Five things you need to know for Thursday, March 27, 2008

Five Things You Need to Know About MichiganWelcome to a special Michigan Homes & Real Estate edition of Five Things you need to know about Michigan. Before I dive in I wanted to say a little something about our month themes. We got the word that a) you like them but b) you would like them to be not so loud so c) we’re listening and turning it down a little while d) continuing to develop this kind of thing. There should probably be an “e” in there to keep the Number 2 pencils sharp, so I’ll add e) keep the comments coming!

 Detroit Riverwalk at Sunset #2 by epeoples
Detroit Riverwalk at Sunset #2 by epeoples

The Sweet 16 of Detroit’s Development Scene

Model D got into the March Madness Mood with 16 Sweet Developments in Detroit. The feature lists some great projects like RiverWalk, Hatch HQ, Dequindre Cut and the Tiger Stadium redevelopment and also general trends like better food, a facelift for the arts and Open City, an informal networking group in which business ownders share tips about real estate, start-up financing, marketing and other thorny issues with folks starting businesses. One thing is clear – there’s an energy in the D that can’t help but benefit the city and the rest of the state.

Mortgage Crisis Hits Hard in Michigan…

It’s probably a surprise to nobody that Michigan is near the top (#6, see Freep article) in real estate foreclosures. While 75% of foreclosed homes are located in southeast Michigan (according to WZZM, Grand Rapids), the effects of the mortgage crisis are dropping home values statewide (Gaylord Herald Times, WOOD-TV Grand Rapids), making it difficult to sell even “dream homes” up north (Detroit News) and even tightening commercial credit (mLive).

Commercial Real Estate Hit too … by the Legislature

When residential markets collapse, commercial buyers often move in and soften the impact by buying foreclosed properties. The Kalamazoo Gazette’s business writer Alex Nixon has an informative (though depressing) look at how Michigan’s new business tax is imposing 200% or greater tax increases on commercial real estate. While it makes some sense due to the fact that the old SBT was payroll based, it is proving challenging to many in the industry. (thanks to Real Estate Bloggers for the tip)

So Where’s the Silver Lining?

One of the things that we always try to do is find the good in the news. While the whole homes & real estate picture is pretty gloomy, here’s a couple of thoughts. One is that while the drop in real estate value is bad for home owners, those who are seeking to buy are – when they can get credit – finding good value in Michigan. Many of those are young families, something that might help stem our population loss over the long haul. A second is that the difficulties are forcing Michigan to take the lead in confronting the foreclosure tide that is rising all across the nation. Whether our political leaders and institutions can rise to the challenge is an open question, but it seems to me that items like this bill aimed at providing transition loans for ARM holders through the Michigan Housing Development Authority are a step in the right direction.

Detroit Riverwalk at Sunset

Detroit Riverwalk at Sunset #2 by epeoples is one of a number found in a search for riverwalk in the Absolute Michigan pool on Flickr. Many are from the Detroit Riverwalk, and all show something that is another amazing thing about making Michigan your home: the magic of our water.

Michigan Neighborhoods: Kalamazoo’s Historic District

Henderson Castle, Effets de Neige
by John Clement Howe

The homes in the neighborhoods of Stuart, West Main Hill and South Street in Kalamazoo reflect both the individuality and also the economic status of their original owners. There are a variety of architectural styles examples here from the the turn of the century. The most popular of these are Queen Anne and Renaissance style, but there are Italian, Gothic and Greek influences as well.

The Henderson Park neighborhood was platted by Frank Henderson, who took advantage of Kalamazoo’s topography by rejecting a typical grid pattern in favor of curving, tree-lined streets and deep setbacks. The Kalamazoo Public Library’s excellent Kalamazoo Local History section features articles and photos of many of the homes. The Henderson Castle feature says in part:

The Queen Anne style house–always called “The Castle” by local residents because of its ornate style and imposing hilltop location–was designed by C. A. Gombert of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and cost $72,000 to build. With seven baths, a thirteen-head shower, an elevator, a third-floor ballroom, and a hot tub on the roof (added later) the 25-room castle exemplifies high society and expensive tastes. The castle’s exterior is made of Lake Superior sandstone and brick, and the interior wood includes mahogany, bird’s eye maple, quartered oak, birch, and sycamore.

John Clement Howe has a great set of photos of the historic district in Kalamazoo (slideshow). The city has many sites on the national, state and local historic registers and you can get a walking tour map from the Kalamazoo County Convention & Visitors Bureau – call (269) 381-4003.

If you’re looking for a rental, check out the Kalamazoo Area Rental Housing Association. If a home purchase is in your plans, try the Greater Kalamazoo Association of REALTORS ®.

Check out more Michigan Neighborhoods from Absolute Michigan

Michigan Neighborhoods: Heritage Hills in Grand Rapids

Tower of Power by docksidepress

Heritage Hill has 1,300 homes that date from 1848 and representing over 60 architectural styles. To understand just how diverse these styles can be, visit the Voight House Museum, a beautiful example of Queen Anne architecture and then walk a few blocks over to the Meyer May house which was Frank Lloyd Wright’s first commission in Michigan. Heritage Hill is adjacent to downtown and was the first “neighborhood” in Grand Rapids. The original owners of these homes were everything from lumber barons and judges to teachers. Today the people that occupy this neighborhood still come from all types of backgrounds, ethnic groups and incomes.

The Heritage Hill Neighborhood Association has information about walking tours of Heritage Hill and the very cool Heritage Hill mapping project. They host an annual home tour the first weekend in October.

Matt (docksidepress) has over 300 photos from Heritage Hill, you can view more photos of Heritage Hill in the Absolute Michigan pool on Flickr and see even more photos and information about Heritage Hill from Rapid Growth. There’s also a book titled Almost Lost: Building and Preserving Heritage Hill by Thomas Logan that explores how close Grand Rapids came to losing the neighborhood in the 60s and 70s.

We’ll be featuring more Michigan Neighborhoods all month on Absolute Michigan!

March is Home Month on Absolute Michigan

Homes along East Ferry Avenue – Detroit MI by pinehurst19475

For the month of March, Absolute Michigan will be featuring Homes with stories about historic Michigan houses, home & home design blogs, green building and other new trends in construction and redevelopment, and some of the great neighborhoods across the state for buying and renting. We’ll also take a look at Michigan’s real estate market and seek some answers for home buyers and sellers in how to get through this difficult time. Where we can, we’ll feature some Michigan businesses who can help you make your home better through home improvements and enhancing your decor and furnishings.

As always, we recognize that there’s so much to know and talk about and we really hope you’ll help us with comments and emailed tips for stories!

Regarding the photo, pinehurst19475 says that the East Ferry Historic District began as an exclusive residential area in the late 1880s, after serving as an experimental seed farm for the Ferry Seed Company. Building continued through the 1920s, and today the area is a mix of well maintained structures used for residential, commercial and institutional purposes. The district is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It’s part of a great Residential Detroit set of photos.

Home is where…

well red by suesue2

For the whole month of March, we’ll be featuring Homes on Absolute Michigan with features about historic Michigan homes, green building and other new trends in construction and some great neighborhoods across the state. Because you can’t tune in any media without hearing how terrible the housing market is, we’ll also talk to some people about the whys, wherefores and how that can be overcome.

Our Homes & Real Estate section can probably give you some other hints about topics we’ll feature including home improvement and interior decorating. However, if you’re hot to get in the garden, you’ll have to wait for April when we feature gardening & Michigan flora!

Have ideas for topics? All you have to do is post a comment or send an email!

Five Things you need to know for Tuesday, July 3rd, 2007

Five Things You Need to Know About MichiganBrush Park renovationJuly 3rd … already?? Where does the time go and why can’t it be persuaded to move at this speed in the 3rd week of February?

Watch Sicko online … if you want

After I read this interview with Michigan’s most controversial filmmaker Michael Moore where he says he has no idea how his new documentary about the health care industry got on the internet, and that he’s “…just happy that people get to see my movies,” I figured it would be OK to link to a site where you can watch Sicko online. Here’s the link to the official Sicko web site and also Absolute Michigan keyword theater (if you want to watch it with someone else making the popcorn).

The Birds of Brush Park

Bootstrap Analysis takes a visit to Detroit’s Brush Park neighborhood to survey for birds and feed an interest in Detroit history. In addition to picking up some surprising birds – a Cooper’s Hawk being pursued by an American Kestrel, and two different Gray Catbirds defending their territories – there’s also a lot of photos and information on what was once the city’s most posh neighborhood.

Brush Park – 291 Edmund Place

While I was tempted to trot out the ever-popular Old Slumpy today, I thought it best to choose a photo that shows the revitalization of Brush Park. The condos pictured are available to rent at Zunzuncito has a set of Brush park photos and also runs the blog Urban Dragon Hunters (about dragonflies of SE Michigan).

Michigan wines are a growth industry

In her new Michigan Grapevine blog, Cari Noga says that rather than counting the number of wineries in the state (50 or so), the best measure of success and growth is the total amount of wine these wineries are producing. In 1996, Michigan wineries made about 82,000 cases. 10 years later, we’ve seen almost a tenfold increase, up to 404,276 cases. She also notes that Michigan’s share of wine sold within the state is increasing as well (though not at the rate of overall production). Read How much wine are we talking about, anyway?.

Fremont, Michigan

As with most of Michigan, the Fremont forecast calls for a good chance of much-needed rain. Fremont, Michigan weatherThe City of Fremont (pop. 4200 or so) is located less than an hour from Grand Rapids and the Lake Michigan shore (view Google map). The Fremont Area Chamber of Commerce says that Fremont is home to the world’s largest baby food company, Gerber Products. In fact, they have a National Babyfood Festival every July which Absolute Michigan keyword Fremont thinks is the coolest thing to do. For the insatiably curious, Wikipedia’s Fremont entry describes how Fremont became home to Gerber Products.

Vol I, No. 1: Introduce Your Michigan Business or Organization!

This is a page where we asked folks to say hello. Lots of them did!

The current version of Introduce Your Michigan Business or Organization is right there.

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Michigan Housing Locater offers free rental listings

no northerly or southerly winds, please!
by joojanta

A week or so back, the Great Lakes IT Report tipped us off to the Michigan Housing Locater from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority. The site is devoted to assisting Michigan residents in finding affordable housing, and giving property owners a marketing tool for their rental portfolios.

The free site allows landlords to enter property details and amenities and to add floor plans, photos, renters’ application and even a lease. Renters can search by zip code, amenities, keywords and whether the property offers income-based rental. When they find a likely subject, they can see Google maps of the location and email inquiries directly to landlords.

Check out