Development News

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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

Baba's brings belly dancing, kibbeh to downtown Wyandotte

A new Lebanese bar & grill is adding variety to downtown Wyandotte's restaurant scene - and entertainment options.

Baba's Lebanese Bar & Grill opened in mid July at 134 Maple St., across from the downtown clock tower.

Besides serving traditional Lebanese fare, it is building its business with belly dancing and not-at-all Lebanese salsa dance and bar nights with European-inspired cocktails.

Owner Mike Mazloum previously added some spice to Wyandotte's food options with the opening of his Sushi Bar next door to Baba's.

Source: Wyandotte Downtown Development Authority
Writer: Kim North Shine

Oakland U's new dorm a study in energy efficiency

Oakland University's year-old student housing complex is a study in environmentally-conscious design and operation.

The university's achievements in preventing waste and lowering impact on the environment resulted in the $30-million Oak View Hall being awarded gold certification status in LEED - or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The U.S. Green Building Council certifies projects based on categories such as sustainability, energy and atmosphere, indoor environmental quality, and others.

The nearly 165,000-square-foot, 500-bed residence was built to drastically lower the amount of waste typically generated during construction. Ninety-five percent of the construction waste was recoiled and 15 perencet of construction materials came from recycled products. In addition 20 percent of construction materials were made regionally, eliminating environmental damage from transportation.

The operation of the dorm includes dual-flush toilets, low-flow bathroom fixtures and shower heads, and 18-percent less energy use than typical dorm buildings.

Bike racks, preferred parking for low-emission vehicles, and shielded light fixtures helped the project secure gold LEED status.

Source: Eric Reikowski, spokesperson, Oakland University
Writer: Kim North Shine

Children's boutique brings gear, garments, and guidance to downtown Plymouth

After nearly a decade of selling baby gear and children's clothing, Ann Arbor's Kerrytown retailer Elephant Ears has moved to downtown Plymouth, expanding its reach into metro Detroit.

The family-owned boutique sells baby seats, carriers, packs, cribs, and other gear and employs staff that advises and educates customers looking to make purchases crucial to caring for babies and children and keeping them safe.

The products it sells -- from shampoo and lotion to toys and decor -- are selected based on safety and quality. Elephant Ears specializes in fair trade products that are free of harmful chemicals and toxins.

After nearly a month of renovations, the new store opened July 21 at 436 South Main St. in downtown Plymouth.

Source: Plymouth Downtown Development Authority
Writer: Kim North Shine

Transit-oriented plan for west Dearborn wins $10K PlacePlan grant

A transit-oriented development in west downtown Dearborn is getting a $10,000 show of support from the Michigan Municipal League, which selected five projects statewide for their promise of completing developments that create a sense of place and, in turn, economic vitality.

The project, known as TOD, has been in the planning and design stages since 2012. It would serve as a focal point for the community, be a multi-modal connector for local and regional commuter needs, and also a link between local attractions and points of interest. The design calls for a pedestrian-oriented, mixed-use, livable district adjacent to several key sites in Dearborn, chief among them the John D. Dingell Transit Center, which opened in December 2014.

In addition to being a transportation facilitator, the development will support a complementary downtown redevelopment project.

The site boundaries include Michigan Avenue to the north; the Rouge River, Norfolk Southern Railroad, and The Henry Ford to the east; Ford Motor Company to the south; and Oakwood Avenue to the west.

The $10,000 PlacePlan grant will give the city funding to help design an extension of West Village Drive into the TOD area as a “living street,” which uniquely accommodates pedestrian movement and vehicle circulation.

The project also carries out a much larger vision locally, regionally, and beyond.

"Upon its creation, the TOD site will be used by Dearborn as a space for both planned and spontaneous year-round activities. It will connect multiple assets and make them accessible by foot, bicycle, or transit, therein reducing transportation expenses and making the region more affordable and sustainable," says a statement from the Michigan Municipal League. "The creation of a transit-oriented development in this significantly auto-centric community could be a best-practice model for future development of livable, sustainable neighborhoods elsewhere around the state and nation."

Source: Michigan Municipal League
Writer: Kim North Shine

Ford House renovations to restore historical elements, enhance visitor experience

Numerous renovations are underway at the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores in accordance with the Ford family's wishes to care for the environment.

Changes to the estate include major electrical upgrades and a new stormwater management system. The upgrades are the start of a series of improvements that will ensure the estate's historical integrity and enhance the visitor experience.

The family estate-turned-attraction offers public tours of the Albert Kahn-designed home and its grounds. It also serves as a venue for concerts and other special events.

The addition of a bridge to Bird Island, a peninsula created by the Fords and landscape architect Jens Jensen, is the only upgrade to the estate that will be visible to visitors. A piece of land was removed to to allow the water between the cove and the lake to move freely.

The bridge will let visitors step into the seclusion of the island and also learn about the surrounding bioswale.

The public is invited to visit the bridge at a free preview on July 8.

“We invite people to enjoy the estate just as the Fords did,” said Kathleen Mullins, president and CEO of the Ford House. “For our visitors, and for the future of the estate, we are enriching their opportunity to be part of the natural environment when they visit. And, we want to use the work we are doing as a means for understanding and learning about good stewardship. As they see the flow of water that is being naturally cleaned before entering the Cove they will understand how initiatives like this contribute to the health of our waterways. We invite our visitors to explore and discover this extraordinary estate, to spend time, to ask questions, and to take away ideas for how they might become involved with environmental initiatives in southeast Michigan.”

Source: Joe Ferlito, Franco Public Relations Group
Writer: Kim North Shine

New $12M ballpark could be home run for Macomb County

A 4,000-seat ballpark is under construction in the city of Utica in Macomb County.

The field will be home to the United Shore Professional Baseball League's three professional teams, which will be made up of "overlooked young players, mostly with college experience, who haven't made it into the major league farm system," says Andrew Appleby, chairman and CEO of General Sports and Entertainment, the ballpark's developer.

"It will be a highly competitive and entertaining style of baseball," he says.

For Utica and Macomb County, the $12-million ballpark, which is located at the northeast corner of Auburn Road and Moscona Drive and will be named Jimmy John's Field, could be an economic home run.

"For the city of Utica, this ballpark will prove to be transformative. For the county of Macomb, it is an economic, quality-of-life, and recreational asset," says Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel. "For the region it will prove to be a destination location."

Besides seating for 4,000 spectators, the field will have a grandstand, five dugout suites, five penthouse suites, 12 private patio siutes, a grass berm, and four picnic areas.

The Utica Downtown Development Authority is leasing the land, a former household waste disposal site and brownfield redevelopment project.

In addition to baseball games, the field will host concerts, movie night, community events, and college and high school sporting events.

Construction is expected to take 12 months from this week's groundbreaking and be complete in time for opening day in June 2016.

Source: John Cwikla, spokesperson, Macomb County
Writer: Kim North Shine
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