Randall Fogelman is not dead or dying. But he did just turn 40, so there’s that. And for all the talk about Dan Gilbert and Kevyn Orr and, until recently, Mike Duggan, you could make the case that today it’s Randall’s Detroit that we’re living in. His experiences in Detroit for the latter 20 of those 40 years speak to a place that is surviving — thriving, even — as it sometimes feels the ground may open up and swallow the city whole.
School in the City. Randall transferred from MSU to Wayne State and moved to the Park Shelton. At that point, Wayne was closer in time to having considered a building that would straddle the Lodge Freeway for maximum commuter convenience than to opening its recent residence halls. The Park Shelton had yet to undergo condo-and-crepefication.
Cass and Willis. Developer Bob Slattery owned the buildings at three corners of Cass and Willis; Avalon Bakery was at the other. In 1999, Randall was Bob’s first employee, working on drawings, meeting with bankers, leasing and selling. The condos were the city’s first and home to techno titan Carl Craig. The Cass Corridor had not yet been brought into the Midtown brand.
Canfield Lofts. In 2000, Canfield Lofts came online as the city’s first for-sale loft project.
Eleven prospective buyers signed purchase agreements, and then the whole development almost fell through because there were no comparable projects to base the mortgages on. Ultimately, the then-president of then-National City Bank (then headquartered in Cleveland) stepped in to ensure the project happened. And good thing — Randall’s loft has gone on to host the first meeting for Steve Tobocman’s campaign (for the State House) and Ben Falik’s bachelor party (for good, clean pre-nuptial fun) and was featured on the June 1995 cover of Hour magazine’s Detroit Home mag.
Detroit Spice Company. When Randall started the Detroit Spice Company in 2000, two trends were in their early stages: macro demand for micro foods and putting “Detroit” on any and every product. Now, Detroit Greektown Seasoning, Detroit Mexicantown Seasoning and Detroit Middle Eastern Seasoning are available at Whole Foods and Bed, Bath & Beyond (and beyond!), but little did Randall know back when he launched DSC at the TasteFest that it would take his urban-planning career down an unexpectedly edible route.
TasteFest. From 2002-2006 — before placemaking was called placemaking, at least here in Detroit — Randall ran TasteFest as an aspirational Detroit: an inclusive, diverse space that had the entertainment, culinary and retail trappings of city living. I worked for Randall for two years and can testify to his vehement opposition to elephant ears and anything else that might send TasteFest down the slippery slope to carnie couture, though he did allow Coach Insignia to sell lobster corndogs. TasteFest ended its two-decade run in 2010, but New Center Park, which was just a drawing on foam core way back when, now offers food, live jazz and classical, and (pre-recorded) outdoor movies over the warmer months.
Eastern Market. In August 2006, the city handed over management and operations to the nonprofit Eastern Market Corporation. In February of 2007, Randall came aboard as special projects director, as the 10-week Shed 2 renovation stretched over 10 months. (Shed 3 renovation followed, on time and on budget; Shed 5 renovation is currently under way.) In 2008, he started recruiting — and, when necessary, stalking — specialty food vendors, like McClure’s Pickles, for increased and increasingly innovative options at the market.
What does the future hold for Detroit? Randall’s not saying — though when he’s not working at Eastern Market, he enjoys growing vegetables in his two raised beds at the North Cass Community Garden and walking to Whole Foods and Ye Olde Butcher Shoppe — so food, presumably.