The first scheduled stop was supposed to be The Greening of Detroit, but as Dawn drove the bus down Woodward Avenue for the first Roeper Rebuilding Detroit Field Trip, it became clear that pauses along the way would become necessary. The grand buildings of old Detroit just begged to be photographed by Dee’s team of reconstructors. Carefully aiming their cameras through the open windows of the bus, the Roeper Rebuilders began to imagine the possibilities presented by the old libraries, churches and apartment buildings that time had left behind. And as the photos were taken, questions, observations and answers were bouncing off the walls of the bus in a cacophony of interest and learning. Everyone on the bus was involved. Dawn, behind the wheel, shared her knowledge and impressions of the Detroit she knew, Dee Blankenburg and Lisa Bottesi spotted buildings, answered questions and gave ideas as the kids brimmed with excitement about seeing a Detroit they hardly knew, and thinking about what it could become.
Finally the bus arrived at its destination near “The Corner” of Michigan and Trumbull, The Greening of Detroit, a non-profit which holds as its mission to “inspire sustainable growth of a healthy urban community through trees, green spaces, food, education, training and job opportunities.”
Once inside, the group sat in a room bordered by walls rescued from the ruins of the old Packard Plant, one of Detroit’s most famous symbols of decay. Inside those walls, seeds were planted for new beginnings in the minds of the Roeper students.
Next on Dee’s packed itinerary was a visit to the Integrative Biosciences Center.
This building that sits on the edge of the campus of Wayne State University is not only a cutting-edge research center, but an example of what can be done with a historic facility left for dead. Last known as a Dalgleish Cadillac dealership closed in 2010, the structure dates back to 1927, and was designed by Albert Kahn. After a presentation showing how the building was resurrected, Hayden’s dad, Philip Levy, M.D., M.P.H., Associate Director of Clinical Research at the center, gave the kids the tour, showing everyone how an abandoned car dealership can become a place where discoveries are made to save lives.
And in case you think it’s over, after an activity-filled morning, the Roeper Rebuilders’ work has just begun, for now they must pick another abandoned Detroit relic and transform it into something with value for the future. As the class continues they will be reimagining, redesigning and repurposing some of the old buildings they saw first-hand on this trip.
Thanks for the opportunity to once again see this unique school at its best.
-Dan Dinneweth (Johnathan and Alexa’s dad)
And thank you to Dan for this story and photos.