Archives for October 2014

An afternoon with Mr. Jackson

  "I've seen the good, the bad, and the ugly." When asked how long he has lived in Detroit, Mr. Jackson, a fixture in the neighborhood around the El Moore, responds, "I have been here since nineteen hundred and sixty nine." Not quite elderly just yet, Mr. Jackson makes his way around his Midtown neighborhood somewhat slowly these days with the help of a cane. His preference for spelling out each and every part of the year in which he moved to this city more than four decades ago exposes the former Detroit elementary school teacher who graduated from Wayne State University where he received his teaching certificate and then, later on, his Masters degree. "I taught physical education and science," he says, adding that he also worked for the city's Parks and Recreation … [Read more...]

Construction Update: Week of October 20, 2014

As we move into colder weather, the need to complete any outside work becomes more and more evident. The little greenhouse on the west side of the property, a composite of repurposed materials, is attracting a lot of attention for its beautiful design. Fence posts are going in. Foundational work on the property is nearing completion, with gravel pits lining the borders of the property so that water can drain into the water table. The same is true for the alley, with the final portions of gravel just being added. Lifts have allowed the final application of metal siding to our bay windows on the 4th floor. Inside the building, drywall is allowing us a better sense of perspective when entering the various apartments. After drywall was applied to the walls of the rooftop cabins, the walls … [Read more...]

Detroit, the El Moore, and Jane Jacobs

The El Moore is a project under construction that will be a model of urban residential sustainable living. Like most cities in the United States, Detroit went through a phase of “urban renewal” in the mid-20th century, with very mixed results. Jane Jacobs, author of the seminal 1961 book on urban planning, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, helps “new” urban planners to understand the components of livable cities and functional neighborhoods. This post, a part of the series called the "Voice of Detroit”, describes how Jane Jacobs still influences development in Detroit. “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” ― Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities How is the El … [Read more...]

John White: A Story of Revitalizing a Detroit Neighborhood

Recently, when many people talk about the “rebirth of Detroit”, they proudly point to the flurry of redevelopment and resurgence mainly in three areas of our city: Downtown, Midtown, and Corktown. But as we native and long-time Detroiters know, there is much, much more to Detroit than those areas. People look to rehabilitation projects such as the El Moore for inspiration, but there is a lot of great work being done in many other neighborhoods in Detroit. John White is a long-time Detroit resident who has been working to redevelop one of those neighborhoods for over 15 years. We met John a few months ago when he started regularly attending the weekly Friday Community Lunches held at the Green Garage Detroit. The Green Garage is an historic and sustainable business incubator and … [Read more...]

Insights – Sue Mosey

If you know anything about the happenings in Midtown Detroit, you know that Sue Mosey, President of Midtown Detroit Inc., has been leading the charge to see to it that Midtown thrives as both a neighborhood and business center - no wonder she has come to be affectionately known as the "mayor of Midtown".  Sue has a knack for knowing which people to work with to ensure successful development projects and as such, it's not surprising that she approached the Green Garage team with the idea of bringing life back to the El Moore. I was fortunate to sit down for a few minutes to listen to Sue share about her involvement with the El Moore project: Question: You have been involved with the development of Midtown for quite some time. What has been your experience with the El Moore … [Read more...]

The Process of Detroit Community Building, Part 2

Over at the El Moore, a sustainable urban living project now under construction in Detroit at the corner of 2nd Avenue and West Alexandrine, we are also re-building a community. In his 2009 book, Community: The Structure of Belonging, Peter Block describes the plight of many of today’s communities: fragmented, trapped in dysfunctional and outdated paradigms of marginalization of residents, broken or nonexistent social services, and reduced senses of “neighborhood”. As the community that is the City of Detroit reinvents itself yet again, there many in the City who are lamenting what they perceive as a concentration on just a few neighborhoods or areas, such as Downtown, Midtown, and Corktown, while all of the other Detroit neighborhoods are being neglected by the “powers that be”. Block … [Read more...]

A sketch of turret windows

  "This is the first image that I did, and it's more illustrative. I wanted this to be a sketching project, which is why I went back to my sketchbook. With this one, it probably took me about an hour, and I just wanted to focus on that turret. And so there's a little bit of detail so far as the pattern of the brick goes, but I really just highlighted the windows and then the upper turret." So what was it about the turret that made it the first drawing? "I don't know. I kind of walked around, and there was a spot where I could sit across the street with my back up against the tree. So I sat there and looked, and I didn't know where to start, you know? So I just started drawing. I wanted to focus on that, so I purposely kind of pushed it over to the side of the building, … [Read more...]

The Voices of Detroit: The People of the Council of the Three Fires

The El Moore, a sustainable urban living reconstruction project in Detroit at the corner of 2nd Avenue and West Alexandrine, is a beautiful example of late 19th and early 20th century history in Detroit. But Detroit’s history, of course, goes much, much further back—starting with the original people to inhabit this area: the First Nations of the future Michigan Territory: the Ojibwa (also known as the Chippewa), the Odawa (also called the Ottawa), and the Potawatomi. These native and original inhabitants, especially the Potawatomi, represent the first “voices of Detroit”. Centuries ago, these three indigenous tribes, speaking a common language (Algonquin) formed a loose, family-like confederacy known as the Three Fires. These three nations were originally one group known as the … [Read more...]