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Oprah presents Detroit Kitchen Connect leader with $25K grant

In the short year since Devita Davison started Detroit Kitchen Connect, she has helped many of Detroit's burgeoning food entrepreneurs expand operations, bringing them out of their homes and into a licensed commercial kitchen. It's an opportunity that, without the help of a group like Detroit Kitchen Connect, not every hopeful business can afford. So it's no surprise that Devita and her group would be given a large grant to help grow.

What was a surprise, certainly to Devita, is the fact that Olympian Amy Purdy and American icon Oprah Winfrey would be the people presenting her that grant. And in front of 10,000 or so people, no less.

But there Devita was, Saturday, September 13, standing onstage on the second night of Oprah's The Life You Want event at the Palace of Auburn Hills. As Oprah leaned into Devita and said that she'd hold her through this, Purdy presented Devita with a $25,000 Toyota Standing O-Vation award for her commitment to supporting local food entrepreneurs.

Oprah's people approached Devita months ago, crafting the story that while they had no plans for the footage, they'd like to come down and create a video piece on the work she and Detroit Kitchen Connect have been doing. Maybe they'd find some use for it somewhere in Oprah's media empire, they said. Months later, they offered Devita tickets to the show at the Palace but, as she tells it, “I found out at 4:59. I got on stage at 5:00.”

The video was played, a check was presented, and the crowd cheered. And while hearing part of your life story narrated by Oprah is no doubt thrilling, Devita is able to keep the focus on the city and the work being done here.

"The story was told in a way that shows Detroit is coming back, but that it's also a city that is doing it from the ground up," says Devita. "It's an initiative accomplished through community capital. It's grassroots."

In that spirit, Detroit Kitchen Connect will be using some of the money to help community partner Saints Peter and Paul Orthodox Cathedral in southwest Detroit. The church is in desparate need of infrastructure repairs after experiencing two to three feet of flooding during one of this summer's heavy rainfalls. They plan on buying a better mixer for their bakers, too, along with a new oven. A local food entrepreneur scholarship program will also receive a boost.

Source: Devita Davison, Community Kitchen Coordinator at Detroit Kitchen Connect
Writer: MJ Galbraith

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

From #UIXDET 2014: Eve Picker, CEO of cityLAB Pittsburgh

Eve Picker's world is wrapped around cities and change. Her background as an architect, city planner, urban designer, real estate developer, community development strategist, publisher and instigator, gives her a rich understanding of how cities work, how urban neighborhoods can be revitalized, what policies are needed to do it, and the unique marketing that creates the buzz needed for regeneration. With cityLAB in Pittsburgh, her first non-profit venture, Eve is turning her passion for cities to broader, city-wide revitalization issues.

Picker will speak at the UIX Forum: The Art of Place on Wednesday, September 24 at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit. View her TEDxTalk, "My Cure for the Common City," here

From #UIXDET 2014: Joan Vorderbruggen, Made Here Minneapolis


"There's really no better word that can be used to accurately describe Joan Vorderbruggen than "dynamic." Vorderbruggen has a dynamic personality that she is able to use to lead dynamic public art projects that she creates from the ground up, working with a multitude of different artists and arts organizations (not to mention different personalities), all of whom adore her. She is an organizer, a leader, and a true inspiration – a word that maybe gets tossed around a bit too liberally but in Vorderbruggen's case is absolutely appropriate."

Vorderbruggen will speak at the UIX Forum: The Art of Place on Wednesday, September 24 at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit. View her full profile in Creative Exchange here.

Global Detroit expands efforts to retain and attract immigrant talent


Southwest Detroit is frequently discussed as the one working-class neighborhood in Detroit that is revitalizing. It’s blessed by some of the most innovative and sophisticated nonprofit arts and community development corporations in the nation.  While the community (as defined by the new Detroit City Council districts) is 39 percent African-American, 39 percent Latino and 18 percent white, it accounts for about half of the 35,000 foreign-born residents in the city. The neighborhood’s emerging success and its demographic makeup are not a coincidence.

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Knight Cities Challenge offers $5 million to uncover ideas to make cities more successful


Today we’re announcing the Knight Cities Challenge, a broad effort to uncover innovative ideas to make our cities more successful, and we’re investing $5 million to support projects that do this. Our question: “What’s your best idea to make cities more successful?”

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The biggest names in changing cities are converging at the Urban Innovation Exchange


Every day, urban trailblazers from around the country are breathing new life into changing cities. In late September, these leaders are coming to Detroit  to share ideas, inspiration and stories about (sometimes, quite literally) getting their hands dirty.

The venue, the Urban Innovation Exchange, is open to anyone invested in cities and change. The goal is to help inform, advance, and engage Detroit’s emerging innovation movement—but the ripple effects could have much larger impact given the people attending.

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Keepers of the Corner: The Navin Field Grounds Crew


On a warm Detroit evening this past August, I found myself standing atop the pitcher's mound where Hal Newhouser, Schoolboy Rowe, Dizzy Trout, Mickey Lolich and Denny McLain had previously toed the rubber, looking in towards the batter's boxes where the likes of Ty Cobb, Hank Greenberg, Al Kaline, Norm Cash and Willie Horton swung their sticks, and the home plate area that Mickey Cochrane and Bill Freehan once crouched behind.

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Michael Bloomberg: Detroit Is Just Like 1970s New York, And That's A Good Thing


The 1970s are remembered as dark days for New York City, as it teetered on the edge of bankruptcy amid rampant crime, urban decay and population loss. While it feels like ancient history for New York now, those problems are mirrored in present-day Detroit -- but that could be a positive sign for the city, according to some top voices in the financial sphere.

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Is it time to change the narrative about Detroit?


However improbable it might have seemed twenty, five, or even two years ago, Detroit could well be on the verge of a major turnaround that could make it one of the biggest success stories in urban America over the next decade.  Yes, that goes against conventional wisdom:  The standard narrative for Detroit has been about a bankrupt, vacant, decaying, post-industrial wasteland; an environmental, social and economic disaster.  Detroit has been the quintessential “shrinking city,” the poster child for everything that has gone wrong with the post-industrial Midwest.

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Innovation, creativity and art take over the streets of Detroit


This is a big week in Detroit and a great week for several Knight Foundation-sponsored events.  It is a week to celebrate the creative and innovative elements of Detroit’s growth and revitalization—and to have fun.

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Techonomy Taps Detroit's Magic on Sept. 16


When Techonomy’s Chief Program Officer Simone Ross first proposed in late 2011 that we consider doing an entire conference in Detroit, I was a little confused. Detroit? Isn’t Techonomy all about cutting edge, shiny, new, transformative technologies and the things being transformed? Why head to America’s most distressed big city? But Simone convinced me to head there with her before Christmas that year and I, like her, became captivated.

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City still seeks Brush Park development team, allows for higher densities

The city of Detroit has re-issued a slightly modified request for proposals for a Brush Park development first announced at the beginning of 2014. With that RFP long-expired and the city having not selected a plan, a new RFP was recently announced with a November 14 deadline.

The biggest differences between last January's RFP and the new one are a changes in residential density and land use parameters. While the previous RFP capped residential development in Brush Park at 15 to 35 dwelling units per acre, the revised RFP is allowing for larger developments of up to 60 dwelling units per acre.

According to the release, the City of Detroit's Planning and Development Department believes that, "[I]in order to better achieve the neighborhood scale, walkable, mixed-use vision of the future of Brush Park as set forth by P&DD and the Brush Park Citizens District Council, the current Development Plan is undergoing a major modification in order to allow a greater density of residential (up to 60 D.U./Acre) and a greater mix of uses within Brush Park."

The two parcels of land available in this RFP are the same as before. At approximately 7.5 acres, “Parcel A” is made up of four historic structures and 36 vacant lots bounded by Edmund Place (north), Brush Street (east), Adelaide Street (south), and John R (west). At approximately 0.90 acres, “Parcel B” consists of seven vacant properties and is bounded by Alfred (north), Beaubien Street (east), Division Street (south), and Brush (west).

The historic building at 312 Watson, known as “Parcel C” in January's RFP, is not included in this most recent request.

According to the RFP, the P&DD's new goals for the historic Brush Park neighborhood include creating residential density, promoting adaptive re-use, introducing neighborhood scale retail uses, and limiting surface parking lots.

Source: City of Detroit Planning & Development Department
Writer: MJ Galbraith

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Retiree finds second act with cooking company, AVC Kitchens

Vazilyn Poinsetta isn’t the stereotypical senior citizen. The Midtown resident retired from a mortgage company a few years ago and decided to do something different. She went back to school and eventually opened her own business.

"I might as well be 70 and get a degree in nutrition instead of waiting around saying woulda, coulda, shoulda," Poinsetta says.

The lifelong Detroiter started classes at Wayne State University soon after retiring. In 2012, she started taking advantage of the entrepreneurial education classes at Blackstone LaunchPad on campus. That inspired her to start AVC Kitchens, which teaches cooking classes in the city.

"They (Blackstone LaunchPad's staff and participants) are just wonderful," Poinsetta says. "I'm not very tech savvy, but I can still ask anyone in the program and they will show me what to do."

AVC Kitchens aims to combine education of cooking and healthy living. Poinsetta hosts cooking classes at Eastern Market and Focus: HOPE, teaching people how to create cost-effective meals with everyday ingredients -- meals that are both affordable and nutritious using ingredients local people can find just about anywhere.

"Not anything that is super expensive," Poinsetta says.

Source: Vazilyn Poinsetta, owner of AVC Kitchens
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Made in Detroit: Shinola's Quest to Revive American Manufacturing


For generations, Detroit was America’s stronghold. It was the country’s hub for auto manufacturing, where good hard work led to reward; a place where the American dream lived and thrived and was woven into the very fabric of the city.

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Women reshaping the face of small business in Detroit


Stop by a startup event in Detroit’s Techtown, and you’d be forgiven an assumption that Detroit’s economic future is very male and quite white. But don’t be too quick to jump to conclusions: Numbers and stories across Detroit’s neighborhoods tell a different story.

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