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Metro Detroit one of the most affordable regions to buy a home

The Free Press is reporting that mortgage consulting firm HSH.com has completed a study of regional housing affordability and determined that metro Detroit is one of the cheapest places in the country to buy a home.

According to the study, people in the Detroit area making $35,521.47 can afford to purchase a home at the region's median value. Only three cities (Cincinnati, Cleveland, St. Louis, and Pittsburgh) were more affordable.

For a complete ranking of housing affordability among U.S. cities, click here.

How Lathrup Village overcame inertia and opted in to regional transit

In metro Detroit, we often hear about communities refusing to collaborate on regional issues, particularly when it comes to opting in to the SMART bus public transportation system. Motor City Freedom Riders, an organization "uniting bus riders and their allies in standing up for the right to move," however, points to an example of a small community in Oakland County that had a change of heart after long refusing to participate in SMART.
 
In August of 2014, Lathrup Village, a small enclave city surrounded entirely by Southfield, voted to join the SMART bus system after 19 years of opting out.
 
Motor City Freedom Riders' Joel Batterman writes, "When the SMART bus system had its first millage back in 1995, the small Oakland County city of Lathrup Village chose not to take part…[but] in 2014, Lathrup Village officials started talking to SMART about joining the system by joining the Oakland County Public Transportation Authority, the pass-through entity that collects the property tax millage for SMART’s Oakland County cities. Lathrup Village City Council unanimously voted to join the Authority, and in August 2014, fully 73 percent of Lathrup Village voters said 'yes' to the SMART millage – one of the highest levels of support in Oakland County."
 
Batterman challenges the notion that all communities that opt-out of SMART are "bastions of prejudice," instead positing that many simply suffer from "political inertia."
 
Read more on Motor City Freedom Riders' blog.

Northland, America's oldest shopping mall, on the verge of closure

Southfield's Northland Shopping Center, which opened in 1954 at the forefront of a national trend of suburban shopping mall development, is on the verge of closure.
 
The Detroit News is reporting that Northland's owners told Oakland County Circuit Judge Wendy Potts that "the mall is bleeding nearly a quarter million dollars a month." Judge Potts approved the owner's requests to evict the remaining 70 tenant businesses within 30 days, saying, "The benefits it has to all — its tenants, owners and the community — are outweighed by the losses."
 
The mall is currently operating at a $5 million budget shortfall. Changes in shopping patterns and the rise of e-commerce are blamed for the mall's demise.
 
Questions remain about how the city of Southfield will cope with the closing of this massive retail landmark. Metromode will follow future developments in this story.
 
Read more in the Detroit News.

Lincoln Park Historical Museum wants your help celebrating MC5's 50th anniversary

Did you know that most of the founding members of seminal Detroit rock group the MC5 met 50 years ago while students at Lincoln Park High School? Now you do.
 
To help commemorate the 50th anniversary of the band's formation, the Lincoln Park Historical Museum will host an exhibit honoring its native sons this summer. The News Herald is reporting that the exhibit will be kicked off with a reception on July 11 and a tribute concert at the Lincoln Park Memorial Band Shell on July 12. Both events will be open to the public.
 
According to the News Herald, "Museum curator Jeff Day is looking for MC5 memorabilia and material for the exhibit…and is specifically looking for items that show the group’s ties to Lincoln Park, such as high school photos."
 
“It’s important for us to approach it from an angle of their early history,” Day said. “I’ve talked to some local fellas here who went to high school with them and played ball with them. I’d like to show who these guys were and where they came from.”
 
Read more in the News Herald, "The Voice of Downriver."

Community groups to schedule meetings with Regional Transit Authority CEO Michael Ford

Communities across metro Detroit have a lot of questions about the Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan (RTA), which was created by the state legislature in December 2012: How will it be funded? What power will the authority have over existing transit agencies like SMART and DDOT? Will the RTA bring true mass transit in the form of rail or bus rapid transit to the region?

On Tuesday, Feb. 24, community groups will have the opportunity to schedule meetings with the RTA's CEO Michael Ford where they will be able to ask those and other questions regarding the future of regional transit in Southeast Michigan. The Harriet Tubman Center at St. John's Episcopal Church in Royal Oak will be hosting two one-hour scheduling sessions (noon to 1 p.m. and 6 to 7 p.m.). Community groups will have the ability to schedule follow-up meetings with Ford in the months of March, April, and May. St. John's is located at 26998 Woodward Ave.

Space is limited. Visit the Harriet Tubman Center's website to RSVP for the event.

Does your suburb suck? Thrillist lets you know

Thrillist, the perennial publisher of click-batey listicles, has taken metro Detroit's suburbs to task (and doled out a little praise, too). Not since the Judgmental Map of Detroit has someone so humorously pidgeonholed the communities that make up metro Detroit, from Ferndale (a bastion of "self-important hipsterdom that comes with having money and approaching middle age but still trying to cling to that grittiness of one's youthful days in Detroit") to Novi (where "strip malls and shopping centers are multiplying like cancer") to Wyandotte ("The saving grace of Downriver").

Click here to see how your town stacks up.

Metromode's editor says farewell

Today Metromode publishes its 376th issue. I have served as the publication's managing editor for 369 of those issues, since taking the helm in February of 2007. This issue will be my last. 

I'm not a sentimental person by nature. At first, I wasn't sure I wanted to write a Dear John letter. Choked-up sign-offs always struck me as, well, somewhat self-indulgent. As Metromode's editor I have been, by choice and design, someone who worked behind the scenes, shaping the publication's narrative, generating its story ideas, guiding its writers, but mostly letting others take the focus.

My wife convinced me to reconsider. 

So, this is my attempt (last minute as it may be) to explain what I've learned during my tenure at Metromode, what I tried to accomplish and who I have to thank for any success we might have achieved.

First and foremost, running Metromode has been an experience that has profoundly shaped the way I regard metropolitan Detroit, and one I am immensely thankful for. The last eight years have been a crash-course education in understanding what makes this region tick - no small thing for a non-native like myself, a guy who grew up in New York but spent his professional years living in the Pacific Northwest. 

To say that Metro Detroit's personality, pathologies, dysfunctions and triumphs are unique, would be an understatement. This is a place rich in history and possibility, often frustrated by what it knows it can be but has yet to achieve. Watching the region's recent evolution has been both heartening and frustrating - but always exciting. 

Change makes for a good story, but also a painful process for those involved. As Metro Detroit has wrestled with issues of identity and place, I saw Metromode as a tool for conversation, a forum for ideas, innovations and examples that might otherwise get drown out by traditional narratives. We've learned as we've gone along, and done our best to respond to what is moving the region forward... and what might be holding it back.

It's been an exciting to follow the new, innovative industries that now pepper our region's 1300 square miles, as we take the first steps toward a more diverse and nuanced economy. It's been encouraging to see open and heated discussions about transportation and community planning take centerstage in the media. I hope that my time at Metromode was, at least, partially responsible for igniting those conversations.

After a decade-plus of living in Michigan, I can no longer claim to be an outsider. But I hope my non-native status has prompted me to ask questions and tackle local issues with a somewhat different point of view. I have lived in diverse cities with reliable, efficient mass transit and dense urban cores. I know what it is like to own a home on a block with a seven story apartment building at the end of my street. I have rented apartments that were located within walking distance of a grocery store, a hardware store, nightlife and, even, my job. I have lived in communities that have been recycling for several decades rather than years.

Charting and challenging Metro Detroit's on-the-ground and behind-closed-doors attempts (some more serious than others) to address these and many other issues has not only helped me better understand the place I now call home, but informed my own entire world view. Not everyone gets the benefit of learning about their community through their job, especially with the breadth, depth and sophistication I have. For this I am blessed.

I have also been blessed with colleagues who have educated, partnered, supported and, thankfully, questioned my ideas and choices over the years. Jon Zemke, Kim North Shine, Dave Lewinski, Tanya Muzumdar, Dennis Archambault, Natalie Burg, Nicole Rupersburg, Amy Kuras, Nina Ignaczak and Patrick Dunn are only my more recent partners. They, and everyone who came before them, have been the heart and soul of the publication, working for far to little to produce far more than I asked. Luckily, their work here will continue even if mine does not.

Leaving Metromode does not mean leaving Metro Detroit, however. I will remain the managing editor of Concentrate in Washtenaw County (at least for the foreseeable future) and you can continue (or start) to read my film reviews in the Metro Times.

There is also, of course, the many friends, colleagues, contacts and connections I have made over the years. This community is rich with thoughtful, passionate and innovative people. I am honored to know them and look forward to finding other ways to know them better.

I have a good friend who ends our phone calls with, "bye, for now." I've always loved the sentiment behind that sign off. It's the promise that we'll talk again. So, to the readers of Metromode, past and present, thank you for indulging in my editorial vision for the last eight years. I look forward to more conversations, more debates, and more instances of inspiration.

Bye for now,

Jeff Meyers

Train from Ann Arbor to Traverse City in the works?

It sounds great on the surface. But then you read all the caveats -studies, "many years off," exploratory, "no funds for this" - and realize that, like most interesting transportation ideas, Michigan will probably let it die on the vine. Let's hope our cynicism is wrongly placed.

Excerpt:

"He said they're looking at a Traverse City to Ann Arbor line in particular because the tracks are still owned by the state and, for the most part, are in pretty good shape.

A map of the A2TC route shows the train would stop in Cadillac, Mount Pleasant, Alma, Owosso and Howell on its way from Traverse City to Ann Arbor, with the option of continuing to Detroit from Ann Arbor.

MDOT is conducting the study next year because there was an overwhelming amount of interest in the idea when MDOT created the State Rail Plan back in 2011, Bruckbauer said. The top priority that came out of the public input sessions for that plan was a passenger connection to Traverse City, he said."

Read the rest here.

Is your community ready to rethink its zoning?

For some reason, most US communities -most especially in metro Detroit- think that our half century and older methods of zoning are written in stone. CityLab suggests that it's time to evolve these out-dated notions of community building with "performance-based zoning."

Excerpt:

"Conventional zoning is downright sinister in the ways that it forms a barrier against good urbanism. It prohibits live-work arrangements, residential over retail, and all other manner of the mixed-use environments that are proven formulas for vitality, walkability, and convenience. Outdated and NIMBY-driven codes ban accessory dwelling units and the occupation of carriage houses and in-law apartments, as well as infill cottages—building smaller dwellings on empty portions of already-developed residential land—which would instantly increase the supply of affordable housing."

Read the rest here.
 

How are the kids in Kidpreneur doing one year later?

About a year and a half ago Metromode wrote about Kidpreneur, a company dedicated to teaching tweens and teens about technology and entrepreneurship. Other publications soon caught on as well, writing up their own coverage. One, Xconomy, checks back in with the brainchild of serial entrepreneur Thanh Tran to see how things are going.

Excerpt:

"Kidpreneur recently began offering online classes over Skype, Sunday classes, and all-girl classes. In December, it participated in Hour of Code, a global initiative to teach kids coding basics; 400 kids from 10 schools in metro Detroit joined in the fun. Seidman says Kidpreneur is also working to find sponsors for interested students who can’t afford to attend classes, and the company is reaching out to schools and libraries to gauge interest in after-school programs taught by Kidpreneur in person or over Skype."

Read the rest here.

So, what does living 'close' to transit actually mean?

Unless you've been living in a cave you've probably heard about James Robertson and his 21 mile daily commuter by foot. He's the perfect poster child for just how screwed up our public transit situation is. It also makes sense that his story would go viral. But will this mean real change? Or just an outpouring of support for one person and then ten more years of our community burying its head in the sand about how pitiful our transportation policies continue to be?

So, what would a reasonable system look like? And what does it mean to live 'near' transit.

Excerpt:

"What both these studies point to is that "proximity" to transit is a rather flexible setting that's by no means limited to a quarter- or half-mile in all cases. Of course, most people prefer to walk as little as possible to reach a transit stop or station. But not all urban street networks are created equal (walking a half-mile in Manhattan doesn't feel the same as walking that far in, say, pedestrian-unfriendly Orlando) and not all riders have the same options. The recent findings at least raise the possibility that cities could increase both ridership and market opportunities by extending TOD planning at least a mile from a station."

Read the rest here.

Attention haters: Muslims in Dearborn are... Americans

As most metro Detroiters know, Dearborn, home to the Ford Motor Company and Carhart workwear, is also a peaceful melting pot of Muslim and non-Muslim Americans alike. But for some it's become a rhetorical punching bag, the target of bigoted conspiracy theories. The Daily Beast attempts to set the record straight.

Excerpt:

Folks invested in harmful myths about Dearborn, Stockton says, have “a social and ideological location within the population. They’re almost all on the right, they’re almost all Republicans, and they’re almost all over a certain age.”

It’s part of a broader cultural battle, said Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.“These people feel like they are losing their America, because the true America is reflecting and embracing more diversity,” he said. “… Many are using the politics of fear to galvanize their bases.”

Read the rest here.

Check out these techs. Google Demo investors will.

Three Detroit-area tech startups have won a chance to pitch their companies to investors lined up by Google and looking for business ideas to put their money behind.
 
After competing last week in the Grand Circus Detroit Google Demo Day competition, the founders of AdAdapted, GENOMENON and LevelEleven, are hoping to be picked to visit Google’s California HQ in April and spill to investors what’s promising about their companies. One or two will make the cut to make the trip to Mountainview, Calif.
 
Excerpt:

“We’re very impressed by the talented entrepreneurs and innovative companies in the Detroit area. Google for Entrepreneurs partners with organizations like Grand Circus to help these local communities of entrepreneurs grow and thrive,” said John Lyman, head of partnerships and marketing for Google for Entrepreneurs.

 
Read more about these little companies that could here.

2015 Detroit auto show a record-setter

This year’s North American International Auto Show is another one for the record books when it comes to attendance. After setting a high last year for the last 11 years this year’s show 808,775 visitors helped kick that record to the curb.
 
Was it milder weather or a rebounding economy? Could it be the dozen new displays or 55 new car and truck reveals? Was it the fact that the average car is 11 years old and people are ready to shop?
 
Does anyone really care? What matters is whether show-goers find their way to real, car-selling showrooms after the show.
 
Excerpt:

“The automotive industry is really resurging right now and so they brought the best of the best,” says Scott LaRiche, chairman of the 2015 show. “Not only great displays and new things. It makes us very proud of the fact that the manufacturers feel that it’s important to bring that kind of firepower to Detroit.”


Read more here
 

Eminem's taking Detroit's pugilist message to masses with new video

It was a t-shirt that first introduced us to the Detroit Vs. Everybody cry. Eminem then put the us-against-them message to song.

Now comes the video follow-up to the November release and the worldwide audience that will view the black-and-white scenes of grimy and abandoned spots, the solid sports meccas and local monuments that are the backdrops for Detroit rappers as they wax on what’s good and bad about the city with a fight to fight.

For Eminem’s part (he was raised in part in Warren, worked in St. Clair Shores and now lives in northern Macomb County) he promises to never leave the bitch. It may not be fodder for chamber, economic development or tourism officials, wanting to retain and attract talent, but there’s no denying that the city will be in the heads of countless fans – for better or worse.

Excerpt:

"The approach definitely suits the song and its gritty portrayal of Detroit, lending a kind of personality and romanticism to all that darkness and intensity."
 
Read more and watch the video here.
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