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Detroit Development News

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Summer development news round-up

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Fenkell Street Market to open in Brightmoor

A new community market is set to debut on the city's west side on Saturday, July 26. Fenkell Street Market is the culmination of a partnership between TechTown's SWOT City program, the Brightmoor Alliance, and the University of Windsor. The market allows members of the Brightmoor community the opportunity to bring their home-based businesses out and into market.

After students of the University of Windsor business school conducted a feasibility study on building a food co-operative in Brightmoor, it was recommended that a community market would better serve the neighborhood. Students from that university work in Brightmoor every semester.

While the original recommendation was for a bricks-and-mortar operation akin to the Russell Bazaar, an open air market will be held on the fourth Saturday of every month through October. SWOT City and Brightmoor Alliance are currently working to secure funding for a fixed building.

Ted Jones, associate portfolio manager for SWOT City, is looking to recruit at least 15 vendors for the market's first run. Music and free barbecue food will be on site. Vendors will feature local makers and entrepreneurs who typically operate out of their homes, including makers of craft greeting cards, candles, soap, and salsa. The Brightmoor Woodworkers will also be on hand.

"When we first came to the neighborhood, we got the data on the number of businesses around. It was way higher than what you could spot with the eyeball test just driving around the neighborhood," says Jones. "There are a lot of businesses run out of people's homes."

It's an opportunity for residents to open up shop in a venue that has a low barrier of entry.

Taking place from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday, July 26, Fenkell Street Market is located at 20101 Fenkell St.

Source: Ted Jones, Associate Portfolio Manager at SWOT City
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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West Corktown: Creating Detroit's newest neighborhood

Whether you know it or not, there's a new neighborhood being dreamt up for an area west of downtown just beyond the I-75 and I-96 interchange. Its epicenter is the corner of 23rd Street and Michigan Avenue, where a nearly century-old bank building was recently purchased by Lynne and Mike Savino. It will become their new home as the couple works to adapt the old bank into a loft-style building.

They're calling the area West Corktown, "a neighborhood within a neighborhood," and they're thinking that as Corktown's storefronts continue to fill up and become unavailable, the stretch of Michigan Avenue between I-75 and W. Grand Boulevard is the next logical place for development.

As Lynne tells it, the West Corktown name started as a joke and, rest assured, there's still a good deal of humor involved in the branding. But when she and her husband decided to leave the Green Acres neighborhood, Lynne found herself constantly telling her friends that she was moving just west of Corktown. It just grew from there. It's a way for the Savinos to draw attention to -- and, they hope, find some buyers for -- the vacant buildings along that stretch of Michigan Avenue.

As the couple continues to work on their own corner, the Savinos see a lot of potential in the historic buildings that neighbor their own. They've already seen interest from potential buyers, too.

"There are nice buildings here. This red building next door is a great building. There's a lot of small buildings that individuals could purchase for a reasonable amount of money, fix them up," says Lynne. "Corktown is getting packed and expensive. This really is just the next natural direction, hopefully, for things to go."

Bundled in the estate sale through which they purchased the bank was Leroy's U.S. Star Bar -- its liquor license, too. Unlike the bank, which was almost completely stripped by scrappers, Leroy's was left in remarkably decent condition. The Savinos are currently weighing offers from people interested in bringing the bar back to life. Though dusty, there's a great old wooden back bar, a vintage Bevador beer cooler, and plenty of character left in Leroy's.

Source: Lynne Savino, resident of West Corktown
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Mt. Elliott Park Fun Shop opens in time for summer

The grand re-opening of Mt. Elliott Park has brought more than a new water park and pavilion to Detroit's riverfront. Entrepreneurs Richard Roy and Charlene Dwyer and Chief Fun Officer Abby have opened the Mt. Elliott Park Fun Shop in the River Park Lofts building at Mt. Elliott and Wight streets.

Having opened in the first weeks of June, the Fun Shop is already quite a presence on the block that faces the park. Roy has some of his homemade corn hole boards in front of the shop, ready for passersby. They rest on a sidewalk covered in colorful chalk drawings. He says that he likes to take one of those big-hoop bubble makers and teach the nearby kids how to use it.

Roy and Dwyer come from the art and advertising worlds. Though still involved in those industries, they decided a storefront across from the new Mt. Elliott Park would be an ideal location for a shop that specializes in, well, fun. Much of the shop is geared toward kids of all ages -- which the new Mt. Elliott Park has no problem attracting -- with bubble makers, kites, and frisbees for sale. There are a few refreshments, too.

"It's a lot of fun. It's fun when we sell bubbles or those snap poppers and you hear them used outside. Or we'll sell a couple of kites and you watch them out there flying the kites, laughing and running around," says Roy. "It's great."

Another important component of the shop is local art. It's made by friends of Roy and Dwyer who create everything from iconic concert posters to porcelain wares, Detroit-themed t-shirts to jewelry. The pair saw the shop as an opportunity to provide artists a place to sell their work, something that's not always so easy or affordable.

The store is currently involved in a micro loan campaign.

Source: Richard Roy and Charlene Dwyer, co-owners of Mt. Elliott Park Fun Shop
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Hello Records store owner opens second location in Jefferson-Chalmers

Wade Kergan, owner of Corktown's Hello Records, has opened a second Detroit record store. Located at 14401 E. Jefferson in the historic Jefferson-Chalmers neighborhood, the as-yet untitled record store is taking part in the June on Jefferson pop-up series along the East Jefferson corridor. Kergan, however, already has plans to turn the temporary location into a permanent one.

It was Coffee and (____) partner Ray Cronk who first envisioned a record store for the corner storefront at E. Jefferson and Chalmers. An open doorway connects Coffee and (____) to the former liquor store location, making for an easy back-and-forth between the coffee and record shops. Cronk approached his friend Wade Kergan about the possibility of a second Hello location -- something Kergan was already considering -- and the rest fell into line rather quickly. The pair credit Joshua Elling and the rest of the people at Jefferson East, Inc. for the easy move. Cronk will manage the record store.

Kergan plans on keeping the store open well past the month-long June on Jefferson pop-up run. He says he'll be open at least through the summer but the real hope is to keep the record store open year-round. At roughly 2,000 square feet, the new location dwarfs his 600 square feet store in Corktown and will allow Kergan the chance to show off even more of his massive collection. He has 15,000 to 20,000 records in backstock, he says.

"The last shop was really informed by the neighborhood and gained its identity both through what we hoped to accomplish in the community and also in meeting people and making them a part of it, figuring out what they want and bringing them into the shop," says Kergan. "We hope to do the same thing here."

In addition to records, the bigger shop will feature more floor space for Kergan's vintage stereo equipment, posters, books, and musical artifacts.

The second record store is open every Friday and Saturday this June with plans to expand its hours later this summer. Hello Records will continue to operate as always.

Source: Wade Kergan, owner of Hello Records
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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