any clue as to what deadlines are for. Hell, deadlines have come and gone, some of them have been met, some have not, and yet, the Tiger Stadium Conservancy lives another day.

The Free Press reports today that the Economic Development Corp. granted approval to the project’s budget and plan in a letter dated Friday to Thomas Linn, president of the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy.

I could have sworn that in December it was reported that the Conservancy planned a $16 million renovation, but apparently that figure has almost doubled. The conservancy now faces a March 1 deadline to show it can provide an estimated $27 million to pay for the project.

Not really the best economy for raising $27 million dollars, but you gotta give the Conservancy credit for trying...

I'm sure on March 1 I'll have five more meaningless deadlines to keep you updated on. Until then you can check out the conservancy's plans at Save Tiger Stadium

3/11/09 Update

Ok, so March 1 has passed, and as usual, I still don't know what will become of Tiger Stadium. I do know this,

"President Barack Obama signed a $410-billion appropriations bill today to keep the government running, despite the widespread attention paid to some 8,000 earmarks included in the legislation — among them a $3.8-million provision to redevelop and protect a piece of Old Tiger Stadium."
Detroit Free Press

The conservancy still has to raise the remainder of the $27 million...

Detroit Army

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

TROY-BIRMINGHAM TRANSIT CENTER

In this area, any upgrade in transit is a good thing. Hometownlife.com reports that plans for a joint Troy/Birmingham transit center venture located behind the Midtown Square at Coolidge Road and Maple Road, are moving along more quickly than before due to stiff competition among local governments for federal stimulus money earmarked for Michigan. The center will accomodate Amtrak rail, buses and taxi service. A pedestrian tunnel will connect the station to the Birmingham side of the train tracks.

The Hubbell, Roth & Clark engineering firm is expected to finish design blueprints within the next 90 days. Birmingham Planning Director Jana Ecker said the goal is to have a "shovel-ready" project by June.

Hopefully "by June" means exactly what Birmingham Planning Director Jana Ecker says. In the past, deadlines took on a different meaning for this project as, and correct me if I'm wrong, these two cities had almost a decade to build a transit center on this land after it was donated with a provision for reversion back to the developer if a transit center was not built by a specified time. The initial planning stages only began sometime last year.

Again, hopefully, all of the transit plans in the works across metro Detroit will have a logical link in the end.

Looking forward to the finished product...

See the entire article here

Detroit Army

Monday, March 9, 2009

NEIGHBORS WORK TO PROTECT VACANT HOMES

You don't have to sit around while foreclosed homes fall apart around you. Be selfish and make sure that once this housing crisis actually ends your neighborhood doesn't look like the 9th ward in New Orleans after Katrina.

Take a look at how residents around the metro area are taking matters into their own hands and doing what they can to help counteract the effects of massive foreclosures in their neighborhoods.

"In Warren, Mayor Jim Fouts drives the city to note examples of blighted buildings, then gets the owners or his city workers to take action. In Dearborn, the city offers free trees to residents to beautify their front lawns.

In Pontiac, the nonprofit Lighthouse Community Development has built or rehabilitated more than 100 houses in recent years to fight blight.

In Detroit neighborhoods such as Boston-Edison and Indian Village, citizen volunteers plant flowers at vacant houses, mow the lawns and take turns parking their cars in the driveways to make the vacant homes appear occupied.Volunteers hang curtains in vacant windows and install motion detectors in empty houses to catch burglars in the act, with several arrests recorded in Indian Village alone."

Find ways to get involved by checking out the full article from the Detroit Free Press here

Detroit Army

Sunday, March 1, 2009

AMICI'S PIZZA

Even without an ultra paternalistic law forbidding smoking in private restaurants and bars, Amici's Pizza in Berkley embraced capitalism and adopted an all encompassing policy of non-smoking. Originally located in Royal Oak, Amici's Pizza has long established itself as a environmentally conscious, "green," Berkley mainstay, with its vast array of martinis, delicious gourmet pizza, outdoor summer patio, and, yep, no smoking policy.

Wheat crust as a healthy alternative is one of Amici's big selling points. Upon hearing this, I, as Lebron James would say, "preliminary," scoffed. When people want pizza, they have no intention on having a healthy meal. Even more, he or she has already mentally prepared him or herself to eat something unhealthy. It's a conscious decision that, for at least this one meal, the trade off between health and taste favors the latter. Fortunately, eating at Amici's turned my wheat crust distrust upside down because, well, it's good. Actually, I'd go as far as to say I wouldn't think twice about eating wheat crust pizza anymore as long as it tastes like Amici's does.

Even furthering Amici's reputation is that it's purportedly the first restaurant in southeast Michigan to be certified "green" by the national nonprofit Green Restaurant Association. It's unclear what makes it certified "green," considering the restaurant only uses disposable utensils, glasses, and plates (which I would assume creates much more garbage than using permanent kitchenware), but I'm generally not very hip to the rules associated with being "green." If anyone's interested in how Amici's became "green" your answer may be right here. Anyone...anyone...anyone...?

There are plenty of pizza options available at Amici's, and many of the combinations are as creative as they are enticing, including "pesto pizza", "blackened chicken pizza", and "caribbean spicy jerk chicken pizza." (They might have gone too far with "North Atlantic Salmon Pizza" though.) Traditional toppings are offered, but you can tell that the restaurant prides itself on its gourmet options. For cheese, upscale toppings include Fontina, Ricotta, Garganzola, Feta, and tofu vegan cheese, for vegetables, Portabella mushrooms, asparagus, grilled eggplant, roasted red pepper, and sun-dried tomatoes can be added, and for meat, blackened and jerk chicken, lox (sounds gross if you ask me), or Italian bacon are available.

Word to the wise though, make sure your waitress has a pen and paper. Otherwise, there's a distinct possibility that you'll be asked what the order was five times before you receive your food. Trust me, its annoying enough to just go ahead and make the awkward request that she write everything down. (I may have just had a bad experience with this.)

The pizza should be the main attraction, but the ability to get smashed on martinis while eating "health" pizza made with "green" precision doesn't hurt reviewers' positive sentiments. The list is extensive, including over 50 varieties, and with so many martinis to choose from, the place can get loud, especially on a Friday or Saturday night. The choices range from the traditional gin or vodka with vermouth, to "stoli-doli" (pinneapple soaked), and dessert martinis including "key lime pie," and "chocolate mint." Personally I'm not into the wacky martini options, so there are also about 45 other options of which the contents are unknown to me such as "bikini-tini," "journalist," "bee's knees," and "golden cadillac," just to name a few.

Some in our party loved the crazy martini concoction options, while some (me) thought of them as gimmicky. Either way, by the time everyone in your party has his or her third drink, they should all be well on their way to enjoying themselves, thereby rendering the unnecessarily over the top mixture options a non issue. (On a side note, I was told by a recent diner that their dessert martini was more focused on the dessert, instead of the alcohol.)

On one final food note, we got the Antipasto, as well as the fresh garden salad. The garden salad was inexplicably ordered as you could probably make it in your kitchen in about five and a half minutes, and the the Antipasto salad was decent at best. I wouldn't abandon eating at Buddy's just yet if you're in the mood for a salad with Italian meat.

In all, Amici's is a great spot for a casual dinner, drinks with friends, or for a nice but not too expensive date. The atmosphere is fun, the wheat pizza is delicious, and the martini menu is both extensive and eclectic. I should also again mention that Amici's is certified "green," which should make it acceptable in the hipster crowd, unless too many critics, myself included, have already pointed out the restaurant's "greenness," thereby creating the always intriguing predicament where the continual mention of an establishment's hipster quality leaves that very quality unequivocally unhip.

Anyway, its hipster status really shouldn't matter though because locals and those who have visited for years continue to come back, and new customers are introduced to the restaurant weekly. Between Amici's forward thinking attitude, delectable food, and expansive drink options, Amici's should be around for a long time.

See photographs taken at Amici's Pizza below. You can see the entire set of photographs from Amici's Pizza on flickr here.





3249 Twelve Mile Road
Berkley, MI 48072
Amici's Pizza

Detroit Army

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

FORMER FREE PRESS BUILDING SLATED AS NEW HOME FOR MOTOR CITY FILM WORKS PRODUCTION STUDIO

The film industry continues to make positive news in Michigan. Now, after announcements that the abandoned temporary MGM Grand Casino in Detroit, and the former GM plant in Pontiac will be converted to a graphic design and production studio respectively, the most recent chatter from the Detroit News has the Motor City Film Works production company converting the old Detroit Free Press building into a production studio.

The Detroit News quotes Richard Gerber, owner of technology firm Intelegen as stating, "'We intend to turn the former printing press area into a sound stage. That's 80,000-square-feet of space.'" The owner of the building told the Detroit News that an announcement will be made in the next couple months, but declined to offer specifics. The Free Press building has been abandoned since 1998, but activity was reported at the building over the past few months, prompting rumors of a re-opening.

See the Detroit News article here.

Unfortunately, along with this piece of good news came word from California that the it will now offer tax incentives to the movie world as well, so as to curb films from shooting out of state, i.e. in Michigan and other states which offer rebates.

Take a look at the details for the new California film incentives here. Or, just forget that I even mentioned California and enjoy the news about 321 W. Lafayette.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

HAMTRAMCK PACZKI DAY


Tomorrow is the day before lent, for those who celebrate it, and to the rest of us, either "fat Tuesday," "shrove Tuesday," or in Hamtramck, "paczki day." Historically, paczki day started as a way to use and rid the house of every ounce of lard, sugar, eggs, and fruit, all forbidden for consumption during lent. The end result is fried dough containing a normal human being's entire caloric intake for the day. The historical premise may have faded, but the paczki a great excuse, especially for over sized mid-westerners, to eat an inordinate amount of calories, carbohydrates, sugar, and eggs, all packed into one mouth watering treat.

A Paczki, for those who dont' know, is a deep fried piece of dough, which is flattened into a sphere shape, filled with fruit preserves, and covered with icing and powdered sugar. These polish treats have been around forever, but became a phenomenon over the past century once metro Detroiters' outside of Hamtramck got a taste for them and realized that they had no self control. Recently though, Kroger, and other local groceries picked up on Metro Detroiters' taste for sugar and lard, and paczkis can now be found year round, albeit without the charm of eating one after standing in line at a Hamtramck Bakery on that infamous Tuesday. Probably more relevant is that the inherent thought process behind creating these caloric monsters (using any/all unhealthy ingredients left in the kitchen and combining them into one food item) should be a pretty good indication that paczkis should probably only be eaten once a year.

Paczki day still holds a special place in the hearts of Metro Detroiters, and this year is no different. Three years ago, the City of Hamtramck decided to create a "Countdown to Paczki Day," held on the Saturday before paczki day. The Detroit Free Press recently quoted Hamtramck's Mayor, Karen Majewski, as stating, "This event is all about getting families in the spirit of Paczki day," which by my accounts refers to the spirit of people overindulging with complete disregard for physical health and societal norms. Awesome.

This year the countdown event contained a covered tent with about nine different bakeries offering free paczkis, polish music, the chance to learn the polka, and rides on the "Paczki Express," bus, giving patrons a glimpse of the plethora of bakeries selling the fried delight. Families of many ethnicities poured into the tent on Joseph Campau and Holbrook, thumbing their noses at frigid temperatures, and extreme snow, not to mention the 500 calories (low ball estimate) each paczki approximately contains.

Organizers of the event say that festivities will be scheduled throughout Tuesday as well, including performances by Hamtramck local bands the Polish Muslims, the Kielbasa Kings, and Polka Floyd, among others at various Hamtramck bars throughout the day. (see schedule here). Furthermore, Hamtramck bars and bakeries will celebrate the holiday with bar crawls, giveaways, and Polish food and drink.

While Saturday's event has already passed, Tuesday is still upcoming. If you don't have work or are able to take a couple hours off to fatten yourself up, take a trip to Ham Town and enjoy yourself. Bring some paczkis back to the office and all will be forgiven.

The Hamtramck Star published a poll a few years back asking readers which bakery was their favorite for paczkis. You can find the list below. Note: Although it has not not aired yet, Family Donut Shop was featured by Tony Bourdain when he was in town filming an episode of "No Reservations" last month.

New Palace Bakery
9833 Joseph Campau St
Hamtramck, MI 48212
(313) 875-1334

New Deluxe Bakery
11920 Conant St
Hamtramck, MI 48212
(313) 892-8165

New Martha Washington Bakery
10335 Joseph Campau St
Hamtramck, MI 48212
(313) 872-1988

Bozek's Meat & Groceries
3317 Caniff St
Hamtramck, MI 48212
(313) 368-6752

Family Donut Shop
11300 Conant St, Hamtramck, MI
(313) 368-9214

New Polka Bakery
9834 Conant St, Hamtramck, MI
(313) 873-7959

Detroit Army

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

GREEKTOWN CASINO HOTEL CELEBRATES OPENING WITH $99 RATE

After delays, banruptcy hearings, and negotiations, Greektown Casino Hotel has finally opened its doors by offering $99 a night rates. As recently as February 5, Greektown Casino received approval from bankruptcy Judge Walter Shapero to borrow $46 million in additional financing to finish the permanent 400 room hotel.

In any event, the hotel is now open, and if anyone is able to afford paying for a downtown hotel for the night, $99 is a nice good deal. Model D reports that all inclusive packages include, " a delux room with champagne, chocolate-coverd strawberries, an aromoatherpay basket and breakfast in be for two for $189, and The Party's Getting Bigger which, for $229, include a deluxe room, dinner for two at Bistro 555 and $75 to gambe with at the casino." (Model D

For reservations, call 877-GCH-5554 or visit GreektownCasino.com.

Detroit Army

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

SWEET GEORGIA BROWN GETS EVICTED AND OTHER UNFORTUNATE CLOSINGS

The last couple weeks haven't been promising, and that's saying something considering what we've been through.

Within a week of the end of the newly svelte, bearded, but still a prick, King Kwame's most recent stay behind bars and subsequent flee towards Dallas, Sweet Georgia Brown was gone. Even a year of refraining from paying rent couldn't save the upscale southern food hangout of some of Detroit's most recent infamous figures. Don't worry though, maybe Sweet Georgia Brown will re-open now that Kwame returns to the D to testify about other miscellaneous corruption charges.

Meanwhile, based on owner Derrick Coleman's reaction to the news of his restaurant's closure, it's apparent that he wasn't even remotely aware that the restaurant was being shut down. DC was quoted as saying, "Businesses open and close every day, and it was news to me that Sweet Georgia Brown's would be evicted this morning," which in DC terms could only mean, "whoop-de-damn-do."

Maybe after getting away with not paying rent for so long, DC thought Greektown Casino wouldn't actually go through with the eviction. Um, yes this is Detroit and it slightly resembles the wild wild west, but apparently Greektown Casino got a clue and decided that allowing a restaurant to lease space without paying rent probably wasn't the most business savvy decision. Seems odd that Greektown finds itself in bankruptcy protection...

Anyway, I continue to wish DC the best of luck and hope his retail block near Linwood and Clairmount whethers the current economic tsunami determined to demolish everything in its path...

And that brings us to the rest of this uplifting round-up, which includes a plethora of retail and bar closings along lower Woodward and more. Within the past 8 years or so, this had become an area which showed signs of promise after the newly built Compuware Headquarters forever changed the landscape surrounding Campus Martius.

To start, the always classy (sarcasm), and overly raucous Club Bleu on the East side of Woodward shut its doors after occupying that spot for at least a decade. Next, the Borders in Compuware decided to shut down, which prompted a firestorm of rumors implying Hard Rock Cafe's imminent demise. Bill Shea of Crain's Detroit did his best to quash that sentiment by speaking to someone at the restaurant's media relations group who denied that the restaurant was shutting its doors.

Continuing the rash of closures was Athlete's Foot at Woodward and John R, which is already cleared out and empty. In 2004, before we got stuck with the lazy ass, lethargic, and virtually useless Athlete's Foot employees/owners/others with unclear connections, Athlete's Foot's space was widely reported to be the site for a NikeTown (still waiting). Apparently it will now serve as more empty space on the city's main thoroughfare.

Oh, and apparently one day recently, Johnny Rockets, in the Foxtown/entertainment district on Woodward, also mysteriously disappeared, although no one seems to care one way or the other. It wasn't very good and had odd hours, but it was a chain restaurant which provided a recognizable name. As much as I'd like every business in the city of Detroit to be unique, chains are a necessary part of a thriving city.

Then the Woodward Restaurant, located on the East side of Woodward by the Kern's clock, went under as well.

Finally, well, I mean, hopefully finally, because every time I think I'm done listing places which have shut down within the last week or so, I come across another business's downfall, I've heard reports that the coney island inside Comerica Park, which I believe was still Leo's as of last year, is no longer open either.

UPDATE

Nevermind, apparently I spoke too soon. Since I started this article about 24 hours ago, at least two more prominant places within the city limits have closed. Zaccaro's Market, on Woodward near Brush Park, is finished after less than a year in business. Additionally, the Mercury Coffee Bar on Michigan Ave., across from Slow's Barbeque and over looking Michigan Central Station, closed on Monday after only four months in business. The Free Press did quote Mercury Coffee Bar investor Ryan Schirmang as stating that the coffee bar will reopen on Friday after, "'...taking this time to undergo construction improvements, refine our business model, and clarify the management issues that have weighed us down thus far."'

Both of the preceeding businesses seemed to have tremendous promise. Zaccaro's was hailed as reason to believe that a high end market could survive in the city, and Mercury Coffee Bar was the latest venture from the Cooley brothers, owners of, among many successful businesses, Slow's Barbeque. I hear rumblings that Zaccaro's market wasnt properly financed, didn't have a sensible business model, had a poor location, and had inadequate customer service. I don't know if any of this is true, but I hope that this failed attempt at bringing high end grocceries doesn't deter other entrepreneurs from bringing groccery stores in general to the city. On the other hand, who knows what the recent statement from Mercury Cofee Bar regarding a Friday re-opening means.

Furthermore, this economic mess is not only affecting business within the city. There are presently a multitude of inventory reduction sales and store closing signs lining Maple Road in downtown Birmingham, and those don't include eateries and boutiques which already went out of business

I will say that to Birmingham's credit, Leo's Coney Island is back on Old Woodward after taking back their old spot from Greek Boys Coney Island, which was terrible, Coldstone Creamery re-opened after closing sometime last year, Home Run Deli opened up on Old Woodward in the former juice bar spot across from Chen Chow (can't remember the name), and work continues on two new midrises, one which will house Bank of America etc. on Brown and Woodward, and one which Greenleaf Trust will anchor on Maple and Woodward.

We all know it's tough out there and the aforementioned closings are indicative of that, but to end this post on a relatively positive note, I'd like to suggest a few new places to try. Have dinner at Angelina's Bistro in Grand Circus Park, which prepared a wonderful meal for our large Detroit Synergy group dinner club function recently. Check out Pizza Tastebar, the new one part pizza parlor, one part lounge in Times Square. Eat freshly prepared fish at Frank Taylor's newest restaurant, Detroit Seafood Company in the former Intermezzo spot in Harmonie Park. Try Charles Sorel's brand new French bistro, Le Petit Zinc, on Trumbull and Howard in Corktown. Step inside Finn and Porter, the upscale surf and turf dining establishment which just recently opened in the newly renovated Fort Shelby Hotel.

Also, don't forget about Spa1924 Grille, located in the Book Cadillac Hotel. I admit that while I originally stated that I wasn't so geeked about its opening, I have heard very good things from people who have already tried it, and I am increasingly more intriqued by the the restaurant's champaign bar. I'll meet you there and we can all gather to toast failing businesses, uncertaintly in the work place, and high unemployment. Sounds fun.

But seriously, postive thinking leads to positive results...I think...

Detroit Army

Sunday, February 8, 2009

BELLE ISLE AQUARIUM

Apparently the point of the Belle Isle "Shiver on the River" was to promote public support of Belle Isle non-profit groups. This past Saturday, what seemed like every non-profit Belle Isle group ever, set up tables inside the Belle Isle Casino to show why we should pledge our funds and there seemed to be a decent turnout. Personally, I enjoy helping out the Belle Isle and its vast array of amenities whenever I can. With a layout created by New York City Central Park designer, Frederick Law Olmstead, the island is an unbelievable place, which, if given the proper care, can compete with any public space in the country.

The main reason for my visit to the Shiver on the River though, was to catch a glimpse of the now shuttered Belle Isle Aquarium. Closed in 2005 due to budget cuts, Saturday marked the first time that it was open to the public in four years. The aquarium has a long, and storied history. While only about the size of one showroom in some modern day aquariums, such as the stunning National Aquarium in Baltimore and Shedd in Chicago, the Belle Isle Aquarium opened on August 18, 1904, making it the oldest public aquarium in the country. Designed by Albert Kahn,

"The exterior of this structure was most noted for its Gothic style entrance. This highly decorated stone facade incorporated two spitting fish and the emblem of Detroit. Underneath, the word "AQUARIUM" was carved into the stone with the face of Neptune, the Greek God of Water. The facade and the front of building would soon become covered with vines, that would give it a more rustic appeal."
(Friends of the Belle Isle Aquarium)

While there were no fish in the aquarium on Saturday (the place is in no shape to be open, hence the need for support), it was previously home to 1,500 individual animals and 146 species. Now, with nothing inside but empty showcases, scattered furniture, and, even in lieu of the Friends of the Belle Isle Aquarium's best intentions, a distinct feeling of sorrow, it was hard not to imagine weekends past, where parents would take their kids, dress them in their Sunday's best, and watch them stare in amazement at everything the aquarium had to offer.

The preceding paragraph was meant to make you feel nostalgic, even if you never had the opportunity to visit, because in a time of economic crisis, it's hard to see how the Friends of the Belle Isle Aquarium group is going to find the resources to reopen this Detroit gem without massive public support. You can't, however, fault them for trying. I sincerely commend their efforts and will continue to give my support. I'm sure even the Friends of the Belle Isle Aquarium would admit that the aquarium might not be on on the top of everyone's list of important causes during these trying times, but even in times of hardship, it's nice to look forward to one day when this Detroit institution could be up and running once more.

If you are interested in supporting the Friends of the Belle Isle Aquarium's cause, you can help monetarily, or physically, by going to the Friends of Belle Isle Aquarium's website at Friends of the Belle Isle Aquarium.

If you are interested in learning about ways in which you can support Belle Isle and its institutions, you can check out the Friends of Belle Isle website here.

Below are some photographs taken this Saturday at the Belle Isle Aquarium. You can find the entire flickr set here.







Detroit Army

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

NEW, EXPANDED METRO DETROIT MOVIE STUDIOS TO ADD THOUSANDS OF JOBS

Good news arrived today in an otherwise miserable start to the year.

"A former Pontiac auto plant and the defunct MGM Grand Casino will be converted into film production studios that will create 4,000 new direct jobs in Metro Detroit, boosting one of the state's few fast-growing industries.

An $86 million digital animation and visual effects studio to be called the Detroit Center Studios will set up shop in the former MGM Grand Casino downtown, and is set to open by the end of the year. In Pontiac, a $54 million film production studio called Motown Motion Picture Studios will be built at General Motors Corp.'s former Centerpoint plant, according to Granholm's spokeswoman Liz Boyd."

If the movie industry is really going to have an impact in Michigan, steady, permanent jobs are necessary. Today, news from Pontiac, and the City of Detroit, give a glimmer of hope that jobs of this ilk may be forthcoming. While I am well aware that the proposed studios announced today will be housed in already abandoned buildings, I'd rather these buildings not be abandoned again. For that to happen, we'd better hope that other states don't pass tax breaks higher than our 42%. I do believe, however, that as long as Michigan's tax breaks remain the highest, or at least extremely competitive with other states, building permanent infrastructure before other states will be a key to keeping film making an itegral piece of our economy. No doubt, this is a positive development.

Check out some of the details at New, expanded Metro Detroit movie studios to add thousands of jobs

I'll keep you updated...

Detroit Army

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

ANTHONY BOURDAIN IN DETROIT

While filming the "rustbelt" series for his hit show, "No Reservations", Tony Bourdain and his good buddy Zamir were in Detroit this month showcasing the Detroiter experience during this wonderful and endearing economic downturn. Mr. Bourdain is a "TV personality, best-selling author, public speaker, weary world traveler, gourmand, punk-rock aficionado, proud New Yorker and, most recently, newlywed and doting father." He, "...continues to explore every corner of the globe on his Emmy-nominated Travel Channel series, now in its fifth season, Anthony Bourdain encounters the weird, wild and downright outrageous personalities and places that help define the international cultural landscape."

While I'm not privy to Mr. Bourdain's exact schedule while in Detroit, I was given access to rough plans for where the show would film. The plans included speaking with a former steel worker with Zug Island looming in the background, visiting Family Donut Shop in Hamtramck on Conant, a stop at a middle eastern restaurant in Dearborn, feather bowling at Cadieux Cafe, and a drink at Hamtramck's New Dodge Lounge.

As exciting as it was that Mr. Bourdain was filming in Detroit this month, I'd be lying if I didn't find it more more exciting that Mr. Bourdain and his crew used everyone's favorite blog, DetroitArmy.com, as a reference when planning the show's itinerary. While searching for a Polish restaurant to feature on the show, the show's producers were kindly pointed to DetroitArmy.com to check out my review of Polonia on Yemems in Hamtramck. Apparently they were impressed, with my post that is, and Polonia was their choice for Polish food. In interviews with the local media, Mr. Bourdain already proclaimed the duck blood soup at Polonia as some of the best he's ever had. I'll choose to take his word for it.

Look for Bourdain's show "No Reservations-Rust Belt Tour", to air later this year on the Travel Channel, on Mondays at 10:00 P.M., and keep in mind whose reviews Mr. Bourdain relies on when visiting the D.

Note to Mr. Bourdain, and Zamir, who was so kind and engaging when we met-If and when you come back to Detroit, and would like to eat Polish food again, try Polish Village Cafe or Under the Eagle, both in Hamtramck on Yemens and Jos. Campau respectively. Everyone has their favorites, but these two restaurants may be even better than Polonia...

Detroit Army

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

SPA 1924 GRILLE TO OPEN UP IN BOOK CADILLAC HOTEL

Originally Posted 10/9/08
Updated 1/21/09

1/21/09 Update


The Detroit Free Press reports that 24grille, one half of Spa1924Grille, is scheduled to open for dinner January 21, 2009, with lunch service to follow on January 26, 2009.

New restaurants are great. I don't know why I can't get hyped about this one. I hope I'm proved wrong.

The rest of the project though makes me believe that maybe the individuals behind this restaurant have something unexpected in store for us.

The Free Press goes on to state that, "Other parts of the project -- all opening in February -- include spa19, a full-service day spa adjoining 24grille; the intimate Champagne Bar, featuring more than 30 Moet Hennessey products by the glass or bottle, and the Plate Room, a private dining space that includes a display wall of original Book Cadillac china."

Looking forward to it...

Book Cadillac restaurant set to open for dinner

Original Post
10/9/08


I really hope that this works out, but I have no idea what it even means. Spa 1924 Grille will be opening up in one of the retail spaces along the Michigan Ave. side of the newly renovated Book Cadillac Hotel. Yes, its called "Spa 1924 Grille" which means it is in some way a combination of a restaurant and a spa. Do you get a facial while you're eating a sandwich? I really can't be sure, but I wish the business venture all of the best.

The group which owns and operates the restaurant is Entourage Restaurant Group and the spa services provided at the spa/grille will be provided by Todd Skog of Todd's Room in Birmingham. All three of the owners of the Entourage group purchased condos within the Book Cadillac, so they have an extra incentive to make the endeavor successful. Good luck to them.

See more information from the Detroit Free Press.

The website for the restaurant/spa can be found here

Detroit Army

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

HEY MITCH: DETROIT PRIMED TO PLAY MORE THAN DEFENSE

This week, ModelD contributing writer, Jim Boyle offers his response to Mitch Albom's poetic wax on what it means to be a Detroiter. Personally, I agree with Mitch. Our provincial ways, weariness of outsiders, internal squabbling, and us against the world mentality, makes us exactly who we are.

Yet, there is another side to this story, and Jim Boyle does a nice job of putting a spotlight on it. While, as Detroiters, we love to be written off because we believe that it's exactly this view on which we thrive, maybe it wouldn't hurt to do something very un-Detroit. Instead of creating a self-fulfilling prophecy for ourselves by molding our National image as one in which we should already be written off, maybe we should make all the great things that we have going for us clear to everyone else, and in turn, create an image which positions us for success.

Here's the article...Hey Mitch: Detroit Primed to Play More Than Defense

Detroit Army

Sunday, January 11, 2009

THE COURAGE OF DETROIT

A couple of days ago I was introduced to an article written by Mitch Albom for Sports Illustrated entitled "The Courage of Detroit."

Since first reading the article, about ten other people have forwarded it me with the headline reading, "I thought you should read this." Well, everyone who sent me the article was right on point, and I thank you for bringing it to my attention.

The title "The Courage of Detroit," sums up the article in the most succinct way possible. No matter what you think of Mitch, you can't argue with his sentiments in this one.

Take a look at Mitch's article here at The Courage of Detroit and don't be embarrassed if you get a little choked up (ok maybe that was just me).

Here's a glimpse

And yet Detroit was once a vibrant place, the fourth-largest city in the country, and it lives in the hope that those days, against all logic, will somehow return. We are downtrodden, perhaps, but the most downtrodden optimists you will ever meet. We cling to our ways, no matter how provincial they seem on the coasts. We get excited about the Auto Show. We celebrate Sweetest Day. We eat Coney dogs all year and we cruise classic cars down Woodward Avenue every August and we bake punchki donuts the week before Lent. We don't talk about whether Detroit will be fixed but when Detroit will be fixed.

To hell with Depression. We're gonna have a good year.

Detroit Army

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

BOOK BUILDING CLOSURE STIRS MEMORIES

Looks like Book Building and Tower has finally gone completely dark. While the 1928 Italian Rennasaince style tower has been on its last legs the last couple of years, there was always Bookies Tavern anchoring the bottom floor and keeping the historic building alive. That ended Monday night as the 2 a.m. last call was really the last call for Bookies. On a more upbeat note, Bookies Bar and Grill, will open within the next month in a renovated building at Cass and Columbia near the Fox Theatre -- three floors, a full kitchen and, for the nice weather, a rooftop deck.

In 2006, the Book Tower was sold to the Pagan Organization, a New York-based investment group. Within a year, the corporation running the building had gone bankrupt. Tenants complained about heating problems, elevator malfunctions, and the electricity periodically being turned off without warning. It's reported that a Canadian based firm, AKNO enterprises, presently owns the building.

On Tuesday, the Free Press reported,

"John Austerberry, a spokesman for DTE Energy, said power will be cut off Thursday unless the utility reaches an agreement with the owner over its $87,000 past-due bill.

George Ellenwood, of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, said water also will be severed in the coming days unless something is done about AKNO’s $18,593 bill."

Well, considering the city just regained the Book Cadillac, along with the Fort Shelby, at least it's two steps forward and only one step backwards for the West Side of Downtown...

Book Building Closure Stirs Memories

Detroit Army