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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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Sign of the times

A Detroiter signals distress from a neighborhood under siege

Photo: , License: N/A

After a drive-by shooting at a playground, Andre Ventura erected his sign.

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Rudell Solomon: "I teach kids how to plant."

It wasn't the daily raids on his yard by the neighborhood's thieves that did it. Nor was it the pyro who firebombed his equipment trailer. No, what drove Andre Ventura over the edge was the drive-by shooting that had kids on the playground diving for cover as bullets pinged off the swing-set posts.

When that happened, Ventura grabbed some paint and a brush, scrawled an angry declaration on a plank of wood and hoisted his homemade sign at the edge of his east side yard, leaving it to face Eight Mile Road and the thousands of commuters that pass by daily.

"Warning! This city is infested by crackheads. Secure your belongings and pray for your life. Your legislators won't protect you," the sign read. Then he raised several American flags up tall poles, but flew them upside down in the signal of distress.

Ventura had spent a decade living in Detroit's inner-city, fixing up old houses and helping open adult foster care homes, supplying truckloads of clothes for the poor, planting urban gardens and creating a playground for kids. He's a disaster relief worker by trade, and when he came to Detroit, he felt compelled to help because he'd stumbled onto a disaster.

As the years in the inner city wore on him, he'd channel his angst into little signs he left on abandoned homes and rickety fences, expressing concern about the condition of the neighborhoods, the threats residents there endure, the harrowing upbringing children face. The signs got little attention. But this time, people reacted.

Cops stopped by and voiced their support. Firefighters pulled up in rigs and got out to take pictures. Neighbors offered congratulations. 

"I had signs up about children for years," the 41-year-old Ventura says. "I put up 200-and-something signs, and nobody reacted. I put up a crackhead sign up here on Eight Mile, I had cars stopping the next day, and within two weeks I'm on international news."

All because he said what he felt should be heard — that some parts of this city are blown-out combat zones where innocent people are under siege.

"I had a positive outlook on the city," he says. "I used to say nice things about Detroit. I said Detroit would survive as long as there was one person to love it. But I've had a complete change in attitude." 

If there's one person in Detroit who would be least expected to lose his optimism for the city, it is the energetic man who came here to help rebuild it.

After a childhood on military bases in Europe, a stint of his own in the Army and a career in disaster relief, Ventura came to Detroit after a woman he met at a Home Depot invited him to help fix up some old homes on the east side. "Within the first three days, I seen a house blown up, two cars blown up in the streets, and you were hearing gunshots every night. It's nuts over there. I could've been in Iraq or Afghanistan. That's what sparked enough curiosity for me to try to figure out what was really going on, because before that I really didn't have any experience in Detroit."

He'd drive around the city, introducing himself to residents, touring the good blocks and the bad ones, finding out who were the killers and who were the thieves. Along the way he stumbled into the shadow economy that fuels the city's neighborhoods.

"I can get you anything you want, legal or illegal," he says. " Drugs, black market goods, anything. I can get you a helicopter. Guns. Grenades $5 apiece, real grenades. Anything that you want there's somebody willing to steal it. I don't care what you want. You want a tank? You can get it and probably for less than $5,000."

Alarmed by what he'd seen, he wrote impassioned letters pleading for help from the city's mayors and councilmembers, who dismissed him for living in a suburb at the time. "When I started tackling problems the first thing that came out of their mouths was, 'Well, you don't even live in Detroit,'" he says, "So, OK, fine, I'll move to Detroit."

He moved into a rickety old house at French and Gratiot, an intersection crisscrossing a wasteland. As a disaster relief worker he'd been to towns decimated by hurricanes or tornadoes. But he was stunned.

"I've been all over the world, all over the country," he says. "There ain't nothing like Detroit. There's really no way to describe it."

In his decade of inner-city life, he's amassed countless stories of social mayhem, snapshots of social collapse. Of hookers having sex on the children's playground he built next to his yard. Of looking out his window to see neighbors walking off with tools and extension cords in bright daylight. Of the neighborhood kid who's so well-connected he can get back just about any of your stolen things — for a price. Of tending to children shot by stray bullets while waiting for police and ambulances that sometimes don't arrive. Of the elderly woman across the street who won $6,000 in the lottery but was shot and killed the next night by a thief who wanted that ticket. Of that drive-by shooting that sent little kids running for their lives on a playground.

"There ain't no way you can fathom it," he says of his corner of the city. "There's no morals, ethics, standards. There's no connection between, basically, life that you see everywhere else."

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