Detroiters gather for photo shoot after Bedrock ad
After a Bedrock Detroit window wrapper was removed from a building last month because of its slogan and lack of diversity, a group of Detroiters gathered downtown Sunday to take a photo they felt better represented the city.
Nicole Small, an organizer of the True Faces of Detroit photo shoot, said an image will be released Monday featuring a diverse group of about 40 people who gathered in front of 600 Woodward Avenue at Congress.
That’s the location of the Vinton Building, where last month Dan Gilbert, whose real estate arm Bedrock came under fire on social media for a slogan and image placed on the building as part of Bedrock Detroit’s “See Detroit As We Do” campaign.
The Vinton is a vacant 1917 Albert Kahn building under renovation by Gilbert’s company. While work on Bedrock properties is underway, the company often adds colorful inspirational window dressing. The one that drew scorn featured a party scene at a downtown hot spot that depicted only white people and did not include any people of color.
As of Monday evening, Bedrock officials had not yet received the photo, said Bedrock spokewoman Whitney Eichinger.
Many on social media took issue with an ad that did not reflect Detroit’s population of 82.7 percent African-American, 10.6 percent white and 6.8 percent Hispanic, according to the U.S. Census.
Gilbert issued an apology for the slogan and image.
Participants in the photo shoot Sunday came from all backgrounds, ages and cultures, Small said. The group didn’t post news of the photo shoot on social media.
“I wanted people who really had a vested interest in the city of Detroit, whether they were new to Detroit or they have lived here for quite some time,” Small said. “It’s a visual protest. We want the message to be strong and clear.”
Small said the image will be released Monday when the group hand delivers and emails it with a letter to Gilbert’s firm.
Among her requests, Small said: She would like to see Gilbert give back to communities in Detroit and be more inclusive when it comes to the affordability of new residential developments downtown. It’s not just about class, it’s about race, particularly to the exclusion of the African-American community, she said.
“We’re basically being pushed out,” she said. “It’s not that we don’t want him to do business, that we don’t want to see revitalization of the city. Tear down these walls that you are building up.”
In a statement Monday, Eichinger said that since moving to Detroit in 2010, Bedrock and its family of companies have been committed to Detroit, its businesses and its residents.
“From purchasing police cruisers and fire trucks for the city, to donating the time of more than 500 team members to scan transcripts to ensure (Detroit Public Schools Community District) graduates can secure good jobs, our team members have been there to serve the call of the community day and night,” she wrote. “Since our move downtown nearly seven years ago, we have grown into a diverse, motivated group of 17,000 full-time team members. That makes us Detroit's largest employer; a position we are proud of and take very seriously. More than 3,600 of our team members live in neighborhoods throughout the city also making us the largest employer of Detroiters. We and our team members believe that the well being and growth of opportunities in Detroit are just as important as the revenue and profits of our business.”
Eichinger said employees have contributed more than 300,000 volunteer hours in the city and that the companies have invested $126 million in the community and $2.5 billion into revitalizing downtown buildings and improving neighborhood housing stock through programs like the Detroit Land Bank’s Rehabbed and Ready.
“Over the next several years, Bedrock is committed to building 3,500 new residential units throughout the city, with 20 percent of those, or 700 units, to be affordable housing," Eichinger said. "The commitment to affordable housing is not new for us. Examples of world-class design in affordable housing can already be seen in Bedrock’s new projects like City Modern and 28 Grand, as well as preservation projects like Cathedral Tower, which was just announced last week."