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The ascendance of metro Detroit's family foundations

It's hard to believe, but just 30 years ago, metro Detroit had no endowed family foundations. In recent years, however, names like Erb, Fisher, Davidson, Taubman, and Wilson have become well known to the people of metro Detroit—and for not how members of those families made their fortunes, but for how they are giving them away.
"The patriarchs of several major philanthropic Metro Detroit families have died in the last two years, leaving survivors, younger generations and foundation employees to carry on their legacies," writes Jennifer Chambers in a recent feature in the Detroit News on the increasing economic and social impacts  family foundations are making on metro Detroit.
"The impact of family foundations will be felt far and wide in the next decade, with billions of dollars coming into Detroit and the region, said Mariam Noland, president of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan."
Read more in the Detroit News.

What are metro Detroit's safest (and most dangerous) communities for peds, cyclists, and drivers?

Between 2004 and 2013, 373,377 traffic-related fatalities occurred in the U.S. The data visualization blog Metrocosm recently published an interactive map that plots every single one of those deaths, showing the type of fatality (pedestrian, cyclist, or motorist) and the factors leading to each accident (distracted driving, alcohol, and speeding).
While the map does not break down data by municipality or jurisdiction, it does allow users to search by community. To see where traffic-related fatalities occurred in your neighborhood, type your address into the map's search bar.
Click here to view the map.

The most interesting billionaire in metro Detroit you've probably never heard of

Manoj Bhargava is the 62-year-old, ex-ashram monk creator and founder of 5-Hour Energy, a company headquartered in Farmington Hills. 5-Hour Energy's 2-oz. bottles, now ubiquitous at party stores and gas stations around the country, revolutionized the energy drink market and made Bhargava a very rich man (he estimates his fortune at $4 billion).
But what's most interesting about Bhargava, however, is what he plans to do with his wealth. In addition to pledging to give 90 percent of it away to charity, he also runs a $100-million private equity fund called Stage 2 Innovations, which, according to the Wall Street Journal, is "dedicated to advances in water and energy technology."
Read about Bhargava's investments, as well as his daily routine, in this recent profile in the Wall Street Journal.

Dearborn moves statue of segregationist ex-mayor from old city hall to historical museum

In June, when a white supremacist murdered nine African Americans attending church in Charleston, South Carolina, the state's practice of flying the Confederate flag over its Statehouse became the subject of national scrutiny. After nearly a month of public debate, the South Carolina legislature voted to remove the flag.
Before that happened, veteran journalist Bill McGraw wrote a piece for Deadline Detroit reminding us that we have our own version of a Confederate flag here in metro Detroit, a statue of Dearborn's longtime mayor Orville Hubbard, a segregationist who actively promoted policies to keep minorities out of his city, which stood on the grounds of Dearborn's old City Hall since 1989.
"Orville Hubbard was our George Wallace, our Orval Faubus, our Strom Thurmond," wrote McGraw. "While his memory is fading 33 years after his death, Hubbard’s words and actions contributed much toward creating the difficult racial climate that has existed in metro Detroit for many years. In 1969, The New York Times wrote that 'Hubbard’s Dearborn is a symbol of the deep-seated racism of the North.'"
McGraw argued that it was time to remove the statue of Hubbard from what until recently was city property and into Dearborn's Historical Museum. And that is exactly what happened earlier this week.
According to the Detroit News, "[Hubbard's] will be the only statue on display at the museum at 915 Brady St. The museum, which brings in some 4,000 to 5,000 visitors annually, is on a mission to increase its public visibility. The Hubbard statue, which will face the street and ‘wave’ to passersby, is thought to help with that effort."
Read more: Detroit News

Make art in metro Detroit? You could win a MI Great Artist cash prize

If you live, work, or go to school in one of eight counties in southeast Michigan (Genesee, Lapeer, Livingston, Macomb, Oakland, Shiawassee, St. Clair or Wayne) and make visual art, you are eligible for the MI Great Artist competition and a share of the $16,000 in prize money that will be awarded to one winner and four finalists.
A project of the Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson's office, MI Great Artist is an online competition for visual artists, 18 years and older, with a relatively low barrier of entry. Applicants are required complete an entry form and submit five digital samples of original artworks. Those materials will then be posted to the MI Great Artist website for two weeks and the members of the public will be allowed to vote for their favorite entries once each day from October 21 through October 30, 2015. Twenty semi-finalists will be selected from the top public votes.  A five-member jury of arts professionals will then select five finalists.
Applicants have until noon on Wednesday, Oct. 7, to submit an application. To learn more about the contest, visit https://www.migreatartist.com.

NAACP branch in the works for the Grosse Pointes

Historically the Grosse Pointes have been closed to people of color, but that has begun to change in recent years, particularly in Grosse Pointe Park, where now over 10 percent of residents are black. Yet the Pointes have a long way to go in becoming welcoming communities. That's why two Grosse Pointe residents, Greg Bowens of the city of Grosse Pointe and Elaine Flowers of Grosse Pointe Park, have decided to organize a new chapter of the NAACP representing the five Pointes and neighboring Harper Woods.
According to Bill Laitner of the Detroit Free Press:
"Flowers wants the group to produce fine arts programs such as plays and concerts, organize discussion groups, arrange integrated youth activities and more. Bowens wants it to foster community-wide conversations about such local, pragmatic issues as whether the school district would benefit from having more black teachers — in fact, any black teachers, he said."
A meeting to discuss the potential for forming a Grosse Pointe NAACP chapter will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 23, at 7 p.m. at Rockefellers Oyster Bar & Grill in Grosse Pointe Park.
Read more: Detroit Free Press

Significant upgrades coming to SMART's fleet of buses

The Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART), the agency that provides metro Detroit with fixed-route bus service, is about to make a serious investment in its fleet of buses. According to Bill Shea of Crain's Detroit Business, SMART is set to purchase 80 40-foot buses at a total cost of $34.6 million.
Shea writes:
"The new buses are BRT or bus rapid transit models that are intended to operate more like streetcar or train vehicles. They also come equipped with a stainless steel rack for three bicycles, LED signs and nonskid flooring. They’re expected to last 12 years on the road, or 500,000 miles."
Currently 88 percent of SMART's 600-bus fleet has exceeded the Federal Transit Administration's useful life standards, reports Shea.
The investment in new buses is made possible thanks to voters in Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties approving a millage last fall, which has resulted in a $28 million increase in SMART's annual tax funding.
Read more: Crain's Detroit Business

Schoolcraft College to offer certificate programs in brewing and distilling

Renowned for its culinary arts program, Livonia's Schoolcraft College is expanding its food and drink focus by adding certificate programs in brewing and distilling. The programs will be among the first of their kind in Michigan, where the production of beer and spirits is a booming industry.
According to Crain's Detroit Business, the college "will invest $1 million into a seven-barrel brewing system to create an on-campus brewery and lab with a capacity to make 217-gallon batches of beer."
The 24-credit programs will feature courses designed by professionals from various Michigan breweries.
Read more: Crain's Detroit Business

In Southfield, man ditches lawn for native habitat

Amid the tidy suburban yards of Longcrest Street in Southfield, Michigan, John DeLisle's lawn sticks out like a sore thumb. Well, it's not so much a lawn as it is a prairie filled with chest-high wildflowers and deep-rooted native plants. While it may look chaotic to passers-by, it's an intentionally reconstructed native habitat that DeLisle tells Jim Schaefer of the Detroit Free Press has several environmental benefits.

"...This provides not only habitat for plants, animals and lots of other organisms — you know, decomposers, etc. — but it enables all of the pollutants from driveways and streets to be absorbed and processed in a natural way by the root systems of all these deep-rooted, native plants," says DeLisle.

While birds, bees, butterflies, and small animals love the yard, many of DeLisle's neighbors do not. But DeLisle tells Schaefer that if everyone had a yard like his instead of a conventional lawn, we would be able to divert over 90 percent of stormwater away from the sewer system, which would both keep pollutants out of our water and result in lower water treatment costs.

Read more and see a video of DeLisle's native habitat yard: Detroit Free Press

Cheers! Let's drink to the Michigan beer industry's $6.6 billion economic impact

Buying beer at your local party store isn't a simple task these days. In fact, it requires some head-scratching critical thinking. That’s because, in addition to the standard national brands, beer drinkers in Michigan have a plethora of local brands to choose from, many producing a wide variety of styles.
And the he volume of those choices is a reflection of one the most robust local beer economies in the country. According to a recent study by the Beer Institute and the National Beer Wholesalers Association, Michigan's beer industry contributes over $6.6 billion to the state's economy and generates over 35,500 direct jobs.
According to the Detroit Free Press, state and local governments benefit big from the Michigan beer industry's bounty. "Of the business and personal taxes generated, more than $367 million is state and local," they write. "And of the sales taxes, more than $174 million is state and local."
Read more: Detroit Free Press

Henry Ford Estate to celebrate centennial with folk music festival

This August marks the 100th anniversary of Henry and Clara Ford taking up residence at Fair Lane, a palatial estate surrounded by farm land in Dearborn, Michigan.
According to a release by the Henry Ford Estate, the Fords called Fair Lane home from 1915 to 1950. "Upon Clara’s death," they write, "Fair Lane was given to Ford Motor Company, and in 1957 Ford donated the estate and the farmlands to the University of Michigan for construction of the Dearborn campus. In 1966, it was among the first in the nation to receive the prestigious designation as a National Historic Landmark from the National Register of Historic Places. In June 2013, ownership of the Estate transferred from the University to the Henry Ford Estate, Inc., a new 501c3 corporation that will now restore, reimagine and reopen the Estate."
To celebrate Fair Lane's centennial, the Ford Estate will host the first ever Fair Lane Folk Festival on its grounds on Saturday, August 1, from 4-10 p.m.
The full lineup of musicians includes NBC’s "The Voice" finalist Joshua Davis, Matt Wertz, Frontier Ruckus, Rayland Baxter, The Accidentals, PigPen Theatre Co., Rachel & Dominic Davis, The Giving Tree Band, Chris Bathgate, Thunderwude and The Green Gallows.
In addition to live music, attendees will also be able to enjoy Michigan craft beers in the Bell’s Beer Garden, a variety of food trucks and local artisans and vendors.
Advanced tickets are available at two prices levels:
$25 general admission - Includes admission to festival, parking in a university parking lot, and access to estate grounds. If still available, tickets can be purchased on site on the day of the event for $35.
$75 VIP - Includes VIP parking at the estate, admission to festival, access to House, VIP reception in the air conditioned Pool Room with snacks, drinks and private acoustic performances.  VIP tickets are limited.
More information: fairlanefolkfest.org

Home prices in metro Detroit nearing pre-recession levels

It has been a long recovery for the housing market since it crashed in 2008, especially in hard-hit metro Detroit, but it looks like home prices are inching their way back to pre-recession levels.
According to the Detroit Free Press, "Local housing prices are now back to their January 2008 levels," although they are still 21 percent below their peak values of 2005 and 2006. The median housing price in metro Detroit was $162,900 as of June, over 9 percent higher than it had been a year before.
Read more: Detroit Free Press

Is Pontiac the model for blight removal in Michigan?

The city of Detroit's fight against blight is well documented, but it is not the only city in southeast Michigan dealing with this issue. Pontiac, too, is getting aggressive when it comes to the remediation of problem properties, particularly vacant homes, in distressed neighborhoods.
According to a recent opinion piece for Crain's Detroit Business by Bill Pulte, founder of the Detroit Blight Authority and managing partner of Bloomfield Hills-based Pulte Capital Partners LLC, Pontiac is a shining example for how cooperation across sectors can effectively combat blight and increase property values in distressed neighborhoods.
Writes Pulte:
"I have been invited to visit great cities, large and small, across the United States to present time-tested experience, guidance and solutions for their blight challenges. When I am there, I always share the Detroit success stories from the original pilots, but the story that I tell most is that of Pontiac's politicians and leaders working together to solve the problem and put the credit aside. From the beginning, the question in Pontiac has been: How do we quickly and completely remove all blight from our neighborhoods and our city to create a blight-free, truly prosperous city?"
To date, Pontiac has removed over a third of the 905 homes identified as blighted during a 2014 survey of the city's residential properties.
Read more: Crain's Detroit Business

Grosse Pointe Park adds large planters at border with Detroit

The saga of the Detroit-Grosse Pointe Park border on Kercheval Avenue just got a little stranger this week. On Tuesday, July 14, MLive reported that city of Grosse Pointe Park has added large planters to the area that has been reconfigured multiple times over the last year in ways that restrict Detroiters' access to Grosse Pointe Park's Kercheval business district.
A Grosse Pointe Park city official told MLive that the planters were nothing more than a beautification project.
Last year, Grosse Pointe Park erected sheds for its farmers market in the middle of Kercheval, blocking all vehicular traffic between that city and Detroit. The sheds were moved later in the year after an agreement was reached between Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and the city of Grosse Pointe Park to re-open the thoroughfare connecting the two cities. Earlier this year, Grosse Pointe Park installed a roundabout at the border that only allows one-way traffic to enter from Detroit.
While the newly installed planters do not restrict vehicular access between the cities, they do create a visual barrier.
According to MLive's Ian Thibodeau, "The nearly five-foot-tall planters Tuesday were being filled by a landscaping company with rocks, soil and trees. They were too heavy to move by hand, arranged along the Grosse Pointe Park border in a straight line. Several smaller planters were being placed, too. They were big enough that two landscaping workers could sit inside the planter to arrange the trees."
Metromode recently has been covering border dynamics in metro Detroit in its "Life on the Border" series. Read our feature on Detroit and Grosse Pointe Park here.
Read more: MLive

Stephen Colbert returns to TV...on public access in Monroe, Mich.

Stephen Colbert made a triumphant return to television yesterday, though it wasn't as the host of CBS's "Late Show." Colbert won't assume that post, which was held by the inimitable David Letterman for nearly 22 years, until Sept. 8. On July 1, Colbert returned to TV as the substitute host of "Only in Monroe," a cable access show broadcast from Monroe, Michigan.

Colbert's show was posted on the "Late Show" YoutTube Channel yesterday. In the episode, Colbert sits in for "Only in Monroe" regular hosts (whom he interviews), takes a shot of whiskey, and discusses the cresting of the River Raisin and his favorite Bob Seger songs with none other than Marshal Mathers (aka Eminem).

Check the show out for yourself:

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