Detroit Swag-o-mania

What a festive night as throngs gathered at Campus Martius in Downtown Detroit for the the lighting of the city Christmas tree and the official opening of the skating rink.

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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
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    830

    Default Detroit 8/20/2010

    I spent much of the day around Detroit seeing a lot of the southwest side, downtown, and some of the warehouse district between the River and E. Jefferson. I thought I'd share some of my sightings here:

    Over near MCS, on the lot between the Mercury Bar and old hotel along 14th Street, someone has laid down quite the nice looking arc of concrete. What's going on here? DDOT bus loop? (LOL)

    I noticed that a demolition crew was out clearing out the charred remains of the torched commercial structure kitty corner from St. Hedwig Church on Junction north of West Detroit this morning. That little neighborhood is struggling, but it's great they finally took this dangerous eyesore down. Better for the church, the adjacent St. Hedwig florist, and the drive down Junction.

    It was fun cruising the length of Junction from Michigan Ave. down to Fort W. It's one of my favorite streets to cruise in the city. A great mix of active storefronts, occupied homes, industrial structures and some neglect, and old streetlights. Plenty of those bishop style ones from the first couple decades of the 20th Century with the occasional pineapple streetlight thrown in at a prominent corner for good measure, and some modern styles as well. Some of the oldies seem to be in really good shape while others are past their last leg. The history is fascinating.

    I had to buy some paint today and stopped at Sonnenberg's "Trusted Hardware" right at the corner of Junction and Toledo. I've never been there before, but I most certainly will go back. Lots of variety and services offered, off-street parking, and really helpful and friendly staff working. I'd definitely recommend them if you're in that part of the city and have a need for something hardware store related.

    I have to say, Holy Redeemer Church's campus looks great at the corner of Vernor and Junction. They seem to be doing a great job keeping their facilities up and are a really community beacon for the southwest neighborhood. The sanctuary is beautiful and quite historic. If you're not in the mood to go to church......Duly's Coney Island is right across the street and delicious. I patronized the Detroit News paper box in front of Duly's by purchasing a paper today.....it was before 12 noon and I got the last one in the box. You'd think they'd stock it with a few more copies if they all disappear before noon!

    My trip across the city included a few small, no-thanks-needed good-Samaritan things to improve the streetscapes I traveled. Close the lid on a bus stop trash can here, screw the cap on a fire hydrant that had fallen off there. Most people might not notice the little things in a city with problems as large as Detroit's, but I like to help out in my own small way It was nice to see a city worker working diligently to pick up trash at Clark Park, too.

    I succeeded in getting a parking ticket during lunch outside the Subway at Grand Circus Park. A prime example of how you shouldn't follow the other sheep....the side along the park was full of cars, so I joined them despite the "No Standing" signs.....25 minutes later and my car was the only one left in the herd and it had a nice $30 ticket on it. Can I please direct exactly what I want my $30 to go to???

    The city has replaced all the streetlight heads on E. Larned from 375 eastward. The old lamp posts remain with their pointed finials and graceful curved iron supports, but they all have modern light assemblies on them now. The old acorn fixtures were so classic, but I suppose the main point is that they actually work, right? On that subject, it was really depressing to drive down Woodward after dark tonight between Jefferson and Campus Martius and see that most of the streetlights along Woodward were dark. The festival in Hart Plaza plus all the pedestrian traffic from it being Friday night really must not have appreciated the near-darkness along the sidewalks down there. You'd think they'd get their act together and flip the switch so the busiest part of the city foot-traffic-wise wasn't in the dark.

    Finally, I drove down past the old Franklin Furniture Building on my way to the Stroh River Place. The building is complete and looks great with it's new sign. The city has installed brand new sidewalks and curbs along Franklin and other streets in that district, and is in the process of repaving several of the streets. I was a bit sad to see the old pavement on Franklin go, bad as it was, because it still contained visible segments of rail from the old days of the Detroit Terminal RR and DSR trolley line which ran down there. No longer. The building looks great and it's just really good to see the overall investment in that area....both public and private. Just please don't tear up the historic bricks portions of Woodbridge, thank you very much!

    Sorry for the rambling, but I hope you found something of interest in this edition of Rocko's "sightings around the city."

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2010
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    1,167

    Default

    Rocko, I enjoyed that read. Thanks for doing a little clean up here and there. I'm really surprised the streetlights are out on Woodward between Hart Plaza and Campus Martius. God forbid a commuter should feel comfortable attending a Hart Plaza festival on a Friday night and leaving their car in the office garage (i.e. walking back up Woodward in the dark). There's a suggestion for the thread on improving Detroit's reputation in there somewhere.

    And hey, count your blessings, 7 years ago, I'd get $96 meter-expired tickets in the Bronx. I don't even want to know what they're charging in Manhattan nowadays. When I got to Detroit and started getting $10 tickets, I just cracked a smile.

  3. #3

    Default

    Thanks for the tour Rocko, I enjoyed that as well. Now I'm going to streetview all the areas you just spoke of lol.

    fryar.......ninety....six...dollars? For an expired meter??? I mean, I know alot of people need those spots but that's crazy!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
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    2,058

    Default

    Fryar, wow! Is it just supply and demand in action?

    It would be nice to put a tax or permit process on surface lots in the Central Business District. Then have that money go towards security/police walking the beat.

  5. #5

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    Man......I'm blown away by Detroit each and everytime I venture into the neighbourhoods via streetview. So many beautiful homes/buildings in such disrepair. I'm so jealous of the things you have, even if they're burnt out. What a story those places could tell. For some reason...I always feel bad for the lone house on the block.
    Anyways.......there are a couple odd places on Junction I wonder if anyone has answers about. First is this TINY little structue at Junction and Otis. Could be used as a used car lot place now.....but what did it do before? Next would be this really neat place one block north, called Johnstone Automotive........I guess no questions, just an neat structure. Ancient lamp post on last leg there btw.Kiddie corner from that is a used car place......old gas station? Thing could be a front porch to an old mansion its so small! Also, I totally agree about the brick on Woodbridge! It lends so much charachter to the area and the buildings.Is the city aware/care about what the road does for the area? Speaking of which, I'm a quite smitten with the small place just west of St. Aubin on Woodbridge.Theres a sign saying "Studio 51" on the side. Anyone know its past? Age? Looks like an old school to me.......no? I love your city.What an amazing collouge of history.
    Last edited by Magnatomicflux; August-21-10 at 05:09 AM.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
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    592

    Default

    Studio 51 is a nightclub/bar. It was called something different in the past. I'm not sure if it still functions as a nightclub/bar. I haven't seen any activity this year. Regarding the lights being out on Woodward, this stuff has been going on for months and it seems to always happen in the summer months. I remember attending the jazz festival two to three years ago and the same set of lights were out. What was really upsetting was the fact that you had vendors set up in the street in tents, with lighting from a string of lights that appeared to be lit from the use of generators or hook ups to the buildings along Woodward. Why this "blackout" continues year after year is a mystery to me? It's an embarrassment.

  7. #7

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    Thanks for the info royce. Does that place extend real far into the back? Seems a little small for a club. Maybe a pub....but not a club. Beautiful little building anyways.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
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    6,348

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    Thank you for sharing your observations! Cool details. Yeah the public lighting is an issue. Lights are full blast around the casinos, but not other places and venues... so your rendered walking in the dark. And there are street lights on my residential block that have been out for years, despite calls to the city........

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
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    830

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    I suspect that little building at Junction & Otis was an olde-school filling station turned small time car dealer or repair....really cool little structure on that tiny lot though! Just another reason why I like driving Junction if I'm in the area.

    And on the subject of parking tickets.....$96 is just nuts! Fortunately, I remembered that at least in Detroit, if you pay within the first 10 days, there's a $10 deduction from the ticket, so it was only $20 instead of $30. Glad you all enjoyed my little narrative.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2010
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    Yeah, any kind of a parking ticket in NYC is going to be really expensive. They'll also ticket you multiple times, which they didn't seem to do in Detroit, either.

    I do think it's a supply and demand thing, spaces don't stay empty for long, and it's basically victim-less, in most scenarios in Manhattan, since you don't need a car to drive anywhere - it's totally an extravagant, impractical indulgence to have a car there. But it's also a New York/East Coast vs Detroit/Midwest thing, at least in my mind. It's edgier out here, the Midwest is a lot more relaxed and more polite.

    Along these lines, a couple of years ago, my grandmother visited from Germany for the holidays. Since she's anything but fluent in English, we went to a German church in the city for the X-mas eve service. My dad had parked the family van illegally, thinking what would they do, it was X-mas eve. After the service, the van was gone, and after much ado we had to take two cabs to the NYPD impound lot and bail the car out, which cost him upwards of $200. The city had no mercy on us that night . The cop my dad was dealing with at the impound lot told him he that they would have let it go a couple of years earlier on nights like that, but Giuliani had put a stop to that. I'm not one to complain about being treated equally, but I think it's an ironic angle on crime-fighting Rudy Giuliani, scourge of the Times Square girlie show mobsters, the quality-of-life-impacting Hot Dog vendors, and those insidious Xmas-and-Easter Parking Scofflaws.

    Out here in the burbs, I have gotten one or two $8 or $10 parking tickets. But I'm pretty sure they'll ticket you multiple times, I think I've had that happen to me before.

    How much does it cost to keep the lights on in downtown, at least along crucial streets like Woodward and at least on certain nights, like those festivals? Maybe I'm wrong, but I thought electricity was cheap. I haven't paid my own utility bills in years (I like to rent where that's included), but a couple of years ago, it was like 15 cents per kwh (at that place in the Bronx). Aren't we talking about thousands of dollars here? It just seems like it would be an easy fix. All those broke-down ambulances, who knows if that's just a matter of the city being broke, or if there are additional bottlenecks, systemically. But the streetlights? Could you find 100 parties willing to throw $100 at that, and make it happen? Because it matters what these commuters see in the city when they go home from work, what sense they get and whether they actually have or even just could see themselves having some fun "playing" there, i.e. attending a festival. Who's going to decide to go the Opera on a Saturday night if it's scary to be outside in a place that everyone says to be scared of?

    I realize these aren't 60 Watt light bulbs. But it seems to me that even if they were 1000 Watt light bulbs and you left them on for 8 hours, you'd have 8000 Watt-hours, or 8 kwh, which is like a dollar and change. A dollar per night per light.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
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    830

    Default Junction & Otis

    Here's the 1951 Sanborn showing the intersection of Junction & Otis. The tiny structure is noted as a filling station, and appears like the pump islands may be at either end of the building. It does not appear on the 1921 Sanborn or previous.

    Name:  Junction & Otis 1951 Sanborn.JPG
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