Friday, April 24, 2009


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


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


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


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, "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

Monday, April 13, 2009


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


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 here.

Friday, April 3, 2009


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


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