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    On Saturday we set out to check out the High Times Medical Marijuana Cup in Clio, Mich. — High Times did hold a Cannabis Cup in the Motor City back in 2011, but Detroit police flexing their muscles and making arrests at that event may have been to blame, at least partially, for the choice of a new host city. The event was held this year at the Auto City Speedway, (also known as “B.F.E.” to Detroiters). Nevertheless, the prospect of stopping at the Torch for the best burger in the Genessee County was compelling — and anyway, this was the Cannabis Cup we were talking about. Was it really going to be “work?” It turned out, just a little bit. An inexplicable lack of an on-site ATM meant hiking quite a ways up the road to the nearest gas station, and then waiting for an attendant to restock the ATM with cash. We spoke with plenty of Cannabis Cup attendees at the gas station — everybody knows that the local gas station is a stoner’s best-friend. The two-day festival, for which one-day tickets were sold for $40, was divided into two sections — a general area and a medicating […]

    The post Reports from the ‘High Times’ Medical Marijuana Cup in Clio appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • ICYMI: Forbes rates Detroit #9 on its “America’s Most Creative Cities” list

    Yes, it’s true. Forbes says Detroit is one of America’s most creative cities: “We ranked these places based on four metrics: activity per capita on project-funding platforms Kickstarter and Indiegogo and music sites Bandcamp and ReverbNation. The goal was to capture organic creativity, since many artistic and musical types have “day jobs” outside of creative pursuits.” The Forbes list sandwiches #9 Detroit between #8 Seattle and #10 Oakland, Calif. If you are watching the art and culture explosion happening right now in Detroit, you probably think we should rank higher than #2 Boston and #1 San Francisco, if only for the fact that it’s actually affordable to create here and there is space for everyone to be creative. But hey, those metrics weren’t part of the equation. And there’s always next year.

    The post ICYMI: Forbes rates Detroit #9 on its “America’s Most Creative Cities” list appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Food trucks go to the dogs

    Today, starting at 10am, Milo’s Kitchen Treat Truck will be swinging by the  Cherry Hill Village at Preservation Park on  N. Roosevelt St. in Canton. They’ll be serving the pups (“gour-mutts,” as Milo’s calls them) treats and the dog parents the opportunity of “family portraits.” Milo’s is on a cross-country food truck trip, promoting their “grilled burger bites” and “chicken meatballs” to pup parents from L.A. to NYC, with stops in between, including Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh, the Carolinas, and Arkansas. But watch out! Milo’s Kitchen Treat Truck markets “real chicken and beef home-style dog treats” that are are “wholesome” and “authentic” without “artificial flavors or colors-made right here in the USA.” Authentic, processed food that is. Remember what George Carlin said about “home-style”? Their treats are also packed with soy, TVP, wheat flour, tapioca, rice, and sugar–fillers that make the meat go far and aren’t the best for your pup. They’re also packed with preservatives, like sodium erythorbate, nitrates, BHA, sodium tripolyphosphate, and potassium sorbate. Small amounts are probably ok, and no doubt the pup will love it, the same way it’s easy for humans to love carb- and sugar- laden, processed and preserved, treats.  

    The post Food trucks go to the dogs appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Former Tigers Dave Rozema and Ike Blessitt to honor Mark “The Bird” Fidrych

    Coming up on August 16, former Detroit Tigers Dave Rozema and Ike Blessitt will team up with the Navin Field Grounds Crew and Metro Times‘ own Dave Mesrey to honor legend Mark “The Bird” Fidrych. The festivities, known as the annual “Bird Bash,” will be held at the infamous Nemo’s Bar & Grill, and will benefit The Bird’s favorite charity, the Wertz Warriors, and also the Mark Fidrych Foundation. For more information, check out their website or Facebook page.

    The post Former Tigers Dave Rozema and Ike Blessitt to honor Mark “The Bird” Fidrych appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • First Little League game at Navin Field today

    Today Navin Field (the Old Tiger Stadium) hosts its first Little League game on a new field made just to host the youngsters! Here’s a photo of the game happening right now, courtesy Tom Derry and Metro Times‘ copy editor extraordinaire, Dave Mesrey: Stop by the site (corner of Michigan and Trumbull) today to watch history in the making!

    The post First Little League game at Navin Field today appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Twerk du Soleil shakes up Detroit

    Former American Idol contestant Vonzell Solomon weighs in on twerking, natural hair & CEO status. In 2005, recording artist Vonzell “Baby V” Solomon embarked on a journey that changed her life. At the age of 20, Vonzell made it to the top three on American Idol before she was eliminated. But that was not the beginning nor the end of her journey to stardom. Vonzell is one of more than two dozen artists on tour with YouTube sensation Todrick Hall, who is a former Idol contestant as well. Todrick gained notoriety for his fast food drive-thru songs and also for producing parody videos  —  based on popular Broadway musicals and songs. His tour, uniquely entitled Twerk Du Soleil (translation: twerk of the sun), is a combination of his popular YouTube spoofs. Both Vonzell and her ratchet alter ego,Boonquisha Jenkins, made an appearance in Twerk Du Soleil,which stopped in Detroit July 23 at Saint Andrews Hall. Boonquisha opened the show by facilitating a twerking competition among the audience. Next, Vonzell made a reappearance singing a fan favorite – Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing.” Later, Boonquisha came on stage screaming “It’s so cold in the D! You gotta be from the D to […]

    The post Twerk du Soleil shakes up Detroit appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

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Stir It Up

Building blocks

Does Detroit have to accept any development without tweaks?

The 35-acre parcel on the southeast corner of Woodward Avenue and Eight Mile Road would seem to be valuable real estate at the intersection of two of Detroit's main thoroughfares. Once owned by the state, over the years, developers have had plans for a campground, parking lot, hotels and various retail outlets there. About 10 years ago there was even a plan to build a new Detroit Public School there.

But the high-profile property has been fallow for decades.

In 2004, the Detroit City Council approved development of a mall there. Seven years, three mayoral administrations, a couple of developers, some concept changes, and one Great Recession later, it looks like the Gateway Marketplace, an open air mall, will finally get built at Woodward and Eight Mile. 

"Around the country, in any city and even suburban places, commercial real estate has been struggling for quite a few years," says Ricardo Solomon, a former Wayne County Commissioner and one of the developers for Gateway. "It's not unusual to see projects taking longer than one thought. This development is not unusual at all. Things are taking longer than was envisioned in lots of places."

Detroit City Council member Saunteel Jenkins, who heads the committee on planning and economic development, says, "I think it's closer to happening now than it's ever been," of the development that has so far been long on promise and short on delivery.

But after all the time and changes, it's a vastly different concept than was envisioned even two years ago, when it was named the Shoppes at Gateway Park, and an artist's rendering displayed a village-like setting with retail store facades that looked like cottages with greenery popping up all around. It was something you might expect to see in the shopping area of a city such as Rochester.

There's always a gap between concept and reality. But the latest rendering, distributed at a recent meeting, pretty much looks like two strip malls with a large parking lot between them. That's just the look. The fact that there are Meijer and Marshalls stores lined up to be part of the mall shows that this is no mere strip mall.

It would be nice if the design sent the same message. That was pretty much the conclusion of community members at the meeting, which was technically a brownfield development hearing that would lead to tax breaks for Gateway.

Folks generally welcomed the idea of getting something going there, but were concerned that it be a better asset to the neighborhood in terms of walkability, eye appeal and the kinds of stores and restaurants brought in. Developers mentioned talks with McDonald's to locate there. But there is already a McDonald's at the corner of Seven Mile Road and Woodward Avenue, and another on Woodward just south of Nine Mile Road. Do we need a third location at Eight Mile?

"We need a nice sit-down restaurant there," says Harold Varner, who lives on Hamilton in the Palmer Park area.

Varner, the principal of the architectural firm Varner and Associates and a former director of development for the city of Detroit, designed Cobo Hall and the Wright Museum of African American History in addition to many other area projects. He knows the development game.

"Woodward is our main street, and we want it to be beautiful," Varner says. "A parking lot on Woodward, that's totally unacceptable. That's a necessary facility but let's not destroy our city at the same time. You can have an entry off Woodward but no parking on Woodward. They need to replan the way the market has been planned. Whoever did the planning wasn't thinking. That's the entrance to the city. The main service entrance ought to be off of Eight Mile Road. If the big box [Meijer] is turned just 90 degrees and the service entrance is put on Eight Mile, it would make a big difference. Somebody just plopped some buildings down and put parking in the middle and that's not acceptable.

"There are no buildings there to shield the view from Woodward; you're going to see all the guts [delivery docks, etc.] there. That's unacceptable. Malls have a lot of parking and you need to have it, but you don't have to feel like you're in a big parking lot. They need some good urban planner to help put it together. ... Ricardo is a friend of mine; he said they were going to talk about it so I'm sure they're doing some adjustments."

But Solomon seemed a bit recalcitrant on the subject. "That's not just my decision," he said, pointing out that the development team includes Elliott Hall, Marvin Beatty, Bernie Schrott and Southfield-based Redico, a national property management company.

Hearing Schrott's name gives me pause. In 2000 and 2001, Metro Times detailed a number of questionable business dealings that Schrott was involved in, including connections with a drug ring, accusations of fraud in a Bahamian casino deal and a plan to sell the land at Woodward and Eight Mile to Detroit Public Schools at a vastly inflated price. However, there are a lot of business deals done by persons of questionable character, and citizen concerns lean more toward the impact Gateway will have on the local community.

"For the most part we're going to probably stay with the direction that we're going," Solomon says. "Redico has been hired by us. They've done a lot of work with the city; they have a lot of familiarity with Meijer. We work in collaboration and they are managing the project on our behalf. We've had a number of changes."

Developers have looked at the local demographics, reporting that there are 185,111 households with an average income of $54,473 within a five mile radius of the development. That includes areas such as Ferndale and Madison Heights. Yet they don't seem to have done much in terms of engaging the surrounding community. At the brownfield meeting, Jason Fowler of the Woodward Avenue Action Association (WA3) said that this was the first his organization has seen of the plan. Fowler, whose WA3 vision includes "Inspiring architecture, quality streetscaping and beautiful public spaces that are well maintained, clean, safe [and] welcoming," says he is "disappointed with the design."

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