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Detroit Development News

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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

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Deadline approaches for writers looking for a house in Detroit

A different kind of deadline hangs over the heads of writers this week. In its inaugural year, Write A House is going beyond the traditional terms of a writers residency by awarding houses to writers for keeps. Submissions are due by noon on Saturday, June 21.

The Detroit house, purchased for $1,000 in a foreclosure auction, will be awarded to a writer of fiction, non-fiction, or poetry this September. Renovations, led by Zac Cruse Construction and Young Detroit Builders are currently under way. The nonprofit group Young Detroit Builders is a training program for 18 to 24 year olds throug which participants receive on-the-job training while earning a living allowance. Job placement and follow-up assistance is provided upon completion of the program.

Write A House has received submissions from all over the world, though they can only award houses to U.S. citizens aged 18 or over. A set of income requirements also exists, as the group plans to award the houses to low- to middle-income writers. The organization reports that the majority of applications are coming from California, Michigan, and New York.

While receiving a house for free, the winning writer is required to pay taxes and insurance. The group also requires that the winning writer resides in the home 75 percent of the time. Before being awarded the title, writers must pass a two-year probationary period in which Write A House determines if the situation is satisfactory.

The Saturday deadline is for the first Write A House home. Two more houses are being reserved for future contests.

Source: Write A House press release
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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El Dorado General Store to open in Corktown

Another historic building along Corktown's stretch of Michigan Avenue has been leased. Erin Gavle is opening her El Dorado General Store, a curated vintage shop, at 1700 Michigan Ave.

El Dorado General Store will feature vintage men's and women's clothing, household items, trinkets, talismans, textiles, and jewelry, both vintage and handmade. As the store cycles through inventory, Gavle hopes to begin mixing in products from local artists and artisans.

For Gavle, the idea for the store started with a Cadillac Eldorado. A Michigan native, Gavle spent some time in the corporate advertising world of New York City before relocating to Los Angeles. It was in L.A. when she began to get serious about her line of handmade jewelry, some of which will be available at El Dorado. But it was during an October 2013 visit to Michigan that she became entranced by the Cadillac Eldorado and, eventually, the mythical El Dorado, the legendary lost city of gold.

Inspired, Gavle returned to L.A., bought a 1990 cargo van, and took the long way back to Michigan. She weaved through the American southwest, stopping at small vintage and resale shops along the way and buying what will eventually be stocked in her store.

She's hoping to host events, too, envisioning El Dorado as more than a place to shop.

"The whole idea of a general store is to provide a sense of community," says Gavle. "Back in the 1800s and early 1900s, when there were only a few stores in a town, a general store was the place where you got things, but also where you talked to your neighbors and found out what was happening in town."

Gavle plans to open El Dorado General Store within the month.

Source: Erin Gavle, owner of El Dorado General Store
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Registration opens: Wayne County debuts new June property auction

Registration is now open for the first Wayne County Treasurer's Auction of Tax-Foreclosed Properties of 2014. Interested bidders must register before 4:30 p.m. on June 18 to join the auction. Returning bidders must re-register for the online property auction, which will be held June 20 through June 26. 557 properties are available in the June auction.

Wayne County added the June auction to the usual auctions held in September and October as it seeks to clear the 20,000 to 25,000 properties in its inventory. The June auction features properties that are returning properties, or those that were sold through the auction at least once before but were foreclosed again and returned to the county.

For Dave Szymanski, chief deputy of the Wayne County Treasurer office, the June auction is an opportunity to work on a system he finds flawed. With 20,000 to 25,000 properties available in the fall auctions and only 557 in June, a smaller auction allows the county to better analyze data and move forward with any necessary changes. Data analysis may suggest that some properties would be better off being bundled together, for example. The county could also determine that some buildings are better off demolished than offered at all.

Another tactic the office will try is holding sealed-envelope auctions, says Szymanski. In a sealed-envelope auction, bidders submit their highest offer without being aware of any competing bids. During the June auction, one in four properties will be available through sealed bids.

"I've read doctoral theses determining that sealed-bid auctions are not likely to get any less money than open-bid auctions," says Szymanski. "And they often get more."

Getting more per property should weed out bidders who win properties on minimum bids only to let them sit and eventually be foreclosed on once again, the reasoning goes.

Source: Dave Szymanski, Cheif Deputy of the Office of the Wayne County Treasurer
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Financing secured for 126,000 square foot Capitol Park redevelopment

The redevelopment of Capitol Park has reached another milestone as developers announce that they have secured financing for the old Detroit Savings Bank building. Constructions crews have already started working on the building at 1212 Griswold as it transitions into downtown's latest mixed-use development.

The Archdiocese of Detroit is leasing five of the building's 13 floors as it relocates its offices to Capitol Park. Eight floors will be developed into 56 market-rate, loft-style apartments. The ground level is reserved for retail.

Capitol Park Partnership is the company responsible for the building's redevelopment. Richard Karp of Lansing's Karp and Associates, historic redevelopment specialist Kevin Prater, and former senior banking executive Richard Hosey III make up the partnership. Karp and Prater have successfully redeveloped historic buildings together before, such as their award-winning work on the Arbaugh building in downtown Lansing.

Much is being made of another partnership, that of the several public and private groups responsible for raising the $38.5 million in secured financing. The financing structure features historic tax credits paid up front by private institutions, construction loans, and a permanent loan. Chase Bank is providing upfront funding for a $17 million New Markets and Federal Historic Tax Credit; Urban Partnership Bank and Liberty Bank are providing upfront funding for a $8 million Michigan Historic and Brownfield Tax Credit; Chase Bank and Urban Partnership Bank are providing $10.5 million in construction loans; and Develop Michigan, Inc. and Urban Partnership Bank are providing a $9 million permanent loan.

"This demonstrates what can be accomplished when public and private organizations share a commitment to creating a vibrant city," Karp says in a statement. "When you do these things, you lay the foundation for a stronger Detroit and create an environment conducive to additional investment and long-term success."

Source: Urban Partnership Bank press release
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Michigan Central Station's owner pulls permits for $676K in construction work

The recent sound of construction work coming from inside Michigan Central Station has piqued the interest of many a passersby lately. Today, information coming from city hall helps clarify at least some of what is happening at what was once the tallest train station in the world.

Manuel "Matty" Moroun, owner of Michigan Central Station, has pulled permits for $676,000 (or 0.045% of his $1.5 billion fortune) in construction work at the historic train station. According to HistoricDetroit.org, a nonprofit devoted to Detroit's historic landmarks, "a 9,000-pound capacity freight elevator inside the old smokestack mechanical shaft and safety improvements such as railings on interior staircases" will be installed.

According to reports, JC Beal Construction, Inc. has been hired as general contractor and Quinn Evan Architects as the architectural firm. It is said that the 9,000-pound capacity elevator will be used to hasten the installation of windows throughout the building.

Michigan Central Station opened in 1913 as the city's main rail depot. 18 stories of offices sit atop a Beaux-Arts lobby. The station, closed in 1988, has been open to the elements for years and became blighted as scrappers stripped the building of many of its architectural treasures.

Several plans to redevelop the depot have come and gone since its closure. In 2004, then-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick announced plans to redevelop the train station as the city's police headquarters. Those plans were eventually abandoned. In 2009, the Detroit City Council voted to demolish Michigan Central Station. That plan fell apart due to a lack of funding as well as difficulties stemming from the station's National Register of Historic Places designation.

Source: Dan Austin of HistoricDetroit.org
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Restaurant round-up: Four new dining options for downtown Detroit

Three new restaurants will be opening their doors in downtown Detroit this summer. A fourth, Mike's Kabob Grille, opened just two weeks ago. The group of four represents successful recruitment efforts by Bedrock Real Estate Services as the company continues to fill the more than 50 downtown properties it has purchased since its founding in 2011. Bedrock threw a tasting event in their First National Building on Wednesday, June 4.

Randy Dickow was on hand, representing the Freshii franchise. He and his brother Andrew Dickow will be opening a location in 1001 Woodward. The Dickows also own downtown's Lunchtime Global. Freshii, set to open in September of this year, is a national chain of fast-casual restaurants that emphasize a fresh and healthy menu. Randy says that the restaurant is a perfect fit for downtown and foresees an opportunity to open a number of locations in the city.

Wright & Company, the partnership between Sugar House proprietor Dave Kwiatkowski and Marc Djozlija, former head chef at MGM Grand's Wolfgang Puck, will have a grand opening this July. Kwiatkowski says the craft cocktail bar and small plates restaurant will most likely have a soft opening in June. They are Located in the old ballroom of 1500 Woodward Ave.

Kwiatkowski says that the restauranteurs were impressed when Bedrock agreed to allow them to open the restaurant in the second floor of the building. “The first floor was too obvious,” says Kwiatkowski.

7 Greens is Kelly Schaefer's first restaurant. She'll be opening in the Z building come August. They'll offer an array of "farm to fork" salads with 80 toppings to choose from, she says. Salads will be available in wraps, as well.

Mike's Kabob Grille, a restaurant featuring Lebanese cuisine, opened in the Chrysler House (formertly the Dime Building) this May. Mike Abdallah, the owner's son who is deeply involved in the business, says, “There have been lines out the door every day.”

Source: Randy Dickow, Dave Kwiatkowski, Kelly Schaefer, and Mike Abdallah
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Vintage retail shop Detroit Sperm opens in Corktown

A new retail store selling vintage housewares has opened in a historic Corktown storefront. Featuring mostly glass housewares along with some clothing, Detroit Sperm is the storefront for Kat Baron's Orange Sperm collection of vintage goods.

Detroit Sperm was never intended to be a storefront retail business. Originally, the storefront display was an advertisement for Kat's online store. As the spring wore on, however, enough people contacted Kat asking her when the shop was going to open that she decided to go ahead and do it.

With limited store hours from noon to 6 p.m. every Saturday, each opening is a bit of an event. Kat brings drinks and cupcakes and hires musicians to play outside. Friends are always coming and going and she'll chat up just about everyone else. It's a fun place to be.

"Look at this, this is so cute," Kat says, pointing to a group of people sitting around the musician out front. "People coming and singing and wanting to be a part of it. I just like creating a really neat energy out here."

With a real disdain for cheap housewares made of plastic, Kat champions well-crafted and American-made items. She sells vintage clothes, too, with an emphasis on 1950s lingerie and slips -- her grandmother was assistant lingerie buyer at Hudson's department store.

As long as business holds up, Kat plans on sticking around until the fall. Located in the front of an unfinished building can get pretty cold once the weather turns, she says. The building itself is going through an extensive restoration effort. She ended up there after meeting its owner at the old Tiger Stadium site, where both were walking their dogs.

As for that name? Kat says its a celebration of life and positivity.

Detroit Sperm is located at 1444 Michigan Ave.

Source: Kat Baron, owner of Detroit Sperm
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Hubbard Farms artist residency program hopes to grow

An artist residency program and art gallery, Third Story, is bolstering its mission through a crowdfunding campaign. Third Story is located on Detroit's southwest side in the Hubbard Farms neighborhood.

Third Story was started by artists and married couple Lauren and Ryan Harroun in the third story of their home. The couple has built an art gallery there and has already hosted a handful of artists.

The aim of Third Story is to introduce new artists to Detroit. The residency program only accepts those who have little to no experience in the city. With so many outside artists having heavy interest in Detroit, the Harrouns are looking to provide a place for artists to stay and work. They're excited, too, to introduce the artists to the neighborhood.

"It's a wonderfully diverse, lively, and passionate neighborhood," says Lauren. "We're excited to bring something like this to Hubbard Farms, to provide a place to stay in a really nice neighborhood."

As they look to further establish their artist residency program, the Harrouns are hosting a fundraiser and party at their home on Thursday, June 5. The party is open to the public and art raffles, music, pizza, and a bonfire are planned.

The couple is currently running a crowdfunding campaign. The money raised will allow them to join a number of national registries, granting them access to new resources, including fundraising opportunities. The Harrouns hope to register their artist residency program with Fractured Atlas, ResArtis, and Alliance of Artists Communities.

The Harrouns encourage artists to stay for a minimum of one month. Artists looking to apply can do so through the Third Story website.

Third Story is located at 1130 Vinewood.

Source: Lauren Harroun, co-founder of Third Story
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Eastern Market lofts get the condo treatment

The FD Lofts at Eastern Market have begun the transition from rental units to condominiums. Both one and two bedroom units are available in the 30-unit building.

Brian Giles is handling sales and marketing for the building. He believes that the timing is perfect for the transition and that Detroit is ready for more condos on the market.

"It's well-documented that people want to live and rent in Detroit," says Giles. "What has not been discussed is the for sale market. There's a lot of people who want to pay for cool space. This is one more development that builds upon the momentum of investing in Detroit."

Current residents are being given the opportunity to buy their units. If they decline, new buyers will be able to move into their units as early as this fall. The FD Lofts have been been at 100 percent occupancy for the past eight years, according to Giles.

There are nine different floor plans available with units ranging from 523 to 1,954 square feet. Prices start at $124,800 and go as high as $329,800. Unit 405, a 1,444 square foot one bedroom condo listed at $249,800, comes with its own private outdoor terrace, the only unit advertised as such. The condos are being outfitted with new sinks and quartz counters.

Open House hours for the FD Lofts are every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., every Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and every Tuesday from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tours are available by appointment as well.

The FD Lofts building was built in 1917 by the Detroit Fire Department. It was restored and first opened to renters in 2007.

The FD Lofts are located at 3434 Russell Street.

Source: Brian Giles, sales and marketing for FD Lofts
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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New bookstore to open in Corktown

A new bookstore will open in Detroit this July. DittoDitto, featuring new and used books, will be located at 1548 Trumbull St., a small storefront in the Corktown neighborhood.

Maia Asshaq originally co-founded DittoDitto as a small publishing and distribution house. With Andrea Farhat on board as graphic designer, the pair have been making books for a couple of years now. Asshaq also started the Detroit Art Book Fair, a small press book fair now in its second year. Detroit Art Book Fair is scheduled to be held at Trinosophes in September.

Asshaq has plenty of experience as a retailer. She previously ran the store at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, where she was tasked with ordering books. She started DittoDitto in December 2013, selling a small selection of books out of Trinosophes. The permanent location will feature books focusing on Asshaq's specialty, the arts, as well as literature and non-fiction.

The opportunity for her own storefront came out of a conversation with Wade Kergan, proprietor of Corktown's Hello Records. It was Kergan's recommendation that pushed Asshaq to pursue the location that shares the same building as Hello. It's an ideal spot, she thinks.

"I like that it's a low-key location," says Asshaq. "If you're shopping for books and records, you want a comfortable setting, somewhere to browse and hang out."

Hoping to open the first week of July, Asshaq is using June to prepare and stock the store. She'll also be hosting events every Thursday through Sunday, both introducing the shop to the neighborhood while also doing a bit of fundraising. Poetry readings, music performances, and film screenings are planned throughout the month of June. So, too, is a Bloomsday event, a marathon reading of the James Joyce novel Ulysses.

DittoDitto will be open Thursday through Sunday.

Source: Maia Asshaq, founder of DittoDitto
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Major RiverWalk developments to debut this summer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Restaurant, yoga studio, and clothing retailer opening in downtown's Z structure this summer

Since opening in January 2014, "The Z" has booked over 75 percent of its 34,000 square feet of retail space. The z-shaped retail and parking development in downtown Detroit was built by Bedrock Real Estate Services, the real estate arm of local billionaire Dan Gilbert's family of companies.

Bedrock recently announced the addition of three tenants to The Z, all of which should open this summer. The shops -- a shoe store, a yoga studio, and a salad cafe -- will join Punch Bowl Social, a Denver-based chain of gastro pubs with a focus on games.

NoJo Kicks is a clothing retailer specializing in hats, jeans, and rare and collectible sneakers. Following a temporary June opening for the Ford Fireworks, NoJo Kicks plans to open in July.

Citizen Yoga, a yoga studio which opened its first location in Royal Oak, will also open downtown. The studio will be open seven days-a-week, offering a wide range of yoga classes, from the basics to Vinyasa.

Detroit chef Kelly Schaefer will open 7 Greens in the Z, a restaurant that will serve lunch and dinner salads featuring locally and seasonally sourced ingredients. 7 Greens is set to open in August.

Punch Bowl Social, which takes up the majority of the retail space in the Z, is working toward a November opening. The 24,000 square foot bar, restaurant, and gaming center anchors the Broadway side of the Z while the three recently announced shops will line Library Street.

The Z building, characterized by its unique zig-zag shape, is the first ground-up development for Bedrock. The company commissioned 27 street artists from around the world to paint murals throughout the parking garage. It features a ticketless and cashless pay system with parkers swiping their credit cards as they enter and leave the facility.   

Source: Bedrock Real Estate Services news release
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Today: Anytime Fitness celebrates its opening with mayor, membership giveaways, and more

With the polar vortex well behind us, the downtown Anytime Fitness is acknowledging its late February opening and is ready to celebrate with a ribbon cutting ceremony happening today, Thursday, May 15.

Mayor Mike Duggan, Deputy Mayor Ike McKinnon, Anytime's builder Ferlito Construction, and downtown business representatives will be on hand for the event. The ceremony is open to the public.

The full service gym will be giving out free 30-day memberships during the event, which runs from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Local bike manufacturer Detroit Bikes has donated a bike that will be given away during the festivities. Free Muscle Milk products will also be available. Health and wellness nonprofit Healthy Detroit will be on site to promote its mission of creating a healthier and happier city. Lunchtime Global and Faygo will be providing food and refreshments.

Since Anytime Fitness opened in late February, business has been so brisk for that they're rumored to be opening a second Detroit location, this one in Midtown.

"We're doing even better than we expected to," says downtown general manager Dakota Shayne.

Part of that success is a result of businesses like Quicken Loans and Compuware continuing to draw workers downtown. Shayne says that the gym's busiest hours are from 9 p.m. to midnight after employees of downtown companies get off work.

Anytime Fitness is smaller than what Shayne refers to as "big box gyms." It's an advantage, he says, because big box gyms require large sites that are difficult to find downtown. Shayne describes Anytime Fitness as a full service gym that has a "smaller, studio vibe." He says Detroiters can expect more studios, like yoga and personal training studios, to start popping up around downtown.

Anytime Fitness is open 24 hours a day and is located in the Security Trust Lofts building at 735 Griswold.

Source: Dakota Shayne, general manager of downtown Anytime Fitness
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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A new co-working space for downtown Detroit

A new co-working space is being established in downtown Detroit. WorkBuild HQ, located in the Julian C. Madison Building on Washington Boulevard, is about to become the latest in a wave of co-working spaces opening across the city.

WorkBuild HQ CEO Ernest Foutner, Jr. and co-founders Brandon Colvin and Marcus Twyman have already made the space available to tenants though an official grand opening party won't be held until July. An open house will be held this Saturday, May 17, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Free to all, the casual affair will feature food and refreshments from Rubbed, Voigt's Soda House, and the Detroit Pop Shop.

A number of membership options will be available at WorkBuild HQ, including part-time and full-time pricing plans and public and private seating arrangements. A program called the Success Advancement Resource Center, or SARC, will be dedicated to guiding recent college graduates as they transition from school life to business life. A business incubator, Propel Plus, is also planned.

Encouraging collaboration between tenants will be a focus of WorkBuild HQ, says Foutner. He hopes to see a wide variety of professionals, entrepreneurs, and educators working together -- a sort of synergy, he says. The communal aspect of a co-working space allows tenants to sync up with other professionals who aren't in their industry, providing people the opportunity to both learn and benefit from each other.

"The days of the traditional office space are over," says Foutner.

Typical office amenities such as Wii-Fi Internet, mailbox services, and a conference room are complemented by more modern and non-traditional office perks, including a gaming station, happy hours, and yoga classes.

The Julian C. Madison Building is also home to PT in the D.

Source: Ernest Foutner, Jr., CEO and co-founder of WorkBuild HQ
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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