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Think spring! Macomb County to offer community and children's gardening programming

Those stuck in the doldrums of January might be best served to start daydreaming about and plotting out their spring gardens. Macomb County is offering two classes to do just that.

Both classes are being offered through Macomb County's Michigan State University Extension program.

The first is a free program with limited capacity, so the county is encouraging potential students to register now. The class is called Community Gardening- The Basics, teaching attendees both the benefits and practicalities of setting up a community garden.

The class will demonstrate how to set up a community garden, how to participate in a community garden, and also explain the different types of community gardens.

The community gardening class takes place from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 7 at the Max Thompson Family Resource Center at 11370 Hupp Ave. in Warren. A second class will be offered from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 7 at the Macomb MSU Extension VerKuilen Building at 21885 Dunham Rd. in Clinton Township.

The deadline to register is Friday, Feb. 3.

Elementary teachers, home-schooling parents, and anyone else with children's interests at heart may want to enroll in another gardening program offered by Macomb County's MSU Extension.

Children's Gardens and Learning Activities will expound upon the different types of children's gardens while also demonstrating how to work with children in the garden. Mary Gerstenberger, consumer horticulture coordinator, and Anne Crotser, Master Gardener, teach the course.

The children gardening course is on Thursday, Feb. 9, from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Macomb MSU Extension VerKuilen Building at 21885 Dunham Rd. in Clinton Township.

The class costs $5 -- payable at the door -- with resource materials provided. There is a Feb. 5 deadline for registration.

To register for any of the gardening courses, call (586) 469-6440.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Farmers market to offer winter produce cooking demonstrations and recipes

A series of cooking demonstrations featuring fresh and local produce will launch at the Oakland County Farmers Market this Saturday, Jan. 14, and continue every other Saturday through the end of March.

The demonstrations occur from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the market, each featuring a different guest chef. Danny Martinez of the Alley Cat Cafe in Pontiac will be the first to host, with chefs from Townhouse in Birmingham, High 5 Salts With Benefits, C.A.Y.A. Smokehouse Grill in Wolverine Lake, Cacao Tree Cafe in Royal Oak, and the Dorsey Schools Culinary Academy to follow. The demonstrations are free to attend.

Oakland County Farmers Market Manager Jeremy Brown says winter produce demonstrations have been a hit since first starting two years ago, providing visitors with valuable and useful information.

"I hope the cooking demonstration series inspires people to incorporate more fresh fruits and vegetables in their meals during the winter, when finding fresh items can be challenging," he says. "I think some people may be surprised as to how many items are available at the market during the winter."

Items like root vegetables, mushrooms, honey, garlic, onions, and apples are all available fresh from local vendors during the winter months and will be utilized by the guest chefs. Following the cooking demonstration free samples of the prepared dishes will be available and Lake Orion's White Pine Coffee will be providing free coffee samples, as well.

Recipes of the prepared dishes will be available for those who wish to try them out at home and the ingredients will be available from Oakland County Farmers Market vendors. These vendors include VanHoutte Farms in Armada, Penzien Produce in Imlay City, Hockey Haven Farm in Lapeer, Give & Grow Mushroom in Chesterfield, Sweetz Sugaring in Imlay City, and Brookwood Fruit Farm in Almont.

The Oakland County Farmers Market is located at 2350 Pontiac Lake Rd. in Waterford. Winter hours are 7 a.m.-1:30 p.m. every Saturday.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Dearborn sells city side lots to increase property values

The City of Dearborn is selling land back to its east side residents, one side lot at a time.

The city launched the program fifteen years ago in efforts to make real estate in the city more attractive and valuable. Since the election of Mayor John B. O'Reilly, Jr. in 2007, the program has ramped up.

It's a focus of the mayor's, who wants to see Dearborn's home values rise. A proactive blight removal and abandoned home demolition program opens up opportunities for re-selling lots back to neighbors whose homes would otherwise be affected by blighted buildings next door.

The side lot program, focused on the city's older east side, allows Dearborn homeowners the ability to purchase vacant land next to their properties and transform the lots into attractive, usable spaces, suitable for gardens, garages, driveways, house additions, and more. Vacant lots can even be jointly purchased and split between two neighbors.

Buildable lots are also for sale, encouraging new construction in older neighborhoods.

"A lot of the older properties on the east side are not aligned with modern standards," says Mayor O'Reilly. "But people are tearing down houses and building the house that they want. It's a good sign because it shows that people want to live here."

The program generated 29 side yard lot sales in 2016, a significant increase from the 13 sold the year before. Those 29 side yards generated the city $93,177 in revenue and returned properties to tax rolls. And residents gain the benefit of larger lot sizes, which is especially a premium for homeowners of smaller parcels in the older eastside neighborhoods of the city.

Buildable lot sales were also up in 2016, increasing from nine properties sold in 2015 to 22 properties sold for the purpose of new construction. This generated the city $415,562 in revenue and returned properties to tax rolls.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Eastpointe transforms city park into 'Winter Wonderland'

Flash back just two years ago, and you'd be hard-pressed to find many people outside and enjoying Spindler Park in the cold weather months of winter. Since then, a flurry of local ingenuity and charity has transformed the 25-acre park situated along Stephens Road in Eastpointe into what city officials are calling a "winter wonderland."

While the park had plenty of draws in the summer, including the likes of soccer fields and horseshoe pits, Spindler Park had little to offer in the winter. Last year, the construction of a sledding hill changed all that. Estimated at 100 yards from top to bottom, the hill at Spindler Park offers sledders "pretty good speed," according to City of Eastpointe Public Information Assistant Bill Driskell. Safety hay bales and fencing were added this year, and the city hopes to install lights for nighttime sledding this February.

New walking paths, constructed this past summer, have also proven popular this winter, says Driskell.

Driskell credits DPW Supervisor Tony Pry with the sledding hill success. Pry came up with the concept, working with the excavation company ML Chartier, which had a crew working on a nearby road, to donate soil from a previous job plus equipment and labor to construct the hill -- $50,000 worth of donated product and work, says Driskell.

Even more is planned for Spindler Park. Pry and his crew are currently constructing two ice rinks in the park, one for family skaters and one for ice hockey games. Driskell also hopes that a disc golf course will be constructed in the spring.

"This is a big deal for Eastpointe," says Driskell. "We're a fully developed city with not a lot of open space left to develop. To take our parks and re-invent them at relatively low cost has been huge."

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Harrison Township seeks to transform downtown into a walkable destination

Harrison Township is seeking to improve its downtown through a series of studies, public meetings, and new zoning districts made possible by grants awarded by the MDEQ Office of the Great Lakes Coastal Zone Management Program. The goal is for a more walkable and vibrant downtown that takes advantage of its position along Lake St. Clair which they hope will, in turn, draw new development to the lakefront community.

Thanks to a grant awarded in 2013, a series of public forums and vision meetings identified that the intersection of Crocker and Jefferson was the optimal place to center redevelopment efforts. A plan was then developed, followed by a TIFF district and a downtown development district. A Downtown Development Authority board was named in 2014.

"We want to focus redevelopment efforts around our shoreline," says Amanda Oparka, a member of the Harrison Township DDA. "A lot of shoreline in Macomb County is private land and we have a unique opportunity to allow for more public access."

A second grant, awarded in October 2016, is helping the DDA to do two things: Establish an overlay zoning district for the downtown development area and develop a complete streets program.

The overlay zoning district allows the DDA to have its own zoning regulations within its district, separate from that of the township's own zoning regulations. This will allow the DDA to be more flexible with potential developers while also giving the DDA some control over the look and feel of the district.

Complete streets programming -- which encourages urban planning concepts like accessibility and walkability -- is especially important, says Oparka.

"We want to create a nightlife downtown and a destination for people to come to and a complete streets design is essential to this happening," she says. "There's not a lot of sidewalk right now and we need to increase pedestrian safety and walkability."

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Ford invests $60 million in West Dearborn redevelopment, aided by state

A $60 million project to redevelop an area of West downtown Dearborn got a boost this week with state incentives.

The Michigan Strategic Fund approved a local and school tax capture of $31.4-million through Dearborn’s Redevelopment Authority and is providing a $3 million performance-based grant to the city of Dearborn for the construction of the parking structure deemed necessary for supporting the activity of the new development.

The project includes a number of vacant buildings along a two-block stretch of Michigan Avenue, which will be razed to make way for two three-story mixed use buildings. The ground floors are reserved for retail while the top two floors are reserved for office space for up to 600 Ford employees. A four-story parking garage will be built behind.

The development is called Wagner Place, named for the historic hotel located at the corner of Michigan and Monroe. While the former hotel will not be wholly repurposed, the facade of the 120-year old structure will be preserved and incorporated into the new development.

By all accounts, Wagner Place is Ford being proactive about downtown trends. By making west downtown Dearborn more attractive, the company believes it will make itself more attractive to prospective employees. According to the Detroit Free Press:
 
"[Wagner Place] came about because Ford officials said they had a need to offer space in an urban and walkable setting in order to attract talent. All of this development comes as Ford undertakes a decade-long overhaul of its nearby headquarters and research and development campus."

Steve Arwood, CEO, Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the state’s chief marketing and business attraction arm that administers and performs due diligence on proposals approved by the Michigan Strategic Fund, agrees. "Corporations around the world realize that creating dynamic places with diverse working-living-entertainment offerings is a compelling way to attract and retain employees," he says in a statement.

Find out more in this video:



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City of Center Line seeks to build up downtown area, encourages green infrastructure through grants

The City of Center Line's Downtown Development Authority recently expanded the city's facade improvement grant program to encourage green infrastructure upgrades.

Businesses adding landscaping to their parking lots can receive up to $5,000. For businesses adding bioswales, a technique that manages storm water runoff by directing it into the ground and not into city sewers, the upgrades can net up to $10,000 in grant money. Businesses also receive $5,000 for traditional facade improvements.

"The goal is to get businesses to bolster the beauty and aesthetics of downtown," says Center Line City Manager Dennis Champine. "If current business owners make the Van Dyke corridor improvements, it will encourage more developers to build here."

The DDA has also revised its master plan. While the DDA used to encompass the 10 Mile Road and Van Dyke Avenue corridors, they have since narrowed their focus to a stretch of Van Dyke that runs from Stephens Road to just north of 10 Mile. The DDA is seeking to attract multi-story mixed-use developments to the area, with businesses on the ground floor and apartments on the upper floors.

Champine says the city wants to create a safe, walkable, and vibrant district in Center Line, one where people come, park their cars, and walk around. He looks to other communities like Royal Oak, Ferndale, and Hazel Park that have nurtured their downtown areas and have since reaped the rewards. The millennial generation doesn't want to live to drive, he says. They want village-style downtowns where they can walk from shop to shop.

"Southwest Macomb County doesn't have any discernible downtowns. We're surrounded by a lot of people. We should take advantage of that."

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

East Dearborn's City Hall Artspace Lofts bazaar offers local, one-of-a-kind gifts

With the passage of Thanksgiving, the traditional holiday shopping season has begun. For all of the shopping options out there, a relatively new tenant of East Downtown Dearborn is making a play for consumers' holiday shopping attention.

The first annual City Hall Artspace Lofts Holiday Bazaar opened Saturday, November 26 and will continue the next three Saturdays. Featuring work from the artist tenants of the City Hall Artspace Lofts live/work space, the CHAL Holiday Bazaar offers a wide range of local, handmade arts and crafts gift ideas.

"We want to encourage people to come to the bazaar and shop local," says Event Director Julia Kapilango. "These are one-of-a-kind, quality-made items."

Pieces include handmade jewelry, sculptures, textiles, glass dolls, and visual arts. Some of the artists have made holiday-specific items, including ornaments, textiles, and jewelry. The bazaars will feature live entertainment from dancers, Djs, and bands. There is also a metal pour and mold workshop.

The City Hall Artspace Lofts occupy the former Dearborn City Hall, which left for a more central location. The lofts, which are designed as live/work spaces for artists, opened earlier this year.

"This is about building community and inviting people into the Artspace Lofts so they can see what's happening both in there and in Dearborn," says Kapilango. "This is an attractive place for millenials and we want them to see it firsthand. We want to create opportunities for the artists to teach, train, and empower."

The City Hall Artspace Lofts Holiday Bazaar is occurring on the Saturdays of December 3rd, 10th, and 17th. It is open from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. and is free to attend.

The City Hall Artspace Lofts campus is located at 13615 Michigan Ave. in Dearborn. The bazaar is located in the annex side of City Hall, at the intersection of Maple and Nagy.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Placemaking initiative set to improve MacArthur Park and Clinton River in downtown Mt. Clemens

The latest in the state's Public Spaces Community Places placemaking initiative is a crowdfunding campaign to improve public access to the Clinton River in downtown Mt. Clemens. MacArthur Park will also receive several enhancements.

Should the crowdfunding campaign successfully raise $60,000 by January 28, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and Michigan State Housing Development Authority will provide a $50,000 grant to the project. MacArthur Park: Clinton River Project is in partnership with the Clinton River Watershed Council.

The crowdfunding campaign is being held on the Michigan-based Patronicity platform. A variety of rewards are given for contributing to the campaign.

Improvements planned for MacArthur Park in downtown Mt. Clemens are numerous. They include a universally accessible kayak and canoe launch, universally accessible restrooms, and a universally accessible picnic table with a charging station. Other enhancements include kayak storage and lockers, enhanced pedestrian connections to the existing boardwalk, way finding and interpretive signage, local art murals, and improved parking facilities.

“Adding a universally accessible kayak launch at MacArthur Park will allow users of all abilities the opportunity to experience all that Mt. Clemens and the Clinton River have to offer," Mt. Clemens Mayor Barbara Dempsey says in a statement. "The Clinton River is one of the unique environmental and recreational assets of the region and Mount Clemens, and we look forward to finding more ways to utilize this asset as an economic development tool, while continuing to protect its natural beauty.”

The project is part of the Clinton River Watershed Council's WaterTown program. Their plan is to install 12 universally accessible kayak and canoe launches by the year 2020. The launch at MacArthur Park would be the first.

Previous Public Spaces Community Places campaigns include improvements to Lake Norcentra Park in Rochester and the Marine City Public Beach. Each were successful.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

How Metro Detroit's car-oriented suburbs are implementing a 'new American dream'

When Mark Miller became Troy's planning director in 2000, he confronted decades of entrenched municipal development policy—best exemplified by the fact that the director Miller replaced had held the job since 1968.
 
Like numerous other metro-area communities, Troy is a classic post-World War II suburb. Established in 1955, the city is dominated by single-family homes and large office and industrial parks that accommodated an influx of families and businesses moving out of the city of Detroit throughout the latter half of last century.
 
But things have changed over the past decade, with both residents and businesses shifting their attention back towards compact, walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods like Ferndale, Royal Oak, Birmingham, and Midtown and Downtown in Detroit. Census data shows that the number of newly built single-family homes nationwide has never bounced back to pre-financial crisis levels, while the number of new dwellings with five units or more hit its highest level last year since 1989.
 
Meanwhile, Troy's office parks are facing a more than 20 percent vacancy. That's left Troy in a position where Miller says it's "a tool of necessity to become a better good place."



According to Douglas Kelbaugh, professor of architecture and urban and regional planning at the University of Michigan, that necessity is very real not only for Troy but for countless other suburbs in the metro area and nationwide.
 
"I think the true auto-dominated, cul-de-sac, sprawl suburb is genuinely and maybe permanently losing its hold on the American imagination," Kelbaugh says. "I think there is a new American dream."
 
That dream is best articulated by the theory of new urbanism, which advocates for dense, walkable, mixed-use communities that offer residents the ability to easily walk from home or work to amenities, entertainment, and public spaces. In Troy, those are among the goals of a new master plan adopted in 2008, as well as new form-based code zoning districts that encourage mixed-use development closer to the road.
 
Of course, Troy is no Ferndale yet, and it's certainly no Birmingham. But Miller cites positive signs, including plans to create a mixed-use development on the city's Civic Center site, as well as the arrival of a few restaurants in formerly office-industrial strongholds.
 
"We've done some things, but it's a long, hard road," he says. "It took Troy 50 years to get to where we are today. It's going to take another 50 years to have dramatic change."
 
Subverting the subdivisions
 
The segue in moving from discussion of Troy to discussion of Sterling Heights is almost difficult not to call attention to, given that the physical transition between the two communities is ironically so indistinct.
 
"Once you get beyond 16 Mile, Troy becomes much more generic and more like Sterling Heights and, to some degree, north Warren," says urban planner Mark Nickita. "There's a lot of sameness there. It gets tough to figure out where you're at."
 
Nickita's architectural design studio, Archive DS, has participated in the drafting of a new Sterling Heights master plan that would help to better set the city apart with a new urbanist character of its own. One key element of the plan as currently drafted revolves around identifying "nodes," many of them lying along intersections of the Mile roads, that have placemaking potential. From there, zoning changes—potentially a form-based code—could encourage or require more walkable, mixed-use development.


"It's changing the nature of the zoning to allow for things that haven't been allowed, in areas that they haven't been allowed," Nickita says.
 
Zoning changes could also help spur the development of housing types that break from the Sterling Heights tradition. Single-family detached homes currently account for two-thirds of the city's housing, but recent trends have clearly shown that housing preferences are changing. The number of single-family detached homes in the city increased by five percent between 2000 and 2010, but townhouses and attached condos increased by a remarkable 75 percent in the same timeframe. The number of duplexes also grew by 69 percent.
 
"There's just a lot of subdivisions that are two-bedroom, three-bedroom, four-bedroom, 1,000 square feet to 2,500 square feet," Nickita says. "There's just rows and rows of that all over the city, and it's a demographic that doesn't allow for anything other than families ... And they recognize that, going forward, they want to be attractive to younger people, younger couples."
 
According to Birmingham-based planner Robert Gibbs, younger people aren't the only ones Sterling Heights stands to attract with those housing shifts. Gibbs says that while millennials are seeking denser housing in walkable urban places, the demographic group at the opposite end of the age scale—baby boomers—is also looking to downsize from cumbersome, high-maintenance homes to smaller housing units with amenities nearby.


"They want about the same square footage, the same number of bedrooms," he says. "The millennials will share the one- and two-bedrooms with friends. The baby boomers won't do that. But there's this convergence of housing demand from our two largest housing groups."
 
Planned non-obsolescence
 
Sterling Heights and Troy are rethinking their development in longer-term, bigger picture ways, but several metro-area suburbs are doing the same with smaller—yet still progressive— projects. One particularly popular approach is the idea of creating a "town center"—designing (or redesigning) a city center or downtown area to incorporate new urbanist elements. Gibbs notes that he's working on Troy's civic center plan, as well as town center plans for Southfield, Wixom, Warren, and another community he's not currently at liberty to discuss.
 
"I think they're afraid of becoming obsolete places," Gibbs says.
 
In Southfield, progress has been slow but sure. Southfield business and economic development director Rochelle Freeman notes that the city has been working to improve the main artery of Evergreen Road for about 15 years, most recently with a 2014 reconstruction project aimed at making the road more walkable. Beyond that, Freeman envisions more city parks and pathways linking Southfield City Centre, Lawrence Technological University, and the city's ambitious mixed-use redevelopment plan for the shuttered Northland Mall.


"We think that's going to be a really nice environment for people to get that same feeling that they're in an urban area, but still have all the advantages of being in a suburban community," Freeman says.
 
To a degree, these town center projects—and bigger-picture new urbanist master plans like those in Troy and Sterling Heights—seek to emulate some of the mojo of a downtown Detroit or Ferndale. They're certainly already competing with those communities. But how many mini-Detroits and mini-Ferndales can the metro area really support? According to Gibbs, plenty. He cites a general rule of thumb that one town center is viable per every 500,000 residents, estimating that the metro area could still support another 10 or so town centers.
 
"There's still over four million people living in the suburbs, many of whom want to stay in the same communities where they raised families, where they're working," he says. "So I think they're complementary to each other."
 
The local leaders who are working to redevelop metro Detroit's postwar suburbs echo that sentiment.
 
"We'll never be a major downtown like Chicago or Detroit," Freeman says of Southfield. "I don't think that's our goal. We know that many people like different options to work and live close to where you enjoy other entertainment options, so we want to have those available. We want to have a full community with a lot of different options for everyone to enjoy."

This piece is part of a solutions journalism series on Metro Detroit's regional issues, conducted in partnership with Metro Matters and guided by our Emerging Leaders Board.
 
This work is funded by the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan. You can view other pieces in this series here.
 

Oakland County joins PACE program to promote energy efficiency for businesses

Oakland County has joined the Lean & Green Michigan PACE program. As a result, 62 percent of Michigan residents are now covered by PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy), a program that offsets the upfront costs of energy efficiency upgrades through a special property tax assessment.

PACE helps businesses finance energy efficiency and renewable energy projects that save money in the long run but require expensive investment up front. It allows property owners this ability through a special property tax assessment with local governments. The tax assessment then frees up lenders' ability to provide up to 20-year, low rate, fixed-interest loans.

Andy Levin, president of Lean & Green Michigan and managing partner of Levin Energy Partners, believes that the addition of Oakland County creates a critical mass of statewide involvement. The group will now spend more time on speaking to and educating property owners on the benefits of the program.

"The fundamental thing is that PACE is above and beyond politics. It's a straight-up pro-business idea," says Levin. "It has the potential to revolutionize commercial and industrial buildings the same way 30 year fixed mortgages revolutionized the residential market."

While Oakland County is the 20th Michigan county to officially embrace PACE, it already has a number of PACE success stories within its borders. The City of Southfield was the first jurisdiction in the state to become a member of the Lean & Green Michigan PACE program. And two of the four completed PACE projects in Michigan have occurred in Oakland County, including Orion Township-based Powers Distributing.

Powers successfully used PACE to finance a 95kW solar system on the roof of its recycling center as well as the installation of LED lighting throughout the facility. The beer distributor expects to save $48,000 per year in energy costs.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Clay Township named Sturgeon Capital of Michigan

The Michigan Legislature has passed a resolution naming Clay Township the Sturgeon Angling Capital of Michigan, a recognition of the rich sturgeon fishing opportunities presented along its shores on the St. Clair River.

Jim Felgenauer, an avid outdoorsman and president of the non-profit group St. Clair-Detroit River Sturgeon for Tomorrow, helped in the efforts to pass the resolution. While those unfamiliar with fishing may not realize it, Felgenauer says that area of the St. Clair River is well-known by avid fishers nationwide as a hotbed of sturgeon activity, calling it a world-class fishing spot.

The benefits of the Sturgeon Angling Capital of Michigan designation are two-fold. Clay Township stands to benefit from increased tourism dollars as a result of the extra attention. And while it may seem counter-intuitive, getting more people fishing for sturgeon might help the fish population, which is deemed a threatened species by the State of Michigan.

"It's hard for people to appreciate something that's underwater, that you can't see," says Felgenauer. "Fishing lets us interact with fish and grow to appreciate them."

As a threatened species, a catch-and-release program is in effect.

The sturgeon is not just any fish. According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, sturgeon can grow over 8 feet long and weigh up to 800 pounds. They're also Michigan's longest-living fish, capable of living up to 100 years. Felgenauer sees preserving the sturgeon as a legacy issue; the same fish he catches today might be caught by a great-grandchild decades later.

By Clay Township becoming the Sturgeon Angling Capital of Michigan, Felgenauer hopes that residents there will take more ownership of the sturgeon and protect the fish from threat and exploitation, all the while benefiting from more tourism dollars.

"We think they're more likely to do that as stakeholders."

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Skateboard shop opens up in Clawson

Clawson-area skateboarders have a nine-year-old boy to thank for the Clawson Skate Shop, which is celebrating its grand opening this Friday, November 5. Well, a nine-year-old and his father.

Clawson resident Jeff Richards set out to open the Clawson Skate Shop last July and, after a series of start-and-stops due to some bureaucratic headaches, has finally done so. A soft opening last week preceded this week's grand opening.

The shop carries everything from skateboard equipment, including decks, trucks, wheels, and bearings, to safety equipment, shoes, and clothing. Notable brands include Girl, skate boardTum Yeto, SK8MAFIA, Skate1, and Alien Workshop.

Clawson Skate Shop will also serve as a community center for the skateboarding community. Richards plans on bringing in couches and a television for people to watch skateboarding videos and play video games.

Richards, a carpenter by trade, got the idea to open a skateboard shop from his nine-year-old son Mason, who Richards says was pretty persistent. Mason started skateboarding at four years old and, after putting it down for a year, picked up the skateboard in earnest, skating up to 14 hours a day.

"He's been patiently waiting but every day it's been him asking, when are we opening, when are we opening?" says Richards.

With skateboarding being added to the Olympics, Mason hopes to one day skateboard in the international competition. Mason's younger brother, Dylan, now skateboards, too.

Richards believes that with the popularity of the nearby Clawson Skate Park, the skate shop should stay pretty busy. He's already planning for the future, too, saying that he hopes to find an additional space, maybe at around 15,000 to 20,000 sq. ft., to build an indoor skate park.

Clawson Skate Shop is located at 1024 W. 14 Mile Rd. in Clawson.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Lake Norcentra Park successfully raises more than $100,000 for improvements

Improved fishing access. Bike parking and a bike repair station. Bench and hammock seating. All these features and many more are coming to Lake Norcentra Park in Rochester. The multiple improvements come as a result of a $51,201 crowdfunding campaign and a $50,000 grant.

The crowdfunding campaign was first announced this past September. It was part of the ongoing Public Spaces Community Places placemaking initiative, funded by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority. Because the Lake Norcentra Park project was able to raise at least $50,000 through a crowdfunding campaign, MEDC and MSHDA will follow on their promise of a $50,000 matching grant. The Lake Norcentra Project finished its five week-long crowdfunding campaign $1,201 over its desired target, bringing the total money raised for the park to $101,201.

"Everyone who knows Lake Norcentra Park and looks forward to what it is becoming is so thankful to the people who donated over $50,000 to this campaign," BT Irwin, project manager of the Lake Norcentra Park project, says in a statement. "Every dollar is going straight into building or repairing something in the park that everyone in the community will be able to enjoy next spring."

The park, which is located at the intersection of the Clinton River and the Clinton River Trail, has been the focus of a series of placemaking efforts first announced in February 2016. Local officials have been working to improve access and the usability of the park on the Rochester College campus. Lake Norcentra Park is open and accessible to the public.

Additional improvements include lighting, fountains, concessions, a picnic garden, green and wooded space, interpretive signage, and gathering places for outdoor learning programs and social activities. A public art project, the Rochester Community Mural, will also be installed, the winning artist having been selected in July 2016.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

New boutique hotel to be built in Marine City

Marine City is yet again making a play to become the small town destination along the St. Clair River with the announcement of a three-story boutique hotel to open in summer 2017.

The development team behind the Snug Theatre and River Bank Theatre redevelopments in downtown Marine City have announced plans for a three-story boutique hotel in the riverside town. Dubbed the Inn on Water Street, the mixed-use development will include a combination of 26 hotel and apartment units. It will be located at the site of an old car dealership at the intersection of Bridge and Water streets.

Developers and city officials say the hotel is another example of downtown Marine City's resurgence. The small town located on the banks of the St. Clair River benefits from nearly $4.2-million in private investment and 15 permanent jobs as a result of the development.

Elaine Vertin, one of the developers of the Inn on Water Street, believes the mixed-use concept will be of great benefit to the city and its residents. "Third-story condominiums enhance the tax base and offer owners a fantastic view of the St. Clair River, while visitors staying in the guest rooms can enjoy a close-up view of the freighter traffic and the ferry to Canada."

The development is the recipient of a $642,000 performance-based grant from the Michigan Community Revitalization Program, says the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. Also, due to Brownfield conditions at the site, the County of St. Clair Brownfield Redevelopment Authority is seeking $216,800 in local and school tax capture for MSF eligible activities for the hotel.

Earlier this year, the Marine City Public Beach was the benefit of a state-sponsored crowdfunding campaign to improve beach facilities. $11,120 was raised through the campaign, and an additional $10,000 was granted to the project by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority's Public Spaces Community Places placemaking initiative.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.
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