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First annual blacksmith and welding festival to take place in Midtown


The first of what organizers hope to be an annual event will be held Saturday, September 13th in the parking lot across from Midtown bar and restaurant Traffic Jam & Snug. The event, SCRAP, is a celebration of the city's metal working culture. Blacksmithing demonstrations and a live three-team welding competition are among the activities planned.

A silent auction will be held throughout the day, allowing visitors to bid on the works being created right before them. Involved in the welding competition are teams Detroitus, Motown Masters, and City Sculpture. Artists are challenged to make revolving, kinetic sculptures out of reclaimed scrap metal.

Proceeds from the auction will be donated to Green Living Science, a recycling and upcycling advocacy group that is supporting the event. Other supporters include SPARC and Red-D-Arc Welderentals. Traffic Jam & Snug is hosting the event.

SCRAP organizers were first inspired by James Howard, a longtime blacksmith and the father of Traffic Jam & Snug co-owner Carolyn Howard. The event is an opportunity to showcase an inspired group of people and their work.

"It's the start of something amazing," says Ana Cukovic, one of the event's organizers. "People might not know it, but Detroit still has that strong metal working culture."

In addition to demonstrations by the Michigan Blacksmith Guild and the art competition, there will be DJ sets from RJ Stefanski, Eastside Jon, Ernie “Erno the Inferno” Guerra, and Evan Scott Braddish, or “Evol”. Also planned are fire performances, Wayne State University artist showcases, a photobooth, and other vendors.

SCRAP will run from 2 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, September 13th. The event is free to attend and will be family friendly, says organizers.

Source: Ana Cukovic, SCRAP co-producer
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Apartment building in 'Arena District' changes hands, but rent remains the same

Cass Park Apartments, a 37-unit apartment building at 2714 Second Ave., has been sold to 2nd Avenue Property, LLC. Property management company Princeton Management is now running the building. 

Not a lot of changes are planned for the property, says Princeton Management Director of Marketing and Communications Michele Dreer, and current residents can expect a smooth transition of management. The building, made up mostly of studio apartments with a few one-bedroom units, was well taken care of by its previous owners and required few upgrades. Rent will stay the same, says Dreer.

According to the Live Midtown website, studio apartments at 2714 Second Ave. rent for $525, while one bedrooms rent for $625 Both rates include utilities.

Cass Park is located just blocks from the multi-million dollar residential and commercial district planned around a new Detroit Red Wings hockey arena. The building itself is situated across from the actual Cass Park. The Masonic Temple is one block north.

"We liked the property because of the area that it's in," says Dreer. "The arena district is going to be great and there will be a lot of redevelopment opportunities."

Princeton is also the group behind the Ashley, the conversion of a downtown hotel into apartments. The company hopes to begin moving tenants into the 67-unit apartment building by the end of the year. The Milner Hotel closed in 2012.

The uniquely-shaped 'flat iron' building first opened as the Henry Clay Hotel in 1913. While Princeton is maintaining the historic lobby and its mosaic tiles and stained glass, the floors above are being completely gutted. Old hotel room walls have been knocked down, leaving wide open floors that will be rebuilt as one- and two-bedroom apartments.

Two retail spaces in the building have already been reserved, says Dreer, though she wouldn't say who those tenants would be.

Princeton manages a number of apartment buildings in Detroit, including the Palms, Orchestra Place, and the Claridge House.

Source: Michele Dreer, Director of Marketing & Communications at Princeton Management
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Craft beer store featuring taps to open in Cass Corridor

A specialty beer store is opening in Detroit's former Chinatown area. 8° Plato Beer Company Detroit will be the second location for the craft and import beer store. Co-owners Tim Costello and Brigid Beaubien are leasing the storefront at 3409 Cass Ave., the former site of Showcase Collectibles, an antique and curio shop.

Costello began to learn about craft beer during the 25 years he spent touring the country as a full-time stand-up comic, sampling the many small breweries throughout the United States. After spending some time working for Comcast, 8° Plato was set in motion after Costello was 'liberated,' as he puts it, from his job at the cable company. Vowing to never go back to the corporate world, Costello and wife and business partner Beaubien opened their first store in Ferndale in 2011.

Costello says that the focus of the Detroit store will be the same as their Ferndale location. Rather than having the biggest stock in town, the point is to have a well-curated selection that doesn't linger on the shelves. It's a quality over quantity approach that emphasizes freshness. Local cheeses, meats, and chocolates will also be available.

"The coolest part is the building's historical significance," says Costello. "We're not going to make radical changes. We'll take out the drywall to expose the brick but maintain the terrazzo tile floor and tin ceilings."

New for the company will be the addition of beer taps. Growlers, tap takeovers, and beer classes will be available. The taps also allow customers to enjoy a freshly poured beer while shopping for more beer. Costello's not looking to have a bar vibe, though, and he says they'll have similar hours to the Ferndale location, which closes by 8 or 9 p.m., depending on the night.

8° Plato Beer Company Detroit hopes for a late Noevember 2014 opening.

Source: Tim Costello, co-owner of 8° Plato Beer Company Detroit
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

City still seeks Brush Park development team, allows for higher densities

The city of Detroit has re-issued a slightly modified request for proposals for a Brush Park development first announced at the beginning of 2014. With that RFP long-expired and the city having not selected a plan, a new RFP was recently announced with a November 14 deadline.

The biggest differences between last January's RFP and the new one are a changes in residential density and land use parameters. While the previous RFP capped residential development in Brush Park at 15 to 35 dwelling units per acre, the revised RFP is allowing for larger developments of up to 60 dwelling units per acre.

According to the release, the City of Detroit's Planning and Development Department believes that, "[I]in order to better achieve the neighborhood scale, walkable, mixed-use vision of the future of Brush Park as set forth by P&DD and the Brush Park Citizens District Council, the current Development Plan is undergoing a major modification in order to allow a greater density of residential (up to 60 D.U./Acre) and a greater mix of uses within Brush Park."

The two parcels of land available in this RFP are the same as before. At approximately 7.5 acres, “Parcel A” is made up of four historic structures and 36 vacant lots bounded by Edmund Place (north), Brush Street (east), Adelaide Street (south), and John R (west). At approximately 0.90 acres, “Parcel B” consists of seven vacant properties and is bounded by Alfred (north), Beaubien Street (east), Division Street (south), and Brush (west).

The historic building at 312 Watson, known as “Parcel C” in January's RFP, is not included in this most recent request.

According to the RFP, the P&DD's new goals for the historic Brush Park neighborhood include creating residential density, promoting adaptive re-use, introducing neighborhood scale retail uses, and limiting surface parking lots.

Source: City of Detroit Planning & Development Department
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Midtown Detroit, Inc. secures funding for new green alley, construction starts in September

Over $200,000 has been secured for a new green alley in Midtown. The money results from a successful crowdfunding campaign by Midtown Detroit, Inc., which beat its $50,000 goal by $2,290. By reaching its goal, Midtown Detroit, Inc. also secures $50,000 in pledged matching funds from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC).

The alley in question runs between Second and Third streets and Selden and Alexandrine streets, running behind what could prove to be a very popular restaurant, Selden Standard, which is currently under construction.

"The Green Alley project is a perfect example of how crowdfunding enables residents, businesses, and others to pool resources and work together to create vibrant public spaces," says MEDC's director of community development Katharine Czarnecki in a statement. The Michigan Department of Transportation and Shinola have each contributed an additional $10,000 and $100,000, respectively.

As it stands today, the alley is not unlike plenty of alleys in plenty of big cities, strewn with litter and debris and largely unkempt. Those curious about what a green alley is can travel just a few blocks north to the city's first green alley, which starts at Second and runs east between Canfield and Forest streets, or they can visit the city's second green alley, which is under construction between Cass and Second and Willis and Canfield streets.

Green alleys promote sustainability, pedestrian safety, and placemaking, completely transforming parts of the city that are often under-utilized and generally avoided. By breaking up solid stretches of pavement and replacing them with permeable pavers, green alleys allow urban runoff and rain to go directly into the ground rather than flow into the city's sewer system.

Construction on the alley is scheduled to begin this September and be completed by the end of October. Midtown Detroit, Inc. is planning a grand opening for the alley which will coincide with the highly anticipated opening of the Selden Standard.

Source: Midtown Detroit, Inc. press release
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Hatch Final Four: A full service music instrument store in Midtown

Given Detroit's rich musical legacy, a lack of music stores throughout the city comes as a surprise -- and an annoyance -- to many a musician. Despite the fact that there are thousands of musicians who live and perform in the city, amateur and professional alike, there's nary a place where a drummer can pick up drumsticks before a gig or where a mother can buy a saxophone reed for a daughter who just joined band class.

Jen David is working to change that. If she has her way, guitarists won't have to drive to the suburbs for guitar strings anymore, and parents won't have to fight traffic as they bring their children to music lessons outside the city. She's starting Third Wave Music, a full service music instrument store that will be located in the Forest Arms apartment building in Midtown. Forest Arms is currently being renovated after a fire shuttered the building in 2008.

David says that the store will focus on accessories like strings, sticks, and reeds as well as music lessons. Locally made products, like instrument effects pedals and cigar box guitars, will be offered, too. David's partner Jeffrey Thomas will offer made-to-order instrument cables (musicians will be able to request specific lengths and specific jacks). Third Wave will sell used gear and offer instrument repair services as well.

For David, it's fulfilling a need for a community of professional musicians, independent artists, and local students that will be the most rewarding aspect of the business.

"The biggest thing is the absolute need for something like this in Detroit," says David. "We've already received so much support and positivity. With the musical legacy of Detroit, it's a resource that this community deserves."

A musician who also gives lessons, David knows first hand the challenges of commuting back-and-forth to the suburbs, currently a necessity for any musician living in Detroit.  

Third Wave Music is one of four contestants vying to win the $50,000 grand prize from Hatch Detroit. Voting ends August 20 at 12 p.m. EST. Voting is open to the public and available online.

Source: Jen David, owner/operator of Third Wave Music
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

First round of Hatch voting ends Thursday as 10 startups vie for $50K prize

The popular Hatch Detroit contest has entered its fourth year and the ten start-ups announced as semi-finalists are doing all that they can to garner votes. The eventual winner of the small business competition will receive a $50,000 grant and a suite of business support services.

Voting for the semi-finalist round is open to the public and ends at 11:59 p.m. EST on August 14. Voters may select four businesses during the first round and may vote once a day. Voting for the second round will begin August 15, when the field of competitors is narrowed to four businesses. The eventual winner of the $50,000 prize will be announced August 20.

While there is only one winner, just making it into the top ten is a great source of exposure and motivation for businesses.

"Hatch has given us a faster pace to run to," says Jen David, co-founder of Third Wave Music. "I've been meeting new people and talking to many musicians and students excited for a new spot to get what they need and have support. It's been really encouraging to hear positive feedback. It's really motivating."

The semi-finalists are:Source: Jen David, co-founder of Third Wave Music
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Detroit development news round-up: July and August

It's been another busy month for development news in the city. Let's catch up on five of the biggest stories since our last round-up.

In what Detroit Free Press writer John Gallagher calls, "the city’s boldest and most significant development since the Renaissance Center of the 1970s," the Ilitch family released plans for their enormous sports, entertainment, and housing development. A taxpayer-subsidized arena for billionaire Mike Ilitch's Red Wings hockey team anchors a massive plan of new development and districts, including a potential 2,000 new residential units.

The new arena district will be built with the M1 Rail streetcar line in mind, which officially broke ground Monday, July 28. The lightrail line will run along Woodward Avenue from downtown to New Center and is expected to begin operating in late 2016. The first phase of construction has closed Woodward from Adams Street to Campus Martius park for 120 days.

Officials hope that the M1 Rail will make it easier for people to navigate a city blooming with new bars and restaurants. Eater Detroit has mapped out ten of their most anticipated Detroit restaurant openings. They include eateries from West Fort Street to Hamtramck, from the top of a downtown hotel to everyone's favorite castle building.

Boydell Development Company, the development group behind Corktown's Roosevelt Hotel restoration, announced plans to redevelop an old Wayne State University pharmacy school into a 180 apartment-unit building. The 'micro-apartments' will range from 400 to 500 square feet at the new Shapero Hall.

Winners for the Parallel Projections design contest Reanimate the Ruins were recently announced. Though conceptual in nature, the submitted proposals for redeveloping the iconic blight campus that is the Packard Motor Plant demonstrate the breadth of possibilities for the historic site.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Summer development news round-up

It's been a busy season for development news in the city. Let's catch up on five stories that have made  headlines this summer.

The longer it takes for construction to begin, the less likely it seems that a development project will ever be built. With that in mind, Detroit light rail advocates are closer to breathing easy as the M-1 Rail project has announced a July 28 start date for construction. Work begins downtown before it makes the slow climb northward on Woodward Avenue to New Center.

Nearly a year to the day after the grand opening of the city's first Meijer store, officials broke ground on a second Detroit location of the popular grocery superstore chain. The second Meijer is being built on the site of the former Redford High School at Grand River Avenue and McNichols Road on the city's northwest side. The new store will hire up to 500 people, reports say.

Midtown Detroit, Inc. is leading a crowdfunding campaign as it seeks money for a new Green Alley. The alley slated for development “is bounded by Second Avenue, Selden, the Third Avenue alley and Alexandrine.” The Michigan Economic Development Corporation will match the campaign's $50,000 goal if it is met by July 25.

Curbed argues that the first thing the new owners of Corktown's CPA Building should do is board up and secure the building. The old building at Michigan Avenue and 14th Street has been devastated by vandals -- among others -- over the years while much of the rest of Corktown continues to experience redevelopment.

Plans to redevelop the old Detroit Fire Department headquarters into a downtown boutique hotel are still under way, assures the development team. Though the developers announced a late 2015 opening, it's still unknown when construction will begin.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

City seeks buyer for five acre Midtown site

The City of Detroit recently issued a Request for Proposals as it seeks a developer for the derelict Wigle Recreation Center and Playfield. The five acre parcel available for development is located at the southeastern corner of the John C. Lodge Freeway service drive and Selden Street. The RFP stipulates that the winning bidder must maintain an adjacent two-acre site as public greenspace.

Detroit's Planning and Development Department touts the site's proximity to Woodward Avenue, the Lodge Freeway, and Motor City Casino as it asks for a minimum bid of $540,000. According to the RFP, the city is open to just about anything, as the Planning and Development Department "envisions a commercial, institutional, residential and/or mixed use development compatible in density, scale, lot size and architectural design to adjacent developments within the area."

The city will demolish the on-site recreation center prior to the transfer of title.

Consistent with recent RFPs is the city's inclusion of Detroit Future City considerations for the site. According to the RFP and DFC, the Wigle site is "located within the Education/Medical and Digital/Creative District. The property should be considered for development that supports economic activities in healthcare, research, technology, creative enterprise and education."

The greenspace stipulation reserves two acres of greenspace for the neighborhood. The winning developer must maintain the park, including regular trash and debris clean-up. It also requires the winning bidder to mow the greenspace once every two weeks.

The deadline for proposals is August 1. The final selection will be announced August 21, 2014.

Since 2012, the abandoned field has been maintained by a team of volunteers who run the Wigle Recreational Baseball Field, a neighborhood baseball group.  

Source: City of Detroit Planning & Development Department RFP
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

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A spa opens in Midtown's Park Shelton building

Opening Serene Medi-Spa is the realization of a six year dream for Dr. Manisha Mehta, a podiatrist who also owns and operates a medical practice. The two businesses neighbor each other inside the Park Shelton.

Dr. Mehta first opened Gentle Foot Care of Michigan in the early months of 2008. Forced to move her medical practice from 3800 Woodward as a result of that building's impending demolition, Dr. Mehta moved to the Park Shelton in August of 2013. Serene Medi-Spa opened Valentine's Day of 2014.

Dr. Mehta hopes that as her spa business grows, she'll be able to expand into an additional space and offer waxes and facials. For now, the spa offers manicures and pedicures, including paraffin, scrub, and gel polish services.

Being a podiatrist, Dr. Mehta knows quite a bit about foot care. As such, she places quite an emphasis on the sanitary conditions of the spa, saying that too many spas ignore healthy sanitation practices.

"With me being experienced in sterilization and cleanliness, the nail techs can always come next door to my office and ask questions," says Dr. Mehta.

Liners are placed in the foot bowls and are thrown away after one use. Dr. Mehta also discourages nail techs from reusing nail files. She even sells a polish with anti-fungal properties. With these practices, Dr. Mehta wants customers to know that she's doing everything she can to ensure a healthy manicure and pedicure experience. The doctor knows a thing or two about fungi, bacteria, and infections.

Dr. Mehta also spreads the gospel of ovarian cancer awareness and hopes to start a foundation someday. "With all these women coming into the spa, I want to educate and hopefully save some lives," she says.

Serene Medi-Spa is currently looking for experienced nail techs.

Source: Dr. Manisha Mehta, founder and owner of Serene Medi-Spa
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

State loans millions of dollars to build M-1 Rail, demolish Joe Louis Arena

A couple of Detroit development projects have recently been approved for loans and funding assistance from the Michigan Strategic Fund, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation recently announced. Two projects, the construction of the M-1 Rail and the demolition of Joe Louis Arena, will receive $16 million from the fund.

"Michigan is America’s Comeback State, and these projects add to our growing momentum," said Gov. Rick Snyder in a statement. "These new investments in our state will strengthen our communities, spur new commercial investment in our cities and fuel new opportunities for our talented workforce."

The M-1 Rail, a 3.3-mile light rail system that will stretch from downtown to New Center, is set to receive a $10 million loan from the Michigan Strategic Fund. The $10 million Michigan Business Development Program performance-based loan has been awarded as result of the $130 to $140 million in capital investment and up to 41 permanent jobs that the construction of the line is expected to create.

While some specifics for the project remain, the $10 million in loans provided by the Michigan Strategic Fund should bring the M-1 Rail closer to reality. Recently, the first phase of construction began as crews have started utility work downtown. The M-1 Rail is a curbside light rail system that will stop at 11 planned stops along Woodward.

The current home of the Detroit Red Wings, Joe Louis Arena, will be demolished once a new hockey arena has been built in the lower Cass Corridor. Though nothing has been announced for the future former home of the Red Wings, the riverfront location is poised to receive major development interest.

Anticipating major commercial investment dollars, the Michigan Strategic Fund has approved up to $6 million in Michigan Community Revitalization Program performance-based economic assistance to go toward demolishing the arena. Joe Louis opened in 1979.

Source: Michigan Economic Development Corporation press release
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

March development news round-up

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


Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

More affordable housing for Midtown announced

Woodbridge Estates, a neighborhood notable for its Motown-themed street names, will see the construction of 46 apartments spread across 12 buildings this spring. The Slavik Company, a partner in the development team, expects that the apartments will be ready for move-in by July 2014. This marks the sixth phase of construction for Woodbridge Estates, a development that broke ground in 2003 and began accepting its first residents in 2005.

The Woodbridge Estates construction will create more affordable housing in Midtown's southwest corner. The apartments will be reserved for residents who earn up to 60% of the area median income. Developers plan to offer the apartments with a lease-to-own option, says Eric Gold, vice president of the Slavik Company. After 15 years of leasing their apartments, residents will be offered the opportunity to purchase, per U.S. Housing and Urban Development approval.

"I think the income restrictions are perfect for companies hiring in Midtown and downtown Detroit, allowing those employees to live close to work," says Gold.

Woodbridge Estates currently consists of 281 rental units and 51 occupied single-family homes and townhouses. There is a broad mix of incomes within the neighborhood. In addition to the planned apartment construction, 16 single-family house lots remain available at Woodbridge Estates, with prices ranging from $215,000 for a three bedroom, 1,500 square foot home to $285,000 for a four bedroom, 2,200 square foot model. $75,000 in forgivable loans are available as a down payment for qualified buyers.

Woodbridge Estates is bounded by Canfield to the north, M-10 to the east, Martin Luther King, Jr. to the south, and Gibson to the west.

Woodbridge Farm, another Slavik development, runs directly adjacent to the west of Woodbridge Estates. Eight single-family house lots remain in that development. Gold says that these homes are being designed with the surrounding historic architecture in mind.

Source: Eric Gold, vice president of the Slavik Company
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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