Friday, March 24, 2006

Peace Corps

"The Peace Corps invites you to NICARAGUA." Uh oh, it's finally arrived. My formal Peace Corps invitation marks decision time after a year's worth of pondering, questioning, and flip-flopping. And though I'd rather just get started with my service if I decide to accept the invitation, a May 1 departure date is frighteningly close and leaves little time to waste. So, inspired by Dan's law school post, I give you a rundown on Peace Corps/Nicaragua:

Status: Second poorest country of the western hemisphere, distribution of income is one of the most unequal in the world.
Visit: Never
Family: None
Friendship: None
Weather: Tropical
Peace Corps Program: It sounds like I'd be teaching a Junior Achievement type course in local high schools and vocational institutes.
Language: Spanish
Language Knowledge: Minimal
Housing: Concrete or brick home with wooden doors and windows and a tin roof. Latrine and shower in backyard. Probably electricity and running water though both are prone to outages.
Intangibles: Sleeping under a mosquito net for two years, machismo, relatively "normal" food, short flight for most potential visitors
Prospect: Shit, I'm scared!

There you have it. Peace Corps/Nicaragua. What do you think?

And finally, because it's never to early to start planning, I offer you possible flight options for Spring Break 2K7: Nicaragua.

Detroit, MI to Managua, Nicaragua: $703
Nashville, TN to Managua, Nicaragua: $752
Atlanta, GA to Managua, Nicargua: $796
Denver, CO to Managua, Nicaragua: $705
New York, NY to Managua, Nicaragua: $702
Phoenix, AZ to Managua, Nicaragua: $668
Los Angeles, CA to Managua, Nicaragua: $578
Boston, MA to Managua, Nicaragua: $653

Friday, March 17, 2006

Quicken Loans Moving Downtown?

"I'm David Hall, President of Rock Financial." These ads, played over and over during Pistons games, would quickly move from the bottom to the top of my list of favorite advertisments on TV if David Hall plays any role in convincing Dan Gilbert to move his headquarters downtown. Please, Lord, let this happen! This rumor has been floating around for a few months, but to my knowledge this is the first time that Dan Gilbert has publicly said he is indeed considering moving downtown.

Considering the old Statler Hotel site and the old Hudson's site, I would prefer to see them develop the Hudson's block. Although a development this size on the Statler site would provide a legitimate anchor for Grand Circus Park, the move to the Hudson's block would really help finish off the Lower Woodward cooridor. Detroit has plenty of pockets of development going on, but nothing that seems to be completely finished. Quicken Loans, Compuware, Campus Martius, One Kennedy Square all within a stone's throw from eachother would create a truly walkable district and potentially fill in the remaining downtown Woodward storefronts.

This is really exciting, but I won't get my hopes up until I hear Quicken Loans official announcement.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Doug Rothwell Interview

This is a great question and answer session with the president of Detroit Renaissance, Doug Rothwell. Once again, I'm happy to learn that there's a lot of talented leaders thinking about Michigan's future. I'm excited to read his group's major recommendations to Kwame Kilpatrick, and there's a lot in his answers that suggests some good things to come. I particularly like that he mentions the importance of building the "urban core" and talks about Detroit Synergy folks embracing Detroit for what it is. The "edginess of Detroit and the grittiness of Detroit and the hardworking nature of Detroit" are certainly all traits that I've grown to love over the last year. The idea of building a "brand and an image" around these is exciting and although you'd take some of that edginess away when you have have politicians and CEOs building an "image," I definitely agree that Detroit's grittiness is something worth promoting.

Airport City

Airport City, a landscape of modernity and prosperity, has helped Detroit become the nation's fastest-growing big city and pushed southeast Michigan back to the top of America's best economic performers, a place it has not held in 70 years. The quality of life in southeast Michigan — which at the start of the century embarrassed bright young adults and drove them away — is now a point of pride keeping them around.

This is the vision of Wayne County's development director, Mulu Birru, and an exciting plan for southeast Michigan. As the article points out it has some serious obstacles in its path, but I think Birru has the right attitude when he says, "It's a big project and it will take a lot of consensus, a lot of cooperation and a lot of imagination to make it work. But it's all possible."

The Airport City vision and yesterday's conference "Where Do We Go From Here? at least let me know that the region's leadership is thinking about Michigan's struggling economy, though time will tell if Michigan is able to successfully transform itself and thrive or if it will be left to languish and struggle.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Pop City

Model D just launched the Pittsburgh version of their site, calling it Pop City. Like Detroit, Pittsburgh has to continually fight old stereotypes and tired perceptions to "break the bad news cycle." Often beating the Free Press and News in publishing development news, Model D is exceptionally good at highlighting Detroit's transformation. The neighborhood visiting guides are well thought out and well written and the features are always informative. I can't imagine Pop City will be any different...Pittsburgh enthusiasts will be excited with this new website.

I haven't formally visited Pittsburgh, but I have driven through and as Charley in The Perks of Being a Wallflower said, it really did make me "feel infinite." Driving through the tunnel and emerging on the other side in the heart of the city was one of the cooler drives I've done. A quick look through Pop City tells the story of very healthy city with a lot of cool neighborhoods and potential.
Pittsburgh’s Downtown remains healthier than those of many midsize American cities. Geographically and economically central, it absorbs a 41-percent daytime population surge, the fourth-highest among U.S. metro areas; what’s more, 48 percent of Downtown workers arrive by transit – and, over lunch, it can seem as if nearly as many are bargain-hunting at Kaufmann’s landmark department store.
Here's to a sister rustbelt, blue collar city and Pop City's success. Pittsburgh, you give me hope for what Detroit will become.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Chevy Camaro

Please come out with this car. I think if the production model looks like the Camaro concept that debuted at the 2006 Detroit Auto Show, GM will have a hit. My only worry is that it'll take a good two to three years to develop the car and get it into dealer showrooms. Regardless, retooling the Oshawa plant as a flexible manufacturing facility and saving close to 6,000 workers is good news.