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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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Cover Story

Detroit Stars in Low Winter Sun

AMC’s newest drama has gritty Motown as a setting

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When seeking out a long-term relationship, wisdom has held that you do your research up front and, to his credit, Chris Mundy did just that. The Hollywood producer chose not to simply accept the national storylines and stereotypes about Detroit as fact. He came to experience the city for himself.

Man, did he ever.

Last year, on his first visit here, he checked in for five days at the MGM Grand Detroit. When he returned a month or so later, he stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott in the Millender Center. On the third trip he made the Atheneum (a-THEEN-ee-um or AH-the-NEE-um, depending upon how Detroit you are) Suite Hotel his command center, residing there five straight weeks. In all, Mundy made seven separate Detroit expeditions, totaling nearly three months. “We’re doing our best to get it right, you know?” he asserts.

Mundy is writer and executive producer of Hollywood’s latest attempt to capture our town’s funky gestalt and make it the backdrop for a prime-time TV series: Low Winter Sun, the intense new police drama scheduled to premiere on AMC this summer.

The Americanized version of a 2006 British miniseries that won the U.K.’s Royal Television Society Award as best drama serial, Low Winter Sun is a tale of murder, corruption and cover-ups swirling around the Detroit Police Department. AMC released its first-look trailer for the series online last week, evoking comparisons to such outstanding former dramas as The Shield and The Wire. When brooding, morally bankrupt Det. Frank Agnew (portrayed by Mark Strong, Zero Dark Thirty) kills a fellow officer, he believes he has committed the perfect crime. Of course he hasn’t, and the fallout from his felony drags him deep into Detroit’s evil underworld. Lennie James, already a darling of AMC viewers for his work in the first episode of the network’s monster hit The Walking Dead, co-stars as Joe, another detective who becomes his partner in crime — in many ways.

Strong also starred in the original version of the series. The addition of James brings an inevitable layer of racial tension to the story. (Strong and James, two accomplished British actors tapped to play Detroit cops — we must be classier than we think.) The cast also includes familiar faces Erika Alexander (Living Single), Billy Lush (Chicago Code) and veteran actor Ruben Santiago-Hudson, who earned his MFA at Wayne State and appears as squad leader Lt. George Torrance in the pilot. Ernest Dickerson, cinematographer for most of Spike Lee’s movies who has emerged as an in-demand director, directed the Low Winter Sun pilot shot here last fall and may return for other episodes.

Low Winter Sun has a 10-episode commitment from AMC. Mundy, who cemented his TV stature as executive producer of Criminal Minds and co-executive producer of Cold Case, will return to Detroit again next month to reshoot a few cosmetic scenes in the pilot, then begin production on the remaining nine episodes beginning April 29, 2013.


It’s déjà vu all over again


You may recall that we recently had our collective civic hearts broken by another Motown-based TV cop drama — Detroit 1-8-7, which opened on ABC last year to positive reviews, but received the cancellation ax after just one season. Low Winter Sun, however, is being co-produced by AMC, the current “Tiffany Network” of cable and home to such landmark successes as Mad Men, The Walking Dead, Hell on Wheels and the Emmy-winning series Breaking Bad; Low Winter Sun is expected to replace Breaking Bad when its five-season run ends this summer.

Such a track record of quality assures — well, nothing, since no one can predict what viewers will embrace — but Low Winter Sun at least will have a supportive environment in which to develop.

“Endemol [the British studio that also co-produces Hell on Wheels with AMC] and Chris Mundy have produced a beautiful pilot with an incredible cast led by the insanely talented Mark Strong,” Joel Stillerman, AMC’s executive vice president of original programming, said in a statement. “We’re thrilled to be moving forward with this compelling new drama and look forward to returning to Detroit for production on the first season.”

“Look forward to returning to Detroit …”; when’s the last time you read those words?

“I wanted to set it in Detroit and seal a sense of place,” Mundy explains on the phone from Los Angeles. “I always thought [the show] was a lot about second chances, what people are willing to do to get a second chance, and I wanted the backdrop to reflect the same thing; the pride and hope, the perseverance of a place — and I like Detroit because Detroit has that, as I’ve seen.”

Mundy admits, though, that he knew very little about his chosen city going in, hence the many reconnaissance missions, prior to production. “I treated it with broad strokes when I decided to set it there,” he says. “I was actually lucky enough to have a few different cops who really took me under their wing and showed me the city.

“I think the biggest revelation to me is, many outsiders think of Detroit as very urban, when to me in a lot of ways it’s very Midwestern. It spreads, like Midwestern cities do, with big buildings and wide avenues, and to me that’s very evocative. I’m from the Midwest originally, and there’s a quality about the city that was easy for me to tap into. And I didn’t realize how beautiful the infrastructure of Detroit was. Some of the buildings are so much nicer than I expected, then there’s a bunch that are so much worse than I expected.”

Mundy depicts both sides in the pilot. Agnew lives across the street from a city block vacant, except for one ramshackle two-story house that clearly escaped Detroit’s demolition crusade. Conversely, there’s a scene with Agnew on the roof of the ornate Wayne County Building that provides a beautifully panoramic view of downtown.

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