Development News

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Coffee, groceries and high-end condos: Regional development news round-up for August

It's been another busy month for development news in metropolitan Detroit. Let's catch up on some more development stories from the past four weeks.

The Red Dot Coffee Company, a family-owned coffee shop, celebrated its grand opening in Northville this month. Located in an old house at 505 N. Center St., Red Dot buys its coffee beans from Mad Cap Roasting Company in Grand Rapids. Co-owner Arlita Ibach tells the Observer & Eccentric newspaper, "We weigh out our beans and grind them at specific settings based on the type of coffee and amount of humidity throughout the day to make sure that we consistently have high-quality coffee."

The historic Rochester Elevator Co. building has stood in the same spot in downtown Rochester for 136 years but that all could change soon as developers seek to build a new condominium building on its site. 42 condominiums priced between roughly $500,000 and $1 million make up the Residences at Water Street development, which would replace the Elevator building. The team of developers has been in talks with the city to disassemble and reassemble the historic building at a site of the city's choosing. The developers would pay for the project.

Westborn Market opened its fourth grocery store, this one in an old post office building in downtown Plymouth. The repurposing of the old post office preserves the building, which dates back to 1935. Westborn is a Michigan-based grocer and is big on Michigan-based products, purchasing its produce from Eastern Market nearly every day of the week. Among the historic building features preserved include original wood and terrazzo flooring, post-office boxes, woodwork, and the Plymouth History mural by Carlos Lopez.

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

Public input sought for Oakland County's Highland Recreation Area

Highland Recreation Area and Haven Hill are receiving attention from public officials, planners, and citizens interested in both the future and past of these protected pieces of Michigan wilderness.

Phase 2 of the General Management Plan for the Highland Recreation Area is being developed and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Parks & Recreation Division is asking the public for their input. The DNR wants to know what recreation opportunities people are looking for in the Highland Recreation Area. The plan will also assist the DNR in protecting and preserving the park's natural assets.

Highland Recreation Area is a 5,900-acre site located east of Highland Township. Year-round recreation activities include hiking, cross-country skiing, mountain biking, and horse riding trails. Fishing and boating occur on four different lakes while three recreation areas currently offer opportunities for picnics, horseshoes, volleyball, and swimming.

Visit the DNR website for more information on the public input sessions.

On Friday, Sept. 9, 2016, Oakland County is holding a Planners Gathering at the Edsel Ford Barn located at Haven Hill. A walking tour and presentation on the history and legacy of Michigan's state parks and recreation areas will be conducted, examining what took place to establish these public lands and what is necessary to preserve them for future generations.

Haven Hill, a 721-acre state-managed Natural Area, is a uniquely unspoiled tract of land located within the Highland Recreation Area. Haven Hill boasts each of southern Michigan's principal forest types, from tamarack to cedar, beech-maple to oak-hickory.

The land was once the private property of Edsel and Eleanor Ford, where they built an estate that still stands today. Following Edsel's death in 1943, the land was sold to the state of Michigan in 1946. Eventually management was transferred to the DNR. The land has been largely left undisturbed for nearly 75 years.

Registration for the event is located here.

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

Harrison Township road fix spurs $56.6 million in investment

A promised fix to a Harrison Township road has paved the way for major business and jobs investment by a Chinese automotive firm. That path, Executive Drive, runs parallel to I-94 between the Interstate and Selfridge Air National Guard Base and services over a dozen businesses in an adjacent industrial park.
One of those businesses is Yanfeng Automotive Interiors, a Chinese automotive interiors supplier. Once local officials confirmed plans to rebuild Executive Drive for the first time in its 43-year existence, Yanfeng committed a $56.6 million investment in renovating a vacant building along the roadway; officials expect the investment could generate up to 519 jobs for the Macomb County site.

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel and a host of area business leaders and local and state officials gathered Wednesday, Aug. 10 for a ribbon-cutting, celebrating the official re-opening of the road.

"Executive Drive is a prime example of how the growth of private industry can spur strategic investment in our infrastructure," says Hackel. "Working alongside Yanfeng (Automotive Interiors), our transportation service providers, economic developers and our community partners, we were able to modernize this key industrial roadway."

Built in 1973, Executive Drive has seen few improvements over its 43-year-long lifespan. The resulting deterioration had construction crews tearing up the road and starting over. Beginning April 4, 2016, crews removed the road to its base and installed new infrastructure before rebuilding Executive Drive. An enhanced drainage system replaced the old one and nearby fire hydrants and the municipal fire suppression system received upgrades. A continuous sidewalk was also installed.

The Executive Drive reconstruction received funding from both the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and the Macomb County Department of Roads. MDOT awarded a $1,634,640 Transportation Economic Development Fund grant while Macomb County committed an additional $700,560 to the project.

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

Future of Northland Center in Southfield to be discussed at public meeting

Concerned citizens and curious onlookers alike are invited to attend a public input meeting for the redevelopment of the Northland Center site in Southfield. 
 
The shuttered mall—once America's largest—is scheduled to come down and a new development is expected to rise in its place. The public input meeting is to allow residents the opportunity to let the city and developers hear their opinions on what should happen with the 114-acre site.

The public input meeting is being held Tuesday, Aug. 23 from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Southfield Public Library Auditorium, located at 26300 Evergreen Rd. A similar forum was held June 22.

Northland Center is sentimental for many across metro Detroit. The mall, which opened in 1954 and closed in 2014, had many features in addition to the stores, including unique works of art and even a nuclear fallout shelter. One of those works, the Boy and the Bear, was saved by a fundraising campaign that received more than $55,000 in donations.

Jerry Naftaly, a former mayor of nearby Oak Park who says that, during his childhood, the mall was his family's downtown, wrote a book about Northland Center. In an interview published in July, he told Metromode's Maureen McDonald that, "The last mall manager took me on a tour of the tunnels that once served as pathways for truck deliveries to Northland stores, including places for storage and 484 rooms of varied sizes. There were old mannequins, computer junk, purses and shoes, and an anonymous letter from a guy who squatted a month down under the mall." 
 
The tunnels and the bomb shelter on the lowest level will add to the demolition cost, which the city estimates at $8 to $10 million.
 
Read more about Northland Mall >>>

Representatives from architecture, engineering, and planning firm OHM Advisors, commissioned by the city to create a master plan for the redevelopment, will be on hand at the public input meeting. They will also present their latest thinking on the Northland Center site.

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

New workforce development opportunities available, thanks to regional partnerships

Metro Detroiters looking to pursue careers in fields as varied as nursing, machining, IT work, and more are being offered a new path to job training and workforce development, thanks to a recent partnership between Focus: HOPE and a handful of local educational and business organizations. Two Oakland County institutions, Oakland University and Oakland Community College, are among the organizations offering training for Focus: HOPE participants.

The Steps for Success Program, a partnership between OCC, Focus: HOPE, and the Detroit Regional Chamber Fund, offers students continued academic and social support throughout their schooling. Students attend the first semester of school at the Focus: HOPE campus and transition to OCC for their remaining courses. A Focus: HOPE Student Success Coach/Case Manager will follow the student throughout their studies, offering tutoring services, workshops, and additional support.

Steps for Success is available to current and newly enrolled students at OCC as well as students already involved with Focus: HOPE.

For students wanting to get into the nursing field, Focus: HOPE has partnered with Oakland University for a workforce training program. Focus: HOPE's program, the Machinist Training Institute, is also currently forming new classes. That program has graduated hundreds of students into the manufacturing and automotive sectors.

To qualify for any of the programs, students must pass both math and English assessments administered by Focus: HOPE.

More information is available through Focus: HOPE by website, email, or (313) 494-4300.

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

Orion Township auto plant ranked eighth in nation for renewable energy usage

Workers at the General Motors Orion Assembly plant are readying the Chevrolet Bolt EV for its debut, and they're doing so in one of the nation's top facilities for renewable energy usage.
 
Orion Assembly was recently ranked eighth among users of renewable energy generated onsite among a group formed by the U.S. EPA, the Green Power Partners. It's news that fits for the Bolt EV, GM's new all-electric vehicle.

According to the company, 54 percent of the General Motors Orion Assembly plant is powered by clean energy. GM accomplishes this by capturing and using the methane gas emitted from a nearby landfill, turning the decomposing garbage into energy. Renewable energy accounts for $1 million in savings a year for the plant in Orion Township.

In addition to utilizing methane gas from a nearby landfill, Orion Assembly also sends energy back to the grid with its 350-kilowatt solar array. While it has a goal of promoting using 125 megawatts of renewable energy by 2020, the company says it will have already exceeded that goal before the end of 2016.

The plant also cuts down energy costs through its three-wet process, where three layers of paint are applied before running the Bolt EV for just one trip through the drying oven, rather than three. 

"EPA applauds Orion Assembly for its innovation in generating green power from an onsite landfill gas energy system and for taking a leadership position on the environment," says James Critchfield, manager of the Green Power Partnership.

The Green Power Partnership is a program launched by the EPA in 2001, encouraging companies to embrace renewable electricity through technical assistance and recognition. According to the EPA, green power is that of the highest environmental benefit.

In 2013, Orion Assembly met the EPA’s ENERGY STAR Challenge for Industry when it lowered its energy intensity by 67 percent, avoiding 42,758 tons of CO2 emissions.

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

Public input sought for downtown Farmington master plan

An update to the Farmington's Downtown Master Plan is imminent. It's the first update since 2009 and the Downtown Master Plan 2016 Steering Team is asking for public input as they seek to improve and grow downtown Farmington.

An online survey requests the opinions of citizens and other stakeholders on a range of topics, from pedestrian safety to business growth, art installations, and public parking. The online survey closes Wednesday, Aug. 10.

For those preferring an informative in-person session, a community gathering and open house will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Mike Greer Photography space at 33316 Grand River Ave. on Tuesday, Aug. 9. It's an opportunity for interested parties to get a preview of current design concepts.

Annette Knowles, Farmington's Downtown Development Authority Executive Director, says that the public input stage is important, giving stakeholders and citizens both better understanding and ownership of the process.

Mayor William Galvin, also a member of the Farmington DDA, says that the most recent master plan resulted in real progress. 
 
"Ordinances were updated. Streetscapes were installed. Studies were completed. Now, it’s time to coalesce those resources in a plan that will grow the downtown economy and tax base," he says.

The City of Farmington and the Farmington DDA retained OHM Advisors to complete the master plan. The Livonia-based architecture, engineering, and planning firm has worked on projects throughout the region, state, and country. Recent projects include the redeveloped city hall in nearby Westland and a redesigned freeway interchange at M-52 and 26 Mile Rd.

A 15-member committee of city officials and local stakeholders is supervising the project.

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

Regional development news round-up for July

It's been another busy month for development news in metropolitan Detroit. Let's catch up on some more development stories from the past four weeks.

The former Save-A-Lot site in downtown Ferndale will be demolished, and the Ferndale Haus Lofts will be built in its place. The mixed-use development will include approximately 90 market-rate apartments and 10,800 sq. ft. of office/retail space. The Michigan Strategic Fund approved $2,241,384 in local and school tax capture for the project. According to a release by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the mixed-use development will generate $17.9 million in local investment and create 14 full-time jobs.

Macomb County experienced a 30 percent drop in tax-foreclosures since last year. 318 parcels were foreclosed for non-payment of taxes for 2013 and the years prior, a drop from last year's total of 449 parcels. The county launched a Keep Macomb Your Home campaign in early March, and Macomb officials say there was a sharp increase in taxpayers contacting the treasurer office upon its release.

The 125-acre Detroit House of Corrections site in Plymouth is closer to being demolished and eventually redeveloped, with the Michigan Land Bank Fast Track Authority awarding a contract to ATC Group of Novi for preliminary environmental analysis of the property. The building has been vacant since 2004 and is largely characterized as an eyesore. Demolition could begin before the end of 2016.

The Ferndale restaurant Pop's for Italian is expanding, taking over part of a neighboring restaurant the Daily Dinette. Both restaurants are owned by Kramer Restaurant Group. Owner Brian Kramer says expanding Pop's is required because of a new brunch service, demand for large party seating, and the need to prepare fresh pasta and pizza dough daily.

Voting for Michigan Community Excellence Awards comes to a close July 30. The program celebrates placemaking projects throughout the state. Past winners include the Westland City Hall Retrofit, Ironwood Railroad Depot Park, and Cops & Doughnuts Bakery in Clare. Vote online today.

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

Oxford brewery on track to open this fall

Everything is falling into place for HomeGrown Brewing Company, a brewery we first wrote about in Oct. 2015. The downtown Oxford brewery has announced that it is on its way to a fall opening. Construction is currently underway on the building, the former Veterans Memorial Civic Center on Washington Street.

The brewery has also released its inaugural beer menu including a Cream Ale, Belgian Wheat, Australian-hopped IPA, Brown Ale, and a Stout.
 
The sixth and final beer style on the permanent beer menu is a combination between an Amber- and a Wheat-style beer. John Powers, head brewer and owner of HomeGrown, calls the hybrid beer a Whamber Ale. Its inclusion on the menu is a result of an online poll the company had, asking their fans and Facebook followers which beer should make the permanent menu. The Whamber Ale won.

Powers says the poll was designed to make the craft beer world less exclusive.

"We will absolutely be offering creative experimental seasonal brews, like a chocolate coffee porter in winter and a spiced pumpkin ale in the fall, but our flagship beers will really concentrate on the fundamentals of brewing a solid pint," John says in a statement.

As for the building itself, renovation work on the old Veterans Memorial Civic Center has revealed some historic details hidden away years ago. Original brickwork, wood flooring, and an arched window were all revealed during demolition. Powers says the brewery is working to feature the historic details into their design.

A food menu is also planned, complementing a large dining area, sitting room, and beer garden. An event hall will be upstairs.

HomeGrown Brewing Company is located at 28 N. Washington St. in Oxford.

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

Ferndale vegan restaurant expands hours, offers lunch and carry out

The restaurant business is healthy in downtown Ferndale and that's certainly true for GreenSpace Cafe. The plant-based vegan restaurant, which opened its doors for cocktail and dinner service in December of 2015, is now featuring a lunch menu every Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The restaurant is co-owned by Dr. Joel Kahn and his son Daniel, who are focused on offering fresh, non-GMO, and organic ingredients in their plant-based vegan dishes. Even the juices and signature cocktails feature fresh ingredients. Dr. Joel Kahn is a cardiologist and long-time vegan who often performs public speaking engagements, extolling the benefits of healthy eating.

The new GreenSpace lunch menu features some dinner favorites like the house-made nut cheese board and the superfood salad, which includes quinoa, radish sprouts, hemp hearts, and more. Also available for lunch is the farro lentil burger and tomatillo gazpacho and masoor dahl soups.

"The menu will offer the vibrant vegan fare our customers love, including new items along with some of our greatest hits, but more casual, and in lunch-sized portions," says Dr. Joel Kahn.

The GreenSpace menu changes with the seasons. This is because the Kahns shop at local farmers markets for many of their ingredients, shaping the menu around which fresh foods are in season. Cooks avoid excessive amounts of salts, oils, and sugars and don't use kitchen equipment like fryers and microwaves to prepare the dishes. No animal products are used at GreenSpace Cafe. Cocktails are made as healthy as possible, using fruits, botanicals, and raw juices to make the drinks.

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

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

Winning mural chosen for new park in Rochester Hills

After almost three months and nearly 16,000 votes, a winner has been selected in the Chief Financial Credit Union Rochester Community Mural contest. Christine Gibson is the winning artist, beating out two other finalists in a public vote. Her piece will soon be installed along the Clinton River Trail in the new Lake Norcentra Park at Rochester College.

At 7,496 votes, Gibson's mural garnered nearly half of all those cast. The simple but evocative image displays a day along the trail in a style that makes sense for Gibson, who works as a children's book illustrator. Gibson, a mother of 5, lives in Rochester Hills.

"One of my very favorite things to do is bicycle the Clinton River Trail with my family," Gibson says in a statement. "I set a goal to log 1,000 cumulative miles each summer, stopping at the Rochester Hills Public Library, Red Knapps, or Dairy Queen along the way. The trail is never the same from one week to the nextchanging in color, fragrances and wildlife, always friendly faces along the way, always spotlessly clean and safe, and is a true treasure in our community."

Gibson's mural will cover 1,600 sq. ft. along the trail. She also wins a $2,000 cash prize.

BT Irwin is project manager of Lake Norcentra Park. In an interview conducted in June, Irwin said that the community was passionate about the project and vocal about which mural was best for the park. "It's satisfying to see people take notice and react," he said.

Lake Norcentra Park is 14 acres and includes bluffs, wetlands, and woodlands throughout its landscape. Rochester College recently partnered with Chief Financial Credit Union to improve the park, which is open to the public. It is located at 800 W. Avon Rd. in Rochester Hills.

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

Coffee, books, music, movies, and more: New and used retailer to open in Utica

The specialty retailer 2nd & Charles is expanding its presence in Michigan with a new store in Utica. The location will be its second, complementing an Auburn Hills store which opened in 2013.

In addition to the more than 300,000 items the store boasts in daily inventory, the national chain has announced that the Utica location will be the very first of its nearly 30 locations to host an on-site coffee bar. Whole-bean coffee, full-leaf tea, snacks, and more will be on offer at the first of its kind, ChuckStop.

2nd & Charles has stores in 15 states, from Michigan to Texas, Delaware to Colorado.

The store offers a wide range of products; both used and new. Among its inventory are books, vinyl records, CDs, DVDs, Blu-ray, video games, video game systems, comic books, electronics, toys, collectibles, and more. 2nd & Charles also buys items from customers in exchange for either cash or store credit.

"2nd & Charles offers a very different kind of shopping and trading experience," Scott Kappler, vice president of marketing for 2nd & Charles, says in a statement. "Utica’s dynamic energy makes it the perfect place to further expand our presence in Michigan, and we look forward to sharing all the personal and profound treasures that 2nd & Charles has to offer with the community."

According to store representatives, 2nd & Charles replenishes stock daily, creating a new experience on each customer's visit. The store's items take up over three miles of shelf space. More than 50 employees will be hired to staff the Utica location.

2nd & Charles is located at 45290 Utica Park Blvd. in the Utica Park Place shopping center. Expect an opening in late July.

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

Automotive group to build new headquarters and tech center in Auburn Hills

The state of Michigan and the City of Auburn Hills beat out South Carolina in a bid for the FEV Group and its 750 jobs. 
 
The German powertrain and vehicle design engineering company will build a new North American headquarters in Auburn Hills. Currently already located in Auburn Hills, the company considered a move to South Carolina before a combination of a grant by Michigan and property tax abatement by Auburn Hills helped to convince FEV Group to build its new state-of-the-art facilities in the city in which it currently resides.

The company employs approximately 500 people at its current Auburn Hills facility. FEV Group will hire an additional 250 employees once the new headquarters is built. The promise of 250 new jobs led the state of Michigan to award the company a $1.2 million Michigan Business Development Program performance-based grant.

The new building itself will serve not only as a headquarters but also as a tech center and engineering services facility. More than $27 million will be invested in the development.

The FEV Group is just one of several businesses to recently receive incentives from the Michigan Strategic Fund,  which was announced Tuesday, June 28. In total, the businesses receiving incentives are expected to create approximately 878 jobs and $85 million in private capital investments, says the state.

"The commitment by these companies to grow and create jobs in Michigan will strengthen our communities and fuel more and better jobs for our talented workforce," Gov. Rick Snyder says in a statement. "Today’s investments in Michigan and its people show that our efforts are making our state a desirable location for businesses to locate, grow and thrive."

FEV Group was founded in Germany in 1978. The company founded FEV North America in California in 1985 before moving that headquarters to Michigan in 1988.

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

Regional development news round-up for June

It's been another busy month for development news in metropolitan Detroit. Let's catch up on some more development stories from the past four weeks.

Small for-profit businesses in the city of Pontiac are being encouraged to apply for Pitch 'N Pontiac, a small business competition that awards cash prizes and pro bono business consulting services. Seven finalists will be selected for a Pitch event on Aug. 31 where the $5,000 grand prize will be awarded as well as $3,000 for second place and $2,000 for third. The deadline to apply is Friday, July 29 at 5 p.m. Non-profits and franchises are not eligible for the contest.

Ten Oakland County communities were recognized for their vibrant downtown areas, each receiving perfect "10 out of 10" scores from the National Main Street Center in Chicago. The towns were rated on a range of criteria that included community support and historic preservation. Receiving perfect scores were Clawson, Farmington, Ferndale, Franklin, Highland, Holly, Lake Orion, Ortonville, Oxford, and Rochester.

In Wixom, a new facility is being built by TREMEC Corporation, creating 133 jobs and $54 million in total investment. The manufacturer of high-performance vehicle transmissions is receiving a $731,500 Michigan Business Development Program performance-based grant and the city of Wixom is offering property tax abatement.

Also receiving a Michigan Business Development Program performance-based grant is Karma Automotive, which is being awarded $450,000 from the state for establishing an automotive engineering and purchasing hub in Troy. The company, which designs and manufactures luxury hybrid vehicles, will create up to 150 jobs and a $3.6 million investment. The city of Troy is providing the company marketing and promotional assistance as part of the deal.

A Peregrine Falcon chick hatched on the 11th floor of the Old Macomb County Building. Macomb County Executive Mark A. Hackel named the bird Grace, after his first-grade teacher and as a nod to all educators.

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

Public art competition in Rochester's Lake Norcentra Park opens polls to the public

Local officials, take note. If you want to stir up the passions of the populace, hold a public art competition. That's what BT Irwin is proving in the community of Rochester.

In their efforts to activate Lake Norcentra Park, a 14-acre park located on the Rochester College campus and along the Clinton River Trail, a panel of local artists and city officials have whittled down submissions for a 1,600 sq. ft. mural along the trail to just three finalists. Now, it's up to a public vote to determine which of the murals will be put in place.

BT Irwin, project manager for the Lake Norcentra Park redevelopment, is pleased with the process so far. He says the public art competition has gotten the community involved in reimagining the park, something he expected when first coming up with the idea. Good art will do that, says Irwin.

Community members haven't been shy about approaching Irwin to let him know which mural deserves to be selected for installation. It's out of his hands now, however, and up to the community and the public vote. Over 3,000 votes have been placed since online polls opened just one week ago. For Irwin, it's a can't-lose situation. No matter which piece is selected, Lake Norcentra Park and its surrounding communities benefit.

"What's happening in Lake Norcentra Park is an effort to transform 14 acres of land that's been largely unused for decades," says Irwin. "We want people to claim ownership of the space and make it their own. One way you can do that is through public art."

Lake Norcentra Park is 14 acres and includes bluffs, wetlands, and woodlands throughout its landscape. Rochester College recently partnered with Chief Financial Credit Union to improve the park, which is open to the public. It is located at 800 W. Avon Rd. in Rochester Hills.

Voting is open and available through July 8 at www.rochestermural.org.

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