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Discover Detroit Walking Tour

Detroit is an amazing city. With its vibrant nightlife, world-class museums, championship sports teams and unparalleled architecture, it’s no wonder the New York Times named Detroit one of their 53 places to Go in the World! Whether you’ve lived in Detroit your whole life, or are visiting for the first time this tour will show you a Detroit that defies expectations.

See all the major landmarks, the new development and some of the great historical spots from an Insider’s perspective. You’ll also learn about how the themes emerging from the new Detroit are community, collaboration and creativity. Highlights include:
•    Campus Martius Park
•    Guardian Building
•    Hart Plaza
•    Second Baptist Church/Underground Railroad
•    Theater District
•    The New Paradise Valley District
•    Lofts at Merchants Row Development

Meet in the lobby of the Westin Book Cadillac at 9:50 am on Thursday, June 7 for a 10 am departure. Expected return is 12 pm. Led by Jeanette Pierce, Director of Community Relations for D:hive.

Posted on June 4, 2012

Experience Detroit’s Community Treasures

Saturday morning offers two separate opportunities to experience Detroit's favorite community treasures. One excursion visits the unique Heidelberg Project, a vibrant urban art installation that has made national headlines. The other excursion visits the bustling Eastern Market, a local food district with more than 250 independent vendors and merchants selling goods from all over the Midwest. Via shuttle bus, guests will visit the site for roughly an hour and will receive a brief tour. The outings occur simultaneously, so guests can only choose one in which to participate. The good news is one can’t go wrong with either; both sites are outstanding and provide authentic Detroit experiences! Space is limited to 25 people and reservations are mandatory. Cost is $5 per person, and will be collected when you pick up your badge. Please send an e-mail to Debra Silvestrin ( if you would like to reserve a spot. Indicate names of all attendees and tour requested. Buses will depart promptly at 8 am. There will be some overlap with the first session of the day, so plan accordingly. 
Posted on June 2, 2012

Arriving Early? Take in a Ball Game

Watch the Detroit Tigers take on the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday, June 6th. Game time is 7:05 p.m. at Comerica Park, located a few blocks away from the Westin Book Cadillac. EST. $15 for Outfield Pavilion seats. Please contact Maggie Battjes ( to reserve your seat.
Posted on June 1, 2012

Detroit in Lines and Images

Beneath the surface of Detroit’s buzzed-up urban redevelopment and influx of entrepreneurial commodification, beneath the mass-media glorification of the city via “ruin porn,” there lies a tradition of risk-taking creative energy that, when all’s said and done, can’t be found anywhere else.

The Heidelberg Project is a key example of said spirit that completely reinvented the term “found art.” It’s a fallen Detroit hood repurposed into a virtual drive-thru art installation in which whole houses are hued in polka dots or other pop tones and surrounded by (re)fabricated cars, fences, trees, tires and shopping carts, most of which are bent, manipulated or painted in absurdist ways. You have to see this.

Switch gears and hit Detroit’s Midtown section -- another short cab ride from your hotel -- where everything’s within walking distance.

First, the DIA (Detroit Institute of the Arts) is a beacon of human creativity -- from the prehistoric to the contemporary -- whose highlights among many include Diego Rivera’s fresco stunner, “Detroit Industry,” and Van Gogh’s “Self Portrait.” The DIA’s collection is among the top five in the United States.

Across the street is the Detroit Historical Museum, tracing 300-plus years of local history, including a wondrous, 8,000-square-foot exhibit dedicated to Detroit’s mind-boggling auto legacy.

A few blocks away is the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, “the world’s largest institution dedicated to the African American experience,” a center of power and beauty whose permanent sights include Hubert Massey’s storied Ring of Genealogy, a beautiful 40-foot terrazzo tile foundation encircled by nameplates of prominent African Americans.

The Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit is housed nearby in a cavernous, repurposed space. MOCAD plays a huge role in fueling public critical dialog, as well as the appreciation of art, film and music, both in this arts-rich Detroit and throughout the Midwest.

Brian Smith, managing editor, Metro Times.
Posted on May 10, 2012

Detroit Rock City (cont.)

Detroit is provincial, prideful, yet somehow produces music that speaks universally. Another of our great contradictions. See, the city's spiritual base -- a heady blend of Southern migration and industrial revolution -- became a force in creativity long before John Lee Hooker recorded the first rock 'n' roll record here (1948's "Boogie Chillen'"). Hence, superstar creatives who want to stay close to their inspirations -- from Bob Seger to Eminem -- won't live anywhere else.

It's easy to see how Detroit shifted culture too: The Motown Museum beckons, just a cab ride away from the AAN convention's downtown hotel. Go sense the youthful ghosts of the Temptations, the Supremes, Marvin Gaye and others whose influence extends into our souls. Roll through the nearby North End neighborhood and spy Aretha Franklin's old family mansion and that superstar breeding ground where Diana Ross, Mary Wilson, Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross, Bettye LaVette, Jackie Wilson and others grew up. Then absorb Detroit beats old and new nearby at Northern Lights Lounge, or the three clubs inside the Majestic complex.

Or simply step out to a rhythm, an easy sidewalk medium in the downtown of a world music capitol: Hit Cliff Bell's, the art deco masterpiece whose jazz and blues program is a quiet Detroit giant. Its polar opposite is the underground (literally) City Club in the Leland hotel basement that features weekend fetish-tinged and DJ'd industrial and electronic. There's the legendary St. Andrew’s Hall, a club and long a haunt for Eminem, Royce da 5'9" and Kid Rock, or PJ's Lager House and the tattered Old Miami, both rousing dives for rising indie stars. Bigger stars do the glorious Fox Theatre or its resplendent neighbor the Fillmore. Cap it off to DJ dance at L!V Resto. It's all out your hotel window.

Brian Smith, managing editor, Metro Times.

Posted on May 1, 2012

Detroit Rock City

A few words about downtown Detroit, where you conventioneers will be based. We're not going to pull your leg that it's Manhattan. We'll admit up front that you'll stand in front of the redeveloped Westin Book Cadillac Hotel, convention HQ, and wonder why there are still-abandoned skyscrapers across the way waiting for new investment or a wrecking ball. But investment is coming now, bringing a new wave of businesses and residents. That contrast is what makes Detroit exciting today.

Downtown boasts a scenic Riverwalk, which connects a pavilion, a wetlands park, a harbor, riverboats, the towering Renaissance Center, a spacious plaza and more (with a great view of Canada throughout your walk). You'll find three casinos (one in walking distance), clubs, music venues, bars, the pretty Café d'Mongo's Speakeasy and the aptly named Greektown, ample places to kick it up for night tripping, drinking and eating. The majestic and immaculately restored Fox Theatre sits across from Comerica Park, the new home for the Detroit Tigers. Just east of downtown, you'll find the largest concentration of Mies van der Rohe housing (townhouses and four high-rises), and a few miles farther is Belle Isle, a beautiful 1,000-acre island commons in the Detroit River.

North of downtown you enter the hip Midtown neighborhood and then the New Center area, with the Motown Records Museum, the classic Fisher Building and theater and other nearly mind-boggling examples of early-to-mid-20th century architecture. The Detroit Institute of the Arts, meanwhile, houses some of the finest Asian, Islamic, European and American art anywhere. It's noteworthy as home to Diego Rivera's Detroit Industry mural, his tribute to industrial America as epitomized by the Motor City.

But there's more here, neighborhoods and cultural facets to consider … a city to discover, poised between past and future. And we'll tell you more about it next week.

Brian Smith, managing editor, Metro Times.
Posted on April 16, 2012

Why Detroit Rocks

Eminem. Kid Rock. More than 50 major entertainment, literary, and sport figures made Motown their hometown -- from Tim Allen to Stevie Wonder.

Home of the Motown sound founded by Berry Gordy Jr.

Birthplace of Techno Music and home of Movement: Electronic Music Festival.

The Detroit Jazz Festival is the largest free jazz festival in the world.

Detroit is among the largest theater districts in the country with over 13,000 theater seats. Major Broadway productions, top headliner entertainers, opera, dance, symphony, and other performing arts light up marquees.

Detroit is a great sports town with the Detroit Tigers, Detroit Lions and Detroit Red Wings playing downtown, and the Detroit Pistons in Oakland County.

Detroit Tigers roared to become the American League Baseball champs again in 2011.

Detroit is Hockeytown USA with 11 Detroit Red Wings Stanley Cup championships.

Home of three major casino complexes in the downtown area: Greektown Casino, MGM Grand Detroit and Motor City Casino.

Detroit’s Corktown, Greektown and Mexicantown districts offer up a menu of authentic foods and spirits. That's just part of downtown Detroit's more than 100 restaurants, bars and clubs.
Posted on April 11, 2012

Why Detroit Inspires

Detroit is known for one of the richest collections of late 19th-century, ethnic-based churches in the country.

Belle Isle, the nation's largest island park within a city, was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, landscape architect of New York's Central Park.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. made the debut of his 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech at Cobo Center in Detroit two months before its famous delivery in Washington, D.C.

The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History is the largest museum of its kind in the world.

Detroit's Cultural Center is home to the Detroit Institute of Arts, and its collection is among the top six in the United States.
Posted on April 10, 2012

Welcome to Detroit 2012

Yes, your jaw will gape at the square miles of ravaged Victorian structures, abandoned deco skyscrapers and the multi-acre-sized auto factories and civic landmarks wearingly returning to earth, but there's surprising reclamation within and you've good reason to see it. The city's haunted beauty is now pregnant with potential and change, and the creatives -- the activists, artists, writers, musicians and entrepreneurs, homegrown and new arrivals -- are seizing that promise.

Detroit's new narrative is about reinvention, creation, just as our alternative weeklies and websites are about reinvention and creation -- the parallels between the two aren’t subtle.

The city is dichotomous: It's a multi-university town shaped by deep Southern roots. But too few residents inhabit Detroit's too-many square miles of "shrinking city" abandonment; and the fiscal and political repercussions are battled in headlines daily.

And yet … careers can be fostered through reuse of abandoned spaces and now-inexpensive buildings -- acres of dispossessed cityscape is fertile ground for locally grown produce, a whole neighborhood can become a drive-thru art installation.

The once-lifeless downtown is rising. Major employers have moved thousands of workers to new and renovated buildings. A leader in the turnaround, Quicken Loans, a Fortune Top 10 company to work for, has purchased millions of square feet of downtown space to house everything from venture capitalist firms to upstart designer companies, from new retailers to a new wave of residents breathing life into the area's nightlife.

More, the Detroit Lions, a team with the worst record in NFL history, became a Super Bowl contender this year while General Motors rose from ruin to again become the world's No. 1 automaker.

Detroit continues to fascinate; each day there's something new, intangible. We'll share some of that on this website in coming weeks, and in person when you arrive.

Brian Smith, managing editor, Metro Times

Posted on April 9, 2012

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