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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

The nerdy playhouse

Here's a crew of creatives — in the truest sense of the word — rising from hackerspace ground zero

Photo: N/A, License: N/A

Photo: Rudy Pokorny, License: N/A

Rudy Pokorny

OCD offers public workshops of all sorts, where folks can learn to install a boom box in a vintage suitcase, hollow out books, or use an LED circuit to put light-up eyes in hand-sewn puppets. In addition, at "Open Hack Nights" held twice monthly, OCD opens its doors to anyone who'd like to check out the space, nerd out on a project, or meet other likeminded hackers and builders. Achille Bianchi, a glib photojournalist who runs a bookbinding and papermaking workshop at OCD, says of Open Hack Nights, "There have been some really neat things that have gone down on these nights. ...We've had up to 50 people in the space, and sometimes they erupt into huge bike polo games." 

Wolcott completes his tour and begins roasting raw coffee beans in preparation for an all-nighter; he's building shelves to house OCD's future library. Meanwhile, a group of hip-hop musicians — the only people who don't seem to be deep in a project — lounge on beat-up couches rescued from the nearby Atlas building. As Wolcott pours coffee for the crowd, the strong and bitter cup spurs discussion about another member's plans to brew glow-in-the-dark beer. The warehouse's floor-to-ceiling windows are streaked with condensation, revealing a desolate, snow-covered lot outside.



OCD has grown to be just shy of 30 members, implementing a system of flat dues for all members rather than the tiered membership that some hackerspaces use to honor those more generous or involved. Dues go toward the lease, bills and an elaborate savings system that allows for potential machine purchases, outreach efforts and rainy days. 

The group is also open to new members, who must receive unanimous acceptance in order to join. "It's like renting out a room in a shared apartment," Bianchi explains, emphasizing the importance of finding a good fit. Because the collective showcases various talents (including woodworkers, programmers and electrical engineers) OCD prides itself on offering "just about everything" in terms of both resources and skills. That being said, one member reminisces about OCD's early days, noting, "We were a super tight-knit group ... [things] were much simpler back then." 

Now, a few dozen self-described "weirdos who make stuff" run an autonomous and very open collective in the middle of Detroit. ... Sound romantic? When asked if any trouble has ensued, Manoulian shifts his weight to give this a think. "Yeah. One time, we hosted a party here and someone [not a member] lit a cigarette inside." Er, a violation of the no-smoking policy — that's it? 



On a snowy Monday night, 20 or so dudes from as far as Port Huron and Ann Arbor have shown up to OCD for a biweekly moped get-together. Detroit's merciless winter months are prime time for fixing bikes, and tonight the place teams with moped freaks and fixer-uppers. Tools and engine parts this writer can't discern are strewn around, and there are Solexes, Hondas and Peugots in various stages of being eviscerated and rebuilt.

Dubbed "Moped Mondays," the idea for the night was born last summer when Manoulian and a few other amateur moped riders from OCD joined forces with Motor City Riot, an unofficial branch of the Moped Army. Since then, the first-floor workshop of OCD has doubled as a headquarters for the Riot. (When asked if the gang plans to officially join the Moped Army, a grizzled rider jokes, "Sure — if we can muscle them into having us.") 

Moped Mondays respond to both a burgeoning moped culture and the ingenuity that Detroiters wear like a second skin. As with everything else at OCD, it's about fixing and building while sharing knowledge and swapping parts. And while moped gangs are notorious for being biker elitists, humility's evident here. "Detroit's too small to be exclusive," one rider says.

Emphasizing that Moped Monday is actually open to anything with wheels (cyclists are welcome), Detroiter Brad Potts adds, "Everyone should feel comfortable here, if you just want to learn about mopeds, or ask advice before buying one ... even if you have never touched a wrench." 

Several OCDers say hosting Moped Mondays has brought more diversity to the space, both professionally and demographically. A motley crew is present, including a bevy of engineers and a seemingly incongruous prosecuting attorney. There are a few dudes with shiny shoes and thick-rimmed glasses, as well as older riders in flannels and work boots. 

"We just have these stinky 30-year-old bikes in common," says Port Huron resident Ben Krenke with a laugh. Krenke says he doesn't know much about what else goes on at OCD, but his love for wrenching on mopeds brings him out here once a month or so ("whenever my wife lets me.") Someone offers him a dirty martini mixed in a polystyrene cup. 

Tonight Krenke is making a gasket to restore his Puch motor, a piece that the company stopped manufacturing ages ago. The unspoken adage here goes like this: If a part doesn't exist anymore, make it yourself. Likely for this reason, funds don't seem to come between riders and their bikes. Someone talks about purchasing three vintage Vespas for $250; Potts tells of rebuilding an engine he got from a junkyard for $30. "It was trashed," he adds.

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