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    The post Here is why landlords could do well in Wayne County appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • The Record Store Day Guide for metro Detroit

    This Saturday, audiophiles across the world will venture out to their favorite independent record stores in search of limited releases that quickly become collectors items. The third Saturday of April marks the fairly new international holiday Record Store Day. There are certainly dos and don’ts to know for RSD — like where to shop, and how to shop. That’s right, there is an etiquette to shopping on Record Store Day and violating that code makes you look like a real asshole. In my experience of celebrating Record Store Day, I’ve seen stores use a few different tactics as far as stocking the special releases. Some establishments will set up a table, somewhere in the store, where a few shoppers at a time can flip through records in a calm and contained manner. Other places will have a similar setup, with all the releases at a table, but shoppers ask the store employees for the releases they want. It’s like a record nerd stock exchange. This process gets loud, slightly confusing and incredibly annoying — this is where elbows start getting thrown. Then, there are places that put the releases on the shelves, usually categorized by size — twelve inches with the twelve inches, seven inches with the seven inches and […]

    The post The Record Store Day Guide for metro Detroit appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: DEMF 2014 canceled

    The Detroit Electronic Music Festival, which was supposed to be making a triumphant return this year, has been canceled. A statement on the website says that the festival will be back in 2015. Back in November, Ford Field hosted an announcement party for DEMF, where it was revealed that a new DEMF festival would take place at Campus Martius Park in Detroit over the July 4th weekend. “I’m proud to be involved in the biggest and best electronic music festival in the world,” said Juan Atkins. “The future’s here. This is techno scene.” Not the immediate future, apparently. The DEMF people claim that the M-1 rail construction is partially to blame for the cancellation/12-month-postponement. Read the full statement here. Follow @City_Slang

    The post City Slang: DEMF 2014 canceled appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Metro Times wins heavy at the SPJ Awards

    Despite a turbulent 2013 which saw Metro Times change owners, move buildings and change editors twice, we picked up eight awards at the Society of Professional Journalists Awards on Wednesday night. The big winner was Robert Nixon, design manager, who picked up a first place for “Feature Page Design (Class A)” for our Josh Malerman cover story, first for “Cover Design (Class A)” for our Halloween issue (alongside illustrator John Dunivant), and a second in that same category for our annual Lust issue. In the news categories, our esteemed former news editor and current contributing writer Curt Guyette won third in “General News Reporting” and third in “Best Consumer/Watchdog” – both Class A – for the Fairground Zero and Petcoke Series respectively. Music & Culture Editor Brett Callwood placed third for his Josh Malerman cover story in the “Best Personality Profile (Class A)” category, and former editor Bryan Gottlieb picked up a couple of Class C awards for “Editorial Writing” and “Headline Writing” (third and second, respectively). We were also pleased to learn that our investigative reporter Ryan Felton won first place and an honorable mention for work published while at the Oakland Press. The MT ship is steady now, […]

    The post Metro Times wins heavy at the SPJ Awards appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Detroit’s grand bargain still needs Lansing’s approval

    In this week’s Metro Times we took a look at the state legislature’s role in Detroit’s ongoing bankruptcy — in particular, how it must approve a $350 million pledge for the so-called “grand bargain” to remain intact. And, with last night’s announcement of a significant deal between the city and Detroit’s pension boards and retiree groups, the ball is Lansing’s court now. The new deal, first reported by the Freep, would cut general employees monthly pension checks by 4.5 percent and eliminate their cost-of-living increases. Police and fire retirees would see no cuts to monthly checks, while their cost-of-living increases would be reduced from 2.25 percent to 1 percent. Under the original offer, police and fire retirees cuts were as high as 14 percent, with general retirees as high as 34 percent, that is, if the groups rejected the “grand bargain,” an $816 million proposal funded by foundations, the state, and the DIA to shore up pensions. The sweeter deal for pensions, though, it must be noted, entirely relies on the state legislature approving $350 million for Detroit’s bankruptcy.  And while this broke after Metro Times went to press, that was the focal point of this week’s News Hits column — so, it’s worth repeating: The […]

    The post Detroit’s grand bargain still needs Lansing’s approval appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: Local releases for Record Store Day on Saturday

    This Saturday, April 19, is Record Store Day, and there is plenty going on in metro Detroit and Michigan. Of special interest to us is Chiodos’ 7” single “R2ME2/Let Me Get You A Towel,” Mayer Hawthorne & Shintaro Skamoto’s 7” “Wine Glass Woman/In a Phantom,” Chuck Inglish & Action Bronson’s 7” “Game Time,” Chuck Inglish & Chance the Rapper’s 7” “Glam,” Chuck Inglish & Chromeo’s 7” “Legs,” Chuck Inglish, Mac Miller & Ab-Soul’s 7” “Easily,” James Williamson’s 7” “Open Up and Bleed/Gimme Some Skin,” Black Milk’s 12” “Glitches in the Break,” Mayer Hawthorne’s 10” “Jaded Inc.,” Wayne Kramer & the Lexington Arts Ensemble’s 12” “Lexington,” and best of all, Ray Parker Jr.’s 10” “Ghostbusters.” We wrote about James Williamson’s release this week. Go shop. Follow @City_Slang

    The post City Slang: Local releases for Record Store Day on Saturday appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

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Stir It Up

A commons idea

Cass Corridor experiment would save a church and mitigate gentrification's excesses

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A commons idea for the Cass Corridor

The Cass Community Commons flies in the face of convention on a couple of counts. For one, the newly created enterprise in the First Unitarian-Universalist Church's three-building complex at Cass and Forest embraces the name and sensibility of the old Cass Corridor just as the rebranding of the area as Midtown seems to be taking off. 

Another unconventional aspect is how the commons was created. The UU, which has been struggling with dwindling membership and economic woes for years, gave its three-building complex to the East Michigan Environmental Action Council (EMEAC), which organized the commons. Giving away prime real estate nestled between Wayne State University and the Medical Center is an unusual and probably desperate move to save the church, but it just might work. Part of the deal is that the church can continue to meet and have services in the sanctuary, and as a member of the commons community the church has a say in future choices about the facility.

"The idea of handing over so much value struck some church members as odd. It was a big decision," says Robert Johnson, a church board member. "There is a chance for a lot of symmetry here. The UU church is focused on social justice issues. EMEAC is a social justice organization as well.

"We're getting back to being a church rather than a group that maintains a church. There's so much potential."

All that potential came into focus when the church put out a request for proposals to take over the facility. EMEAC's proposal struck a chord with the church board and membership, which voted in favor of the transaction earlier this summer. 

The Cass Community Commons also speaks to a point of contention that has smoldered beneath the veneer of development in the area: How do you accommodate the new with those who were there already and hung in through the worst of times? EMEAC, for example, had offices on Canfield in the Medical Center area but development "priced us out of being there," says Lottie Spady, associate director of EMEAC.

"That is one of the reasons why we were so hopeful for this project, to be a community anchor and community hub," Spady says. "Gentrification is happening alarmingly fast. There is Midtown, which is good in and of itself, but those business owners don't necessarily look like the people who have been there of long standing. Goodwell's, the Spiral Collective — how are they going to survive the gentrification that is washing through the corridor now?" (Goodwell's is a grocery, and Spiral includes an art gallery, a bookstore and other enterprises.)

Maybe the commons will make a difference for some of the ground-level entities. The commons spiritually embraces the whole area, and it will house a number of progressive enterprises. The Sugar Law Center has offices there, and entrepreneurial ventures such as Detroit Grassroots Cultural Arts Center, the People's Kitchen Detroit, the Detroit Media Arts Cooperative, Whole Note Healing Space, and Fender Bender Detroit (a bicycle venture) are all in the mix or expected to move in. There are plans for a multimedia collective, a theater space and youth summer camps. 

"We are creating a common space for the movements around social justice, food justice, environmental justice and digital justice to educate, strategize, and strengthen the underrepresented and unrepresented voices of our youth, elders, communities of color, and those that differ in their orientation and abilities," Spady wrote on EMEAC's website. "Maintaining the structural expenses of a large building is a challenge, but it's one that has been anticipated and we are planning accordingly."

Much of this is old hat for the church building. The UU has always been a progressive force in Detroit. It championed liberal religious freedom in the 1800s, and supported the civil rights and anti-war movements of the last century. Viola Liuzzo, the civil rights activist killed in Alabama in 1965, was a member of the congregation. In the 1960s and '70s and '80s the Cass City Cinema collective screened independent films there, the Community Concert Series featured local artists' performances and the Detroit Lesbian Organization held meetings and social gatherings there. Although he only rented the space, Alice Cooper rehearsed his Killer album in the church basement.

Activist-philosopher Grace Lee Boggs held her book release party there in the spring and the memorial for poet-musician David Blair was held there in July. So the community is already used to attending events there. In fact, some of the church members are already active in some of the organizations moving into the commons.

EMEAC has a "green team" that has inspected the historic buildings and has a plan to retrofit them and make them more environmentally friendly. Potential changes include windows, insulation and heating elements. The organization is exploring solar and geothermal options. The church house was built in 1891, the sanctuary in 1916 and the classroom building behind them was built in stages from the 1930s through the 1950s — so it's going to take some work to modernize the facilities. I lived and worked in the building as a caretaker from 1976 to 1983, and I still wonder how much asbestos I might have inhaled working in crawl spaces and the like. 

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