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Detroit Development News

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Local design and architecture firms collaborate on a new vision for Palmer Park

An impressive list of Detroit-area architecture and design firms have come together to help shape Palmer Park's future. Led by Gibbs Planning Group and sponsored by the Michigan chapters of the American Society of Landscape Architects and the Congress for the New Urbanism, seven teams made up of 11 firms recently presented various plans for the historic park to the People for Palmer Park, an advocacy group. A consensus master plan will be created from this work and presented to the city by Memorial Day.

Participating firms included LivingLAB Detroit, McIntosh-Poris Architects, ASTI Environmental, dPOP!, Archive DS, department 01, Conservation Design Forum, Ken Weikal Landscape Architecture, Mark Johnson Architects, Hamilton-Anderson Associates, Downtown Solutions, Inc., Campbell Architeture and Planning, and Gibbs Planning Group.

The plans address a wide range of issues facing the park, from stormwater management to transit and parking questions.

Other plans focus on the park's design elements. Dave Mangum, urban planning associate for Gibbs Planning, says the park has been disconnected from itself and the community it serves. He singled out a high fence running along Woodward Ave. that limits access to the park.

People for Palmer Park is engaging community members to identify what they like and dislike about each of the seven presentations. Gibbs Planning will then work with them and the other firms to form a consensus master plan. Though not binding, the parties involved hope that the city will use the master plan when considering changes to the park. It also provides the People for Palmer Park with an effective fundraising tool for their own advocacy efforts.

"There hasn't been a cohesive vision for Palmer Park in quite a while," says Mangum.

Palmer Park is a 300-acre park designed by the 'father of landscape architecture,' Frederick Law Olmsted, the man who designed such famous parks as Detroit's Belle Isle and New York's Central Park.

Source: Dave Mangum, urban planning associate for Gibbs Planning Group
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Detroit debuts new property auction website

Building Detroit, a website designed to auction off city-owned houses, has launched. It features a number of safeguards that are designed to keep speculators from bidding on the properties. The idea is to ensure that houses go to people and companies who will fix, maintain, and populate the homes.

Houses will be available at a rate of one per day starting Monday, May 5. Bidding starts at 8 a.m. and runs through 5 p.m. There are currently 12 houses listed on the Building Detroit website. Bidding for the first house, 4184 Bishop, starts at $1,000. Registration has opened for potential bidders.

The city is employing what it calls a "rigorous process" to vet winning bidders. Winners must pay 10% of the price within 72 hours of winning the auction. If purchased for $20,000 or less, winners must make the full payment within 60 days of the auction. Winners have 90 days to make a full payment if a property is purchased for more than $20,000.

The Detroit Land Bank Authority requires winners to demonstrate executed construction contracts for home rehabs within 30 days of closing. If the winner is rehabbing the home themselves, they are required to provide corresponding receipts.

Buyers have six months to be granted a certificate of occupancy and have the home occupied. Failure to meet all of these requirements results in losing both property and purchase price. Such rules should prevent speculators from buying properties only to sit on them, leaving them unoccupied and at-risk for scrapping and squatting, something for which the Wayne County Tax Auction has been criticized.

On April 27, the East English Village Association, heavily involved in the auction's first round, will be hosting open houses for the buildings available in its neighborhood.

Source: Building Detroit press release
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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A spa opens in Midtown's Park Shelton building

Opening Serene Medi-Spa is the realization of a six year dream for Dr. Manisha Mehta, a podiatrist who also owns and operates a medical practice. The two businesses neighbor each other inside the Park Shelton.

Dr. Mehta first opened Gentle Foot Care of Michigan in the early months of 2008. Forced to move her medical practice from 3800 Woodward as a result of that building's impending demolition, Dr. Mehta moved to the Park Shelton in August of 2013. Serene Medi-Spa opened Valentine's Day of 2014.

Dr. Mehta hopes that as her spa business grows, she'll be able to expand into an additional space and offer waxes and facials. For now, the spa offers manicures and pedicures, including paraffin, scrub, and gel polish services.

Being a podiatrist, Dr. Mehta knows quite a bit about foot care. As such, she places quite an emphasis on the sanitary conditions of the spa, saying that too many spas ignore healthy sanitation practices.

"With me being experienced in sterilization and cleanliness, the nail techs can always come next door to my office and ask questions," says Dr. Mehta.

Liners are placed in the foot bowls and are thrown away after one use. Dr. Mehta also discourages nail techs from reusing nail files. She even sells a polish with anti-fungal properties. With these practices, Dr. Mehta wants customers to know that she's doing everything she can to ensure a healthy manicure and pedicure experience. The doctor knows a thing or two about fungi, bacteria, and infections.

Dr. Mehta also spreads the gospel of ovarian cancer awareness and hopes to start a foundation someday. "With all these women coming into the spa, I want to educate and hopefully save some lives," she says.

Serene Medi-Spa is currently looking for experienced nail techs.

Source: Dr. Manisha Mehta, founder and owner of Serene Medi-Spa
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Man fights to bring his one-of-a-kind horseless horse carriage to Detroit streets

Dave Ducharme is committed to bringing his horseless horse carriages to the city of Detroit. He's nearly there, too, with the first two of his three 'old world'-style carriages approved to begin providing tours downtown as Andre's Carriage Tours. He hopes a third carriage will be approved by the Department of Natural Resources to tour Belle Isle State Park.

After dreaming up the idea for a horseless horse carriage, Ducharme partnered with Quality Time Recreation in Kimball, Michigan to make it a reality. The carriages utilize electric golf cart motors as a means of propulsion. Every driver will either wear white tuxedos with high hats and canes or French Renaissance costume attire, complete with puffy shirts and hats with ostrich feathers.

Ducharme came up with the idea for a horseless horse carriage -- the only of its kind, he says -- over three years ago. Since then, he's been pursuing officials in city and state government to allow him to make it happen. Originally hoping to provide tours along the RiverWalk, Ducharme was told the carriages were too wide and would get in the way of pedestrians. He then shifted his focus downtown, where he was eventually given permission to operate.

"I'm back. I'm licensed. I'm approved," says Ducharme. "Let's entertain people and show off those jewels downtown."

Andre's Carriage Tours are currently based out of the Miller Parking structure across from the Renaissance Center. Though not yet operating on a regular basis, Andre's Carriage Tours will begin as soon as the weather warms up. Once you don't need a blanket covering you during the ride, he says, the tours will be running from sun up to sun down.

Ducharme plans on offering sports-, theater-, and architecture-themed tours with an emphasis on the city's history.

Source: Dave Ducharme, proprietor of Andre's Carriage Tours
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Sturgis-native moves to Detroit, starts junk removal business

A new junk and trash removal service has opened on the city's far west side. Scott Stauffer moved his family from Sturgis, Michigan this winter to start Detroit Junkbusters. The company, which utilizes a heavy duty truck and a 6x12 dump trailer, offers services to Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Washtenaw, Livingston, and Monroe counties.

Scott sees his company as an opportunity to help and meet people in his new community. As he gets situated here, Scott hopes to organize some community service events, donating his time and equipment to remove illegal dumping waste.

"There's a satisfaction you get from cleaning stuff up, from being able to help clean the neighborhood up," says Scott. "There's a satisfaction from taking something chaotic and disastrous and making it usable again."

Scott says his company will haul away junk and trash for just about anyone who hires them. No job's too small for Scott -- he's been called to remove a heavy television set for a person unable to move it on their own. He's happy to take the big jobs too, of course. He says that he recently removed four trailers worth of trash from a wrecked apartment unit.

Scott also tries to keep as much stuff out of landfills as possible, recycling and donating whatever he can. Rather than someone renting a dumpster to be dropped off in front of their house, Scott brings the dumpster to the house, removes the trash, and then takes it away.

A former roofer, Scott got the idea for the junk removal business after hanging out with some friends in the Kitchener, Ontario area. They had their own junk removal business there and Scott was taken with all the people he met throughout the day.

Source: Scott Stauffer, owner and CEO of Detroit Junkbusters
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Jane's Walk festival to include Detroit

Detroit has joined a list of over 100 cities that plan on hosting the annual walking festival known as "Jane's Walk". The festival occurs from May 2-4.

Organizers are asking Detroit residents to create and host their own walks where people can learn more about their neighborhoods and engage in their communities. There is currently one Detroit Jane's Walk scheduled on the national website, an approximately 90 minute walk that will tour the Livernois Avenue of Fashion and its surrounding neighborhoods. Led by Vickie Elmer and Madhavi Reddy, the tour takes place on May 3 at 9 a.m.

The festival is encouraging residents to create more walks throughout the city. The expansion into Detroit is a result of a partnership between Jane's Walk and the Municipal Art Society of New York and is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The Knight Foundation gave $50,000 to launch Jane's Walks in Detroit; Philadelphia; Akron, OH; Charlotte, NC; and San Jose, CA.

"By leveraging strong local partnerships the Jane’s Walk model has the potential to create a new class of connected citizens, who are more invested in the place they live and want to contribute to its success," Carol Coletta, Knight Foundation vice president for community and national initiatives, says in a statement.

A form is available online for those interested in creating a Jane's Walk. The walks are free and inclusive, organized by Detroiters rather than a central body. They're a way to get people out and walking around while concentrating on an aspect of urban living. The group says that walks can be funny or serious, historic or contemporary.

Jane's Walk was formed to honor famed urbanist and community activist Jane Jacobs.

Source: Jane's Walk press release
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Lyft, a new car sharing service, makes its Detroit debut

There's a new transit option for people in want of a ride, available everywhere from downtown Detroit to the suburbs and back. Lyft, the San Francisco-based car sharing app, launched in Detroit this Friday, March 28.

Passengers enter their credit card information into the app when first signing up for the service. The transaction between driver and rider is always cash-free. The app then calculates mileage, time, pickup fee, and the Lyft Trust and Safety fee to determine a suggested payment for the driver. It is up to the passenger how much they will pay for the ride.

Lyft first sent a launch team to Detroit about a month before officially starting services. The team came to determine whether the city was a fit for Lyft and, once decided that it was, began training and hiring drivers.

"Our hope is that we fill a gap in transportation in the city where people won't have to rely on having their own cars," says Lyft spokesperson Paige Thelen.

For drivers, such a service allows them to offer rides while on their way to work or school and make some extra money. Lyft also allows drivers to create their own brands, encouraging drivers to offer unique, friendly rides with an emphasis on human interaction. Lyft cars are identifiable by the giant, fuzzy pink mustaches drivers attach to the front of their vehicles.

The company is quick to point out its commitment to safety. Drivers must pass background checks, driving record checks, phone screenings, in-person meetings, and vehicle inspections. There is a zero tolerance policy for drugs and alcohol. Lyft also features a $1 million liability insurance policy.

Drivers use their own vehicles and make themselves available whenever they want to be, 24 hours a day.

Source: Paige Thelen, spokesperson for Lyft
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Art Deco gem re-branded as the Block at Cass Park

100,000 square feet of office space has opened up in one of Albert Kahn's Art Deco masterpieces, the former S.S. Kresge World Headquarters at 2727 Second Ave. The building was most recently known as the Metropolitan Center for High Technology before being re-branded as the Block at Cass Park.

Under its new configuration, the 250,000 square foot building is putting an emphasis on office space and openness. The building is owned by Wayne State University and a partnership of private owners. Wayne State manages the space.

When Matteo Passalacqua was being interviewed for the leasing officer position he now holds, he suggested changing the name of the building. Ian Studders, WSU associate director of leasing and retail services, took him one further and suggested a complete re-branding. As WSU moved departments from the building at Cass Park to spaces closer to campus, Passalacqua and Studders had an opportunity to change the entire identity of 2727 Second. The Block at Cass Park is the result of that transformation.

Location plays a big part in the building's appeal. Situated across from Cass Park, the area is near the new hockey arena that will soon be built. Becoming more inclusive in that changing neighborhood is a focus, says Studders, as they plan on offering event space and conference rooms to community members.

"The focus is to not be an island," says Passalacqua. "We'll be helping with the park, landscaping, removing tagging, and picking up trash."

Detroit-based Patrick Thompson Design won the competitive bidding process to re-design the public components of the first floor in an attempt to make the space more inviting. The pricing is competitive too. Passalacqua says that rent is currently available below market rates.

The Block at Cass Park is also home to the co-working space An Office in Detroit.

Source: Matteo Passalacqua, leasing officer for the Block at Cass Park
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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The Lorax comes to a historic Woodbridge home

At what is sure to become known as The Lorax House, developer Alex Pereira of Secure Realty, LLC has commissioned two artists to liven up Trumbull Street as it runs through the Woodbridge neighborhood. A mural and a sculpture inspired by the Dr. Seuss book The Lorax are being placed in the front lot of 4759 Trumbull. The sculpture installation is planned for today.

A mural painted by artist Matt Hebert will serve as the backdrop for Scott Kuefler's Lorax sculpture. The sculpture, made from wood, was carved by chainsaw. The mural is being painted on a retaining wall and features the famous line from the book, "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not."

Pereira feels that the quote reflects what is happening in Detroit right now. He's currently rehabbing the building at 4759 Trumbull with hopes of having it ready for renters by May. Pre-leasing has already begun for the five-unit building built in 1900.

"I think art is an important component in the revitalization of Detroit," says Pereira. "It's taking something that's not the prettiest and, with minimal work, you add value."

The redevelopment of 4759 Trumbull marks a shift in focus for Pereira and Secure Realty, one from suburbs to city. Pereira plans on purchasing and rehabbing more properties in the city. Detroit's structures, he says, are invaluable character pieces that can't be recreated today.

Pereira purchased 4759 Trumbull in the 2012 Wayne County tax auction. 15 years vacant with a roof ravaged by the elements, the owner of the neighboring building thought 4759 Trumbull was too far gone and planned on purchasing it in order to demolish it and turn it into a parking lot.

In May of 2013, Pereira began construction on a building that was nearly demolished.

Source: Alex Pereira, developer at Secure Realty
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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State loans millions of dollars to build M-1 Rail, demolish Joe Louis Arena

A couple of Detroit development projects have recently been approved for loans and funding assistance from the Michigan Strategic Fund, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation recently announced. Two projects, the construction of the M-1 Rail and the demolition of Joe Louis Arena, will receive $16 million from the fund.

"Michigan is America’s Comeback State, and these projects add to our growing momentum," said Gov. Rick Snyder in a statement. "These new investments in our state will strengthen our communities, spur new commercial investment in our cities and fuel new opportunities for our talented workforce."

The M-1 Rail, a 3.3-mile light rail system that will stretch from downtown to New Center, is set to receive a $10 million loan from the Michigan Strategic Fund. The $10 million Michigan Business Development Program performance-based loan has been awarded as result of the $130 to $140 million in capital investment and up to 41 permanent jobs that the construction of the line is expected to create.

While some specifics for the project remain, the $10 million in loans provided by the Michigan Strategic Fund should bring the M-1 Rail closer to reality. Recently, the first phase of construction began as crews have started utility work downtown. The M-1 Rail is a curbside light rail system that will stop at 11 planned stops along Woodward.

The current home of the Detroit Red Wings, Joe Louis Arena, will be demolished once a new hockey arena has been built in the lower Cass Corridor. Though nothing has been announced for the future former home of the Red Wings, the riverfront location is poised to receive major development interest.

Anticipating major commercial investment dollars, the Michigan Strategic Fund has approved up to $6 million in Michigan Community Revitalization Program performance-based economic assistance to go toward demolishing the arena. Joe Louis opened in 1979.

Source: Michigan Economic Development Corporation press release
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Hip, new barber shop opens downtown

A new barber shop has opened in downtown Detroit. Beyond the haircuts, Standard Barber Company also offers straight razor shaves, beard trims, and shoe shines. The company focuses on "hip and cool" haircuts for men, something that was missing from downtown, according to co-founder Matt Charette Temkin.

The barber shop has a clubhouse feel to it as Temkin mentions bourbon and catching a game as part of the experience. Temkin's great grandfather, Joseph Charette, opened his own barber shop in the Delray neighborhood in 1915, eventually moving it to Brightmoor where it was in operation until the 1960s.

Temkin, who lives in New York, got the idea to open his own barber shop while visiting eventual co-founder Steve Economy on a trip home. The pair both grew up in Farmington. Economy, who lives downtown, was showing Temkin around when Temkin learned that Economy drove all the way to the suburbs to get his haircut. The idea for Standard Barber Company was soon crafted.

"It's great to have all these businesses moving downtown, all these people moving down here," says Temkin. "But what makes it a desirable place to live are the daytime services that everyone needs."

Discouraged after looking at over 50 spaces downtown and not finding a single match, the pair stopped in the Greenwich Times pub. It was there over beers that the duo got to talking to the bartender, who then called out her brother, the owner of the building. They were soon led upstairs and found their space at 138 Cadillac Square. Since the business takes up the second floor of a building that is wedge- or flat iron-shaped, the shop is surrounded by windows.

The company is looking to hire more barbers to stand behind their three chairs. The current group is lead by Head Barber David Herrera, who the business found after conducting over 100 interviews this last summer.

Source: Matt Charette Temkin, co-founder of Standard Barber Company
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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A new grocer to open in West Village

A neighborhood market will be opening up in West Village soon with a projected opening date of April 3. David Kirby has partnered with his girlfriend, Caitlin James, to open Parker Street Market. James is also co-owner of local juice makers Drought.

The market will focus on supplying local and organic products to the surrounding neighborhood. Kirby has put out a call to all local food producers as he searches for the right mix of products to line the shelves. Local food makers are encouraged to contact Kirby for consideration.

Kirby sees Parker Street Market as a stepping stone for local food entrepreneurs, that place in between selling at farmers' markets and selling at large-scale super markets. With co-owner James being experienced in the local food economy through her work with Drought, the pair have an already established network in Detroit's food scene.

For Kirby, it was being around James and her family that gave him the entrepreneur bug. "If you surround yourself by entrepreneurs, it gets in your blood as well," he says.

After moving to Detroit from New York, Kirby noticed he was often driving to the suburbs for groceries. The couple, who live about a block away from their new storefront, saw the for rent sign at 1814 Parker St. and quickly dived in. Construction began in November.

Kirby believes that the Parker Street Market business model is one that will allow for rapid growth, potentially expanding into multiple stores. They've worked out a structured deal with Door-to-Door Organics, a company that partners with farmers to deliver organic products to people's doors. By agreeing to offer many Door-to-Door Organics products, Kirby will be able to prices low. The emphasis, he says, will be on affordability.

Interested food entrepreneurs can reach Kirby at info@parkerstreetmarket.com.

Source: David Kirby, co-founder of Parker Street Market
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Detroit Greenways Coalition becomes a nonprofit, grows

The Detroit Greenways Coalition is making a push to play an even bigger role in growing the city's greenways as it becomes an official nonprofit organization. The group has filed papers with the state and has requested recognition from the IRS as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The group, which formed in 2006, has been an informal organization since inception.

By achieving nonprofit status, the DGC will be able to expand its scope, providing the group more resources like access to grant funding. The coalition now has a board of directors. Todd Scott, who was basically a one man staff for the organization in its previous incarnation, will remain with the DGC. He is now Executive Director for the Detroit Greenways Coalition.

"We weren't an official organization beforehand. We were a group of stakeholders that met monthly," says Scott. "I'm excited to see how this moves us forward, to see what we can accomplish."

The group had no intentions of becoming a nonprofit when it first formed in 2006. There were even discussions of the transition happening in 2009 but it was then decided against. More changes may come for the DGC as Scott says that a merger is likely with the Detroit Eastside Community Collaborative, a group that works to build greenways in underserved neighborhoods on the city's east side. The Detroit Greenways Coalition and Detroit Eastside Community Collaborative are already partners in building the Conner Creek Greenway.

The DGC was recently in the news for its involvement in bringing four new miles of bike lanes to Van Dyke Ave. The bike lanes connect the cities of Warren, Center Line, and Detroit and also help complete the Conner Creek Greenway, a patchwork of bike lanes and greenways that now stretches from north of 8 Mile Rd. to Maheras Gentry Park at the Detroit River.

Source: Todd Scott, executive director of Detroit Greenways Coalition
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

March development news round-up

March was another busy month for development news in the city. Let's catch up on five stories from the past four weeks.


Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

New bike lanes to connect city to suburbs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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