Friday, April 30, 2010

Stumbling upon one of Detroit's newer sculptures

This statue stands outside the Boll Family YMCA on Broadway Street in downtown Detroit. I have no interesting trivia to add, nor am I in the mood to make any Village People wisecracks, so I will say nothing, other than I think this is a pretty cool statue.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

JennFriend #8: Crossing Monroe Guy

It's been a while since membership to the Jenn Friends has increased, but we couldn't pass up this opportunity.

While pretending to take pictures of the Honigman Building (that big thing in the background) we were able to capture our latest inductee crossing into Campus Martius Park sporting a classic gray pullover with a casual-cut v-neck. No doubt it's an M-Den original.

Tech firm moving into 1001 Woodward

Maybe you heard recently about the 1001 Woodward Building, which towers over Campus Martius Park and stands just across from the Compuware Building.

Then again, maybe you didn't, so allow me to repeat it.

1001 Woodward, the 25-story skyscraper that's sometimes referred to as the First Federal Building, will serve as the new home for New Jersey-based tech firm GalaxE.Solutions, which announced plans to expand its operation to downtown Detroit. Their plan is to staff 500 people in Detroit within five years, which (although I'm no expert) seems like a good thing.

Also of interest, see that little building at the bottom of the photo, the one with the blue awnings? That's the former home of Au Bon Pain right in Campus Martius. Au Bon Pain recently closed, but the building won't be empty long. Fountain Bistro at Campus Martius Park is set to open later this spring.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A peak below the old Lafayette Building

Funny thing about skyscrapers, you tend to forget that they don't just go up.

So I was reminded today when walking past the site of the old Lafayette Building, where work crews are still clearing away the concrete, metal and dirt. A look over the mesh fence that surrounds the site shows a huge hole; obviously the Lafayette had at least one or two underground floors too.

No updates yet on what the plans are for the site, and I'm still hoping that last year's street whisperings were true and they're going to make a little a park there. I think it'd be a great addition for the Westin (shown on the right side of the photo) to have some greenspace across the street.

As long as the city doesn't slap down a layer of asphalt and call it a surface parking lot.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Dining at the RenCen: 'That Food Court'

During the aforementioned Bring Your Cheeky Red-Head to Work Day, Meg and I paid a visit to McDonald's, which is in the food court at the RenCen. Midway through a french fry, she paused and with a puzzled look, asked about a sign that hangs over the counter next to McDonald's.

"That Sandwich Place?" she asked.

I hadn't seen it yet, and started laughing. "That's a pretty funny name for a restaurant, isn't it?" I said.

'Yeah, it's a pretty funny name," she said, wearing that 'Megan' face. Then, after thinking about it a little more, she added, "But it isn't really a good name."

Monday, April 26, 2010

Little Meg gives Detroit a resounding "thumbs up"

It's too bad the folks at Dateline don't give such positive weight to things like The People Mover and escalators. Because according to Megan – who paid a visit to downtown Detroit last week for Bring Your Cheeky Red-Head To Work Day – "Man, Detroit is awesome! It's got everything!"

Her opinion was formed after a stop at the RenCen to hit McDonald's, a trip through the skywalk that connects the RenCen with the Millender Center, and countless trips up and down as many escalators and elevators as we could find. And that's to say nothing of The People Mover, which apparantly is like a Cedar Point ride if you're 6 years old.

She also got to check out the GM vehicles on display, caught a sweet view of the bridge to Canada, and saw the huge Stanley the Octopus figure outside Joe Louis Arena. In all it was a great visit downtown, despite Dad's desk gig being kind of a drag.

And she's already thinking of coming back sometime this summer. But next time, she wants her bike!

Hard Luck Lounge opens in Fyfe Building

Right across Woodward from Comerica Park, so close you can see a cool reflection in the huge, plate-glass window, the Hard Luck Lounge opened earlier this month. It's a nice place, filling in for Proof, the martini bar that used to occupy the space.

If you'd like to read a profile about the Hard Luck Lounge, click here. To repeat the whole thing on this blog would just be redundant.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Whatever happened to What About Bob's?

Man, I hate when a good business goes under. Even if I'm not sure that it was a good business. But with a name like What About Bob's?, I'm giving this little abandoned diner in downtown Detroit the benefit of the doubt.

It's on Griswold just north of the coney island restaurants, and by the looks of it, Bob's? hasn't served up any homemade soups or sandwiches in years. The movie starring Bill Murray didn't even come out until 1991. Think there's a connection? Our crack research team is on it, but in the meantime I have to guess that it's just a coincidence.

As for the building itself, keep your eyes peeled if you decide to watch the not-yet-released remake of Red Dawn, which was filmed downtown. From what I could tell, it looked like the place known long ago as What About Bob's? was providing a backdrop during the some of the filming.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Introducing Rob Parker's Play-by-Play sports bar

Anybody who gives a crap about Detroit sports probably remembers a little about Rob Parker, the longtime sports writer and radio host with a gift for annoying the hell out of people.

Eventually, he annoyed the hell out of the wrong people and lost his gig at The Detroit News. He's back.

The new Rob Parker's Play-by-Play sports bar (yes, his name appears in the bar's name) opened on Broadway last weekend. It's a pretty cool bar, although they're still scrambling around to put all of the finishing touches in place. To read a little profile on the place, click here.

Revisiting Michigan and Trumbull

When last I commented after stopping at the site of the old Tiger Stadium, I had probed around beneath the chain-link security fence hoping to grab some of the remaining scraps of the demolished stadium. I left with a small plastic bag full of concrete chips (as well as one cinder block I managed to heist) but that was it.

And I hadn't been back since, not til yesterday.

Not much news to pass along really, but I thought you might enjoy a close look at the grounds where the stadium once stood, as seen through the wrought iron fence that once surrounded the Tiger Plaza. Beyond the fence there is nothing except a dirt field. I guess you could say the land has returned to sandlot roots.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Check out this cool new pub poster

According to Inside Detroit – the city's unofficial welcoming committee – there are 125 bars in the one-square-mile area that constitutes downtown Detroit.

That's a lotta drinkin'!

And it makes this poster that I spotted the other day at Mac's on Third that much more impressive. Actually, it's called a Pubster, and while it doesn't include all 125 bars, it does a pretty good job of hitting the big ones. If you're looking to kill five minutes, you can click here and read an exquisitely written article that tells all about it.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Reclaiming Michigan's original state capitol

It doesn't look like much yet, but redevelopment of historic Capitol Park in Detroit is underway. To the unqualified person – who for reasons unknown manages a blog of his findings downtown – redevelopment of this little triangular-shaped chunk of space has the potential to have a huge impact on Detroit.

Located a few blocks from Campus Martius Park, Capitol Park is a natural next step in expanding the rebirth of downtown Detroit to the west. It's wedged between State, Shelby and Griswold streets, and only a block off Woodward. If they pull off at Capitol Park what they have at Campus Martius, the RiverWalk and other places, it has the potential to breathe new life into a number of surrounding buildings, all of which enjoy historic landmark status as part of the Capitol Park Historic District.

The entire area wears such high distinction because it is the one-time home of Michigan's first state capitol. From the 1820s through 1847, when the capitol moved to Lansing, a relatively small courthouse (which no longer stands) served as Michigan's capital.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A tribute to Detroit: "The Gateway to Freedom"

Because Canada had outlawed slavery years ahead of the United States, Detroit became a common destination for many blacks fleeing the south via the Underground Railroad. Once here, people could see freedom just across the water.

This statue on the Detroit River – sculpted by a man named Ed Dwight – is called "The Gateway to Freedom". It depicts a group of black people standing at the water's edge; some are pointing toward Windsor, others (like the young boy on the right side of the photo with his back to the water) are calling out excitedly.

It's a very cool sculpture, and while I could have shown more detail taking this picture from the front, I kind of liked it better from behind, with Windsor in the background. Unfortunately, the bright sunshine the other day washed out the picture. See it in crisp detail for yourself on the Detroit River near Hart Plaza.

5 and 10 Bar recalls old Kresge lunch counter

Recently, you might remember our visiting the Shops in the Kresge Building, the new retail development that opened not long ago in the ancient Kresge Building on Woodward. A big part of the project is the 5 and 10 Bar. Click here to read more about it and see the slideshow.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

RiverWalk extends east through Milliken State Park

When last we explored Detroit's RiverWalk, the development extended uniterrupted as far east as Rivard Street. The path beyond that was fenced off as crews put the finishing touches on the William G. Milliken State Park & Harbor.

Well, the gates are open now.

The Milliken State Park is a unique little stretch designed to pay tribute to plants and flowers that are indigenous to Michigan. A paved walking path wraps around both sides of a stream that winds through little man-made islands built using large fallen trees. That's as good a description as I can offer; you have to check it out sometime.

It really is a remarkable little stretch of waterfront, impossible to even imagine in 1980s Detroit. With the opening of the Milliken State Park, the RiverWalk is now a continuous path along the water's edge that extends from Joe Louis Arena to Chene Park. Not a bad way to spend a lunch hour.

Monday, April 5, 2010

A weekend trip to the Joe – one last time?

We caught the Red Wings' game against Nashville Saturday afternoon - courtesy of avid reader Squishy (a.k.a - The Leesh) - and barring the unlikely event that somebody hands over playoffs tickets in the next few weeks, this might have been our last chance to see the Wings play at Joe Louis Arena. We'll see.

Their lease at the Joe expires this summer, and there's been talk of the Wings playing at the Palace in the coming years until a new stadium is built downtown. The Wings in Oakland County? That's like putting mayonnaise on a coney dog! We're crossing our fingers that Dave Bing steps in and makes the Wings a too-tasty-to-leave offer.

In the meantime, we (without meaning to) took in every inch of the Joe, from the cool old-timer photos in the Olympia Club, to the mile-long stairwell hike that still has my calves sizzling. If it does turn out to be our last trip to the Joe, it'll go down as a memorable one, even though Nashville did score 16 seconds into overtime to win. We'll highlight some of the cool parts of the trip in this space as the day/week unfolds. Thanks again Squish and Maff.