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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

Sticky thicket

The Hantz Farm proposal has already raised a bumper crop of controversy

Photo: N/A, License: N/A

Last week Craig Fahle devoted a segment of his show on WDET-FM 101.9 to the controversial proposed Hantz Woodlands project near the Indian Village neighborhood. His guests were Hantz Woodlands CEO Mike Score and Malik Yakini, director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network. I met Score briefly last winter when he attended the meeting that rolled out of the Lower Eastside Action Plan, an ambitious, long-range effort to revitalize the southern part of the east side. I've been acquainted with Yakini for nearly 30 years, going back to my days with the Cass Corridor Food Co-op.

Score is the pointman for financial adviser John Hantz, whose Hantz Farms/Woodlands proposal is getting a lot of attention lately. Although Hantz has changed the original plan from farm to woodlands, if you search Hantz Farms on the Internet it pops right up top with the words: "Hantz Farms is our dream to rejuvenate our city by returning to our agrarian roots, by creating the world's largest urban farm right here in Detroit ... "

From my perspective, if Hantz wants to convince people that he is sincere in his stated plan not to farm, then he should take that terminology off his website.

During his interview with Score, Fahle stated that he has nothing more to go on than what Hantz and his people have said about the project. I've given Fahle credit for bending over backward to be a fair and impartial interviewer over the years. Myself, well I try to be fair but I'm generally not so impartial. And there are other things I will take into account when looking at this issue. For instance, during the interview Score said, "The primary purpose of the investment is to make neighborhoods more livable."

If that is true, then there are plenty of ways to do that. I know a lot of people who do that in their own neighborhoods. They mow overgrown lots. They put in gardens. They clean up lots and board up houses. Check in with the Motor City Blight Busters to find out about the work they've been doing in the Redford area for the past 20 years. There is a house on my block that was empty for nearly a decade. The woman who lives next door to it has mowed the lawn and kept the area clean with help from others on the block. Our neighborhood association has held clean-ups where a blighted house is chosen and a bunch of people show up one day to clear out the debris, cut down bushes and mow lawns. There is a woman who walks three miles a day through the neighborhood and voluntarily picks up trash while she's doing it. She's done this for years.

Now that's commitment to making the neighborhood more livable.

Hantz lives in Indian Village. He could hook up with community groups in his area and do the work. He could donate a little cash to the effort to spread the fixing-up around. Maybe Hantz thinks in bigger terms than I do. But I think Score's use of the word "investment" is telling. It's about future returns. Now there is nothing wrong with that. I have made my peace with capitalism. That is the system we have going here, although I believe there must be rules that everybody adheres to — unfettered capitalism is not my thing. And Hantz has a right to make money; but he should be honest about what he is up to.

Score made another telling remark. He said that Hantz will, "Forgo the right to recover expenses over time through agricultural production." 

So he has a right to recover expenses. That's OK. But he's not necessarily going to do it through agricultural production. That means he'll be looking for other ways to recover expenses. During the interview Score admitted that there are "some parcels that we would put back into the marketplace. We would not expect that to happen anytime soon."

That bespeaks land banking. That's how it works for people of great means. If I were to invest in land, I'd need to make the money back fairly quickly. I don't have money to live on while I wait out the market. When wealthy people invest in land, it just becomes part of the estate. You hold onto it until values go up, whether it's in three years or three generations. In fact, during Yakini's portion of the interview, he said that in a conversation with Hantz, the financier said that he intended to leave the property to his daughter. Hantz is a money guy. He thinks like a money guy. He may be totally sincere in his stated objective to make the neighborhood more livable — but he's going to make money along the way.

That's fine. But let's all be honest about it and evaluate the sale based on what it really is. 

Now there is plenty of land in the city to go around. Although Fahle and Score fell into the oft-repeated-but-wrong assertion that there are 40 square miles of vacant land available in Detroit. (Gee whiz, don't they read my column?) Data Driven Detroit long ago showed (and I reported on it) that the 40 square miles figure includes Belle Isle, Palmer Park, Rouge Park, Howell Park and the surface area of all the streets. The amount of vacant land actually available to use is closer to 20 square miles.

One of the reasons Yakini and others oppose this sale of land to Hantz is that many of them have been involved in urban agriculture over the past 20 years. Some of them have tried to buy vacant lots from the city to no avail. One guy who has a profitable garden in Detroit (yes, making a profit!) says he's buying land outside the city because he can't even figure out who owns some of the lots he's been working. When the Detroit Food Policy Council held a listening session at Gleaners Food Bank in August, there were a few people who told tales of woe about trying to buy land from the city in order to farm it, but got nowhere. One church had been trying to buy adjacent lots for some 15 years.

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