On Wednesday, June 17, 2020, the SpaceLab Innovation Center, powered by SpaceLab Detroit, hosted a timely webinar to discuss the role of architecture and urban planning in creating safe, healthy living environments: Toward More Equitable Living Environments: African Americans, Architecture and Planning in the Time of COVID-19. View the video replay of the discussion by clicking the link above. Show notes are below the panelists’ bios.
Cities with majority Black populations like Detroit, Baltimore and New Orleans have been greatly impacted by COVID-19. At the end of April, Data Driven Detroit estimated that about one quarter of COVID-19 cases in Michigan were in Detroit despite the city being only 6.7% of the state’s population. APM Research Lab in St. Paul, Minnesota reports that nationwide, African Americans are dying from the virus at three times the rate of white Americans.
Discussion topics included the value placed on Black communities, causes for the disparity in cases of the virus and death rates, ideas for changes to city infrastructure design during and after this pandemic, and how design professionals can adapt to changing environments.
Kimberly Dowdell, a licensed architect and urban thought leader who is focused on building resilient, healthy and sustainable cities. A native of Detroit, Kimberly’s passion for design as a catalyst for urban revitalization was inspired by childhood experiences in her hometown. She went on to live in Ithaca, Rome, Washington, New York and Boston prior to returning to Detroit in 2015, where she worked on neighborhood-scale reinvestment efforts until her relocation to Chicago in 2019. Kimberly’s professional mission is to improve the quality of life for people living in cities. She believes in building diverse, cross-sector teams to solve our society’s most complicated challenges with a lens towards justice and equity. She is the 2019-2020 National President of National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) and a Principal in the Chicago studio of HOK, a global architecture and planning firm.
Andre Perry, PhD, a fellow at Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, DC., and author of Know Your Price: Valuing Black Lives and Property in America’s Black Cities. Dr. Perry’s research focuses on race and structural inequality, community engagement, education, economic inclusion, and workforce development. He is a frequent contributor to news programming on NBC, National Public Radio, TheGriot.com, CNN, and other national media outlets. (@andreperryedu on Twitter and Instagram and firstname.lastname@example.org)
Donald Rencher, Director of Housing and Revitalization with the City of Detroit. Since 2015, he has served the City in multiple roles, including working on mixed income, mixed use development projects and financial underwriting. Prior to working at the City of Detroit, Donald was senior lead counsel to the Michigan State Housing Development Authority where he worked on large-scale, affordable housing development and served over its single-family housing portfolio.
Moderated by: Michael Randall, urban planner and Director of Community Impact at the American Heart Association Detroit. He has devoted his career and life to the development of communities around the country and the world. His expertise includes, but is not limited to, public health, urban planning, housing, community enrichment and financial capabilities. Michael has served on both public and nonprofit boards including the Ypsilanti Planning Commission, the Ypsilanti Library Board of Trustees and Legal Services of South Central Michigan. His entrepreneurial endeavors include co-owning and operating the community enrichment organization, Maureen James Community Enrichment.
page header photo credit: Mike Birdy
Purchase Know Your Price at Source Booksellers, a Detroit Small Business
Q&A (49:45 – 55:21): We see diversity in public spaces that have an attraction appeal. i.e..Millenium Park. How do we design parks inclusively so that level of diversity is co-existing in neighborhoods? Is this an opportunity for black/LatinX architects to enable this kind of participation? (via Michael R.)
Q&A (56:04): What will it take to provide more section 8 support for Detroit housing? will additional section 8 support encourage developers to invest in Detroit? (via Marla M.)
Q (57:04 – 1:00:42): At what point do we fund our projects with our money from our banks (Credit Unions as well)? One United Bank for example. (via Kendal B.)
Q&A (1:04:04 – 1:05:00): How do you recommend that we tackle explaining these histories and systemic racial practices within our universities architectural history classes? And make sure these community histories of disenfranchisement are kept in mind by designers even at the early stages of their education? (via Ramatoulie S.)
Q&A (1:05:45: 1:06:36): Are the panelists engaged in any real estate development or affordable housing projects? (via Vic B.)
Articles and discussion topics:
Public input to street re-design: ‘Safe Streets’ Are Not Safe for Black Lives (CityLab) (via Kathleen D.)
Buy Back the Block:
Buy the Block
Buy the Block is Building Up Black Communities and Curbing Gentrification One Block at a Time (Black Enterprise)
- Credit repair and banking
- Opportunity Zones
- Affordable Housing
- Cost of homeownership (including insurance and utilities)
- Practical money skills education
NOMA: National Organization of Minority Architects (via Kimberly D.)
Community Development Advocates of Detroit (CDAD) Community Engagement policy committee is drafting legislation to improve Community Engagement. Too often the engagement process is wanting. If you’re interested in this process please feel free to contact Ruth Johnson of CDAD or take action here. (via Orletta C.)
Habitat for Humanity affiliates are certified credit counselors and assist people with credit repair. (via Elizabeth W.)
U.S. Dept. of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) certified free credit organizations. (via Katherine W.)
Home Builders Association of Southeast Michigan (HBA) has scholarships for students heading to or already enrolled in any aspect of construction education. Deadline extended into July. (via Elizabeth W.)
NOMA Detroit Project Pipeline Virtual Summer Camp (via Vic. B.)
Noir Design Parti: Important work and history of minority architects in Detroit is the focus of this Knight Arts Challenge award-winning project. Find out more about our work and support our mission! (via Saundra L.)
SpaceLab members and collaborators have a wealth of experience in their fields. Here are books that have been authored by our business and built environment leaders. They can all be purchased on Amazon.com.
Crowley’s: Detroit’s Friendly Store by Bruce Allen Kopytek.
Proving Ground: A Memoir by W. David Tarver.
Life, Liberty N’ Property: A Guide to Successful Real Estate Investing by John Delia. On Amazon
Click the image to read and view morehttps://spark.adobe.com/page-embed.js
As part of Detroit StartUp Week, SpaceLab presents “From Build-Out to Open“
Building out your brick-and-mortar business – restaurant, retail or office – is a gargantuan task, and can sometimes feel overwhelming. How do you come to an agreement with a building owner, or buy your own building? Who do you call first after you secure the space? How much should you budget for design and construction costs? We’ve assembled an expert panel of Detroit professionals to help navigate the process and answer your questions.
Moderator: Lynnette Boyle – Principal, Beanstalk Real Estate Solutions
Erin Bonahoom – Founding Attorney, Canvas Legal
Sean Kelly, LLP Construction Services
Troy Puste – Broker, RISE Real Estate & Co.
Lynnette has worked in the Detroit metropolitan commercial real estate industry for over 25 years. As Vice President of Property Management with Bedrock Real Estate Services, she worked on the acquisition, development and management of over 7 million square feet of downtown Detroit high-rise and mixed-use property. Lynnette has managed assets and operations of over 20 million square feet of real estate, developing and overseeing operating budgets, implementing multi-million-dollar renovation programs, helping mitigate risk of legal and financial issues, and negotiating vendor, supplier and union contracts.
Erin’s law practice is based in Detroit and dedicated to providing comprehensive legal services to established businesses, startups, and nonprofits in Southeast Michigan. She advises small businesses, startups and nonprofits from across a wide range of industries on formation, governance, employment, general operations, commercial real estate, construction, and contractual agreements. Erin is also a facilitator and a member of the Board of Directors for the Build Institute in Detroit, a nonprofit focused on economic development empowering the citizens of Detroit and other cities to start their own businesses.
Sean Kelly is a construction industry professional representing the LLP Construction team. Sean’s project portfolio includes commercial and industrial projects throughout the U.S. His responsibilities include; estimating, project management and business development. Sean received a bachelor’s degree in Construction Management from Michigan State University and holds the designation of “Associate Constructor” through the American Institute of Constructors.
Troy is founder of RISE Real Estate & Co., a full-service Real Estate Brokerage. The firm handles residential and commercial sales and leases. Their emphasis is on Detroit’s real estate market, however they sell throughout all of Southeast Michigan.
Fieldstone Architecture & Engineering is a full-service A&E firm focused on providing tailored services to the most trusted builders and developers in the United States. The company focuses on Residential & Golf Communities, Commercial, Clubhouse & Amenity, and Luxury Custom Homes.
They have dedicated their efforts to finding and developing the most talented people in the industry, and they’ve built a team that understands the full build cycle.
With their new office at SpaceLab Detroit, the company now has six offices in Michigan, Minnesota and Florida. In 2015, Fieldstone was listed in Inc. magazine as as one of America’s 5000 fastest-growing privately held companies due to their 600% growth over 3 years time.
Welcome, Bruce Kopyteck, AIA, Ryan Rassmussen, PE, Allan Djordjevic, and the entire Fieldstone A&E team!
Michal Catari is founder and CEO of Wolf Virtual Reality. He previously owned construction companies and has been a construction manager and project manager for development companies. Michal has architecture and interior design degrees from Lawrence Technological University.
SpaceLab’s Grow Detroit’s Young Talent intern Micah Womack spoke with Michal about starting a company, virtual reality, and technology in construction, real estate, and the industrial sector.
Micah: Can you tell me about your company?
MC: Wolf Virtual Reality is the name of the company. The trademarked name is “Wolf VR.” Wolf VR is a visualization company in Detroit. We help companies primarily in the real estate market illustrate their properties so they can get advanced funding and early pre-sales or pre-leases of properties.
Micah: As someone going to college, what advice would you give me?
MC: For those who may want to work at Wolf VR, mathematics would be one thing. Some art would definitely be a big plus. The mathematics comes into play when you have to do measurements. It’s not very complex, but it’s good to have to be able to figure out sizes of rooms, volumes and scales. In terms of visualization and art, maybe some hand-sketching or painting because we’re looking for more of the creative types to come on board.
Micah: What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?
MC: Probably be the best thing to think about would be to develop solid contacts. This industry is built on contacts. You can have great advertisements and awesome campaigns, but you have to build relationships with individuals, and build their trust one-on-one. My advice is to have a solid network of people from different industries who could eventually use your services.
Micah: Walk us through your management strategies.
MC: As the owner, I need to develop strong relationships with whomever I manage. I also need to identify targets for segments or markets I’d like to pursue.
So, management processes: I oversee a lot of things within our organization – advertising, marketing, payroll, cash flow. I also have to be very mindful about contracts, proposals and estimates. In our engagement with the customer, we acknowledge what they’re trying to achieve, and then we start by developing a schedule so we can be on time with our services and fit within our customer’s schedule.
Micah: What are the biggest issues in construction, real estate and design today,
MC: Construction is one division built on tradition. They do things a certain way and aren’t always the most willing to make changes. Then here we come with a completely new technology, introducing how it can be used in various industries, from medical to construction to real estate to advertising to retail. Although this technology is costly, in the long run it will benefit us if we can be early adopters and allow it to prove itself to work. In our case, we helped a lot of real estate agents, owners and construction companies visualize what’s coming in their projects, and the return is maybe 100 times their investment.
Micah: What’s been the best feedback you’ve received from a client?
MC: I think it’s our attention to detail that’s most captivating to our audience. We spend quite a bit of time portraying what something would look like in the real world through an artificial world that we’re creating. Our attention to detail allows helps our client and their end user to truly visualize what they’re going to get, whether it’s the soap dispenser on the countertop, to the bedsheets, or the flooring or lighting. It’s a true representation as if it was real.
So, our attention to detail, our timeliness, and the communication has been the most rewarding. I would say probably the utmost is, “Thank you for helping us sell our property in five days for over $3 million.”
Micah: What’s your growth plan? What areas are you targeting?
MC: We’re trying to focus on the real estate market. So far, that has been, our most successful segment. We’re also looking at growing into different products so we have a full-service offering for our customers. We started off with visualizations; then full 3D images for virtual tours; then our most elite service: full immersion. Through the use of technology, we can insert that customer into that environment that does not yet exist.
For growth, we’re adding services that our client would typically get from different sources. For example, web pages, project management, and also specialty cameras that do a 360-degree pan of the room, and we stitch them together without having to do animation work. We’re also adding drone services. We decided to combine all those services under one roof.
We are looking to expand into the construction and industrial industries and focus on training using full immersion, our top-end service. We can simulate tasks and provide a training mechanism. If someone is afraid of heights, we can virtually put them on a skyscraper looking down, incrementally increasing their awareness and helping them to be more comfortable in order to relieve any stress.
We can also teach people how to properly do their jobs. If one person has a high level of skill that they’ve developed over 25 or 30 years, they take those skill sets with them when they retire. It will take the next generation another 30 years to develop to that skill level. We can have the senior level person tell us how they execute certain tasks, and then simulate those exact tasks to create a simulation training module, saving the company training costs.
Micah: What is the biggest item on your to-do list.
MC: I’d say it’s to secure a perpetual contract with an outfit – whether that be a construction company, a design house, or a real estate agent. We want to be their go-to source for visualizations, and we’d have a steady stream of income coming in week after week. It could be repetitive, but always something new.
Micah: What technology are you using?
MC: We’re using the latest technology in terms of virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed realities. Those vary between software and hardware packages.
You asked about education. If you have a desire or passion to do or learn what we Wolf VR offers, we are very willing to teach. We find that the people who are very interested and passionate are the ones who are the most creative producers. You don’t have to have a degree – we can teach within the company.
Micah: What was your breakthrough project?
MC: I think it was the very first project that we received. It was from a gentleman in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He knew my capabilities. I understood the project and what they were seeking. Someone took a huge chance on Wolf VR – we had only been open a few weeks – but he knew my integrity and the talent pool I would bring. We persevered, we gave them everything we had, and then even more. The relationship has been fruitful for us because now that customer has given us two jobs, and recently called us back for another.
Micah: What was your favorite project to do?
MC: There’ve been so many projects; they’re unique in their own way. If I had a favorite, I’d say the very first project. The owner emailed us and said, “I have these images. I’ve had this other firm put these together. Could you please make it look more realistic?”
That resonates with me because with our jobs thus far – except for only a couple – we’ve had to fix other people’s projects. Not necessarily mistakes, but we had to really take a look at what someone was trying to achieve and turn the customer’s pain into a more fruitful outcome, guaranteeing that the results would be to their satisfaction and exceed their level of expectation.
Micah: If there is one thing you could change about your company, what would it be?
MC: There really isn’t much to say about changing. We’re really evolving as a company. When I first started, it was visualization. I had a solid business plan, and we initially intended on doing simulations. However, as a new company, we had to work to establish leads for that work. So, we’ve taken on many different opportunities from real estate to video game development to other things which help us grow. Having experiences in those different segments really made me think that my initial business plan was just a starting point – we’ve evolved so much in one year.
I see Wolf VR becoming a very prominent player in Detroit and other markets across the country. The goal is to have a Wolf VR office in every state so that anyone can bring their plans and ideas knowing that our talent network will transform their visions into reality at a very moderate cost. We want to become the premier visualization company. There are internet services, but we all really still need to have the interaction with people. We’re an open company. If you drop by our office, somebody will take the time to come talk to you. Please come and see us.
Micah: That’s all I have for you today. It was nice interviewing you!
MC: Thank you. It was a pleasure.
Seann Lewis has opened a satellite office at SpaceLab Detroit. He brings his company’s expertise in information technology and drone services to our coworking and shared office community. The company’s services complement the other built environment company offerings at SpaceLab.
After being honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy as an Electronics Technician, Seann saw the need for quality technology services at an affordable price. What began as a one-man operation has quickly grown into much more. SeannLewis.com‘s service offerings include:
– Computer sales, repair and troubleshooting
– IT consultation
– Networking and network troubleshooting
– Web Design and Development
– Scalable IT solutions
– IT staffing
A leading provider of drone services for construction and real estate projects in the metro Detroit area, Seann recently presented a workshop introducing professionals to the types of drones, how they are used for gathering data, surveying, mapping, and sales, and where the industry is headed.
The second weekend of November, Detroit DREAM Investment Solutions will sponsor an Investors Weekend with a Networking Mixer Friday, November 9, 2018 and a private tour and partner meeting on Saturday the 10th.
Detroit D.R.E.A.M. Investment Solutions, LLC, led by Deba Harper, is a full-service firm that Develops Real Estate and Asset Management. The team acquires residential real estate assets in blighted communities and renovates them to their highest productive use. They buy properties in bulk on the same block to have enough share of the market to impact market value with a robust rental portfolio with strong annual cash flow, or to fix and flip assets for maximum equity yields.
Detroit DREAM IS’ community projects also have social purpose. They train and hire underemployed people of the community in various skilled trades associated with construction and real estate to grow with the community in stabilized housing.
Deba and her partner are featured in the book Conversations with the Team that Creates the Dream: The Top Female Professionals Who Can Help You Get Wealthy in Real Estate by Monick Paul Halm.
See Detroit DREAM IS’ highlight reel here, and then join them for their Investor Network Mixer with radio personality and Detroit DREAM IS partner Angela Yee at Trust in Detroit’s Financial District Friday, November 9, 5 PM – 7 PM. Get tickets here.