Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Ford announces their plans for Michigan Central Station

The crowd as Ford Motor Co. announces its plans for Michigan Central Station - Photo by Frank Nemecek
Ford Motor Company officially announced its intentions to renovate the long-vacant Michigan Central Station in Detroit's Corktown neighborhood this morning. Company chairman Bill Ford declared that the train station will once again be a place of possibility; a crucial part in their strategy to ensure that Detroit remains the "mobility capital of the world."

There will be a lot more details coming in the weeks and months to follow. The key takeaway, though, is that Ford Motor Company will continue to have a strong presence in Dearborn while expanding its foothold in Corktown, where it already has offices.

This, in my opinion, is huge news. With Ford making large investments in Dearborn and Corktown, it can only mean good things for adjacent neighborhoods like Warrendale.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Open Letter to Keith Crane

The editor-in-chief of Crain's Detroit Business, Keith Crain, published an op-ed recently that was highly critical of dedicated bicycle lanes in Detroit. I wrote a response to him, which my readers will find below.

If Mr. Crain responds to me, I'll be certain to include his rebuttal in a future post. Without further ado, I present my open letter to Keith Crain.

_________________

Dear Keith Crain:

You seem confused by the City of Detroit's decision to install bike lanes in many parts of the Motor City. You even asked whose idea it was and why you didn't hear about it before those municipal bureaucrats began implementing it.

Since you asked, I'll answer.

The idea of adding bike lanes was discussed extensively when Detroiters began debating the future of our city. There were several meetings about this back in 2011 - 12 where residents, business owners, and other stakeholders came together to consider our options as part of the Detroit Works Project and, later, the Detroit Future City project.

Adding bike lanes and offering residents and visitors multiple options to get where they need to go were one of the many principles that were discussed and agreed to.

I'm not surprised that you weren't familiar with this, though. Crain's Detroit Business was the only media outlet in southeastern Michigan that didn't cover those meetings. In order to avoid confusion like this in the future, I suggest that you pick up a subscription to the Detroit Free Press.

Your pal,
Frank

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

5 Reasons to move the Detroit Grand Prix

Helio Castroneves races in Detroit
Photo by Nic Redhead/Flickr
The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix will return to remain on Belle Isle this weekend. This year, like every year, there have been protests from those who want to the island park to be a more tranquil refuge.

While I love the Grand Prix and all that it contributes to Detroit, I believe that the best of course of action is to build a permanent, municipally owned facility for auto racing within the city of Detroit. The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix should, of course, remain on Belle Isle while a new facility is being designed and constructed. However, there should be no doubt that it is time for the race to move.

I have five reasons for why I believe this should be done.

Reason 1: Money
Red Bull Rallycross on Belle Isle
Photo by Frank Nemecek
The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix brings an impressive amount of money into Detroit. However, I believe that we are getting a tiny fraction of its potential from a permanent racing facility.

We have the Grand Prix for three days each summer. However, Detroit is no longer a stop on the Red Bull Global Rallycross series, at least in part due to the challenges of having another temporary racetrack on Belle Isle during the summer months.

In addition, Detroit is not a stop on the MotoAmerica racing circuit for motorcycles nor do we have any snowmobile racing events here in the winter.

It's almost impossible to have temporary facilities for all of these races. By opting to only have a temporary racing facility on Belle Isle, we are missing out on the potential revenue from having multiples races on several different weekends throughout the year in a permanent facility.

Reason 2: More Money
Weddings are currently a $72 billion dollar industry in the United States, according to industry data. Belle Isle is already a somewhat popular destination for weddings. The Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, the Belle Isle Casino, and the Detroit Yacht Club are all popular wedding venues. The Detroit Boat Club has also hosted weddings in recent years and, with more renovations, has the potential for even more.

Wedding Cake - Photo by Cleiton Isoton
Moreover, May and June are two of the busiest months for weddings. This is important because the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix keeps much of Belle Isle tied up for most of May and June. Sometimes, the teardown for it even stretches into early July.

May, June, and July, by the way, are peak wedding season.

I, therefore, have to ask the question: why in the world would anyone in their right mind want to keep a popular wedding destination tied up during the busiest time for weddings?

This is like owning a toy store and closing it in November and December when everyone is looking for Christmas presents for their kids.

This is like owning a costume shop and closing it in October when everyone is looking for Halloween costumes.

This is like owning a bar and closing it down when Charlie Sheen comes to town.

Okay - that last one might actually be a good idea. Charlie Sheen does have a reputation for getting a little too wild when he drinks.

Anyway, the point here is that weddings are a $72 billion industry, Belle Isle is a popular wedding destination, and we're closing it during peak wedding season. All of that money, therefore, has to be spent elsewhere and it's usually not within the Detroit city limits.

And forcing people to spend lots of money outside of Detroit is simply not a good idea.

Reason 3 - Still More Money
Music festival - Photo from Pixabay
When a permanent racing facility isn't hosting a race, it is routinely used to host music festivals and other events - all of which generate more money for the local economy. The Daytona International Speedway hosts the Country 500 Music Festival on Memorial Day weekend. The Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan hosts the Faster Horses Country Music Festival in July. The Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California hosts the HARD Summer Music Festival in August.

The list goes on and on. Hosting a music festival at a speedway is an established business model that event producers have down to a science. All of these events pump large amounts of cash into the local economy, with attendees traveling from out of state or even from outside of the country to attend.

As a related sidenote, now that the WYCD Hoedown has abandoned its traditional location in downtown Detroit for the DTE Music Theatre in Clarkston, I would love to see something like a speedway lure them back.

Regardless, the point stands: a speedway is a well-established location for a music festival. Detroit is missing out on yet another driver for our local economy.

Reason 4 - Did I mention money?
Beach volleyball - Photo from Pixabay
By keeping Belle Isle tied up with the Chevrolet Grand Prix for so much of the year, not only are we as a community missing out not only a significant slice of the wedding industry, we are also missing out on the opportunity to have other, smaller events on the island during that time period as well. Purely from a logistical and operational standpoint, it's extremely difficult to have other events on the island when half of it is taken up for the race.

We are missing out on a chance to have beach volleyball tournaments on the Belle Isle Beach. Even smaller tournaments will bring in a few thousand dollars. Larger ones, like any of the AVP Beach Volleyball Tournaments, have an economic impact that rivals the grand prix.

We are missing out on a chance to re-open the Remick Band Shell and have a series of smaller concerts there.

We are missing out on fishing contests at the island's South Fishing Pier and elsewhere.

We are simply missing out on so many other events that could happen on Belle Isle during those months.

Reason 5 - Detroit's Image
I mentioned above that moving the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix to a municipally-owned speedway would allow for more than just one race per year. This, I believe, is important for Detroit's image.

Detroit is a city that is synonymous with the automobile. We aren't called the Motor City for nothing. And one of the best ways to show off cars is by racing them.

Auto racing - Photo from Pixabay
In spite of this connections between cars and racing, the city built on cars only has one auto race per year. Meanwhile, Atlanta, Georgia; Kansas City, Kansas; and St. Louis, Missouri all have multiple professional auto races every year. Besides not having an obvious connection to the automobile industry, each of those four cities also has a smaller population than Detroit, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

I don't mean any disrespect to any of these communities. I'm just going to say that if you went to any place in the world and asked random people what was that they associate with Kansas City, Kansas, there aren't very many people who would say "cars."

In spite of that, Kansas City, Kansas (population 151,709) can put together three professional auto races every year in comparison to Detroit, with its population of 672,795 car-loving people, which can only pull off a measly one race per year.

This is embarrassing.

Embarrassing.

This is why, I believe, Detroit needs to build a municipally-owned speedway.



Monday, May 28, 2018

Remembering

Ss. Peter & Paul Catholic Church (as seen from the rear) - Photo by Frank Nemecek
This spectacular day in the Warrendale neighborhood is brought to you by the more than one million souls who have made the ultimate sacrifice in support of our nation. The lives that they lost have made the lives that we enjoy today possible.

As we enjoy this day with our friends and family, I pray that each of us lives a life that is worthy of their sacrifice.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Mayor Young's 100th birthday

Mayor Coleman A. Young rallies in Detroit (circa 1981) - Creative Commons photo from Wikicommons
Mayor Coleman A. Young of Detroit would have turned 100 years old today if had lived this long. As one reflects on his life, I believe that both his critics and devotees will agree that Mayor Young had more of an impact on the city of Detroit than anyone else in the 20th century.

I had a part-time job working in his Administration while going to college. While my duties were exceedingly low-level and I rarely interacted with him, I must admit that I learned more from Mayor Young than I did some of my professors.

While the Warrendale neighborhood in Detroit was at the heart of the ABC Vote (as in Anybody But Coleman) during the 1970s and 80s, I would feel remiss if I didn't make note of the anniversary today. As a young boy growing up in the neighborhood, I remember almost all of my elders complaining about Mayor Young.

There is no doubt that Mayor Young had more than a few flaws. However, I believe that history remembers him much more kindly than any of the ABC voters of my youth did.

Monday, May 21, 2018

A calling in its self

Ss. Peter & Paul Catholic Church (Westside) - Photo by Frank Nemecek
Mark Mroz has served as an altar server at Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in the Warrendale neighborhood of Detroit for the past 28 years. He started doing it as an opportunity to volunteer and later discovered that being an adult altar server is a calling unto its self.

Mroz and other adult altar servers at churches in the Detroit area were featured in The Michigan Catholic this week. The full article is available online here.

I join other Catholics in the Warrendale neighborhood and across the metropolitan Detroit area in expressing my gratitude to Mroz for his 28 years of dedicated service. I'm also thankful to The Michigan Catholic for highlighting him in this fashion.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Friends of Rouge Park Meets Tonight

Friends of Rouge Park - Photo by Frank Nemecek
The non-profit community group Friends of Rouge Park will have a general meeting this evening at 6 p.m. This meeting will happen at Westside Christian Academy (9540 Bramell St.), which is near Outer Drive and West Chicago.

This meeting will include:

  • Update from the City and discussion on the coming new Brennan Pools Splash Pad, Sports Field at Joy & Spinoza;
  • Update on the Sorensen Recreation Area improvements (historical signage);
  • Update on the Scout Hollow Camping Initiative; and
  • Update on Detroit Open Streets Event coming to Rouge Park in July.

Everyone who is interested in the future of Rouge Park is welcome to attend. This is the largest park in Detroit and a tremendous asset for the Warrendale neighborhood.