Tag Archive | Detroit

Demolition by Neglect

Post by Ben

As mentioned previously, my brother is the Executive Director of Jefferson East Business Association.  In JEBAs most recent newsletter there was a little snippet on “demolition by neglect”, which is defined as “the destruction of a building through abandonment or lack of maintenance“.  JEBA has had great success in the past year in charging owners of neglected buildings with demolition by neglect, which “require building owners to maintain their buildings according to pre-established standards; failure to maintain can lead to fines or injunctive relief.”

Demolition by neglect is major problem in Detroit, but is not limited to cities that have borne the brunt of economic hardship.  This past summer I had the pleasure of attending a Jane’s Walk hosted by members of the St. James Town Youth Council in Toronto.  The walk itself was fascinating, especially the portions that focused on “desire paths” (more on that in a later post), but of particular interest was a bit of side information I learned from the youth running the tour.

On this quiet dead end street across from St. James Town there is series of four semi-attached homes.  As you can see on Google Streetview, they are beautiful houses with tons of character, and the street has a rich history outlined beautfiully by Heritage Toronto here.

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Jazzin’ on Jefferson

Just wanted to give a little blog love for an upcoming event in downtown Detroit this weekend: Jazzin’ on Jefferson.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the event (you poor souls, you), Jazzin’ on Jefferson is a two-day musical extravaganza that takes place on Detroit’s east side along Jefferson Ave. The event is produced by the Jefferson East Business Association and draws big jazz acts and a wide range of artists every year. Jazzin’ provides a chance for the community to celebrate its rich heritage and show all it has to offer to visitors.

This years acts include the Rayse Biggs Band, Jesse Palter Quartet, and the The Scott Gwinell Jazz Orchestra. New to Jazzin’ this year is the Artist Gallery tent, which will bring the works of local artists and crafts-persons together to exhibit and sell their creations.

If you’re in the Detroit metro area this weekend be sure to stop by Jazzin’ on Jefferson. If you’re really lucky you’ll get to meet me…and honestly that’s worth visiting all by itself.

If you can’t make it, check out JEBA and all the great work they do in the area. If you are Uncle Moneybags, look at supporting them.

Oh yeah, in the interest of full disclosure, my brother, Josh Elling, is the Executive Director of JEBA, but I was neither coerced nor bribed into doing this. If someone were to offer me an icy cold beer, however, I would not decline.

The ‘burbs have gone bust

I thought I’d share a recent report from Joe Cortright (CEOs for Cities) titled Driven to the Brink: How the Gas Price Spike Popped the Housing Bubble and Devalued the Suburbs.  Urban sprawl and transportation issues are one of my favorite topics, so this report was right up my alley.

You can find the full report here, but for those of you too lazy to click I’ll highlight some of the interesting bits.

Basically Cortright’s analysis find that the recent collapse of the U.S. housing market has partially obscured an even “tectonic shift in housing demand.”  The report finds that housing price declines “are generally far more sever in far-flung suburbs and in metropolitan areas with weak close-in neighborhoods” and:

 “Housing in cities and neighborhoods that require lengthy commutes and provide few transportation alternatives to the private vehicle are falling in value more precipitously than in more central, compact and accessible places.”

Basically, all you chumps who bought into the idea of living in the 5,000 sq ft house out in the suburbs are majorly screwed and cities that have good transit are better able to withstand the housing collapse.

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2007 Photoaramamontage


Since I only have the power to look backwards in time, I’d like to share with you a montage of my photography from 2007. Two things:

1) I help run this website UrbanOhio. I’ll give it a proper introductions later, gotta space out my material.

2) I have never thought myself to be a “good” photographer (and no I’m not fishing for “woe is me” compliments.) I like photography because I do. The pictures included in the link below represent places I’ve been, memories, city’s, stories or just a laugh.

A few snippets:

I’ve got pacman fever!

cincinnati pacman

Ben’s hangout




See The Full Set

Leamington, Ontario BIA under fire for anti-U.S. Top Ten List

In an effort to keep shoppers from flocking to the Detroit area this holiday season the Leamington, Ontario Business Improvement Area has released a list of “Top Ten Reasons to Shop in Uptown Leamington.”

That, in itself, is find and dandy. The issue I have with this list is that it plays on stereotypical fears and racist preconceptions of the Detroit area in an effort to keep shoppers in Leamington.

You can tell there was an attempt at humor in this list – poorly executed, but an attempt. However, I take issue with one item in particular.

Number 7 on the list states that “If you’re going to downtown Detroit and you speak English … good luck.” The humorous intent behind this statement is unclear. It would appear instead that this is one of two things: A reference to the high proportion of African Americans who live in downtown Detroit, or a reference to the general intelligence of Americans as a whole.

As someone who’s had an opportunity to spend a good deal of time in Leamington I can surmise that is the former option. In fact, last I’d checked Leamington still had a by-law on the books from the 1800’s that forbids a “negro” from entering the city limits after dark (Note: I have not been able to substantiate this recently, so it may have been rescinded in the past 5 years – way to go, Leamington).

The fact that the BIA resorts to this sterotyping is both typical and trite. Rural Ontarians near the U.S. border all seem to have “horror” stories of getting lost in Detroit, invariably on their drive down to Florida. It’s as if I-75 is some Bermuda Triangle for Canadians that sucks them to the worst parts of Cass Corridor.

None, however, seem to find the time to actually visit Detroit. If they are crossing the border they are either going south or heading to the the suburbs to shop. And yet these stereotypes persist.

I have had the great (mis)fortune of spending a substantial amount of time in Leamington (most weekends between the ages of 16-19), and I can see little of value in shopping there rather than Windsor, let alone Detroit. Last I recall, Leamington was knows for three things: The Worlds Largest Tomato, having a Heinz plant, and having a dock from which the ferry to Pelee Island leaves from for half the summer.

So Leamington, why don’t you spend less time discriminating against Detroit in particular and America as a whole, and more time actually figuring out how to develop an economy that is based on more than greenhouses and cheap imported Mexican labourers.

Here’s the list as reproduced in the Windsor Star:

  • 10. U.S. Customs won’t believe you’re picking up Aunt Elsie at the airport for the third time this week.
  • 9. Distance from parking space to Somerset Mall entrance further than your house to Erie and Talbot.
  • 8. If you’re going to downtown Detroit and you speak French … good luck.
  • 7. If you’re going to downtown Detroit and you speak English … good luck.
  • 6. U.S. stores sooner ship to Guam than Essex County.
  • 5. American cashiers keep asking what Helen Mirren is doing on the Canadian $20.
  • 4. No need to wear that new gown under your sweats coming back over the Ambassador.
  • 3. Being strip searched at customs should not be part of your holiday shopping tradition.
  • 2. With the gas and time you’ll save why risk it in a crazy foreign country.
  • 1. Uptown Leamington has over 200 unique shops, restaurants and other attractions, takes your loonies and has the best service in North America.
Note: Thanks to Sandy for the tip on this one.
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