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  • The Ypsilanti mystery pooper saga continues

    Ypsilanti police are still searching for the person dubbed the “mystery pooper.” Someone has been, as the Associated Press politely puts it today, “soiling slides at an Ypislanti playground over the last six months.” So, of course, someone purchased an electronic billboard along I-94 near Huron St. at exit 183 that delivers multiple calls for action: For instance,”Help us flush the pooper.” The company that purchased the billboard, Adams Outdoor Advertising, knows how to reach the world in the 21st Century, branding each billboard with a hashtag for the public utilize in its efforts: #ypsipooper. WJBK-TV says the billboard also toggles through other rich lines, such as: “Do your civic doody, report the pooper #YPSIPOOPER” “Help us catch the poopetrator #YPSIPOOPER.” You can have the runs, but you can’t hide. They’re still looking for you, Mystery Pooper.

    The post The Ypsilanti mystery pooper saga continues appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: DJ AvA, Chuck Flask & Keith Kemp preview Movement at Urban Bean Co.

    It’s a really, very cool idea. Paxahau, the good people behind the Movement Electronic Music Festival, are hosting a series of warm-up events, or previews, to the big festival which takes place Memorial Day weekend. On Thursday evening, Movement moved into the Urban Coffee Bean on Grand River in Detroit. While Dj AvA and Chuck Flask & Keith Kemp ably worked the decks, the regular coffee shop goings on continued behind them. It made for an interesting and amusing webcast experience – one guy was taking a nap on camera, while others supped coffee and tappd their feet. It should come as no surprise – the Urban Coffee Co. people have always been big supporters of electronic music. The place includes a DJ stand, and co-owner Josh Greenwood encourages customers to bring their own vinyl and spin on the open turntables. Not on Thursday night though. This being a coffee shop, and it not being particularly late at night, the music remained pretty chill throughout. DJ AvA (real name Heather McGuigan) includes Beth Orton, Madonna, the B-52’s, Daftpunk and David Byrne among her list of influences, so you know that she’s capable of both whipping up a storm and also […]

    The post City Slang: DJ AvA, Chuck Flask & Keith Kemp preview Movement at Urban Bean Co. appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Here is why landlords could do well in Wayne County

    CNN has a message to all prospective landlords: Head to Wayne County! Occupancy and rental rates are increasing, the report says, creating an opportunity for serious returns on investments. In fact, after comparing the median sales price of homes to average monthly rents in nearly 1,600 counties, RealtyTrac found that Detroit’s Wayne County offers landlords the best return on their investment in the nation. Investors who buy homes in the metro area can expect a 30% gross annual return from rents. That’s triple the national average of 10%. RealtyTrac, an online real estate information company, says the county offers investors low prices for larger homes — with a median price of $45,000. “We’ve got some steals here,” said Rachel Saltmarshall, a real estate agent and immediate past president of the Detroit Association of Realtors, told CNN. “There’s a six-bedroom, 6,000 square-foot home in a historic district selling for $65,000.” For more, read the entire report here.

    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.

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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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