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Start-up update: Ferndale's Logicdrop announces new platform success

Ferndale-based technology startup LogicDrop has announced that its partnership with automotive technology company Novation Analytics has resulted in a groundbreaking new vehicle simulation software platform.

The Ferndale company's Logicdrop Studio is a business rules platform that allows users to customize data analysis. The platform cuts weeks of computing time down to minutes, saving customers money and time while also allowing for a more customizable experience.

Novation Analytics provides physics-based automotive performance and fuel economy simulation technology to automotive makers, who then use that technology to analyze performance and efficiency metrics. Their ENERGY software is used by government agencies for vehicle emissions regulations and validation purposes. Novation recently partnered with Logicdrop to apply Logicdrop Studio to their ENERGY software.

According to Greg Pannone, President of Novation Analytics, the partnership with Logicdrop has given his company a significant edge over its competitors. Pannone says that Novation can now run simulations on thousands of vehicles at once, something that no other company can do. Before its implementation of the Logicdrop software, it would take weeks or months to run simulations on 60,000 vehicles. Now, through their partnership with Logicdrop, Novation can run those same simulations in just three minutes.

"Novation Analytics has taken advantage of every major capability in the Logicdrop Studio platform," KimJohn Quinn, co-founder of Logicdrop, says in a statement. "From incorporating rapidly changing scientific models to executing numerous complex computations on dynamic data, we are transforming a complex, error-prone process into a manageable, streamlined system. We are excited to see where the platform will take the industry next."

It's great news for Logicdrop, a company that Metromode profiled in September 2016. While in September the company was still gearing up for the release of Logicdrop Studio, it's not even a year later and they can already announce a major success.

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

Confectionary sets up shop in downtown Wyandotte

The confections and desserts shop Michele Bezue Confections is coming to downtown Wyandotte. While an official grand opening celebration is being planned to coincide with the popular Wyandotte Street Art Fair, which runs from July 12th to the 15th, a soft opening is expected the weekend of June 30th.

Bezue, who also owns Detroit Marshmallow Company, is excited to join the downtown Wyandotte community, a vibrant downtown that has a hard-working downtown development authority working behind it, she says.

Bezue Confections was originally located on Mack Avenue in Grosse Pointe Park, but Bezue believes that the busier downtown of Wyandotte will only help business. It will not only be a nice location for operations, but also a place from where she can branch out.

"When you make sweets, you really need walk-in traffic. We're not a restaurant," says Bezue. "Our new storefront in Wyandotte is an amazing location with tons of foot traffic and a really supportive downtown board."

Bezue has a lot of plans for the confectionary. While there will be tables, it will be less of a cafe than it will be a retail storefront. She'll sell both Bezue Confections and Detroit Marshmallow Company products.

There will be an event space, open for birthdays, showers, and other parties. Bezue also offers "dessert dinners," several course meals of nothing but desserts and confections.

A kitchen is being built, and Bezue intends on offering classes on how to make confections and desserts, including her marshmallows and truffles.

Another big part of Bezue's business is catering, which she'll continue to offer.

"I was outside working on the storefront and people are already asking me about catering."

Michele Bezue Confections is located at 110 Sycamore St. in Wyandotte.

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

New pocket park in Pontiac to feature playground equipment, picnic area, fruit orchard

A group of Pontiac high school and college students have banded together to raise over $30,000 for the purpose of building a pocket park on that city's Home Street. Because of the successful crowdfunding campaign, three lots will now be transformed from vacant parcels into community assets.

Construction is underway on the first two lots on Home Street. The lots will include educational programming, a playground, a picnic area complete with a grill and tables, and a working fruit orchard, including pear and peach trees. A third lot will be completed within the next year, designed with the intent of creating economic opportunities for the community, though that specific programming has yet to be officially announced.

The Home Street pocket park will celebrate its grand opening on Saturday, Aug. 5.

As members of the non-profit organization The Leaders of the Future, the students not only helped organize the crowdfunding campaign but also engaged with the Home Street community to help design the park.

"For these students to think up the project, come up with the plans, and follow through on the execution, it's so much more than life-changing. It's community-changing," says Anders Engnell, CEO of The Leaders of the Future.

According to Engnell, there are 36 children, ranging in ages four to 12, that live on Home Street. It's a street without a park, making the pocket park an important addition to a neighborhood made up largely of renters, providing them something in which to take ownership.

The project has also taught the members of The Leaders of the Future skills in planning, budgeting, and design, as well as being a catalyst for high school and college students to wake up early on a Saturday morning and volunteer, says Engnell.

The Home Street pocket park crowdfunding campaign was part of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation's Public Spaces Community Places program. Because they successfully met their $15,000 crowdfunding goal, MEDC contributed a $15,000 matching grant to the project.

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

Southfield seeks to build Red Pole Park along Northwestern Highway Pathway and Greenway

In their continued efforts to entice and keep top talent, the city of Southfield is once more turning toward placemaking to make their city more attractive. And this time, they've partnered with Michigan Economic Development Corporation to help make it happen.

As part of the MEDC Public Spaces Community Places initiative, the city of Southfield is seeking to raise $50,000 through a crowdfunding campaign. Should they prove successful by August 4, the MEDC will offer a $50,000 matching grant.

Southfield is raising funds for Red Pole Park, a public art installation to be situated along the new Northwestern Highway Pathway and Greenway. Terry Croad, Director of Planning for the City of Southfield, describes Red Pole Park as a sort of grove of trees re-imagined as abstract art. Tall poles, painted red, will be installed into the ground along the greenway.

Red Pole Park was designed by architectural firm Harley Ellis Devereaux.

"The intent is to create a series of outdoor rooms," says Croad. "We don't want the Greenway to be a passthrough but instead a destination in and of itself."

This is just the first of many upgrades to the Northwestern Highway Pathway and Greenway Croad hopes to enact this year. Also planned is a second installation, or room, rain gardens, public art murals, and improved landscaping.

As detailed in Metromode this past April, Croad and his team have been hard at work transforming Southfield from a city built for cars into a city built for people. An RFP was issued to take 8.15 acres in the city center and turn it into a more traditional downtown, with tighter, pedestrian-friendly infrastructure and streetwalls filled with cafes and retail on the first floor and residential units on the floors above. That RFP was due April 21.

A bike share program is set to debut this July.

The Red Pole Park crowdfunding campaign is being hosted on the Michigan-based Patronicity crowdfunding platform.

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

Offering free exercise classes in the park, Transformation Tuesdays take off in Dearborn

No matter your mode of transportation, be it by foot, Dearborn's new bike share program, or automobile, if you're passing City Hall Park on a Tuesday evening, you're going to see a whole bunch of people working out in the sun. That's because Tuesdays in Dearborn are now Transformation Tuesdays.

From now until August 6, the public is invited to join professional trainers for a series of workout sessions. Each session starts at 5:30 p.m., goes for 30 to 40 minutes, is followed by a ten to fifteen minute break, and then a second session begins at 6:30 p.m.

The classes are free and open to the public, Dearborn residents or otherwise. Registration is available online or beginning at 4:30 p.m. at City Hall Park every Tuesday.

Like the organizations that are sponsoring the free events, it's a mix of workout styles that make up Transformation Tuesdays. Classes include Zumba, PiYo, kickboxing, Piloxing, bootcamp-style workouts, and more. Beaumont Health System, Fairlane Towncenter, Healthy Dearborn, the City of Dearborn, and First Responders For Fitness are sponsoring the series.

While the rest of the summer uses City Hall Park as its location, the kick-off event was held at Fairane Towncenter. DeJuan McTaw, a student intern at Beaumont who helped plan the events, says the spectacle of people exercising in the middle of the mall drew a lot of onlookers.

"People were watching from the upper levels, leaving work to watch," he says. "It was piquing lots of interest."

McTaw says that the first two events have already attracted 175 participants in total.

"Transformation Tuesdays are great because they're free. If people aren't already in the swing of things, this might help them start exercising or pick it back up," says McTaw.

"It could really get people inspired."

A full schedule of classes can be found here. Register for Transformation Tuesdays online.

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

Bike share program kicks off in Dearborn

The city of Dearborn is rolling out its bike share program on Tuesday, June 13. A 10 a.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony and 2-mile bike ride will celebrate the launch of the program, which includes 50 bikes at 10 stations that span the east and west sides of the city.

The bike share program is symbolic of Dearborn's desire to move from a car-based culture to a multi-modal one, a transportation system that includes automobiles but also one that is more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly. City officials believe that the key to future growth includes diversified mobility options for Dearborn residents and visitors alike.

"We're going to see an increase in economic prosperity, cultural attractions, and quality of work life and residential life," says West Dearborn Downtown Development Authority executive director Cristina Sheppard-Decius.

"It's going to make activities easier to access and easier to enjoy."

The bike share program has been in the works for at least a year and a half, says Sheppard-Decius, and it's been a combination of city stakeholders, including the Healthy Dearborn Team, Ford Motor Company, and city business leaders, that helped make it happen. Beaumont Hospital helped bring the program to fruition and the Kosch Family, the owners of Dearborn Sausage Co., sponsored the bike stations.

Bike rental stations will be located at Bryant Branch Library, West Village Commons, John D. Dingell Transit Center, Arab American National Museum, City Hall Artspace Lofts, Commandant's Quarters, behind Buffalo Wild Wings on Howard Street, and the intersections of Oakwood Boulevard and Michigan Avenue, Military Street and Michigan Avenue, and Schlaff Street and Michigan Avenue.

Sheppard-Decius says that the program will grow to include more bikes, bike stations, and bike lanes throughout the years.

Bike rental rates are $2 an hour, though unlimited rides can be had by registering as a member at for $20 per year. Register early for a membership with promo code bikedearborn and receive 50 percent off the yearly rate.

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

Downriver communities celebrate greenway funding success

Downriver Linked Greenways is announcing approximately $1 million in upgrades to the network of trails and greenways it represents across southern Wayne County. Construction is already underway on some of the projects, and DLGI expects them to completed in total by October 2018.

Trails in Trenton, which are connected to the statewide Iron Belle Trail, are set to debut their first bike racks and new signage. Wayne County's Elizabeth Park, an island park located on the Detroit River in Trenton, is receiving more than $500,000 in construction upgrades and work is underway.

In Wyandotte, the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge will receive more than $400,000 in construction upgrades. That project is scheduled to go out to bid.

DLGI has also secured grants to perform community outreach on behalf of the downriver communities and their network of non-motorized pathways. Additional improvements are planned for the number of greenways throughout the region.

"We want downriver residents to know what a gem they have in their own backyard," says Anita Twardesky, co-chair of the Downriver Linked Greenways Initiative.

Downriver's outdoor assets, from its system of greenways to its coastline along the Detroit River, and attractions that include the Wildlife Refuge and the River Raisin National Battlefield Park, are significant economic drivers for the region, says Twardesky.

"A lot of new businesses have started because of destination-based tourism of these water and bike trails," she adds.

They also make it easier for businesses to recruit employees to work downriver, she says.

The $1 million in improvements consists of a web of eight funding sources, including grants and in kind funding from the various communities. Each project will start and be completed at different times between now and October 2018, per the terms and requirements of the different funding sources.

At 4 p.m. on Thursday, June 8, a celebration is being held at Trenton City Hall for an announcement of the updates, the ribbon-cutting of the new bike racks, and the first bike ride along the new bike path there. Bicycles or walking shoes are encouraged.

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

Tech firms makes move from Birmingham to Pontiac

Pontiac's tech scene just got a little more crowded this month with the move of three companies, LocalHop, Autostructure, and Cynerge into downtown, bringing in 12 tech employees with more hires pending.


"You can feel the growth that's going on in Pontiac," says Cynerge president and founder Matt Russell, who purchased the building at 31. N Saginaw. "And I think everybody's excited to be part of it."


The three firms, which were housed in downtown Birmingham, are now in the process of retrofitting and moving into the second and third floors of 31. N Saginaw. The basement of the building currently houses the Alleycat Cafe and a wine cellar. The first floor is currently vacant with tentative plans for a restaurant or deli in the future.


Russell founded Cynerge, an IT tech consulting firm, 13 years ago. He also co-founded Autostructure, a datacenter automation firm, in 2016 with partners Bryan Belanger and Paul Talbot.


But it's his third startup, LocalHop, also founded in 2016 with partners Jason Myers and Robert Bales, that's getting mainstream attention. "We were tired of searching online for places to go and things to do," says Russell. "So we decided to do something about it."


The idea for the company came about when Myers was looking for a beer festival in downtown Rochester. He lost track of the website and missed the event.


"He didn't know which weekend it was on. It's like, isn't there just one place where we can find stuff?" says Russell. "That's why we started it; it was basically just us trying to find stuff to do."


LocalHop allows event organizers to post community events to a single website and app, which users can then use to find out about things happening in their neighborhood.


"Our goal is to be at the local grassroots level, hopefully, the de facto place that everybody goes to find stuff going on," says Russell. "We aggregate that all into one place and organizations post it on there, so they are in full control of all the content."


Ultimately, LocalHop hopes to make it easier for organizations to promote and market events. The company plans to generate revenue through a calendar service, which will charge registration fees for users.


So far, Russell says 300 organizations have uploaded events to the app, and 3000 people have downloaded. The website receives about 5,000 hits per month. Heaviest participation so far has been in Detroit's northern suburbs and Kalamazoo. Russell hopes to expand to throughout Michigan and beyond


It will take some time and effort to create the office environment in Pontiac, but Russell is already in love with the turret views of downtown from the 1800s-era building (the turrets were added in the 1990s.)


"We're excited to be here, and we want to try to nurture whatever we can to try to continue growing Pontiac," says Russell. "It's the center of Oakland County. It's got a great location; it's got great infrastructure, it's got a great history. Instead of going up and then back down, let's just keep coming up. Right? And I think we've got the chance to do that."


My Pontiac Story: Tanesha Taylor of Quest Cheer & Dance

Tanesha Taylor owns Quest Cheer & Dance, a school for boys and girls, ages three to 18 years old. It's there where she offers cheerleading, dancing, and tumbling classes, and the opportunity to compete in tournaments all over the country. Taylor says that Quest is open to all skill levels and that no child is turned away. This fall, Taylor is starting special needs teams for children with physical and mental disabilities, which will offer free enrollment for those particular children.

In addition to the cheerleading, dancing, and tumbling classes, Taylor also offers an All-Star level of enrollment, which enters children into national competitions. These are not the cheerleaders seen on the sideline of a high school sports game but the ones seen at competitions nationally televised on channels like ESPN. A recent trip to Las Vegas yielded four first-place finishes for Quest students, says Taylor.

"Kids in Pontiac don't have anything else like this," she says. "We need more positive things going on for our young people. It gives them an opportunity to experience travel, to compete and gain skills."

Taylor says the benefits of cheer, dance, and tumble classes are numerous. Children can win scholarships to college. They also help to build self-esteem and teach kids teamwork and social skills. And then there's the health component. Exercise, fitness, and healthy-eating habits are all taught at Quest.

Taylor's cheerleading history runs deep, and starts in Pontiac. She cheered at Pontiac Central High School for four years, and would be offered an academic and cheer scholarship at Alabama State University, though she would decline that offer. Instead, Taylor went on to devote her time to raising a family and the area's future cheerleaders. She's coached cheer for numerous little league programs and schools, and has officiated and judged all sorts of national competitions. Taylor is currently the Head Varsity Coach at Pontiac High School.

In 2016, she was awarded first place in the inaugural Pitch'N Pontiac small business contest.

Metromode asked Tanesha Taylor about her past and future in Pontiac.

Q: What do you love most about Pontiac?

It's where I'm from. It's a part of me. And I'm a part of it. It's family-oriented, and I strongly believe in that.

Q: Why did you open Quest Cheer & Dance in Pontiac?

To give the kids in Pontiac the experience and opportunity that they would maybe never have. And to do that at affordable prices.

Q: What's Pontiac's biggest challenge and how do you think it can be addressed?

Honestly, I believe in unity, in coming together and working together. And staying together. That's what makes us successful. I don't think that we're all there right now. It's 'United we stand, divided we fall.'" Even city government could be a lot further along if we were all on the same page. But I do see it on the rise; I see it all coming together.

Q: What are your hopes for the city?

My hope is that this city will be revived, that the community will be revived. There was a time when we had community, love, and support. I want to see that revived.

Q: What should people in metro Detroit know about Pontiac?

Pontiac is on the uprise. It's coming back. People should know that. Bring your kids here, bring your families here. There are things for everyone here. Quest is here. There are things in place so come back.

For more information about Quest Cheer & Dance, including enrollment, visit them online.

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

Rochester College, Leader Dogs for the Blind partner to raise puppies

A new partnership between Leader Dogs for the Blind and Rochester College is giving students a new assignment: Raising puppies.

Leader Dogs has a consistent need for volunteer puppy raisers. Puppy raisers care for puppies for about 12 months, then return the puppies so they can complete their training and be assigned to visually impaired clients. The organization has been training leader dogs in Rochester Hills since 1939. Since then, more than 14,000 dogs have been placed with legally blind handlers in every state except Hawaii.

The idea for the project came about in a visit to Leader Dogs for the Blind by students in Rochester College's Center for Social Entrepreneurship program.

"The idea was hatched to consider using Rochester College as a puppy raising community, similar to the way that Leader Dogs for the Blind has started puppy raising community in prisons," says Scott Cagnet, who serves as the college's assistant dean of student engagement. "So we are taking one of our residence halls that hadn't been occupied for a couple of years and we are reconfiguring it to allow it to be a co-ed residence hall that will allow for a good puppy raising environment."

After a competitive application process, Rochester College student Joshua Allen and puppy Logan became the first student-puppy pairing on Friday, April 28. Over the next two months five more student-puppy pairings will be made.

"We believe this is a first-of-its-kind program in Michigan and may be a first-of-its-kind in the nation between and service dog organization and a private college," says Jaymes Vettraino, director of the college's Center for Social Entrepreneurship."While it will be an amazing opportunity for the students that are selected to raise puppies, I'm most excited about the potential impact the program can have on the entire campus in terms of understanding the importance of Leader Dogs for the Blind and the social good impacts that non-profits have on our community."

Allen is raising his puppy at his parents' house for the time being. The new puppy-friendly residence hall will be open this fall. Five puppy raisers will live there along with five puppy sitters. Students who have expressed interest in being puppy raisers and sitters, but who were not selected for this year, will also be invited to live in the residence hall so that they can be mentored into the program for the next year.

"We will be installing kind of a puppy potty area outside the residence hall, and providing trash receptacles and bags, for any messes that the puppies might make," says Cagnet. "Then we're working to try to provide an enclosed fenced-in area next to the residence hall that will provide puppies the opportunity to run off leash a little bit outside."

Allen is enjoying his new furry friend, although he acknowledges that he may "bawl his eyes out" when it's time to return Logan to Leader Dogs for the Blind. But it's all for a great cause, he says.

"I think the best thing is knowing that he'll be able to change someone's life," says Allen. "The goal is to be able to lead someone that is blind, and I think that's the coolest part for me."

Residents and businesses work together in Dearborn's Eastborn neighborhood

The houses and businesses in Dearborn's Eastborn neighborhood reflect the diversity of its people. Stately brick homes neighbor modest vinyl-sided ones on lots considered small by today's standards. The houses--mostly built in the 1940s and 1950s, though it's clear where older houses have been demolished for the construction of bigger, modern homes--are full of all sorts of families, white, black, Middle Eastern, and more.

It's a demographic that's always changing, says Michael Bewick, Executive Director of the East Dearborn Downtown Development Authority. He points out a Mexican family opening a restaurant on Michigan Avenue, also Eastborn residents.

Bewick's office is located on the southern border of the Eastborn neighborhood, a collection of homes, businesses, schools, and places of worship bound by Ford Road to the north, Oakman Boulevard to the east, Michigan Avenue to the south, and Greenfield Road to the west.

For Bewick, Eastborn is a reflection of Dearborn as a whole.

"A lot of the neighborhoods in the city are very similar in the fact that the majority of the neighbors get along with each other and they're always looking out for each other," he says.

In that regard, Eastborn is no different. That was on full display this past Saturday, May 20, for Eastborn Neighborhood Cleanup Day. An estimated 80 volunteers gathered to pick-up litter and trash in a neighborhood-wide beautification campaign. Residents, Fordson High School and Woodworth Middle School students, members of the Dearborn Police and Fire departments, and business owners in the EDDDA all gathered to pick up their neighborhood.

The Cleanup Day was first organized in 2014 by Erin Byrnes, who grew up in Dearborn and is still heavily involved in the community. After attending Eastborn Neighborhood Association meetings, Byrnes listened to and learned from Eastborn residents. The Cleanup grew out of those conversations.

This year's Cleanup Day started from its original central meet-up point, Argyle-Williamson Park, but also grew to include City Hall Park. Byrnes grew up playing in Argyle-Williamson, and is thankful for the opportunity to return and make a meaningful and positive impact there. In addition to the cleanup, volunteers planted flowers and perennials.

"Eastborn is home. This means the world to me," says Byrnes. "It's been phenomenal in terms of the energy and wonderful sense of community we've experienced. It's our hope that the cleanup builds on that."

Just as how neighboring residents are working together, so, too, are the businesses. And there are a lot of businesses in Eastborn. The neighborhood is bounded by Ford Road and Michigan Avenue, a state trunkline highway and United States highway, respectively. Both highways are main thoroughfares for the region, and not just the city of Dearborn. That means a lot of traffic, which also means a lot of businesses.

Many of those have been around for decades, including M&M Cafe, Green Brain Comics, and Stormy Records. Others are representative of the Middle Eastern influence on the neighborhood, many of which have been around for decades themselves. There are hookah lounges and markets, and plenty of restaurants, like La Shish and Manaeesh Cafe And Cheesecake Gallery. There are also national landmarks, including the Arab American National Museum.

Regardless of the type, business in Eastborn is good. Bewick says that for the district his EDDDA represents, East Downtown Dearborn boasts a commercial vacancy rate in the low teens. And Eastborn makes up a big part of that success. Those neighboring businesses are working together. Bewick cites an example last fall where Joe's Top Dog Restaurant & Bar and designer clothing store Al Wissam banded together to throw an outdoor fashion show.

"We're a well-kept secret that we're trying to tell everybody about," says Bewick.

In what's billed as one of the state's oldest and biggest, Dearborn's Memorial Day Parade kicks off in Eastborn this Memorial Day, Monday, May 29 at 10 a.m. It starts at the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Maple Street and travels west down Michigan.

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

Two St. Clair Shores businesses combine to take over old Harper Sports building in downtown SCS

There was only one available building in St. Clair Shores big enough to contain the dreams of business owners Holly Moyer, Lyndsay Napiorkowski, and Andrea Napiorkowski Moran. The trio is combining their businesses, Moyer's Gypsi Dreamz Boutique and Napiorkowski and Napiorkowski Moran's The Rustic Root, into one: The Rooted Gypsy Market Place.

That building, the old Harper Sports building in St. Clair Shores 9 Mile and Mack shopping area, is 34,000 sq. ft. and three floors of opportunity and they plan on making use of all of it.

It's a natural pairing for the businesses, as Moyer says they often refer customers to each other's Harper Avenue shops. Gypsi Dreamz sells upcycled and organic goods, including furniture, antiques, soaps, and more. The Rustic Root is a USA-only florist that buys locally when possible.

But the new market will be much more than a simple combining of businesses. One storefront will be the Rooted Gypsy Market Place and the second will be an additional market where local crafters rent booths and sell their creations on their own accord.

Rooted Gypsy is also awaiting approval on a small, rustic wedding venue, a "one-stop shop" that will feature a salon, flowers, decorations, and more.

"You won't have to drive all over town, picking up things," says Moyer. "We have all the talent already working in our shops."

The group also wants to build greenhouses to grow their own flowers, emphasizing self-sustainability.

This past spring, the team started an online petition to garner support for their bid on the building. While not required by the zoning board, Moyer says that the city had already turned down some proposals for the building and she wanted to do all that she could to secure it. The petition garnered nearly 4,000 signatures.

"I'm excited. I know that I have so much more to give than my little shop right now," says Moyer. "I'm ready for the changes and the challenges."

Rooted Gypsy Market Place is located at 23208 Greater Mack Ave. in St. Clair Shores. It is expected to open by the end of July.

The group is currently fundraising for building repairs. Click here for more information.

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

Master plan for downtown Clawson recognized on national level, receives APA award

For a brief moment on Sunday, May 7, the City of Clawson was at the center of attention in New York City.

Detroit-based consulting firm Giffels Webster worked with the city to develop the Clawson Downtown Master Plan, which was adopted in 2015. That plan was awarded the 2017 Vernon Deines Honor Award for an Outstanding Small Town Special Project Plan by the American Planning Association (APA) at its annual National Planning Conference.

Jill Bahm, City Planning, Zoning, and Economic Development Consultant for Giffels Webster, says the national recognition received for Clawson's downtown master plan is a result of the community, including city leaders, business owners, and residents, working closely together to help Giffels Webster identify just what it is that makes Clawson special.

While downtown Clawson has destinations that draw in visitors from out of town, it also has businesses that serve the local community. The aim of the master plan is to enhance that balance by filling in the gaps and improving what's already there.

The old downtown master plan was outdated, says Bahm, and tried too hard to make Clawson the next Birmingham or Royal Oak. That's not what Clawson stakeholders say they want to be, and the new master plan aims to enhance Clawson's downtown, rather than transform it into something that it's not.

Business and property owners are making individual improvements to their own properties. There's an emphasis on improving public spaces, including the plazas and passageways that can encourage pedestrian traffic. Simple things like better lighting and public seating can get people circulating through downtown city sidewalks and patronizing businesses.

Enhancing Clawson, and not changing its character, has been the goal from the start. The award is a recognition of that approach.

"I think it helps reinforce, for the city, DDA, business owners, and residents, that their vision is appreciated and that they're on the right track toward what's right for them," says Bahm.

"It validates what they're doing as a community."

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

My Pontiac Story: Karen Jorgensen of Pontiac's Little Art Theatre

Karen Jorgensen calls it "progress noise:" the loud percussive chunks of power tools clanging off the walls of an indoor space. It might not be the most pleasant sound to most, but to Jorgensen, it's music to her ears.

Jorgensen and her partner, both in life and in business, Robert Karazim, are in the midst of transforming 47 N. Saginaw in downtown Pontiac into Pontiac's Little Art Theatre, or The P.L.A.T. It's an impressive undertaking, and Jorgensen and Karazim aren't missing a beat.

The 149-year old building was most recently a law firm, but you wouldn't know it. The renovations are completely transforming the space into Pontiac's latest arts center, built for live theater, music performances, fashion shows, art openings, and whatever else the couple sees fit for the P.L.A.T. The Green Room, a small sitting and concession area, is located in the front of the building.

They've purchased furnishings that are period-appropriate for the Victorian-era building, including mohair chairs and colorful leaded glass doors. Those doors were purchased south of Cleveland. The 140-year old matching set will serve as the signature background for the P.L.A.T. stage, with a space built behind to backlight the colorful leaded glass.

From the custom-cast ornaments on the outside of the building to the wheelchair ramp leading to the stage, no detail has been ignored..

Jorgensen and Karazim bought their home, a live/work space a few storefronts down the block from the P.L.A.T., in 2012. They've since become enthusiastic Pontiac boosters and founded the Canvas Pontiac public art competition. Jorgensen takes pride in sweeping the street outside her door herself, and even organized a group of volunteers to drive around the city and tag every broken streetlight for replacement.

It's a seemingly unlikely development for Jorgensen, who is a medical case manager by day, and on, call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But that's what she likes about it.

"There are so many things that I didn't think were going to happen. But that's the great thing about life: You don't know. You just have to keep yourself open. Sometimes those skills you learn in life, you go, why did I do this? And then, all of a sudden, ten or fifteen years later, you go, thank goodness I had this experience and that experience and I met that person," says Jorgensen.

"And now it's all falling into place."

Metromode asked Jorgensen about her unlikely path and her place in Pontiac.

Q: What do you love most about Pontiac?

The people. The people are incredible. I feel like this is my big family. And I'm not leaving. They're stuck with me. It's funny, because I was born in Detroit and when people ask me where I'm from, I say Pontiac. And they're like, really? Yep, this is my home. This is it.

Q: Why did you move to Pontiac?

I moved to Pontiac because there was a great opportunity here. All kinds of potential. It's a great time to buy real estate because it's probably at the lowest it will ever be. In a short period of time, I've already seen the value of our property rise, and it's only going to continue because we have a lot of people that are finally seeing the benefit of being here. 
In the last six months, we've had four new restaurants open up. From here on, I think a year from now, we won't even recognize this city. Because nobody wants to be the first one to invest, it might seem a little scary. Why don't I go to Birmingham or Auburn Hills but why Pontiac? Why Pontiac? Well, let's see, we have M1 Concourse, Wesson Tennis, Links on the Lake, which is a beautiful golf course, and Ultimate Soccer. We have four incredible recreational venues here that you can't find any place else that are here in Pontiac.

Q: What's Pontiac's biggest challenge and how do you think it can be addressed?

When my parents came to this country, we were always taught the importance of appreciating that you are a guest. There are a lot of people that are of many generations that have lived in Pontiac. So, I think at first it was difficult for me not to feel a little bit on the outside. But I don't think that's an issue anymore, we all appreciate where we're coming from. 
The other issue, which is true of just about any city, is getting people to get together and be understanding that if we don't work as a team, we're not going to move forward. Much like the Democrat and Republican parties, we're all in the same sandbox. We all want the best for each other. But there are a lot of times where you have to say, it's not so much that I get the credit for what I do, but to know that what I've done has made an impact and other people have followed suit. You know what you're capable of doing, you know what you've accomplished.

Q: What are your hopes for the city?

That it will continue to explode like it's already beginning to do. I think the last five or six years, it seems like we planted the seed, fertilized it. We have a lot of people that have invested in downtown, new IT companies that have come in to play. We don't have a Dan Gilbert down here but we do have a lot of people that understand the importance of rolling up their sleeves, investing your time and energy, and seeing that you can make anything happen. 
My favorite saying of Henry Ford's was, "You think you can, or you think you can't. Either way, you're right." So when I wake up in the morning and say, you can do it, or, you can't do it, what do you choose to do? It's not maybe I can do it. It's, I know I can do it. I'm going to do it.

Q: What should people in metro Detroit know about Pontiac?

It is a city with a lot of pride. There are a lot of people that are really working towards making this a very world-class city. We came from a city that was tenth worst in the nation, and of recent, we don't even rank anywhere close to the 100th worst city in the nation, and in such a short period of time. 
A lot of that I attribute to the work of [Emergency Manager] Lou Schimmel, who helped tremendously in helping us re-establish our financial situation here. They were big changes, and nobody likes big changes, but the Oakland County Sherrif's department has been incredible. A phenomenal fire department like no other. And our EMS. We have really great services in this city. We got our lights turned on, we're getting our streets cleaned. All those elements you need to turn things around are here. At this point, nobody's looking back. We're going forward.

Find the P.L.A.T. on Facebook.

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

Downtown Dearborn record store successfully weathers changing music patterns for nearly two decades

Windy Weber has been working in record stores for 29 years. It's not a stretch to say that music is her life, and it's something she freely admits. Both she and her husband, Carl Hultgren, had an extreme love for music at an early age, spending many a summer day flipping through bins of records while their friends played outdoors.

It's that love for music--and a bull-headedness, she says--that drove Weber and Hultgren to open their own record store, Stormy Records, in July 1999. And it's that same love for music--and bull-headedness--that keeps them open to this day. Weber and Hultgren own and operate their business together, and also make music as the ambient duo Windy and Carl.

It's not an easy business to run in the 21st century, but that doesn't make it any less important. While digital music downloads have helped crush the record store industry, the record store remains at an irreplaceable crossroads of culture and community. 
Weber, who started working at Record Town in Southland Mall in 1988, still serves customers that she sold records to when she was 16 years old. She knows her customers so well, in fact, that she often offers personal guarantees on her recommendations.

"I know that you, based on what else you've bought from us, ]are going to like this record. If you don't, you can bring it back. Nobody's ever--well, actually, once, my friend Jamie brought something back--but in 18 years, all those people that I've given those recommendations to, they have come back and said, 'I loved blah-blah-blah, I want more.'"

Weber and Hultgren started Stormy Records in 1999, just on the precipice of the digital music revolution that has since shuttered so many record stores the world over. Weber says other record store owners told them they were crazy, that they shouldn't even bother. She says she even got flack for being a woman opening her own record store. While it hasn't been the easiest business to run, Stormy Records is still here, nearly two decades later.

Stormy has stayed open for a number of reasons, and a big reason is their flexibility. In 1999, 90 percent of the products carried were new releases. Today, that number has flipped, and 90 percent of Stormy's stock is made up of used records. The business is on its sixth location, always on the hunt for the right mix of responsible landlords, affordable rent, and adequate parking.

Since 1999, five of their six locations have been located in east downtown Dearborn. It's another factor for their remaining open. They can manage the rent, the retail scene is healthy with foot traffic, and their being near the border of Detroit means that they get a more diverse stock of used records.

The constants that remain are the music and the customers, and the fact that a record store is a sort of clubhouse. It's more than just shopping; it's a place where people gather, learn about music, and tell stories. Every conversation, says Weber, is a learning experience.

"One of our mottos is that we are caretakers of memories. Those records were really loved. They truly had a place in someone's life. And it is our job to help those records find a new place in someone else's life and that they're going to be just as cared for," says Weber. "It's not about money. We're used to the fact that we live carefully. It's about a true and incredible love for music and what we do: Helping people hear music that is going to change their lives. That is how we've managed to stay open all these years, because we're pretty obsessed with what we do."

Year Stormy Records opened: We opened in July of 1999. We are about to be 18

Name and title: Windy Weber, co-owner

What is one interesting job you held before owning Stormy Records: I have only ever sold records, so having my own shop is no different than what I have always done

What are one or two of your favorite in-store performances that you've hosted: Jack Rose playing in our shop was amazing

Stormy Records is located at 13306 Michigan Ave. in Dearborn. Find them on Facebook.

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