Blog: Aaron Alston

Aaron Alston is the CEO of Cadre Systems and a co-owner of Candor Marketing. He is also a co-managing member of Vinton Building, LLC and a board member with CreateDetroit.

Aaron will be writing about how we should view Detroit; as a glass half empty or a glass half full?  Join the conversation with your comments!

Post No. 1

A House Is Not A Home 

As I move through various social and professional circles in Metro Detroit I hear people talking about Detroit's need for "this" and lack of "that." There’s the ubiquitous bearer of bad news with his rally cry “the sky is falling” and the constant naysayer who revels in the misery of others. However, in small pockets about town I also hear a whisper --which I hope will soon be a shout-- of the many unique and positive things that exist and are happening within our city. The voices that make up this whisper are people who, I believe, view Detroit as a house in which it is their role to make a home.

It can be argued that a house is not a home without the care and attention of inhabitants who fill it with all the things they need to make it their own. This too applies to Detroit. Making Detroit a home requires that its inhabitants, both suburban and urban, adopt a different perspective on who takes responsibility for our city's need for "this" and the lack of "that."

There are a growing number of individuals who have embraced this perspective and are committed to play a role, be it small or large, in the betterment of our house. This can be found in individual home owners who form block clubs, in developers like David Bing and Bernard Glieberman, in business owners like Peter Karmanos and, hopefully, Dan Gilbert who make it their responsibility to create the kind of city they want for themselves and others. 

In mid 2004 I too felt the calling to play my own role in making Detroit my home --both figuratively and literally. My business partner and I were having a phone conversation about community wealth building and I just so happened to mention to him a wild idea of mine: to search for an abandon city-owned building of no more than 50,000 square feet that we could buy for one dollar and restore to its original grandeur. To my surprise he said, "I have a 50,000 square foot building that I did a walk through of in early March. However, the bid package is due on this property in two weeks." I jumped right on it and assured him that I would be able to put something together before the deadline.

I remember after hanging up saying to myself, “what did I commit myself to?” I had no prior experience as a developer and I wasn’t sure I could meet the deadline.  
Well, we met the deadline and after the city review was complete, our proposal tied for first place among nine other bids. I caught wind that the other team was made up of seven different guys in their 30s who lived in and around the central business district and only wanted to own their own unit in this twelve story building to live in. Someone had the foresight to ask the two remaining teams to sit down to see if we could work out an agreement to merge. Since this project was the first of what I hoped to be many for my partner and me, and we were completely speculating on the development, it made sense for us to work out some form of agreement. We formed a multi-cultural group of beginner developers, all within their 30s, to purchase the Vinton building for $500,000 from the city and develop it into luxury loftominiums with first floor retail and second floor commercial space. 

I guess the excitement of being a part of this development and interacting with the great group guys on its team energized me so much, I decided to move both Candor Marketing Group (based in Troy) and my Birmingham residence to the Vinton Building as one small step towards making this wonderful house (Detroit) into a home.