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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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Dreaming in color

A fading movie landmark gets a little help from some friends

Photo: , License: N/A

Geoff Gowman, Helen Broughton and Conroy Jointer in front of their beloved theater.

He'd climb that tall ladder every weekend to put those black letters up high on the sign.

Over the years, that marquee on the Alger Theater announced birthdays and graduations, advertised nearby small businesses, even carried a marriage proposal once. 

Changing the message took hours of reaching upward, sometimes into wind-driven rain or face-burning sunshine, and sometimes only after shoveling the snow just to give the ladder a foothold. But Geoff Gowman, founder of the Friends of the Alger Theater, did so faithfully because the money the sign brought in was so needed.

About three decades ago, he and some other residents from the neighborhood around the theater formed their group to save the old movie house, which has been closed now nearly as long. 

 "It's something dear to my heart," says Gowman, 73. "Detroit at one time was a city of neighborhoods, and everybody kind of belonged to their own neighborhood, and each neighborhood had their own neighborhood theater. And most communities don't make any effort to save their theaters." 

The Alger, at Outer Drive and Warren on the east side, is one of the few remaining links to that era of tight, walkable communities that so many Detroit intersections once were. Some of the group's members even hope it's possible to re-create those days, when places like the local theater were gathering spots for neighborhood folks.

"I live in the community," says Karlene Trump, the group's 71-year-old secretary. "I think that this could be the anchor for this whole community improving, and I just am in love with what we want to do with this place."

The Alger opened in 1935, joining more than a hundred neighborhood theaters in the city back then. Its design was understated art deco, more functional than frilly, a place where nearby residents could walk for some entertainment.

 "Notice there's no flat parking around here," says Mark Tirikian, 45, a board member and local architect. "It was just designed that people would come by foot. They would walk from these pretty dense neighborhoods around here. There were not even parking requirements when it was built."

Attendance was down by the '70s, and even its owner's efforts to offer more than just movies, including live performances and concerts, kept the doors open only until the early '80s.

Gowman had seen the city's other old movie houses vanish, like the Vogue Theater just over on Harper, which in 1977 closed, caught fire, was torn down and replaced by a McDonald's. So he and other like-minded residents formed their group with the aim of buying the theater. But before they could raise the cash, someone else stepped in and bought it, reopening it as a B-movie venue.

This lasted barely a year until a showing of one of the Friday the 13th movies got the audience so riled up they rioted in the seats and set the stage on fire. The alarmed owner closed it for good, and it's sat empty ever since. A year later, the Friends raised enough money to buy it.

But first, they had to pay off more than $30,000 in back taxes. They had to sink cash into repairing the roof so the place wouldn't flood. They had to drain 6 feet of water out of the basement. All before putting a dime into actually restoring the interior.

Twenty-five years of emptiness takes its toll. The ceiling and walls have gaps where gravity has torn holes. The auditorium seats are covered with a fine powder from the disintegrating plaster above. A red curtain hanging high over the stage is charred from the fire that marked the theater's last night open.

But despite the years of inactivity, the building still shows hints of its subtle elegance. And it has the fortune of a still-dense neighborhood of businesses and homes.

For years the group has enthusiastically promoted it as a future community center, rather than just a worthy historic relic. Their plans include movie nights, of course, but also things like concerts and stage plays and dinner theater. Maybe even a recording studio, Trump says, excitedly.

In the meantime, they've held private jazz concerts and theater arts classes inside, public street fairs and recycling programs outside, plus benefit dinners and wine tastings, and movie nights on a hill in a nearby park to promote a theater that can't yet show its own movies. They've gotten historic designation for the building at the local, state and federal levels, too, outside confirmation of the value they place on it.

"Because you drive by every day and it's that same old theater," says member Helen Broughton, 47.  "But as soon as you come in you start seeing the possibilities."

Conroy Jointer grew up by the Alger Theater, and would see the same white-haired man faithfully tending to the sign on the empty neighborhood landmark.

The sign was the one thing that always changed on its static exterior. And the one thing that never changed was the sight of Gowman on that ladder, every single weekend. "Everybody's seen him," Jointer says. "And he's friendly to everyone."

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