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Tom's of Maine and city of Detroit raise $75k for improvements to Knudsen Park (Video)

Knudsen Park, a small, humble playlot on the city's northern edge, is set to receive $75,000 in improvements over the next few months.

The park is receiving $25,000 in improvements thanks to a gift to the Eight Mile Boulevard Association from Tom's of Maine. The natural personal care product manufacturer has promised a new activity court and signage for the park at the Chrysler Service Drive and 8 Mile Road.

In addition to the activity court and signage, Tom's has created an interactive contest through social media, allowing people to vote on what other improvements the park will receive. By sharing choices via social media, voters will determine whether Knudsen Park receives new artwork, benches, a picnic table, swing set, basketball court, or play car. Voting ends on Friday, Oct. 31.

Also involved is Detroit-native Mike Posner, a national recording artist, singer, songwriter, and producer. Posner is acting as judge for Tom's nationwide contest, 50 States for Good. Through that program, Tom's donates $10,000 to one non-profit in each state plus Washington, D.C. Detroit's Knudsen Park is the apparent lone recipient of a $25,000 donation.

"There's really an opportunity to not only get this park up to snuff, but to have it say something, to have it speak for the community," says Jordan Twardy, executive director of the Eight Mile Boulevard Association. "Without Tom's, we'd still be kind of incrementally going along. So I think this is a really great opportunity. Sometimes seeing is believing and I think this project is going to demonstrate that."

According to the 8MBA, the city of Detroit is investing an additional $50,000 into Knudsen Park following the Tom's contest. These improvements are said to include a new fence and ADA-compliant pathway.

Source: Tom's of Maine press release, Eight Mile Boulevard Association
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.

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.

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.

New bike lanes to connect city to suburbs

Bicyclists traveling between suburbs and city have something to look forward to this summer as plans for four miles of new bike lanes have been finalized. Through a mix of private and public funding, the bike lanes will connect Detroit with the communities of Warren and Center Line.

The planned bike lanes will mostly run along Van Dyke Ave, from Stephens Rd in the suburbs to Outer Drive in the city. The lanes will then run along Outer Drive and connect to the Conner Creek Greenway, which runs all the way to Maheras Gentry Park on the Detroit River.

The connection to the Conner Creek Greenway is an important one, linking up with a route that has been in various phases of construction since 2006. The Conner Creek Greenway is a combination of paved lanes and off-road trails that was started to beautify the area around Coleman A. Young International Airport, which was receiving a lot of traffic on account of Detroit hosting the Super Bowl that year. While a large majority of the greenway is complete, small sections remain.

Todd Scott, Detroit Greenways Coordinator for the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance, has been working on securing the new bike lanes along with a number of community groups. The Detroit Eastside Community Collaborative, Eight Mile Boulevard Association, Scott's Detroit Greenways Coalition, and the city of Warren were all instrumental in planning the bike lanes. It was the city of Warren, in fact, that initiated the bike lanes, wishing to better connect the neighboring communities.

"It's exciting," says Scott. "The city of Warren seems genuinely enthused with all that we have going on in Detroit."

Scott also says that he's in discussions with the cities of Ferndale and Dearborn about similar connections.

Source: Todd Scott, Detroit Greenways Coordinator for the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Business is popping for these unconventional restaurants

Pop-up dining is a popular business model for many a restauranteur whether they want to eventually open their own space or not. For Detroit, the trend may have reached its pop-culture zenith when television host Anthony Bourdain featured local pop-up Guns & Butter on an episode of his CNN program Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. That's not to say that pop-ups are going anywhere any time soon. In fact, it's just the opposite.

Pie-Sci is one of the more successful pop-up restaurants in the city. Co-founders Jeremy Damaske and AJ Nanoulian started the pop-up pizzeria in March of 2011, making pizzas out of Jim Geary's Woodbridge Pub every Sunday. Though they started small, Damaske says that they now sell around 100 pizzas every Sunday. They don't even have pizza ovens, having to use the Woodbridge Pub's two conventional kitchen ovens. The business has gone so well that they're moving operations into the building adjacent to the pub. They hope to be operating daily by the end of the year.

Damaske says that the pop-up restaurant model is perfect for people looking to start a business without a lot of capital. It gives people the chance to get their product out there and build a customer base without having the up-front investment of outfitting a space. It also benefits the host business, drawing customers in that may have not come otherwise.

"There was no real liability for us," says Damske. "We got to use their servers, their liquor license, their alcohol."

The nature of pop-ups can turn going out into more of an event and especially so for less frequent pop-ups like Guns & Butter and Tashmoo Biergarten. Others are further customizing the model like the community building Detroit Soup fosters through its monthly dinners, funding creative projects throughout the city. And then there's Hamtramck's Revolver, whose whole business model is built on hosting rotating chefs and pop-ups.

Source: Jeremy Damaske, co-owner of Pie-Sci
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

January development news round-up

Good stuff has been happening in Detroit development to start the new year. Here are several projects that got our attention this month:

• Detroit issued a request for proposals to redevelop nearly nine acres of city-owned property in the historic Brush Park district. The land is split into three available parcels. Parcels A and C contain five historic structures which must be tabbed for "adaptive reuse" in the redevelopment plans. Parcel A is the largest at approximately 7.5 acres. 

• Brush Park is known as much for its Gilded Age mansions as it is for the blight and vacant land that characterize much of the historic district today. The area seems ripe for redevelopment, however, as it is located immediately north of downtown and east of the proposed Detroit Red Wings hockey arena. One of the planned stops of the M-1 Rail streetcar line is at Sibley and Woodward. According to the city's RFPQ Package, Detroit has invested more than $39 million in infrastructure, demolition, acquisition, and historic rehabilitation in Brush Park since 2001. The neighborhood dates back to the 1860s. 

• A new restaurant, Craft Work, has opened in the Parkstone Apartments building on Agnes Street in the West Village neighborhood. Hubert Yaro, he of Royal Oak's Ronin sushi lounge and Birmingham's Commonwealth coffee shop, is the proprietor. Craft Work is open Monday through Saturday from 4 p.m. to midnight. A Sunday brunch is planned come March 2.

• At a public hearing earlier this month, M-1 Rail officials announced that streetcar service is expected to begin in the late summer months of 2016. The light-rail system is projected to carry almost 5,000 riders per day.

• Demand for rentals in the downtown, Midtown, and Corktown neighborhoods is far exceeding supply, driving up rent by $200 to $400 a month in many buildings, says a recent article in the Detroit Free Press. Will demand spur new residential development projects and stabilize rent prices?

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Land, Inc. launches "Green T" project, converting vacant lots to biofuel production on East Side

Over the next two years, Detroit's first green thoroughfare will take shape along the Mack Avenue corridor between Conner Avenue and Chalmers.
The "Green T" development project overseen by Land, Inc. will convert this corridor into a green byway in an attempt to repurpose vacant commercial land as part of the Lower Eastside Action Plan in accordance with the Detroit Future City adaptive reuse vision for blighted, vacant properties.

Green T is meant to accommodate all forms of traffic – bus, bike, car, and pedestrian – while also providing the community with more aesthetic green spaces that produce alternative forms of energy while also reducing the burden on city services.
Currently there are about 80 publicly-owned lots (of 111 total) along the corridor. The Green T plan includes razing vacant structures and planting fields of pennycress on the unused lots, which will then be converted into biofuel. The pennycress was selected as the ideal crop for the area because it is very low-growing, has the highest yield per acre, the highest turnover into fuel from the oil, is non-invasive, isn't appealing to animals as a food source, and also remediates the soul – a very important factor in order to get this land prepared for future redevelopment. Right now this land can't be used for food crops (or other potential developments like children's playgrounds or even other commercial development) because there is some contamination. The pennycress will take care of that, and revenue from biofuel production will also go towards maintenance and further corridor improvements.
Metro Ag, a global agency with an office in Detroit, will partner with Land, Inc. on the biofuel production. Land, Inc. has received $50,000 from Bank of America as well as several in-kind donations to develop the first phase of the project in a one-block area of Mack between Lakeview and Coplin. Construction on this demonstration block is already underway.
The total cost for the full project is estimated at $2 million. The 350-acre project will take about two years to complete. The full plan includes the demolition of 15 abandoned and unsafe buildings, way-finding signage to direct visitors to vibrant shopping areas located to the east and west, public art, a complete streets treatment, innovative green infrastructure installations like bioswales and infiltration basins for storm water runoff, and alternative energy created through the cultivation of pennycress.

Land, Inc. Executive Director Jacqueline Bejma hopes one day to be able to power the nine remaining businesses located on this corridor with biofuel produced by the pennycress. "There's so much opportunity here that will benefit the whole area. It's fun. It's exciting," she says.
Source: Land, Inc. Executive Director Jacqueline Bejma
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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

Southwest Housing Solutions extends out to East Side with Mack-Alter Supportive Housing Development

Southwest Housing Solutions is currently extending its reach beyond Southwest Detroit into the northeast corner of the city. A new three-story construction development on the corner of Mack Avenue and Ashland near the border of Grosse Pointe Park is a partnership between Southwest Housing Solutions, the Warren/Conner Development Coalition (and its subsidiary LAND, Inc.), the Northeast Guidance Center, and the U-SNAP-BAC Community Development Corporation.
The $7.9 million, 40,000-square-foot Mack-Alter Supportive Housing Development will feature 39 subsidized supportive housing units as well as 6,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor. Funded by the federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, Southwest Housing Solutions is spearheading this project as the developer as they have the necessary real estate development experience.
"This is different for Southwest," says Tim Thorland, Executive Director of Southwest Housing Solutions. "Three groups from the East Side approached us (because they) don’t have the experience as real estate developers and asked (if we would help them) as co-owners. We’re really the project developer (and property manager)."
The Northeast Guidance Center will work with its clients to fill the 39 available housing units and the Warren/Conner Development Coalition will handle the commercial spaces. "This is really an example of the power of collaboration between nonprofits in the city," says Thorland. "We’re colleagues with common goals but also competitors (for resources). Here, we’re helping each other achieve what (we all want to do)."
This is not the first time Southwest Housing Solutions has partnered on a project outside of its usual neighborhood. They also served as the real estate developer of the Piquette Square project in New Center, which welcomed its first tenants in 2010.
Thorland says they expect this project to be completed early this summer, targeting for a full year after initially breaking ground in June 2012.
Source: Tim Thorland, Executive Director of Southwest Housing Solutions
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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

Top development news of 2012 spread across Motor City

There was no no shortage of big announcements in Detroit's built environment in 2012, so Model D has expanded its Top 5 Development News Stories to its Top 5 Development News Subjects. This year's list includes:

The Gilbert Effect
Quicken Loans Chairman Dan Gilbert became the biggest power player in downtown Detroit this year. His team's accomplishments include acquiring buildings left and right, filling them with tech businesses, pushing for a retail rebirth in the Central Business District and spearheading the M-1 Rail plans for light rail up Woodward which now seems quite likely with the passage of a regional transit authority bill in the state legislature.

Palmer Park Rebirth
The Palmer Park area - ahem, Uptown - is enjoying a large amount investment these days as the quality of life improves with more community involvement. Shelborne Development is spearheading the renovation of a number of Palmer Park's Art Deco apartment buildings, including La Vogue and Palmer Lodge, and working to establish mounted security patrols. Local residents are improving the area by planting sunflowers along Woodward Avenue, planting orchards in Palmer Park, building trails through the park and rebranding the area Uptown.

Downtown/Midtown Apt Blitz
Developers can't build new living options in Detroit's downtown or Midtown neighborhoods fast enough these days to keep up with skyrocketing demand. Some big projects came online in 2012, including the Broderick Tower, The Auburn and Newberry Hall. More are coming. Construction is in progress for the Sherbrooke Apts and Woodward Garden Block Apts and work is set to begin on the Whitney Building in a few weeks.

Momentum in The Villages
The people working to improve the The Villages scored some big wins in 2012. Those wins include developing plans for more greenways, sparking the pop-up retial store boom, Tashmoo Beirgarten's return, and landing a number of new businesses to take those spots in West Village. Look for The Villages to keep the momentum going in 2013.

Wayne County Tax Foreclosure Auction
This year set the record for the Wayne County Tax Foreclosure Auction. This fall's auction featured more than 20,000 properties and sold more than 12,000. Local officials are working to turn these empty houses into new homes. What happens next to the thousands of unsold properties is becoming a bigger question that needs to be dealt with. Oh, and next year's auction is set to break all of those records again.

Honorable-mention projects include, Avalon's expansion plans, Buffalo Wild Wings moving downtown, the groundbreaking of WholeFoods, Reclaim Detroit's deconstruction efforts and the GAR Building rehab.

Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

City leaps to help in auction-house-demo disaster

Kristine Diven got the shock of her life last week when she went to check on the house of her dreams and found a pile of rubble.

Diven is a 36-year-old photographer who co-owns an art gallery called District VII in Detroit's rivertown district with her partner, Micho Detronik. She moved to Detroit from New York City four years ago and she and her partner planned to put down roots in the Motor City this fall. (Full disclosure, Diven contacted this writer for advice about buying a tax foreclosure house last summer because of this writer's experience buying and rehabbing such buildings.)

The couple bought a vacant duplex and the lot next to it on Beaconsfield Street near Mack Avenue in East English Village at the Wayne County Tax Foreclosure Auction for the auction's minimum bid of $500. Coincidentally, Detronik had done work on the house in recent years for a previous owner.

"We were blown away that we could get a home like that," Diven says. "It had a new roof. The basement had no cracks in the foundation. There was no water damage. All it needed was new electric and two new tubs. We estimated it would be take $8,000 to get it up in working order."

The house was open to the elements. Diven and Detronik were afraid the sale would be canceled if they did any work on the house before they had the deed, so they periodically drove past it and waited, but held off closing it up. When Diven went by on Thursday she found a pile of rubble where her house once stood. She still has yet to receive the deeds to the house or the vacant lot.

Later that day she posted a "Thanks Detroit" missive about what happened on her Facebook page (a similar note on WhyDontWeOwnThis can be found here) and the news spread quickly across social media. Within a few hours, she had dozens of comments on her original post and a helping hand extended by Karla Henderson, group executive for planning & facilities for the city of Detroit and one of Mayor Dave Bing's top lieutenants.

"Of course Kristine and her family are the kind of citizens we want to live in the city," Henderson posted on Facebook on Friday. "After speaking with her this morning and hearing all the wonderful things she is involved in, it would be our loss if she left. Please know that the City will work with her to find a comparable house. Although the City was not responsible for the demo, we feel it is the right thing to do."

Henderson explained that the demolition was executed by the Michigan Land Bank after getting the green light from the Wayne County Treasurer's Office. The demolition is part of Gov. Rick Snyder's initiative to demolish abandoned and dangerous homes within a half mile of specifically targeted schools in Southwest Detroit, the Bagley neighborhood on the city's West Side and in the Morningside/East English Village neighborhoods on the city's East Side. Diven's house was within a half mile of J.E. Clark Preparatory Academy, one of the schools used as a radius for the half-mile-dangerous-building demolition circle.

Kim Homan, executive director of the Michigan Land Bank, explains that her agency received the green light from the Wayne County Treasurer's Office last summer to demolish Diven's house on Beaconsfield, along with several others in the area. The house and several others were also on the auction list for this fall's Wayne County Tax Foreclosure Auction. Homan says Detroit firefighters had identified it as open, dangerous and irredeemable, and that her office executed the demolition as a way to help protect students walking to school.

"Our primary concern was the safety of the kids," Homan says.

Eric Sabree, deputy treasurer for land management at the Wayne County Treasurer's Office, confirmed those details, adding his office gave the Michigan Land Bank the greenlight to raze any dangerous buildings within a half-mile radius that were left over from the 2011 auction.

When those were done and the Michigan Land Bank requested more demolition candidates the treasurer's office gave the go ahead to begin the demolition process for properties that were coming up in this year's auction. Sabree says his records show the deed was recorded for Diven's property on Nov. 28 and the demolition was finished Nov 27.

"The decision to do this with the state land bank was made late in the process," Sabree says. "We knew it was risky."

He adds the sales for properties where buildings were demolished will be canceled; and next year if an auction property is on the demolition list it will be listed on the bidding website. In the meantime, Diven and her partner will not be held responsible for demolition costs and will be reimbursed their purchase price.

"They will get a refund, no doubt about it," Sabree says. "If there is property that no one bought (at the last auction) we will offer that to them."

Henderson's office at the City of Detroit is allowing Diven to go through its backlog of available homes in hopes of finding something at a comparable quality and price. Homan says the Michigan Land Bank is prepared to do the same and says the entire episode is regrettable.

"A thing like this is really unfortunate," Homan says. She adds her office routinely works to cross check her lists with those at the city, county and other local agencies. "We have a lot of trouble reconciling data with other agencies," Homan says.

Both Henderson and Homan say they are working to not only find a house-replacement solution that works for Diven but also to help prevent this sort of thing from happening again.

"We want residents with that spirit here," Henderson says. "Anything we can do to soften that blow we stand ready to do."

Source: Kristin Diven; Kim Homan, executive director of the Michigan Land Bank; Karla Henderson, group executive for planning & facilities for the city of Detroit; Eric Sabree, deputy treasurer for land management at the Wayne County Treasurer's Office
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

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

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Avalon expands into East Side, Midtown and New Center

Avalon International Breads has long been a staple of the Cass Corridor but it's now becoming a staple in other Detroit neighborhoods.

The artisanal bakery launched in 1997 and steadily built itself into the anchor business near the corner of Cass Avenue and West Willis Street in Midtown. It has since garnered national attention for its breads and goodies made of organic and sometimes vegan-friendly ingredients. Its small storefront at 422 W. Willis is routinely packed with customers and employees making food 24 hours a day to meet demand.

That success prompted Avalon to begin searching for a new space to facilitate its expansion a few years ago. It has now opened a retail outlet at Henry Ford Hospital in New Center, is looking to expand its Midtown presence and is in the process of opening a much bigger production facility on the Near East Side not far from the Packard Plant.

"We have been over capacity for quite some time, at least since 2008," says Ann Perrault, co-owner & CEO of Avalon.

The new production facility is Avalon City Ovens, a $2.2 million project turning a dilapidated industrial building into a state-of-the-art bakery. Avalon bought the old warehouse at 6555 E. Forrest Ave. (near Bellevue Street) at the 2010 Wayne County Tax Foreclosure Auction. The 50,000-square-foot building is a major upgrade from its 3,000 square-foot-storefront in Midtown. Perrault expects to open the new facility in January.

That project comes not long after Avalon opened its second retail location last summer in the West Grand Boulevard building of Henry Ford Hospital. That space offers all of the foods Avalon is known for and employs six workers. Avalon now employs 55 people after hiring 14 since February.

Avalon is also looking at expanding its Midtown presence in 2013. Perrault says her firm is looking at moving its storefront from its existing space on Willis to a newer space on West Canfield Street next to Traffic Jam & Snug. That move is set to move forward next spring after the Avalon City Ovens project is complete. The new space will be consistent with Avalon's longstanding pledge to remaining a part of the Cass Corridor/Midtown community.

"This is definitely important to us," Perrault says.

Source: Ann Perrault, co-owner & CEO of Avalon International Breads
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

MDOT installs LED streetlights along I-94 on east side

One of the most-traveled stretches of road in Detroit is about to become more sustainable.

The Michigan Department of Transportation is installing 308 new LED streetlights along I-94 on the city's east side. LED lights are the poster child for energy-efficient lighting technology, consuming far less than half of the energy of traditional street lights.

"The lights that currently there were put in during the early 1970s," says Rob Morosi, a spokesman for Michigan Department of Transportation. "You can expect a lifetime for the lights of about 30-40 years."

The lights are going in on a five mile stretch of I-94 between French and 8 Mile roads. Of the 308 new LED street lights, 244 will illuminate the main section of the freeway. Another 64 LED street lights will light the on- and off-ramps along the freeway. The lights along the main trunk of the freeway will be mounted along the sides of the road, instead of in the middle of the expressway.

"That way they are much easier for maintenance crews to access and its safer for motorists," Morosi says.

Work is set to begin this month and wrap up by next spring.

Source: Rob Morosi, a spokesman for Michigan Dept of Transportation
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.
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