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Downtown Auburn Hills has only one vacancy

Downtown Auburn Hills, following the approval of a new student housing complex with parking and retail space  (the largest development of its kind), is celebrating the openings of at least six new businesses in the last three months.

The downtown business openings leave only one small vacant storefront. The openings are the joining of a deliberate effort of economic development and Chamber of Commerce officials and entrepreneurs looking for new ways of life in a changing economy, says Tom Tanghe, assistant city manager and director of human resources and labor relations.

"It's sort of a big deal in this economy," Tanghe says, "to have this many businesses opening at the same time."

The openings were becoming so regular that the city and the Chamber of Commerce tried a twist on the usual ribbon-cuttings by holding them on the same night at an event called a strolling ribbon cutting.

He says groundwork, mainly in the way of streetscape projects, was laid back in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

"We had some pretty good activity around 2002, 2003 and 2004. Residential condos, townhouses, office, retail," he recalls. "Around 2006, 2007, everything came to a screeching halt. We had a number of vacancies. Of course when the market crashed in '08 everything just stopped."

What changed, he says, was the arrival of "a lot of people with the entrepreneurial spirit. In some cases they have given up hope on the private sector and decided they'd seek out a different destiny," he says.

There are no franchises among the bunch of new businesses on Auburn Road: YourSource Management Group, HomeCrafters Home Improvement, Sound-Wave Music & Arts, Walker Self Defense Academy, Edge Men’s Grooming and the Pampered Pooch LLC, which grooms nearly 30 dogs a day.

In addition to the infrastructure being in place and entrepreneurs striking out on their own, newcomers were attracted by investments and grants from TIFA (Tax Increment Financing Authority), which captures taxes in designated areas to be used for economic development.

One program grants up to $30,000 in matching funds to help businesses build out their spaces. Facade improvement grants are also available.

“The city makes a strong case for new businesses to open their doors downtown,” says Denise Asker, executive director of the Auburn Hills Chamber of Commerce. “With an appealing mix of architecture, restaurants, shops, recurring community events, and access to free Wi-Fi, the commercial climate here couldn’t be better, whether companies are established entities or emerging enterprise.”

Source: Tom Tanghe, assistant city manager and director of human resources and labor relations; Denise Asker, executive director of the Auburn Hills Chamber of Commerce
Writer: Kim North Shine

Downtown Lake Orion gets $2M streetscape, new microbrewery

A $2 million streetscape project and the impending arrival of a new micro brewery is changing the landscape of downtown Lake Orion and launching what could morph into a restaurant district for the city.

The 51 North Brewery at 51 N. Broadway is a major development on its own, but the fact that it is moving into a massive, historic, downtown building that had no takers for several years makes it an even greater success, says Suzanne Perreault, executive director of the Lake Orion Downtown Development Authority.

After the micro brewery owner, an accomplished home brewer, approached the DDA last December about locations for a business, DDA officials decided to carve a deal that would be beneficial for the entrepreneur and for the city and its tax base, Perreault says.

The building, a 4,700-square-foot former gas station on the north end of town -- an area the DDA wants to pull into the busier part of the downtown -- was purchased by the DDA in 2006. For all these years only the DDA's offices occupied a portion of the building, but it is now relocating. Because of the work needed to ready the building for retail and other business, there was no interest from business owners in leasing it, Perrault says.

"The original intention was to purchase it, tear it down and put in a parking lot," Perrault says."But one focus of the DDA is historic preservation."

"From our perspective we were willing to give a really good deal. We had purchased the building. We make no payments, so we can negotiate a good lease agreement. For us it's so beneficial. There are a lot of wins for the DDA in doing something like this," Perreault says. "Number one, we get a new business in downtown. We also create an anchor-type business on the north end and then we're going to see some job creation and we're going to put that property back on the tax rolls. It's been tax exempt the last five years. Now they're going to have to put money into the building to rehab it. It's a significant investment and they'll be paying taxes on that. So we wanted to offer a good deal that could get them in there."

She expects the planning commission to discuss the project the first week of November. If all goes as planned, renovations could begin shortly after in time for a February or March opening. The micro brewery will serve bistro-style food and house huge tanks for beer making.

Visitors to the micro brewery and downtown Lake Orion will find new street lamps that run on energy efficient LEDs, changes to make walking easier, redone streets and parking lots -- all part of the $2 million in improvements.

"We really think it's going to make our community just that much more appealing," Perreault says. "It's looking good and safe to walk around, we're improving parking. It's getting better and better."

Several other businesses are also in talks about joining downtown Lake Orion's 65 existing downtown establishments.

Source: Suzanne Perreault, executive director, Lake Orion Downtown Development Authority
Writer: Kim North Shine

New student housing, student center planned for U-M Dearborn

The University of Michigan-Dearborn and a private developer are embarking on a project that would bring the first student housing to campus and also revive shuttered Ford Motor Co. property.

The city of Dearborn and the state of Michigan are supporting the Union at Dearborn development by approving discounted taxes and other incentives to help Urban Campus Communities, the developer, renovate and turn prominent, vacant buildings into student housing and a student activity center, says Barry Murray, director of economic and community development for the city of Dearborn.

"We are just thrilled about this," Murray says of the $47 million proposed project that could employ 20 people in full-time jobs and lead to numerous construction jobs.

The first phase of the project, he says, would renovate former research and testing facilities vacated by Ford Motor Co. when it began its downsizing. Three buildings ranging from one to four stories tall would house about 525 students, possibly by fall 2012, Murray says. A second phase, if it comes to pass, would add more housing, possibly another 300 beds. There is also talk of bringing student housing to downtown Dearborn, he says. One building in the first phase would also include a student union.

The buildings are located on Evergreen, on the ring road around Fairlane, across the street from the university. At 150,000 square feet, they represent 10 percent of the city's unused buildings and have been declared brownfields, which makes the project eligible for tax abatements, $2.34 million of which were approved last week by the Michigan Economic Growth Authority.

Murray points out that UM-Dearborn is the only state school to have no student housing, something that market research by the school found to be a deterrent to choosing it over other schools with housing. He says that research shows the school could support 2,000-3,000 students in housing.

"This is a true green use for obsolete buildings," Murray says. "The best thing you can do for the environment is re-use buildings."

Beth Marmarelli, associate director for communications and marketing at UM-Dearborn, says enrollment numbers for this year will not be finalized until next week. The project is still in the planning stages, she says.

Sources: Barry Murray, director of economic and community development, city of Dearborn; Beth Marmarelli, associate director for communications and marketing at U-M Dearborn
Writer: Kim North Shine

Mixed-use Lafayette Lofts planned for downtown Pontiac

The latest step in bringing a loft living and retail development to downtown Pontiac was taken with the approval of tax incentives from the state.

The proposal by Pontiac-based West Construction Services for the Lafayette Place Lofts has the development looking down from three connected buildings on Saginaw and Perry streets with multi-level entrances on two sides and underground parking.

The buildings that would be renovated for Lafayette Place Lofts are vacant and have been designated as historic, brownfield, and as an urban redevelopment, which entitles developers to tax breaks and other incentives for putting them back into use.

Under the proposal, according to the Michigan Economic Growth Authority, which last week approved a tax credit not to exceed $2.24 million, the project investment would be $20.4 million.

Kyle Westberg of West Construction Services says there are other issues to finalize before providing more details.

Details provided by MEGA call for the project to have 33,000 square feet of residential space with 46 units, 25 of them affordable housing. Rental prices would range from $700-$1,000 per month. The building might also include a fresh food market and gym in 25,100 square feet of retail.

Lafayette Place Lofts would create 107 full-time jobs and bring new business to downtown as well as promote foot traffic.

Source: Michigan Economic Growth Authority and Kyle Westberg, West Construction Services
Writer: Kim North Shine

Mt. Clemens invests more than $250K in way-finding signs follow the signs if you want to find downtown Mount Clemens and its city attractions.

The Downtown Development Authority of this Macomb County city - the county seat - is putting more than $250,000 into signs that help visitors find their way to and around town.

More than 40 aptly-named wayfinding signs started going up last week and will be completed by year's end, says Mount Clemens DDA Director Arthur Mullen.

The signs are a growing form of municipal marketing, going from a macro to micro view, steering visitors from major thoroughfares toward the city, its downtown, and various attractions. And ultimately they show the way to parking and then sidewalk routes.

There will also be a downtown kiosk printed with an overview map, while other area maps in various spots make up the wayfinding system. Maps are also on the website of Mount Clemens DDA.

Designed by a Traverse City company called Corbin Design, the signs also depict Gratiot Avenue, one of the city's main inlets and outlets, as a loop that turns around errant drivers.

Besides directing visitors, the hope is to attract businesses who see the approach as a benefit for their customers. Complaints about navigating the city that has a river cutting through it and a complicated system of roads drove the idea of coming up with a signage system, a project started in 2008.

"Let's say someone needs to go and see the Crocker House, the Anton Art Center, the Michigan Transit Museum," some of the city's popular destinations, Mullen says. "The whole key about wayfinding is really improving the visitor experience. Anyone who's not familiar with an area hates to get lost…The signs can make the entire experience of getting to a destination a pleasant one," he explains. "You're driving in a car, you're worried about getting in an accident, getting lost…With the signs you're more at ease and you feel like the community cares about you because they've made an investment in helping you get there."

Mullen says museums and other institutions have found the signs may be responsible for a 10 percent increase in visits within two years after being posted.

Source: Arthur Mullen, director, Mount Clemens Downtown Development Authority
Writer: Kim North Shine

Nearly $1 million gets poured into Lincoln Park's downtown streetscape

Lincoln Park is betting on new boulevards, fresh sidewalks, decorative energy-efficient lights, plantings and planters, renovated storefronts, repaved parking lots, and other changes and incentives to boost business.

The changes that are part of a streetscape project come with quite a price tag: $975,000, and the stakes are high as Lincoln Park works to show off its assets: the Detroit River, freeway access, and history. All but about $200,000 of the nearly $1 million project has been paid for by a federal transportation enhancement grant, Lincoln Park City Manager Steve Duchane says.

The streetscape project affects a wide part of the city, including its major thoroughfares of Fort and Southfield.
The improvements are in progress, some of them already done, as the city works to put on its best face for visitors and businesses.

"Our strategy is to create the proper environment for people to invest in the community," Duchane says.

In addition, he says, the city has been approved under a special state economic development program to award an additional 43 liquor licenses as a way to attract restaurants and other businesses that serve alcohol.

Besides the streetscape installation, two chuck-holed public parking lots are being resurfaced. And a facade improvement grant program approved by the Downtown Development Authority is distributing $50,000 to some 200-300 businesses to improve the fronts of their buildings, Duchane says.

The streetscape ties in to a separate venture with neighboring Allen Park and Wayne County to improve the appearance, safety and walkability of the roads that tie the communities to I-94. New lighting along the improved areas is energy efficient.

"You try to set up every asset you can so that should there be interest and the economic willingness to put some money into the community, you have the infrastructure in place to make that happen," Duchane says.

Source: Steve Duchane, city manager, Lincoln Park
Writer: Kim North Shine

$12 million medical center a shot in the arm for Trenton

An eyesore of a hospital that once was the lifeblood of downtown Trenton is coming back to life in the form of a new medical center.

The nearly 10-acre property on the bank of the Detroit River is called Riverside Commons, and it will pump $12 million in new investment into Trenton and bring 163 permanent, full-time jobs when it opens, according to the Michigan Economic Growth Authority. It has approved a request from the Trenton Brownfield Redevelopment Authority to capture $2,224,250 in school and local taxes for the project.

Riverside Commons is moving into a refurbished building that housed Henry Ford Hospital, which closed in 2002 and "has become something of an eyesore," city administrator Bob Cady says.

Construction is expected to begin within days and will lead to a new exterior and renovation of the interior, including removal of asbestos. An opening date has not been set.

Riverside Commons will include doctors' offices on the front side, a rehabilitation facility in the center, and senior housing or eldercare to the rear of the property, on the riverfront. There may also be a teaching component for respiratory therapy students, Cady says.

A few years ago the city invested about $2 million in improvements to downtown that make it more attractive and easier to navigate for pedestrians and drivers.

"It's our hope that this will help our downtown area with the jobs that will be created and the traffic that will be generated," he says. "It could be a real shot in the arm for downtown."

Source: Bob Cady, city administrator, city of Trenton
Writer: Kim North Shine

Walkers, cyclists may like changes coming to Grosse Pointe, Dearborn

Projects coming courtesy of the federal government will bring changes to streets, sidewalks and commercial areas in Grosse Pointe and Dearborn.

The changes, part of federal Transportation Enhancement Grants distributed by the Michigan Department of Transportation, will basically make busy areas of the two cities more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly and ideally more attractive to locals and visitors.

The $575,105 Dearborn project will realign the Dix-Vernor business corridor and improve pedestrian safety. The realignment will change the angle at which Vernor Highway intersects Dix Avenue. In addition, a streetscape project will add ADA-compliant curb ramps, pedestrian stereo lighting, benches, trash receptacles and landscaping and also provide space for added parking. The city is paying $228,442 while the federal grants cover $342,663.

"Working with MDOT and Wayne County, we will be able to create a modern, pedestrian-friendly intersection that will be safer and more attractive to residents and visitors alike while boosting our business district," Dearborn Mayor John O'Reilly, Jr. says in a statement announcing the grants. "This is a great example of how a partnership between local and state government can set the stage for community improvements and economic growth."

In Grosse Pointe, a $969,029 project will also add ADA-compliant curb ramps, decorative sidewalks, bike racks, benches, trash receptacles, scored concrete crosswalks, landscaping and decorative lighting. The changes will improve pedestrian safety and mobility and improve the appearance of the neighborhood.

The city is paying $329,470, the federal government $639,559.

The grants fall under a federal law that requires 10 percent of federal surface transportation funds be used for transportation enhancement projects for community investment in projects such as streetscapes, bicycle paths and historic preservation.

Source: Jeff Cranson, director of communications, Michigan Department of Transportation; Grosse Pointe City Manager Peter Dame; Dearborn Mayor John O'Reilly, Jr.
Writer: Kim North Shine

Downtown Rochester $1M streetscape re-do is on

The final piece of funding for a massive redo of Rochester Road in downtown Rochester is in place.

A $523,778 federal grant - combined with a matching amount from the city - will set off a project that will modernize the street, lights and sidewalks while preserving history and enhancing safety, appearance and usefulness.

Rochester Road, the city's main thoroughfare through downtown, is one of Michigan's most admired Main Streets. The million-dollar-plus streetscape project will include new LED street lighting fixtures, pedestrian benches, trash receptacles, reconstructed crosswalks and sidewalks, and more. New street lights and posts with the energy saving bulbs will be replaced along the stretch from Second Street to the Paint Creek Bridge. The old lights, if financially feasible, will go into alleys, says Kristi Trevarrow, executive director of the Rochester Downtown Development Authority.

During construction, which will begin in April and end in September 2012, it is expected that the original brick-paved Rochester Road will be uncovered. Those bricks will be used to make new planters, not only repurposing what could be waste but adding greenery to the city, says Trevarrow.

In addition,the sidewalks will be restored to their original exposed brick walkways. Crosswalks will be made of stamped concrete that slows cars and have downward facing lighting for pedestrians - both for safety. Street signs will also have backlit illumination.

Bike racks will be constructed into the new planters and the streetlamps.

The project has the potential to draw visitors and business to the area and also make Rochester another example of how to build a thriving downtown. But it only began because the state-owned Rochester Road was due for maintenance improvements. The Michigan Department of Transportation helped the city obtain the federal dollars.

"We thought this was a great opportunity to do things we've been wanting to do," Trevarrow says.

Source: Kristi Trevarrow, executive director, Rochester Downtown Development Authority
Writer: Kim North Shine

Oakland County Airport first LEED-certified terminal in Michigan

Oakland County's new and improved airport opens next week with a facility that's a better match for the high-flying clientele that comes in and out of it. It's also an example of how to build an eco-conscious airport.

The new Oakland County International Airport is one of a handful of LEED-certified general aviation airport terminals in the country, Michigan's first and Oakland County's first LEED-certified government building. LEED is Leadership and Energy in Environmental Design, a coveted distinction from the US Green Building Council.

All told, the project cost $7.5 million, with $2 million coming from federal government.

The green, energy-saving features include wind and solar power sources, geothermal heating and cooling, and LED and fluorescent lighting. There are also electric car charging stations and a living wall in the lobby. The wall, where a collectible bi-plane hangs from the ceiling, is made of green plants watered by captured rainwater, says Airport Director David Vanderveen.

Solar panels and wind turbines will save about 15 percent in energy usage, Vanderveen says. The geothermal heating and cooling, which pulls 55-degree water from the earth so that energy is saved by not having to  cool or warm water to reach ideal building temps, will save 50 percent or more in energy costs, he says.

The new airport building will house airport administration, US Customs, an office for the Waterford Police Department, and also have a conference room available to airport users and the community, Vanderveen says.

Customs can now process 70 passengers instead of 20. "It will make things much easier for the international travelers and even for our basketball team, the Pistons," he says.

The new airport replaces a 50-year-old facility that was out of date, not compliant with disabled accessibility laws, had leaky roofs and windows, and asbestos. The changes also include new parking lots and airport entrances. The new airport will be dedicated next week during an invitation-only event, and then opened to the community on Aug. 28 from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., when 15,000-20,000 visitors are expected.

"It was a worn-out, dysfunctional building," Vanderveen says. "Oakland County has over 700 foreign firms from 33 countries. Virtually every Fortune 500 company comes through this airport. You only have one chance to make a good impression and it can either be positive or negative. We obviously want the impression to be positive, especially when we're welcoming visitors from around the world."

Source: David Vanderveen, director Oakland County International Airport
Writer: Kim North Shine

5 Metro Detroit cities share in $1.06M grant for new lighting tech

Light bulbs that are part of a million-dollar-plus investment from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation could flip the switch on job creation, energy savings and environmental protection.

Through the MEDC's Advanced Lighting Technology Demonstration grants, 14 Michigan communities are sharing the $1,066,429 pool. They're committing to updating their bulbs to higher tech, energy saving designs and, when possible, to buying them from Michigan manufacturers. The object is to save money (taxpayer dollars) on energy costs, prevent greenhouse gases by replacing old-style inefficient bulbs and create jobs that involve the nuts and bolts of updating, replacing and maintaining the new bulbs.

Melanie McCoy, general manager of Wyandotte's municipal services department, says the LED project will be completed in tandem with a solar panel installation on city buildings.

"What we're going to do is actually a fabulous project," she says.

The $100,000 grant will pay for part of a project to replace existing street lamps and pedestrian walkway lights along a path that leads from the public library, down Biddle Avenue through downtown and up Eureka Road for several blocks to the high school.

The project, which will go out to bid as soon as the city searches for Michigan companies that can benefit, will be completed by next July. At the same time the city will use its own funds to add solar power generators to the library and a water department building.

"This is a combination of a renewable energy project together with an energy efficiency project," McCoy says.

MEDC President and CEO Michael A. Finney says in a statement announcing the award of the grants that "the energy and cost savings benefits plus the maintenance savings due to the longer life of the lamps are impressive with the newer technology lighting that's now available. These benefits are more important than ever to local governments in reducing operating expenses."
"In addition, manufacturing of advanced lighting technologies is a growing industry in Michigan and has the potential to create a new source of jobs and investment for local and state economies."

The types of lighting to be used in the government facilities and on public transportation vehicles include LEDs, or light emitting diodes, AKA solid state lighting; induction lighting, and plasma lighting.

The recipients of the grants must collect data and report their energy savings, cost savings, jobs created. The Michigan Energy Office will require that funded grantees regularly collect, track, and report metrics data related to energy savings, cost savings, jobs created and emissions reductions.

Besides Wyandotte, other metro Detroit recipients are Roseville, $81,074; Hazel Park, $50,150; Farmington Hills, $81,405; and Detroit, $100,000.

Source: Michigan Economic Development Corporation and Melanie McCoy, city of Wyandotte
Writer: Kim North Shine

Downtown Birmingham adds 15 new spots to shop, eat, hang

A mix of local and national retailers, restaurants and other businesses are making downtown Birmingham their address.

A recruiter hired by the city's Principal Shopping District has attracted some of the newcomers. The Principal Shopping District functions somewhat like a downtown development authority but does not capture taxes as traditional DDAs do or buy or purchase land. The PSD uses funds from a special assessment on commercial properties to operate. That includes marketing downtown Birmingham and hiring a recruiter to find national retailers.

One is Paper Source, a Chicago-based stationery and paper supply store that has 44 locations, with seven opening nationally this year. Paper Source is filling the space occupied by Sherman's Shoes at 115 West Maple.

About 15 businesses, from restaurants and candy stores to salons and clothing stores, have opened recently or are expected to open soon.

Look for Detroit Guitar, which is under construction at 243 W. Maple and will bring music lessons and music gear in funky surroundings to downtown in September.

What Crepe?, a Euro dining eatery, is moving into 167 Old North Woodward. Sanders, the ice cream and candy store, is relocating just down the street to 172 North Old Woodward. Shish Kabob and Subway are adding to eating options, as are three bistros: Townhouse, Bella Piatti and Churchills. Revive, a men's clothing store, is coming to 163 W. Maple, where Adventures in Toys once was. Salons, H202 and Nude, opened in May on Hamilton Row.

"We definitely have had an uptick in businesses coming in," says John Heiney, director of Birmingham's Principal Shopping District.
Last year there was a net increase of 15 businesses, including spas, a florist, a jeweler, home decorating stores and food establishments.

"We seem to be on a similar pace this year," he adds.

The recruiting effort is focusing on national retailers looking for boutique-size operations of 2,500 square feet or less, he says. Apparel stores are the main focus. City Manager Bob Bruner has been on the job since February and comes from Ferndale, which is known for a vibrant downtown.

"We hope the national retailers will join our excellent local retailers," Heiney says.

Source: John Heiney, director, Birmingham Principal Shopping District; Birmingham City Manager Bob Bruner
Writer: Kim North Shine

Transform Woodward ponders light rail beyond Detroit

Southern Oakland County communities are contributing to a study that will look into what it will take to embark on transit-oriented development along Woodward Avenue.

The major thoroughfare ties the communities together and would be an obvious extension of a light rail line that is expected to be constructed along Woodward from downtown Detroit to 8 Mile Road.

The study was commissioned by the Transform Woodward group convened by the nonprofit Woodward Avenue Action Association, or WA3, and will identify land use and zoning and master plan changes needed to support transit oriented development along the South Oakland County portion of Woodward.
Royal Oak based LSL Planning Inc. will complete the study.

The Transform Woodward Task Force is made up of elected officials, employers and institutional partners from Berkley, Birmingham, Ferndale, Huntington Woods and Royal Oak.

In announcing the plans to initiate a "transit-oriented development framework," WA3 says the creation of "improved public transit that includes a rapid transit service along the Woodward corridor, including governance, and funding through a regional transit authority, is a significant step toward a larger system that will support the development of jobs and business investments throughout the region, linking Oakland County."

Jana Ecker, chair of the task force and city of Birmingham planning director, says in a statement announcing the consultant's hiring, "We look forward to working with them as we complete the initial data gathering phases and begin to broaden our engagement with the communities along this historic All-American Road."

The task force and LSL Planning will outline existing conditions, transportation patterns, and needs and goals of each community as well as the Southern Oakland County region while building broad support and attempting to ensure that each city's unique character is preserved.

Source: Lori Ella Miller, spokesperson, Woodward Avenue Action Association
Writer: Kim North Shine

Auburn Hills prepares for wave of electric vehicles

Auburn Hills is preparing for a world where electric vehicle chargers are commonplace in new construction, where they're as prevalent in parking lots as handicapped spots and where there will be an interconnected network of charging stations similar to the cell phone towers that have made communication so instant.

The city that's home to Chrysler Group has passed an ordinance, believed to be the first in Michigan and patterned off the best practices of communities in other states, that will encourage developers, builders, home owners and business owners, to make electric car charging stations a regular part of construction.

The Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Ordinance passed on July 11th will also offer guidance during construction and ideally save time now and money in the future, says Steven Cohen, director of community development for Auburn Hills.

"Our main goal was to raise awareness about the infrastructure that's needed to support electric vehicles," Cohen says. "We want to share with homeowners, developers and also with municipal planners throughout the state that this is something that's coming.  We want to support this technological innovation in the auto industry."

He says an ordinance like this one encourages, but does not require, property owners to "rough in" their home garages or parking lots for future charging station installations. It cuts red tape and makes them easy to install. Making an electric charging station part of a home garage is simple and similar to the electric lines and circuits needed to power something like a refrigerator or air conditioning unit, but is much cheaper to install when the home is being built.

"The electric vehicle is not going to take over the market, but there's going to be a sizable segment of motorists that will demand a convenient network of charging stations.  Michigan communities will need to prepare for this anticipated consumer demand and be ready when it comes," Cohen says.

By 2015, all automakers will offer electric vehicles as the federal government encourages alternative forms of energy in an effort to lessen America's reliance on gasoline, Cohen says.

"This innovation is good for Detroit, good for Michigan, and good for America," Cohen says. "We encourage Michigan communities to proactively plan for and adapt to this paradigm shift in how vehicles will be refueled. Thousands of electric vehicles, like the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf, will be on the road before we know it. It is very exciting."

Source: Steven Cohen, director of community development, city of Auburn Hills

Writer: Kim North Shine

Next stop: Dearborn. New train station pulling in

Construction on a new train station in Dearborn could be weeks away now that several key agreements are signed.

The $28.2-million project formally known as the Dearborn Intermodal Passenger Rail Facility will be located on Michigan Avenue west of the Southfield Freeway and replace an old, outdated station that takes riders across the railroad tracks.

The new station will feature a bridge over the tracks.

"The bridge will be a safer way to cross," says Barry Murray, Dearborn's director of economic and community development.
The new station will be served by Amtrak and provide quick access to some of the city's top institutions, including Henry Ford Hospital, The University of Michigan at Dearborn, The Henry Ford and Greenfield Village, and the west end of downtown.

Murray says conference calls this week with federal rail officials will hopefully result in the release of the federal funds that are part of an economic stimulus grant.

Key agreements that were reached and required for the release of the money include the hiring of the architectural firm, Neumann Smith, and the construction manager, Tooles & Clark.

"We're very hopeful the grant will be obligated sometime very soon, maybe 30 days is a good number to put on it," Murray says. "It's really hard to say for sure. We've been saying 30 days for a long time, but I think we're really close."

Source: Barry Murray, director of economic and community development, city of Dearborn
Writer: Kim North Shine

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