Discuss Detroit Archives - Beginning January 2007 Renaissance Center built to keep out African Americans? Previous Next
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Mgd04
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Username: Mgd04

Post Number: 166
Registered: 05-2005
Posted on Monday, March 05, 2007 - 10:52 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

http://reason.com/blog/show/11 8975.html
Interesting article about the architectural features of the RenCen. Anyone have more information about this? Thoughts?
Here's the key language "The first modern urban threat remember was not the Arab terrorist, but the black rioter. Buildings like Detroit's Renaissance Center were noted not only for their use of curves as opposed to angles, but also for [their] use of military style bunkers to keep urban (read: black) denizens out. The bunkers have since been removed, but the first thing that I thought of as a young kid looking at it was the Morlocks. The curves (the building is in effect a series of connected tubes) served to disorient people rather than welcome them -- which of course makes sense if the only population the designers want in the building in the first place are people who know where they are going"

(Message edited by mgd04 on March 05, 2007)
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Johnnny5
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Username: Johnnny5

Post Number: 453
Registered: 06-2005
Posted on Monday, March 05, 2007 - 11:04 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Probably a prudent measure considering it was designed just after the riots.
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Gistok
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Username: Gistok

Post Number: 3757
Registered: 08-2004
Posted on Monday, March 05, 2007 - 11:10 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Oh oh...

1) It was a John Portman design.

2) Many of his designs throughout the country (Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles, Peachtree Plaza in Atlanta) had rounded and octagonal forms.

3) Architecture of the 1970's were known for getting away from right angles (which tends to get people of all races confused).

4) Henry Ford II would be turning over in his grave hearing the reasoning that you give about black rioters or blacks in general, in regards to the building that was his idea to try to turn around the city after the tumultuous 1960's.

5) If what you said was the reasoning around why the Ren Cen is shaped the way it is... Coleman Alexander Young would have stopped early construction in its' tracks as soon as he took office as Detroit's first African-American mayor in 1974.

(Message edited by Gistok on March 06, 2007)
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56packman
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Username: 56packman

Post Number: 1074
Registered: 12-2005
Posted on Monday, March 05, 2007 - 11:10 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Go to the library and take out "the geography of nowhere" by James Howard Kunsler. There is lengthy chapter on Detroit in a section of the book entitled "three cities"--Detroit is cited as "the wrong way". There is much written about the Ren-Cen and it's terminally flawed design. It's a John Portman building, and they are al flawed
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Jt1
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Username: Jt1

Post Number: 8469
Registered: 10-2003
Posted on Monday, March 05, 2007 - 11:15 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Gistok - I will try to dig it up later this week but there was an interview with the architect and he specifically stated that he intentionally designed it as a fortress to keep it separated from the people that didn't need to go there.
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Lilpup
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Username: Lilpup

Post Number: 1762
Registered: 06-2004
Posted on Monday, March 05, 2007 - 11:20 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

who cares? GM's done a very nice job of opening it up to both the city and the riverfront
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Mayor_sekou
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Username: Mayor_sekou

Post Number: 575
Registered: 09-2006
Posted on Monday, March 05, 2007 - 11:22 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

All i know is, it's sad that this ugly short building is still our landmark skyscraper. Ughh.. But dont worry I am only now a few billion away from building Sekou Tower which will make the so called Ren Cen a memory. And it will be open to all except terrorist of course.
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Psip
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Username: Psip

Post Number: 1507
Registered: 04-2005
Posted on Monday, March 05, 2007 - 11:23 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Watch this.

http://video.google.com/videop lay?docid=-4392838077781205512
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Rjlj
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Username: Rjlj

Post Number: 286
Registered: 11-2003
Posted on Monday, March 05, 2007 - 11:26 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Huge waste of time and bandwidth.
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Psip
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Username: Psip

Post Number: 1508
Registered: 04-2005
Posted on Monday, March 05, 2007 - 11:32 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Here's another:

http://video.google.com/videop lay?docid=-7003595503597868176
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Psip
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Username: Psip

Post Number: 1509
Registered: 04-2005
Posted on Monday, March 05, 2007 - 11:38 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Here is a 1971 Chamber of Commerce film about Detroit.
http://video.google.com/videop lay?docid=-7783536806679012622
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Rhymeswithrawk
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Username: Rhymeswithrawk

Post Number: 364
Registered: 11-2005
Posted on Monday, March 05, 2007 - 11:42 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

This is ridiculous. I don't think it was aimed at keeping blacks out so much as undesirable people, in general. The berms' intent was security, not creating a racial divide. Regardless, I am glad they're gone. The RenCen's Winter Garden and riverfront look great!
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Cgunn
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Username: Cgunn

Post Number: 36
Registered: 01-2004
Posted on Monday, March 05, 2007 - 11:48 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Can anyone find a picture of the "bunker"
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321brian
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Username: 321brian

Post Number: 332
Registered: 02-2006
Posted on Monday, March 05, 2007 - 11:49 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

The RenCen has a great look. It is still one of the coolest looking buildings in the U.S.
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Psip
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Username: Psip

Post Number: 1510
Registered: 04-2005
Posted on Monday, March 05, 2007 - 11:54 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

The "Berm" during construction.


Berm
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Cgunn
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Username: Cgunn

Post Number: 37
Registered: 01-2004
Posted on Monday, March 05, 2007 - 11:57 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Thank you psip
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Fury13
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Username: Fury13

Post Number: 1415
Registered: 10-2003
Posted on Tuesday, March 06, 2007 - 12:09 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Tear that schitt down!
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Psip
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Username: Psip

Post Number: 1512
Registered: 04-2005
Posted on Tuesday, March 06, 2007 - 12:18 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

The berm during demolition.


gone
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Gistok
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Username: Gistok

Post Number: 3760
Registered: 08-2004
Posted on Tuesday, March 06, 2007 - 12:43 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I agree Rhymeswithrawk! Jt1, if John Portman's comments coincide with what Rhymeswithrawk said, then I agree! But making a statement about keeping out blacks is pretty strong stuff, something that CAY would never have tolerated!
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Kova
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Username: Kova

Post Number: 90
Registered: 12-2003
Posted on Tuesday, March 06, 2007 - 4:06 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

the rencen is/was supposed to be a mini suburbia within detroit that was supposed to be accesible to suburbanites so they didnt have to visit the rest of downtown

truth be told.
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Karl
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Username: Karl

Post Number: 6436
Registered: 09-2005
Posted on Tuesday, March 06, 2007 - 5:52 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Let's see: In those years, Detroit had just gotten on the map as the scene of the worst rioting in the nation's history, and was the murder capital of the world with daily grisly details.

If true, the architect might have been acting accordingly. Why design an inviting place for the same folks who were ready and willing participants in the first debacle (1967) and who daily were participating in the second?

If not true, he might have inadvertently avoided the fate of other Detroit buildings - I don't recall seeing the RenCen boarded up, having devil's night fires, being the scene of murder or experiencng rioting within.
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East_detroit
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Username: East_detroit

Post Number: 1004
Registered: 11-2003
Posted on Tuesday, March 06, 2007 - 7:19 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Were any skyscrapers attacked during the 67 riots?
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Jt1
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Username: Jt1

Post Number: 8471
Registered: 10-2003
Posted on Tuesday, March 06, 2007 - 7:53 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Gistok - I should have clarified. It didn't seem racist but he wanted to keep 'the undesirables' out.
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56packman
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Username: 56packman

Post Number: 1079
Registered: 12-2005
Posted on Tuesday, March 06, 2007 - 8:14 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

JT1--can you think of any new successful "nice" development that has come along anywhere that didn't want to keep bums, whinos and panhandlers out? I was in and out of the Ren-Cen shortly after it opened (looking very confused and lost, like everyone else) and there were whites and African-Americans (who were "Blacks" then) going about their business, shopping, eating, going to work and to the movies. There was no check point Charlie letting me in and keeping African-Americans out. It was no different than going to any mall or business center today--go around acting up and they are going to ask you to leave, no matter your complexion.
Read Kunsler's chapter on Detroit in the above cited book, you'll get a better understanding of the gestalt of the times. It wasn't an example of functional city-life architecture.
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Exmotowner
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Username: Exmotowner

Post Number: 117
Registered: 06-2005
Posted on Tuesday, March 06, 2007 - 8:50 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

To me this is just silly. Black people (African-Americans) can come and go in just as eaisly as anyone else. Can we nitpick anything else? Oh and question (and I dont mean to derail this thread), but if a white guy from South Africa immigrates here, is he still an African-American?(Just being silly here folks).
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Urbanize
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Username: Urbanize

Post Number: 64
Registered: 02-2007
Posted on Tuesday, March 06, 2007 - 8:57 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Thanks for the input Exmotowner, but if you had read the first post, he said "BLACK" people, in terms f skin color. Technically, although the white guy from Africa may be African-American, he still has white skin.
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Janesback
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Username: Janesback

Post Number: 248
Registered: 08-2006
Posted on Tuesday, March 06, 2007 - 9:06 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

thought of as a young kid looking at it was the Morlocks

------------------------

Not wanting to hijack this thread, but its kinda quiet in here this morning with no drama. So,
Anyone remember that incredible sci-fi movie where the Morlocks made their first appearance?

It was an awesome movie for its time. Look closely in the last sentence for a clue.... Jane
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Urbanize
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Username: Urbanize

Post Number: 67
Registered: 02-2007
Posted on Tuesday, March 06, 2007 - 9:09 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Uh Janes, why would you Hijack it. IT'S TUESDAY AT 9:00 IN THE MORNING. WHAT DO YOU EXPECT IT TO BE, JUMPING? PEOPLE ARE STILL SLEEPING OR AT WORK, OK?
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Fastcarsfreedom
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Username: Fastcarsfreedom

Post Number: 138
Registered: 11-2005
Posted on Tuesday, March 06, 2007 - 9:10 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I hate myself for adding my voice to this ludicrous thread, but I can't help myself. It amazes me the utter and complete lack of appreciation people have for architectural history and diversity. At the time of it's construction Renaissance Center was absolutely cutting-edge in it's style and design. While one may not appreciate John Portman's style--there are many examples--Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta Marriott Marquis, Bonaventure Hotel, Embarcadero Center that have remained landmarks 30+ years after their construction--Detroit is blessed to have a Portman building as our skyline's "signature". It is easy to forget that countless past architectural styles from Victorian to Art Moderne have been considered "ugly" at some point in history. No building is "perfect" so calling Portman's designs 'flawed' is as applicable as calling the nightime 'dark'.
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Track75
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Username: Track75

Post Number: 2514
Registered: 10-2003
Posted on Tuesday, March 06, 2007 - 9:59 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

quote:

No building is "perfect" so calling Portman's designs 'flawed' is as applicable as calling the nightime 'dark'.

It's a nice skyline piece, but having worked in the building for several years it was a mess to get around. It was hopeless for occasional visitors and still excessively confusing for a daily occupant. Portman really muffed the basics.

It's nice and shiny though.
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Jt1
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Username: Jt1

Post Number: 8474
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Posted on Tuesday, March 06, 2007 - 11:15 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Packman - I never said I disagreed with the rationale. Just stating what the architect stated.
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Mcp001
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Username: Mcp001

Post Number: 2455
Registered: 11-2003
Posted on Tuesday, March 06, 2007 - 11:22 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I had no problem going in and out of the Ren Cen after it was built.
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Gibran
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Username: Gibran

Post Number: 46
Registered: 02-2007
Posted on Tuesday, March 06, 2007 - 12:59 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

In 1977 a multicultural prom was held, at the rencen. As we were deciding on the best place to hold the prom groups of students from Denby High were given a tour. At the time we were the first class (as my memory recalls) to have a prom there. Our class made sure all students at Denby was represented and we had a wonderful prom....as well as subsequent re-unions...looking forward to this years'....We would not of had it there had we known it had a deliberate design to be exclusive. Our goals that year were inclusive....check out the 1977 yearbook.
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Ravine
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Username: Ravine

Post Number: 716
Registered: 01-2006
Posted on Tuesday, March 06, 2007 - 1:17 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

We should have a separate area, for toxically absurd threads like this one. Maybe The Moderator should hire a webchitect, who would work up a new forum that is designed to keep Dumb Shit like this blocked off into a corner.
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Urbanize
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Username: Urbanize

Post Number: 89
Registered: 02-2007
Posted on Tuesday, March 06, 2007 - 1:25 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Doesn't Lowell already do that himself? It's just that there's so many of them. Besides, we had the Off-Topic and Detroit Connections board. I'm assuming Lowell got rid of those too.
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Detroitplanner
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Username: Detroitplanner

Post Number: 1047
Registered: 04-2006
Posted on Tuesday, March 06, 2007 - 2:04 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I have it on good authority that it was built that way to keep out the irish catholics.
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Mgd04
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Username: Mgd04

Post Number: 167
Registered: 05-2005
Posted on Tuesday, March 06, 2007 - 2:10 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

This isn't an absurd thread at all. The original link was from a prominent magazine and the quote comes for distinguished African-American thinker. Simply because you don't like his ideas or don't agree with them doesn't make the thread toxically absurd. As you can see, there are many differing viewpoints within this thread itself about the professor's original thoughts so clearly this isn't something everyone agrees upon.
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Janesback
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Username: Janesback

Post Number: 250
Registered: 08-2006
Posted on Tuesday, March 06, 2007 - 2:12 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Actually, it was built to keep out the gays. Mmmhmm, the gays. But then, do you really think it would be socially acceptable for any gay person in their right mind to be seen in that glass monstrosity? Pahlleezzzeee........



Only kidding, just adding a little humor to a pathetic post. Sees someone was bored or just looking to start another racial post, sit back and then watch the fireworks, right?... Jane
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Dougw
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Username: Dougw

Post Number: 1585
Registered: 11-2003
Posted on Tuesday, March 06, 2007 - 3:24 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

The claim in the title of the thread may be a stretch and perhaps a bit absurd, but this thread overall is not absurd at all. The trend in the 1970's toward fortress architecture (and the subsequent shunning of that style) is a worthwhile discussion, and VERY relevant and important to Detroit.

The RenCen is a real mix of good and bad... here's how I would grade it:

Exterior/skyline appearance: B-
Interior brutalist concrete/spacepod-balcony appearance: A+
Entrance/accessibility pre-GM: F
Entrance/accessibility post-GM: B
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Skamour14
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Username: Skamour14

Post Number: 89
Registered: 03-2005
Posted on Tuesday, March 06, 2007 - 4:16 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I loves me the Ren-Cen..... Danny said it was the old ghetto hood. I think maybe hes right
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_sj_
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Username: _sj_

Post Number: 1746
Registered: 12-2003
Posted on Tuesday, March 06, 2007 - 4:17 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I didn't know trying to make work areas safe for workers was considered trying to keep blacks out, love them stereotypes.
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Skamour14
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Username: Skamour14

Post Number: 91
Registered: 03-2005
Posted on Tuesday, March 06, 2007 - 4:22 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Whats wrong with sterotypes...... everyone does it each and everyday, hell the othewr day I asked someone for a cigarette and they thought I was a bum. Now I could've walked my ass over to the store and got a pack, but it was cold and I was trying for convenince. Whats wrong with that?
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Psip
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Username: Psip

Post Number: 1513
Registered: 04-2005
Posted on Tuesday, March 06, 2007 - 4:39 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

It was the old ghettohood, in about 1840. That area was pretty much cleared of building by the 60s. The only remaining businesses when the RenCen was announced were Robin Hood Flour and the GTW (SEMTA) commuter train station. It was mostly parking lots.
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Danindc
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Username: Danindc

Post Number: 2189
Registered: 10-2003
Posted on Tuesday, March 06, 2007 - 4:50 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

The Ren Cen was designed to keep EVERYBODY out. That's why it's such a P.O.S.

For any reason other than a postcard shot, the Portman Ren Cen design fails on every level, as do the other designs like Peachtree, which are essentially the same damn lame idea rehashed and lukewarmed over.

Le Corbusier would be proud.
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3rdworldcity
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Username: 3rdworldcity

Post Number: 490
Registered: 01-2005
Posted on Tuesday, March 06, 2007 - 6:08 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

My offices were in the Ren Cen from '79 just after it opened until '84.

Only a few times a year were my African-American business associates (who made it through the berms) stopped, searched, ejected from the building or otherwise made unwelcome before making it to my safe haven offices.
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Sparty06
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Username: Sparty06

Post Number: 1
Registered: 03-2007
Posted on Tuesday, March 06, 2007 - 6:56 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Are there any other buildings in Detroit whose architectural histories might relate to the riots or the new demands of modern city planners?
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Psip
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Username: Psip

Post Number: 1516
Registered: 04-2005
Posted on Tuesday, March 06, 2007 - 7:22 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Thats a good question Sparty06. And welcome to the to DetroitYes.
It started me thinking about what was built between 1967 and 1975 (rencen). The only thing I can come up with is the Howard Johnson's Hotel and that was started in 1967. Aside from the Jail I don't think there was anything.
the next spurt came in the late 80's with the John Madden and latter, Comerica.
There was the Executive Plaza, but thats not really CBD.
The WWJ (WDIV) studios were built in about 82
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Docmo
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Username: Docmo

Post Number: 252
Registered: 10-2005
Posted on Tuesday, March 06, 2007 - 8:58 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Back to the thread hijack: Isn't a light brown skinned US citizen of Egyptian ancestry also an African American?

Black people and all other African Americans come and go as they please in the Ren Cen. As far as I know, that has always been the case. No way I buy your initial claim that the building was designed to keep young blacks out.

Please provide specific examples of racial segregation pertaining to the Ren Cen and its fortress design if you are going to make this claim.

As a sophomore at U of M in 1976, my buddies and I went to a Foghat concert at Cobo. The Ren Cen had just opened. We walked over and checked it out. We only lasted a few minutes before security asked us to leave. You can't have undesirable white college kids mucking up your urban renewal project. But then again, we were undoubtedly acting sophomoric and we clearly had no intent of spending our money there.

Surprisingly, we easily figured out how to bypass the fortress berms and gain entry.
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Mgd04
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Username: Mgd04

Post Number: 169
Registered: 05-2005
Posted on Tuesday, March 06, 2007 - 10:24 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Docmo, I never made the claim that the building was meant to keep out anybody. I simply posted an online blog that made that claim and asked if anyone knew more information.
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Eric_w
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Username: Eric_w

Post Number: 40
Registered: 02-2007
Posted on Saturday, March 10, 2007 - 12:48 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

That claim about the berms was one of the silliest things I ever heard- a building in downtown Detroit built when by then Detroit's population was majority black that was designed to keep blacks out. How did it work? Was/is there some brain function in a black person that makes them run from a certain structure or were there electronic microwaves being emitted from the berms saying something like: "Blacks go home" only a black person could hear?
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Royce
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Username: Royce

Post Number: 2105
Registered: 07-2004
Posted on Saturday, March 10, 2007 - 10:29 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

A person from South Africa who becomes an American citizen would be called a South-African American, whether they were black of white. All of you white folks who think that little question is cute need to quit. If you used some logic you would have come up with my explanation.

The truth be told, we need to get away from putting the place where someone came from in front of the word American. Regardless of where we came from or where our ancestors came from, we are Americans first. Maybe if we called ourselves that and only that, then maybe posts about race would disappear.
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Janesback
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Username: Janesback

Post Number: 260
Registered: 08-2006
Posted on Saturday, March 10, 2007 - 11:47 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Royce, excellent reply. I have been saying the same for years. Living in Texas, there are issues lately with illegal immigration from Mexico and South America and some cultures not recognizing the American way, the language and culture.

Recently, in a heated disagreement where an individual thought Americans needed to learn Spanish to be able to relate to the new wave of immigration, I point blank stated

"Corporate America doesn't speak Spanish. "

If an individual is bilingual, great, but to suceed in America, English is a pre requisite. Needless to say, the Hispanics of this group weren't as understanding. Jane

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