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Restoration of the Treymore Apartments building results in 28 affordable housing units in Midtown

Detroiters feeling the pinch of rising rental rates in the city's greater downtown have reason to turn their attention to Brainard Street. There, in the bustling development hotspot between Wayne State University and Little Caesars Arena is the Treymore, will be an affordable housing redevelopment that offers 28 one- and two-bedroom units to Detroiters earning 50 to 60 percent of the area's average median income.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan cut the ribbon on the redveloped apartment building this past Friday, Dec. 9.

"These are the kinds of projects the City of Detroit is happy to support because they are example of how Detroit comes back, there is room and opportunity for everyone," says Mayor Duggan. The city contributed $3.5 million in HOME program funds.

A number of other organizations contributed to the redevelopment, creating a patchwork of financing. The Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) contributed $3 million in affordable housing tax credits. Cinnaire financed and syndicated the MSHDA credits. And the building's developer, Paradise Valley Investment Group (PVI), contributed hundreds of thousands in private equity and brownfield tax credits.

In all, it cost $7 million to renovate the building, which has sat vacant for over two decades. The condition of the building forced developers to completely strip it of infrastructure and start fresh, requiring the installation of new windows, energy efficient HVAC, and lighting. Also new is the roof, landscaping, and greenspace.

The Treymore is a four story, 30,000 sq. ft. building erected in the early 1900s. Two-thirds of the 28 units are already leased.

"Restoring this building has been life changing," says PVI president and CEO, Robin Scovill. "Its condition when we started, juxtaposed with the finished product, is shocking."

The Treymore is located at 457 Brainard St.

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

November development news round-up: New homes in North Corktown, a new home for basketball, and more

Let's catch up on some of the biggest stories from the past five weeks.

While it's Corktown that receives the lion's share of development attention, its neighbor across the freeway, North Corktown, has been in the news lately, too. Construction of traditionally-financed single-family homes will begin in Spring 2017 on Ash and Sycamore streets, featuring contemporary designs by Christian Hurttienne Architects. Meanwhile, an affordable housing development that stretches across 54 acres was reported by the Detroit News and includes "elite" New York architect Alexander Gorlin and possibly Grammy-winning musician Pharrell Williams. There is, however, no official word on any timeline.

The Detroit Pistons are moving back to their namesake city, 38 years after leaving the cozy confines of Cobo Arena for the Pontiac Silverdome in 1978. The basketball organization announced this month that they will be joining the Detroit Red Wings hockey team in occupying Little Caesars Arena, which is currently under construction just north of downtown. Both teams will open their 2017-18 seasons in the new arena. Rumored sites for a Pistons practice facility include a West Grand Boulevard location in New Center. The Pistons are leaving The Palace of Auburn Hills, built by former owner William Davidson in 1988.

In historic preservation news, the CPA Building across from Michigan Central Station has been saved from demolitionat least for now. It was reported earlier this month that the building's owners, the New York City-based BFD Corktown LLC, were granted a demolition permit for the building. But as news broke, preservation and neighborhood advocates quickly mobilized, gathering over 1,000 signatures to petition its destruction. Detroit City Council took note and granted the building, which opened in 1923, an interim historic building designation, delaying demolition for up to one year and opening it up to further studies.

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

Two alley festivals to take place this Saturday in Midtown

Often an afterthought in most neighborhoods, the alley is kind of a special thing in Midtown. There's Dally in the Alley, one of Detroit's longest-running street fairs, which celebrates the Cass Corridor with local music, art, and food vendors lining a neighborhood alley. There are the green alleys, which convert typically dank and uninviting alleys into charming walkways, complete with green methods of storm water management and the reintroduction of native plants. There's even the Garden Bowl, which, at over 100 years old, is the oldest continuously operating bowling alley in the country.

A new micro-festival will debut on Saturday, September 10, the same day as Dally in the Alley. The new event is called The Green Alley Gathering and it takes place in the Green Alley adjacent to Jolly Pumpkin and Third Man Records. Organized by Porterhouse Presents, the Gathering will celebrate the community and promote Midtown Detroit, Inc.'s Green Alley construction projects throughout the neighborhood.

Two music stages will bookend the alley, plus Man & Pan Paella will be serving their traditional meat, seafood, and vegan Spanish paella. A cash bar featuring Jolly Pumpkin, North Peak, and Civilized Spirits adult beverages will be located in Third Man Records.

Booked to play the first Green Alley Gathering is MarchFourth, a genre-mixing party marching band that also features acrobats and stilters, the Craig Brown Band, a local country-rock group recently signed to Third Man Records, and the Silent Disco, a multimedia experience that has listeners wear headphones at the concert. Silent Disco will include sets from DJ Psycho, DJ Prim, and more.

The Green Alley Gathering is Saturday, September 10 and runs from 6:00 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door. It is located in the Green Alley between 2nd and Cass Avenues and West Canfield and West Willis Streets.

Dally in the Alley is Saturday, September 10 and runs from 11:00 a.m to 11:00 p.m. between Forest Avenue and Hancock Street and 2nd and 3rd Avenues. The event is free.

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

July development news round-up: Big residential projects on Selden

Let's catch up on some of the biggest stories from the past four weeks.

Two more residential developments were announced in Midtown this month. The first is the rehab of 678 Selden St., a 22,796 sq. ft. vacant apartment building. Dubbed the H.R. Finn Apartments, the $3.7 million investment will result in 28 apartments and two commercial units. Built in 1922, the building has been vacant for the past seven years. Construction, which includes brand new plumbing, heating, electrical work, and more, is expected to wrap up in late 2017.

Travel east down Selden Street and one will find another residential development, this one being built from the ground up. Slated for a summer 2017 opening, The Selden is a four story building consisting of 12 for-sale condos. Retail and office space is reserved for the ground floor while renderings reveal a roof-top deck. The Selden replaces the Marie Apartments building, which was razed in May 2016.

The city of Detroit released an RFP for the Fitzgerald Revitalization Project, a three-part strategy for stabilizing and improving life in the Fitzgerald neighborhood. The plan calls for a new park and greenway, converting empty parcels into economically sustainable and productive spaces like orchards and gardens, and saving and utilizing empty buildings throughout the neighborhood. Fitzgerald is bound by McNichols to the north, Livernois to the east, Puritan to the south, and Greenlawn to the west.

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

Motor City Match completes first year of programming, 11 more businesses awarded grants

Detroit continues to grow its base of entrepreneurs through its Motor City Match program, awarding 11 more grants ranging from $15,000 to $75,000 to area businesses. The awards, announced July 20, complete the fourth round of Motor City Match, marking one full year for the quarterly program.

That pipeline of entrepreneurs, as Detroit Economic Growth Corporation CEO Rodrick Miller calls it, consists largely of Detroiters. According to figures released by Motor City Match, 64 percent of MCM winning businesses are owned by Detroiters, 72 percent are minority-owned, and 68 percent are woman-owned.

In the program's first year, Motor City Match has awarded $2 million in grants to 40 small businesses, leveraging over $13 million in total investment in the city.

This round of grant winners include:
  • Twisted Roots, a beauty supply retailer in Eastern Market
  • Block Party, a building on Livernois that will house two restaurants and the Live6 Alliance
  • Detroit Vegan Soul, a West Village restaurant opening a second location on Grand River
  • Norma G's, a Caribbean cuisine food truck opening a brick-and-mortar location on East Jefferson
  • Live Cycle Delight, a cycling studio opening in West Village
  • Amaze-Enjoyment, an early childhood center at 20067 John R Street
  • Guadalajara #2, a butcher shop expanding into a full-service facility in Southwest
  • Lil Brilliant Mindz, an east side daycare and Head Start facility
  • Beau Bien Fine Foods, an artisanal jam, fruit preserve, chutney, and mustard maker expanding in Eastern Market
  • Meta Physical Wellness Center, an affordable holistic spa opening in Corktown
  • Third Wave Music, a music instrument retailer opening in the Forest Arms building in Midtown
"These are the kinds of businesses that help to create complete neighborhoods where people want to live," says Mayor Mike Duggan. "Motor City Match is helping dozens of Detroit entrepreneurs live their dream owning their own business while being a real part of our city’s neighborhood comeback."

In addition to the 11 businesses awarded grants, seven others will receive free design and architectural services, 26 have been connected with landlords, and 50 more will receive free business planning support.

The next round of the Motor City Match application process begins Sep. 1 and closes Oct. 1.

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

Stadt Garten, a pop-up beer garden, to debut in Midtown

A beer garden is popping up in Midtown this Saturday, July 16, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. The inaugural Stadt GartenGerman for "City Garden," a nod to co-founder Mark R. Beard's German heritageis the first of several planned this summer. Proceeds from the event will benefit Hostel Detroit.

The setting for Stadt Garten is the yard a Gothic-Victorian mansion built in the 1880s. Beard was part of the team that redeveloped the property, which has three residential units, a clothing shop, and, now, a beer garden.

Why does Beard, who lives in one of the aforementioned residential units, wants to invite a couple hundred strangers to party in his yard?

"It's more important now than it has been in the recent past to come together as a community," he said via text message. "I don't really know of any better way to start knocking down some of the implicit biases that exist in peoples' minds than spending time with one another (in a positive way). Also, horseshoes!"

He added, "And, there's too much mulch in the yard and not enough people."

Vendors for Stadt Garten are mostly local. Corktown brewery Batch Brewing Company will be supplying four different types of beer, ranging from $5 to $7 each. Sfumato Fragrances will offer scented cocktails. Wine and food will also be on hand.

Will Leather Goods, the retailer located across the street, will be selling their own cold brew coffee blend, roasted by Tailored Coffee Roasters. Vice Cream, the vegan ice cream business that operates out of an Air Stream trailer, will bring their dairy-free treats to Stadt Garten, as well.

From 7 to 10 p.m., Ryan Spencer from local eletropop group Jamaican Queens will spin records. Detroit Clothing Circle, the retailer located in the house, will be open during the duration of the beer garden. Beer pong and staring contests, too, are planned.

Stadt Garten is located at 3980 Second Ave.

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

New beverage director to accompany Rock City Eatery's move to Midtown

There's a lot of work involved in Rock City Eatery's eventual move from Hamtramck to Detroit's Midtown district. An expanded menu, both thoughtful and bold, has been developed. The space itself, the old Bangkok Cuisine Express restaurant on Woodward, has been stripped to its bare form and will be re-built from the inside-out. The bar is being built and the bathrooms are nearly selfie-ready. The custom-made furniture is being assembled by hand. 

There's also hires to be made, like beverage director Elizabeth Cosby. She's been tasked with creating a drink menu that pairs with both the familiar Rock City Eatery dishes, as well as the new and adventurous menu items like Ants on a Logpickled celery, peanut butter, and, yes, actual antsand Pancakes and Sausage, which includes a duck sausage patty sandwiched between two scallion pancakes with bone marrow butter topping it off.

During a recent media preview, Rock City Eatery owners Nikita Sanches and Jessica Imbronone Sanches debuted nine plates from the new menu. These new items and more will complement popular ones from the old Hamtramck location. From Ants on a Log to a bone marrow pate, lobster rolls to blood sausage pierogi, the new menu had local food and restaurant writers abuzz.

Cosby also contributed with her carefully chosen drink pairings that included a range of beer, wine and cocktails. "We don't want to focus only on what you know, we want to provide an adventure," says Cosby. Locally-made craft beer, wine, and spirits are a focus, while so, too, are drinks that originate from the same geographic regions as particular menu items.

There is no official opening date for Rock City Eatery in Midtown, though it's not far off. It will be located at 4216 Woodward Ave. in Detroit.

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

70 units in 30 days: Forest Arms redevelopment fills up fast in Midtown

Having met Scott Lowell on the grounds of the Forest Arms redevelopment, he has the look of a person nearing the end of a long journey. He's tired, relieved, and grateful. After the better part of a decade, Lowell and his wife Carolyn Howard's rehabilitation of the Forest Arms apartment building in Midtown is going to accept its first tenants since 2008. They opened the building up to the market and, in just 30 days, it reached full capacity. 70 units. No vacancy. Residents begin to move in May 28.

The apartment building, built in 1905, experienced a devastating fire in 2008. One person died and the rest were displaced, many with their belongings destroyed. The roof caved in, leaving the building open to the elements. It was a disaster, one that some in the neighborhood believed would surely result in the razing of the historic building. Lowell and Howard, experienced developers with both residences and restaurants to their credit, decided to take on the project, their biggest to date. After six years of the stop-start nature of nailing down the financing and two years of construction, the Forest Arms is open for business.

Lowell uses words like "intense" and "tiring" to characterize the experience of redeveloping the Forest Arms. He's tired, sure, but definitely happy.

"Is it worth it? Yeah, for me," says Lowell. "The building's still standing. It was destined to be torn down. I grew up in the city and watched the neighborhood I grew up in, the east end of the Davison, just implode and watched house after house get demolished and people move away. To be part of this, to save a building, to create something where people want to move to and see the demand, there's a certain kind of reward in that."

Walking through the courtyard and up to the building, Lowell points out the front doors being installed. The wooden doors are new and fashioned after the originals, those having been ruined by fire axes. Walking up the re-built stairs to the roof, workers buzzed through the hallways, putting the finishing touches on the interior, installing light fixtures and other last-minute details.

There are two ways to take in the views from the roof. A community deck, complete with a public kitchen, is open to all of the residents. There are also five penthouses, built atop the newly-built roof, each with their own private deck. Down below the workers are preparing the sprinkler system in time for new sod, originally torn out to install an expensive geothermal heating system. Rainwater is recycled for many uses throughout the grounds. On the north side of the building are two retail units, one reserved for music instrument store Third Wave Music and a second envisioned as a bar and restaurant, still searching for a tenant.

At one point, Lowell and Howard had a deal with Wayne State University to lease the building. The deal would have ensured a steady flow of tenants for the developers while easing that school's student housing shortage. The deal fell through, however, and they opened the building to the market. Unsure how much interest the building would draw, the dissolution of the deal with Wayne State proved to be a boon for the partners. The building filled up in the span of a month. Lowell says he still receives three to five inquiries a day.

"70 units in 30 days. It's been phenomenal," says Lowell. "I'm just amazed that demand's still here. It's pretty encouraging."

With demand outpacing supply in Midtown, Lowell should be comfortable in the two more buildings they're redeveloping in the area, one with 23 units and the other around 27 units. Those are in the early stages of redevelopment, awaiting the partners' full attention once the Forest Arms project is complete.

Lowell and Howard are also moving a family barn from western Michigan to Detroit, reassembling it as a restaurant and venue in the city that will host live music, weddings, and parties. It's clear Lowell is pretty excited about the project. Though he's not divulging too much information just yet, he did say they've acquired an acre and a half site in Corktown.

Lowell began purchasing properties in Hamtramck in the 1980s and Midtown in the 1990s. Times are different, he says. Back then, people made agreements on beverage napkins at neighborhood bars, handshake deals among neighbors and friends. Today, he regularly fields calls from investors outside of Detroit, promptly turning down offers on his buildings throughout the neighborhood.

With the restoration of the Forest Arms, those phone calls and emails aren't going to slow down any time soon.

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

April development news round-up: Retail, restaurants, and office space

It's been another busy month for development news in the city. Let's catch up on some of the biggest stories from the past four weeks.

Detroit City Football Club (DCFC), which announced a move from Detroit to Hamtramck last year, opened a retail store, office, and community space at 2750 Yemans Street this month. To celebrate, DCFC is hosting an open house there from 5 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 27. DCFC opens their first season at Keyworth Stadium on May 20, 2016.

Bedrock Detroit, Dan Gilbert's real estate arm, pulled in two more high-profile office tenants. Ally Financial will lease 13 floors in One Detroit Center at 500 Woodward Ave. and is consolidating more than 1,300 employees into the building. As a result of the move, Bedrock is renaming the building Ally Detroit Center. The Detroit-based consulting firm LoVasco, which specializes in insurance, employee benefits, and retirement services, is moving into the Bedrock-owned and -managed One Woodward Avenue building. 20 employees will make the move, too.

Six Detroit-based projects were announced as 2016 Knight Cities Challenge winners, receiving awards that total $638,084 of the $5 million awarded nationally. According to organizers, each of the ideas help "cities attract and keep talented people, expand economic opportunities and create a culture of civic engagement." Winners include Pedal to Porch, a monthly bike tour that gives neighborhood residents the opportunity to tell their stories; Dequindre Cut Market, a pop-up retail district along the bike and pedestrian trail; Detroit’s Exciting Adventure into the Pink Zone, which will seek to transform how the city's commercial districts are developed and designed; Give a Park, Get a Park, a micro-park system throughout the city; Sensors in a Shoebox, an educational program that enables youth to better understand their neighborhoods through sensors and data; and the People First Project, which creates a network of tactical urbanists to affect change.

The Wayne State University School of Social Work celebrated the renovation of and their moving to a new building at 5447 Woodward Ave.

Earlier this month, the city's first Panera Bread opened in the GMRENCEN, the building formerly known as the Renaissance Center.

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

Move over food trucks, a flower truck is coming to Detroit

For all of the stories about new businesses that have either opened in or moved to Detroit over the past few years, some of the more familiar refrains include pop-ups and food trucks. These relatively inexpensive venues provide entrepreneurs an opportunity to do business without the up-front costs of outfitting a permanent location. One local entrepreneur is taking those concepts to create a uniquely Detroit service in the process.

Lisa Waud owns Pot & Box, a fresh floral and horticultural service with studios in Detroit and Ann Arbor. She has purchased an old ice cream truck and, with the help of a $10,000 NEIdeas grant, is customizing the truck to become a mobile floral retailer. The flower truck -- nicknamed Scoops, a result of its previous life -- has already scheduled three stops throughout the week and Waud plans on adding more. Waud will be selling flowers and plants in front of Shinola in Midtown every Wednesday, Astro Coffee in Corktown every Thursday, and Red Hook in West Village every Friday.

Waud says the truck provides her the opportunity to sell flowers without the cost and risk of opening up a permanent shop. With the flower truck, Waud can more accurately target her customers.

"I'm so excited to have this truck," says Waud. "As small business owners, we're in front of our computers a lot. I can't wait to talk to and meet customers and be out in the world."

Pot & Box has largely been an event-based service, outfitting weddings, dinners, and other occasions. But Waud also offers daily delivery and weekly subscription services. Her flowers are sourced almost exclusively from American farms, and once warm weather finally comes to Michigan, she'll focus more and more on Detroit-grown plants and flowers. 

Waud is also known for creating the Flower House art installation in Hamtramck.

The flower truck makes its debut on Friday, April 22, in front of the West Village location of the Red Hook coffee shop.

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

Church in Midtown restores historic building to former glory

A new church, in a very old building, is beginning to take root in the heart of Midtown. It's called Mosaic Midtown Church, and church leaders have taken on the rather large undertaking of restoring a historic building that dates back as far as the 1880s.

Located on Alexandrine Street, between Woodward and Cass Avenues, the church rests in the shadow of another historic restoration project, the Strathmore Apartments. Once completed, the restoration process will leave the church exterior largely as is, save for some badly needed cosmetic touch-ups, with the interior receiving the bulk of the work.

Though another church held services at the building up until Mosaic church leaders purchased it for $1 million in September 2015, the building was badly in need of repairs. Mosaic is investing an additional $1.5 million in renovating the 17,800 sq. ft. church, maintaining much of its traditional charm while simultaneously bringing it into the 21st century. The floors, windows, pews, and pipe organ will be restored, alongside installation of new HVAC, plumbing, and electrical systems. Structural improvements to the walls and roof will also be completed. 

While a few monitors will be placed throughout the sanctuary, they're largely for practical reasons and not to emulate the theater-like settings of modern mega-churches. Pastor Mick Veach, who left Stony Creek Community Church of Washington, Mich. last year to start Mosaic, says that structurally-significant beams may block the views of some in the congregation, just like the obstructed view seats at old Tiger Stadium. The monitors will help alleviate that situation.

Many of the churches in Midtown don't own their own buildings, says Pastor Veach, but instead rent spaces for Sunday services. And rent can get expensive in Midtown these days, not just for apartment-dwellers and businesses, but churches, too. The pastor believes that to truly make an impact in the community, Mosaic had to put their roots down. It's a big investment, but Mosaic believes it to be an important one.

"There's a lack of trust, says Pastor Veach. "A lot of folks have had bad experiences with a church because the church, in some regards, has taken advantage of their authority, or the church is only open Sunday mornings, or the church only wants money. We believe that in the need to have a physical presence, to say that we're here long term, that we're here to collaborate, to be a blessing to the neighborhood, to join everybody else here. And the way to do that is to have an actual physical building."

According to Veach, Mosaic is a multi-denominational church, made up of different ethnicities of various financial means. They've been meeting at St. Patrick Senior Center nearby while waiting for renovations to be completed. Mosaic will continue a relationship with St. Patrick, as well as foster a partnership with the Children's Center across Alexandrine. Pastor Veach is in dialog with Mariners Inn and he says he plans on reaching out to the nearby Detroit School of Arts, too. The goal is to have a presence in the neighborhood not just on Sundays, but every day of the week.

The building itself is an interesting one. The original church, built in 1884, is far off the street, located in the back of today's building. But several additions have brought it closer to the sidewalk. Many groups have used the church over the last 130 years, including its longest tenant, the Masons. Church officials say there's a number of Mason-centric peculiarities about the building, including a secret room complete with a mural featuring Mason iconography painted on the ceiling. A stained-glass window of the Eastern Star, also a feature of the Masons, is going to be removed and gifted to an former octogenarian congregant of the old Eastern Star Temple that was once located there.

Mosaic Midtown Church is scheduled to open in June 2016. It is located at 80 W. Alexandrine St. in Detroit.

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

New hotel in Midtown offers sustainable stays and intimate access to the city

A unique hotel opened in Midtown recently, changing overnight options for visitors from both near and far.

The El Moore Lodge is a triple bottom line business, meaning that its been designed to meet social and ecological demands in addition to traditional financial ones. The building itself, built in 1898, was extensively renovated to meet the high sustainability standards of its owners, including a geothermal heating and cooling system and a super-insulated building envelope. The group behind the building, the Brennan family, is also responsible for the nearby Green Garage.

There are eleven hotel rooms and twelve apartment units at the El Moore. The apartments, located on floors two, three, and four, opened in June 2015, and the Lodge opened in January 2016. This staggered opening was by design, says Jason Peet, manager of both the El Moore Lodge and residences. The group wanted to give residents time to establish themselves as a community before taking in travelers.

But intermingling of residents and guests is also by design -- a parlor on the main floor acts as a common room for the whole building, facilitating interactions between long and short-term tenants. Visitors staying at the Lodge will have access to people familiar with the city.

"So many people that are traveling to Detroit right now are coming for the right reasons. They're very interested in what's happening here," says Peet. "So we wanted to provide our guests the opportunity to connect to that right away as opposed to arriving at a hotel, getting checked into the hotel, and saying, okay, now we gotta go find stuff, let's get in our car and find the Heidelberg Project. Here, even when you first set your bag down, you may meet a resident. The second you're here, you're doing what you came for."

Among the eleven hotel rooms are four different types of units. Two hostel-style rooms, one for men and one for women, occupy the garden level of the building. On the main floor are the parkview rooms, a more traditional hotel-style room with individual the, including the Casey Kasem room, named for the famous radio DJ who grew up next door. Also on the main floor is a residential suite, designed for extended stays, its full kitchen complete with baking tins for cupcakes and muffins.

The roof of the El Moore Lodge is a story in itself. Four "urban cabins" have been built on the roof, outfitted with unobstructed views of the city from the private patios. Their designs are unique, using materials reclaimed only from the El Moore renovations. Local designers and builders have provided much of the labor.

The El Moore Lodge is located at 624 W. Alexandrine St. in Detroit.

All photos by Marvin Shaouni.

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

Sit On It Detroit to open furniture store and studio in Midtown

Sit On It Detroit is opening a store in the 71 Garfield building in Midtown. The custom furniture shop is renowned for the benches it's built, donated, and installed at roughly 50 bus stops around the city. The new location will serve as a space to both showcase some of its work and provide co-founders Kyle Bartell and Charles Molnar a place to sit down with clients and customers and hash out the planning and design part of the business.

While Sit On It Detroit is best known for fashioning reclaimed wood into free and creative benches at city bus stops, the company is also an accomplished designer and manufacturer of custom indoor furnishings. It's produced headboards for the home, the mason jar chandelier at Kuzzo's Chicken & Waffles, and tables at Thomas Magee's Sporting House Whiskey Bar, among many other products.

The Midtown showroom gives Sit On It Detroit a more central location to display its wares and meet with clients, away from the flying sawdust and noisy tools of its workshop. It's a store-studio hybrid.

The workshop is located near McNichols and John R roads.

"There's a lot going on with this space and we're still figuring it all out," says Bartell. "It's not going to be your typical showroom or furniture store."

The duo values community engagement and placemaking, he says, and their location at 71 Garfield lends itself to those objectives. The building is an art cooperative, located along the same block as the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit. Among its tenants are artists, architecture firms, and pottery studios.

The spring is a busy time for Sit On It Detroit. The company hopes to install another ten benches at city bus stops as the warm weather comes. They've teamed with artists and sponsors to create new takes on the already unique benches.

Bartell says to expect a soft opening some time in mid-March. As for the official opening, they've set a target date of April 8, opening day for the Detroit Tigers baseball season.

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

Motor City Match seeks business and commercial property owners for third round of grants

Detroit entrepreneurs and commercial property owners are once again being encouraged to apply for the city's Motor City Match program. Applications are open for submission March 1-April 1. It's the third round of the program intended to stimulate Detroit's commercial corridors.

There are four major award categories for which business and property owners can apply for a share of $500,000 in grant funding. Each category is designed for business and property owners at different levels of building a business.

The first category is for business plans, which Motor City Match will help entrepreneurs develop. 

The second category seeks to match commercial property owners with business tenants. Buildings must be in good shape and entrepreneurs must have quality business plans or successful track records.

The third category will award architectural design assistance, construction documents, and priority permitting to business and building owners with recently signed leases.

The fourth and final category is for those with signed leases, quality business plans, and bids for building out the space, but who still have to bridge a financial gap. This category awards cash to such applicants.

Motor City Match was launched by Mayor Mike Duggan and the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation in 2015. Roderick Miller, CEO of the DEGC, says in a statement, "After two rounds of Motor City Match awardees, it's clear this program is making an impact in Detroit. From restaurants and retail establishments to service companies and even manufacturing, Motor City Match is growing neighborhood small businesses across the city."

According to officials, the Motor City Mach program has invested $1 million in 20 businesses to date, leveraging an additional $6 million in public and private investment. Motor City Match also points out that 70 percent of the 196 businesses and property owners that have received support are minority owned. Furthermore, two-thirds are from Detroit and half are minority woman-owned businesses.

Visit motorcitymatch.com for details on how to apply.

Disclosure: Model D receives support from Motor City Match to tell stories of small business development in the city's neighborhoods.

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

2016 will be a year of big improvements to Detroit's cycling infrastructure

A new report released by the Detroit Greenways Coalition highlights five bike and trail projects that the bicycle and pedestrian advocacy group is most looking forward to in 2016. According to the DGC, Detroit will see a number of improvements to its cycling infrastructure in 2016, including the official completion of the Dequindre Cut, upgraded biking conditions along Cass Avenue, and the introduction of the much-anticipated public bike share program. The report also hints at an indoor velodrome that could be in Detroit's future.

Detroit Greenways Coalition works with both public and private entities, including city and state governments, and an array of foundations, to improve the quality of non-motorized transportation and recreation in Detroit. Todd Scott is the group's executive director.

Highlights from the DGC report include the following:
 
  • The Link Detroit project will officially be completed in 2016. Link Detroit connects a number of communities, from Hamtramck to Midtown to Eastern Market to the Riverfront, through a series of bike lanes and the Dequindre Cut.
  • Biking from Midtown to downtown should prove easier in 2016 as improved biking conditions along Cass Avenue are completed this year. Upgrades are designed, in part, to discourage bikers from using Woodward Avenue and the accompanying safety concerns of the M-1 Rail.
  • Automated counters will be installed along the Dequindre Cut and Cass to provide the DGC with real-time data as they look to better understand and utilize bicycle and pedestrian trends throughout those corridors. 
  • 2016 could also be the year that a public bike share program is introduced in Detroit. Though nothing is definite, the DGC says the Detroit Downtown Partnership is hopeful that the first phase of the program will open this year.
  • Bike lanes along a four-mile stretch of Livernois Avenue are being installed by the city of Detroit and will run from Grand River Avenue to W. Vernor Highway. Pop-up bike lanes, intended for viability tests, will also be installed along Livernois from McNichols to 8 Mile Road.
More information on the Detroit Greenways Coalition and its top projects for 2016 can be found here.

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