Development News

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Historic Auburn Hills log cabin now a co-working space with wireless internet, free coffee

The historic collided with the modern in downtown Auburn Hills this month. The DEN, a co-working space complete with the expected amenities, opened in the oldest building in Auburn Hills in early February. The co-working space requires paid membership for access from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is free and open to the public from 4 p.m. to midnight on weekdays. General public access begins at 2 p.m. on weekends.

The Nusbaumer Homestead Log Cabin was built in 1836. The Nusbaumer family would be quite surprised by the state of their cabin today, what with it being outfitted with high speed wireless internet; a communal printer, copier, and scanner; and conference rooms. Even the location has changed; the log cabin was moved from its original site near the Joslyn and I-75 interchange to downtown Auburn Hills in 1986.

City officials have kept the structure largely intact but made it more attractive to modern workers, offering ergonomic office furniture and complimentary tea and coffee in addition to the other office amenities. That juxtaposition is what makes Auburn Hills special, says the city's director of authorities, Samantha Mariuz.

"Our motto is, 'Honoring the past, building the future'," says Mariuz. "We took the DEN and built something that honors that motto."

The structure itself is 1500 square feet and retains a number of original exposed structural beams. What's not original are the electrical outlets at every seat. There is a patio and a common work area to congregate, as well as a number of independent work stations.

The DEN is located at 3388 Auburn Rd. in Auburn Hills.

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

Great Expressions moves headquarters to Southfield, creates 84 jobs

There are big smiles and toothy grins in the city of Southfield today as Great Expressions Dental Centers is preparing to relocate its headquarters there. Eighty-four new jobs and $2.55 million in investment will be generated by the move. The relocation corresponds with the company leaving its former headquarters in nearby Bloomfield Hills and the closing of a support center in Norcross, Georgia. Great Expressions is moving to the Onyx Office Plaza.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation announced the move Wednesday, Feb. 10. Great Expressions is receiving a $300,000 Michigan Business Development Program performance-based grant, approved by the Michigan Strategic Fund. The city of Southfield is also offering to expedite the permitting process and/or business leisure cards.

Great Expressions is one of the largest privately-owned dental service organizations in the country and has over 240 offices in 10 states.

"Great Expressions Dental Centers looks forward to calling Southfield our new home, as we expand our headquarters to accommodate the continuous growth our organization has seen in recent years," Richard Beckman, CEO of Great Expressions Dental Centers, says in a statement. "Our Onyx Building headquarters will accommodate the creation of nearly 100 new jobs, will house an on-site training facility and will support our growth as we expand into new markets. Its accessible location offers convenience to our employees living throughout metro Detroit, and will help us attract top talent in the years to come."

Other projects approved grant money by the Michigan Strategic Fund include two new production lines for Magna Seating of America in Highland Park, facade improvements in Ludington, and the renovation of a vacant, historic building in downtown Niles. The MEDC's Great Expressions news is part of a larger announcement detailing a total of $13.6 million in total investment and the creation of 335 jobs across Michigan.

The Onyx Office Plaza is located at 29777 Telegraph Rd. in Southfield.

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

Orion Township beer distributor invests in energy efficient upgrades

An Oakland County beer distributor has become a pioneer in energy efficiency and renewable energy investment. Orion Township-based Powers Distributing is the first business in the state to have completed a refinanced PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) project.

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 the local government, in this case Orion Township. The tax assessment then frees up lenders' ability to provide up to 20-year, low rate, fixed-interest loans.

By using PACE to help finance a 95kW solar system on the roof of its recycling center as well as the installation of LED lighting throughout the facility, Powers Distributing became the first beer distributor in the country to finance an energy efficiency project with PACE, the first refinanced PACE project in the state, and the first PACE project altogether in Oakland County.

While the project cost $435,000, officials expect returns on its investment to surpass $1,000,000 over the lifespan of the project. The energy efficient solar and lighting equipment will save Powers an average of $48,000 per year in energy costs. As Powers chief operating officer Gary Thompson says in a statement, "…[T]he entire beer supply chain from brewing to distribution to your refrigerator is a long and energy hungry road."

Powers completed the project with help from the Newman Consulting Group, Lean & Green Michigan, and Michigan Solar Solutions. Since the state of Michigan allows any project that can be financed through PACE to also be re-financed through PACE, Powers was able to re-finance for a project carried out from 2013 to 2015.

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

Griffin Claw Brewing Company plans Birmingham expansion, second location in Rochester Hills

Fresh off the December 2015 opening of a new retail area at their Birmingham bar and brewing facility, Griffin Claw Brewing Company has announced plans to open a second location in Rochester Hills.

Making use of an old East Side Mario's American Italian Eatery building at 2273 Crooks Rd., Griffin Claw's second location will serve as a think tank and test kitchen for the company. The 8,000-square-foot facility will be used to develop, brew, and package new beers, including small batch, seasonal, and specialty beers. The bottling line and additional brewing equipment will make the move from Birmingham to Rochester Hills.

According to a statement released by the brewing company, the new facility will double as a place for customers to come in and learn about breweries. "The craft beer community is always changing and embracing collaboration," says Griffin Claw spokesman Scott LePage.

The second location will allow the brewery to experiment and develop new beers without interrupting its core product line. Griffin Claw is known for its Norm's Raggedy Ass IPA and Grind Line Pale Ale beers, among others.

With the extra room resulting from moving some equipment to the new location, the Birmingham facility is set to see some major upgrades. Griffin Claw will triple the size of its current brewhouse, building a state-of-the-art 50-bbl brewing facility. The expansion will allow Griffin Claw to brew 50,000-bbl at the Birmingham location per year, this thanks to brand new 150-bbl fermenters. Bbl is brewery parlance for barrels. There are 31 gallons to a barrel.

The Griffin Claw Birmingham location will also install a High Gravity quality control system, another state-of-the-art technology to ensure their best and most consistent beer possible, say brewery representatives.

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

Celebrate a decade of Pure Michigan with a year's worth of happenings throughout metro Detroit

This May will mark 10 years since the popular Pure Michigan tourism campaign was introduced by the state of Michigan and the dulcet tones of Tim Allen's narration worked to convince the nation that Michigan was a premier vacation spot. To celebrate its 10th year, Pure Michigan has released some of their most anticipated Michigan adventures, attractions, and openings coming in 2016.

Here are some in the metro Detroit region:

Legoland Discovery Center will open at Great Lakes Crossing in Auburn Hills. Detroit landmarks made out of Legos and a 4D cinema are among its attractions. Expect a spring opening.

The world's largest penguinarium, the Polk Penguin Conservation Center, will open at the Detroit Zoo in 2016. Over 80 penguins from four different species will call the penguinarium home, including its 326,000-gallon, 25-foot-deep aquatic area.

Three special exhibits will come through The Henry Ford this year. They are Engines Exposed, running now through March 13); The Magical History Tour: A Beatles Retrospective, running April 28-Sept. 18, and Fashion Forward/Roddis Dress Collection, running Nov. 6 to April 3, 2017.

The United States Golf Association brings its 2016 U.S. Amateur Championship to the Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Hills Aug. 15-21.

Otus Supply is scheduled to debut on Nine Mile Rd. in Ferndale this year. The gastropub was originally going to be called the Black Owl before switching names. It's brought to you by the company behind the popular Oakland County brunch spots, Toast.

The MARVAC Detroit Camper & RV Show will be celebrating its 50th anniversary this year with its appearance at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi Feb. 10 through 14.

Warren's Kuhnhenn Brewing Co., maker of fine beers and meads, will be celebrating 15 years of business this year.

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

New restaurant serves fresh, delicious vegan and vegetarian food in Ferndale

As the seasons change, so, too, does the menu at the recently opened GreenSpace Cafe in downtown Ferndale. That's because the restaurant and bar features non-GMO and organic ingredients in the foods and drinks it serves, ingredients bought fresh at venues like local farmers markets. The items are fresh and healthy, yes, but perhaps most important of all, they're delicious. So says Joel Kahn, who opened the Cafe with his co-owner son, Daniel Kahn, in December 2015.

Health is an underlying current throughout GreenSpace Cafe. This should be no surprise for those familiar with Dr. Joel Kahn, a cardiologist and long-time vegan who has focused many a public speaking engagement around the benefits of healthy eating. Absent are the excessive amounts of salts, oils, and sugars. Gone are the fryers and microwaves. Fresh ingredients purchased from places like the Royal Oak Farmers Market and Eastern Market are combined with healthy spices to create the menu.

Even the cocktails are healthier at GreenSpace. That's because the bartenders utilize the Michigan-based Drought juice brand in their craft cocktail mixes. Drought is organic, cold-pressed, raw juice, adding a dose of nutrition to the margaritas, Manhattans, and cosmopolitans that the restaurant serves. Drought also runs a retail space in the cafe storefront, complete with its own independent set of hours. For Dr. Kahn, having Drought on board is an asset. The pairing is, as he says, "a wonderful synergy of talent."

The space itself takes up two old storefronts, the locations of the now-closed Maria's Front Room and Just 4 Us. The GreenSpace team knocked down the wall between the two storefronts to create one continuous 4,000-square-foot space that seats about 100. Having torn out the drywall and drop ceilings, the Kahns describe the new space as having an urban loft feel, with brand new state-of-the-art equipment, to boot.

GreenSpace Cafe is located at 215 W. Nine Mile Rd. in Ferndale, Michigan.

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

Regional development news roundup

An opening ceremony of sorts was held at the Grindstone Smokehouse in Westland. The restaurant and bar occupies the space once held by the popular Beaver Creek Bar and Grill, which closed late summer of 2015. Though Grindstone has been open since November, the restaurant celebrated with a ribbon-cutting Wednesday, Jan. 13.
 
The restaurant has re-branded itself as a barbecue slow-cook smokehouse, shifting its menu to feature applewood smoked meats among its entrees. Entertainment is another focus for the Grindstone, which offers live music on the weekends and karaoke and open mic nights throughout the week. Grindstone Smokehouse is located at 1609 N. Wayne Rd. in Westland.
 
The city of Rochester Hills has announced  plans to update its parks and recreation master plan. Officials say that the opinions of city residents will be taken into account in shaping the plan, with a survey being made available online and at the mayor's office. Residents are encouraged to offer ideas regarding funding distribution, park improvements, and quality issues, among other topics.
 
Mayor Bryan K. Barnett believes that having residents' input will only improve the city's park system, saying in a statement, “The more people we can get involved in the planning process the better job we can do on delivering our community's collective vision.”
 
Ferndale is making news with a progressive parental leave policy. City employees will now be provided with 12 weeks of paid leave for maternity, paternity, and adoption care. The 12 weeks consist of six weeks of leave allowance with an additional six weeks of matched paid time off.
 
The change was championed by Mayor Pro Tem and City Councilmember Melanie Piana, a result of her observing others struggle between the need for a paycheck and the requirements of new parenthood. Piana believes the policy will help establish gender equality among city workers. Ferndale officials also believe the generous policy will help attract and retain talented employees.
 
Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Will tenants, economic development come with opening of City Hall Artspace Lofts in Dearborn?

City Hall Artspace Lofts, a new live-work-sell affordable housing community in east Dearborn for artists, their families, and art-related and supporting businesses, is ready for residential and commercial tenants.

The opening is the latest of dozens of similar communities built as economic development projects around the country. The $16.5-million project, which was three years in the marking, is located at 13615 Michigan Ave. in the former Dearborn City Hall.

Artists and prospective tenants are invited to to tour the finished work from 4-5:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 15. Click here for tour details.

The mixed-use art campus development spans across three buildings and includes 53 residential units, artist work spaces, gallery space, public performance space, business spaces, and more. They've been carved out of the Georgian revival structure, though many of its historical features have been preserved, including its tall windows that fill the spaces with natural light.

The project was developed by Minneapolis-based nonprofit Artspace, which describes itself as a "leader in artist-led community transformation." Artspace runs a network of more than 35 affordable arts facilities in 15 states and rents over 1,300 affordable live/work spaces to artists across the country. City Hall Artspace Lofts apartments are expected to rent from $581 for a 1-bedroom apartment to $975 for a 3-bedroom. Applicants must meet certain income requirements to be considered. For rental application information, click here.

City Hall Artspace Lofts is located near many of Dearborn's major cultural institutions, including The Henry Ford and the Arab American National Museum, as well as those of downtown and Midtown Detroit.

The successes or failures of City Hall Artspace Lofts' tenants will show organizers such as the East Dearborn Development Authority if the development will succeed in its goal to "build upon Southeast Michigan's heritage as a world center of innovation by creating a new anchor institution for the region's creative economy."

Source: Artspace
Writer: Kim North Shine

Preservation group forms to protect historic character of downtown Farmington

A cluster of Victorian-era Queen Anne houses greets visitors as they enter historic downtown Farmington from the east. These 100-year-old homes, four on Grand River Avenue and three on Thomas Street, are occupied by both businesses and apartment dwellers. The well-maintained houses set a tone for the town. It's a tone revered by residents and visitors alike, yet also one that's threatened by the allure of new development dollars, this according to the newly-formed Preservation Farmington and its supporters.

An RFP issued by Farmington Public Schools and the city could spell the end for a number of these homes. It's the old Maxfield Training Center on Thomas Street that's up for re-development, and with it comes the potential for the demolition of at least two of these historic homes. Their demolition could free up Grand River street frontage, making the site even more attractive to developers. While nothing is yet decided upon, the potential for destruction has mobilized a group of concerned preservationists. They're trying to convince the school system, the city, and any eventual developer that Farmington's Victorian-era buildings should be left to their lots.

Preservation Farmington has gathered hundreds of signatures for a petition calling for the preservation of the homes. While they officially submitted the petition to city council in December 2015, the group is still pushing for more signatures to further drive home their point. Jena Stacey, a co-founder of Preservation Farmington, says the petition process has been an encouraging one as they have received an outpouring of support.

“Local residents, former residents, ancestors of current and former residents -- the overwhelming message we get is that people care about these structures and they don't want to see them lost,” says Stacey. “Even people who don't live in Farmington, they visit downtown on purpose because of buildings like these.”

While no decisions for the sites have been made, one compromise offered by officials is to perhaps sell the houses with the agreed intent of re-locating the structures. While preferable to flat-out demolition, removing the houses from downtown Farmington still results in a loss of that city center's character, says Stacey. In the meantime, Preservation Farmington will continue to gather signatures, spread awareness, and build the case for saving downtown Farmington's Queen Anne homes.

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

McClary Bros. Drinking Vinegars opens Farmington storefront

After laying a foundation for its brand of flavored drinking vinegars on the farmers market and special event circuit, Detroit-born and made McClary Bros. has moved into a brick-and-mortar space of its own in downtown Farmington.

The store, which opened on Dec. 5 at 32621 Grand River Ave., adds some retail spice to owner Jess McClary's entrepreneurial and socially conscious operation. McClary, who named the business after her twin sons, has resurrected a Colonial-era drink mixer in the vinegars she's created, which come in a variety of flavors including Detroit Strawberry, Michigan Cranberry, Beet & Carrot, and Pineapple & Fennel. They can be used in cocktails, craft sodas, water, cooking sauces, marinades, salad dressings, and more.

McClary Bros. vinegars, AKA shrubs, are made in Detroit by members of food pantry Forgotten Harvest's workforce development program. In addition, the by-product apples used for making the vinegar are re-used by a start-up in its chutney. And McClary is committed to using only locally-grown or made ingredients.

Earlier this year, McClary made an appearance on ABC's Shark Tank, a show where entrepreneurs pitch their products to a panel of celebrity investors. While she failed to find an investor, the media attention boosted her sales, which helped make opening the store possible. In keeping with its history, McClary's products will continue to be available on the market and pop-up circuit.

Source: McClary Bros. Old Timey Drinking Vinegar
Writer: Kim North Shine
 

Lawrence Tech hopes to set new national standard for stormwater management with innovative pilot

In an effort to curb water pollution caused by stormwater runoff, Lawrence Technological University in Southfield will become the first demonstration site in the U.S. of a new green drainage system.

The conventional drainage system in one of Lawrence Tech's parking lots will be replaced this month with a system that uses a green technology called energy passive groundwater recharge products, or EGRPs.

Polluted storm runoff and flooding are serious problems facing most, if not all, developed cities that have paved over much of their natural land, which would normally absorb the water and filter it of pollutants.

Lawrence Tech is partnering with Detroit-based Parjana Distribution LLC to test the new green technology, first on its own grounds before replacing systems at universities in Ohio, California, Florida and Washington, D.C., by the end of September 2016.

The goal is to create a new national standard in storm water design.

The partners have received a $100,000 grant and are working to raise $300,000 more in order to complete the pilot project.

Lawrence Tech is home to the Great Lake Stormwater Management Institute. Civil engineering professor and project director Donald Carpenter says the new system is designed to handle up to an inch of rain during a 24-hour period.

“The first inch of rain represents the stormwater runoff volume with the highest pollutant loads, so capturing and infiltrating that volume will improve the water quality downstream,” says Carpenter.

The campus master plan calls for the installation of stormwater treatment wetlands, additional porous pavement, rain gardens, naturalized riparian buffers, an infiltration basin, and an integrated drainage system that mitigates storm water runoff from all the parking lots.

Source: Lawrence Technological University
Writer: Kim North Shine

Bike loop, fix-it stations, and more coming to Pontiac

As a slew of economic changes come to Pontiac, officials are turning to quality-of-life improvements for the seat of Oakland County government, which had fallen on hard times for decades and now has the makings of a revival.

Several bike-friendly initiatives are the latest effort to make Pontiac more livable, likeable and economically viable.
 
New bicycle loops, fix-it stations and way-finding signs were recently installed in downtown Pontiac. They will give cyclists safer and easier paths to the public library, downtown businesses and city parks from the Clinton River Trail. The Friends of Clinton River Trail, Healthy Pontiac, We Can! Coalition, and Oakland County are among supporters and sponsors of the changes.
 
A special event celebrating the improvements took place on Oct. 21 and featured a ribbon cutting at one of the new fix-it stations. Cyclists from Pontiac Light Riders tried out the new features of the trail.
 
Source: Bill Mullan, spokesman, Oakland County
Writer: Kim North Shine

Craft beer, home cooking, and family come together at forthcoming HomeGrown Brewing Co. in Oxford

John Powers learned the art of home brewing from his son a decade ago. He and his wife, Marie, love to entertain in their home. And throughout their family a mix of talents and skills are coming together with the couple's love of hosting and brewing as they prepare to open HomeGrown Brewing Co. in Oxford.

Their plans will turn the iconic Veterans Memorial Civic Center at 28 N. Washington St. into a beer garden, dining room, sitting room, and eventually an event space upstairs. There will be room for about 100 customers, and up to 20 full- and part-time jobs will come with the opening that's expected in 2016.

Fireplaces, games and dart boards will offer gathering spots for customers. Brewing tanks will contribute to the decor.

The brewpub will serve the Powers family's flagship beers and experiment with seasonal brews along with house-made, fresh food.

The feel will be homey and family-centered with John as head brewer and Marie the culinary manager. Eldest son Joe will return from Australia to be assistant brewer. His wife Kate will work as media liaison, and son Jeff Powers will head up sales, marketing, and the front of the house. Youngest daughter, Katie Powers, will be the social media manager.

"Between engineers, cooks, artists, managers, and journalists, we feel very lucky to have so much collective knowledge in the family. And we look forward to seeing that transform into a great business," Marie Powers says in a statement announcing the business.

Source: John & Marie Powers, proprietors, Home Grown Brew Co.
Writer: Kim North Shine

Carhartt to expand Dearborn headquarters, create 215 jobs

At 126 years old, workwear maker Carhartt has seen the popular appeal of its clothing grow beyond the work site, which is why the company is now expanding its headquarters in Dearborn.

The expansion will allow the company to grow its product line -- the go-to attire for so many jobs and trades -- and invest in research and development that will enhance its offerings and find untapped uses for its jackets, coats, overalls, coveralls and other clothing and accessories printed with the increasingly-recognizable Carhartt logo.

The nearly $18.6-million expansion of Carhartt's property on Mercury Drive in Dearborn will create 215 jobs and extend the company's reach. Founded in 1889 in Detroit, Carhartt recently opened a flagship retail store on Cass Avenue in the city's Midtown neighborhood. The company has opened retail outlets in several others states in recent months.

The headquarters expansion has financial support from the state of Michigan and city of Dearborn. The Michigan Strategic Fund, a program of the Michigan Economic Development Corp., awarded a $1.3-million Michigan Business Development Program performance-based grant to the Carhartt HQ expansion in an effort to keep the company from opting to open a work site on the east and west coasts, where garment-industry talented is easier for employers to find, according to the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

In addition, the city of Dearborn is keeping the company local by offering a tax abatement that will discount its taxes for eight years.

Source: Kathy Achtenberg, spokesperson, Michigan Economic Development Corp.
Writer: Kim North Shine
 

Hyatt Hotel, apartments, retail, office planned for vacant Royal Oak car dealership

Plans to turn a vacant car dealership on Main Street in Royal Oak into a Hyatt hotel with connected residential, retail, and office space are moving ahead following the approval of incentives from the state.

The $48-million development will stand atop 3.5-acre property currently containing a car dealership that closed in 2008. The site will include a 120-room, 5-story Hyatt Hotel, according to the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

The hotel will be a part of a contemporary-style building expected to be built at 400 N. Main St. It will also have space for 56 apartments, a parking deck, and retailers.

Besides generating $12 million in property tax revenue for the city and creating 144 new jobs, it may breathe new life into the north part of Royal Oak's downtown district.

The MEDC is granting the developers a $4.5-million Michigan Community Revitalization Program loan, and the city of Royal Oak is supporting the project by providing $3 million in tax increment financing reimbursement.

Source: Nate Pilon, Michigan Economic Development Corp.
Writer: Kim North Shine
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