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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.

You can walk all the way around Michian's coastline without trespassing on private property

Did you know that it is completely legal for you to walk the entire coastline of Michigan (all 2,200 miles!) without trespassing on private property? Chastity Pratt Dawsey writes in a recent piece for Bridge Magazine that "Michigan law allows anyone to traverse the state's coast along the water's edge up to the ordinary high water mark of the land without being guilty of trespassing on private property."
For this reason, several advocates argue that Michigan would make a great starting point and centerpiece for an officially designated 10,000-mile walking trail around the Great Lakes.
Read more about the potential for a Great Lakes coastline walking trail in Bridge Magazine.

Metro Detroit's housing market is surging into spring

Thanks to low mortgage rates, the increasing availability of financing to working people, and a recovering economy, "metro Detroit's housing market is set to turn a corner this spring and become hotter for buyers and sellers," writes J.C. Reindl in the Detroit Free Press.
While values in some Detroit suburbs are still down as much as 20 percent from their peak values in the mid-2000s, Reindl reports that "some neighborhoods [are] seeing yearly gains of 10 percent or more, due in part to a thin supply of move-in-ready houses."
Oakland County is seeing the most significant rise in home sales, which are up by 17 percent countywide since the same time last year. Wayne County has experienced a 13 percent increase in median sales price since last year.
Read more about the state of metro Detroit's housing market in the Detroit Free Press.

Is metro Detroit the next Silicon Valley? Is Silicon Valley the next Detroit?

Metro Detroit and Silicon Valley are about as different from one another as two places can be. After all, Detroit's a blue collar manufacturing town while the Valley is the center of the white collar tech universe.
Yet Bruce Katz of the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program contends that these two iconic regions may actually be becoming more alike than different.
Katz writes:
"Increasingly, manufacturing has gone high-tech in Detroit, while the Silicon Valley/San Jose region has seen an uptick in manufacturing…
It would surprise no one that San Jose and Silicon Valley have the highest concentration of advanced industries workers in the country, with 30% of all jobs in the metro area in one of these R&D and STEM-intensive industries. While some might think Facebook FB 0.57% and Twitter TWTR dominate the Valley, manufacturing actually employs nearly half (46.1%) of workers. These 134,000 workers produce everything from semiconductors to computer equipment to aerospace parts and pharmaceuticals.
The reverse dynamic is at play in Detroit. While the automotive industry accounts for over one-third of all advanced industry employment, services still employ almost half. Over 32,000 professionals in the Detroit metro area are employed in the computer systems design sector alone—many of which feed into the larger automotive supply chain."
To learn more about how the economies of Detroit and Silicon Valley are becoming more similar, read Katz's piece for the Brookings Institution.

Thrillist Detroit ranks the 16 best bars in Detroit's suburbs

The city of Detroit is a drinking town. From Belle Isle to 8 Mile, the city chock full of great bars, new and old. But as Nicole Rupersburg writes in a recent piece for Thrillist Detroit, "there's plenty to love about the area just beyond Detroit's borders." So she did you a favor and listed her 16 favorite bars in Detroit's suburbs. From the epic beer selection at the Berkely Front to the magical burger at Miller's Bar in Dearborn, you can't go wrong with any of these suggestions.
Read more on Thrillist Detroit.

Is a sensible public transit connection to Metro Airport in the works?

"Imagine taking a bus directly from downtown Detroit to Metro Airport at a modest cost," writes Eric D. Lawrence of the Detroit Free Press. In virtually every other major American metropolis, such a thought wouldn't require any imagination – it would be reality. In Detroit, however, we've been dreaming of a direct public transit connection to the airport for decades.
Now, however, those dreams could become a reality.
According to the Free Press, "The Regional Transit Authority is fine-tuning a request for proposal with assistance from the Wayne County Airport Authority for a bus service that would link Detroit, as well as Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties, to the airport."
Hooray! It's about damn time. Now let's hope local leaders and agencies have the will to make it happen.
Read more in the Detroit Free Press.

Michigan's shrinking middle class

The American middle class is shrinking, and Michigan is no exception.

According to a recent post on the Pew Charitable Trusts' Stateline Blog, "A new Stateline analysis shows that in all 50 states, the percentage of "middle-class" households—those making between 67 percent and 200 percent of the state's median income—shrunk between 2000 and 2013. The change occurred even as the median income in most states declined, when adjusted for inflation."

In Michigan, the percentage of "middle class" households shrunk from 50.6 percent to 43.6 percent between 2000 and 2013. Over the same period, the state's median household income declined from $61,551 to $48,273 and the percentage of households spending 30 percent of that income on housing grew from 24 percent to 31 percent.

To see how Michigan stacks up against other states, visit Stateline Blog.

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.
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