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Royal Oak's Black the Salon to open second location in Corktown

Six years after opening Black the Salon in Royal Oak, founder Jeph Wright is opening a second location, this time in Corktown. Work is underway on the storefront at 2117 Michigan Ave., where Wright plans to offer the same range of services as his Royal Oak salon. While nothing is set, he estimates a June 12 opening in Corktown, the same date the first Black the Salon opened in 2009.

After looking at a Midtown location roughly two years ago, Wright backed out. While he liked the idea of expanding to Detroit--a natural progression, he says--Wright was in no hurry with an already busy and successful salon in Royal Oak. But with the Corktown building's owner being a client and the nearby Sugar House proprietor Dave Kwiatkowski being an associate through shared motorcycle interests, it was only a matter of time before Wright was convinced that Corktown was the spot.

"My salon better fits Corktown than Midtown. We're more rock and roll," says Wright. "My brand is about being on the forefront and that's what Corktown is."

Now that he's signed the lease to 2117 Michigan Ave., Wright is itching to open. The building itself is receiving quite the makeover, including better exposing the storefront with big factory windows that open up to the street. It's an old after hours party spot that was pretty beat up, says Wright. Once renovated, it will host Black the Salon on one end and Metropolis Cycles on the other.

By offering the same experience as his Royal Oak location, Wright says that Black the Salon will satisfy a huge demand for style in Detroit. "We're bringing it down to the city. You won't have to hop in a car and ride to the 'burbs anymore."

Source: Jeph Wright, owner of Black the Salon
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Venture capital competition will offer $120k in prizes to local minority-owned businesses

An event designed to connect minority-owned businesses with venture capital will make its Detroit debut next week. Occurring April 13-15, PowerMoves@Detroit will offer $120,000 in direct prizes in addition to exposure and networking opportunities. Local business owners will compete with entrepreneurs from across the country in a series of venture capital-style pitch events. Attendance to events at the Detroit Athletic Club, Garden Theater, and One Detroit are open to the public through an online registration system.

PowerMoves began in New Orleans, where it was founded by current Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (DEGC) CEO Rodrick Miller. The event is sponsored by Morgan Stanley and is hosted by the DEGC and Invest Detroit.

Events include training sessions, a panel discussion focused on startups and exit strategies, two back-to-back pitch events with cash prizes, and a final pitch event featuring 15 early-stage entrepreneurs, also with cash prizes.

"With all the enthusiasm for entrepreneurs in Detroit and our city’s great legacy for providing opportunities for African Americans, this seemed like the perfect time and place for PowerMoves@Detroit," Miller says in a statement. "This event fills an important niche in the broad spectrum of activities that DEGC undertakes to support small business in Detroit."

The event will feature a number of minority-owned businesses from the Detroit region as well as New York, Boston, and San Francisco. Mayor Mike Duggan believes that not only will it provide Detroiters a pathway to venture capital, it will also expose minority-owned businesses from other parts of the country to opportunities available in the city of Detroit.

Local representatives include Jerry Rucker and Edward Carrington of Warranty Ninja, Terreance Reeves of Networkingout, and Dana White of Paralee Boyd Salon.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Corktown Inn to become 'Trumbull & Porter' as details and renderings emerge for boutique hotel rehab

Detroit firm Patrick Thompson Design (PTD) has been tapped for a full-concept overhaul of the old Corktown Inn. Construction will begin early- to mid-summer on what's being re-branded as Trumbull & Porter, a 144-room boutique hotel that originally opened in 1966 as a Holiday Inn. The new rooms and lobby could debut as soon as this fall and a restaurant will eventually follow. Corktown Hotel, LLC purchased the hotel in the fall of 2014 and Access Hospitality is acting as both developer and management company for the property.

Thompson says that the designs his team developed will offer a boutique hotel experience at a relatively modest price. With five distinct room types and a different experience for each, they will range from $129 to $189 once the re-design is complete. Suites will start at $199.

The name Trumbull & Porter, says Thompson, is a nod to the area's industrial influence, where truckers and dispatchers are always giving each other directions by listing intersections.

"The goal is to create a beautiful, functioning space where locals and travelers want to be," says Thompson. "There are so many improvements coming, it's going to become a destination."

Everything will be torn out and stripped to the original concrete floors and ceilings where PTD will start from scratch. Thompson says the rooms will be "eclectic but collected," clean and modern with custom-designed beds, furniture, and lighting. Things won't be in-your-face Detroit, but still inspired and rooted in local history. PTD is working with local artisans like Detroit Wood Type Co. to help outfit the rooms. End-of-hall lounges are planned as well as a brand new fitness center. A completely re-designed lobby will feature a morning coffee shop that transitions to a lobby bar at night.

A restaurant and retail space are also planned. The restaurant opens up to an outdoor courtyard, one that PTD hopes will be as much for the neighborhood as it is for hotel guests. It will be equal parts picnic area and outdoor lounge, says Thompson, including fire pits and tables among other planned amenities. The exterior, too, will receive significant upgrades, including a charcoal paint job, a large exterior mural, and a landscaping overhaul.

"Our plan is to create spaces to engage the community and add to value to the businesses in the area like St. Cece's and Batch Brewing," says Thompson. "We are planning on collaborating when possible with local retailers, artisans, and craftsmen to be sure the hotel and its spaces reflect an honest version of Detroit and what it has to offer to the world."

Patrick Thompson Design, currently a five-person firm, is in the middle of the schematic design phase, and drawings are being completed to go to bid. The renderings have already been approved by the ownership group.

After the Holiday Inn closed, the hotel operated for more than two decades as the Corktown Inn. That run developed a certain reputation over the years with its three-hour room rentals and underwear vending machine. Access Hospitality began making changes last year and has since cleaned up the hotel, getting rid of the old Inn's rather infamous amenities while also enacting a no-smoking policy. The hotel is currently open for business.

Source: Patrick Thompson, creative director at Patrick Thompson Design
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

NOTE: An earlier version of this story listed Access Hospitality as the owner of the hotel. Corktown Hotel, LLC, purchased the hotel and Access Hospitality is developer and management company of the property.

New commercial real estate tours to connect small businesses with storefronts throughout Detroit

Deciding where to locate a new business is a monumental decision, one that will often determine a business's fate.

That's why the Build Institute has partnered with the Detroit Experience Factory to offer a series of monthly tours that will take prospective shop owners through a number of neighborhoods, introducing them to landlords of available properties, neighborhood officials and representatives, and current business owners nearby. Providing historical and cultural context will also be a focus.

It's called Open Shop, and the series of commercial real estate tours is a way for Build and DXF to play matchmakers between new businesses and area landlords and property owners. The first Open Shop is April 18th from 1 to 4 p.m. and takes place in Hamtramck. Additional tours are scheduled for the following months, including commercial districts in Southwest Detroit, Jefferson East, Northwest Detroit, and along the Woodward Corridor.

Jessica Meyer is director of programs with Build Institute and helped develop the tour. It initially grew out of the requests of a number of Build grads who wanted to open their business in a storefront but didn't know where to start. Even knowing the neighborhood or commercial corridor in which they want to open isn't enough.

"It's difficult to get a rundown of what's available where and who owns what," says Meyer. "This is a great opportunity to introduce people to each other."

The Hamtramck Downtown Development Authority jumped at the chance to be the first Open Shop destination. The DDA will introduce tour-takers to people like the Economic Development Director and others who can offer help in opening a business in Hamtramck. The DDA is also offering to cover the Hamtramck business registration fee for the first two businesses from the tour to move to the city, a value of $100 each. 

In addition to meeting landlords and pre-existing business owners, the tour will also stop at Hamtramck Historical Museum and Tekla Vintage, both graduates of Build programming. Tickets are available online.

Source: Jessica Meyer, director of programs at Build Institute
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Metropolis bicycle shop to open in Corktown

When doors close, windows open. It's the type of thing someone says to a friend when something bad happens. Sometimes windows get smashed open, like when a car gets stolen. Shayne O'Keefe's car was stolen once. Though he couldn't have known it at the time, O'Keefe's immediate misfortune nearly ten years ago set in motion a chain of events that now has him opening up his own bicycle shop on one of the busiest blocks in Corktown.

O'Keefe and business partner Ted Sliwinski are readying Metropolis Cycles for an April 8 opening. Located at 2117 Michigan Ave., Metropolis will be open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week.

Not being able to afford a new car, O'Keefe quickly joined the Back Alley Bikes program in the Cass Corridor. He worked as a volunteer, earning a bike through the program while simultaneously becoming obsessed with cycle work. He started finding bikes on Craigslist and in the trash and fixed them up for friends. He worked at the Hub of Detroit as a mechanic. Eventually, he was promoted to general manager. The shop was so busy, he says, that he saw them lose customers as a result of wait times. Detroit was becoming more and more of a bike city. The demand was there. O'Keefe decided to split off on his own.

"If it wasn't me, it would be ten other people trying to open a bike shop there," says O'Keefe. "I just wanted to get there first."

The bike stock at Metropolis will be roughly 95 percent new with an emphasis on commuter cycles from manufacturers like Bianchi and Raleigh. It won't be a high-end bike store, says O'Keefe, and customers can expect bikes that fall anywhere within a $200 to $2,000 price range. He hopes to carry something for every skill set, including bikes for children and comfort bikes for parents.

In addition to retail, the 3,000 sq. ft. space will include a full-service cycle repair shop. Parts and accessories will also be for sale.

Source: Shayne O'Keefe, co-founder of Metropolis Cycles
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

March Development News round-up

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.

March hit the ground running as an unexpected leak of the Hudson's site rendering forced Dan Gilbert and company's hand. Rather than issue a statement declaring the leak was nothing more than an outdated conceptual design and moving on from the chatter, Gilbert's Rock Ventures released an actual high-quality conceptual rendering for the site. Though it's nothing close to final, it does acknowledge their desire for an architectural 'statement,' one that would attract attention world-wide--something the rendering re-enforces.

At the end of the month, John Gallagher of the Free Press reported that not only will Gilbert's Hudson development include 250 residential units, a separate development would bring an additional 71 residential units downtown. The historic Metropolitan Building, assumed by many to remain forever-derelict and destined for demolition, will apparently be saved and receive a $23.3 million renovation as it's converted to apartments.

The Detroit City Council approved yet another 235 apartments for downtown by giving the nod to Village Green as it seeks to build its $35 million Statler City development on the old Statler Hotel site on Grand Circus Park. That development includes a Zen garden among its many amenities.

Downtown isn't the only neighborhood to receive the mega-residential development treatment as the east riverfront witnesses the construction of Water's Edge. Triton Properties is building a 143-unit luxury apartment building in the Harbortown neighborhood.

And now for something completely different . . . the city of Detroit is playing hardball with Sequoia Property Partners, the New York-based owners of the CPA Building in Corktown. Open to the elements and long-easily accessible to anyone on the street, the city announced plans to demolish the building as Sequoia showed no progress in developing the historic but neglected building. Sequoia is now trying to delay the city as it promises to follow through on securing and developing the building across from Michigan Central Station--for real this time.

New documentary film follows struggle for community benefits agreement in Delray

Photo and audio exhibitionsmurals, and now a documentary film are ways in which people are keeping record of one Detroit neighborhood's fight to secure a community benefits agreement in the construction of an international bridge. "Living with Industry: Detroit, Michigan" tells the story of the people of Delray, a neighborhood on the city's southwest shore that is known as much for pollution and abandonment as it is anything else. It's also the place where the United States and Canada look to place their New International Trade Crossing.

According to Community Development Advocates of Detroit, Delray is a neighborhood that experiences over 10,000 trucks in daily traffic and is host to the largest single-site waste water treatment plant in the United States, an oil refinery, and a steel-making facility. In spite of this, there are still 2,500 or so people that live in the neighborhood. Even with the construction of a bridge that is estimated to displace 700 people, the majority of Delray's residents will remain.

The people in the film who are fighting for a community benefits agreement are fighting for the Detroiters who won't receive buyouts from the government to uproot and leave their homes and community. As Simone Sagovac, project director for the Southwest Detroit Community Benefits Coalition, says in the film, "One of the most important things about this bridge project and what is happening to Delray is that residents are recognized -- that their needs are there just like any other community."

The film itself comes from the Community Development Advocates of Detroit and their community storytelling project. It's a project that is focusing on the neighborhoods outside of downtown Detroit. "Living with Industry: Detroit, Michigan" was produced by filmmaker Logan Stark and CDAD public policy and communications intern Troy Anderson and is available online.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Better living through transit: Detroit firm seeks to improve public transportation throughout region

How do you convince a region to embrace public transit when it's been neglecting it for decades? That's what Freshwater Transit is hoping to do. The Detroit-based transit firm is looking to produce a series of seven videos that demonstrate just how easy, beneficial, and indispensable public transit is in other metropolitan regions across the country.

The educational series is called "15 Minutes or Better." The theory goes that since metro Detroit has no idea what a high-functioning public transit system actually looks like, how are we ever going to make the decisions necessary to putting one in place? Freshwater will be traveling to seven cities to show how key concepts of public transit actually work. They'll then examine how those concepts are being expressed in metro Detroit.

"There is an urgent need for improved transit in Southeast Michigan," says Tom Choske, Freshwater Transit president. "But there is also tremendous confusion. Because metro Detroit does not have a cultural tradition of transit usage, discussions about transit have overlooked many core issues. So far, the local transit conversation has focused mostly on policy. Our goal is to address transit at the ground level, the neighborhood level. Regardless of policy, what must a transit system provide so that all people can use it for everyday travel needs?"

The firm expresses a belief that through the Internet, the videos' shareability should make their message easy to spread, leading to the development of a better-informed populace throughout metro Detroit, one that would eventually vote in favor of installing an effective public transit system.

Freshwater Transit recently developed a multi-modal transit plan for the Detroit Riverfront, utilizing a system of trolley buses and water taxis. A crowdfunding campaign for the "15 Mintues or Better" video series is currently under way.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

This week in Detroit pop-up restaurants

Detroit pop-ups, and especially restaurant pop-ups, have become so popular that there are spaces now solely dedicated to the transient businesses. It's an excellent way for talented chefs who are rich with ideas but not with start-up capital to establish themselves without having to shell out money upfront for their own commercial kitchen. In other instances, it's well-established chefs who are simply offering special menus as guests of a particular host kitchen. Here are some of the more high profile pop-ups happening across Detroit this week.

St. Cece's, a Corktown bar and restaurant with its own well-respected menu and chef, opens its kitchen up to guests every Tuesday. Today's pop-up menu is courtesy of Steve Kempner, a.k.a. the Fargin Chef. Kempner, who is associated with Birmingham Community House and Bella Piati, is preparing a Puerto Rican menu that includes asopao de camarones, or shrimp gumbo with rice, and empanadillas, or beef-stuffed meet pies with sofrito sauce and plantain and bacon mofungo. Kempner is also offering a special Parisian fusion menu at Colors on Thursday, March 26, though the window for buying tickets for that event has already passed.

POP, the pop-up restaurant space that recently opened above Checker Bar and Grill downtown, is hosting Chef Rodney Lubinski of Grand Trunk Pub. He'll be offering what's being called an inventive array of pies. At $5 a slice, choose from a non-traditional shepherd's pie, meat (beef, rabbit, lamb), bacon (ranch cut, Canadian, jowl), roasted root (beet, turnip, purple sweet potato), cherry (sweet, sour, white), and mudd pies. Doors open at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 26.

Steven Reaume, who manages POP along with running his own pop-up restaurant business NOODL, is throwing his fourth pasta pop-up dinner March 28. Fra Diavolo will host two dinners, 6:30 and 8:30 p.m., at the Bankle Building in Midtown. Six courses include four pasta dishes, salad, and desert. A menu and tickets are available online.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

A leery public joins public officials to question $200M State Fairgrounds redevelopment plans

Despite the release of architectural renderings, issues of transit and accessibility had people buzzing at the latest public forum for the proposed $200 million redevelopment of the old State Fairgrounds in Detroit. Members of neighboring communities, leaders of various transit agencies, and other interested parties gathered Wednesday, March 18 to debate the latest information offered by Redico and Magic Plus, two developers of the site.

The Michigan State Fair, which occupied the site of the Fairgrounds since 1905, ceased operating there in 2009 when it was defunded by the state of Michigan. In 2012, Gov. Rick Snyder signed a bill that authorized the transfer of the Fairgrounds to the Michigan Land Bank Fast Track Authority and opened the door for private redevelopment.

Though nothing has been formally adopted, the latest plan released by the developers is the most detailed to date, offering the public a glimpse into a 157-acre site that includes 650 residential units made up of a mix of one- and two-bedroom townhomes, apartments, studios, and lofts. The plan also calls for senior housing, retail, office space, green space, pocket parks, and transit-oriented development.

Dan Dirks, director of the Detroit Department of Transportation, stood with leaders of the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART) and the Regional Transit Authority to urge the developers to not relocate a transit station even further south down Woodward Avenue.

Developers propose moving the transit station to the northeast corner of State Fair Avenue and Woodward. Transit leaders stressed the importance of locating the transfer station as close as possible to the busy intersection of 8 Mile Boulevard and Woodward. "It's not often we all get together and agree on something," says Dirks. The transfer station should eventually service the Bus Rapid Transit line.

Also proposed is an Amtrak train station that would offer connections to Chicago and Flint. Funds from Amtrak have yet to be secured.

A number of community members expressed concern over what they believed to be a poor connection between the proposed housing and the neighboring Gateway Marketplace. Todd Scott, executive director of the Detroit Greenways Coalition, echoed those sentiments, believing that not only was the development poorly connected to the Meijer store next door, but also to surrounding communities like Ferndale.

Others were more critical of the meeting, with some either suggesting or outright accusing that the proceedings were a sham. Frank Hammer, a member of the Fairgrounds Advisory Committee and Greenacres Woodward Civic Association, signed a pamphlet being circulated that called the series of public forums "broken from the beginning." Developers insisted that they were listening to everyone's concerns and that the newly announced plans addressed issues brought forward during previous public meetings.

Craig Willian, vice president of retail development for Redico, characterized the development as the place where city and suburbs meet. "The nice thing about the site is the opportunity to provide a lot of green space," Willian says. "We can afford an urban feel with that suburban green field experience."

It's an enormous space, one that could fit four Partridge Creek Malls, he says. The developers are working with Wayne County Community College to lease an office building facing the town commons. They're working to save at least four of the historic buildings on the site: the fieldhouse, coliseum, dairy cattle building, and poultry building. A local theater operator wants to take the shell of the coliseum and use it to house a modern movie theater, says Willian. Bike and walking trails are also planned.

While developers did receive positive feedback along with the criticisms, many in the crowd expressed doubts that what was being presented is what will be built. Rochelle Lento of nearby Palmer Woods says that though she shops at the Meijer at Gateway Marketplace, that development is a far cry from what was originally presented to the community, a much more suburban-style strip mall development than what was initially announced. It's a common concern for a site with so much potential, value, and reverence.

"The biggest takeaway for me was seeing transit well represented. That's the biggest plus," says Todd Scott. "Still, I feel these are interesting renderings but what will really happen?"

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Land use and quality of life plan takes root in Brightmoor

It's a familiar Detroit narrative: a plucky neighborhood group wants to turn its vacant land into an asset. With over 600 acres of vacant land, the west side neighborhood of Brightmoor has its hands full. But as daunting a task as it may seem, Brightmoor residents, organizers, and community partners are better preparing for the future with a land use and quality of life plan called Restore the 'Moor. Now that they've built the framework, the neighborhood seeks to implement actions outlined in the plan.

Joe Rashid, outreach director at the Brightmoor Alliance, helped shepherd the plan through its different stages. He characterizes Restore the 'Moor as a living document, one that could change every few months depending on the needs of the community. Its first stage came in 2013 as the Alliance worked in conjunction with Community Development Advocates of Detroit to host a year-long discussion with neighborhood residents. The plan was developed over the course of 2014, and now it is ready to be put into action.

While much of what the plan calls for has been happening in Brightmoor for a while now — agriculture and festivals, for example — Restore the 'Moor gives context to the hard work neighborhood organizers have been putting in all these years. The plan attempts to identify ways for the neighborhood to turn its assets into jobs and a stronger local economy. Knucklehead Farm, a Brightmoor bed and breakfast that showcases the community's farming and sustainability culture, is the type of business Rashid hopes to see more of, at least in spirit.

"With about 500 people coming through Brightmoor each month on tours, we want to make sure we have places for people to spend their money," says Rashid. "Places like Artesian Farms and the community kitchen only help bolster great neighborhood staples like Scotty Simpson's, Motor City Java and Tea House, and Sweet Potato Sensations."

In addition to better utilizing its vacant land, the plan calls for re-populating parts of the neighborhood streets by attracting more immigrants. The Brightmoor Alliance is currently working with the city of Detroit and Global Detroit to target African and Caribbean immigrants. Expanding its festivals and public art programs are a priority and the neighborhood is especially looking forward to a community co-op and kitchen. Look for that to open this summer, says Rashid.

Source: Joe Rashid, outreach director at the Brightmoor Alliance
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Corktown co-working space Saint Vincent fills up fast

A graphic design firm, an old school arcade, and a CPA are among the businesses that have helped to fill up the available space at Saint Vincent in Corktown. The Catholic school-turned-boutique office building welcomed its first tenant in Oct. 2014, and all of its available units were rented out by the end of that year. Work has already begun on the second floor of the building and it's estimated that the offices could be available by mid- to late summer of 2015.

Ryan Schirmang, managing partner of Saint Vincent, sees no shortage of businesses wanting to be located in the city. Once financing is lined up to complete renovations of the second floor, the interest he's received in renting space indicates that the remaining offices should fill up as quickly as the first floor did.

Schirmang purchased the building in 2012 and renovations began in earnest in July 2014. Saint Vincent was the recipient of an Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy grant, receiving $50,000 from the organization for spending $200,000 of its own money. That grant, says Schirmang, helped ensure that they would have money to cover operational costs once renovations were completed.

"It's cool to see how those grants benefit Corktown," he says. "It's spreading into the businesses in the neighborhood beyond Michigan Avenue."

Schirmang says that the space is best suited for small businesses that are more on the design side of things, not so much the light industrial and production-minded businesses that characterize nearby Ponyride. He does, however, hope to cultivate a close working relationship between the two co-working spaces.

Before the second floor is completed and open for rent, look for a lounge and events space that could open to the public by May.  

Source: Ryan Schirmang, Managing Partner of Saint Vincent
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Family brings the craft of shoe repair to Grandmont Rosedale

When Moe Draper of Detroit Shoe Repair compliments the quality of shoe you've brought him, you can't help but feel a rush of pride. This is a man who's seen a lot of shoes. That pride quickly turns into a sheepish embarrassment, however, realizing just how poor of shape those shoes were in. They were going to need a lot of work. Over the next hour, Moe paced from one end of the shop to the other, re-heeling, re-soling, re-sealing, and shining my shoes and bringing them back to life. It wasn't just a lesson in shoe repair, it was a lesson in craftsmanship.

Moe and his wife Aziza opened Detroit Shoe Repair in December 2014. The Grandmont Rosedale storefront on Grand River is the second shoe repair and shine location for the Drapers, who have been running an operation out of Shed 4 at Eastern Market since 2012. This year should be a busy one for the family as they look to open a third location. Moe is also preparing his own line of boots to debut December 2015.

Moe got into the shoe business by shining at Detroit bars. He parlayed that into shoe shining gigs with the Detroit Police Department and the Claymore Shop in Birmingham. Spending so much time at shoe repair shops while buying supplies, Moe networked and built relationships with influential cobblers, eventually traveling with a shoe repair champion to Florida to learn more about the trade.

Moe takes great pride in the craft of shoe repair and enjoys educating people about shoes as much as he does fixing them. Aziza, who also works at the shop, says that most people don't even know that they can get their shoes repaired, they just throw them away and get another pair. The Drapers say that as long as they perform high quality work, word will spread and business will continue to grow.

"You have to stay consistent. When you stay consistent, more and more people will write about you. And the main thing is, when they come see you, be worthwhile to be written about," says Moe. "I just try and do the best I can every day and never get tired of selling the pitch."

Moe opened his first shop downtown in Detroit's financial district. While that shop eventually closed, it was there where he met his wife Aziza, who was running her own natural hair salon nearby. In 2012, the couple combined forces and moved on to open their shoe repair and shining station at Shed 4 in Eastern Market.

They've done well at Eastern Market, where customers can watch Moe repair shoes right in front of them. They've become part of the community there. The Drapers launched a shoe drive for the area homeless; outfitting people with proper footwear, especially in the winter months, can save lives.

In December 2014, the Drapers opened their second shoe repair location, the aforementioned storefront in the Grandmont Rosedale neighborhood. Moe grew up there and the family recently moved back to the area. They're working to establish themselves in that neighborhood as they ready location number three.

Detroit Shoe Repair is located at 18716 Grand River Ave.

Source: Moe and Aziza Draper, owners of Detroit Shoe Repair
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

It's only a matter of time before water taxis and trolley buses come to the riverfront

A multi-modal transit system along the Detroit River is one step closer to reality. Plans call for a water taxi and trolley bus system that would initially run from Belle Isle to the Ambassador Bridge. Depending on international developments, the transit system could expand to include ferry service between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.

The Detroit RiverFront Conservancy commissioned Freshwater Transit Solutions to develop the system. The conservancy is now preparing presentations for community partners as they seek to secure funding for the project. Will Smith, CFO of the conservancy, characterizes the water taxi/trolley bus service as a must-have for connecting residents in city neighborhoods to the riverfront.

"It's something that we'll be implementing, we're just not sure when," says Smith. "We're not going to build something we can't take care of. We'll get our ducks in a row and it will happen at some point soon, even if it's in phases."

In its plans, Freshwater Transit evaluated the feasibility of the project, how to implement it, and how it will impact local residents and businesses. The basics of the plan have a 40- to 50-foot water taxi with a 75- to 100-person capacity travelling along the Detroit River. Trolley buses would both travel along the riverfront and make connections to nearby neighborhoods in places like Southwest Detroit and the East Jefferson Corridor.

"This isn't going to be just a little system like a Disney ride," says Tom Choske, President of Freshwater Transit. "We want something that has wider value and makes the riverfront more accessible to everyone."

Both Smith and Choske expect the system to roll out in phases, expanding its range as time goes by. One hope is that the system will put pressure on Canada to build a docking facility similar to the Detroit Wayne County Port Authority's, a building designed with international customs operations in mind. Once a Canadian equivalent is built in Windsor, the transit system could then expand to include international ferry service between the two cities, says Choske.

While there is no official beginning date for the transit system, Smith says the conservancy could run some demonstrations this summer to see how it works. But for now, it's about finding the funding.

It will be another busy summer for the conservancy as it prepares to celebrate the opening of the DNR Outdoor Adventure Center, an extension of the Dequindre Cut, and adding more events to the RiverWalk, including the recently announced move of the Downtown Hoedown to the West RiverWalk expansion. Now that they've passed their plans to the conservancy, Freshwater Transit is focusing efforts on a crowdfunding campaign to promote the Regional Transit Authority.

Source: Will Smith, CFO of Detroit RiverFront Conservancy, Tom Choske, President of Freshwater Transit Solutions
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Corktown Inn reinvents itself as the Corktown Hotel, hopes to clean up its act

The old Corktown Inn is cleaning up its act. Though stingy with the details, an unnamed ownership group that purchased the inn in October 2014 is committed to a complete overhaul of the hotel, according to newly-hired director of sales Suzette Daye. In what's now re-branded as the Corktown Hotel, the 144 rooms could begin to see major renovations within months.

A local design firm is handling the room renovations, though Daye wouldn't say which one. Local artisans, including the Nordin brothers, will provide much of the décor for each room. Daye says that the Corktown will be a boutique hotel, meaning that each floor and even each room could be different from one another. Three concept rooms are currently available to rent.

In addition to re-designing the rooms, Daye says that a number of other improvements are planned for the site. New landscaping will better expose the hotel to the street. An old restaurant space will be revived. Workout facilities will be added. A courtyard will be spruced up and there's also mention of a green roof.

For all of the improvements and additional amenities planned for the hotel, perhaps what's most notable, at least presently, are the subtractions. Gone is the cigarette smoking. So, too, is the infamous vending machine containing lighters, condoms, and women's underwear. Room rentals in three-hour blocks have also been eliminated. Even the old security dummy has been retired.

Daye admits that the changes have led to a loss of some of the customers -- "We've lost a lot of the party people, I guess you could say," -- but that's to be expected as the inn switches to a boutique hotel. Plus, she's heard positive things from the hotel's neighbors since the new rules have been implemented.

It's a transition period for the hotel, after the "party people" have left but before all of the upgrades have been made. In the meantime, Daye's trying to drum up business, distributing promotional fliers to neighborhood bars. Drink too much at a Corktown establishment? Bring the flier to the hotel for a $50 overnight stay. While the rooms aren't "boutique" yet, they're clean and not out of the ordinary.

Source: Suzette Daye, director of sales at the Corktown Hotel
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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