Development News

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Ann Arbor seeks fresh round of proposals for Library Lot

The Library Lot in downtown Ann Arbor may be coming out of development limbo soon, as the city is looking for proposals to build above the underground garage completed a few years ago.

Steve Powers, city administrator for the City of Ann Arbor, says the process is moving forward with the city soliciting proposals for the rights to develop above the garage, which is and will continue to be owned by the city. Proposals are due May 15; he's expecting them to be reviewed shortly afterward with the preferred developer or developers selected in June.

The property is just larger than 35,000 square feet at Fifth Street between Liberty and William, near the library, Blake Transit Center and federal court building. According to the official Offering Memorandum, put together by CRBE Group, Inc. of Southfield, the city's goal is for the property to be transformed into "a high density, modern, sustainable urban redevelopment that contributes to the fabric and livability of downtown Ann Arbor."

Potential uses are listed as commercial development with retail, office, residential housing and/or hotel/hospitality. Powers explains that the lot is zoned for D1, the city's highest density zoning, which makes it what he called "a rare opportunity in downtown Ann Arbor."

City council also wants an urban public park, set to be an approximately 12,000-square-foot portion of the property along Fifth Street, incorporated into the plans. "What it looks like and how it’s integrated into the development is going to be one of the key values for evaluating proposals," Powers says.

It's early and development plans for the site have been ongoing for years, but Powers says he’s optimistic there will be renewed interest in developing the site. "The results of the public process will be a development that will bring in some needed revenue to the city, that will add to the downtown's vibrance, and will be something that will be a source of pride for Ann Arbor," he says.

Source: Steve Powers, city administrator, City of Ann Arbor
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

New Kerrytown condo development breaks ground

Shovels are in the ground at 121 Kingsley West, a new condo development project in Ann Arbor's Kerrytown.

Earth retention and foundation systems are currently in the works for the residential condo project will be 19 units at Kingsley and Ashley, says Tom Fitzsimmons, Huron Kinsley development team partner and builder with Huron Contracting. After foundation systems are in and site work is done, utilities and steel and wood framing are next . This will keep things on schedule for moving people in during spring or summer 2016. Condos will range in size from 1,000 to 2,400 square feet, include off-street parking, and cost from $400,000 to $1 million depending on the unit.

Although a residential development, the project will likely still help boost the downtown economy by virtue of having more people living in the city's core, Fitzsimmons explains. In his own experience, he's seen more empty nesters move to downtown areas to be close to businesses and services.

"We're getting more people to live downtown, and more people living downtown affects the downtown economy," he says. "It's a good thing for the businesses downtown."

His own construction management firm employees are working on the project as well as contractors, so at any given day a dozen or so people could be working at the site, he says.

Source: Tom Fitzimmons, 121 Kingsley West partner and builder
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

Amplifinity settles into additional space at existing location

Increased sales, additional employees, and a larger office to match -- software company Amplifinity has grown into expanded space on the Ann Arbor’s north side.

Amplifinity recently doubled its office square footage from 6,500 to 13,500 at its location at 912 N. Main St., taking over the whole building after two other companies moved to new space, explained company president Eric Jacobson.

"Our head count has about doubled in the last year," he says, from 25 to 43 employees. "We're growing fast and selling a lot of software."

Amplifinity makes software for companies to manage brand advocacy marketing programs on social networks, and its popularity helped lead the company to its expansion. After employees became more and more packed into their previous space, Jacobson was able to work out an arrangement with landlord Peter Allen & Associates for the whole building, in no small part because he loves the location -- still within walking distance to downtown yet near the Huron River and its adjoining nature trails, and much more inspiring to creativity than a bland office park.

"Being able to walk out and walk away from your computer screen, sit by the river, watch the water flowing by -- it clears your head and allows you to solve problems in a completely different environment, rather than letters and numbers on a crystal display," he says.

Source: Eric Jacobson, president of Amplifinity
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

Former Ypsilanti pub to be reincarnated as co-working space

The new co-owner of Ypsilanti’s former Pub 13 building hopes to bring new life into a "fabulous" building by transforming it into an open co-working space.

Wayne Millette, who bought the building earlier this month with two business partners, says the trio is working with an architectural firm to keep some of the details of the former business and its character, such as transforming the wooden bar into desk space. He'd like to keep the openness of both floors, while incorporating conference rooms and other quiet spaces.

"We don't want to lose the character of that building," he says. "We're really trying to create a space that is user friendly."

Located at 17 N. Washington St., the building first needs a new roof -- it currently "looks like an icicle," Millette says -- and windows need to replaced in accordance to the historic district in which it's located. Then interior renovations can get going in earnest, working toward an aggressive goal of opening in September.

He hopes the space brings more people into the downtown area and expects to hire staff to keep it running smoothly. Ideally, Millette would also like to see green technology incorporated into the building, and perhaps partner with a nearby business school. "We'll always have something going on in the building," he says.

Millette has lived in the area for some 20 years, having been involved in the New Beginnings Academy nearby as well as a few other business ventures. "This is our home -- we want to invest in it," he says. "Ypsi has a bright future, and we're just excited to be a part of it."

Source: Wayne Millette, co-owner
Writer: Kristin Lukowsk

Recycled Cycles Bike Shop keeps Ypsi riders rolling

When it comes to bikes, David Yapp wants to keep the wheels turning.

Yapp recently founded Recycled Cycles Bike Shop, operating out of a storefront at 32 N. Huron St. in Ypsilanti, to buy, refurbish and sell gently used bikes back to the community. "There are so many bikes already out there, it just makes sense," Yapp says. "And maybe not everyone wants a brand new bike -- maybe it’s something classic they enjoy."

Recycled Cycles also accepts donations of used parts to be refurbished or sold, and repairs bicycles. Not only is purchasing a used bicycle usually more economical, but it also holds the opportunity to make the bike unique to the rider, Yapp explains. "Anything that can be of value, we'll save," he says. "We'll use it for the next bike, or a project bike."

Yapp draws from his 15+ year passion of "cycling and everything related," he says, including working in bike shops, racing, and riding all over the country. "This is what I know and this is what I love," he says. "It's really just a fun place to work for me."

He's hoping to manage the workload with volunteers and friends to start, but as the weather warms up and more people dust off their own bicycles, adding a small staff may be necessary based on growth. He also hopes to offer bike maintenance classes.

"There's nothing wrong with used bikes," Yapp says. "We're trying to reestablish a passion for refurbished bikes."

Source: David Yapp, founder, Recycled Cycles Bike Shop
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

Annex of Paredown shop brings home decor to Old Westside

Brenda Brown refers to herself as a lifelong Ann Arbor townie, and after spending 40 years in the book manufacturing industry, she's now turning her attention to helping other townies make their homes more cozy and beautiful. Her new Jackson Rd. shop, Annex of Paredown, offers new and vintage home furnishings, home decor fabrics, as well as design ideas and organizing services. 

"I've been helping people rethink and repurpose their furnishings because they're downsizing or moving, or rethinking how they're living in their homes when they have empty nests," Brown says. 

The character of the homes in and around Ann Arbor's Old West Side is how she ended up choosing her location, right at the division of Jackson and Dexter Aves. The neighborhood's homes fit in well with the era and style of her inventory and services. She opened the doors of her less than 1,000 square foot shop in early November.

"So far the reception has been wonderful," says Brown. "The neighborhood traffic in particular has been phenomenal."

While she currently operates Annex of Paredown independently, she hopes to soon add three to five contractors as instructors for home decor-related classes such as sewing or upholstery. Farther into the future, she would like to add up to two staffers in the shop. 

Source: Brenda Brown, Annex of Paredown
Writer: Natalie Burg

Authentic Mexican comes to Packard St. with Mi Compadre

Nicolas Quintana knows the restaurant industry, and he knows Mexican food. The Mexico native has been working in restaurants for the last 15 years since coming the United States, and now he, his nephew, and his longtime friend are bringing all of that experience to Mi Compadre, a new Mexican restaurant on Packard that promises only the freshest and most authentic of Mexican foods. 

"This is not Taco Bell. This is not Chi-Chi's," says Quintana. "We want people to know what real Mexican food is."

Among those authentic options will be such dishes as tlayudas, a pizza-like entree with a tortilla crust. All of their dishes will also focus on fresh ingredients and will be made from scratch to order. 

Mi Compadre has been in the works for about a year as Quintana and his partners have renovated about 90 percent of the former Ann Arbor Subs space. Updates have included everything from plumbing to new seating. Tables for 48 diners have been installed in the new restaurant. After all that hard work, Mi Compadre finally opened for business last week. 

"Eveyrthing has been very good so far," Quintana says. "We had people who come and say they like it because everything is made to order."

In addition to the owners, Mi Compadre employs a staff of four. 

Source: Nicolas Quintana, Mi Compadre
Writer: Natalie Burg

Mishigama Craft Brewing to add more variety to Ypsilanti's growing beer scene

After more than two decades with General Motors. David Roberts was looking for a new challenge. It just so happened that his daughter's father-in-law, a longtime craft beer brewer, was looking for the same thing at the same time. Their resulting project will soon take place in the form of Mishigama Craft Brewing in downtown Ypsilanti. 

"There is a lot of good beer made in the Ann Arbor/Ypsi area, and we hope to add to it," Roberts says. "There is a market in Ypsi for this type of product." 

Mishigama Craft Brewing will feature a variety of craft beers, including wheat beers, ales and stouts. The goal is to eventually serve food as well, though the business may begin small with six to eight beers on tap. 

"I'm hoping people will come and find us, and hopefully they'll have a nice, enjoyable experience for people in downtown Ypsilanti," says Roberts. 

The 5,700 square foot location, part of which was a former Buffalo Wild Wings, is well-suited to Roberts' vision of a downtown brewery and restaurant with room for growth. He expects Mishigama Craft Brewing to seat between 100 and 125 customers. Initially, he anticipates hiring a brewery staff in the range of five to 10 workers. Once restaurant operations are underway, however, that number could range up to 40 employees. Roberts hopes to open Mishigama Craft Brewing late summer of 2015.

Source: David Roberts, Mishigama Craft Brewing
Writer: Natalie Burg

Popular Ann Arbor Indian restaurant Cardamom to expand

It wasn't long ago when, Binod Dhakal and his wife opened Cardamom Restaurant on Plymouth Rd. in Ann Arbor. Less than two years later, the popular place with the tagline "Fresh Indian" is expanding, allowing them to serve more customers more quickly. 

"The expansion area design will allow folks to wait for a table or carry out order comfortably, and grab a drink while they wait," says Dhakal. "It will also make the dining room more comfortable for seated guests because there won't be all the in and out traffic. And perhaps most importantly will be what you won't see: an expanded kitchen so we can produce more food."

The Courtyard Shops restaurant is currently 1,709 square feet, plus an adjacent outdoor patio. The closing of the Biggby Coffee shop next door is allowing them to expand into an additional 1,105 square feet.

"We knew after about two weeks in business that if we ever had the opportunity to expand we would need to grab it, so when this space came open next door we had to go for it," Dhakal says. "It's a risk since we've only been in business 20 months, but we have really great regular customers and we hope they will lend us their patience through this construction and transition."

Dhakal is waiting for his plans to be approved by the city, but should everything move forward as expected, he hopes to open for business in the new area sometime this summer. He anticipates remaining open as much as possible throughout construction. 

Dhakal anticipates growing his staff by eight to 10 workers after the expansion. In terms of future plans, he hopes to continue to grow and eventually add catering to Cardamom's offerings. 

Source: Binod Dhakal, Cardamom Restaurant
Writer: Natalie Burg

Coffee roasters to set up shop in Ypsilanti's Depot Town

There is no shortage of coffee experience among the partners behind the forthcoming Hyperion Coffee Company in Ypsilanti. Dan Kubera has been a barista, roaster and manager in the coffee business for more than five years, Alex Merz is a longtime coffee connoisseur and Eric Mullins has spent more than a decade in the industry. Together, they plan to create micro-roasted coffee with a focus on relationships, science and education. 

"Our specialization will be in working as much as possible with farmers when we can and to develop that work into lasting relationships that our local community can invest into," says Mullins. "We are trying to focus on educating our customers and wholesaling our coffee so that we can reach a wider audience and to get great coffee into more hands." 

Hyperion Coffee Company will be located on N. River St. in a 1,200 square foot space Depot Town location. As Kubera and Mullins are both former managers at the Ugly Mug Cafe, the Ypsilanti location was a great way to capitalize on their established local network of coffee lovers, a well as position themselves well between Ann Arbor and Detroit. 

"When we first took a tour of the place a few months ago we kind of fell in love with the old brickwork, the giant green doors, great location in Depot Town, and amazing neighbors," Mullins says. "When we all met up after our initial walkthrough we were in awe that such a cool spot had gone unused in Depot Town for so long, we fell in love with it and immediately picked it up."

The Hyperion Coffee team hopes to have their roasting operations underway by mid- to late March. While their focus will be entirely on roasting initially, they hope to eventually add a small cafe to the business. Mullins says they expect to hire two to three employees in the first year, and can foresee employing 10 to 12 workers in the future. 

Source: Eric Mullins, Hyperion Coffee Company
Writer: Natalie Burg

Ann Arbor's Tiny Buddha Yoga opens and grows quickly on Pauline Blvd.

After graduating from University of Michigan, Ann Arbor native Risa Gotlib had a great job in business management in New York. And she just wasn't happy. Missing her family and looking for another way to make a living, the longtime yoga practitioner moved back to Ann Arbor and trained to be a yoga instructor. Once certified, she built up a large network of students, both in various studios and through private clients in town, but found she was again missing something. 

"I realized that the kind of vibe I wanted to feel, I didn't feel at any of the studios I was working at," she says. "I had a personal relationship with my students, but not with the studios. I decided that I was just going to sort of go for it."

Go for it she did, leasing space on Pauline Blvd. in Ann Arbor and opening Tiny Buddha Yoga in 1,200 square foot space in January. Attracted by the high ceilings and large windows, she had finally found a space where she could create the yoga space she had envisioned. 

"This is not like a business; it's a personal experience," says Gotlib. "I know my students, I know about their lives, and I want it to be that way. Instead of trying too sell them something, we're practicing this beautiful thing together and and building a community."

Others are clearly into the vibe as well. In her first month, Tiny Buddha Yoga saw more than 300 students come through the door, keeping Gotlib and her team of four other yoga instructors busy. She hopes to continue to grow the business, as well as her involvement in the community.

Source: Risa Gotlib, Tiny Buddha Yoga
Writer: Natalie Burg

Pita King brings Middle Eastern sandwiches to E. Stadium

Just across the parking lot from Trader Joe's, a new restaurant is hoping to attract some of the popular grocer's fresh, natural food-loving audience. Pita King joined the neighborhood on Dec. 17, offering a healthy, American twist on Middle Eastern sandwiches. 

"Because what we serve is so healthy and fresh, we thought it would be great location," says Assistant Manager Fidaa Kasham, who operates Pita King with her husband, manager Moe Shalabi. "We also use organic chicken that has no antibiotics. It's what we've been using at home for years, and we wanted to share it with others."

A family affair, Pita King is owned by Shalabi's father, and two of the sandwiches on the menu are named after the couple's children. A longtime restaurant worker, Kasham says her husband saw opening a restaurant as an opportunity to do the work he enjoys in a new way. 

"He's always loved the food industry," she says. "He never wanted to leave his spot, but he always said if he were ever to leave, it would be for his own place. We found this great location and felt very fortunate."

While diners will find familiar Middle Eastern titles on Pita King's menu, Kasham says the American twist comes in with the ingredients, including cheddar cheese, banana peppers, lettuce and tomato, as well as chicken. She and her husband currently operate the restaurant with the help of her brother-in-law. As their delivery service and business grows, they plan to hire a delivery driver and additional kitchen worker. 

Source: Fidaa Kasham, Pita King
Writer: Natalie Burg

The Lunch Room to open second downtown Ann Arbor location next week

Just a few years ago, The Lunch Room was but a food cart. As of next week, the popular vegan eatery will be an established and growing restaurant chain with two downtown locations. 

"The Kerrytown location probably wasn't big enough from the first day we moved in there," says co-owner Joel Panozzo of The Lunch Room's first permanent location, which opened in 2013. "We've been making things work, but on a weekly basis, we'd say no to large catering orders and wedding cakes and one thing after another. So we've been trying to figure out how we could say yes."

The answer turned out to be a second location with a larger baking space. The new restaurant in Huron Towers on Fuller Ct. will include a 1,037-square foot dining room and adjoining kitchen large enough for the owners to expand their baking operations enough to cover both locations, catering and wholesale orders.

The new Lunch Room will feature grab-and-go options to cater to the student and hospital worker crowds buzzing around Huron Towers, while the Kerrytown location will continue to focus on made-to-order meals. Sit-down dining, however, will definitely still be available at the new restaurant, in addition to their deli case offerings. 

"With the sandwiches, we'll unwrap it and grill it to order," says Panozzo. "We'll play and experiment with how far we can take the grab-and-go concept."

Panozzo expects to begin with a soft opening of the new location over this weekend, with doors officially opening some day next week. He and co-owner Phillis Engelbert plan to employ about 15 part- and full-time workers at the new restaurant.

Source: Joel Panozzo, The Lunch Room
Writer: Natalie Burg

Plum Market brings second store to Ann Arbor, 125 new jobs

A new grocery store planned for the former Cleary University property on Plymouth Rd. will be a familiar sight for many Ann Arbor shoppers. Plum Market, the Farmington Hills-based grocer that opened their first Ann Arbor location in 2008, aims to open the doors on a second area location in the space this fall. 

“This location will be the most exciting Plum Market yet!,” says CEO & Co-Founder of Plum Market Matt Jonna. “We have previously operated a store in this area, so we think of this as a homecoming and are very excited to return to the neighborhood with Plum Market.”

The new location will indeed be very nearby the former Merchant of Vino Marketplace, which was owned by Jonna’s father. The family’s Plum Market venture, which now operates four locations in Michigan and Illinois, is known for its commitment to local, fresh and sustainable produce. And their plans for growth won’t stop with the new Ann Arbor location.

“We plan to grow in the Midwest and continue to offer our guests the best selection of natural, organic, specialty, and local products,” Jonna says. “We are also opening a new location inside the Detroit Metropolitan Airport this fall.”

The new Plum Market will be 25,000 square feet. The company expect to employ 125 workers at the location when it opens this fall. 

Source: Matt Jonna, Plum Market
Writer: Natalie Burg

New Arbor Hills Crossing salon to offer fine art with hair artistry

Clair Broderick has long been an artist of hair, but she’s also a mixed-media, painting and crafts artist too. That collection of talents will all be on display at her new saline boutique, Sprig Hair Studio 21, in Arbor Hills Crossing. 

“I see my salon as a high-end, boutique salon,” says Broderick. ”Others that work with me in the space will have that skill and customer care for our clients as their absolute first priority.”

Sprig Hair Studio 21 opened on Jan. 6, though Broderick is developing her vision for the space as she works in it. She anticipates having her full line of products, including her own art and jewelry, in place by the end of February. 

“I have brought in local art by friends and myself to decorate along with a few vintage pieces,” Broderick says. “I am having custom work made by clients who were willing to help and trade for their fantastic abilities.”

In addition to herself, Broderick will work with two other stylists at Sprig Hair Studio 21. She is also looking for one additional employee. Her future plans include becoming involved in community efforts such as volunteering in schools, community events and non-profits. 

Source: Claire Broderick, Sprig Hair Studio 21
Writer: Natalie Burg
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