January 24, 2017

5 photos of renewal: Detroit

Just two years after emerging from bankruptcy, the Motor City proves it never lost its hustle.

When we launched The Renewal Project in June, I wrote about my hometown and how creative thinkers are writing its story. I traveled home over the holidays to learn more about some of these folks and the projects that are helping to strengthen the Motor City. My tour guide on this journey was Renewal Project contributor and founder of Rebrand Detroit, Hajj Flemings. Hajj showed us some of his favorite spots and introduced us to the men and women who are fueling Detroit’s renewal. Look for more photo essays as we travel the country looking for local renewal.

— Margaret Myers

Photo of Detroit Friends Potato Chips employee Rether Mason by Margaret Myers.

The Hope District

Michael Wimberley started growing potatoes on a vacant lot in Detroit’s Hope District to support a local soup kitchen for mentally and physically challenged people in the neighborhood. Now, some of those potatoes are growing up to become Detroit Friends Potato Chips. Wimberley made his first batch of chips in 2010 as a way to earn money for the soup kitchen. Today, the chips are so good, Oprah put them on her favorite things list last year. A portion of the profits go to support the soup kitchen. Wimberley believes Detroit Friends’s success can inspire other communities across the country. “We wanted to figure out how we can develop a model in a vulnerable community that other communities can look to.” In this photo, 77-year-old Rether Mason of Detroit fries up a batch of chips.

— Margaret Myers

Photo of The Farmer's Hand by Margaret Myers.

Support local

The Farmer’s Hand is a women-owned artisanal market and kitchen located in the historic district just west of downtown known as Corktown. Founded by Rohani Foulkes and Kiki Louya, the charming shop and eatery specializes in local and Michigan-made food and beverages. With partnerships with 100 growers, producers, and artisans, they are Detroit’s first neighborhood market dedicated to the sale of 100 percent locally grown and produced goods. The Farmer’s Hand has a communal space that allows customer to connect organically over food and great local beverages.

— Hajj Flemings

Photo of Detroit is the New Black workspace by Margaret Myers.

Detroit’s maker roots

A new fashion label headquartered in a former industrial warehouse celebrates the city’s past while making a statement about its future. The website puts it nicely: “Detroit is the New Black is inspired by the city. We are a forward movement of humans energized by the history and resilience of the city.” Inside the 80-year-old makerspace, called Ponyride, designers are busy building the brand from the ground up. Founder Roslyn Karamoko opened the first brick and mortar store for Detroit is the New Black just last summer. The shop, in the heart of downtown, also sells other local wares and features local artists’s work alongside the urban fashion.

— Margaret Myers

Photo of Susan Murphy of Pages Bookshop by Margaret Myers.

Neighborhood anchor

Bookstores are a thing of the past in most communities, but on Grand River Avenue in northwest Detroit, Pages Bookshop is open for business. Susan Murphy owns one of the few independent bookstores in the city. She has made Pages a center for knowledge exchange where local and national authors and leading writers convene with residents from the Grandmont Rosedale neighborhood and citywide. Pages attracts visitors to the historic Grandmont Rosedale neighborhood; it’s a true community anchor.

— Hajj Flemings

Photo of the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative by Margaret Myers.

Growing food, growing community

The Michigan Urban Farming Initiative is building community, and feeding it at the same time. In November, the organization launched what organizers call “America’s first sustainable urban agrihood.” The mixed-use property includes a two-acre urban garden that generates enough fruits and vegetables to provide free produce to nearby churches, food pantries, and nearly 2,000 households in its north central Detroit neighborhood. With partners BASF, Sustainable Brands, and General Motors, the initiative is also reclaiming this abandoned three-story building that will become a community center that will offer educational programs and provide event and meeting space. It will house two commercial kitchens that will service a cafe and allow for future production and packaging of goods.

— Margaret Myers

Margaret Myers and Hajj Flemings

Margaret Myers is the editor of The Renewal Project.

Hajj Flemings is a brand strategist, speaker, tech entrepreneur, and founder of Rebrand Detroit.