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Retail vacancy down in metro Detroit, but construction of new retail space lags

While new retail businesses are steadily opening metro Detroit, that influx is not translating into the construction of new retail spaces, reports Dustin Walsh of Crain's Detroit Business. In fact, the construction of new retail square footage in the region is at a 30-year low.

Retail construction peaked in metro Detroit in 1998, but has tapered off dramatically in recent years.
Local commercial real estate expert Jim Bieri tells Walsh that this is due to the use of existing space that was left over from closures and consolidations of retail businesses throughout the region.
Read more in Crain's Detroit Business.

3 metro Detroit chefs nominated for Food & Wine's People's Best New Chef award

Sylvia Rector of the Detroit Free Press is reporting that three local chefs -- Garrett Lipar of Torino in Ferndale, James Rigato of the Root in White Lake Township and Marc Djozlija of Wright & Company in Detroit -- have been nominated for Food & Wine magazine's annual People's Best New Chef award.
The winner of this national award will be decided by public online voting. Cast your vote here.
Read more in the Detroit Free Press.

Is Uber out of control? Michigan lawmakers propose regulations

Uber has taken metro Detroit by storm since its introduction to the local market two years ago. In that time, the mobile app ride share service has become a staple of bar-goers and tourists from downtown Detroit to Royal Oak to Ann Arbor -- but not without controversy.

Unlike taxicabs and their drivers, Uber cars and drivers are not subject to rigorous regulations. For example, taxis are required to pass safety inspections and be driven by people with chauffeur's licenses, while Uber cars are not.

A pair of Republican State Senators are hoping to change this with the introduction of two bills. According to MLive, "Senate Bill 0184, introduced by Sen. Jones, R-Grand Ledge, would hold cars in a transportation network company to the same safety inspection and insurance standards as limousines. It would also and allow local municipalities to regulate transportation network companies.

Senate Bill 0188, introduced by Sen. Dale Zorn, R-Ida, would define what insurance a transportation network company's vehicles had to carry and also require drivers to carry a chauffeur's license. It also requires the company to do background checks on drivers."

Read more on MLive.

Charles and Ray Eames "Mathematica" exhibit coming to The Henry Ford

Metro Detroit's most popular tourist destination, The Henry Ford, has acquired a new permanent exhibit. Designed and realized by Charles and Ray Eames in 1961, "Mathematica" conveys the world of numbers and mathematics through interactivity. The exhibit will go on display next year.

"'Mathematica' not only changed the way exhibitions were designed, but it was created to address a specific problem within the museum and education community that is still relevant today, which is a better way to convey mathematical principles and ideas to visitors,” says Patricia Mooradian, president of The Henry Ford, in a press release. “Learning by doing has always been an important concept for our organization and with this acquisition we can now fully provide our visitors with unique, educational and entertaining elements that incorporate the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) platform."

The exhibit coming to The Henry Ford is one of three versions of "Mathematica" created by the Eameses. One is installed in the New York Hall of Science and another is owned by the Museum of Science in Boston. The version acquired by The Henry Ford was originally installed at the 1964 New York World’s Fair and incorporates interactive elements unique to it.

According to a release, The Henry Ford is currently working on the design and location for a permanent display of "Mathematica."

Charles and Ray Eames are recognized as two of the greatest designers of the 20th century. They are perhaps best known for their iconic chair designs. The pair's connection to Michigan is deep, having both studied and taught at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills and worked as designers for Zeeland's Herman Miller brand.

Anti-violence demonstration planned for Detroit-Grosse Pointe border along Mack Avenue

On Dec. 22, teenager Paige Stalker was shot in the head in Detroit near the city's border with its affluent suburb Grosse Pointe. The case remains unsolved.
According to the Detroit Free Press, "The Stalker family has joined others dealing with similar tragedies, going door-to-door in neighborhoods where people have been raped, murdered or disappeared. They aim to encourage dialogue among neighbors, advocate against violence and help bring about answers for unsolved cases."
The family is currently planning a "Community Unity Walk" that will take place on May 2. Participants will walk a 1.5-mile stretch of the Detroit-Grosse Pointe Border along Mack Avenue between Cadieux and Alter roads. According to the Free Press, organizers hope to assemble 400 to 500 local families who have lost loved ones to violence.
The Free Press reports that "the route was selected after the Stalker family developed a bond with the Detroit family of Chris Samuel, whose daughter, Christina Samuel, 22, was shot to death on Christmas Eve. It was three days after Paige Stalker's death, also at night in a car, about 5 miles away, and also in Detroit. Her case, too, remains unsolved."
For more information about the May 2 Anti-violence demonstration, visit the Detroit Free Press.

Iconic big tire on I-94 turns 50

One of Detroit's most iconic roadside landmarks, the eight-story-tall Uniroyal tire located on the side of Interstate 94 in Allen Park, is set to turn 50 in April. While not exactly a tourist destination, the "big tire" is widely recognizable to metro Detroiters.

According to the Detroit News, "It was created as a tire-like Ferris wheel for the 1964 World's Fair in New York, providing rides to more than 2 million fairgoers. Afterward, it was disassembled and transported by 21 railroad flat cars to Allen Park, where it was reconstructed, sans gondolas, near a Uniroyal Tire Co. corporate building in 1966, according to the book "Images of America: Allen Park."

Read more in the Detroit News.

Reddit's guide to good ethnic food in metro Detroit

Looking to get out of your comfort zone and try some more adventurous cuisine? That's how Reddit user petee0518 felt when he asked posted the following to r/detroit:

My friends and I want to branch out a bit and try some more ethnic eateries around town, so I was hoping to get a few suggestions here. It's pretty easy to find a good amount of the "standard" fare like Indian, SE Asian, Mexican, Mediterranean. We had our first outing at Taste of Ethiopia in Southfield yesterday, and would love to find some more options. Google/Yelp can be helpful, but I have to imagine some more under-the-radar places are out there. Does anyone know of any good spots in the area for something a bit more unusual? Anywhere within an hour or so of Detroit is feasible.

Users chimed in with all sorts of recommendations, from Bosnian sausage and Yemeni food in Hamtramck to Russian dinners in Harper Woods to Chaldean food in Sterling Heights.

For the full list of suggestions or to add chime in with your own, click here.

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.


"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.
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