Neighborhood Spotlight: Core City

By: Aaron B. Cohen | February 12, 2021

True North Quonset hut community in Core City Detroit. Photo credit: Chris Miele.

Something special is happening in one of Detroit’s forgotten neighborhoods. For many years, Core City in Detroit – the region surrounding the intersection of Grand River and Warren – presented aesthetically similar to other dilapidated communities crushed under the weight of blight and economic hardship. But today, one man with a vision is calling upon the city’s free-thinkers to imagine what could be.

Philip Kafka – founder of Prince Concepts – is developing an entirely new iteration of this Detroit neighborhood; one that idealizes green space and embraces the history of structures that many would never consider valuable. All the while, he is constructing new buildings that challenge our very understanding of “a house” or “an office.” This week, we’re taking a look at establishments at the heart of Core City’s revitalization.

True North Quonset Hut Community

Quonset structures were originally employed for military use. During WWII, the Navy recognized the potential in their simplicity and easy construction at the Quonset Naval Base in Rhode Island. Nearly a century later, Detroiters have come to appreciate the potential in these semi-cylindrical structures that speak to minimalist tendencies. The True North Quonset Huts have been around for half a decade but in that time have become one of the city’s most desirable communities. Residents praise Kafka’s eye for natural light (an established facet of his development prowess) and the integration of greenery countering the stark modernity of the buildings. The development features ten rentable spaces, including seven residential, a yoga studio and a gallery.

True North Quonset hut community in Core City Detroit. Photo credit: Chris Miele.

The Caterpillar

Building off True North’s success, The Caterpillar may be Core City’s most exciting current project. Though incomplete, it is clear that the Quonset hut is not a building, but rather a concept. According to Prince’s website, “A Quonset hut isn’t a design, it’s a tool – think about it the same way you’d think about a brick. It’s a structural building unit with a particular personality.” As implied by its namesake, the Caterpillar will feature residential units within a singular building (shaped like a caterpillar). Instead of a front yard, it will be elevated above-ground, with a stoop overlooking a “heavily-planted garden.” Detroit residents can look forward to the continued revitalization of the Core City neighborhood with the completion of this groundbreaking architectural undertaking.

Astro Coffee/Ochre Bakery

Prior to the pandemic, Astro Coffee conducted all retail operations from its Corktown storefront. Now, in an effort to facilitate social distancing, they have relocated to their roastery directly across from True North. Sharing space (and ownership) with Ochre Bakery, one could define the new arrangement as symbiotic – or for those in need of a metaphor – a power couple. Unlike most coffee shops, which not only provide but encourage the use of their Wi-Fi for work, Astro takes a defiant stance: no Wi-Fi.  Sit down. Enjoy your coffee. Take the time to select which type of coffee suits you best.  Watch them brew your cup. And then drink it.

If you can embrace the shift toward presence and mindfulness, it’s actually kind of beautiful.

Equally beautiful is the vegan lemon-pistachio cake and warm soup-of-the-day at Ochre Bakery. Along with the highest quality baked goods, they sell tons of seasonal, fresh produce and other assorted groceries. With gorgeous, classic-Core-City foliage thoughtfully planted throughout the outdoor patio, you may find yourself wanting to just…stay.

Photo credit: Core City Fitness.

Core City Fitness

Last week, we included Core City Fitness amongst various mid-pandemic workout options. It’s worth reiterating that aside from their inspiring space and effective training regimens, they are equally dedicated to the community that surrounds them. Everything they do is Detroit-centric, even the Corktown-sourced cleaning supplies used to keep their facility safe amidst a public health crisis. Furthermore, CCF provides SWDs – Sober Workout Days – to the local recovery community. Anyone who is substance-free for 48 hours is invited to free weekly workouts, providing a healthy, goal-oriented environment to seek support and encouragement.

CCF represents the overarching goal of the Core City development: a neighborhood by the people, for the people. A space that reimagines aesthetic possibility while supporting the community that fuels its innovation.