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$5 million available to urban innovators across 26 cities, including Detroit

Big thinkers, dreamers, and just about anyone else with an idea on how to make cities better are invited to apply for part of $5 million offered by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Dubbed the Knight Cities Challenge, the foundation is granting money to innovators in 26 cities throughout the United States, including Detroit. Applications open Oct. 1 and will be accepted until Nov. 14.

The money is available to an array of urban innovators and doers -- from entrepreneurs to artists, students to educators -- as long as the idea deals with one or all of the key drivers of city success as defined by the foundation.

Ideas must address the issues of talent, opportunity, and/or engagement. According to the foundation, successful ideas will address how Detroit can attract and keep the best and brightest population, how the city can boost economic activity for everyone, and how to better connect and involve citizens in their collective future.

"We are looking for ideas from innovators who will take hold of the future of our cities," says Carol Coletta, Knight Foundation vice president for community and national initiatives, in a statement. "To succeed cities need talented people who can contribute to their growth, new opportunities that are open to all, and ways to engage people to spur connections and civic action."

A community Q&A will be held in each of the foundation's 26 Knight cities, including Detroit, that will help applicants prepare a successful submission. That date is yet to be announced. A virtual information session will be held online from 3 to 4 p.m. EST on Oct. 1.  

Source: Knight Cities Challenge press release
Writer: MJ Galbraith

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

First round of Hatch voting ends Thursday as 10 startups vie for $50K prize

The popular Hatch Detroit contest has entered its fourth year and the ten start-ups announced as semi-finalists are doing all that they can to garner votes. The eventual winner of the small business competition will receive a $50,000 grant and a suite of business support services.

Voting for the semi-finalist round is open to the public and ends at 11:59 p.m. EST on August 14. Voters may select four businesses during the first round and may vote once a day. Voting for the second round will begin August 15, when the field of competitors is narrowed to four businesses. The eventual winner of the $50,000 prize will be announced August 20.

While there is only one winner, just making it into the top ten is a great source of exposure and motivation for businesses.

"Hatch has given us a faster pace to run to," says Jen David, co-founder of Third Wave Music. "I've been meeting new people and talking to many musicians and students excited for a new spot to get what they need and have support. It's been really encouraging to hear positive feedback. It's really motivating."

The semi-finalists are:Source: Jen David, co-founder of Third Wave Music
Writer: MJ Galbraith

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Summer development news round-up

It's been a busy season for development news in the city. Let's catch up on five stories that have made  headlines this summer.

The longer it takes for construction to begin, the less likely it seems that a development project will ever be built. With that in mind, Detroit light rail advocates are closer to breathing easy as the M-1 Rail project has announced a July 28 start date for construction. Work begins downtown before it makes the slow climb northward on Woodward Avenue to New Center.

Nearly a year to the day after the grand opening of the city's first Meijer store, officials broke ground on a second Detroit location of the popular grocery superstore chain. The second Meijer is being built on the site of the former Redford High School at Grand River Avenue and McNichols Road on the city's northwest side. The new store will hire up to 500 people, reports say.

Midtown Detroit, Inc. is leading a crowdfunding campaign as it seeks money for a new Green Alley. The alley slated for development “is bounded by Second Avenue, Selden, the Third Avenue alley and Alexandrine.” The Michigan Economic Development Corporation will match the campaign's $50,000 goal if it is met by July 25.

Curbed argues that the first thing the new owners of Corktown's CPA Building should do is board up and secure the building. The old building at Michigan Avenue and 14th Street has been devastated by vandals -- among others -- over the years while much of the rest of Corktown continues to experience redevelopment.

Plans to redevelop the old Detroit Fire Department headquarters into a downtown boutique hotel are still under way, assures the development team. Though the developers announced a late 2015 opening, it's still unknown when construction will begin.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here.

Mt. Elliott Park Fun Shop opens in time for summer

The grand re-opening of Mt. Elliott Park has brought more than a new water park and pavilion to Detroit's riverfront. Entrepreneurs Richard Roy and Charlene Dwyer and Chief Fun Officer Abby have opened the Mt. Elliott Park Fun Shop in the River Park Lofts building at Mt. Elliott and Wight streets.

Having opened in the first weeks of June, the Fun Shop is already quite a presence on the block that faces the park. Roy has some of his homemade corn hole boards in front of the shop, ready for passersby. They rest on a sidewalk covered in colorful chalk drawings. He says that he likes to take one of those big-hoop bubble makers and teach the nearby kids how to use it.

Roy and Dwyer come from the art and advertising worlds. Though still involved in those industries, they decided a storefront across from the new Mt. Elliott Park would be an ideal location for a shop that specializes in, well, fun. Much of the shop is geared toward kids of all ages -- which the new Mt. Elliott Park has no problem attracting -- with bubble makers, kites, and frisbees for sale. There are a few refreshments, too.

"It's a lot of fun. It's fun when we sell bubbles or those snap poppers and you hear them used outside. Or we'll sell a couple of kites and you watch them out there flying the kites, laughing and running around," says Roy. "It's great."

Another important component of the shop is local art. It's made by friends of Roy and Dwyer who create everything from iconic concert posters to porcelain wares, Detroit-themed t-shirts to jewelry. The pair saw the shop as an opportunity to provide artists a place to sell their work, something that's not always so easy or affordable.

The store is currently involved in a micro loan campaign.

Source: Richard Roy and Charlene Dwyer, co-owners of Mt. Elliott Park Fun Shop
Writer: MJ Galbraith

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here.

Hubbard Farms artist residency program hopes to grow

An artist residency program and art gallery, Third Story, is bolstering its mission through a crowdfunding campaign. Third Story is located on Detroit's southwest side in the Hubbard Farms neighborhood.

Third Story was started by artists and married couple Lauren and Ryan Harroun in the third story of their home. The couple has built an art gallery there and has already hosted a handful of artists.

The aim of Third Story is to introduce new artists to Detroit. The residency program only accepts those who have little to no experience in the city. With so many outside artists having heavy interest in Detroit, the Harrouns are looking to provide a place for artists to stay and work. They're excited, too, to introduce the artists to the neighborhood.

"It's a wonderfully diverse, lively, and passionate neighborhood," says Lauren. "We're excited to bring something like this to Hubbard Farms, to provide a place to stay in a really nice neighborhood."

As they look to further establish their artist residency program, the Harrouns are hosting a fundraiser and party at their home on Thursday, June 5. The party is open to the public and art raffles, music, pizza, and a bonfire are planned.

The couple is currently running a crowdfunding campaign. The money raised will allow them to join a number of national registries, granting them access to new resources, including fundraising opportunities. The Harrouns hope to register their artist residency program with Fractured Atlas, ResArtis, and Alliance of Artists Communities.

The Harrouns encourage artists to stay for a minimum of one month. Artists looking to apply can do so through the Third Story website.

Third Story is located at 1130 Vinewood.

Source: Lauren Harroun, co-founder of Third Story
Writer: MJ Galbraith

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here.

City's first dog park opens in Corktown

On Thursday, May 1, another pop-up turned permanent in the city, though this pop-up, the Detroit Dog Park, has nothing to sell. The roughly 3/4 acre site is located on the former Macomb Playlot, an abandoned playground at 17th and Rose adjacent to Roosevelt Park. Michigan Central Station looms largely nearby.

Pop-up success stories have become commonplace in Detroit. They've proven efficient and effective in introducing businesses to the public without all of the initial costs that can eat up startup funding. They also serve as a means for community building, as was the case with Detroit Dog Park.

The nonprofit group first organized in the summer of 2011. By 2012, it became part of a larger group that was holding a pop-up dog park every third Saturday on Navin Field (the site of old Tiger Stadium). This month's meet-up will take place on the second Saturday instead, coinciding with the new park's official grand opening at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 10.

Detroit Dog Park came to occupy the property by way of the city's Adopt-a-Park program. Volunteers mowed the grass and cleared out brush and debris from the neglected park. PetSmart, the national pet supplies store, helped the group establish the site. The company sent a mobile dog park kit -- a shipping container with the basic components required for setting up a dog park, including the perimeter fence.

Succeeding in establishing the city's only permanent dog park, the group now shifts its focus to maintaining it. Instituting additional dog parks in other parts of the city is also a goal.

"The idea is that we'll build one, learn from it, and turn around and try to make it happen again," says Megha Satyanarayana, a board member of Detroit Dog Park.

Detroit Dog Park is free and open to the public.

Source: Megha Satyanarayana, board member of Detroit Dog Park
Writer: MJ Galbraith

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here.

Community group purchases historic Ford Highland Park Plant building with intent to redevelop

The Woodward Avenue Action Association (WA3) has purchased the Administration Building and Executive Garage at the historic Ford Highland Park Plant. The economic and community development organization raised over half a million dollars to acquire the property. WA3 purchased the buildings with three acres along Woodward for $550,000.

A second round of fundraising begins as the organization has determined that the buildings require $7.5 million in renovations. Debbie Schutt, executive director of WA3, says that fundraising should be much easier with the property now in their possession.

WA3 plans on building an Automotive Heritage Welcome Center at the site. The center will serve as a gateway to the grounds of the Highland Park complex, similar in spirit to a national park welcome center. The center will provide information about local tours and house interpretive displays and a theater. Rather than focusing solely on the history of the Ford Motor Company, the center will instead focus on the culture of creativity and innovation fostered by the local automotive industry.

"So much more has come out of the industry than cars. We need to tell our own story to ourselves and then tell it to others," says Schutt. "There's a reason Detroit has a patent office."

In addition to the historical and informative plans for the site, WA3 is going to use the site for training purposes. They have partnered with Wayne County's Economic Development Growth Engine (EDGE) to build a high tech learning lab for the modern assembly line. The building used to house one of Henry Ford's original trade schools, says Schutt, making it an appropriate place for a modern training facility.

The lab will be designed to serve both the citizens of Highland Park and the region as a whole.

Source: Debbie Schutt, executive director of Woodward Avenue Action Association
Writer: MJ Galbraith

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here.

Transit awards nominations now open to public

The greater Detroit transit advocacy group Transportation Riders United is taking nominations for its third annual Regional Transit Awards. Nominations are open through Feb. 28. An awards committee has been formed to pick four nominees for each of the six categories. An awards dinner is planned for May 8. Tickets are $75 and open to the public. The event doubles as a fundraiser for TRU in support of its advocacy efforts throughout the year.

Award categories include:
  • Transit Employee of the Year
  • Corporate Transit Champion Award
  • Exemplary Innovation Award
  • Under 30 Breakthrough Transit Champion
  • Unsung Hero Award
  • Forward Motion Award for Most Effective Public Service
TRU hopes that opening nominations up to the public will involve more of the region and draw attention to the people working to improve public transportation in metropolitan Detroit. The ceremony itself is an opportunity for bus drivers and politicians to spend an evening together and celebrate the work being accomplished in the region.

"There's a lot going on in transit," says TRU executive director Megan Owens. "There aren't many big and dramatic things happening yet but there have been a lot of the essential steps to develop the type of transit system that we want."

Though some projects aren't happening as quickly as some may like, Owens notes that a number of transit-oriented developments are occurring. These include the formation of the Regional Transit Authority citizens committee, the M-1 Rail utility work, and a new Detroit mayor and Detroit Department of Transportation director. A SMART bus millage will be on the ballot later this summer.

Previous winners of Regional Transit Awards include DDOT bus driver Michael Childs (Transit Employee of the Year), Quicken Loans & M-1 Rail (Corporate Transit Champion Award), and Freshwater Transit co-creator Neil Greenberg (Transit Activist of the Year).

Source: Megan Owens, executive director of Transportation Riders United
Writer: MJ Galbraith

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here.

NEI nears second round of grant giving

The New Economy Initiative is about to reach its fundraising goal, having raised $33 of $40 million in funding from local, regional, and national foundations. NEI is entering a three year-long period of grant-giving and support for the region's entrepreneurs. The group is planning a new-look NEI, one that will build on and improve the already successful first round of grant programs that began in 2008.

One planned change is a new focus on pre-existing businesses throughout southeastern Michigan. With so much attention being focused on the region's startup scene, NEI is crafting a contest to reward existing businesses that have the potential to grow. Still in the planning stages, the group hopes to have the contest ready for March.

Still, startups remain at the center of NEI's economy-stimulating strategy. The group's territory includes all of southeastern Michigan with a focus on Detroit. NEI executive director Dave Egner says that one of the reasons for this focus is that, as far as he can tell, there are more organizations servicing Detroit entrepreneurs than anywhere else in the world. That network of organizations allows NEI to more effectively distribute grants to promising entrepreneurs.

Grants are available to entrepreneurs of every stripe, says Egner. "Our focus is industry-agnostic. When we tried to pick sectors, we didn't get the outputs. We've been industry-agnostic since 2009."

NEI is hoping that the modifications planned for its second round of funding will improve on their already impressive numbers.

The New Economy Initiative launched in 2008 and has since awarded $76 million in grants to local entrepreneurs. The program has helped start over 675 new companies and created over 8,000 new jobs in southeastern Michigan. NEI has also helped support BizGrid, an infographic that breaks down Detroit resources for small businesses.

Source: Dave Egner, executive director of New Economy Initiative
Writer: MJ Galbraith

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here.

New Corktown gym opens with charity drive

A new gym is opening in Detroit's Corktown neighborhood. The personal fitness club Detroit Tough is celebrating its opening with a benefit for the homeless and under-clothed. Detroit Tough is opening with the help of an Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy grant.

Roger Dyjak is one of the people behind Detroit Tough. He's also responsible for Train like a Savage, a personal training method that uses the pressure of working out within a group to elevate individual performance. This style of personal fitness champions mental toughness as much as it does physical toughness.

Detroit Tough is not a gym in the traditional sense -- there won't be any treadmills or stationary bikes. Instead, it features physical tests like intense obstacle courses to improve fitness. The private club offers tiered training to better fit need and ability.

The gym is celebrating its opening with a charity drive on Saturday, Feb. 15 from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. Organizers are asking for a $20 donation and clothing or canned food. All money raised will be given to New Life Rescue Mission and Empowerment Plan. Clothing will be donated to the Salvation Army.

Music is scheduled throughout the course of the event, including sets from Band B, Velveteen Rabbit, and Volcano and the New Radio Standard. Fellow Corktowners McShane's Pub will be there roasting a pig. University of Detroit Mercy dental students will be providing free dental screenings to the homeless.

Detroit Tough is the recipient of an OTSC grant. The money was secured by U.S. Sen. Carl Levin to redevelop the area of the old Tiger Stadium site. A total of $800,000 was reserved for businesses in the Corktown neighborhood.

Detroit Tough is located at 1244 Beech.

Source: Detroit Tough press release
Writer: MJ Galbraith

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here.

How pedicabs can fill gaps in public transportation

A new pedicab company is getting ready to launch in Detroit. Pedicabs, or rickshaws, are bicycle-powered taxis. Gabby Bryant is currently prepping her pedicab company, Reddicabs, for a summer launch.

The company is in the midst of a crowdfunding campaign that ends Jan. 20. Venture for America helped Reddicabs launch the campaign. In a contest with other Venture for America Fellows, Reddicabs stands to win an additional $10,000 if they raise the most money. Gabby says $10,000 is enough to buy three pedicabs and provide drivers the training necessary for operating the taxi service.

Reddicabs plans to separate itself from the city's other pedicab companies by being more visible in the community and offering more continuous and predictable services. Gabby is working to establish a series of hubs outside hotels, restaurants, and bars to build a more reliable system of pedicabs. In doing so, she says that pedicabs will fill in the gaps that buses and standard taxis can't--or won't.

The idea of Reddicabs originally began as a service that would deliver people from parking lots to events, such as a Tigers game or a concert at the Music Hall. But the more Gabby thought on the state of public transportation in Detroit, the more the service grew.

"Detroit is so interesting because we don't use different types of transportation," she says. "We're just now becoming more of a bike city. Public transportation is kind of foreign to a lot of people and those that do use it aren't the biggest fans of it. We have to gauge the different options for public transportation."

Gabby is partnering with Thrive Detroit to train individuals to be able to rent and run the taxis. She also credits the people at Green Garage in helping craft a strategy for the system of pedicabs.

Source: Gabby Bryant, owner of Reddicabs
Writer: MJ Galbraith

Dine Drink Detroit celebrates Detroit's culinary culture while benefiting the Riverfront

Starting this Thursday, Oct. 10, a brand-new Detroit dining event launches and you don't need to make any reservations, any kind of special time commitment, or even adhere to any kind of special dress code. Detroit, it's time to start dining and drinking.
 
Dine Drink Detroit runs Oct. 10-16 and highlights some of Detroit's most unique casual dining restaurants. All of the 13 participating restaurants will offer some sort of food and drink combination for $15.
 
"The inspiration is that there are so many cool small businesses in Detroit," says Scott Rutterbush, operations developer for Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company and co-organizer of Dine Drink Detroit. "People are doing some really great stuff that we wanted to showcase and celebrate. These are places that maybe not everyone knows about."
 
Rutterbush and Kate Williams, Executive Chef of Rodin in Midtown and fellow co-organizer of Dine Drink Detroit, opted to focus on places that are independently owned and operated and are known as popular locals spots. They also looked specifically at places with a liquor license to showcase that component as well – places with really interesting wine lists, excellent craft cocktails, and extensive craft beer lists. The price point was intentionally kept low at $15 to encourage people to try more than one place. "People can do to multiple locations even in the same night, which people do anyway. it's really part of the everyday experience."
 
These October dates were chosen because there is a brief lull in events before the holidays come around and restaurants kick into high gear for their busy season.
 
They have partnered with Uber and Zipcar to offer discounts to Dine Drink Detroit participants. All net proceeds from Dine Drink Detroit will go to benefit the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy. "(The Riverfront) is a common space a lot of people from Detroit go to experience, and we wanted to celebrate that as well," Rutterbush says. "It's really about celebrating and promoting the city."
 
Dine Drink Detroit will be held annually and there will always be some sort of charity component. The organization effort has been entirely grassroots and collaborative, with people volunteering their time for everything from web design to social media marketing. "It's a microcosm of how Detroit businesses have been operating. It's really collaborative and everyone supports each other. When there's a new place that opens everyone rallies around them asking, 'What can we do to help?' Dine Drink Detroit is an extension of that."
 
Restaurants have been encouraged to put forth their best efforts in their menu pairings. "We want people to really know they're going to go to these places and get their best for $15." Restaurants were also given a lot of latitude in what to offer; diners can potentially visit several of these restaurants multiple times during the seven days and get something different each time.  
 
Source: Scott Rutterbush and Kate Williams, co-organizers of Dine Drink Detroit
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

Got a Development News story to share? Email Nicole here.

Oakaloosa, a philanthropic music festival, to benefit Historic Fort Wayne

The City of Detroit is gaining another new music festival this summer. Oakaloosa will be held at the Historic Fort Wayne on July 27, and, much like Orion Music + More, will reinvest into the maintenance and preservation of the concert site itself -- Historic Fort Wayne.
 
The 96-acre Historic Fort Wayne site in Delray includes some original buildings from the mid-1800s as well as faithful replicas, though many are in disrepair. The Fort is operated by the Detroit Recreation Department with other nonprofit assistance. They rely heavily on volunteer efforts and individual generosity.
 
Oakaloosa is a brand-new outdoor concert, billing itself as the region's first fully philanthropic music festival, with a percentage of every dollar raised going back towards the restoration of Historic Fort Wayne. "We were looking to participate in restoring its renown by adding an event there where people can appreciate it and relate this event to its name," says Adrian Pittman, founder of Module, which is handling Oakaloosa's marketing. "What happened to (the Fort) is sort of what happened to Detroit in the rest of the country … it was forgotten. It requires a local to give it a little attention and polish it off a bit. It needs to be maintained for generations of people to come."
 
With connections in the parks & rec department, Detroit Sports Zone, Inc. – the nonprofit group organizing this event – was able to secure the site, which needs little in the way of infrastructure work in order to host the event. "They were looking at the fort from day one. It's such a unique opportunity." A first event of its kind for the site, they hope this event will also encourage other organizations to host festivals here.
 
DJ Mikey Eckstein of Embarco is responsible for programming, which includes both local and national acts. Main headliners include Girl Talk and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony (as part of their big reunion tour).
 
They expect about 15,000 people to attend. Tickets are $45.

The odd name actually came from a typo on a website about the fort's history. The organizers liked it despite it being a misspelling, and decided to use the name for the festival.
 
Source: Adrian Pittman, Director of Development at Module
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

Got a Development News story to share? Email Nicole here.

Detroit Yacht Club Foundation aims to preserve DYC building

The Detroit Yacht Club has created a namesake foundation to help preserve its historic structure on Belle Isle.

The Detroit Yacht Club is a private sailing club founded in 1868 and its current Mediterranean-villa-style clubhouse was designed by George Mason (who also designed Mackinac Island's Grand Hotel and Detroit's Masonic Temple) and opened in 1923. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places last year.

The Detroit Yacht Club Foundation is a nonprofit that will focus on fundraising and coordinating the preservation of the yacht club's nearly 100-year-old clubhouse. Although the building itself is still sound, the foundation will focus on securing and preserving its envelope features, such as its roof, walls, doors and windows.

"All of these areas are 89 years old," says Mark Lifter, president of the Detroit Yacht Club Foundation. "With Michigan's freeze-and-thaw cycles, water always finds a way."

The Detroit Yacht Cub Foundation's first order of business is to conduct an engineering study of the building before moving forward with any improvements. In the meantime the foundation is working on raising money and resources from members and people with a connection to the yacht club.

"Over time, there are probably millions of people with a connection or an affinity for the Detroit Yacht Club," Lifter says.

Source: Mark Lifter, president of the Detroit Yacht Club Foundation
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Locals work to open Detroit Dog Park in shadow of MCS

A group of Detroiters are working to create a dog park next to the iconic Michigan Central Station in Corktown.

The Detroit Dog Park is a off-leash dog park that would be built on the Macomb Playlot at the corner of 16th and Rose streets, adjacent to the Roosevelt Park. The organizers have reached an agreement with the city of Detroit to build the lot and are currently fundraising for the effort. It hopes to open next summer.

"There are a lot of people who live in an urban setting with dogs and don't have backyards," says Carly Mys, chair of the Detroit Dog Park. "There is a need for a place to let them run off leash, a place for them to socialize with other dogs and people."

The Detroit Dog Park is currently in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign to raise $15,000 for the dog park's construction. It has raised nearly $12,000 as of Monday. The money will go toward buying construction materials and services. Mys says the project will have a heavy emphasis on green construction, employing things like rain barrels.

"We want to be sustainable, using things like recycled materials is high on our list," Mys says.

Source: Carly Mys, chair of the Detroit Dog Park
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.
45 Fundraising Articles | Page: | Show All
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