Development News

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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

Hungry? Tense? Downtown Plymouth's new eateries and spa can revive you

If eating is on the agenda, then downtown Plymouth has an expanding menu.

Panache, an upscale restaurant, is opening on Forest in place of the 1999 Tavern, which closed late last year, Plymouth Downtown Development Director Tony Bruscato says.

Nearby, Grape Expectations is reopening as Zin, with a list of 100 changing, seasonal wines and a tapas menu.

Also on Forest, Bagel Fragel is opening in a vacant spot and bringing its twist on bagels to Plymouth.

Perfectly Sweet Cakes and Desserts has opened inside the Boule Artisan Bakery on Ann Arbor Trail.

And down the street at the prominent southeast corner of Main and Ann Arbor Trail, an old Amoco station is making way for a new building that may house a complex of restaurants, Bruscato says. The planning commission recently approved the site plan, limiting the building to two stories instead of three - a point of contention for downtown business owners concerned about inadequate parking.

Bruscato says it is unclear what exactly will go in to the building, but that construction will start within days.

Restaurants aren't the only new game in town. The Agio Spa at 444 S. Main opened about two weeks ago, in place of Spa Julianna, which closed when the owner died, Bruscato says. It offers massage, waxing, Vichy showers, hydrotherapy, facials and hair and body treatments.

"When many other downtowns are just hoping to hang on to what they have or losing businesses," Bruscato says, "we're still seeing new businesses coming."

Source: Tony Bruscato, director, Plymouth 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

Incentives available for energy efficient upgrades to multifamily housing

While utilities often target energy efficiency programs directly towards easier-to-reach individual residential customers, multifamily housing properties have typically been slow adopters. But those programs are out there. In 2010 DTE Energy outfitted almost 38,000 apartments and other multi-family housing properties with CFL bulbs, faucet aerators, and low-flow showerheads.

And through the end of 2011, Consumers Energy is offering a no-charge energy assessment and rebate program for multifamily properties at least five units in size that are serviced by Consumers Energy.

The Consumers Energy Savings Solutions program is offering free energy assessments of lighting, heating, cooling, and water heating systems in common areas, as well as complimentary installations of CFLs, energy-efficient showerheads, and faucet aerators in individual living quarters. Rebates include, among other things: $1.50 per lightbulb change, $18 for a furnace tune-up, and $75 per water heater replacement.

"Owners and managers will see an overhead savings as well as savings for their tenants' utility bills because tenants typically pay for their electric," says Thomas Glendening, program manager for multifamily at ICF International, the contractor for Consumers Energy efficiency programs.

There's also room for inventiveness in energy savings options. "Folks can come to the table with custom energy-efficiency ideas, and as long as they can show us savings through calculations that we can all agree upon, we rebate for a portion of the energy that's saved," Glendening says. The utility is offering incentives up to $100,000 on the gas side and up to $25,000 on the electric side per facility.

Total funds available under the program are capped, Glendening says, so property owners and managers should apply well before year-end.

Source: Thomas Glendening, program manager for multifamily at ICF International; DTE Energy
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

Henniges Automotive builds green world headquarters in Auburn Hills

Henniges Automotive, a global supplier of sealing and anti-vibration systems, is building its world headquarters in Auburn Hills.

The four-year-old company that has 11 manufacturing plants, four engineering and technology centers and 4,500 employees in North America, Europe and China is building a 55,000-square-foot office at the Oakland Technology Park at I-75 and University. Construction has begun and the office should be open by June 2012, says Henniges spokesperson Geri Gasperut. The headquarters has 141 employees and anticipates hiring more if anticipated business contracts come through. Henniges' products seal interior compartments of vehicles from water, dust and air leakage and reduce noice, vibration and harshness.

The new building will be LEED certified by the U.S. Green Building Council, It will use materials sourced from as close by as possible, energy efficient lighting, and implement conservation practices, among other steps, Gasperut says.

Gasperut says the company actually needed a smaller building to replace one that was too large, and after looking at numerous places to remodel, found the most competitive deal with Schostak Brothers and Co., which bought the land at a great price from Chrysler Corp. General Development, the general contractor, was also able to stay lean on the pricing so Henniges decided to build new.

"It's really exciting to be able to build a building exactly the way we want it, for work flow and hopefully we get some creative workspace designs," Gasperut says.

She says there's also excitement at the company about being located in the technology park and near Oakland University and Oakland Community College.

"The businesses at the technology park, being automotive based and auto supply could be a good thing," she says. "And the attraction beyond that is the universities that are around there and the resources we can pull from them. Hopefully there's a pool of potential employees."

And, she adds, "the community seems really interested in working with us, which is really good."

Auburn Hills City Manager Pete Auger says the fast growth of the Oakland Technology Park confirms the city's appeal to business, especially those with global operations. 

"With 40 international companies from 32 different countries located in Auburn Hills, we have earned the right early in our city's history to call Auburn Hills the premier global manufacturing address in the Midwest," Auger says in a statement. "Our success in attracting Henniges and other national and international manufacturers to the city, either directly or through developers, reaffirms that the Auburn Hills Advantage includes our reputation for being nimble, resourceful and business-friendly."  

Auger went on to say that Henniges' decision to pursue LEED Certification will be supported by the city, which he says was the first in Michigan to have a policy that encourages and assists developers in seeking LEED certification. 

"Even companies that aren't as aggressive in obtaining LEED certification as Henniges tend to surpass their initial goals for energy efficiencies because Auburn Hills' personnel have the knowledge to guide them during the building process," he says.

Source: Geri Gasperut, vice president of human resources, Henniges Automotive
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

New St. Joe's Hospital complex transforms Pontiac & Woodward Ave

St. Joseph Mercy Hospital Oakland is in the midst of a massive construction project that will add a medical tower, new parking areas, pedestrian bridges, including a climate-controlled one over Woodward Avenue, a soaring, contemporary lobby and more to its complex on Woodward near Square Lake Road.

The project, which involves demolition of current buildings and redesign of other facilities, will also bring a new ring road around the main hospital.

Its centerpiece is the new eight-story, 301,000-square-foot South Tower, which will have 208 rooms outfitted with the latest medical technology in patient care. St. Joseph Mercy Oakland is a 443-bed acute care, teaching and community hospital.

The $129-million project will be completed by fall of 2013 and lead to the creation of about 300 new jobs, says St. Joseph Mercy Oakland President and CEO Jack Weiner.

Officially the groundbreaking is Sept. 20, but some of the work has already begun.

Weiner says the modern hospital with its new tower, connectors, parking amenities and other features seen from Woodward Avenue will "create excitement on the way into town."

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Jack Weiner, president and CEO, St. Joseph Mercy Oakland

The 'dot's downtown is cooking up new eateries

At least three new culinary options are opening up in downtown Wyandotte in coming weeks.

Coastal Thai will open at 140 Sycamore. The Sushi Restaurant will open at 130 Maple. Sweet Nothings, opening in September, will sell its goodies, including custom designed cakes made by award-winning bakers, from 145 Maple. Desserts such as pineapple upside-down cakes and fudgie jumbo brownies are on the bakery menu of this seven-year-old establishment.

The new businesses are a few of many additions to the city's center, which is expected to see a loft and retail development called the Lofts at Willow Tree, and more businesses and public projects related to the waterfront that runs along the city and more.

"There's a lot going on," says Natalie Rankine, executive director of the Wyandotte Downtown Development Authority.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Natalie Rankine, executive director of the Wyandotte Downtown Development Authority

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

New transit center in Pontiac welcomes train, bus commuters

A new transit center opened this week in Pontiac, giving residents and commuters a new, faster, more accessible and appealing way to travel, and the community an economic lift.

The 4,500-square-foot intermodal station at 51000 Woodward opened Aug. 8 and is a starting and stopping point for passengers on Amtrak trains, SMART buses and Greyhound bus lines. Passengers and crew members of the transportation providers now have a modern-designed lobby, indoor and outdoor seating for bus stops and under canopies and other conveniences and comforts.

The Pontiac stop is already showing that train travel is catching on in metro Detroit. Stats for 2010 train ridership in or out of Pontiac increased 10 percent from 2009, for a total of 16,000 riders using the station for train travel. Figures for 2011 are on pace to exceed 2010.

Michigan's state transportation director, Kirk T. Steudle, in a statement calls the station "an excellent example of why it's important for the state of Michigan to invest in safe, modern, accessible transit buildings…"

U.S. Rep. Gary Peters says in a statement announcing the opening that, "transit systems offer safe, affordable, accessible transportation options that benefit commuters, stimulate new business development within the community, and create jobs through the building and maintenance of critical infrastructure. We're making a commitment to the economic development of Pontiac, both today and in the future…"

State Rep. Tim Melton adds, "Not only will this instantly create good jobs for our residents, but this facility will also open numerous employment and economic opportunities for the citizens of Pontiac to access workplaces that, at one time may simply have been too far out of reach. I know that Pontiac is headed in the right direction and this is yet another indication of that progress."

Source: John Richard, Michigan Department of Transportation
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
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