Progress Is Being Made On The Packard Plant And Other Projects In Detroit...So What Exactly Is Happe
Several years ago, the Electronic Music world was shocked by the announcement that famed Berlin nightclub Tresor founder Dimitri Hegemann, was looking to Detroit for his next project decades after the history changing club in Berlin became a reality.
Inspired by the belief that Detroit deserves to be recognized as having been the primary source of inspiration for Tresor and Berlin's subsequent success at building a world renowned Techno scene, Dimitri Hegemann has been working diligently by building a coalition of entrepreneurs and city council figures from both Berlin and Detroit, with the aim of revitalizing Detroit's nightlife and the city's "sub-culture" in general. That is to say, to help enrich the thriving underground artistic scene that has made the city an icon of the world. Something that ironically enough, provides very little in return economically to Detroit and its citizens.
Inside of Tresor in Berlin © Mike Reid Photography
By focusing on different ways to create a proper nurturing environment for the city; which as opposed to Berlin has so far lacked some of the means to help Detroit's artistic scene unify and grow, not only can a healthy sub-culture expand, but also economically speaking, some of the $6.5 billion dollars annually for which the Electronic Music scene worldwide is estimated to be accountable for, can be funneled to a city for long rife with economic dysfunction.
A recent meeting held at the Submerge building in Detroit for example, brought together City Mayor Mike Duggan, Underground Resistance founder Michael Banks, a handful of Detroit's most renowned DJ's like Omar-S., as well as high-level members of the car racing industry, to talk about two specific ways in which the city can invest in its own future: music and cars. Something that obviously already has made the city famous the world over.
For Dimitri Hegemann, his focus has been various abandoned car plant buildings; originally the Fisher 21 factory which at first did not become a reality as the early proposal seemed of little interest to city council. However, lots of success was had both with finding the right investors, and with gaining interest from city government to turn the area around the abandoned Packard Plant into what will eventually become known as the "Packard Music District". An area which will serve as a meeting point for musicians, promoters and club-goers, as well as entrepreneurs of all kinds; whether it be in the business of organic foods, retail, etc., helping to create an environment that like with Berlin, can be a fertile ground for artistic expression and a driving force in the city's culture and economy.
Example of the proposed interior of the Packard plant © Dimitri Hegemann
Mr. Hegemann has also been working on some side projects in between, as zoning, clean-up, construction, and other Packard project details are worked out, looking to a building called "Chroma", close to Submerge on East Grand Boulevard and built back in 1913 by Rudolph Gernt. Hegemann says that: "It looks serious that it will happen because the developer is a serious company platform". He continues by adding that: "By end of the year, the Chroma project will start with different floors with different contents. But I am more and more a consultant, because I think Detroiters have to run the business. I am a door opener in Detroit and reached different aims so far".
We recently also caught up with Clarke Lewis, head developer of the Chroma project who works at The Platform, and in explaining what the future holds in store for it, he says that: "Chroma will serve as a hub for creativity, design and business incubation. Chroma is a new concept tailored to the ethos of Detroit - a space in Milwaukee Junction that provides all the raw materials necessary to build - to build objects, businesses, community, compassion, and engagement. Check out www.chroma.city". When asked about other projects in the works, Lewis goes on to add that: "There are a couple projects Chroma will tie into, including the Fisher Building Beacon Series and 411 Piquette (other Platform developments), but more importantly Chroma has the objective to form partnerships with several organizations as well. This may include Design Core Detroit, Creative Culture District, Build Institute, and others".
Rendition of what Chroma will look like in the future © The Platform
Perhaps one of the biggest issues holding the city back so far from being able to properly initiate a healthy nightlife however, are its curfew hours which for most stop at 2 am. Mayor Mike Duggan backed an amended law some time back allowing certain bars to operate until 4 am, and at the recent meeting at Submerge also expressed that while he was not quite as eager to back a music district in general, he did feel that extending curfew hours would be helpful in fostering a proper nightlife; not to mention that he was very receptive to the idea that in fact, Detroit can greatly benefit from its artists, and that indeed there were some obstacles in the way preventing it from growing as it should. For Clarke Lewis of The Platform, he feels that: "Detroit’s nightlife is certainly worth revitalizing as it brings a whole new night time economy with it. Detroit’s nightlife already has great impact on people who reside in Detroit, but the deep cultural and music ties to Detroit create a platform for a much larger nightlife. I dream of Detroit being an international destination for tourists to see significant culture, much like Berlin was for Europe".
Recently on May 23rd, Mr. Dimitri Hegemann, along with fellow collaborators also met at their new meeting point at 2990, E. Grand Blvd., to discuss current status of the projects, and issues that still need to be solved to achieve the desired outcome. We hope that the talks held much success.
Indeed it is no secret that Detroit has long suffered from political and economic dysfunction, yet still the spirit of Detroiters has always remained strong and their passion for art no less driven. It simply doesn't make sense for a city that literally has influenced the world over musically; even being a key reason why the Berlin Wall fell, to not reap the benefits of the very thing it produces. Hopefully as more and more momentum is gained at garnering the proper support needed from all the right sources, soon we will see a Detroit truly revitalized and with a nightlife as strong and perhaps stronger than that of Berlin. Detroit once was, and one day will be again, the Paris of the Midwest.
Check out a 360° video featured on MLive of the Packard Plant in Detroit: