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  • 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.

  • 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

'Money talks'

The city can't respond to requests from everyday Detroiters, but jumps when the rich call

Photo: , License: N/A

The garden next to St. John Evangelist Temple of Truth. The church has been trying to buy adjacent properties since the Archer administration.

Photo: , License: N/A

A sculpture by Kef Parker funded by Kresge Foundation in the St. John's church garden.

Jerry Ann Hebron had a story to tell last week at the listening session sponsored by the Detroit Food Policy Council at Gleaners Food Bank.

Hebron is the executive director of nonprofit and community relations at St. John Evangelist Temple of Truth on Oakland Avenue, a couple of blocks south of the Bing Industries Complex. She says her job is to make sure the church is connected to the community. I spoke to her again the day after the listening session. This is her story.

About 15 years ago, the city tore down the building next to the church, backfilled the space and leveled it — making a total of 10 vacant lots along Oakland between St. John and Red's Jazz Shoeshine shop, a legendary parlor Motown entertainers were known to frequent back in the day.

Church members became concerned when the lots became overgrown; the area is one block south of Loving Elementary School. "We are a passageway to the neighborhood school, and there are seniors in wheelchairs in the area," Hebron says. "We saw the need to manage the land."

The church assumed the responsibility for mowing the lots during the summer and shoveling snow off the sidewalk along the lots during the winter. After a couple of years, the church received a bill from the city for mowing and upkeep of the property that the church didn't even own — and that the city had not been taking care of. Luckily the church had receipts from the landscaper and was able to prove its case. 

St. John is a small congregation with only 50 members, but they decided to buy the three lots closest to the church. They were already paying for the upkeep. Then, in 1999, they decided to buy the remaining seven lots. They applied to purchase the lots and began a dialogue with the city Planning and Development Department. They were told the city had to assess the value of the lots, which are in a commercial zone. Several months later the city told them the seven lots would cost $11,000. 

Although it was expensive, the church put down a $1,120 deposit and submitted a plan for off-street parking to the city. They never got a response — no letter, no phone call, no e-mail. After a few years, Hebron contacted Alvin Mitchell at the planning department. He told her he would get back to her but didn't. Her repeated visits garnered the same response for a couple of years. Then, in 2006, she was told that there was another developer interested in the property. A city official, whom Hebron declined to name, had put a hold on the property. That halted the church's plans, although they saw no development taking place on the properties. 

In 2009, Hebron checked to see what was happening and found out the hold had been removed from the properties. St. John was asked to resubmit its application. Hebron submitted a new application with pictures of the work church members had done on the property. Again there was no response from the city — no denial, nothing.

In 2011, Hebron was at the planning department doing business related to a house behind the church that the congregation had purchased. Members are planning a commercial kitchen there for church members to can vegetables from their garden and possibly develop a small business. She happened to be on the elevator with Mitchell and asked him about the seven lots they had applied for. Mitchell checked the status of the application and told Hebron it was old and the church should reapply. St. John was the only interested party, but was required to submit a development plan. Hebron says she resubmitted the application but has not received a response from the city.

St. John's congregation has put a split rail fence along the front of the lots they own, started the Oakland Avenue Community Garden, put in a hoop greenhouse, planted 16 lilac bushes, seven pear trees, and built benches for folks to relax. In 2010, thanks to a $40,000 Kresge grant, they commissioned a sculpture by artist Kef Parker that incorporates a 675-gallon stone cistern that uses a passive water collection system for watering the garden. St. John and Red's are the only establishments on the block. Across the street every building is deserted.

All the city seems to have done for St. John in this case is lose any record of the money that the church deposited.

How could the city's handling of this be considered anything but incompetence of the highest order? Not to mention unfair when a city insider was able to hold up the process. (Was it for personal gain? Likely we'll never know.) Several folks made similar complaints at the meeting, although none seemed to have suffered for the length of time that the good people of St. John have. Their woe has stretched through the Archer, Kilpatrick, Cockrel and Bing administrations.

Robert Anderson, director of the city's Planning and Development Department, seemed to agree with Hebron and others at the gathering that the city has fallen down on the job regarding land sales and management. "The City Charter says we sell land," says Anderson of his department. "I don't think I can walk you through that process." 

Anderson and Marcell Todd, director of the city Planning Commission (which is in charge of zoning issues), were apologetic to the 200 or so folks at the meeting, which was co-sponsored by Gleaners Food Bank, the Riverfront East Congregational Initiative and the Detroit Food and Fitness Collaborative. Part of the motivation for the session was the recent sale of about 1,900 city parcels to Hantz Farms for about $600,000 — approximately $300 per lot. Hantz plans to grow high-value hardwood trees on the properties. The Hantz sale is seems a slap in the face for many Detroit residents who for years have been trying unsuccessfully to purchase lots from the city.

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