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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.

Millenials want to live in cities, but can't afford to stay downtown

A recent report from the Urban Land Institute (ULI) flips what has become conventional wisdom about millennials on its head. For years, the thinking has been that millennials want to live in downtowns – places that afford them the "live, work, and play" lifestyle.  Yet recent research indicates that millennials can't afford downtowns and are choosing cheaper city neighborhoods outside of central business districts.
The ULI writes in a press release, "Contrary to popular belief, most Millennials are not living the high life in the downtowns of large cities, but rather are living in less centrally located but more affordable neighborhoods, making ends meet with jobs for which many feel overqualified, and living with parents or roommates to save money."
Read more on ULI's website.

How does Michigan rank in terms of bike friendliness?

Not well. According to a recent study by the League of American Bicyclists, Michigan ranks 18th out of 50 states, dropping four spots since 2014.
A number of factors went into calculating each state's bike friendliness, including the percentage of commuters cycling to work, whether or not a state has a complete streets policy (Michigan does), and the amount of dedicated state funding going towards cycling infrastructure.
Washington and Minnesota topped the list, while Kentucky and Alabama scored the lowest.
To learn more about the League of American Bicyclists' bike friendly state rankings, click here.

RTA launches regional transit planning process

On Tuesday, May 12, the Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan (RTA) announced the kickoff of a process to create a regional transit master plan at Campus Martius Park in downtown Detroit.
According to Crain's Detroit Business, the RTA announced that it would study Woodward, Michigan, and Gratiot avenues as potential routes for bus rapid transit lines as well as create a single master transit plan for the region that is being referred to as "Building Equitable Sustainable Transit," or BEST.
Read more about the RTA's recently announced transit planning process in Crain's Detroit Busines.

NY Times study of best and worse places to grow up shows dramatic inequality in metro Detroit

In a recent study by the New York Times that analyzes the best and worst places to grow up in the United States, metro Detroit counties exhibit extremely varied outcomes for children.

According to the Times, Wayne County is "among the worst counties in the U.S. in helping poor children up the income ladder. It ranks 112th out of 2,478 counties, better than only about 5 percent of counties. It is relatively worse for poor boys than it is for poor girls."

Macomb County, on the other hand, ranks significantly higher. "It’s one of the better counties in the U.S. in helping poor children up the income ladder," writes the Times. "It ranks 1,561st out of 2,478 counties, better than about 63 percent of counties."

Somewhat surprising is that Oakland County, one of the wealthiest counties in the state, is "below average in helping poor children up the income ladder. It ranks 870th out of 2,478 counties, better than about 35 percent of counties. It is relatively worse for poor boys than it is for poor girls."

Learn more about the best and worst places to grow up in metro Detroit and the rest of the U.S. in the New York Times.

Cranbrook opens its gardens to the public all summer long

A national historic landmark, the campus of Cranbrook in Bloomfield Hills is one of the most picturesque destinations in metro Detroit. This summer, thanks to financial support from PNC Bank, Roberts Restaurant Group, and Meijer, you will be able to enjoy much of that beauty for free.
Throughout the 2015 season, the Cranbrook Gardens will be open daily to the public with no charge for admission.
"The gardens are part of the estate of Cranbrook's founders, Ellen and George Booth," writes IXITI. "The home is the oldest of metropolitan Detroit's historic manors. Its gardens, works of art and first-floor appointments are preserved as a testament to the Booths' gracious lifestyle, their interest in landscape gardening and their involvement in the American Arts and Crafts movement."
Read more on IXITI, "the experience engine for southeast Michigan."

Eastland joins the ranks of troubled metro Detroit malls

On the heels of the closing of Southfield's Northland Center, one of the oldest indoor malls in the U.S., Sherri Welch of Crain's Detroit Business is reporting that the management group of Harper Woods' Eastland Mall has missed a payment on a $37.43 million loan tied to the property.
In the wake of Sears pulling out of Eastland in 2012, the mall is at just over 75 percent occupancy, well below the 90 percent that is deemed healthy for a shopping center of East Land's size.
Read more in Crain's Detroit Business.
In the coming weeks, Metromode will look into how metro Detroit communities are dealing with the loss of major retail anchors and examine innovative models for repurposing vacant shopping malls from around the country.
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