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Belle Isle Disc Golf Course opens daily operations after three years of work

Belle Isle has seen a lot of changes over the last three years. Attempts at transferring the iconic island park from city to state control were proposed, rebuffed, and, after the appointment of emergency manager Kevyn Orr, eventually approved. And over the last three years, a small group that calls itself Detroit Disc Golf has been working with city and state officials to bring their sport to the city of Detroit.

After many volunteer clean-ups, tournaments, and discussions with the state, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has given Detroit Disc Golf the go-ahead to open Belle Isle Disc Golf Course for daily operations. The first 18 hole disc golf course in Detroit opens at 10 a.m. on Saturday, July 12.

The course will be open to the public July 12 through October 31 from noon to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. While a price of admission has yet to be set, Detroit Disc Golf says that it will cost disc golfers less than five dollars for a day's worth of play. A weekends-only shop will also open, selling disc golf equipment, apparel, and snacks and refreshments.

Belle Isle Disc Golf Course is located across from the Detroit Yacht Club on the site of the island's long-derelict standard golf course. Detroit Disc Golf has organized a number of clean-ups at the site, slowly transforming an overgrown and under-utilized section of the park into a new recreation destination.

Having achieved their goal of bringing everyday play to the Belle Isle Disc Golf Course, the group turns its attention to bringing national tournaments and Professional Disc Golf Association world championships to Detroit. The group also organizes its own tournaments.

Source: Detroit Disc Golf press release
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Mt. Elliott Park Fun Shop opens in time for summer

The grand re-opening of Mt. Elliott Park has brought more than a new water park and pavilion to Detroit's riverfront. Entrepreneurs Richard Roy and Charlene Dwyer and Chief Fun Officer Abby have opened the Mt. Elliott Park Fun Shop in the River Park Lofts building at Mt. Elliott and Wight streets.

Having opened in the first weeks of June, the Fun Shop is already quite a presence on the block that faces the park. Roy has some of his homemade corn hole boards in front of the shop, ready for passersby. They rest on a sidewalk covered in colorful chalk drawings. He says that he likes to take one of those big-hoop bubble makers and teach the nearby kids how to use it.

Roy and Dwyer come from the art and advertising worlds. Though still involved in those industries, they decided a storefront across from the new Mt. Elliott Park would be an ideal location for a shop that specializes in, well, fun. Much of the shop is geared toward kids of all ages -- which the new Mt. Elliott Park has no problem attracting -- with bubble makers, kites, and frisbees for sale. There are a few refreshments, too.

"It's a lot of fun. It's fun when we sell bubbles or those snap poppers and you hear them used outside. Or we'll sell a couple of kites and you watch them out there flying the kites, laughing and running around," says Roy. "It's great."

Another important component of the shop is local art. It's made by friends of Roy and Dwyer who create everything from iconic concert posters to porcelain wares, Detroit-themed t-shirts to jewelry. The pair saw the shop as an opportunity to provide artists a place to sell their work, something that's not always so easy or affordable.

The store is currently involved in a micro loan campaign.

Source: Richard Roy and Charlene Dwyer, co-owners of Mt. Elliott Park Fun Shop
Writer: MJ Galbraith

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here.

Major RiverWalk developments to debut this summer

The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy is preparing to unfurl a number of Detroit RiverWalk extensions and attractions this summer. The group is working toward extending the RiverWalk from “bridge to bridge,” or from the McArthur Bridge, which connects Belle Isle to mainland Detroit, to the Ambassador. Much is planned for several new stretches of promenade.

On June 6, the conservancy will be hosting a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the re-opening of Mt. Elliott Park. The longstanding park, located on the riverfront at the foot of Mt. Elliott Street, has received a number of improvements to its landscaping. It has also received new amenities including a pavilion similar to the ones found at Rivard Plaza and Gabriel Richard Park. Though not ready for the ceremony, a cafe is planned for the pavilion.

The site will also feature an interactive water feature with water jets and cannons organized around a Great Lakes schooner shipwreck sculpture.

Another big development for the RiverWalk is taking place on the west side. Though no opening date has been announced, the conservancy is nearly finished with a 20 acre addition to the RiverWalk that stretches from the Riverfront Towers Apartments to Rosa Parks Boulevard. The park will open once the newly-planted grass matures, according to Marc Pasco, director of communications for the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy.

The westward extension will feature a 30 foot wide riverwalk, wider than the rest of the pathways along the riverfront. "Fishermen have always loved that location," says Pasco. "This will give them some extra room."

The development of the two smaller parcels of riverfront real estate immediately east and west of Chene Park, as well as the property for the once-planned and now-defunct Watermark development, is also planned for the summer. All will receive the promenade and railing treatment that characterizes the rest of the RiverWalk.

Source: Marc Pasco, director of communications for the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy
Writer: MJ Galbraith

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here.

April Development News Round-up

April was another busy month for development news in the city. Let's catch up on six stories from the past four weeks.

Come November, downtown will add 150 jobs and 24,000 square feet of dining, drinking, and gaming -- and all under one roof. Dan Gilbert's Bedrock Real Estate Services announced that the Denver-based Punch Bowl Social will be opening a location in the recently-opened Z Garage.

There's a new name in the downtown development scene. Roger Basmajian has recently purchased three office buildings in the central business district, acquiring 104,000 square feet of office space in nine months. Basmajian expects to spend at least $7 million in renovations, says Crain's.

Midtown Detroit, Inc. announced two beautification projects in its district: a second green alley and a dog park. The green alley will run behind Avalon Bakery, from Willis to Canfield. The dog park is planned for the empty lot at Canfield and Cass. Midtown Detroit, Inc. signed a three-year lease on the lot with a two-year extension possible.

There's a new restaurant in New Center. The Zenith, a Mexican-Southern fusion restaurant, opened in the Fisher Building this month. The pictures at Eater Detroit reveal a colorful and eclectic interior, one that draws from 1940s and 1950s kitsch.

Another grocery store has opened on the city's east side. Parkway Foods joins Parker Street Market in debuting this month, providing residents with more food options. While Parker Street Market is a smaller, specialized neighborhood grocer, Parkway Foods is more of a traditional super market, not unlike the Farmer Jack that used to be in the same location.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here.

Detroit Yacht Club offers tours of its historic clubhouse

As Belle Isle transitions from city park to state park, people afraid of changing traditions can rest easy on one front as the Detroit Yacht Club keeps humming along. In fact, the Detroit Yacht Club Foundation has recently announced its 2014 schedule for guided tours of the historic clubhouse.

The first tour of the year is coming up, occurring April 1 at 6:30 p.m. Tours scheduled for the rest of the year will take place on May 6, June 3, July 1, Sept. 3, and Oct. 7. The tours are free and open to the public. History and architecture groups may schedule private tours as well.

The focus of the tour is the clubhouse, one of the largest yacht clubhouses in the country at 93,000 square feet. Built in 1922, the clubhouse was designed by George D. Mason, one of the city's most notable architects. Mason is responsible for many of Detroit's famous buildings, including the Masonic Temple and Gem Theater. He's also responsible for the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.

The building falls into the Mediterranean Revival category and features a one-of-a-kind Pewabic Pottery fountain. Other highlights of the tour include the clubhouse's famous fireplace, ballroom, and grand stairways. The clubhouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The yacht club itself predates the building, having been founded in 1868. A Belle Isle institution, the Detroit Yacht Club is a private club that offers a harbor with 380 slips spread across seven docks. Food and dining is a focus for the club and it hosts weddings and events too.

The Detroit Yacht Club Foundation asks that those interested in taking a tour of the historic facilities contact the group no later than two days before the tour date.

Source: Detroit Yacht Club Foundation press release
Writer: MJ Galbraith

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here.

Photographer-turned-mechanic opens up shop in Rivertown

There's a new automotive repair shop on Detroit's east riverfront. Chris Lee opened the Straits Garage, located at 217 Joseph Campau St. The garage, in a historic warehouse built in 1880, offers a range of services, from simple oil changes to drivetrain and transmission work.

Though Lee didn't originally plan on locating his garage in Rivertown, he's glad he did. The shop has been busy since opening in late January, revealing an obvious need for the surrounding area. The building's proximity to downtown and a provided shuttle allows commuters to drop off their cars before work and pick them up on the way home.

A photography instructor at Oakland University, Lee has been working on cars since he was a teenager. The idea for a garage hit him about a year or two ago, he says. The Detroit native started to notice that the new residents of downtown and Midtown didn't know where to take their cars in for repairs. Realizing that there just weren't that many options in those immediate neighborhoods, Lee became certified as a mechanic and began the search for his own garage. He was stymied, however, by the landlords in downtown and Midtown.

"I spent the last year trying to find a good space in those neighborhoods," says Lee. "A lot of landlords in Midtown don't want an un-hip mechanic shop. They're looking for bars, cafes."

Lee stumbled on a building in Rivertown that had been a repair shop for decades previous, making for an easy move-in. He was excited, too, by the building's history and character--not to mention it being just blocks from the riverfront. The building offers Lee the ability to expand operations, should he need it.

Source: Chris Lee, owner of the Straits Garage
Writer: MJ Galbraith

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here.

Architecture firm Hamilton Anderson celebrates 20 years with new developments, hires

Detroit-based architecture firm Hamilton Anderson is ramping up for a busy year with seven new hires and a search for several more. The firm, which is celebrating its 20th year, has an immediate need for two architects, a designer, and one or two project managers. The firm is involved in a number of projects that will alter the landscape of downtown, the riverfront, and Midtown. A recent conversation with principal, president, co-founder, and CEO Rainy Hamilton reveals updates on some of their more high profile projects.

The firm is working on Orleans Landing, the five block development along the east riverfront. Hamilton Anderson is applying more industrial design influences to the previously released illustrations. Townhomes are planned for the blocks facing the Dequindre Cut. The rest of the development will consist of mid-rise lofts featuring mixed-use and residential units.

Hamilton and co-founder Kent Anderson spent the early part of their careers in an office in Rivertown, making their involvement in the Orleans Landing development extra special to them. "For us to be involved in the first new development in the east riverfront, it's really quite an honor and a thrill," says Hamilton.

Hamilton Anderson has been selected by New York-based SHoP Architects as the local architects to collaborate with on the Hudson's site building. Hamilton says a concept has been presented to Bedrock Real Estate Services and was well-received.

The firm is the design architect and architect of record for the adaptive re-use of the old Strathmore Hotel in Midtown. Hamilton says that an original light well is going to be preserved and that developers are hoping that a new parking structure will be built nearby.

It's looking like Radio One, a national broadcasting company, will move into the Queen Lillian Woodward Office Building at Stimson and Woodward Ave. once completed, says Hamilton.

Source: Rainy Hamilton, president, co-founder, and CEO of Hamilton Anderson
Writer: MJ Galbraith

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here.

East riverfront development reserves 20 percent of units for affordable housing

Development company McCormack Baron Salazar is planning on reserving 20 percent of its east riverfront development for affordable work-force housing. The units will be available for those whose income does not exceed 80 percent of the area median income.

The company plans to close on the east riverfront property this summer. It's expected to take 18 months of construction to complete the project. McCormack Baron Salazar chairman and CEO Richard Baron, a Detroit native, has ties to the east riverfront, where he worked at his grandfather's wool company as a young man.

The St. Louis-based developement firm is also involved in a high-profile project in Detroit's Midtown. The company plans to close on the neighborhood's old Strathmore Hotel in the first quarter of 2014. Baron expects that the 129-unit apartment building will also take 18 months before it's ready for residents.

While the Strathmore development is required to provide affordable housing as a result of tax credits used to fund the deal, Baron says that he wanted the riverfront development to provide work-force housing too, even if it didn't demand the same housing requirements. The majority of units in each development will be market-rate rentals.

"It's always been part of what we wanted to do. To have people working for the city and public agencies, to have teachers (be able to) live in the community," says Baron. "It's important for people who are working at public agencies and nonprofits to have opportunities."

The riverfront development will be bordered by Atwater Street to the south, Woodbridge Street to the north, Riopelle Street to the west, and the Dequindre Cut to the east. 291 apartment units are planned for the development.

The Globe Building, which neighbors the future development, is currently being transformed into the Outdoor Adventure & Discovery Center by Michigan's Department of Natural Resources.

Source: Richard Baron, CEO and chairman of McCormack Baron Salazar
Writer: MJ Galbraith

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here.

I-375 Alternatives Study hosts first public meeting

Business owners, residents, and commuters affected by a potential transformation of I-375 were joined by the otherwise curious Thursday evening, Feb. 13, as the Downtown Development Authority hosted the first of three public meetings. A crowd gathered at Stroh River Place in an open house setting as the DDA and their partners in the study, the Michigan Department of Transportation and the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, guided visitors through a series of informative stations.

Each station provided data regarding project study areas, ranging from cost estimations to current vehicular usage. One station had a map of the area and visitors were asked to place stickers at the points where they felt unsafe as pedestrians. Another map asked visitors to place stickers at places they thought to be aesthetically unpleasing. Visitors were asked, too, of their overall opinion of I-375 and whether think it should remain an expressway or be transformed for a different use.

The I-375 Alternatives Study is a result of the impending reconstruction of I-375. Current estimates place reconstruction costs at $80 million. MDOT has enlisted the help of area stakeholders to determine whether the land in question could be utilized in a more effective way, such as demolishing the below-grade expressway and transforming it into a street-level boulevard.

Taking into account the information gathered from Thursday's public forum, the group behind the study will craft a number of alternative developments for the project areas. Five alternatives will be crafted for the primary study area, the nearly one-mile stretch of I-375. Two alternatives will be crafted for each of the secondary study areas, the I-75/I-375/Gratiot interchange and the I-375/Jefferson interchange. These alternatives will be presented to the public at a later date this spring.

I-375 was built in 1964.

Source: I-375 Alternatives Study public meeting, Feb. 13, 2014
Writer: MJ Galbraith

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here.

Belle Isle disc golf course hangs in the balance

Count the team behind Detroit Disc Golf as one of the many curious to see what happens with Belle Isle once the near 1,000-acre island officially transitions from city park to state park Feb. 10. Since 2011, the group has been working to bring an everyday disc golf course to the island. Currently limited to an events-only course, Detroit Disc Golf is hoping to have a daily insurance policy in place by spring, allowing for everyday play on the island. Much remains in the air, however, as the state has yet to decide the group's fate.

Chris Haag, co-founder of Detroit Disc Golf, says that with six disc golf courses already established on Michigan's state parks, it's not a stretch to believe that the state will want to continue disc golf operations on the island. Though nervous at first when hearing of the state's lease agreement, Haag and his partners are now optimistic that day-to-day operations will begin come spring.

Nothing has yet to be agreed upon but a few conversations with the state leads Haag to believe that the course will open. No one is sure, however, if DDG will continue to manage the site or if the state will take over. Just who runs it isn't a concern for Haag, saying that he just wants to see the project through and open to the public. The state takeover is just another challenge they've had to address.

"We've been working on this since 2011 so we've seen many ups and downs, lefts and rights, north, south, east, and west," says Haag.

While Haag waits on word from the Department of Natural Resources and the state, the group recently hosted the first Detroit Ice Bowl on Belle Isle. Held Jan. 26, the group accepted non-perishable food item donations and money was raised from tournament registration fees to benefit the Capuchin Soup Kitchen.

Source: Chris Haag, co-founder of Detroit Disc Golf
Writer: MJ Galbraith

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here.

The new Jefferson East Inc. focuses on development from downtown to Grosse Pointe Park

While the transition has been ongoing for about a year now, a recent luncheon for Jefferson East, Inc. (JEI) was the official debut of the recently-formed economic development organization that combines the efforts of the Jefferson East Business Association and the East Jefferson Corridor Collaborative. The biggest thing to note here is that JEI will reach from downtown all the way to Grosse Pointe Park, encompassing the whole of the East Jefferson Corridor.
 
The luncheon, held Nov. 7 at the Rattlesnake Club, introduced Richard Baron, chairman and CEO of St. Louis-based developer McCormack Baron Salazar, as the keynote speaker. Baron's company has developed 146 projects in 35 cities with development costs in excess of $2.4 billion.
 
McCormack Baron Salazar is behind a $60 million plan to build five blocks' worth of apartments, townhouses and small-scale retail on mostly vacant land east of the Renaissance Center, to be developed in two phases with potential for expansion beyond the initial proposal. While funding is still being finalized (as with most major developments that happen in the city, the funding is coming piecemeal from a variety of sources), Baron said that he hoped to start land remediation next month and break ground on the project by June 2014. 
 
The East Jefferson Corridor has been getting a lot of buzz lately with the Globe Building renovation, support from TechTown's SWOT City program, the extensive Alden Towers renovation – in fact, Crain's just reported over the weekend that Alden Towers developer Triton Properties just bought four more apartment buildings along and near the East Jefferson Corridor – and local developer Shelborne Development's investments in the Jefferson Chalmers neighborhood, a community eager to engage outsiders and grow with pop-up businesses and community gatherings.
 
JEI's new campaign "Go East," officially launching later this month, will highlight all of the various developments and investments happening along Jefferson and market the neighborhoods, businesses, and recreation options that exist in the East Jefferson Corridor.
 
Read more about Jefferson East, Inc. Economic Development Director Ritchie Harrison on UIX.
 
Source: JEI; Richard Baron of McCormack Baron Salazar
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

Got a Development News story to share? Email Nicole here.

Storey Commons pops up in Jefferson Chalmers as a result of cross community collaboration

The Jefferson-Chalmers neighborhood saw some success with activating vacant storefronts earlier this year during their June on Jefferson pop-ups. Local developers Shelborne Development renovated several vacant buildings, then the Jefferson East Business Association (JEBA) in partnership with the American Institute of Architects Urban Priorities Committee activated them with several lifestyle pop-up concepts to attract people from outside the neighborhood to the area and also to serve the people in the neighborhood.
 
Now JEBA is introducing the Storey Commons, a new pop-up storefront in one of the previous pop-up locations that will serve as a community library of books.

"In my time here at JEBA, in speaking with folks from the community, I found people are really looking for the types of amenities that make their community more liveable," says Ritchie Harrison, Economic Development and Policy Director at JEBA. They want places like sit-down cafés and bookstores where they can connect with other members of the community.
 
Storey Commons is a place where people can bring a book or borrow a book. Made to look like a bookstore, the space was designed by architect Mike Styczynski and his team at Midwest Design, who had worked on the original pop-up spaces over the summer. Books were donated by a cohort of community residents in Jefferson-Chalmers and Grosse Pointe Park during the inaugural meeting of AlterGather, a new community organization gathering residents of the East Riverfront neighborhoods to have conversations about how the community divide can be bridged. The first-ever meeting was held at Coffee and (______), a coffeeshop and bakery located next to Storey Commons. Peter Ruffner, owner Detroit-based publishing company OmniGraphics, also provided substantial book donations.

"We got more books than I expected," Harrison says. "So many folks came out to give books that love the idea, the concept and what it could mean for community development."
 
On the other side of Storey Commons is another new pop-up, the Jeff Chalmers Pop-Up Gallery, curated by local artist Halima Cassells featuring artwork from area residents. Harrison says that the whole project is made possible by the generosity of Shelborne Development, which owns the properties and has allow JEBA to use the spaces for the pop-ups.  
 
These pop-up projects are a cross-community collaboration made successful only by the number of separate groups involved with and supporting them, from the developer to area economic development organizations to nearby residents.

"It's all about helping to rebuild the community," Harrison says. "My hope is that this encourages the possibilities in the neighborhood for the vacant commercial storefronts we have and encourages revitalization and the opportunity for someone to see this and want to bring this type of business to the community (permanently)."
 
There is no official end date for the Storey Commons pop-up, but the space is available for a permanent tenant.
 
Source: Ritchie Harrison, Economic Development and Policy Director at Jefferson East Business Association
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

Late October Development News round-up

Dan Gilbert's Bedrock Real Estate Services has purchased another two downtown buildings, adding 84,000 square feet to the company's already swollen downtown commercial real estate portfolio. The new acquisitions are the eight-story 1505 Woodward, built in 1931 and designed by Albert Kahn, and the six-floor 1265 Griswold, built in 1897. According to a press release from Bedrock, this latest purchase brings Bedrock's portfolio up to nearly 8 million square feet of commercial and parking space over more than 40 properties in downtown Detroit. Rumors abound that Gilbert is also looking at the historic National Theatre on Monroe for a new residential development that will partially demolish the theatre. 

The Shanghai-based DDI group is the new owner of the 38-story David Stott Building at 1150 Griswold (purchased for $9.4 million and besting Dan Gilbert, the other bidder on the property) and the Albert Kahn-designed Free Press building at 321 W. Lafayette (purchased for $4.2 million). The group plans a $40-50 million redevelopment of the Free Press building and may add residential units to the Stott in the future

A press release from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation says that a $1 million Community Revitalization Program performance-based grant has been awarded to Harbortown Riverside, LLC and Harbortown Riverside Financing, Inc. to construct a 164,620-square-foot, five-story riverfront residential apartment building within the existing Harbortown complex on approximately 4.6 acres of land on the Detroit River. The residential apartment building will include 134 rental units, with a mix of one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom apartments. All units will offer views of the river. The project is expected to cost nearly $20 million.

A press release from Midtown Inc. announced that a fund of $30 million designed to spur development along the Woodward Corridor is now accepting applications and will award loans in the amount of $500,000 to $5 million. This fund is backed by NCB Capital Impact and Kresge Foundation, among others. It will allow residential developers to take advantage of long-term, fixed-rate loans for mixed-income projects that feature a commercial component.

The NSO Bell Building celebrates completion of its $52 million renovation with a ribbon-cutting ceremony this Wednesday. 

Got a Development News story to share? Email Nicole here.

Link Detroit celebrates groundbreaking of five-phase cycling and greenway infrastructure project

The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, in partnership with the US Department of Transportation, State of Michigan, City of Detroit Department of Public Works, DEGC, Eastern Market Corporation, Midtown, Inc., and the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, will celebrate the groundbreaking of the five-phase Link Detroit greenway infrastructure project next Tuesday, Sept. 24 at 6 p.m. in Eastern Market's Lot 1 (adjacent to Shed 2).
 
"This goes back a few years," says Tom Woiwode, director of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan's GreenWays Initiative. He says that when the Dequindre Cut opened in 2009, it was always intended to run further north than where it currently ends at Gratiot. When the first portion of the Midtown Loop opened in 2010, it was intended to go further south and connect to Eastern Market. Link Detroit is the fulfillment of those intentions.
 
The full $25 million scope of this project is fully-funded, thanks in large part to a $10 million TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant in addition to support from the Community Foundation and other partners (see above).
 
There are five phases to this project, and most are able to operate on independent construction schedules simultaneously. Though the "ground-breaking" celebration is next Tuesday, the event is mostly ceremonial. Woiwode says they hope to already have bulldozers at work by then.
 
The five phases include extending the Dequindre Cut north from Gratiot to Mack, rebuilding five bridges over the Dequindre Cut's extension (with funding from the Critical Bridge Fund), extending the trail system and providing some infrastructure improvements and amenities in Eastern Market along Wilkins and Russell St., connecting Wilkins to the Midtown Loop which will be extended south along John R, and the construction of bike lanes and greenways along Dequindre Rd. north of Mack connecting the Dequindre Cut to Hamtramck. Ultimately Link Detroit will connect Midtown and Wayne State to Eastern Market to the Dequindre Cut to both Hamtramck and the Detroit River.
 
They hope to have construction of all five phases completed by this time next year.
 
Source: Tom Woiwode, director of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan's GreenWays Initiative
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

Got a Development News story to share? Email Nicole here.

Development news round-up

The $300 renovation of COBO Center continues to spur on major investment nearby in hospitality and tourism development. A historic firehouse located across from COBO, built in 1929, has been sold for $1.25 million to local developer Walter Cohen, owner of 21 Century Holdings LLC, who plans to turn the property into a 75-80-room boutique hotel. The total estimated cost of this project is $23 million. 

Meanwhile, established hotels are upping their game to meet increased demand as well as increased competition in the marketplace. The Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center plans a $30 million renovation to begin early 2014 that will impact all of the hotel's 1,329 guest rooms and 100,000 square feet of meeting space. 

Developers behind the Tushiyah United Hebrew School, located at 600 and 609 E. Kirby St. in Midtown, have received a $1 million state loan to renovate the historic building into 25 market-rate lofts with gated parking. The project, operating under the name 609 E. Kirby Lofts LLC., has also received a 12-year Obsolete Property Rehabilitation Act abatement from the city valued at about $300,000. The completed project will cost about $6.6 million. 

VernDale Products Inc. also received a grant from the Michigan Business Development Program, this one worth $436,000, to open a second facility for their dried milk powder manufacturing. The company will renovate a long-vacant building at 18940 Weaver St. on Detroit's west side. VernDale is also receiving a 12-year plant rehabilitation tax abatement from the city worth about $3.3 million. This expansion will cost about $16 million and create 13 new jobs. 

The former Crain's Detroit Business buildings at 1400 and 1432 Woodbridge St. and 1370 Franklin St. near Chene Park have been sold to ME Enterprise LLC, a Birmingham-based partnership between T.J. Elia and Clint Mansour, who plan on spending about $3 million to renovate and re-lease the office buildings. 

In un-development news, though certainly significant given the city's overwhelming number of vacant, blighted buildings, the city of Detroit has received $52.2 million out of $100 million in newly allocated federal funds to tear down blighted structures.

Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

Have a Development News story to share? Send Nicole an email here.

Detroit Disc Golf now open for free year-round play on Belle Isle

Detroit now has its own disc golf course, located on the old golf course on Belle Isle. So, how exactly did Detroit Disc Golf come to be? "It all started on a gloomy night in a gloomy bar…" says co-founder Chris Haag. He and his friends used to live in the suburbs where they had five disc golf courses within minutes of their homes. When they moved to Detroit, there wasn't a single course within 45 minutes.
 
After that one fateful night at the bar in 2011, Haag and his friends decided they were going to build a disc golf course in Detroit. After deciding a citywide course wasn't practical they thought, why not Belle Isle? They started working with Detroit's Parks & Recreation Department and within a couple of months hosted their first disc golf tournament on Belle Isle. About 150 people came to play and another 100 came to watch. "I've had people say to me it was the most spectated and received the most media attention of any disc golf tournament they've seen," says Haag.
 
Haag – along with Andrew Frazier, who owns Up in the Air Disc Golf in Waterford; Nick Oliver, who owns Commotion Designs and handles all of their graphics and print materials; as well as dozens of others who rallied around them and volunteered their time to make it happen – stayed in touch with park management through that winter and spring. Finally Belle Isle management suggested they use the old golf course – 32 acres of land with a ticket booth, covered bridge, a lake, and a small river. So Haag and the core team of Detroit Disc Golf organizers and over a hundred volunteers hosted the second annual Battle at the Belle in 2012 with food and beverage sponsors, live bands, even a puppet show. Around 400 people came out for the two-day tournament, and people even camped on the island.
 
The course they used for the tournament was a temporary one. Detroit Disc Golf received official approval from Belle Isle to build their course in the park just this spring. As soon as that happened, the Michigan Disc Golf Organization donated three baskets, and just a few days later a private donor gave them 16 more – a value of around $8,000 in donated equipment. "In a snap of the fingers we had all the equipment we needed to build the course," Haag says. They spent two months on the layout and design, and just last week completed the installation.
 
Detroit Disc Golf is now open and is currently offering free play year-round (except for leagues and tournaments). As maintaining the course is not without its expenses (like $1,200 every time they need to cut the grass, which is a minimum of twice per month), they are talking about organizing as a nonprofit and are currently running a fundraising campaign through Detroit's own Patronicity at Detroitdiscgolf.org.
 
Haag described this as his "feel-good hobby to be involved with the city;" the guys aren't in it for profit. Their ultimate goal is to bring the Professional Disc Golf Association World Championships to Detroit in a few years. "This is a bottom-up project; if people didn't want it, it wouldn't be there."
 
Source: Chris Haag, co-founder of Detroit Disc Golf
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

Got a Development News story to share? Email Nicole here.

Yoga in the Park weekly lunchtime yoga in Milliken State Park to benefit Urban Farming

Yoga in the Park is a new series of yoga events that will take place every Tuesday from 12 to 12:45 p.m. at Milliken State Park starting Tuesday, July 23, and running through August 13.
 
Katherine Austin, owner of the Karma Yoga studio in Bloomfield Hills, is leading these weekly yoga classes to benefit Urban Farming, the nonprofit organization that plants urban gardens on vacant land in the city. She has been working with this organization since 2005, and decided to make this month of classes payable entirely by donation.
 
"When Fresh Air Fit contacted me about doing yoga in a state park this summer, I wanted to choose Detroit because what better place to elevate and raise vibrations through yoga and meditation," Austin says. "And Urban Farming takes unused plots of land in the city for gardens and teaches people how to grow their own food, so it's win-win for uplifting Detroit."
 
Yoga in the Park will be simple, easy yoga with soothing music and meditation designed for all fitness levels. Austin wants it to be something that is easy to do during lunchtime, and will also have a healthy food truck on-site and hopes to bring on DROUGHT juice so that people can take their entire lunch hour here and get everything they need. "I want people to go back to work inspired and have energy in the afternoon, and see how little yoga it takes to shift your energy," she says.
 
After visiting the park, she decided to make the classes free with donations. "If we really want to elevate and uplift Detroit, this is the way to do it; not just for some people but for everyone." She suggests a $10 donation, but encourages everyone to come who is interested, even if they can't afford a donation.
 
She already sees this as a bigger mission and something that can be grown into a year-round event, and plans on looking for an indoor space to continue offering her lunchtime yoga in the winter.
 
Yoga in the Park will be held on the grassy area of Milliken Park by the picnic shelters.
 
Source: Katherine Austin, owner of Karma Yoga
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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June on Jefferson pops up this weekend at Jazzin' on Jefferson

Jazzin' on Jefferson started out as a very small community and placemaking event for the Jefferson-Chalmers neighborhood. Now in its 10th year, the festival has grown significantly and has become a signature annual event for the east riverfront community.
 
Last year Jazzin' on Jefferson hosted a couple of pop-up concepts as a test run to see how the retail stores might perform. The response was positive, so this year the Jefferson East Business Association (JEBA) and American Institute of Architects (AIA) Urban Priorities Committee have partnered up to work with local entrepreneurs and artists to create June on Jefferson, a month-long pop-up business series.
 
Five businesses will occupy newly-renovated storefronts in the heart of the Jefferson-Chalmers commercial district from June 14 to July 9. Indian Village-based Shelborne Development owns the previously-abandoned buildings and has "beautifully" restored them, according to Eve Doster, who handles PR for Jazzin' on Jefferson. Individual spaces were designed with help from volunteer architects from the AIA.
 
The June on Jefferson participating businesses are Myra's Sweet Tooth, which sells specialty cupcakes and ice cream and recently opened a permanent store in the area (this will be a satellite location); Goodwell's Natural Foods Market, which has a store in Midtown; River's Edge Gallery, a temporary second location of the Wyandotte-based art gallery; a Fairview Historical Society museum, located in the footprint of what was once the Fairview waterfront community; and a satellite location for D:hive, the community development center located downtown on Woodward.  
 
The pop-ups will also host event programming every weekend including art openings, film screenings, live music, and more.
 
"The ultimate goal is to have these be permanent locations," Doster says. Even if these businesses themselves don't stay, JEBA's intention is to accelerate the physical and economic revitalization of Jefferson-Chalmers by encouraging foot traffic and vetting the potential for retail growth and sustainability.   
 
Source: Eve Doster, Norwegian Blue PR
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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The Dossin Great Lakes Museum now open to public after $2 million renovation

The Dossin Great Lakes Museum on Belle Isle just completed a $2 million renovation that officially opened to the public this past weekend.
 
"The project was an ambitious project in that it touched everything we do there," says Bob Bury, Executive Director and CEO of the Detroit Historical Society. "Certain things were refreshed and re-enchanced; some things (are) brand new."
 
One of the new exhibits is called Built by the River, which documents the significance that the Detroit River has had in building this city. Integral to the growth of Detroit's major industries, the Detroit River was used to transport lumber during the early logging days, automotive parts in the modern era, and, yes, alcohol during Prohibition. The river still defines life for Detroiters in how we live, work and play.  
 
The museum encourages interaction – they want kids and adults alike to touch the displays and have a fully immersive experience, like in the S.S. William Clay Ford pilot house, the actual pilot house from the freighter, and the fully-restored Gothic Room, salvaged from the luxury passenger ship the City of Detroit III when it was decommissioned. On the grounds outside the museum rests the bow anchor from the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald.
 
The Dossin Great Lakes Museum attracted 1,000 people per day in its grand reopening weekend. Admission was free and will remain free for the forseeable future to encourage people to visit, whether they have a specific interest in Detroit's maritime history or not. The museum is open to the public Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
 
Source: Bob Bury, Executive Director and CEO of the Detroit Historical Society
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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Construction to start on Globe Building state park recreation center and events facility

The former Detroit Dry Docks Engine Works complex and Globe Trading Company building, parts of which date back to 1892, will begin its transformation into an adventure and discovery center as part of an expansion of the William G. Milliken State Park & Harbor, Michigan's only urban state park.
 
The project was announced in May 2011 but has seen some delays. "The languishing has ended," says David Di Rita, owner of the Roxbury Group, the Detroit-based development firm overseeing the renovation. They closed on construction financing for the project in mid-March. Activity on the building will start within in the next two weeks.
 
The $12.8 million project is essentially a build-to-suit project for the Department of Natural Resources. Plans include the adventure and discovery center with rock-climbing, zip-lining, and other activities, but much more beyond that. "Really it amounts to a multi-use facility for the benefit of park visitors as well as people who may just wish to visit the Globe and participate in its activities, which includes a combination of exhibit and meeting space all designed around the idea of introducing the public to the state park system and provide year-round opportunities for people to enjoy the state park."
 
There will be activity space as well as permanent and rotating educational exhibits. The DNR will move its operations offices from Southfield into this building. The design includes a lot of attractive open space that can be used for business meetings and private events; the DNR envisions this space being utilized in much the same way as Eastern Market's Shed 5.
 
People will also be able to access the services of any state park office, such as getting their hunting and fishing licenses.

"The idea is really to take people here in the largest point of population in the state and give them a point of entry into the state park system," says Di Rita.
 
The project requires a partial demolition of some of the older portions of the complex, though Di Rita says, "We're doing our best to preserve as much of the facility as possible and are really focusing on the portion of the building that is most recognizable to the public."
 
Di Rita expects construction on the Globe to be complete around this time next year.
 
Source: David Di Rita, owner of the Roxbury Group
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg 

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Orion Music + More festival invests in Belle Isle, Detroit city parks

Belle Isle has certainly been a hot topic of conversation lately, and it seems like the nation's largest city island park is going to get a little outside help after all.
 
Tickets are now on sale for the Orion Music + More festival being held on Belle Isle June 8-9, featuring headliners Metallica, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bassnectar, and many more. This is the second year for the hard-rock-centric music festival, which was first held over a single weekend last year in Atlantic City.
 
Seeking a new location for the festival, which is expected to draw in about 30,000-35,000 people per day based on last year’s attendance, the organizers – Austin-based C3 Productions -- approached the City of Detroit about using Belle Isle. Bradley Dick, the city's director of general services (who at the time was also filling in as interim recreation director), worked out a deal with festival organizers that would put money right back into Detroit's parks.
 
As part of the deal, the Orion Music + More festival is to pay a set fee of $100,000 in 2013, $100,000 in 2014, and $250,000 in 2015 which will be funneled directly back into capital improvements for Detroit's parks. Dick's idea was to split this revenue 50/50 between Belle Isle and Detroit's other 100-plus parks so that the economic benefit of the festival is widespread.
 
The City of Detroit will also receive a set percentage of all ticket sales, concessions and merchandise sales. All of this money will be re-invested into the city's parks, and will also provide significant seed money for the city to apply for matching grants, enabling them to turn, say, $200,000 into $400,000.
 
While Orion is on the books for 2013, years 2014 and 2015 are not yet confirmed. The festival has the first right of refusal for the same weekend both of those years and terms and conditions, should they continue in Detroit, have already been agreed upon.
 
As a burgeoning host city for major events, Detroit potentially has its own Lollapalooza/SXSW on its hands with Orion -- a diverse showcase of major artists held once per year. This is the largest music festival to ever be held on Belle Isle.

Source: Bradley Dick, General Services Department Director of the City of Detroit
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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Detroit Yacht Club Foundation aims to preserve DYC building

The Detroit Yacht Club has created a namesake foundation to help preserve its historic structure on Belle Isle.

The Detroit Yacht Club is a private sailing club founded in 1868 and its current Mediterranean-villa-style clubhouse was designed by George Mason (who also designed Mackinac Island's Grand Hotel and Detroit's Masonic Temple) and opened in 1923. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places last year.

The Detroit Yacht Club Foundation is a nonprofit that will focus on fundraising and coordinating the preservation of the yacht club's nearly 100-year-old clubhouse. Although the building itself is still sound, the foundation will focus on securing and preserving its envelope features, such as its roof, walls, doors and windows.

"All of these areas are 89 years old," says Mark Lifter, president of the Detroit Yacht Club Foundation. "With Michigan's freeze-and-thaw cycles, water always finds a way."

The Detroit Yacht Cub Foundation's first order of business is to conduct an engineering study of the building before moving forward with any improvements. In the meantime the foundation is working on raising money and resources from members and people with a connection to the yacht club.

"Over time, there are probably millions of people with a connection or an affinity for the Detroit Yacht Club," Lifter says.

Source: Mark Lifter, president of the Detroit Yacht Club Foundation
Writer: Jon Zemke

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Renovation work set to begin at Dossin Great Lakes Museum

Now that work is finished at the Detroit Historical Museum, construction is about to begin at the Dossin Great Lakes Museum on Belle Isle.

The Detroit Historic Society, which manages both museums, plans to begin renovations at Dossin Great Lakes Museum on Dec. 9. The project will preserve the popular aspects of the museum, such as the Gothic Room at the museum's entrance, and add a few new exhibits that focus on the Detroit River and how it and the city connect to the Great Lakes.

"There will be much more interactivity," says Bob Bury, executive director of Detroit Historical Society. "There will be an exhibit about what it was like to pilot a freighter on the Great Lakes."

The Detroit Historical Society recently finished a renovation of is principal attraction, the Detroit Historical Museum, opening it to the public last weekend. The newly-redone space attracted 15,000 visitors in three days, shattering its attendance record.

The Detroit Historical Museum, located at the corner of Woodward Avenue and Ferry Street in Midtown, has added a Sander's store and a number of new exhibits, including the Kid Rock Music Lab (which traces Detroit's music history) and Gallery of Innovation, which features the works of local innovators both old (Henry Ford) and new (Josh Linkner). The museum has also refreshed some of its popular existing exhibits, like its Streets of Detroit exhibit.

"They can take a deep dive to see what life was like in the 1850s," Bury says.

Both museums will be open to the public for free. The work on the Dossin Great Lakes Museum is expected to be finished on May 17.

Source: Bob Bury, executive director of Detroit Historical Society
Writer: Jon Zemke

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The Roxbury Group plans to rehab riverfront's Globe Building

The Roxbury Group is taking on the redevelopment of the Globe Building overlooking Detroit's Riverwalk, a move that will expand the nearby Milliken State Park.

The Globe Building is a large industrial structure at the corner of Atwater Street and the Dequindre Cut, and across the street from the Milliken State Park. Henry Ford once worked in the building before starting Ford Motor Co. It has been vacant and derelict for many years as a few redevelopment proposals have fizzled, including a conversion to condos.

Now The Roxbury Group is partnering with Walbridge (which will handle the construction of the project) and the state of Michigan (which will make it part of Milliken State Park) to shrink and renovate the building.

The Globe Building is actually a hodgepodge of buildings that have been cobbled together over the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It currently stands at about 100,000 square feet but part of it will be demoed to make the building viable for the 21st Century.

"It's going to be a mix of old and new," says David Di Rita, principal of The Roxbury Group. "When it's done it will be 43,000 square feet."

The new space will house room for exhibits about the area's history and natural resources. It will also have spaces for youth education and activities, such as archery ranges. "It's going to be an integral part of Milliken State Park when it's done," Di Rita says. He adds that he hopes to begin work on the project before the year is out.

Source: David Di Rita, principal of The Roxbury Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

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Paradise Valley Investment Group tackles East English Village, Hubbard Farms

The Paradise Valley Investment Group is leveraging the city of Detroit's federal neighborhood stabilization funds, extensively renovating multi-family homes in East English Village and Hubbard Farms.

The home renovation company, headed up by California-native Robin Scovill, is close to wrapping up renovating of seven units of small multi-family buildings that had been foreclosed on in strong residential areas of Detroit. These renovations include extensive green options, such as energy efficient windows and furnaces, along with insulation and Energy Star appliances.

"Robin loved the idea of going into a house and fully renovating it, getting as much out of it as possible," says Eric Novack, an investor in Paradise Valley Investment Group.

Novack adds that there has been a strong demand for the rentals, which are marketed at affordable rates. One duplex in East English Village was leased shortly before it was finished and there has been strong demand for the other units which should come online by the end of this spring.

Novack also says that Paradise Investment Group has broadened its business model, allowing some local investors to take shares in the company as it continues to expand its portfolio, which not includes buildings in West Village, Corktown and a few other well-known Detroit neighborhoods.

"That's the nice things about Detroit's rental market is you will see more outside investors as long as they have the right people on the ground," Novack says.

Source: Eric Novack, an investor in Paradise Valley Investment Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

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First phase of Belle Isle Maintenance Building restoration wraps up

The first phase of the restoration of the Belle Isle Maintenance building is set to finish this spring, providing a future for one of the island's notable architectural gems.

The Belle Isle Women's Committee is heading up the restoration of the circa 1895 structure by the Belle Isle Conservatory. The first phase focuses on the exterior of the building, repairing its clay tile work and other aspects that will keep the weather out.

"A lot of it (the roof) was failing," says Ryan Smith, studio director for Kraemer Design Group which is helping with the restoration. "There were some structural issues. Our job was to make it water tight for the first phase."

The Belle Isle Maintenance Building was designed by George Mason, one of Detroit's most significant architects. Mason designed or helped design a number of major landmarks in the Motor City, such as the Masonic Temple, the Detroit Yacht Club, Gem Theater and the Belle Isle aquarium. He also designed the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.

"He is a prestigious architect for Detroit," Smith says.

The 20,000-square-foot building has fallen into disrepair in recent years due to the elements, wildlife and the occasional squatter. Only a small portion of it is still used by island maintenance staff with the rest of it consisting of storage. A future use of the building has yet to be determined.

The second phase of the restoration will consist of window repair and tuck pointing. That is set to begin later this year.

Source: Ryan Smith, studio director for Kraemer Design Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

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Greenway network announced for The Villages, Lower East Side

The GREEN Task Force represents more than just a plan for establishing greenway paths for non-motorized traffic throughout Detroit's Lower East Side. It's also a symbol of bringing a number of big players together to connect a number of neighborhoods and institutions on the Motor City's east side with the rest of the city.

The task force has been able to bring together residents from a number of neighborhoods on the east side by the Detroit River with city officials, Detroit Eastside Community Collaborative, Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, The Villages Community Development Corp and the Mt. Elliott Business Community Association, among others. The GREEN Task Force is funded by a $213,000 grant from the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan.

"Good things are happening on the east side," says Brian Hurttienne, executive director of The Villages Community Development Corp. "The GREEN Task Force brought everyone to the table. We're keeping everyone at that table."

The GREEN Task Force's Vision of Greenways program is providing a blue print for creating greenways, linear parks, bike lanes and other pathways for pedestrians, bicyclists, roller bladers and others who want to travel without an automobile near Detroit's east riverfront between the Dequindre Cut and Grosse Pointe Park.

The plan outlines 16 miles of new or expanded greenways, including the Elmwood Connector, Belt Line Greenway (a rail trail conversion), Kercheval Greenway, Burns Connector, Conner Creek Greenway enhancements, Sweet Loop, Fox Creek Greenway, Far East Connector, Carstens Spur and the RiverWalk Extension. More information on the plan can be found here.

The plan recommends creating enhancements include: making East Jefferson Avenue between I-375 and Alter Road a "Complete Street," creating bike lanes on Lafayette Street between Iroquois Street and downtown, connecting multi-family housing on E. Grand Boulevard with Belle Isle and connecting the Creekside neighborhood to the Marina District via Freud Street.

"If you have a safe way of getting somewhere it just makes life better," Hurttienne says. "Transit is going to be a big thing for not only us but the city and the region."

Source: Brian Hurttienne, executive director for The Villages Community Development Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

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SmartBuildings program award grants for building across city

The city of Detroit's SmartBuildings program, overseen by the Detroit Economic Growth Corp, has approved 19 building improvement grants across the city worth $762,272.

The SmartBuildings program focuses on providing funding for energy-efficiency projects that improve commercial buildings. Among the recepients of this latest round of grants are a handful of buildings controlled by Focus: Hope and the Wayne County Community College District. The DEGC recently increased the coverage area of eligible buildings from the downtown area to commercial corridors throughout the city, including on East Jefferson, southwest Detroit and the city's University District.

"We expanded the area to cast a bigger net," says Scott Veldhuis, senior project manager for the Detroit Economic Growth Corp.

The SmartBuildings grants, which are capped at $100,000 per building, will leverage $3.8 million in outside investment from building owners. Focus: HOPE is using its $320,662 grant as part of a $1.36 million umbrella project for nine buildings on its campus on Oakman Boulevard. The improvements will install insulation, high-efficiency lighting, low-flow bathroom fixtures, and other mechanical upgrades.

Wayne County Community College District received $200,000 in grants for energy-conservation updates to the Central Administration Building and the Downtown Campus Building on its downtown campus as part of $2.25 million project. Southwest Housing Solutions is leveraging$78,812 in grant funds toward $315,250 in projects that include reflective roofing and high-efficiency water heaters at the Harwill, Cole and Harrington buildings at 1453 Hubbard, 4516 W. Vernor Highway and 465 W. Grand Boulevard, respectively.

Other projects include the Hellenic Museum of Michigan (67 E. Kirby), New Center Stamping (950 E. Milwaukee Ave), Hacienda Mexican Foods (6100 Buchanan) a walk-in store at 5564 Woodward.

Source: Scott Veldhuis, senior project manager for the Detroit Economic Growth Corp
Writer: Jon Zemke

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Elevator Building goes green(er) with solar upgrades

Developer Randy Lewarchik has always had his eye on green design. The East Riverfront's Elevator Building and the Cass Corridor's Brainard Apartments were both remodeled with recycled materials, grey water collection, double-paned windows, compressed foam insulation, U.V. reflecting roof coatings and gardens.

The two structures are becoming even more environmentally sustainable, as Lewarchik and SRI Energy prepare to install the first phase of 20-kilowatt solar panel systems on the roofs of both buildings. He hopes the solar panels will provide energy for all of the building's common area lighting, which would include hallways, parking lots, lobbys and laundry rooms. Eventually, Lewarchik says he hopes to install a total of 60-kilowatt solar panel systems on each building. "There will actually be solar carports in the parking lot, so they'll be really visible. And eventually, people will be able to plug their cars in the carports," he says."It will definitely help curb the carbon footprint for the building."

The solar panels are only the first step of a multifaceted plan for Lewarchik's plans to further integrate green design into his properties. "We were approved for a Smart Building grant, which is an energy-efficiency grant," Lewarchik says. The grant, which matches 25 percent of The Detroitist Group's energy-saving building updates, will provide at least $150,000 in funds. He's exploring the possibility of installing geothermal heating systems at both The Elevator Building and Brainard Apartments.

And the empty lot next to his apartments on Brainard Street? Lewarchik not only hopes to install a geothermal system in the ground, but he has plans to exercise his green thumb, as well. "We're planning on doing a very large tomato garden, like 150 by 100 feet, so I'm really utilizing that land," he says.

"This is a template that I'd like to further pursue with other properties," he says. "It's beautification, plus doing something with the land. It's a higher, better use."

Source: Randy Lewarchik, developer, Elevator Building and Brainard Apartments
Writer: Ashley C. Woods

GRIT Design sets up shop in Elevator Building

A new mobile and graphic design firm opening in Rivertown's Elevator Building channels Detroit for its aesthetic and work ethic.

"GRIT is such a good name for our company," says principal Andrea Livingston, one of six co-founders of GRIT Design. "We are not pretentious. We earned whatever we have. None of us are born with silver spoons and we had to work incredibly hard for what we had. We don't care about flash and we don't care about show. We just care about doing the right thing."

The collective, all of whom came from high-profile agency gigs, burned the midnight oil building GRIT for years while working their day jobs until the business became sustainable. They now have 11 full-time employees and keep anywhere from three to six contractors on the payroll. 

Recent mobile IPhone apps from the company include Alphabet Writer (for the child who can't stop playing with your iPhone), BBQ, a seriously sweet guide to grilling, and GrixPix, which paints pixels from the phone to the air. They also produced a mobile app for the Detroit Medical Center that gives patients accurate wait times at each of its hospitals.

GRIT also contracts out design work with several high-profile international agencies, including New York's Ogilvy & Mather, while helping to manage SEO and digital footprints for their clients.

It's all taking place in their new 2,000 square foot open space on the first floor of the Elevator Building, where cubicles are outlawed and conference calls take place in the back alley.

"We love it, we love the aesthetics of it. It's not exactly well kept outside," she says, "but you can see the boats coming into the Riverfront. I'm really excited about the summer, and seeing more people out."

And even though Livingston says they considered relocating from Madison Heights to Ann Arbor, Detroit's central location and artistic resources made the move to the D an obvious choice for the collective.

"We wanted to be in Detroit, for the vibe of Detroit, and for the youth of Detroit. It's so close to CCS and Wayne State," she says.

Source: Andrea Livingston, principal GRIT Design
Writer: Ashley C. Woods

Salon Paris Portland LA will open in Elevator Building with DPS fundraiser

When Paris and Chloe Culberson came up with the idea of opening a salon two years ago, they never considered locating outside Detroit.

"We figured, why not the city? We're from the city, we love the city," Chloe Culberson says. "Everyone wants to attach themselves to something that's already big, or the ideal situation for a business. We figured that we'd start from the other direction, and help build Detroit city."

They rented space in the Elevator Building, on the East Riverfront, drawn to the building's character and history. "The space is brand new," she says. "Randy Lewarchik renovated everything. It has an urban feel, like a loft. It fits who we are. Even though it's not a storefront -- you have to go inside to get to the suite -- we figured out we just have to do better marketing, and people will know where we are."

And while the name might be Salon Paris Portland LA, this new hair care spot's moniker has a local origin.

"We have three sons, and they're Paris Jr., Portland and LA, so it's named after them," she says.

She says Salon Paris Portland LA will be known for its attention to customer service and expertise in all things hair. "Me and my husband are obsessed with customer service," she says. "Everyone is treated equally. It doesn't matter whether you're Obama or Jim Bob." And she welcomes the competition. "There are a million salons in Michigan. We make sure that we're highly educated, because I don't think a consumer should know more about a product than we do."

They'll count down to the grand opening on April 23 by offering five days of free hair care services to anyone, male or female, who walks through the door (yes, you read that correctly, April 18-22). And 100 percent of collected tips will be donated to the Detroit Public Schools.

"If I had $100 million, I'd give DPS $20 million of it," Culberson says. "But I don't have that right now, so I'm trying to use what I have right now, and just trying to help the children of DPS. We're just trying to help out where we can."

The ribbon cutting ceremony begins Saturday, April 23 at 2 p.m. Find out more about the Salon Paris Portland LA opening here.

Source: Chloe Culberson, co-owner, Salon Paris Portland LA
Writer: Ashley C. Woods


A winery on Belle Isle? That's Detroit City Cellar's idea

If Blake Kownacki has it his way, Detroit will be home to what he says will be North America's first urban vineyard and growing operation.

While Michigan has quietly increased its wine-making profile in recent years, vineyards are typically located in rural areas. Along with John Burtka, who owns the Cherry Creek and Sleeping Bear wineries upstate, Kownacki is launching Detroit City Cellars, with the goal of creating a vineyard and tasting room on Belle Isle.

"We want to plant the vineyard on Belle Isle because, in our professional opinion, it's the most ideal microclimate that exists," Kownacki says. He and Burtka are currently in talks with city politicians to plant 10 acres of grapes on the southeastern point of Belle Isle, near Lighthouse Pointe. The 10 acres would be 100 percent open to the public and accessible by a current walking trail. He also dreams of turning the Belle Isle Casino building into a year-round tasting room that's open to the public.

There's talk that the grapes are an invasive species, something the nonprofit Friends of Belle Isle has worked hard to eradicate on the island. But Kownacki, who has worked extensively as a winemaker in California and Australia, says it's not a concern: grapes are poor germinators, and the European strains of grapes can only be grown by physically attaching cut grapevines to native rootstock.

"All the experience in the field says that's a non-issue," Kownacki says. "Napa does not have wild grapes growing anywhere."

He's hoping to work with the Friends of Belle Isle to plant the vineyard. "We don't want to build anything on the island. What we want to do is help bring the island back to its natural urban splendor," Kownacki says.

Detroit City Cellars is currently working with Randal Charlton of Tech Town to secure investors for the project, and they've also reached out to the Greening of Detroit to create a grape-growing cooperative of urban planters who will supplement the vineyard's annual harvest.

"I think Michigan is the sleeping giant of the wine industry," Kownacki says. "The potential is through the roof."

Source: Blake Kownacki, Detroit City Cellars
Writer: Ashley C. Woods


Windows go in at new LEED-certified MLK Jr. High School

Martin Luther King, Jr. Senior High School is undergoing a $46.4 million transformation that includes the renovation of the auditorium and performing arts building and the construction of a new gymnasium, natatorium, cyber cafe, media center and 65 teaching stations that can accommodate up to 1,500 students. The majority of the existing structure will be demolished once students relocate to the new facility.

The school's new commons area, which includes a cafeteria and small auditorium, faces Larned and McDougall, where it is visible from Jefferson Ave. "Its anchors the corner of this exceptional site," says Jennifer Mrozowski, a spokesperson for Detroit Public Schools. The facade includes 1,000 square feet glass panels that are situated to best capture natural light -- a contributing factor to the school's anticipated LEED Gold-certification.

Jenkins/Granger, a 49 percent Detroit-headquartered firm, is the design/builder for the MLK project, and TMP Architecture is the architect of record. Construction began in the summer of 2010 and will be complete by fall of 2011.

The project is funded by Proposal S, which enables DPS to access $500 million in federal money for school capital improvement projects. Seven new schools will be built, six will be renovated and the entire district will see technology and security upgrades. All work must be complete by fall 2012 to comply with federal guidelines. "We made a promise to voters to do these projects on time and efficiently," says Mrozowski. For more information go here.

Source: Jennifer Mrozowski, Detroit Public Schools office of communications
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh


Round-Up: Spring brings yoga, coffee, senior housing

With spring in the air, lots of new businesses and developments are being whispered about around town. Here are more than a few that we've heard recently; look for more detailed coverage in the future.

Vixen Fitness is set to open Feb. 26 in Eastern Market. The studio will offer female-centric pole dancing, Zumba and belly dancing classes.

Movement celebrated its grand opening on Feb. 19 inside the N'Namdi Center for Contemporary Art on E. Forest. Expect yoga, dance, Tai Chi, Capoeira and bodywork classes.

On the same note, word is that another yoga studio is headed to the site of the ill-fated Sunflower Market and, speaking of markets, May is the month that we understand that Ye Olde Butcher Shoppe hopes to be open in Brush Park.

Onto caffeine: Bottom Line Coffee Shop at the Beethoven is in build-out mode, as is Astro Coffee in Corktown. Signs are up for two more in Midtown: one across the street from the Bronx Bar on Second Ave. and another at the Park-Shelton on Woodward just north of the Detroit Institute of Arts. Again, we'll keep you posted when we know more.

Finally, three senior housing projects, all along the E. Jefferson corridor, have been announced (in addition to Dickerson Manor, which Model D reported on last week!):
  • The former Omni Hotel will become Roberts Riverwalk Hotel and Residence. Half of the facility will remain hotel accommodations, but half will become senior housing. Read more about the plans at Crain's Detroit Business.
  • Two vacant industrial buildings just north of the GM-UAW Center for Human Resources will be converted into a senior citizen complex courtesy of Henry Ford Health System, Presbyterian Villages of Michigan and United Methodist Retirement Communities.
  • The former Riverview Hospital on E. Jefferson near W. Village was sold by St. John Providence to a group of investors that plan to develop the facility into a full-service senior center that includes a nursing home, urgent care center and even a barber shop and beauty salon. Read more at the Detroit Free Press.
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh


Next phases of Riverwalk, Globe, Dequindre Cut net $34.4M

The Detroit Riverwalk is much-loved but non-contiguous. Currently, it stretches for about a mile from Joe Louis Arena to Rivard St. and then picks up again at Joseph Campau for another three-quarters of a mile to Mt. Elliott. Soon, those stretches could be joined with a recent funding announcement from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF).

$34.4 million dollars has been pledged to the Riverwalk for land acquisition that will connect the two segments to each other, expand Milliken State Park and construct a path along the Uniroyal site that currently divides the walkway from the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy's Gabriel Richard Park at the foot of the MacArthur Bridge to Belle Isle.

A portion of the money is pegged for redevelopment of the Globe Building ($9 million) and a 0.7-mile extension of the Dequindre Cut north to Mack Ave. ($375,000 for land acquisition).

The MNRTF Board of Trustees recommended a total of 117 recreation projects and land acquisitions totaling $102,098,400 be funded in 2011, the largest grant award since the fund was created in 1976, and Detroit's riverfront came away with a not-insignificant slice of the pie. "The Riverwalk has enough accomplishments on the ground to show that it is working and that the project is ready to receive the funding," says Nancy Krupiarz of the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance, an organization that advocates for a statewide system of trails and greenways.

Other Detroit parks saw some love as well: Balduck on the east side and Southwest's Patton each garnered $500,000 towards improvements.

The Trust Fund recommendations require the approval of the state legislature for the funds to be disbursed; that could happen as early as spring 2011, says Krupiarz.

Source: Nancy Krupiarz, MTGA
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh


Atwater Block Brewery to open tap room, expand brewery

Atwater Block Brewery is hoping to be pouring beers in a new downtown location within the next few months. Atwater's Detroit Taproom, planned for a Foxtown location on Woodward Ave., will serve Michigan beer, Michigan wine, and Michigan-focused food, to highlight to visitors from out of town and out of state what the region has to offer, says brewery owner Mark Rieth. He hopes to offer full restaurant service at the new location and perhaps a shuttle to the existing brewery, at 237 Jos. Campau, which no longer has a restaurant but is still a brewing operation and taproom.

Rieth, born and raised in metro Detroit, says many of the new bar's 40 taps will be Atwater brews -- which offer a wide range from smooth lager to flavorful stout -- but other Detroit beers, with old Detroit labels, will also be served. "We want to be able to expose more people who don't know of our products, and Michigan products," he says.

Atwater is also expanding at its currently location, which Rieth bought in 2005, adding more tanks to produce more product. In a few years, he hopes to open a full-scale brewery somewhere inside the city. That and the new taproom will hopefully move the company forward, he says. But he also wants to be a part of the city: "Part of what I want to do is see Detroit come back," he says. "We've got to spread that word to people."

Source: Mark Rieth, owner of Atwater Block Brewery
Writer: Kristin Lukowski


$25,000 grant will seed redevelopment of E. Riverfront's Globe Building

By now, you've probably heard that Coca-Cola donated $25,000 to America's State Parks Foundation to build an adventure play facility at William G. Milliken State Park and Harbor. The indoor/outdoor park would be housed in the historic Globe Trading Building, and might include a rock climbing wall, zip line or a white water rafting experience.

The $25,000 will serve as a seed fund, says Maia Stephens, recreation programmer for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment. The project team is working to get the "redevelopment and programming vision firmly established" while "best representing Michigan's natural assets," she says.

DNRE will hold community forums to discuss the overall use of the Globe Building. "This is not an overnight plan," says Stephens, noting brownfield remediation that would need to be a part of any use of the structure.

The most recent development plan touted for the Globe, mixed use residential and commercial, was presumably halted by a soft housing market and tightened lending criteria. Stephens says that the DNRE's plans would only need a small portion of the building, so other uses can still be part of the overall development strategy.

Source: Maia Stephens, Michigan DNRE
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh


We're off next week and, in the meantime, here are things past and ahead

Since we won't be here next week, here's a few things on our radar to keep you tided over.

Last weekend was the inaugural Pop-Up Detroit, an initiative that aims to take over unused commercial space in Detroit with gallery happenings. On Friday, Aug. 27, the spot was The Shops in the Kresge Building on Woodward. Over 30 artists were represented, and organizers William Singer, Michelle Tanguay and Nina Marcus-Kurlonko saw enough foot traffic to make them hopeful that this would be a recurring event, possibly every three months.

It was announced on Aug. 26, that Coca-Cola awarded $25,000 to Milliken State Park for an indoor-outdoor youth park that would include a rock climbing wall, playscape, archery range and obstacle park that would make use of the Globe Building on Atwater Street.

Model D will follow-up on this story to scope out how this money will play into an overall redevelopment strategy for the building, which previous mixed-use plans called for $15 million in investment.

The Detroit Brownfield Redevelopment Authority (DBRA) has approved brownfield tax incentive plans for Midtown's The Auburn and the Book House on East Jefferson.

The Auburn netted $1.7 million in Michigan Business Tax (MBT) Credits, a form of brownfield tax incentives. The new-build project calls for 58 units of apartments and 9,100 square feet of retail space at Cass and Canfield. Total project investment is estimated at $8.6 million.

The Book House, located at 8469 E. Jefferson, will be the home of the Ars Poetica Chamber Orchestra, offices, a conservatory, an apartment and a retail music store. The redevelopment of the building, designed by Louis Kamper and completed in 1911, will cost $1.5 million and has been deemed eligible for $300,000 of MBT credits.

We've covered both projects in the past -- Auburn here and Book here -- and will continue to do so.

Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh


Green Space: Student conservation efforts kick off on July 21

Detroit Conservation Leadership Corps, a program that places teens into green summer jobs, is kicking off with Environmental Stewardship Day on July 21 at the Belle Isle Nature Zoo. The program is sponsored by Johnson Controls, Inc., Student Conservation Association and The Greening of Detroit.

Seven teams of students will spend the remainder of the summer planting, developing and maintaining trails, and removing invasive species. At Rouge Park, a group will work on building and expanding the mountain bike trail while at nearby Eliza Howell, a team will work on a trail that runs along the Rouge River. In Brightmoor, students will delve into vacant lot reclamation via sunflower planting, pocket park development, and the planting of orchards.

Two teams will work on Belle Isle, specifically in invasive species management, and at W.E.B. Dubois High School, an outdoor classroom will be constructed with benches, presentation space and gardens. And, finally, a final group will be placed at Detroiters Working For Environmental Justice in media development and green building projects.

On Environmental Stewardship Day, volunteers from Johnson Controls will work in the field alongside CLC students. "The kids are really looking forward to teaching older folks," says Evan Major, Detroit program manager for the Student Conservation Association. "They really get off on describing what they do and then showing them."

Sources: Jennifer Mattes, Johnson Controls and Evan Major, Student Conservation Assoc.
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh


Elevator Building rises as E. Riverfront small business incubator

The Elevator Building on Franklin St. is almost ready for tenants -- and a handful have already signed on, including a 3D modeling studio, a couple of fashion designers, an engineering firm and a photographer. The draw? Open commercial space, river views and reasonable rent -- developer Randy Lewarchik is asking for $0.70/square foot per month. There are 23 units, ranging from about 700 square feet to just over 1,000.

Architect Archive DS retained the "rustic look" of the building, says Lewarchik, with 42-inch door openings, timber beams, brick walls and wood ceilings that were painstakingly powerwashed. Tenants have keyed access to a common kitchen area, showering facilities and an upper balcony, perfect for "people that bike to work, outdoor enthusiasts and artists," he says, drawing on the building's proximity to the Dequindre Cut, Milliken State Park and the RiverWalk

Lewarchik is reserving the ground floor of the northwest corner of the building for a bar or restaurant that he hopes will utilize the roof as a patio. In July, a mason will build brick piers for a wrought iron fence around the parking lot.

The lease rate includes basic utilities and wi-fi. For a tour or more information, contact Lewarchik at 810-599-6214.

Source: Randy Lewarchik, The Elevator Building
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh


Dequindre Cut Extension links greenway to blueway

The Dequindre Cut Extension officially opened last week and, if fanfare for an 800-foot-long walking and biking path seems undue, consider what it connects: the Dequindre Cut Greenway on one end and Miliken State Park and Harbor on the other.

"The Extension is helping this area to become more walkable to the extent that (it) provides another connection, an absolutely vital link, from the river, essentially to Eastern Market," says Faye Nelson, president of the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, the organization that maintains and programs the Dequindre Cut and Detroit RiverWalk.

The Extension runs between Woodbridge and Atwater streets. It features a paved path for bicycles and pedestrians, benches, bike racks, trash receptacles, landscaping, lighting and security features. It was designed by Mannik Smith Group and constructed by WCI Contractors, Inc. The $1 million cost was picked up by the Detroit Economic Development Corporation, Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the City of Detroit.

During the opening ceremonies on June 10, the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy unveiled a set of colorful banners designed by local school children through collaboration with the College for Creative Studies' Community Arts Partnerships and funding from the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan. The children selected themes of Unity, Create, Play and Inspire; some have been installed while the rest will go up when construction on the Larned and Lafayette bridges that run over the Cut is complete.

As part of its overall plans for the area, the EDC is also reconstructing Atwater Street between Rivard and Dequindre streets to include on-street parking and a dedicated bike lane. As a result, the parking lot at Rivard Plaza is currently closed.

Source: Faye Nelson, DFRC
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh


Restaurant round-up: Fountain Bistro and Sunday Dinner Co. open; Lager House adds full menu

Fountain Bistro at Campus Martius Park is officially open for business. The breakfast menu includes quiche, breakfast burritos, waffles, New York bagels, fruit and pastries; for lunch, it offers soups and salads, flat-bread pizza and a variety of panini. Food is sourced from Eastern Market and Avalon International Breads in Midtown, and Italian Lavazza Coffee is served.

The 2,500 square-foot restaurant seats 50 inside, and 50 on its patio for full-service dine-in; carryout and delivery via Rock Dove Couriers is also available. Hours are Monday through Friday 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sunday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. There is a free Wi-Fi connection. Call 313-237-7778.

Read more about Fountain Bistro here.

On E. Jefferson just west of Belle Isle, the Sunday Dinner Co. is open and has been serving homemade Southern comfort food for just about a month now.

The restaurant is buffet-style -- but, in a break from the norm, food is served to diners by waitstaff. All of the restaurant's employees are graduates of Goodwill Industries' "Flip the Script" program -- just one of the ways Sunday Dinner Co. is "more than just a restaurant," as Model D learned when we wrote about the restaurant back in March.

Sunday Dinner Co. is located at 6470 E. Jefferson in a historic post offce; call 313-877-9255. Hours are Wednesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday from noon to 9 p.m.; and Sunday from noon to 8 p.m. Although the restaurant is closed on Monday and Tuesday, the staff is still at work in the kitchen, providing food to the needy in conjunction with Forgotten Harvest. Buffet lunch costs $10; buffet dinner is $13 Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, and $15 Friday and Sunday.

Corktown's venerable rock 'n' roll pub, PJ's Lager House, has opened a full kitchen, making use of the space that was historically just that. Soups, dressing and breading from scratch elevate it from "just bar food" status, as does its vegetarian offerings -- like the Julian portobello burger -- and gluten-free chicken fingers. Just in case your tastes run to the traditional, there are burgers, fries and onion rings to be had.

The kitchen is open Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to midnight and Saturdays from 5 p.m. to midnight. PJ's Lager House is located at 1254 Michigan Avenue; call 313-961-4668.

Read more about the bar and owner P.J. Ryder here.

Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh


Grab a shovel: Greening of Detroit to plant 1,750 trees by June 5

The arrival of spring heralds the digging of dirt, if The Greening of Detroit's ambitious 2010 schedule has anything to say about it. From April 10 to June 5, about 1,750 trees will be planted citywide in 14 separate plantings. Greening, in partnership with the City of Detroit's General Service Department, will plant 680 trees that will reforest neighborhoods affected by the Emerald ash borer infestation; And about a thousand trees will be planted with over 16 community groups and block clubs.

The schedule is as follows: April 10, University District and Annchester street tree plantings; April 17, Warrendale and E. Outer Drive; April 24, Trumbull and Corktown tree nursery; April 20, East English Village; April 22, Grandmont Rosedale tree nursery; April 25, Creekside; May 1, Boston Edison and Virginia Park; May 8, Beresford Block Club and Osborn Neighborhood; May 15, Hartwell and West Grand Boulevard; May 22, Ecclesia and Pallister Park; June 5, Ferdinand.

More than 1,000 volunteers will be needed; contact Greening at 313-237-8733 to sign up for a planting.

Greening's annual Tree and Shrub Sale will take place on Saturday April 24, from 9 a.m. to noon at Eastern Market's Shed #6. Trees are $30 and shrubs are $20, with special rates offered to Greening members. Pre-orders are being taken now; order forms can be found at www.greeningofdetroit.com.

The Greening's urban agriculture initiative, the Garden Resource Program Collaborative provides training and resources to individuals, community groups and families that grow vegetable gardens. Interested individuals should contact Lindsay Turpin at 313-237-8733.

Source: Monica Tabares, Greening of Detroit
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh


Community development organizations release right-sizing strategic framework

Community Development Advocates of Detroit (CDAD) is comprised of community development organizations from across the city. They built houses before lofts were all the rage, paving the way for for-profit market-rate ventures and, now that the housing market is kaput, they've turned their sights on talking about what's next for Detroit. About a year ago, they formed a Futures Task Force, and the first deliverable is a document entitled "Neighborhood Revitalization Strategic Framework." It looks at the concept of right-sizing, down-sizing or reinventing Detroit -- whatever you want to call it -- and makes a set of recommendations that, hopefully, will guide policy-makers, elected officials and the funding community when they start tackling the heated issue.

"(The strategic framework) is about reinventing Detroit so that it is a better place for people to live in," says Tom Goddeeris, executive director of Grandmont Rosedale Development Corporation and a Futures Task Force participant. "It's how to think about how to improve it in a way that recognizes that there is lots of vacant land, (there are lots of) vacant buildings and we don't have the population that we once had...We wanted to put forward an idea about the city that says that it can be a better place, a greener place, a more economically viable place."

The community development community has always operated on the notion that rebuilding a city means building more houses. The strategic framework they've released abandons that principle, instead looking at numerous different ways -- be that open space, greenways, urban farms or even traditional neighborhoods -- that Detroit might evolve. "These are concepts to get people thinking a different way as opposed to going back to some previous time where (success meant) more people and more businesses," says Goddeeris. Along with drawing other stakeholders into the conversation, he says a goal of the collaborative is to show that "there can be a vision for reinventing the city in a way that is looking to make it a better place, not as an exit strategy or a sign of defeat."

While the concept of right-sizing holds allure in some camps and -- shades of Poletown -- horror in others, Goddeeris stresses the point that much work can be done before relocation is even close to a reality. "There are parts of the city that we can immediately start strengthening and some that we can immediately start greening without having to displace a bunch of people," he says.

Source: Tom Goddeeris, Grandmont Rosedale Development Corp. and CDAD
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh


More than just a restaurant, Sunday Dinner Co. set to open on E. Jefferson near Belle Isle

A historic post office on E. Jefferson between Mt. Elliott and E. Grand Blvd. will house The Sunday Dinner Co., a restaurant specializing in Southern comfort food. Home-cooked food and gatherings of friends and family are the inspiration behind the concept, says co-owner David Theriault. "We want every day to feel like Sunday, with a home-cooked meal."

Food will be served buffet-style; expect traditional dishes such as corn bread, deep-fried catfish, fried chicken, smothered pork chops, baked macaroni and cheese and collard greens alongside Chef Eric Giles' twists, like fried corn with maple sausage and dirty rice with shrimp. Friday evenings will include seafood and Sundays will add ribs to the menu. Lunch will run about $10 and dinner, $14 -- with a bit of an increase on Fridays -- and will include sweet iced tea, dessert and salad.

An E. Jefferson location is key to the restaurant's success, says Theriault. "We're in the middle of a critical mass," he says, noting the proximity of The Villages, Harbortown and senior housing. Carryout will be available for the commuter crowd, and local delivery is being explored.

Besides being a restaurant, Sunday Dinner Co. is a social enterprise. Construction workers and eventually, kitchen and front-of-the-house staff, are being hired through Goodwill Industries' Flip the Script program, which works to reintegrate former felons released from prison via job training and placement. The restaurant will be closed to the public on Mondays and Tuesdays for training, and the food cooked will be shared with food banks programs such as Forgotten Harvest.

Keith Bennett, Flip the Script's director, sees his program's relationship with The Sunday Dinner Co. as a win-win. "When you feel good about the job you are doing, worthwhile, (you become) part of the community," he says. "And when you get returning citizens to feel like part of the community, they will no longer be predators, they will be part of the community."

The Sunday Dinner Co. is located at 6470 E. Jefferson and should open by the end of March.

Sources: Eric Giles and David Theriault, The Sunday Dinner Co. and Keith Bennett, Flip the Script
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh


Intensive property survey captures state of Detroit housing, vacancy

The Data Collaborative, a joint effort by the Detroit Office of Foreclosure Prevention and Response, Community Legal Resources and Data Driven Detroit, has completed a landmark survey of residential properties in Detroit, and the results indicate that 86% of the city's single-family homes appear to be in good condition and another 9% generally only need minor repairs -- meaning that more than 218,000, or 95%, of the city's single-family homes appear to be suitable for occupancy.

While this number sounds heartening, Heidi Mucherie, executive director of Community Legal Resources, urges some restraint in interpreting the numbers. "We have some good-condition housing stock, an asset that we don't fully realize as an asset, and I'm glad that the study substantiates that," she says. However, she points out that large areas of the city have nowhere near these statistics. "This is a citywide aggregate number, and while we might be tempted to say things aren't as bad as we thought they are, (conditions have) changed over the last 10 years, even in traditionally stronger neighborhoods, and I worry about the aggregate figures painting too rosy of a picture."

A statistic that bears out Mucherie's temperance is that 26% of the city's residential parcels -- or 91,000 lots -- are now vacant. But she believes that knowing the good and the bad of where the city currently stands is empowering. "The way I've been thinking about it is that it paints a picture of a moment in time. ... It's only the start, not the ultimate answer," she says. "(These communities are) changing daily, especially neighborhoods hit by foreclosures."

Mucherie says the data collected is only as good as its upkeep and the community's buy-in, as in getting the "community engaged to collect updated information and track how it changes over period of time," she says. "One snapshot in time is not going to provide the answer for very long, but I'm excited about it changing the conversation."

Interested in checking out information about your house, block and neighborhood? Information is easily accessed by visiting www.detroitparcelsurvey.org and typing in a residential property address.

Source: Heidi Mucherie, Community Legal Resources
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh


Round-up: Waldorf gets community planning grant, Harbortown reopening set for Jan. 20...and more

Indian Village's Waldorf School was awarded a $62,700 grant from from the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan for use towards a sustainable curriculum that will enhance learning opportunities in the areas of science, ecology, urban gardening, nutrition and food. Facility enhancements will be made in order to institute such curriculum, including renovation of the school's science lab, upgrade of the school's commercial kitchen and expansion of the school's community garden.

Harbortown Market
will reopen for real on Wednesday, Jan. 20, after celebrating with a grand opening event on Jan. 19. As Model D noted last month, the grocer received a a grant from the Detroit Economic Growth Agency towards some renovations after being closed since a June 2009 fire. Harbortown is located at 3472 E. Jefferson.

Also on the grocery store tip, the Detroit Community Grocery Store Coalition, a group working to open a community-based market on the eastside, is holding a meeting tonight, Tuesday, Jan. 12. from 6 to 8 p.m. at Genesis Lutheran Church at the corner of Mack and E. Grand Blvd.

Sources: Waldorf, Harbortown and DCGSC
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh


Harbortown Market, Elevator Building among recipients of $238,700 in E. Jefferson corridor grants

Harbortown Market got a boost towards its planned January reopening with a grant from the Detroit Economic Growth Association's (DEGA) Jefferson Avenue Retail Readiness Program. Four other projects, including the Elevator Building, were also approved for a total of up to $239,700 in grants, which is expected to leverage an additional $250,000 in private investment.

Harbortown Market, located at 3472 East Jefferson Ave., has been closed since a June 2009 fire. The DEGA grant is being used towards the purchase of a "gatekeeper" system that will keep carts from wandering out of the parking lot, a new entryway as well as other interior improvements. "It will be the same layout with improvements in every corner of the store," says owner Tom George, who was determined to reopen the store he has operated for 22 years because he "enjoy(s) the business...I love it here and I have very interesting clientele."

The Elevator Building
is located at 1938 Franklin St. in the East Riverfront area. The grant funds will go towards building out the space into a multi-tenant business incubator. Read more about the project here.

The other projects funded include interior and exterior repairs to the Bosquet Building at 1386 East Jefferson and improvements to a neighboring parking lot as well as a lot located at 3333 East Jefferson that is owned by Nullis Secondus and is also utilized by the Players Club.

The Jefferson Avenue Retail Readiness Program is funded by a grant to DEGA from the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan. It provides financial incentives to improve properties along the Jefferson Avenue corridor from I-375 to McClellan Street. Property owners and tenants improving space for an identified commercial user can receive 50% matching grants to reimburse for the cost of interior and exterior improvements up to a maximum of $100,000 for buildings and $30,000 for parking lots. The Detroit Economic Growth Association is a non-profit economic development organization administered by the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation.

Sources: DEGC and Tom George, Harbortown Market
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh


End-of-year Wrap-up: Miliken State Park opens, Canine to Five expands, Butcher's reopens and more

In this last issue of Model D for 2009, we're going to squeeze in a few little tidbits that you might find to be of interest.

- Miliken State Park on the East Riverfront is actually open. If you thought it had been for some time, that would be understandable: a dedication was held in October for its renaming from Tricentennial State Park that seemed like a ribbon cutting. Anyways, now you can walk or bike through it or cast in a fishing line, although the Dequindre Cut Trail Extension isn't quite complete. Read more about the park's amenities at m-bike's blog post about the opening.

- Canine to Five has grown yet again. The large trailer on the lot just north of the dog daycare and grooming facility is for traditional boarding, which is now being offered in addition to cage-free boarding. The reason? Some dogs just don't meet daycare requirements, which include being neutered. Now dogs of all temperaments and breed can stay the night in Midtown. Find out more about both kinds of boarding at Canine to Five here.

- Eastern Market stalwart Butcher's Inn is reopen, newly helmed by the crew from nearby Cutter's Bar. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served; the drink specialty is tequila. The bar opens Monday through Friday at 10 a.m. and on Saturday at 8 a.m. Doors close between midnight and 2 a.m. depending on the crowd. Butcher's is located at 1489 Winder St. Call 313-394-0120.

- Flashing lights and pulsating beats are still to be found at 1500 Woodward downtown: Pure Nightclub has been replaced by Vain Ultra Lounge.

- Greektown's Ham Shoppe has found a new home at 330 Monroe St., the former home of Bahn Thai. Read the Metro Times' blurb about the relocation here.

Development News will be back in 2010 to satisfy at least most of your yearnings for knowledge of the new in Detroit. Until then, happy and safe holidays.

Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

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