The Dig: Is Piquette Square A Better Place To Live For Detroit’s Veterans Now? • Outlier Media

Hey everybody,

Piquette Square opened in 2010 as housing for one of the most vulnerable populations in Detroit: low-income veterans. By all accounts, the complex owned by Southwest Solutions served this population well for years. But a Michigan Radio investigation from April uncovered severe issues that had developed, including flooding that destroyed one-third of the units and deteriorating supportive services. 

Southwest Solutions gave assurances that it was working to resolve resident complaints. Is the nonprofit making good on these promises six months later?

Elsewhere in Detroit, graffiti artists worry about the future of their artform. Plus, development plans emerge for a number of projects near the Paradise Valley entertainment district. 

As always, thanks for reading.

The Dirt

A rendering of the Music Hall’s planned expansion. Image credit: Courtesy of Tod Williams, Billie Tsien Architects

>>Street art vs. museum art? Artists once used the walls of Detroit’s many abandoned buildings to spray graffiti. But now those canvases are disappearing. The city has been demolishing popular graffiti spots, creating permanent murals and cracking down on what it calls vandalism. In a counter-move, the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy will memorialize and preserve graffiti made in The Yard Graffiti Museum within its recently opened Southwest Greenway. Street artists appreciate the acknowledgement but have a diverse range of conflicted feelings about the way street art has changed in the city. (BridgeDetroit)

>>A slice of paradise: Developers are finally making modest progress on reviving a historic African American business district that’s been in the works for years. The Paradise Valley Cultural and Entertainment District began in 2016 with big goals to redevelop buildings near downtown around Harmonie Park lost to urban renewal. The first building on Randolph Street is now set to open this November with a cocktail lounge and other Black-owned businesses. Restaurants, apartment buildings and other entertainment venues are said to be in the works. Nearby on Monroe Street, Bedrock Detroit has plans to break ground on its Development at Cadillac Square next year. It’s not expected to open until 2031 but should include a music and performance venue. (Detroit News)

>>More music (hall): Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts is seeking $80 million in tax-exempt bonds to pay for part of its $122 million expansion. The Detroit Economic Growth Corp. (DEGC) plans on issuing the bonds in the next few months, and the Music Hall should break ground early next year. The plan still needs to be approved by DEGC’s board and Historic District Commission. The expansion would create a new 108,000-square-foot facility built on a vacant lot next to the current space. The Music Hall hopes to double its programming to 650 events a year. (Crain’s Detroit Business)

>>Lining up funding: The Michigan Strategic Fund approved a nearly $6.5 million loan for the redevelopment of seven buildings on Henry Street in the lower Cass Corridor. The project, a collaboration between Olympia Development of Michigan LLC and Cinnaire Solutions Corp., is expected to bring 170 units, half of which will rent to people making between 30-60% of the area median income. The City of Detroit is contributing $2 million in HOME Investment Partnerships Program funds. It’s also been approved for about $7.5 million in low-income housing tax credits. Developers have not said when construction will start. (Urbanize Detroit, Crain’s)

>>Transit news roundup: Ridership of the QLine increased 62% this year through August compared to the same time period last year, according to its nonprofit operator M-1 Rail. It attributed the increase to free fares and better on-time performance… Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is poised to sign bills that would allow for the introduction of carpool lanes to highways. The first of these lanes are planned for I-75 in Oakland County… Those affected the most by Detroit’s unreliable bus system are commuters. Watch the story of one woman’s daily struggle to get to work on time. (Detroit Free Press, Crain’s, Outlier Media, CBS Detroit)

You’re invited to Outlier Media’s Coffee Thursday! Come hang out with us at In Harmony Café on Oct. 12. The first 20 guests will receive a free brewed coffee or tea of their choice. Stop by and chat with us from 9:30-10:30 a.m. Register now on Eventbrite. We hope to see you there!

Dig Deeper

After facility and casework problems, rebuilding trust with veterans at Piquette Square a work in progress

Robert Vinson has lived at Piquette Square since it opened in 2010. Photo credit: Aaron Mondry

We decided to check in on Piquette Square six months following a Michigan Radio investigation into severe issues at an affordable housing complex for Detroit veterans. 

Residents say that Southwest Solutions has been more responsive and has been renovating large sections of the complex. At the same time, they say supportive services are still lacking.

One Good Building

Groundbreaking to preserve an old Detroit jazz venue

The Blue Bird Inn at 5021 Tireman Street. Photo credit: Leslie Cieplechowicz on behalf of Detroit Sound Conservancy

The push to preserve the building that once housed a historic jazz club finally kicked off earlier this month. Detroit Sound Conservancy (DSC) has been working to raise funds to renovate The Blue Bird Inn since 2019 when it bought the building on Tireman Avenue. After raising $400,000 to turn it back into a venue, the nonprofit started work on the preservation earlier this month. DSC says it will likely need another $400,000 to fully complete the work.

The business first opened in 1937 as a bar and restaurant. It eventually became a jazz club after its second owner put together a house band in 1948. The venue hosted some legendary acts, including Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Sarah Vaughan, and Detroit’s own harpist (and Cass Tech alumnus) Dorothy Ashby, pianist Alice Coltrane and trumpeter Donald Byrd. By 1970, it stopped putting on live music, but the business managed to stay open for another 30 years. 

Wayne County put the building up for auction in 2007, by which time it was vacant and neglected. DSC managed to spare it from demolition after successfully lobbying to have it designated as a historic district. 

Read a detailed history of The Blue Bird Inn from BridgeDetroit.

Aaron (he/him) believes in telling true stories about real people. He doesn’t think there’s anything better than a crisp fall afternoon at the Detroit Jazz Fest. More by Aaron Mondry

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