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Regional development news round-up for May

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.

A Planners Gathering is being held in the settlement of Lakeville in Addison Township, which is located in northeast Oakland County. The event will focus on the civic benefits of historic preservation. Bruce Pearson, Addison Township Supervisor, will show how preservation techniques have improved life in the township while Todd Elder, owner of the Lakeville Mill, will demonstrate his own restoration methods that saved the mill. The event is being held at the Celtic Knot in Leonard on Friday, June 3. Tickets are available online.

Michigan's Main Streets are set to see a boost as the state readjusts its historic downtown and commercial district revitalization efforts. The newly rebranded Main Street America, formerly Main Street Network, will adopt a more preservation-focused philosophy in its attempts to reinvigorate downtown areas across southeastern Michigan and throughout the state.

Cosworth, the high-performance automotive engineering and manufacturing company based in Northampton, UK, is setting up shop in Shelby Township. At least 50 jobs will be created as Cosworth establishes its U.S. presence, producing high-performance cylinder heads for an automotive original equipment manufacturer (OEM). Michigan raced past Indiana in winning the company over, offering a $2.1 million Michigan Business Development Program performance-based loan in the process. If Cosworth reaches certain job creation milestones, the loan becomes a grant.

The Townsend Hotel has begun the last phase of its multi-year overhaul with the closing of the Corner. The 2,000 sq. ft. bar is being redeveloped as a private dining and meeting space. Since renovations began in 2012, the well-renowned Birmingham hotel has refreshed all of its 150 guest rooms, meeting facilities, public areas, and the Rugby Grille restaurant.

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

Vacant land fair to be held in Pontiac

A vacant land fair titled "Lots of Possibilities" is being held in the city of Pontiac Saturday, May 7. More than 900 vacant parcels are for sale and will be on display at Wisner Memorial Stadium beginning at 11:00 a.m. The city lots measure approximately 50 by 100 feet and are priced at $250 or less per parcel.

The vacant land fair will have an urban farming flair, and city officials are expecting a big turnout. The city has partnered with UrbanFarming.org, a national advocacy group dedicated to the proliferation of urban farms. That organization, along with goat farmers, honey bee keepers, and a number of sponsors, will be on hand to help prospective buyers give vision to the vacant lots.

Dayne Thomas, Chair of the Pontiac Planning Commission, says the purpose of the vacant land fair is to eradicate blight. The planning commission wants to see the land utilized. He says any proposal will be considered and, if deemed viable, will most likely be approved. An application and questionnaire process will help weed out speculators and others seeking to purchase lots and not do anything with them.

"We have the questionnaires because we don't want people who will take the lots and sit on them with no plans to clean them up," says Thomas. "It's not perfect, but it's a sort of checks and balances to provide accountability to the system."

The first vacant land fair was held last summer, without the urban farming theme. That experience led Thomas to realize that the land fairs couldn't be one-and-done events. He says the city will hold the fairs each spring, summer, and fall until they're no longer deemed necessary.

Lots of Possibilities starts at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, May 7. Wisner Memorial Stadium is located at 441 Cesar Chavez Ave. in Pontiac.

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

Artist opens Atom Art gallery in Ferndale

Atom Art, the new gallery that just opened in Ferndale, has quite the origin tale. And for an art gallery in Ferndale, that's as it should be. Atom Kaiser -- his real name bestowed on him by a hippie mother, he says -- moved around a lot as a kid, spending time in places like Jamaica and Michigan. It wouldn't be the last time he returned to Michigan.

As a younger man, Kaiser was interested in neurology and planned to pursue studies in the field. But a head injury altered his path -- and perhaps the way his brain worked, he theorizes. Kaiser says that the injury made him think in a more visual way and, after struggling with the side effects of his prescribed medications, found himself drawn to painting.

After two degrees in the visual arts, Kaiser moved to Barcelona, establishing himself in the art world there before a stay in Mexico City was cut short by his dad falling ill, which drew Kaiser back to Michigan. That's when he decided to open Atom Art in Ferndale.

Kaiser wants Atom Art to be different than the higher-end art galleries around metro Detroit. He wants to be more inclusive, offering more group shows and opportunities for less-established artists. He says he plans to keep the space sparse, leaving room for classes and whatever else artists may need.

"I'm an artist that has an art gallery, not a gallery owner collecting pieces," says Kaiser. "There's a difference."

Following a soft opening on February 6, Atom Art officially opened its doors April 16. Kaiser says he's been flattered by the warm reception he's received, from the artist community to the Ferndale Chamber of Commerce.

Atom Art is located at 522 E. Nine Mile Rd. in Ferndale, sharing the building with Go Comedy! Improv. It's generally open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., but hours change for special events.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shared workspace and idea incubator planned for downtown Rochester

A new kind of office is opening up to keep up with the rising number of floating workers, whether freelancers, work-from-home professionals, independent contractors, or any of those generally flexible employees who define the new way of working in this new economy.

Shared workspaces are giving home-based and vagabond workers who office at coffee shops, restaurants and other public places their own work place and more. It comes with a desk, internet, conference rooms, and other office supplies, along with the opportunity to collaborate, brainstorm and interact with co-workers in and out of their fields.

Shared workspaces can be found in Chicago, New York, San Diego, Denver, Austin, and even smaller cities in the U.S. and also across Europe.

Downtown Rochester is in the process of joining the list.

Rob Ray, president and organizer of ShareSpace Rochester, has found a 2,200-square foot, second floor space to lease at the Rochester Area Regional Athletics (or RA-RA) building downtown on Second Street. He expects to welcome workers by November 1.

For a membership - there are many levels - or drop-in fee, workspace sharers will have access to a desk, wi-fi, conference rooms, projectors and other office supplies -- even coffee. Some memberships come with a floating desk and other services for $25-$150 per month, depending on services. Or for $300 a month, a permanent work area with lockable file cabinets and other office equipment and supplies is available.

"This segment of workers keeps growing. As of late, with this whole economic malaise we're going through people are getting more creative in trying to find employment and thinking outside the box," says Ray.

Membership would also come with a reciprocal use of workspaces in other cities and countries, giving Rochester members an office when they travel and visitors to Detroit a space to work as well.

"With this you have a place that you're supposed to go to for work and the coffee is free," Ray says. "Instead of working on a 2-foot-by-2 foot little table where people are bustling around, you get a collaborative environment. It can be a place for inspiration or to get some feedback on an idea or you can just work on whatever it is you're working on."

Across metro Detroit there are groups participating in meet-ups for this very reason, but this gives them a permanent place. Ray sees ShareSpace Rochester as a pre-incubator where there's no need to have a proven business plan or financial stability to join, as is the case with most business incubators. He also hopes it will nurture the enthusiasm that comes from conferences such as TedX and Ignite.

"My hope is this space becomes the hub where these ideas and these people have a place to go so these ideas don't die," he says.

Ray pictures it working something like this: Members wanting to work undisturbed could display a red card, maybe on a coffee coaster, meaning, let them work. A green coaster would indicate willingness to hear ideas or just talk.

"It's more affordable than your own office and you pick up the social enterprise aspect of the co-working environment plus the resources we'll offer with conference rooms, copier, projector, coffee, wi-fi, the whole kit and caboodle," says Ray, whose architect friend will design the space pro bono. "And you can do it without being stuck in a coffee shop or a closet."

Source:  Rob Ray, president and organizer of ShareSpace Rochester
Writer:  Kim North Shine

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