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Detroit Development News

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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

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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

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Reclaim Detroit trains over 300 in anticipation of deconstruction campaign for city

Reclaim Detroit has trained a workforce of over 300 people as it prepares to begin deconstructing the city's vacant buildings. The non-profit organization was selected after submitting to a Detroit RFP, becoming the official deconstruction contractor of the Detroit Land Bank Authority.

The city is using the federal government's Hardest Hit Fund to clear Detroit of many of its blighted buildings. Exact numbers of just how many houses will be deconstructed should be available at the end of the month when the Detroit Blight Removal Task Force has gone through its recently collected data.

Reclaim Detroit is a group that opts for deconstruction over demolition. Work crews go into a house and salvage as much of the original materials as possible. Rather than end up in a landfill, the reclaimed wood is for sale at Reclaim Detroit's store and warehouse at Focus: HOPE.

In addition to being environmentally friendly, the reclaimed wood is a popular design trend these days. A number of Detroit businesses, including Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company and Whole Foods Market, feature the reclaimed wood. Craig Varterian, executive director of Reclaim Detroit, says that the group will even be outfitting a McDonald's soon. It's a sign that deconstruction is becoming more and more desirable these days. Varterian is excited, too, that in Reclaim Detroit's winning the city's RFP, Detroit chose deconstruction over demolition.

"We're thrilled to have this," says Varterian. "This is the first time that the city has given the nod to deconstruction practices as mainstream."

Varterian says that in working with the Detroit Land Bank, the group will be using a more cost-efficient hybrid method of deconstruction. Crews should be able to complete a house in three to five days. Mechanical demolition will then be used to finish the job.

Source: Craig Varterian, executive director of Reclaim Detroit
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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City puts out call to re-develop sprawling Herman Kiefer Health Complex

The City of Detroit is looking to redevelop the old Herman Kiefer Health Complex, having recently issued a Request for Proposals. The former home to the city's health department, the complex now sits vacant. Eight buildings are for sale.

The stately brick buildings are spread out across 17.9 acres of land. Visible from the Lodge expressway, the area for sale is bounded by Taylor to the north, US-10 to the east, Blaine to the south, and Byron to the west. 525,937 square feet of floor space is available.

The building most associated with the Herman Kiefer Health Complex is a neo-classic building that dates back to 1909. It was designed by one of Detroit's most famous architects, Albert Kahn, who also designed such notable buildings as Cadillac Place, the Free Press Building, and the Fisher Building. Kahn designed other buildings available on the site. Another distinguished Detroit architect, George D. Mason, also designed a number of the buildings available.

The complex is a designated historic district. As such, it cannot be changed or demolished before submitting to a public hearing and gaining the approval of the Historic District Commission. The RFP suggests that the complex could be transitioned into a mixed use development or even a high density residential district.

According to the RFP, the surrounding neighborhood falls into the Moderate Vacancy 2 category of the Detroit Future City report. The Moderate Vacancy 2 category is for neighborhoods on the edge of losing their residential character.

Proposals are to be submitted by April 18, 2014. A site walk-through is scheduled for Tuesday, March 25 at 9:30 a.m.

The Detroit Department of Health and Wellness Promotion is now located in Suite 200 at 1600 Lafayette.

Source: Herman Kiefer Health Complex RFP
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Detroit Yacht Club offers tours of its historic clubhouse

As Belle Isle transitions from city park to state park, people afraid of changing traditions can rest easy on one front as the Detroit Yacht Club keeps humming along. In fact, the Detroit Yacht Club Foundation has recently announced its 2014 schedule for guided tours of the historic clubhouse.

The first tour of the year is coming up, occurring April 1 at 6:30 p.m. Tours scheduled for the rest of the year will take place on May 6, June 3, July 1, Sept. 3, and Oct. 7. The tours are free and open to the public. History and architecture groups may schedule private tours as well.

The focus of the tour is the clubhouse, one of the largest yacht clubhouses in the country at 93,000 square feet. Built in 1922, the clubhouse was designed by George D. Mason, one of the city's most notable architects. Mason is responsible for many of Detroit's famous buildings, including the Masonic Temple and Gem Theater. He's also responsible for the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.

The building falls into the Mediterranean Revival category and features a one-of-a-kind Pewabic Pottery fountain. Other highlights of the tour include the clubhouse's famous fireplace, ballroom, and grand stairways. The clubhouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The yacht club itself predates the building, having been founded in 1868. A Belle Isle institution, the Detroit Yacht Club is a private club that offers a harbor with 380 slips spread across seven docks. Food and dining is a focus for the club and it hosts weddings and events too.

The Detroit Yacht Club Foundation asks that those interested in taking a tour of the historic facilities contact the group no later than two days before the tour date.

Source: Detroit Yacht Club Foundation press release
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Photographer-turned-mechanic opens up shop in Rivertown

There's a new automotive repair shop on Detroit's east riverfront. Chris Lee opened the Straits Garage, located at 217 Joseph Campau St. The garage, in a historic warehouse built in 1880, offers a range of services, from simple oil changes to drivetrain and transmission work.

Though Lee didn't originally plan on locating his garage in Rivertown, he's glad he did. The shop has been busy since opening in late January, revealing an obvious need for the surrounding area. The building's proximity to downtown and a provided shuttle allows commuters to drop off their cars before work and pick them up on the way home.

A photography instructor at Oakland University, Lee has been working on cars since he was a teenager. The idea for a garage hit him about a year or two ago, he says. The Detroit native started to notice that the new residents of downtown and Midtown didn't know where to take their cars in for repairs. Realizing that there just weren't that many options in those immediate neighborhoods, Lee became certified as a mechanic and began the search for his own garage. He was stymied, however, by the landlords in downtown and Midtown.

"I spent the last year trying to find a good space in those neighborhoods," says Lee. "A lot of landlords in Midtown don't want an un-hip mechanic shop. They're looking for bars, cafes."

Lee stumbled on a building in Rivertown that had been a repair shop for decades previous, making for an easy move-in. He was excited, too, by the building's history and character--not to mention it being just blocks from the riverfront. The building offers Lee the ability to expand operations, should he need it.

Source: Chris Lee, owner of the Straits Garage
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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(revolver) co-founder to open new restaurant in Southwest

Goldfinch American, the new restaurant concept from Tunde Wey, will have its first pop-up dinner Monday March 24 at a yet-to-be disclosed location. Wey, who has contributed to Model D in the past, is also the co-owner of the Hamtramck restaurant (revolver).

As he searches for Goldfinch American's permanent home in southwest Detroit, Wey will hold a series of Monday night dinners. Wey says that he has been talking to a number of restaurants in Southwest about hosting his weekly dinner. Goldfinch American will transition from pop-up to permanent once an ideal space for the bar and restaurant is found.

Like (revolver), much of the emphasis of Goldfinch American is placed on the chef. Unlike (revolver), Goldfinch American will feature the work of just one person, James Hayes. Wey says that the new restaurant will be completely chef-driven, giving Hayes the leeway to do whatever he wants with the menu. The two met after Hayes requested to create a course for (revolver).

"I had this faith in his ability and it was validated when I tried his food. It was good," says Wey. "It wasn't just good. It was amazing. He made some bacon dust. He makes bacon and puts it in a coffee grinder, grinds it, and sprinkles it on wedges of apples. Beet gnocchi. Tiny little pieces of--I don't even know how he did it. It melted in my mouth. It was amazing."

While a permanent location has yet to be identified, Wey is certain he wants Goldfinch American to be located in Southwest. He's excited by the juxtaposition of placing a fine dining restaurant in a somewhat rugged neighborhood that is culturally vibrant and diverse.

In the meantime, it will be pop-up city for Wey and Hayes, something that has worked for many a small business owner lately.

Source: Tunde Wey, owner of Goldfinch American
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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More affordable housing for Midtown announced

Woodbridge Estates, a neighborhood notable for its Motown-themed street names, will see the construction of 46 apartments spread across 12 buildings this spring. The Slavik Company, a partner in the development team, expects that the apartments will be ready for move-in by July 2014. This marks the sixth phase of construction for Woodbridge Estates, a development that broke ground in 2003 and began accepting its first residents in 2005.

The Woodbridge Estates construction will create more affordable housing in Midtown's southwest corner. The apartments will be reserved for residents who earn up to 60% of the area median income. Developers plan to offer the apartments with a lease-to-own option, says Eric Gold, vice president of the Slavik Company. After 15 years of leasing their apartments, residents will be offered the opportunity to purchase, per U.S. Housing and Urban Development approval.

"I think the income restrictions are perfect for companies hiring in Midtown and downtown Detroit, allowing those employees to live close to work," says Gold.

Woodbridge Estates currently consists of 281 rental units and 51 occupied single-family homes and townhouses. There is a broad mix of incomes within the neighborhood. In addition to the planned apartment construction, 16 single-family house lots remain available at Woodbridge Estates, with prices ranging from $215,000 for a three bedroom, 1,500 square foot home to $285,000 for a four bedroom, 2,200 square foot model. $75,000 in forgivable loans are available as a down payment for qualified buyers.

Woodbridge Estates is bounded by Canfield to the north, M-10 to the east, Martin Luther King, Jr. to the south, and Gibson to the west.

Woodbridge Farm, another Slavik development, runs directly adjacent to the west of Woodbridge Estates. Eight single-family house lots remain in that development. Gold says that these homes are being designed with the surrounding historic architecture in mind.

Source: Eric Gold, vice president of the Slavik Company
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Five homes to be rehabilitated, sold, and rented in West Village

The Villages Community Development Corporation has purchased five homes to rehabilitate and put back on the market. The five buildings are located on Seyburn and Van Dyke streets in the West Village neighborhood. The CDC expects the homes to be available within six months.

This is the first time the Villages organization has purchased homes to rehabilitate, an idea they've seen work for other CDCs like the Grandmont Rosedale Development Corporation, says Villages executive director Brian Hurttienne. In emulating the success of the GRDC, the group hopes to spur economic development.

Three single-family homes and two duplexes make up the five structures purchased. Once rehabilitated, the single-family homes will be sold. The CDC will retain ownership of the duplexes and rent the units out.

Construction will soon begin and jobs will first be available to qualified area residents. The buildings, vacant for anywhere between one to eight years, remain in good shape. Hurttienne credits the quality of home construction in the Villages as a key component of the area's stability.

"I'm going to reach out to the neighbors of these properties so they know what's going on with each individual property," says Hurttienne. "We want to make sure the Villages is a stable community."

Though slowed down by the city's bankruptcy uncertainties, a process that began in 2012 was completed in December 2013, ensured by cooperation among community stakeholders and federal and city departments. The Villages identified a number of homes for potential rehabilitation, the Detroit Land Bank Authority purchased and cleared the titles of the homes, and then the Villages bought the buildings from the land bank.

Neighboring residents experienced in the construction trades should contact the Detroit Employment Solutions Corporation for potential employment.

Source: Brian Hurttienne, executive director of the Villages CDC
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Small business contest begins in West Village

Budding entrepreneurs in search of a storefront are invited to submit their business proposals for a contest that began Monday, March 3. Called Activate: 1417 Van Dyke, the contest is a collaboration between Practice Space, Revolve Detroit, the Villages Community Development Corporation, and the building's owner, Alex Howbert, a contractor and co-owner of the Detroit Institute of Bagels. Submissions are being accepted through March 21.

The building itself is in the West Village neighborhood, a Victorian-style house built in 1895. With a storefront on the first floor and two apartment units above, the commercial space boasts approximately 900 square feet with an additional 220 square feet of deck space in the back yard. Though currently vacant, the storefront served as a market for the majority of its history.

Howbert, who purchased the property last year, joined the Practice Space Incubator program with hopes of finding a suitable tenant for the storefront. Rather than pursue any traditional means of finding tenants, a contest was devised to raise awareness of the property and broaden the pool of applicants. Except for those requiring a commercial kitchen, all other types of businesses are encouraged to apply.

"I'm open to anything," says Howbert. "We all have ideas of what would be cool but I know someone else does too. I don't want the space to be pigeonholed and then miss out on an idea."

Howbert is searching for a permanent business for the commercial space and is reserving the apartments for the winner of the contest, should they want a live/work situation. Rent is negotiable and will depend on how much work will be required to outfit the space for the winning business. Two open houses are planned to view the space, March 9 and 10.

Finalists for 1417 Van Dyke will be announced April 11.

Source: Alex Howbert, 1417 Van Dyke owner
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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