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Significant upgrades coming to SMART's fleet of buses

The Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART), the agency that provides metro Detroit with fixed-route bus service, is about to make a serious investment in its fleet of buses. According to Bill Shea of Crain's Detroit Business, SMART is set to purchase 80 40-foot buses at a total cost of $34.6 million.
Shea writes:
"The new buses are BRT or bus rapid transit models that are intended to operate more like streetcar or train vehicles. They also come equipped with a stainless steel rack for three bicycles, LED signs and nonskid flooring. They’re expected to last 12 years on the road, or 500,000 miles."
Currently 88 percent of SMART's 600-bus fleet has exceeded the Federal Transit Administration's useful life standards, reports Shea.
The investment in new buses is made possible thanks to voters in Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties approving a millage last fall, which has resulted in a $28 million increase in SMART's annual tax funding.
Read more: Crain's Detroit Business

Schoolcraft College to offer certificate programs in brewing and distilling

Renowned for its culinary arts program, Livonia's Schoolcraft College is expanding its food and drink focus by adding certificate programs in brewing and distilling. The programs will be among the first of their kind in Michigan, where the production of beer and spirits is a booming industry.
According to Crain's Detroit Business, the college "will invest $1 million into a seven-barrel brewing system to create an on-campus brewery and lab with a capacity to make 217-gallon batches of beer."
The 24-credit programs will feature courses designed by professionals from various Michigan breweries.
Read more: Crain's Detroit Business

In Southfield, man ditches lawn for native habitat

Amid the tidy suburban yards of Longcrest Street in Southfield, Michigan, John DeLisle's lawn sticks out like a sore thumb. Well, it's not so much a lawn as it is a prairie filled with chest-high wildflowers and deep-rooted native plants. While it may look chaotic to passers-by, it's an intentionally reconstructed native habitat that DeLisle tells Jim Schaefer of the Detroit Free Press has several environmental benefits.

"...This provides not only habitat for plants, animals and lots of other organisms — you know, decomposers, etc. — but it enables all of the pollutants from driveways and streets to be absorbed and processed in a natural way by the root systems of all these deep-rooted, native plants," says DeLisle.

While birds, bees, butterflies, and small animals love the yard, many of DeLisle's neighbors do not. But DeLisle tells Schaefer that if everyone had a yard like his instead of a conventional lawn, we would be able to divert over 90 percent of stormwater away from the sewer system, which would both keep pollutants out of our water and result in lower water treatment costs.

Read more and see a video of DeLisle's native habitat yard: Detroit Free Press

Cheers! Let's drink to the Michigan beer industry's $6.6 billion economic impact

Buying beer at your local party store isn't a simple task these days. In fact, it requires some head-scratching critical thinking. That’s because, in addition to the standard national brands, beer drinkers in Michigan have a plethora of local brands to choose from, many producing a wide variety of styles.
And the he volume of those choices is a reflection of one the most robust local beer economies in the country. According to a recent study by the Beer Institute and the National Beer Wholesalers Association, Michigan's beer industry contributes over $6.6 billion to the state's economy and generates over 35,500 direct jobs.
According to the Detroit Free Press, state and local governments benefit big from the Michigan beer industry's bounty. "Of the business and personal taxes generated, more than $367 million is state and local," they write. "And of the sales taxes, more than $174 million is state and local."
Read more: Detroit Free Press

Henry Ford Estate to celebrate centennial with folk music festival

This August marks the 100th anniversary of Henry and Clara Ford taking up residence at Fair Lane, a palatial estate surrounded by farm land in Dearborn, Michigan.
According to a release by the Henry Ford Estate, the Fords called Fair Lane home from 1915 to 1950. "Upon Clara’s death," they write, "Fair Lane was given to Ford Motor Company, and in 1957 Ford donated the estate and the farmlands to the University of Michigan for construction of the Dearborn campus. In 1966, it was among the first in the nation to receive the prestigious designation as a National Historic Landmark from the National Register of Historic Places. In June 2013, ownership of the Estate transferred from the University to the Henry Ford Estate, Inc., a new 501c3 corporation that will now restore, reimagine and reopen the Estate."
To celebrate Fair Lane's centennial, the Ford Estate will host the first ever Fair Lane Folk Festival on its grounds on Saturday, August 1, from 4-10 p.m.
The full lineup of musicians includes NBC’s "The Voice" finalist Joshua Davis, Matt Wertz, Frontier Ruckus, Rayland Baxter, The Accidentals, PigPen Theatre Co., Rachel & Dominic Davis, The Giving Tree Band, Chris Bathgate, Thunderwude and The Green Gallows.
In addition to live music, attendees will also be able to enjoy Michigan craft beers in the Bell’s Beer Garden, a variety of food trucks and local artisans and vendors.
Advanced tickets are available at two prices levels:
$25 general admission - Includes admission to festival, parking in a university parking lot, and access to estate grounds. If still available, tickets can be purchased on site on the day of the event for $35.
$75 VIP - Includes VIP parking at the estate, admission to festival, access to House, VIP reception in the air conditioned Pool Room with snacks, drinks and private acoustic performances.  VIP tickets are limited.
More information: fairlanefolkfest.org

Home prices in metro Detroit nearing pre-recession levels

It has been a long recovery for the housing market since it crashed in 2008, especially in hard-hit metro Detroit, but it looks like home prices are inching their way back to pre-recession levels.
According to the Detroit Free Press, "Local housing prices are now back to their January 2008 levels," although they are still 21 percent below their peak values of 2005 and 2006. The median housing price in metro Detroit was $162,900 as of June, over 9 percent higher than it had been a year before.
Read more: Detroit Free Press

Is Pontiac the model for blight removal in Michigan?

The city of Detroit's fight against blight is well documented, but it is not the only city in southeast Michigan dealing with this issue. Pontiac, too, is getting aggressive when it comes to the remediation of problem properties, particularly vacant homes, in distressed neighborhoods.
According to a recent opinion piece for Crain's Detroit Business by Bill Pulte, founder of the Detroit Blight Authority and managing partner of Bloomfield Hills-based Pulte Capital Partners LLC, Pontiac is a shining example for how cooperation across sectors can effectively combat blight and increase property values in distressed neighborhoods.
Writes Pulte:
"I have been invited to visit great cities, large and small, across the United States to present time-tested experience, guidance and solutions for their blight challenges. When I am there, I always share the Detroit success stories from the original pilots, but the story that I tell most is that of Pontiac's politicians and leaders working together to solve the problem and put the credit aside. From the beginning, the question in Pontiac has been: How do we quickly and completely remove all blight from our neighborhoods and our city to create a blight-free, truly prosperous city?"
To date, Pontiac has removed over a third of the 905 homes identified as blighted during a 2014 survey of the city's residential properties.
Read more: Crain's Detroit Business

Grosse Pointe Park adds large planters at border with Detroit

The saga of the Detroit-Grosse Pointe Park border on Kercheval Avenue just got a little stranger this week. On Tuesday, July 14, MLive reported that city of Grosse Pointe Park has added large planters to the area that has been reconfigured multiple times over the last year in ways that restrict Detroiters' access to Grosse Pointe Park's Kercheval business district.
A Grosse Pointe Park city official told MLive that the planters were nothing more than a beautification project.
Last year, Grosse Pointe Park erected sheds for its farmers market in the middle of Kercheval, blocking all vehicular traffic between that city and Detroit. The sheds were moved later in the year after an agreement was reached between Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and the city of Grosse Pointe Park to re-open the thoroughfare connecting the two cities. Earlier this year, Grosse Pointe Park installed a roundabout at the border that only allows one-way traffic to enter from Detroit.
While the newly installed planters do not restrict vehicular access between the cities, they do create a visual barrier.
According to MLive's Ian Thibodeau, "The nearly five-foot-tall planters Tuesday were being filled by a landscaping company with rocks, soil and trees. They were too heavy to move by hand, arranged along the Grosse Pointe Park border in a straight line. Several smaller planters were being placed, too. They were big enough that two landscaping workers could sit inside the planter to arrange the trees."
Metromode recently has been covering border dynamics in metro Detroit in its "Life on the Border" series. Read our feature on Detroit and Grosse Pointe Park here.
Read more: MLive

Stephen Colbert returns to TV...on public access in Monroe, Mich.

Stephen Colbert made a triumphant return to television yesterday, though it wasn't as the host of CBS's "Late Show." Colbert won't assume that post, which was held by the inimitable David Letterman for nearly 22 years, until Sept. 8. On July 1, Colbert returned to TV as the substitute host of "Only in Monroe," a cable access show broadcast from Monroe, Michigan.

Colbert's show was posted on the "Late Show" YoutTube Channel yesterday. In the episode, Colbert sits in for "Only in Monroe" regular hosts (whom he interviews), takes a shot of whiskey, and discusses the cresting of the River Raisin and his favorite Bob Seger songs with none other than Marshal Mathers (aka Eminem).

Check the show out for yourself:


Regional Transit Authority to roll out shuttle service to Metro Airport

If you do not own a car or cannot afford to hire a cab or private car, getting to and from Detroit Metro Airport can be a serious ordeal. That could change, however, with the rollout of a new airport shuttle service between the airport and Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties and the city of Detroit.
The Detroit Free Press is reporting that the Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan is expecting to launch the shuttle service incrementally beginning in spring of 2016.
Read more: Detroit Free Press

Exploring the origins of euchre, Michigan's favorite obscure card game

It's summer and Michigan, and that means it's time to gather with friends on the porch of your house or around a campfire Up North for a spirited game of euchre. But have you ever wondered the origins of this card game obscure to people outside of the Midwest? Thanks to The Awl, wonder no more.
According to The Awl writer Jason Boog, a native Michigander, "Euchre began as a variation of an older card game carried over by German immigrants as they traveled across the United States in the nineteenth century."
Read more about the origins of Michigan's favorite obscure card game in The Awl.

What if metro Detroit public officials strictly rode transit for three weeks straight?

Imagine a city or region where public officials actually understand the importance of transit because they ride it every day.
It actually doesn't require much of an imagination. Starting on June 1, several San Francisco city officials, including Mayor Ed Lee, began to fulfill a pledge to ride public transit for 22 straight days.
According to KRON 4, "The challenge, spearheaded by the advocacy group San Francisco Transit Riders, will continue until June 22 and aims to help city officials gain familiarity with public transit and inspire them to improve the experience."
Now imagine if metro Detroit's public officials, from county executives to mayors to city council people, undertook a similar challenge. Do you think they'd gain a new appreciation for the challenges faced by transit riders throughout the region and a new perspective on our system's shortcomings? Chances are they would have plenty of time to contemplate these issues and more while they wait on their buses.
Read more about San Francisco's transit challenge: KRON 4

Every free outdoor movie screening in metro Detroit this summer in one list

It's the time of the season for free outdoor movie screenings throughout metro Detroit and Ann Arbor. Between the Cinetopia International Film Festival, the New Center Park film series in Detroit, the Ann Arbor Summer Festival, and community screenings throughout the region, it can be hard to keep track of all the great free film-related events happening each week. Thankfully, Thrillist Detroit's Jeff Waraniak put them all together in a single place. As a bonus, Waraniak listed all of the amenities associated with each screening, such as whether or not there will be booze or food trucks on hand.
Read more: Thrillist Detroit

Asian mega mart opens in Madison Heights

Remember when Metromode proclaimed Madison Heights to be the Asian food capital of southeast Michigan? We weren't kidding. This week, an Asian foods superstore called 168 Asian Mart opened at 32393 John R (just north of 13 Mile).

According to the Detroit Free Press, the market is "located in a space formerly occupied by Mervyn's." The store, an amazing 38,000 square feet, "has more than a dozen aisles of fresh produce, a full-service seafood counter, a meat counter and much much more."

Read more in the Detroit Free Press.

New census pop. estimates show what cities in metro Detroit grew last year and which shrank

According to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2014 population estimates, which were released last week, Michigan is growing for the third straight year, albeit at a modest rate. While Detroit is still losing population as it has done for decades, the rate of loss is slowing.
"Detroit shed an estimated 6,424 residents last year — about 1 percent of its population — and has lost an estimated 30,945 residents since 2010," writes MLive's Jonathan Oosting.
So what are the fastest growing communities in southeast Michigan between 2013 and 2014? In Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties, the answer is outlying townships.
In Wayne County, which itself lost 1 percent of its population last year, Brownstown and Canton charter townships experienced the greatest rate of growth.
In Oakland County, whose population grew by 0.5 percent, Lyon and Oakland charter townships grew the fastest.
Washtenaw County's population grew by 0.6 percent, with Macomb and Washington townships leading the way.
The cities that declined in population throughout metro Detroit tended to be near suburbs and central cities.
Read more in MLive and the Detroit Free Press.
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