When you think of areas in Detroit, the two that automatically come to mind are Downtown and Midtown. Corktown is one that is not brought up as much anymore. It is on the edge of Downtown and Mexican town. Its borders are: Interstate 75 to the north, the Lodge freeway to the east (M-10), Bagley and Porter Streets to the south and Rosa Parks Boulevard (12th Street) to the west. Although Rosa Parks Blvd. may have the western border, some still include the Michigan Central Station and other sections still a part of Corktown.
Corktown was first settled in the mid 1800s by Irish farmers who were at the time going through the Potato famine. They moved here and most were from the County Cork, hence the name, “Corktown.” Over half of the residents by 1850 were of Irish descent. Many would serve in the Civil War and as the 20th Century approached, Germans began to move into the area. The district used to be larger, but with the completion of the Lodge freeway and I-75, the district became smaller. Most of Corktown is residential, but the area along Michigan Avenue is mostly commercial.
The area that is on the rise is the commercial area along Michigan Avenue. There are already many businesses along the strip that have been there for awhile and are thriving such as: PJ’s Lager House, Nemo’s Bar, Hoots on the Avenue, the Corktown Tavern, and the Detroit Athletic Company.
There are buildings in the Corktown that have been sitting for a long time, but now are finding new life. Slows BBQ has revitalized an area at one point was super busy, thanks to the Michigan Central Station. Slows BBQ opened in 2005 and has since won many awards, ranking as one of the top BBQ joints in Michigan. It sits right across the street from the MCS and the block that it sits on has helped the buildings take new life.
The building that currently houses Slows BBQ was too small as so much business was coming through, that it moved next door, taking over a former Real Estate Agency Building. O’Conner Real Estate moved two doors down next to Astro Coffee and LJ’s Lounge. O’Connor has been around for more than 40 years and decided to invest in Detroit recently and Astro Coffee just opened up this past summer and LJ’s Lounge in the past year.
One building on the same block is a former Pawn Shop, next to The Sugar House has been empty awhile, but is looking at redevelopment and a new use. As first reported by Curbed Detroit, the former pawn shop was bought by several businessmen, Phil Cooley (owner of Slows BBQ), Toby Barlow (author and local celebrity), Ryan Cooley (Phil’s brother), Meghan Cooley (Ryan’s husband), and Brian Boyle (co-founder of Model D Media).
The plan is to turn the former pawn shop into a restaurant. It has not been said yet what type of restaurant it will be. Above the brand new addition to Slows BBQ, a brand new Bed and Breakfast is almost ready to go and it will be called Honor + Folly. It was so popular, it’s already booked.
Directly across the street from the Slows BBQ block is a former coffee shop, called Mercury Coffee Shop. The former sign still hangs there, and up until recently had paper covering the inside of the windows, which allowed no viewing into the building. That’s pretty normal to not see in abandoned buildings in Detroit but this was different. It looked as if something was going on, and it’s true, the building was being renovated. It may not be like the Broderick Tower, but it’s being turned into another restaurant. It will be called the Mercury Burger Bar and will open in less than two weeks. David Steinke and Dennis Fulton are the owners, which will also serve breakfast.
Another building, a bit farther down, towards the Downtown area, another former pawn shop was just recently bought by Joe Misfud and his partner Bryan Brincat. It is directly next to Nemo’s Bar. The plan is to turn it into an Italian restaurant and be ready by sometime in the next year.
These are just a few of the renovations currently going on in the Corktown area. Michigan Central Station is a whole different beast which we will feature in next week’s article. The revitalization of the Corktown area is giving Detroit something else to be proud of. Although it still has a long way to go, Corktown can be something it never was, a neighborhood with a vital restaurant scene, businesses galore and safe neighborhoods. To check out more information on the Corktown neighborhood, go to Detroit.curbed.com
Feel free to check out my other articles at http://michiganjournal.org/
By Chris Zadorozny
Inside Detroit came about because 2 people saw a need for something and they did something about it. They saw a need for a space where people could get information about Detroit, where people who wanted to learn more about Detroit’s past could. That’s how things happen in Detroit. People see where there are holes in the system and then fill them.
The same thing is happening right now, 6 years later, Inside Detroit is growing. We’ve expanded our space and we’re now cohabiting with a new, just starting up, non-profit, The D:hive.
“The D:hive will be a non-profit partnership that will help individuals connect with information and resources relevant to living, working and engaging in Detroit through the direct assistance of a D:hive team member. D:hive team members will act as “air traffic control” for many institutions, programs and projects that wish to serve, assist and partner with new Detroit residents”
Thursday, December 8th was the D:hive’s pre-launch party at the Madison Theater Building.
They asked for help pollinating the D:hive. Over one hundred fifty people were able to come out and share ideas on nine different resource questions that the D:hive is working on to assist individuals wishing to live, work and engage in Detroit. The questions were
1. Welcome to Detroit What information/resources exist, and what is needed to help individuals get to know Detroit?
2. Partner & Parallel Initiatives In Detroit, what efforts/entities already exist that the D:hive should know about, understand and possibly partner with?
3. Real Estate Information What residential and/or commercial real estate information is needed for those new to Detroit?
4. Retail Recruitment What essential retail is missing in Detroit?
5. Data Everyone Needs What data exists to assist newcomers to Detroit? What else is needed?
6. Innovator Profiles What other Detroit Innovators should be profiled and connected with?
7. Project Build Classes Please share names/contact info of individuals with project ideas who may need help writing their plan.
8. Grow Roundtables Please share names of existing urban innovators who may be interested in small monthly problem-solving gatherings. What specific topics should be covered/presented to assist existing urban innovators?
9. Job Postings How can more attention be brought to great job opportunities in Detroit?
The D:hive is located inside Inside Detroit, they ask that you come into the space and add your opinions to the boards. The goal of all these boards is to see what people are talking about.
Jon and I worked Table #1, Welcome to Detroit, and it was amazing to see what people knew about and what they didn’t. We split our boards into two different sides, one was what resources do people need to get to know the city, and one was what resources already exist to help people out?
The D:hive and Inside Detroit both invite you back into the Welcome Center, located at 1253 Woodward, to continue the conversation. The reason we want your feedback is so that we can make this the most complete list anyone has ever seen. We know that when only a few people are heard, voices get left out, and that’s not what we’re looking for, we want to incorporate all of your ideas, thoughts, and hopes.
So stop in, check out the 60+ merchants that are selling things in the Welcome Center. Then step back into the D:hive and help us make a better Detroit by sharing what you know!
Come and help us fill the boards!
Social Media / Marketing for Inside Detroit
The other day I sat in the Inside Detroit Conference Room (if you haven’t seen it yet, it sort of looks like a fish bowl), and as I stared outside I watched the rain turn to snow. I moved to the front desk after our meeting and watched more and more snow fall, but not stick to the ground. And as I left the Welcome Center at 6pm, I noticed the Trees in the Hudson’s site.
I walked to my car, brushed the snow off the window’s, not much there, but enough to make it hard to see out the back windows. The I turned left on Library, left onto Clifford, stopped on the corner of Clifford and Woodward for the light. And I’m not sure if you’ve seen the window display’s in Tall-Eez Shoe Store window, or in Oslo’s windows, but they are filled with christmas tree’s with the light blue/white Christmas lights on.
There are two Christmas Tree’s in front of Somerset’s City Lofts, with the same blue/white lights on it.
A beautiful way to see the city. The snow flakes on the Woodward street lights lit up with the same color lights as those window trees. The city is in sync, the holiday lights match.
So how does this relate to you? Well, if you haven’t been downtown in a while then you should go and check it out. It’s a side of Detroit that you haven’t seen before. It’s bright, sparkling. It’s a whole new Detroit. The streets seem brighter, cleaner, newer, and most of all you can tell that the lights have brightened the spirits of the people of Detroit.
What winter in Detroit means to me is friends that are willing to brave the cold. I know that no matter how sick you are, you will have friends from all over the city offer to bring you meals to make you feel better. I know that I can ride my bike any where in the city and be safe. I know that I can go to most bars in the city and talk to the owners. I know I can start a conversation with any one sitting next to me, because they are here for the same reasons I am, to get out of the house.
As the thunder starts to roll on another Detroit evening, rain starts to tap on the windows, I sit here and hope against hope that it does not turn to snow. I long for summer when I can ride my bike without looking like the kid from “A Christmas Story”. I long for the Detroit summer with its hot gusty winds, the summer smells in the city, the sounds of Tigers games echoing throughout the city.
Writing like this makes me feel a little “Sex and the City”, but what can I say, I love Detroit. I don’t have sorted affairs with men, I can’t afford Manolo Blahnik’s, even though I’d really like too. But I do love my city. Detroit to me has everything I’m looking for. It has a gritty and amazing past. Someone posted a comment to my last post “Speak to your family and no matter what your ethnicity, you will find Detroit as part of your families historical DNA.” Detroit’s past is something that never ends. It has that of the old world, gossip, intrigue, the rise and fall of greatness… Detroit is the American version of Rome. We have Michigan Central Station, they have the Coliseum. I used to read Russian history books, Russian history is a real life soap-opera. I didn’t think America was old enough to have the intrigue that Russia did. But here I sit, surrounded by a remarkable history, that I’m reminded of every time I shepherd a tour with Inside Detroit. Every time I learn something new. Ask me about the Scott Fountain.
Detroit has a gritty present, we’ve been plagued by corruption, exodus, failed mass transit, you name it, we’ve had it, recently. But we’re combatting it. Now, right now. The people in this city, my friends, me, we are here making the city a better place. Making events, restaurants, stores, things, we’re making things happen here. The buildings that have been left behind are empty, blank, cheap and ours to make whole again. The Woodbridge Pub, was once a liquor store, could you tell? I have watched The Bronx and Motor City Brewing Works grow, The Park Bar and Cliff Bells get remodeled. The opening of City Bird and The Bureau of Urban Living and then watched that change into Nest… How amazing to be able to watch things grow, change, reinvent, and then do it again.
and the future will be what we make it.
Watching the lights pop up on Woodward, the Tree Lighting Ceremony, and the general amazingness of the holiday season in Detroit, put me in an unusually good mood for the cold weather.
As the photo says, And then they lived happily ever after. Won’t you be a part of that happily ever after?
hoping you enjoy the weather.
We received an email and wanted to share it with all of you. I hope you enjoy, and please share your stories too!
I married my best friend, Garrett Menzel, on Saturday, October 22, 2011! He is a wonderful man, he is an awesome step-father and the best partner a woman could ask for. We met at a Super Bowl party on Sunday, February 7, 2010. I was not going to attend due to the fact I was sick. However, something “pulled” me to the party. I spent 75% of the party talking with Gary. We started dating immediately after that and have been inseparable ever since. He proposed to me at Iridescence in Motor City Casino-Hotel on Saturday, February 6, 2011. We completely enjoyed our dinner that evening as well as our stay at Motor City Casino Hotel. As we planned our wedding, and honeymoon, we decided we would wait to see the Detroit Lions’ 2011-12 schedule. If there was a home game near our wedding date, that was where we would go and stay Downtown for a few days. As it happened, they did have a home game on Sunday, October 23, 2011. Our plans for “Honeymooning the D” had begun. We then purchased a Groupon for Small Plates, Finn & Porter and Coach Insignia. We reserved a corner, king room at Greektown Casino-Hotel. As we told people our plans there was a mix of responses, from REALLY??!!! WHY??? and WOW! That is awesome! As our wedding date grew closer, we became increasing excited for our “Honeymoon in the D”.
Sunday, October 23, began with two of our friends joining us for the Lions game. In the 3rd quarter my husband saw the “wedding present” I set up for him “Happy 1 day anniversary” up in lights on the jumbotron. After the game we met up with my new sister in law, Sandy. She took us to Cliff Bells for a drink to celebrate our marriage (and to “drown our sorrows” due to Lions loss to Atlanta). She then took us on a tour of “must sees and must dos” within Downtown Detroit. We ended with dinner at Vicente Cuban Cuisine Restaurant. We were off to a wonderful honeymoon!
We checked into Greektown and enjoyed the nighttime view of Detroit! Out our window was the Blue Cross building with its pink ribbon lights. The other buildings that we could see were beautiful and made us wonder about their histories.
On Monday we proceed to ride the People Mover around and then ended up back at Endzone Restaurant in Trappers Alley for breakfast. We then went to Avanti Press for a tour and to pick up some greeting cards. This was not a planned part of our excursions, but it was a lot of fun and very interesting! For lunch we went to Hudson’s Café. It was a flood emotions for me, as this was a place that my mom and I would frequent when I was younger. My mom has been gone 8 years. The food was amazing and the atmosphere was modern yet comfortable. We went about stopping in a few stores and buying I <3 Detroit shirts for our children. I rested for a bit in our room and Gary gambled in the Casino (he broke even lol).
For dinner, our two-day anniversary, we went to Coach Insignia at the Renaissance Center. The view was amazing and we enjoyed watching the sunset. This was our second trip to CI and we will not be returning.
On Tuesday we set out for brunch/ lunch at Small Plates. They were not open when we arrived so we proceeded to Simmons and Clark Jewelers. Gary purchased a charm for my bracelet to commemorate our honeymoon. We then went to Small Plates to eat. THIS WAS AN AMAZING MEAL! The service was almost as enjoyable as the food! The staff congratulated us (everyone, including the manager). They even gave us a complimentary dessert, their chocolate chip cookie and ice cream and caramel creation, DELICIOUS!!
After lunch we stopped next door at the Detroit Brewery for a taste of beer. I am not a beer drinker and the bartender was very attentive in helping me choose one to my liking. We bought souvenirs for our “home bar”.
We proceeded to walk over to Inside Detroit and read some literature and looked over the merchandise.
We retreated back to our room for rest and gambling again. On the agenda for Happy Hour was Roast. We enjoyed an hour of drinks and appetizers. For dinner we went to Finn and Porter. Again, this was an amazing meal and experience! The service was terrific. The food was absolutely delicious and cooked perfectly. They treated us like VIPs. We spent 2 hours there, by our choice, and enjoyed every minute and morsel.
We spent our last night at Greektown by enjoying the view from our room.
We have shared our experiences with our friends and families. There are outings already scheduled for our return.