Hello, Detroit--By Sammy Davis Jr.

Friday, September 12, 2008

New Center Detroit

The New Center is a commercial district located in Detroit, Michigan, approximately three miles (5 km) north of the city's downtown, and one mile (1.6 km) north of the Cultural Center. The area is centered just west of the intersection of Woodward Avenue and Grand Boulevard, and is approximately bounded by Virginia Park Historic District on the north, the Ford Freeway on the south, John R. on the east and the Lodge Freeway on the west.

The heart of the New Center was developed in the 1920s as a business hub that would offer convenient access to both downtown resources and outlying factories. Some historians believe that the New Center may be the original edge city—a sub-center remote from, but related to, a main urban core. The descriptor "New Center" derived its name from the New Center News, an automotive-focused free newspaper begun in 1933 that continues to operate under the name Detroit Auto Scene. From 1923 to 1996, General Motors maintained its world headquarters in the New Center (in what is now Cadillac Place) before relocating downtown to the Renaissance Center; before becoming a division of GM, Fisher Body was headquartered in the Fisher Building. Both Cadillac Place and the Fisher Building are National Historic Landmarks. In addition to the business/commercial district along Woodward and Grand Boulevard, the New Center includes mixed industrial and commercial areas in the southern section, and primarily residential areas to the north.

In 1891, Detroit mayor Hazen Pingree broke ground on the construction of Grand Boulevard, a ring road that wrapped around the city of Detroit. The Boulevard ran for 12 miles, curving from the Detroit River on the west to the river on the east and crossing Woodward Avenue at a point approximately 3 miles from downtown. The Boulevard was originally thought to represent the absolute limit of the city's expansion, although tremendous growth at the beginning of the 20th century quickly pushed the city limits far beyond Grand Boulevard.

In the 1890s, major railroad infrastructure known as the Milwaukee Junction was built just south of Grand Boulevard to facilitate industrial expansion in the city of Detroit. To take advantage of the rail line, industrial plants were built in this area on both sides of Woodward Avenue, with the automotive indistry prominently involved. Part of this area east of Woodward is now the Piquette Avenue Industrial Historic District, while the area west of Woodward and south of the railroad tracks is the New Amsterdam Historic District. Most notably, in 1904, Burroughs Adding Machine Company built a large factory on Third, and the following year Cadillac built an assembly plant just to the east of Burroughs.

Grand Boulevard, along its entire extent, was an attractive residential address at the beginning of the 20th century. This was also true in the area that was to become the New Center. At the turn of the century, a number of private homes were built along Grand Boulevard and in the neighborhoods to the north, notably including what is now the Virginia Park Historic District on the northern edge of the New Center. Interspersed in the area were small apartment buildings. Larger apartment buildings were constructed in the area in the 1920s to serve the population of workers and visitors to the area after larger office buildings had been built on Grand Boulevard.

In the late 1910s and early 1920s, the automobile industry in Detroit grew rapidly. The economic surge made land in downtown Detroit difficult to obtain. The lack of suitable parcels frustrated William C. Durant in his search for the optimum location for his planned General Motors headquarters. Durant looked to the north, and settled on a location just west of Woodward Avenue on Grand Boulevard. A the time, the area was a residential district of private homes and small apartment buildings.

Durant hired Albert Kahn (architect) to design his building, and ground was broken in 1919. The building was originally to be called the "Durant Building," but Durant left the company before the building was completed, so when it opened in 1922, the building was called the "General Motors Building." As General Motors continued to grow, the company required more space. In the later 1920s, they built a second building, the General Motors Resarch Laboratory (also known as the Argonaut Building), also designed by Kahn, directly south of their headquarters. THe building was built in two phases, and was completed in 1930.

Around the same time, the Fisher Brothers of Fisher Body followed General Motors to the area. They broke ground on their eponymous Fisher Building in 1927, located across Grand Boulevard from the General Motors Building. The Fisher Brothers also hired Kahn, and spared no expense to construct their headquarters building. The followed this up with the construction of New Center Building (now the Albert Kahn Building), completed in 1932. The Great Depression, however, forced the Fishers to break off their plans to construct a complex of buildings in the New Center, including a grandiose three-towered version of the Fisher building.

The New Center has had a strong retail section, primarily along the Woodward and Grand Boulevard corridors. Retail along Grand Boulevard developed with the construction of the General Motors and Fisher buildings. While these buildings were being built, there was a thriving retail presence along Woodward. A retail strip still exists south of Grand Boulevard along Woodward; some businesses in the district have existed at their current location since the 1920s.

Henry Ford Hospital has continued to expand. The hospital has built numberous additions to their campus since its inception by Henry Ford, from the Clara Ford Nursing Home in 1925 to their high-rise clinic in 1955 to hospital apartments in 1976. In 1992, Henry Ford purchased the old Burroughs headquarters to the south and renamed it One Ford Place. The building is now the Henry Ford Hospital corporate headquarters.

In 1967, the Hotel St. Regis was built on the north side of Grand Boulevard near General Motors' headquarters. In 1988, the hotel was doubled in size. In 1980, General Motors built another addition to the heart of the New Center, New Center One, located across Grand Boulevard from their headquarters. The new eight-story building housed retail stores, offices, and some divisions of General Motors.

In 1977, General Motors began refurbishing some of the residential neighborhoods north of Grand Boulevard. The result was the "New Center Commons," a collection of refurbished single-family homes on the north side of the New Center. With the revitalization of Virginia Park, the New Center has two distinct historic residential neighborhhods within its boundaries. General Motors also facilitated the rehabilitation of some multi-family dwellings. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, new townhomes and condominiums were constructed in what had been empty areas of the New Center, including a section along Woodward just north of Grand Boulevard. Additional loft renovation (as well as the TechTown research incubator) took place at the same time within the New Amsterdam Historic District.

The New Center served as a kind of corporate campus for GM for 70 years. However, the company left the area in the 1990s, moving their headquarters to the Renaissance Center downtown. The old General Motors Building -- Now Cadillac Place -- is occupied by the state of Michigan.

Currently, the New Center hosts the CityFest, a five-day street festival held around Independence Day.

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Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler) By Marvin Gaye

Dah, dah, dah, dah
dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah
Dah, dah, dah, dah
Dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah
Dah, dah, dah

Rockets, moon shots
Spend it on the have nots
Money, we make it
Fore we see it you take it

Oh, make you wanna holler
The way they do my life
Make me wanna holler
The way they do my life
This ain't livin', This ain't livin'
No, no baby, this ain't livin'
No, no, no

Inflation no chance
To increase finance
Bills pile up sky high
Send that boy off to die

Oh, make me wanna holler
The way they do my life
Make me wanna holler
The way they do my life

Dah, dah, dah
Dah, dah, dah

Hang ups, let downs
Bad breaks, set backs
Natural fact is
I can't pay my taxes

Oh, make me wanna holler
And throw up both my hands
Yea, it makes me wanna holler
And throw up both my hands

Crime is increasingTrigger happy policing
Panic is spreading
God knows where we're heading
Oh, make me wanna holler
They don't understand

Dah, dah, dah
Dah, dah, dah
Dah, dah, dah

Mother, motherEverybody thinks we're wrong
Who are they to judge us
Simply cause we wear our hair long

Detroit's Downtown

Don't Look Back Detroit, Keep on Pushing

Detroit as the Temptations hae said, we have to keep on pushing and not look back. We have to leave all our troubles behind us and look forward to a brighter future for not only the citizens of Detroit but the city of Detroit. We have to keep on walking Detroit and keep on pushing forward as we leave our past behind. Stall Tall Detroit and look for a future of Greatness as we as Detroiters strive and survive together.