Monday, May 24, 2010

The Detroit riverfront: Then & Now

This is pretty cool. I was tooling around online the other day and stumbled across this old picture of the Detroit waterfront before the RiverWalk was built, back when it was just a string of old parking lots, shipyards and other abandoned properties. That's the picture at the top right. It looks like a lovely place to picnic, doesn't it?

I was pretty sure I had taken a picture from just about the same spot during a recent bike ride, so I checked our vast library of original artwork, and presto! The years that separate these two photos are relatively few, which makes seeing them side by side that much more (as the kids would say) amazing.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Sinkhole swallows up part of Lafayette Boulevard

If you hadn't already heard, the crews that have been busy ripping down the old Lafayette Building inadvertently knocked into a few things underground that would've been better left alone. Apparently one of those things was a water line, which eventually chewed away at the ground beneath the street and sidewalk, which eventually caused both to cave in the other night.

Gawkers (including one who keeps this silly blog) were plenty the next day, as people jockeyed to get an up-close look at the huge hole in the ground right next to the even huger hole in the ground that was already there. Fortunately my Kage credentials earned me a spot in the front row, where some yuckster (who doesn't keep this silly blog) called out to one of the workers, "Hey, did they find Hoffa?"

It's a pretty incredible sight, and no doubt will add a few weeks (and dollars) to the project of cleaning up the Lafayette Building site. Maybe they should've called MISDIG.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

"Sweet Home" on the Detroit RiverWalk

Coming off a two-week stretch that saw way too many bullets fly in Detroit, this is what we needed. A reminder that, at its best, Detroit is tough to beat.

During a sunny lunch hour on the river as kids scurried through The Fountain at GM Plaza, I heard the sweet tunes from this guy. Seated just across the sidewalk from the river, he was playing a bluesy-acoustic version of "Sweet Home, Chicago". He ad-libbed the lyrics and tapped his toe on a tambourine pedal. It wasn't easy to get myself back on the bike and return to work, but it was therapeutic all the same.

The Fountain in GM Plaza is a kids' favorite

One of the most popular features of the Detroit RiverWalk, especially among the wee people, remains The Fountains in the GM Plaza and Promenade. I prefer to call it the Water Maze, but who am I?

Located just outside the RenCen, this garden of water sprouts can be mesmorizing. It's like watching Tetris. And the kids definitely love it. If there are plans for another Bring-Your-Cheeky-Red-Head-To-Work Day this summer, I'm packing her bathing suit.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Because pre-game beers are good...

You might recall the entry the other day on the Broderick Tower, and the brief mention of the Sports Town Grill located therein. The next time you're heading to a Tiger game and looking to whack back a few beers before hand, might I suggest the Sports Town.

It's not crowded, the prices are good, and it's right down the street from the ballpark in Grand Circus Park. The picture above was taken inside the bar; see Comerica Park down the street? Click here to read more about the Sports Town.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Parched? Detroit is the place to be in May

Who knew?

It turns out, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is celebrating its 25th annual Drinking Water Month, an occasion that aims to promote the fact that the DWSD provides high-quality H2O to 4.3 million people in southeast Michigan. This year's theme is "Only Tap Water Delivers". Our research team is still working on trying to determine what that actually means.

To honor the occasion, you can schedule a tour of one of the city's five water treatment plants. If you don't have that kind of time, might we suggest you simply visit the nearest sink, grab yourself 8 ounces of cool, clear water, and raise a glass to the fact that you're able to visit the nearest sink, grab 8 ounces of cool, clear water, and drink it.

Happy DWM everybody!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Yee-haw! The Hoedown's back in town!

Hours before the first twang was scheduled to ring out over Hart Plaza, country music lovers and their kin folk were arriving downtown Friday afternoon for the annual Downtown Hoedown.

I'm a fan of any event that brings people to Detroit, even the Hoedown, which I admit is an impressively huge festival considering it's free. But this is like the SuperBowl of People Watching. It's a surprisingly diverse group of folks – people of all ages, people of all colors, people chewing any flavor tobacco are welcome.

I, for one, hope it goes well this weekend, that the thousands of people spend a bunch of money at the bars and restaurants, enjoy the big-name country acts on the docket, and then spend more money at the bars and restaurants. Judging by some of the stumbling going on two hours before the gates even opened, I'm thinking a few hotel rooms should be filled too.

Broderick Tower nearing planned reopening date

You've no doubt seen this building beyond the centerfield fence at Comerica Park when watching the Tigers on TV. If not, maybe you recall the building that used to have the Whaling Wall mural on it, which a few years ago was controversially covered to create advertising space.

That building was (and still is) the Broderick Tower, empty since the 1980s and a not-so-proud member of the World's Tallest Abandoned Structures Club. If
redevelopment plans stay on course, it will lose that distincition sometime this year. From what I hear, developers are shooting for a 2010 opening.

If Detroit does make the rebound that many are hoping for, my guess is that the Broderick Tower will be one of the premium places to live downtown. It's located at Woodward in Grand Circus Park, which puts it smack in the center of all of the good happening in Detroit. You got to check out the website to see the penthouse views. Awesome.

Plans for the renovation include commercial/retail space on the Floors 1-4, apartments on Floors 5-24, and skytop penthouses on Floors 25-34. Currently, the building's only occupant is the Sports Town Grill, and even that is only open when the Tigers are at home or during any other event that brings big crowds to the Grand Circus Park area. By the way, the Sports Town is worth a look the next time you head to a Tiger game. It's not crowded because few people even realize it's there, and it's got pretty cheap beer and ballpark type food.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Bullets, and other bad things to see during lunch

So I was standing on the corner of Lafayette and Second Street, chatting with UMJenn on the phone, when a guy standing in front of WDIV just across the street raised one arm to the sky and fired what sounded like two gun shots into the air. "Holy crap," I said to someone standing near me, "did that guy just fire a gun?" (Note: Not a good thing to say when you're on the phone.)

After firing the shots, the guy set the gun down and laid on the brick sidewalk. After a minute or so, he stripped his red t-shirt off and did a few push-ups. The guy I was standing with called 9-1-1, and a few minutes later, about six cop cars were circled in front of WDIV.

Once the cops were there, we walked over to see if it was, in fact, a real gun, which it was. I know very little about guns, so I can only tell you that it was small, beat up revolver with electrical tape wrapped around the handle. The guy laid on the ground in cuffs mumbling something about "uncovering a conspiracy".

Back across the street, news reporters from both papers were clammering for info, but I told them they could read all about on this blog. (I did, however, agree to share with them a few of the photos I took. Click to see if they use them.)

"S.W.A.T.: Fire-fight" film crews set up shop in Detroit

These aren't cop cars being towed for illegal parking, although that would be pretty funny. They're props for the latest movie being filmed downtown, an action film called "S.W.A.T.: Fire-fight". Starring Robert Patrick of "Terminator 2: Judgement Day" fame, "S.W.A.T.: Fire-fight" is a sequel to the reportedly brutal action flick "S.W.A.T."

Crews have been filming at various locations throughout the city for the past few weeks, and the other day they were using a small lot in Cadillac Square as their home base. No actual filming was going on there, but it was pretty cool seeing their fleet of trailers with all sorts of equipment.

Just so you know, the story line in the movie involves an LAPD lieutenant transferring to Detroit to put a S.W.A.T. team through a training regimen when he finds himself the target of a homicidal genius who is protected by the government. No word on whether any of the scenes feature a party at the Manoogian Mansion.
The movie is due out sometime in 2011.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Trivia you'll never need to know about the Bagley Memorial Fountain

John J. Bagley was a one-time Detroit Alderman, Police Commissioner. and Governor of Michigan. He, apparently, was also very dedicated to the notion that Detroiters should never be thirsty.

So what did he do? He directed in his will that $5,000 be used to construct a water fountain in downtown Detroit, making available "water cold and pure as the coldest mountain stream". I didn't make that up, that's what his will said, at least according to Wikipedia.

So his family later commissioned noted sculptor Henry Hobson Richardson to design the fountain, which he did. In 1887 the Bagley Memorial Fountain was unveiled at Woodward and Fort Street. In the 1920s, traffic got a little thick so the fountain was moved to Campus Martius, where it stood until 2000. Then somebody stole part of it (apparently they were very thirsty!), so the city removed it and put it in storage. In 2007, the fountain returned, and it now stands in Cadillac Square, just down the street from Campus Martius Park.

By coincidence, the fountain now resides across the street from the Greenwich Time Pub, which happens to be a great place to go when you're thirsty.

And in case you're wondering, those guys in the background of the photo? They're playing petanque, and if you don't remember what petanque is, click here.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

One Tough Nerd rolls through downtown Detroit

No spotting the actual nerd himself, but we did come across gubernatorial hopeful Rick Snyder's campaign bus parked outside the Fort Shelby DoubleTree Hotel this afternoon. It looked like a pretty sweet rig, although not even my oh-so-official-looking Kage Credentials (I still flash them on occasion) could get us on board.

The guy standing alongside the bus in this photo isn't so much a security guard as a helper with a magic marker, which passers-by were free to use to autograph the side of the bus in a show of support. Man, where are Detroit's elite graffiti afficianados when you need them?