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Bike share program for greater downtown on track for 2016

Detroit has more than 170 miles of bike lanes and greenways, a number that continues to grow. If all goes according to plan, soon a bike share program will complement that infrastructure.

Wayne State University's Office of Economic Development started the feasibility study and helped raise awareness and funds for the proposed bike share before transitioning the program to the Downtown Detroit Partnership (DDP) in July 2015. .

The DDP since has announced a partnership with Henry Ford Health System/Health Alliance Plan and the Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT). Henry Ford/HAP has pledged a full three-year financial commitment to launch and operate the bike share, while DDOT is assisting DDP in acquiring federal grant funding as well as finding an equipment provider and operator for the bike share. The city and DDOT will issue an RFP later this month. The bike share is also receiving support from the Michigan Department of Transportation, Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, Hudson Webber Foundation, and Kresge Foundation.

Officials say roughly 350 bikes and 35 bike stations will be scattered throughout greater downtown following the first phase of implementation.

"We are super excited that a public bike share program is coming to Detroit," writes Todd Scott, executive director of Detroit Greenways Coalition, a greenways and bike lane advocacy group in the city, in an email to Model D. "This will be a great opportunity to get more people interested in biking throughout the greater downtown. We appreciate that the Downtown Detroit Partnership (DDP), Henry Ford Health System/HAP, and the city of Detroit have the vision and commitment to make this happen."

According to the League of American Bicyclists, Detroit is the fastest growing city in the country for commuter bicyclists. The group utilized census data to determine that instances of bike commuting in Detroit grew over 400 percent between the years 2000 and 2014.

More than 70 U.S. cities offer bike share programs. Should all go according to plan, Detroit's own will debut in 2016.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Efforts to speed up development along the Detroit River take off with new RFQ

In an effort to stimulate development along the city's east riverfront, the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy and the city of Detroit Planning Department have issued a request for qualifications for a development plan. Firms have until 5 p.m. on Dec. 4 to submit a bid for the site bounded by St. Antoine Street to the west, E. Grand Boulevard to the east, Larned Street to the north, and the Detroit River to the south.

Mark Wallace, president and CEO of the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy, says that a pretty aggressive schedule has been set and that a firm will be picked by the end of February. Once a firm has been selected, a series of community engagement meetings will be held to identify the needs and concerns of those with ties to the river -- be they financial, residential, emotional, or otherwise.

"A lot of people have strong attachments to the riverfront and we don't want to enter the planning phase with any preconceived notions," says Wallace. "It's important that this framework isn't prescriptive but instead be a vision."

The conservancy is looking for a comprehensive vision which takes into account possibilities for retail, residences, greenways, parking, and transit.

In requesting a plan, the conservancy and the city look to maximize the development potential of the area. They're hoping to speed along an economic resurgence already evidenced by the recent groundbreaking of the Orleans Landing townhomes and the almost-completed Water's Edge residential development, both happening along the RiverWalk. Private property owners, too, may be inspired to re-activate vacant buildings that have been dormant for years.

The Detroit RiverFront Conservancy is the group responsible for transforming 3.5 miles of the Detroit riverfront from a largely industrial and often inaccessible stretch into the celebrated and popular RiverWalk that exists today.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Retail Bootcamp complete, Detroit startups work to establish permanent locations

Five Detroit start-ups are receiving a financial push from their alma mater, TechTown's 2015 Retail Boot Camp program. Nearly $40,000 will be split among the five graduates of the entrepreneur training program in an effort to help them make the transition to brick-and-mortar locations.

The businesses include a music store, ice cream shop, handmade Indian crafts store, creamery, and resale/vintage clothing boutique. According to TechTown, each business is "on-the-verge." Each received a kickstart package that includes up to $7,500 in subsidies that can be used toward a permanent location, pop-up location, inventory, and/or a point-of-sale system.

Alana Rodriguez hopes to use the money to open Mama Coo's Boutique in her Southwest Detroit neighborhood. She has previously sold vintage/resale clothing as well as personally handmade jewelry and crafts at the Detroit Institute of Arts and Eastern Market.

Either West Village, East Jefferson, or West Rivertown will land an outdoor goods store as Sarah White looks to open her MOR & Co. on the city's east side. In a previous interview with Model D, White said that a lot of thought goes into selecting her inventory. "When I look at the design of something, it's not just what does it looks like, but how does it work? Where did it come from? Who made it and what's their story? How am I going to sell it, and what does someone do with it after it's done being used? All of those are important components," she says.

Third Wave Music, a 2014 Hatch finalist, is the recipient of one of the 2015 Kickstart Awards, which will be used toward opening the musical instrument store in the soon-to-be renovated Forest Arms apartment building in Midtown. Look for Third Wave to make its debut in April 2016.

Chris Reilly's Reilly Craft Creamery will use the money toward a pop-up in a yet-to-be disclosed location somewhere in the city in the summer of 2016. The creamery gets its products from Michigan organic farms.

Another Eastern Market vendor, Ojas Alkolkar, hopes to open Tribalfare in either downtown, Midtown, or Corktown. In addition to selling one-of-a-kind, handcrafted goods from her native India, Alkolkar will also offer Bollywood dance lessons, yoga, and other community events at her eventual location.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Fighting tax foreclosure, Recovery Park, and more: October development news round-up

It's been another busy month for development news in the city of Detroit. Let's catch up on some of the biggest stories from the past four weeks.

In just 14 days, a group called Keep Our Homes Detroit successfully raised $108,463 through crowdfunding, well over its goal of $100K. The group worked in partnership with the United Community Housing Coalition with the stated intent of buying foreclosed homes for the people still living in them, homes that were being sold through Wayne County's 2015 tax foreclosure auction. That auction, which ended Oct. 22, has been the subject of much analysis, with people like Jerry Paffendorf of Loveland Technologies offering a number of ideas on how to make the foreclosure auction process better for everyone involved. A potential 60,000 properties could be eligible for auction in 2016, a large majority of them in the city of Detroit.

The Detroit Land Bank has decided to attempt a more citizen-friendly approach in managing its own list of properties, a number of which are owned by the city yet have people living inside of them without the city's permission. Detroit will attempt a pilot program that offers the homes to those living in them at $1,000 each. If purchasing a home, that person will have to pay $100 a month for one year, stay current on their water bill, attend a home buyer counseling course, and maintain their property. If they satisfy those requirements, the deed is theirs. The land bank says the city gains nothing by driving people out of their homes.

The city has also agreed, pending city council approval, to a five-year, $15 million urban agriculture redevelopment plan with the nonprofit RecoveryPark Farms. The urban farms group will lease 35 acres of city land at $105 per acre per year. Officials expect 128 people to be hired as a result of the deal. The farm plots occupy areas between I-94, Forest Avenue, and Chene and St. Aubin streets.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Detroit City FC to kick off largest community-financed project in U.S. sports history

Detroit City FC is preparing to kick off what it's estimating to be the largest community-financed project in U.S. sports history, the renovation of its future home, Keyworth Stadium in Hamtramck. The popular semi-professional soccer team is releasing details of its community investment campaign at a Keyworth Kickoff event at the Fowling Warehouse in Hamtramck on Thursday, Oct. 29.

Since coming to terms on a ten-year lease agreement with the Hamtramck Public Schools this past September, the next hurdle between Detroit City FC and its new home is money. Detroit City FC is hoping to raise an estimated $750,000 to $1 million in renovations for its future home, a 1936 stadium that was the first Works Progress Administration project built in Michigan. In addition to believing it to be the largest community-financed project in U.S. sports history, the soccer organization also estimates it to be the largest community investment campaign of any kind in the state of Michigan.

To launch the campaign, the Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers are presenting Keyworth Kickoff at Fowling Warehouse. Free fowling lanes will be offered from 7 to 8 p.m. to registered participants. Registration is open to Michigan residents only.

The campaign launch and an interview session with Detroit City FC owners will occur following open fowling.

"The success of the 2015 season saw us turning away people at the gates. It was a clear sign DCFC is ready to take the next step, and grow as an organization," Detroit City FC co-owner Alex Wright says in a statement. "Come spring of 2016, Keyworth Stadium will be the home field both our supporters and the residents of Hamtramck deserve."

In moving from its current home at Cass Tech to Keyworth Stadium, the team will double its capacity from 3,000 to 6,000 spectators after the first wave of renovation. Hamtramck Public Schools retains ownership of the property over the course of the ten-year lease and its own sports teams will have access to the renovated stadium throughout the year.

Detroit City FC is set to open its season at Keyworth Stadium in April 2016.

Keyworth Kickoff occurs from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Fowling Warehouse, 3901 Christopher St., Hamtramck.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Midtown salon shutters, pop-up hub to open in its place

A familiar business in Midtown's Cass Corridor is closing up shop and will be replaced by a pop-up boutique.

Jen Willemsen opened Curl Up & Dye seven years ago. She is closing the non-toxic barber and beauty shop but will retain the storefront, instead launching a new concept.

Willemsen will open JoyRide: Pop Up Rendezvous by the end of the month, she says. JoyRide will utilize the former salon space to host rotating retailers for months at a time. The business at Curl Up was fine, according to Willemsen, and the change is being made to afford her more time as she enters the seventh month of her first pregnancy.

The pop-up has been a popular trend in Detroit, launching a number of what have become permanent businesses throughout the city. Used as an opportunity by what are typically first-time entrepreneurs, the pop-up allows for a brick and mortar experience without all of the up front costs of a traditional start-up. Cinema Detroit, Love Travels Imports, and Coffee and (___) are all recent examples of Detroit pop-ups that have made the transition from pop-up to permanently located businesses.

"I'm proud and thankful to be part of Cass Corridor," says Willemsen. "It's been my home for so long, and in so many ways. The changes I've witnessed in this community are immense, yet it's still a familiar friend. Change can be difficult, but that doesn't make it bad. I miss the old 'Corridor,' but I'm still looking forward to its future and being part of it."

The first JoyRide tenant will be Z Ballerini. The manufacturer of men's travel and everyday bags uses natural materials and makes them in Detroit. Z Ballerini is readying for the holiday season.

JoyRide: Pop Up Rendezvous is located at 4215 Cass Ave.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Artists seek to transform Livernois with installation along Avenue of Fashion

Detroit artists Mandisa Smith and Najma Wilson are hoping to liven up the Avenue of Fashion with their unique brand of fiber art. The duo owns Detroit Fiber Works, a fiber arts studio and gallery in that district, and is looking to create an installation that will fill the empty space of a Livernois Avenue boulevard median. They also hope to offer fiber arts workshops to members of the community.

In order to reach their goal, Smith and Wilson have started a crowdfunding campaign to raise $10,000 for their "Fiber Art on the Avenue" project. Should the artists raise $10,000 by November 30, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation will award the project a $10,000 matching grant as a part of its Public Spaces Community Places initiative.

The project will receive great input from the community, organizers say, and the money raised will be used for materials, student transportation, teaching fees, and construction costs. The artists will invite community members to lectures, field trips, and lessons in creating fiber art, resulting in an installation created by those taking part in the workshops. That installation will then be located on the Avenue of Fashion median.

For the president of the Avenue of Fashion Business Association, Dolphin Michael, "Fiber Art on the Avenue" would bring some much deserved attention to his district. He says, "Recently, there has been significant national attention on many of Detroit's public art installations in other areas of the city. With the revitalization that the Avenue of Fashion is currently undergoing, including new shops and restaurants, improved street lighting and median landscaping on Livernois, this is the perfect time for our own public art project."

In crowdfunding $10,000, the artists will actually receive $40,000. By reaching their goal and successfully raising $20,000 through the combined crowdfunding and MEDC matching grant, Smith and Wilson will then match an earlier 2014 grant from the Knight Arts Challenge, necessary for that $20,000 Knight grant to be released. Raise $10,000, receive $40,000.

The "Fiber Art on the Avenue" crowdfunding campaign is occurring on Michigan-based site Patronicity and available here.

Fiber Art Works is located at 19359 Livernois Ave.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Woodbridge developer continues line of fable-themed rehabs with "Wonderland House"

Alex Pereira and Secure Realty, the team responsible for the "Lorax"- and "Up"-themed redevelopments in Woodbridge, are back at it, this time with an "Alice in Wonderland"-themed duplex on Commonwealth Street.

Consistent with his other rentals, the Wonderland house is a modern rehabilitation of a century-old building. Were he to stop there, Pereira's rentals would be simple attractive updates of classic homes; 21st century utility upgrades complement the refurbishment of early 20th century designs and hardware. Pereira, however, has opted for something with a little more panache. The front yard of his first Woodbridge rental is marked by a sculpture of and quotes from the title character of "The Lorax" by Dr. Seuss. His second redevelopment is painted in the same pastel color scheme as the house from Disney animated film "Up."

The Wonderland house is a duplex. Each unit is roughly 2,000 sq. ft. with four bedrooms and two bathrooms. Much work was done to restore the home, including a back wall that was bowing outward due to water damage. Pereira's crew disassembled the brick wall, shored up the infrastructure, and put it back together.

Sculptures of Alice and the Queen of Hearts stand out front. A quote from the tale will line the large planter box where the sculptures rest. On the third floor, Pereira has commissioned four custom-made stained glass windows, each depicting a scene from "Alice in Wonderland." Bold reds, yellows, and blues highlight the building's eaves and frames.

"People have this misconception that historic colors are bland and drab and brown and all tones of beige. It's not true," Pereira says. "Historic colors used to be very, very bold. They were just limited in the pigmentation that they used to be able to get."

Pereira says he received some flak for the pastels of the Up house, so this time he consulted the National Historic Trust to find colors more suitable for the period in which the Wonderland house was built.

Of course, that's not the only blowback he's received. From past stories Model D has run on Pereira and his Woodbridge projects, the comments section has become a place to air grievances, with arguments breaking out over Pereira's properties and practices. And while he's certainly not the only person redeveloping properties in Woodbridge, Pereira is likely the most polarizing--something he doesn't seem to mind. But whether his are designs considered whimsical or tacky, acts of rehabilitation or gentrification, Pereira believes in what he's doing.

"There's a group of people that love what I do and encourage me to do it, and there's a group of people that wants me not to do it," Pereira says. "At the end of the day, I think you have to be a little bit light-hearted with these types of projects. They're here today and they may be gone tomorrow. Who knows? Things change. But I think what most individuals fear the most is change, in general. We are in a time in Detroit's history where everything is in flux--for the better, in my opinion, but there's a subset of people that don't like change."

He's already working on a fourth property, 4305 Trumbull Ave., a stately manor in a condition of serious disrepair and neglect. No word yet on that building's future theme.

The Wonderland House is located at 3947 Commonwealth St. 

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Detroit Future City releases guide to help residents steward vacant lots

As the city of Detroit makes it easier for residents to purchase vacant lots in their neighborhoods, the Detroit Future City Implementation Office has developed a field guide for residents that informs them how to transform the empty land into neighborhood resources.

The DFC's "Working with Lots: A Field Guide" contains 34 different lot designs that residents can use as suggestions for improving vacant parcels. Examples include rain gardens, native butterfly meadows, and natural ground pollution remediation techniques. Among other features found in the 74-page field guide are tips on collaborating with neighbors; analyzing the lot for quality of soil, sun, and shade; and information on how to attain lots.

The Field Guide is available online and in print editions found at the DFC Implementation Office in New Center and every Detroit Public Library branch.

While the DFC Strategic Framework report emphasized the importance of blue and green infrastructure in future city planning efforts, the field guide is a way for residents in the city to shape those efforts based on their own needs. DFC held stakeholder reviews with members of the community in the year-long development of the guide. Andrea Perkins, a community planner and engagement specialist for Black Family Development, was a member of the review team. She says the process yielded a guide that "provides comprehensive details that address and complement unique neighborhood characteristics across the city."

Dan Kinkead, acting executive director of the DFC Implementation Office, says, "While our office has made great strides to advance the shared imperatives laid out in the DFC Strategic Framework from a systemic level, the Field Guide puts the tools to fulfill those imperatives in the hands of Detroiters."

According to officials, more than 30 projects utilizing the guide and its lot designs are already planned for before the end of the fall planting season. A number of community engagement groups are being planned for further education.

The DFC Implementation Office is located at 2990 W. Grand Boulevard, Ste. 2.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

High-priced houses, new apartments, movie theaters, and more: September 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.

Raggedy and fire-damaged, an eight bedroom Victorian home built in 1880 is on the market for $3.5 million. The reason for this otherwise unusually high price tag is its location. The house sits directly in the soon-to-be shadow of the new Red Wings hockey arena just north of downtown. The plucky group that purchased the building for $25,000 in 2002 seem determined to cash in on their long-term investment. The Ilitches and anyone else looking to redevelop an area of the Cass Corridor now being re-branded as Woodward Square have yet to bite.

Construction is to begin on The Griswold, a reported eight-floor addition of apartments to be built atop the 150 Michigan Ave. parking garage adjacent to the Westin Book Cadillac downtown. Detroit Economic Growth Corporation sold the rights to the Roxbury Group. When first announced last year, the development consisted of 80 apartment units among five floors. No word yet on how many units the new eight-floor configuration will contain.

Cinema Detroit, which has called the former Burton International Academy its home for nearly two years, has announced a move. The small first-run movie theater operation will move to 4126 Third Ave. and re-open Oct. 1. This is the second movie-showing organization to leave the old school building. The Burton Theatre group left the building in 2011.

A recent column in Crain's Detroit opines that plans for the high profile former Hudson's site and Monroe block should be released soon. Dan Gilbert owns development rights to both locations, which are currently owned by Downtown Development Authority. The parcels are also two of the largest undeveloped sites downtown. Big splashes can be expected for each.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Detroit, Hamtramck swap soccer team, restaurant

It happened in what seemed like minutes. To put it in the sports parlance of our times, the cities of Hamtramck and Detroit have completed a swap of two of their star performers, with Rock City Eatery going to Detroit and the Detroit City FC moving to Hamtramck. Each move was made with growth in mind.

The fate of Detroit City FC was decided by the Hamtramck School Board the night of Sept. 23. It was then when the board approved a lease that permits the semi-professional soccer team to use Keyworth Stadium as its home field. As part of the agreement, DCFC will fund renovations of the stadium, which are estimated to cost between $750,000 and $1 million.

Important for the city of Hamtramck was not just gaining a popular soccer team but ensuring improved facilities for Hamtramck Public Schools student athletes, who will have access to the stadium. For DCFC, it was a necessary move, going from a capacity of 3,000 to 6,000 visitors. DCFC has been consistently selling out its current home at Cass Technical High School in Detroit.

Sean Mann, co-owner of DCFC, hinted at the possibility of a move to Hamtramck during an interview with Model D in October of last year. The rehabilitation of Keyworth Stadium is expected to be completed in April 2016.

Rock City Eatery, a Hamtramck dining destination for two years, has also cited an upgrade in seating capacity as its main reason for changing locations. The restaurant is moving to 4216 Woodward Ave. in Detroit, the former location of Bangkok Cuisine Express. Ballooning from 1,600 to 3,600 square feet, restaurant owners Nikita Sanches and Jessica Imbronone say that a full service bar will be among the many upgrades planned for the new site.

"We're going to try and replicate what we do now but take it to the next level," says Sanches.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

New arts venue to celebrate Eastern Market grand opening

Detroit's latest arts venue is set to open Friday, Sept. 25, in Eastern Market. Wasserman Projects, specializing in art, design, and music programming, will open its doors in concert with the Detroit Design Festival. The grand opening and reception will feature two installations by three artists, one inside and one outside, along with music from Jeedo X and Saxappeal.

Inside the 5,000-square-foot Eastern Market space that Wasserman now occupies, German-born and current-Brooklyn resident Markus Linnenbrink has collaborated with Miami Beach architect Nick Gelpi to create "THEFIRSTONEISCRAZY-THESECONDONEISNUTS." It's art-meets-architecture, according to organizers, and allows for visitors to walk within the installation and interact with its ins and outs. During the opening reception, Jeedo X and Saxappeal will perform within the creation along a central split.

Outside will debut "Elf Waves," "Earth Loops," and "*Spatial Forces," a new work from Detroit-based Jon Brumit. "Elf Waves" is an aural, visual, and physical creation built in a modified grain silo on the grounds of Wasserman. "Earth Loops" allows users to play music along with "*Spatial Forces," which is temporarily using FM radio station 100.1 FM to broadcast the artist's music throughout Eastern Market, using 13 short-range FM radio transmitters installed on Russell Street from Mack to Gratiot avenues to create a drive-through radio collage. The artist was the recipient of a Knights Art Challenge grant.

Art from all three artists will also be on display.

"This inaugural exhibition brings together artists and designers coming from a wide range of backgrounds," says Gary Wasserman, founder of Wasserman Projects. "It is a great example of the conceptual and experiential nature we have envisioned for our programming and is just the beginning of the innovative programs we plan to realize in our new location."

Wasserman Projects celebrates its grand opening Friday, Sept. 25, from 6 to 10 p.m. It is located at 3434 Russell St. in Eastern Market.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

August 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 few weeks.

For all of the local attention downtown towers like the Broderick and Whitney receive for their historic rehabs, it's the city's houses (and mansions) that have been garnering national attention. The DIY Network recently featured the renovation of a Woodward Village home over the course of a season of their "American Rehab" program. Last month, HGTV star Nicole Curtis received an abandoned boatload worth of attention when her television and construction crew convened on the Brush Park mansion Ransom Gillis house. And this month it was Limp Bizkit guitarist Wes Borland who announced that he and fiance and fellow rocker Carre Callaway would feature the restoration of their own recently- Detroit mansion in the Boston Edison neighborhood, also on the DIY Network's "American Rehab."

Speaking of renovating downtown Detroit's historic towers, the Downtown Development Authority approved the long-abandoned Metropolitan Building's redevelopment into an extended-stay hotel with ground floor retail. According to the plan, up to 130 more downtown hotel rooms could debut after a $32 million dollar redevelopment.

The Moroun family put on quite the show for local media as it touted the nearly 600 windows it has installed in the long-neglected Michigan Central Station, about 60 percent of the building's windows. John Gallagher of the Detroit Free Press wrote a series of articles examining the latest on the train station, including whether or not the windows are historically accurate and just what on Earth are the Morouns going to do with the derelict building they've owned since the mid-1990s. As Gallagher says about the window news, "At the very least, the train station, although still empty and far from any habitable condition, will at least look more like someone cares." The Moroun organization, for its part, insists that changes are, indeed, coming in earnest.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Placemaking efforts a big hit in Greektown: Streetscape improvements to remain into November

Detroit-based Virtuoso Design+Build, the firm behind the design, fabrication, and installation of the recently-debuted updates to the Greektown streetscape, are seeing their work rewarded with a 2-month extension of the placemaking effort. Originally scheduled to come down in September, the various streetscape elements will now be taken away come November. As they were designed to be easily cycled out for the cold-weather months, the pieces should return to Monroe Street the following spring.

Before the build-out, Monroe Street, host to the many restaurants and cafes that characterize Greektown, had few outdoor dining options. Now several of the restaurants between Beaubien and St. Antoine streets offer patio seating. The efforts coincide with Greektown at Sundown, which closes a stretch of Monroe Street to vehicle traffic and opens up the street to pedestrians.

Many of the restaurants in Greektown were the benefit of the streetscape improvement efforts, receiving rails, platforms, and new Ikea-donated furniture for the patios that now dot the sidewalk. Umbrellas and greenery are also elements of the improvements. Virtuoso Design+Build worked in collaboration with the Greektown Historic Preservation Society, Rock Ventures, and local businesses.

"I've noticed a change on Monroe Street already," says Mark Klimkowski, owner of Virtuoso Design+Build. "I live right around the corner and walk along that street every day. It's more pedestrian friendly--there are more strollers and families. It's a more pleasant atmosphere."

Virtuoso Design+Build, finalists in this year's New Economy Initiative grant competition and the company behind the design of, the UFO Factory in Corktown, a Big Sean-donated recording studio at Cass Technical High School, and the forthcoming Gabriel Hall location in West Village, is currently undergoing an expansion and plans to hire more employees soon. Klimkowski says they're working internally to develop products like furniture, architectural wall coverings, and even pre-fabricated homes. The company recently moved operations to the Letts Industries building on the city's east side. They're leasing 4,000 of the Albert Kahn-designed building on Bellevue Street's 70,000 square feet.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

It's official: The Whisky Parlor transitions from soft opening into permanent downtown whisky bar

Things are coming together for the Whisky Parlor, a new food and drinks venue from the people responsible for Grand Trunk Pub and Checker Bar.

Located on Woodward Avenue in the old Motor City Wine location above Grand Trunk, the Whisky Parlor had a soft opening in July and is now ready to say that it's officially open for business. Though not a grand opening party, the occasion will be marked Friday, August 7, as the "Day 5" event makes its Whisky Parlor debut. The cocktail hour will occur every Friday, a sort of happy hour that includes complimentary hors d'oeuvres and live jazz. There is no cover for the weekly event. "Day 6," a Saturday DJ night, will make its debut later this month.

For all the new bars and restaurants opening downtown, manager Steven Reaume characterizes Whisky Parlor as the oldest new bar downtown, located in a building with a lot of history, yet hoping to provide a new presence in Detroit.

Patrons of the old Motor City Wine location (it has since moved to Corktown) will be hard-pressed to recognize the space, says Reaume. "The room looks amazing. We're very proud of it."

The drop ceiling has been removed to reveal a large cathedral ceiling, reaching up and into the above story. Though not as architecturally refined as the Grand Trunk cathedral ceiling, the exposed space provides context for an older Detroit -- the space itself saw its first business open in 1879. Since then, it has hosted a hardware store, saloon, men's furnishings shop, speakeasy, and more.

In addition to more than 100 whisky selections, the bar also offers wine, champagne, craft cocktails, and a food menu. Entertainment will play a big role. The "Day 5" events are the first of much more programming to come, says Reaume. They're especially hoping to expand live jazz offerings downtown. The Whisky Parlor Trio, the bar's house band, features three Detroiters with connections to Wayne State University. Reaume and company encouraged guitarist Kevin Miller to form the trio after hearing him performing on the street one day.

Whisky Parlor is currently open seven nights a week, beginning at 5 p.m. and stretching at least until midnight. Expanded hours are planned. It is located at 608 Woodward Ave.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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