Unmistakably Detroit

The places and people that make Detroit unique

July 23, 2016
by Liz Carson
Comments Off on Heidelberg Project

Heidelberg Project

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We all have a short list of places we have lived (relatively) near our whole lives but have never visited. For me, The Heidelberg Project was on the top of that list – until last May. Check out our visit (and then plan your own!).

 What is It?

I think The Heidelberg Project is one of the most misunderstood “attractions” in Detroit. People that have lived here awhile have surely heard about it, but the question I got a lot after telling friends about our visit is – “What is it?”. The easy answer:”It’s art.” And for those that appreciate art, that is enough. But, The Heidelberg Project has a much more profound mission and vision (as written on their website)

Our mission is to inspire people to appreciate and use artistic expression to enrich their lives and to improve the social and economic health of their greater community…” and

The theory of change for the Heidelberg Project begins with the belief that all citizens, from all cultures, have the right to grow and flourish in their communities.”

And flourish it does…

 

Our Visit

During our visit, we were lucky enough to meet artist and founder Tyree Guyton. He is a friendly, welcoming, and unassuming man that walked up to us shortly after we arrived and said hello. He told us that he loved my daughter’s brightly colored clothing and invited her to paint a circle for him on the sidewalk. Abby decided to paint a big smiley face instead. We also had a chance to chat with Tyree for a few minutes and I asked him how he has kept the Heidelberg project going despite all the fires and other challenges. Of course, I didn’t think to write down his answer (that would be way too professional-like), but the gist of what he said is that he works hard and it takes a little bit of crazy. Isn’t that how most good ideas flourish into a beautiful reality?

 

Abby's smiley face

Abby’s smiley face

 

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We got to meet Tyree Guyton!

The "Dot House" - one of only a few actual house structures that remain after all the arson over the last few years.

The “Dotty Wotty House” – one of only a few actual house structures that remain after all the arson over the last few years.

 

One of the houses that was a victim of arson. The foundation and basement are full of new art.

One of the houses that was a victim of arson. The foundation and basement are full of new art.

Small park (with some art thrown in) located one block over from Heidelberg Street.

Small park (with some art thrown in) located one block over from Heidelberg Street.

 

Just reading a book....

Just reading a book….

 

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Call me….maybe

 

My artsy shot of the orange shoe…

 

Human sundial at the corner of Heidelberg and Mount Elliot. It worked!

Human sundial at the corner of Heidelberg and Mount Elliot. It worked!

 

Anyone need a ride?

Anyone need a ride?

 

A good reminder!

A good reminder!

 

Plan your visit:

Location: Heidelberg St (near Mount Elliot). Heidelberg is a short street so just map directions to Heidelberg Street, Detroit and you’ll be set.

Parking: Free parking on the street(s).

Cost: Free! (But donations are encouraged if you are able to do so.)

Safety?: Yes, it is not in the greatest area, but No, we never felt unsafe. My advice is to go during the day and stay near the art. I felt completely comfortable walking around with my mom and my kids on a Sunday afternoon.

Other: We spent close to 2 hours wandering around, talking to Tyree, playing on the little playscape, and taking lots of pictures – but, you could spend as little as 15 minutes and still see everything. The gift shop was also open when we were there (located in the Numbers house).

On the front steps of the Numbers House.

On the front steps of the Numbers House.

April 25, 2016
by Sylvia Fronczak
Comments Off on Neighborhood Spotlight – Brightmoor

Neighborhood Spotlight – Brightmoor

Brightmoor has seen it’s share of bad press and has not had a great reputation for a while. It has been known for crime, abandoned buildings and blight. However, people are working hard to change that. But can the perception that everyone has of this neighborhood change too?

The Brightmoor neighborhood is about four square miles in size. It was originally created to provide inexpensive housing for migrant workers back in the 1920s. It provided low cost housing for many families – families that were living in shantytowns prior to their homes’ completion. It was affordable and held promise and potential for those that lived here. Unfortunately, over the next several decades the population decreased and crime came in to fill the void.

Now organizations want to come in and restore the neighborhood and help it live up to its potential. Organizations like Detroit Blight Authority and the Brightmoor Alliance are working towards building a better community.

The Detroit Blight Authority began fighting blight in 2013. Since 2014, 200 structures have been removed from Brightmoor to fight blight. These have been turned into areas for community use and gardens.

The Brightmoor Alliance is a group of close to 50 organizations that are working to serve the community. This organization was established in 2000 to respond to the poor conditions in this neighborhood: vacant land and abandoned houses, high crime rates and dilapidated housing.  They are working to make Brightmoor a place where a family can live in safety and comfort. One of the most promising things is that their plan is happening with input from those still in the neighborhood. Their mission and plans to Restore the ‘Moor are ambitious but possible.

Brightmoor’s mission:

Brightmoor is an innovative community where people, especially of modest means, can live, learn, work, commune, recreate and worship in a safe, healthy, culturally diverse and sustainable environment.

These organizations aren’t alone in the fight. Neighbors Building Brightmoor is an organization of people that are working to revitalize the community. They help organize and coordinate many events in the area that support the growth and renewal of the neighborhood.

Another weapon that the people of Brightmoor are employing to take back their neighborhood is gardening. They are using gardens to take over abandoned space and also bring in money for their efforts. Take some time to visit the Brightmoor Artisan’s Community Kitchen.

Or if you’re interested, check out this Brightmoor Kitchen cookbook.

Brightmoor is definitely changing and there are a lot of people working to make it happen. We’re looking forward to seeing what this promising community will turn into.

 

April 23, 2016
by Liz Carson
Comments Off on That One Time I Was Robbed in Detroit….

That One Time I Was Robbed in Detroit….

Riding bikes along the RiverWalk.

Riding bikes along the RiverWalk.

Almost two years ago while on a bike ride along the RiverWalk with my kids, my wallet got stolen from my minivan. Since there was no damage to my van, I assume that I had been distracted by my two kids and our three bikes and forgot to lock the door – and had left my wallet in the van. I know better than to leave a wallet in an unlocked car – but it still sucked. I remember our bike ride being a ton of fun – it was a beautiful sunny August day – perfect hanging out on the RiverWalk and exploring. I didn’t even know my wallet was gone until I started getting calls from my credit card companies while I was driving home. And it was then that a fun day went downhill….

I wanted to blog about the experience when it happened – but how would it not be just another story about something shitty happening in the D? Or another “Detroit tip” to not be stupid and make sure you lock your doors and don’t leave your wallet in your car? I love to tell positive stories about Detroit, but I felt like I couldn’t honestly turn this one into something positive. So I kept silent. I got all my credit cards canceled, moved on and didn’t hold this one infraction against the whole city. These things just happen.

Then something else happened.  A couple weeks ago I learned that Facebook automatically filters messages that it thinks are spam – so I followed the steps to retrieve all my long-lost filtered messages. There were almost 10 years worth of messages in this “hidden” folder. Most of them were junk, but then I saw a message from Elise Simon. I don’t know Elise, but something made me click on the message to see what it was – and here is what I found:

good morning. My name is Elise Simon. Yesterday on August 3rd 2014, I found some items on the ground that I believe belong to Ms. Elizabeth Carson. I was in downtown Detroit near Miliken State Park which is the park near Chene Park. Feel free to call me at…..”

Holy crap!!!! Elise had found my stuff!! Even though I had canceled all my cards almost two years ago, I still wanted to reach out to her so I sent her a message and got a response back within a couple hours.  She STILL HAD MY CARDS!!! She had kept them safe for me for almost two years. I also learned that she had found another woman’s stuff in the pile with mine and had contacted her as well and was able to return that woman’s stuff right away.

Elise and I had chatted back and forth a bit via Messenger. I told her about my Unmistakably Detroit blog, she told me about the music festival named Charavari (which was why she was on the RiverWalk that same day in August). We learned that we both love the City of Detroit.

And that’s when this became a story that I wanted to share. Because I no longer needed to add some sort of fake positive spin. I now have a real one. Yes, bad things happen – in Detroit and everywhere. But there are awesome people out there. And I like to believe that some of the most awesome people happen to live right here in Detroit. I can’t wait to meet Elise at Charavari this summer!

CorktownSign

April 10, 2016
by Liz Carson
Comments Off on What Detroit Looks Like To An Out-of-Towner

What Detroit Looks Like To An Out-of-Towner

The company I work for is headquartered in Denver but has 5 pretty large plants in Ohio, so corporate folks travel to them often and always fly in and out of Detroit. As all Detroiters know….flying in and out of Detroit Metro Airport does NOT give one a very good view of what Detroit is like.

So I have decided to change that. One out-of-towner at a time.

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of introducing my friend and colleague Sherri to Detroit after we spent a few days in Defiance, Ohio. Instead of just dropping her off at her airport hotel the night before her flight, I took her out to dinner in the D!  And as an added bonus, we did a little pre-dinner drive-by tour of downtown.

It’s always interesting to hear an “outsider’s” perspective. Sherri had never been anywhere in Detroit except for the airport (which obviously is not in Detroit), so she was a blank canvas. And I was happy to be the tour guide for her virgin tour of Detroit.  Here’s some of what she noticed and commented on:

-Corktown. Sherri  commented on the brick streets and the overall “alive” feel of Corktown. She also was really impressed with the food at Gold Cash Gold (me too!!)

-Canada. She didn’t realize how close we were to Canada!

-Architecture. We drove down Griswold and she noticed how awesome the Guardian Building is before I even had a chance to point it out. Plus she commented on a few other buildings along the way.

-Stargate in Hart Plaza (i.e. the UAW monument). Sherri snapped a picture to send to her husband. I couldn’t explain why we have Stargate….does it get us to Canada without going through customs? One of Detroit’s mysteries I guess.

-Greektown. Monroe Street was looking lively and fun as usual!

And perhaps the best comment was Sherri’s overall thoughts on downtown Detroit. She told me that it was very different than what she expected and that she felt like she now had enough first hand info to say good things about Detroit to others. What a win!

March 7, 2016
by Sylvia Fronczak
Comments Off on Neighborhood Spotlight – Corktown

Neighborhood Spotlight – Corktown

I was talking to a few people last week about great places to check out in Corktown and was beyond shocked that some people are either just discovering the area or don’t even know where it is or why they should go there. How could one of my favorite neighborhoods still be an unknown or unfamiliar destination? Obviously someone is not doing her job in spreading the word.

Corktown - Detroit's Oldest Neighborhood since 1834Corktown is the little corner marked off by Rosa Parks, I-75, the Lodge, and Porter. It is one of Detroit’s oldest neighborhoods and is considered a historic district. Though predominantly a residential area, there are still great places to spend your money in Corktown. In fact, due to the affordable location this has become a home for creative and original restaurants and bars.

Why is it called Corktown? Some people believe that the name comes from corks used during prohibition and the bootlegging that occurred between Detroit and Windsor. Sorry prohibition peeps, the name’s history is a bit less innocuous. During the Irish potato famine of the 1840’s, a large number of Irish immigrants fled to other countries. The ones that settled in present day Corktown were primarily from Cork County in Ireland. Although it had Irish roots, many other nationalities made their way into Corktown, including German, Mexican and Maltese.

If you can’t get enough Corktown history, check out the Corktown Historical Society page on Facebook.

With St. Patrick’s day coming up, you’ve got a great reason to check out this beloved neighborhood. It’s almost time for the Corktown St. Patrick’s Day Parade! This fun event gets everyone out and in the mood for some fun.

Next up are some of the awesome places that make Corktown a fun destination. The places we love keep pulling us back so we haven’t been able to check out every place on the list, but we will soon!

Continue Reading →

March 6, 2016
by Liz Carson
Comments Off on DNR Outdoor Adventure Center

DNR Outdoor Adventure Center

My family and I finally had a Sunday with no plans so we decided to head down to the (relatively) new DNR Outdoor Adventure Center located east of downtown along the Riverwalk.  What a great place to spend a few hours – especially on a cold/snowy day when there aren’t as many outdoor options available.

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The Outdoor Adventure Center is located in a beautifully renovated building located along the Riverwalk

 

Once inside the building, you feel like you are outside – there’s lots of sunlight coming in from the windows and the outdoor displays are fantastic! One of the main features is a multi-story waterfall with a pond, including some stones to walk (or jump/run in the case of my kids!) across.

Jumping across stones, that are a part of the waterfall display,

Jumping across stones, that are a part of the waterfall display,

 

Another favorite part is the hanging bridge. It wobbles just enough to add some excitement, but not too much to make it scary. My 8 year old went across it many times.

The hanging bridge is an awesome feature and fun for all ages!

The hanging bridge is an awesome feature and fun for all ages!

My 10 year old enjoyed the simulators – there are many –  snowmobile, ATV, mountain bike, kayak, fishing boat…plus a laser shot simulator to get a little taste of hunting (I was pretty good at squirrel hunting!).

Having fun on the snowmobile simulator!

Having fun on the snowmobile simulator!

 

Practicing his kayak skills!

Practicing his kayak skills!

 

There is also a multi-level tree to climb up and slide down. Even my 10 year old still enjoyed this feature and I bet the younger kids could play in it for hours.

Lots of climbing, plus a slide!

Lots of climbing, plus a slide!

The Outdoor Center is also equipped with an indoor archery range and my kids  got the opportunity to participate in a free 30 minute archery lesson. They learned how to properly hold the bow and shoot and then each kid got to take 3 shots at a target.  The instructors told us that they would start hosting regular archery lessons as well (in addition to the free introductory lesson).

Archery Range

Archery Range

We ended our afternoon on the third floor where you can pretend to fly like an eagle and then have a photo op in an eagle’s nest. (You type in your email address and the photo gets emailed to you instantly!)

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The family! (Note- the smiles were not simulated - they are 100% real!)

The family! (Note- the smiles were not simulated – they are 100% real!)

All in all, we had a great 2 hours at the DNR Outdoor Center and highly recommend it to any families looking for an easy outing in the D. Here’s some additional information to help you plan your trip!

Location: 1801 Atwater Street in Detroit

Parking: FREE SECURE lot located adjacent to the Center

Cost: $3 for kids, $5 for adults

Favorite thing to do: Sam (10 yo) says: The simulators!; Abby (8 yo) says:  playing in the tree fort;  Timm (the dad!) says: exploring the third floor (where the eagle’s nest and a eagle flying simulator is); and I (the mom!) says: finding a place to go on a snowy day where everyone has fun and doesn’t fight!

February 22, 2016
by Sylvia Fronczak
Comments Off on Local Inspiration – Project Scissor Gait

Local Inspiration – Project Scissor Gait

When looking for people doing amazing things, it’s sometimes easy to look past our own neighborhoods and friends. If you take the time to look around you, you will find there are may people that can inspire and motivate you.

Project Scissor Gait LogoThis brings us to Dearborn native Marty Sheedy. Born with multiple birth defects, Arthrogryposis Congenita Multiplex and Prune Belly Syndrome, his doctors said he would likely not live past three. And if he did make it past that age, he would be hindered from leading a productive life. Fortunately for us, Marty was able to rise above that.

Not only has he lived past the age of 3, he is now approaching 30 and inspiring those around him. He’s not only living, but living a life that many tend to only dream about. He travels, speaks to groups about his story and has dedicated his life to his mission.

A few years ago Marty founded Project Scissor Gait, an organization that helps him fulfill his mission of spreading his story and motivation as well as  helping others with the same birth defects that he has. He works with both Shriners Hospitals for Children and the Arthrogryposis and Prune Belly Associations as well as others to give others hope and show them what is possible.

Marty is living a full life filled while helping and motivating others. He not only has the support and love of his family and friends, he’s even building a celebrity following, having been on stage with musicians and spending time with our local sports heroes at events. He is a local celebrity to be proud of. Check this inspiring story out on Facebook or the Project Scissor Gait website.

February 10, 2016
by Sylvia Fronczak
Comments Off on 5 Detroit Charities You May Not Know About

5 Detroit Charities You May Not Know About

There are a lot of wonderful charities working to make Detroit a better place. Some of them have been making it into the press lately and getting the recognition they deserve. However, there are also a number of charities that are sometimes less visible and also doing a lot of good work. Let’s take a look at some of these.

1. Freedom House Detroit

We are incredibly fortunate to live in a country like the United States. Not everyone has that opportunity and many risk their lives trying to leave their native homes in search of a better life. Freedom House works with legal refugees from other countries trying to get asylum here.

They asylum process is long and difficult. This organization works with the families to provide English instruction, food, temporary shelter and assistance in finding jobs. It helps these people become productive so that they can contribute to our society and benefit from the freedoms that this country provides.

2. Detroit Public Safety Foundation

Public safety in Detroit is still a concern. We have a large city with not enough time and money to do all that is needed. The Detroit Public Safety Foundation helps our Police and Fire departments fund programs to help the public. The foundation helps in many ways, from things like providing office equipment and needed software to developing and securing funding for community programs.

3. PBJ Oureach

PBJ Outreach, based in Plymouth, works with the poor in the Detroit area by providing food and clothing. It started with the serving of Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches to the homeless people in Detroit after the founder was inspired by seeing someone do the same in Boston.

It started with feeding 30-40 people in Cass Corridor, and now it is up to 250-350 people every week. You can help them by donating or volunteering to keep up the good work.

2. Penrickton Center for Blind Children

This non-profit is proud to say that they operate solely based on donations. The Penrickton Center for Blind Children is in Taylor and has been providing day care and live in help for blind, multi-disabled children since 1952. Not only do they provide help to families with these children, but they do it absolutely free of charge. The fact that they’re able to do this without receiving any state, federal or insurance funding is a sign that their donor base is amazing and I’m sure they’d love to keep that going into the future.

The center helps the children through learning activities and works to make the children as independent as possible. They also help the families of the children learn to work with the disabilities and provide a number of other benefits.  I’ve spent some time here the past two Christmas seasons and am thrilled I had the opportunity to help and visit.

The center is warm and inviting and you can tell the children there are happy and getting the additional care and love they need.

1. Matrix Human Services

You may not have heard of Matrix Human Services, but their impact can be seen all over Detroit. They are working towards breaking the generational cycle of poverty in the city of Detroit and the surrounding communities. When donating to them, you can expect 90% of your donation going directly to those who need it.

I had the opportunity to volunteer at the Matrix Center on E McNichols a while ago and it was great to see how hard they work with the community to help those in need. In one location they have after school programs, a food pantry, community classes for computer literacy, counseling, training and more. If you haven’t looked into what they offer yet, check it out and consider donating to an organization helping Detroiters on a daily basis.

 

February 4, 2016
by Sylvia Fronczak
Comments Off on This Night is Classified

This Night is Classified

It seems like everyday there’s a business opening up in Detroit. It’s almost becoming hard to keep track of. The amount of links I see is staggering, showing the “Best 5 New Midtown Restaurants,” “You won’t believe these 10 New Bars In Detroit” and “Yet another Bike Shop Opens Up!”

Of course while new places are always fun and exciting, let’s not forget some of the great spots around Detroit that have been here for longer than most of us have been alive. These are the true Detroit lovers that have stood the test of time and are still here providing to residents.

Classified Location

Stopped in front of one of our destinations

With that in mind, we recently had the great experience of going on the Detroit Bus Company’s Drunks of Antiquity tour. The locations are classified, so we’re doing our best to not give it away. Occasionally one of the stops will rotate, but they typically use the same route. You are able to schedule a private tour, however, and then have a little bit of leeway in your stops.

We started at Foran’s Grand Trunk for dinner. The bus pickup locations are not classified mostly, well, that would be tough. Running around the city hoping a bus will pick you up is not the greatest of plans. Speaking of bad plans, we didn’t have much time there to eat since we got there 30-40 minutes prior to the bus’s departure. However our awesome server had our meals boxed up when they came out and we were able to eat once we got on the bus. From there our ride headed to pick up more passengers and some of our friends at the Rosie’s pickup stop in Ferndale. If you plan on eating before hand (which is highly advised), make sure to get to the restaurant one to one and a half hours before the bus leaves. You may spend some time sitting and waiting, but that’s better than missing dinner or the bus!

The ride itself is entertaining. Our tour guide gave us some history of the bars we were about to visit and some fun trivia as well. Each of the bars we visited had character and an interesting story. The bartenders, owners and managers were all friendly and seemed excited to have us crash the place. Even the regulars didn’t seem to mind us showing up en masse.

We had fun, were able to experience some places we’ve never been before and met a few new friends along the way. We also learned a few things on the ride that we can share with you.

Elk with tie

The tie adds some fanciness to the occasion

Tips and Tricks

You can bring a cooler on the bus, but it should be SMALL! It’s an old school bus and on our journey every seat had two people in it. Also, blocking the aisle is a big no-no. You don’t want to trip your fellow drunks as they’re trying to get off the bus.

There will also be plenty of time for drinking at the four stops, so don’t feel like you need to bring a cooler. We did not feel rushed at any of the bars and had time for two drinks each at least. Of course that doesn’t mean you should have two drinks plus a shot at each bar. That would be a bad idea and the rest of your weekend may be shot. This is experience talking here, and you should listen.

Most of the bars only take cash. Even if they take credit cards, your plastic is just slowing the process down and preventing everyone from getting served in a timely fashion.

And finally, behave yourselves. Just because this tour has “Drunks” in the name does not mean you should show up half in the bag. If you do not play nice, they may kick you off the bus. This is a very rare occurrence, but lucky us got to witness it first hand. And no, it wasn’t our group. We’re well behaved and happy drunks.

The End of the night

 

 

January 31, 2016
by Liz Carson
Comments Off on Why Does DPS Matter?

Why Does DPS Matter?

Photo from DPS website

Photo from DPS website

There are 46,000 students in Detroit Public Schools. 46,000 kids who are not getting a quality education right now – because how does one learn when the ceilings are falling down, there aren’t enough teachers, the temperatures inside buildings are extreme, and there is mold making you sick.  Don’t these 46,000 students deserve better? Don’t they deserve an education that will give them equal footing to their suburban peers? We need DPS to once again be a successful and thriving school district, because there are 46,000 kids that are counting on it.

 

46,000 kids who may grow up to be…..

  • Researchers who discover a cure to cancer;
  • Soldiers who fight for our freedom;
  • Pastors and ministers who inspire a community;
  • Moms and dads who will pass knowledge on to the next generation;
  • Engineers who will design the next big thing;
  • Doctors who will take care of us;
  • Community activists who will make sure that ALL of Detroit rises again;
  • Lawyers who will fight for justice for the underprivileged and underrepresented;
  • Athletes who will inspire us to push ourselves;
  • Environmentalists who will ensure future generations have clean water to drink and clean air to breath;
  • Artists who will show us the beauty all around us;
  • Therapists who will help those that are struggling; and
  • Teachers who will continue to fight for their students no matter how hard it is.

And what happens if those 46,000 kids don’t get a quality education? What happens if they are continued to be forced to try to learn under conditions that just get worse each year? Of course, some will beat the odds and still do great things, but I fear that overall, the list above will look much different. Much bleaker. 46,000 kids are counting on us. And we as a community should be counting on them. Because they are 46,000 chances to make a difference.