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Detroit Development News

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Architecture firm Hamilton Anderson celebrates 20 years with new developments, hires

Detroit-based architecture firm Hamilton Anderson is ramping up for a busy year with seven new hires and a search for several more. The firm, which is celebrating its 20th year, has an immediate need for two architects, a designer, and one or two project managers. The firm is involved in a number of projects that will alter the landscape of downtown, the riverfront, and Midtown. A recent conversation with principal, president, co-founder, and CEO Rainy Hamilton reveals updates on some of their more high profile projects.

The firm is working on Orleans Landing, the five block development along the east riverfront. Hamilton Anderson is applying more industrial design influences to the previously released illustrations. Townhomes are planned for the blocks facing the Dequindre Cut. The rest of the development will consist of mid-rise lofts featuring mixed-use and residential units.

Hamilton and co-founder Kent Anderson spent the early part of their careers in an office in Rivertown, making their involvement in the Orleans Landing development extra special to them. "For us to be involved in the first new development in the east riverfront, it's really quite an honor and a thrill," says Hamilton.

Hamilton Anderson has been selected by New York-based SHoP Architects as the local architects to collaborate with on the Hudson's site building. Hamilton says a concept has been presented to Bedrock Real Estate Services and was well-received.

The firm is the design architect and architect of record for the adaptive re-use of the old Strathmore Hotel in Midtown. Hamilton says that an original light well is going to be preserved and that developers are hoping that a new parking structure will be built nearby.

It's looking like Radio One, a national broadcasting company, will move into the Queen Lillian Woodward Office Building at Stimson and Woodward Ave. once completed, says Hamilton.

Source: Rainy Hamilton, president, co-founder, and CEO of Hamilton Anderson
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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State money clears the way for Detroit apartment developments

Two Detroit developments have been named recipients of nearly $5 million in state-awarded money. The Ashley and Strathmore apartment buildings have received approval from the Michigan Strategic Fund for Michigan Community Revitalization Program Incentives. According to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the residential developments are expected to create tens of millions of dollars in total capital investment and nearly 30 full-time jobs.

Ashley Owner, LLC is transforming the old Milner Hotel into an apartment building. The flatiron-shaped building is located at 1526 Centre St. in downtown Detroit. Built in 1913 as the Henry Clay Hotel, the currently vacant hotel rooms will be turned into apartments for the first time.

Princeton Domino Investments, LLC and Lamont Street Partners make up Ashley Owner, LLC. The new owners plan 61 apartment units, 5,200 square feet of office space, and two storefronts. The renovation is receiving a Michigan Community Revitalization Program performance-based grant of $1 million and a state school tax capture valued at $482,075 from the City of Detroit Brownfield Redevelopment Authority.

The Ashley renovation is expected to create 25 full-time jobs and $8.2 million in total capital investment.

Another historic hotel, the Strathmore in Midtown, is also experiencing a transformation into apartments. The building at 70 W. Alexandrine is being developed by St. Louis-based McCormack Baron Salazar and designed by Detroit architects Hamilton Anderson. The developers expect construction to begin this spring.

The long-vacant, long-blighted building will be historically renovated to feature 129 apartments and 2,000 square feet of first-floor retail. Strathmore Apartments Limited Dividend Housing Association, LLC is receiving $3.5 million in a performance-based equity contribution from the Michigan Community Revitalization Program.

The Strathmore renovation is expected to created three jobs and $28.4 million in total capital investment.

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

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East riverfront development reserves 20 percent of units for affordable housing

Development company McCormack Baron Salazar is planning on reserving 20 percent of its east riverfront development for affordable work-force housing. The units will be available for those whose income does not exceed 80 percent of the area median income.

The company plans to close on the east riverfront property this summer. It's expected to take 18 months of construction to complete the project. McCormack Baron Salazar chairman and CEO Richard Baron, a Detroit native, has ties to the east riverfront, where he worked at his grandfather's wool company as a young man.

The St. Louis-based developement firm is also involved in a high-profile project in Detroit's Midtown. The company plans to close on the neighborhood's old Strathmore Hotel in the first quarter of 2014. Baron expects that the 129-unit apartment building will also take 18 months before it's ready for residents.

While the Strathmore development is required to provide affordable housing as a result of tax credits used to fund the deal, Baron says that he wanted the riverfront development to provide work-force housing too, even if it didn't demand the same housing requirements. The majority of units in each development will be market-rate rentals.

"It's always been part of what we wanted to do. To have people working for the city and public agencies, to have teachers (be able to) live in the community," says Baron. "It's important for people who are working at public agencies and nonprofits to have opportunities."

The riverfront development will be bordered by Atwater Street to the south, Woodbridge Street to the north, Riopelle Street to the west, and the Dequindre Cut to the east. 291 apartment units are planned for the development.

The Globe Building, which neighbors the future development, is currently being transformed into the Outdoor Adventure & Discovery Center by Michigan's Department of Natural Resources.

Source: Richard Baron, CEO and chairman of McCormack Baron Salazar
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Organization to offer loans to businesses in underserved neighborhoods

The national nonprofit Local Initiatives Support Corporation has partnered with the federal Small Business Association's Community Advantage program. The local division of LISC will be providing loans up to $250,000 to Detroit businesses looking to open in low-income communities. The loans are also available to pre-existing businesses looking to make improvements.

The loan program focuses on businesses outside of the greater downtown area. It aims to assist the city's underserved neighborhoods. Detroit LISC executive director Tahirih Ziegler says the loan program will provide an incentive for businesses to come further out and into the neighborhoods. LISC is currently targeting place-based programs in the Grandmont Rosedale, Springwells Village, and Grand-Woodward neighborhoods.

Loans are available for a variety of purposes, including business expansion, working capital, real estate development, equipment, tenant improvement, and facade improvement. Ziegler believes that the loans can attract new tenants to the empty storefronts that litter the city.

"This will free up capital for job creation and enable business owners to get footholds in the neighborhoods," says Ziegler. "One way we can help the neighborhoods is by bringing amenities to the neighborhoods."

In noting the importance of freeing up capital for small businesses to hire employees, Ziegler cites statistics that there were seven jobs for every small business in the 1990s and only four jobs per small business today.

LISC has been in Detroit for over 20 years and has awarded over $175 million in that time. The group awarded $6 million in lending in 2013, helping to open two grocery stores, 7 Mile Foods and Parkway Foods, and a hardware store, Village Ace.

The group is also working toward creating and maintaining affordable housing in the city of Detroit.

Source: Tahirih Ziegler, executive director of Detroit LISC
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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February development news round-up

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

  • As development projects continue to multiply throughout greater downtown Detroit, people are starting to use the word gentrification more and more. 1217 Griswold, the Capitol Park residence and events loft space, sparked the latest conversation as its residents have been given notice to move out by the end of February. Dan Gilbert's Bedrock Real Estate Services plans to rehab the building, which is badly in need of repairs.
  • Another decades-long Detroit institution of weird, the Cass Corridor's Showcase Collectible, is also getting the boot as a new owner plans to make capital improvements to the building. A tattoo parlor will be one of the new businesses to eventually occupy the old Chinatown building.
  • Beer isn't nearly as controversial as gentrification--or progress, depending on who you're talking to--and Midtown's about to get a whole lot more of it. The Grand Rapids-based HopCat is opening its third craft beer bar in the old Agave location this August.
  • In other apartment news, downtown's Park Apartments building was sold this month for a reported $3.25 million to Joe Barbat, CEO and chairman of Southfield-based Wireless Toyz. Barbat plans over $6 million in renovations to the building, which will include 116 Class A apartment units and ground floor dining. In a nod to the building's nearly 80 years of history, it will be renamed Briggs House Residence.
  • The Detroit Free Press and Detroit News have announced a coming change of address as the two newspapers are moving operations into the Bedrock Real Estate Services-owned Federal Reserve Building in the city's central business district. The move was made in part to keep up with the demands of modern technology.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Pop-up turns permanent on Avenue of Fashion

In another Detroit retail success story, the artisan boutique Love Travels Imports has made the transition from pop-up to permanent. Owner and founder Yvette Jenkins has taken her business from the once- to twice-a-week appearance at Eastern Market's Artisan Village to an established online presence to participating in the Revolve Detroit pop-up program along the Avenue of Fashion. Love Travels Imports is now a permanent fixture there.

Love Travels Imports draws its name from Yvette's passions, love, traveling, and artisanal crafts. Her products range from homewares to jewelry and come from artisans as far as South Africa and as near as Mount Clemens. She focuses on Fair Trade products and sees her shop as an extension of that philosophy, saying that it's about helping artisan entrepreneurs get their wares out and into the marketplace in a fair and sustainable manner. She sees Love Travels Imports as her opportunity to directly and positively impact other communities, both locally and abroad.

The Revolve Detroit program placed Love Travels Imports in a Livernois storefront last September. Yvette has since paired up with fellow Revolve Detroit participant and former pop-up neighbor Art in Motion, sharing a space at 19452 Livernois Ave. It's a fitting partnership, one that pairs complementary businesses. When the two were neighbors, Yvette would send her customers over to check out the ceramics next door and vice versa. It's this sort of camaraderie that nurtures the Detroit retail scene.

"There's such a deep history at the Avenue of Fashion," says Yvette. "It used to be the premier shopping district in Detroit. There's a buzz about Livernois again and I encourage people to come over and experience it. It's an exciting time for the city."

Source: Yvette Jenkins, owner of Love Travels Imports
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Transit awards nominations now open to public

The greater Detroit transit advocacy group Transportation Riders United is taking nominations for its third annual Regional Transit Awards. Nominations are open through Feb. 28. An awards committee has been formed to pick four nominees for each of the six categories. An awards dinner is planned for May 8. Tickets are $75 and open to the public. The event doubles as a fundraiser for TRU in support of its advocacy efforts throughout the year.

Award categories include:
  • Transit Employee of the Year
  • Corporate Transit Champion Award
  • Exemplary Innovation Award
  • Under 30 Breakthrough Transit Champion
  • Unsung Hero Award
  • Forward Motion Award for Most Effective Public Service
TRU hopes that opening nominations up to the public will involve more of the region and draw attention to the people working to improve public transportation in metropolitan Detroit. The ceremony itself is an opportunity for bus drivers and politicians to spend an evening together and celebrate the work being accomplished in the region.

"There's a lot going on in transit," says TRU executive director Megan Owens. "There aren't many big and dramatic things happening yet but there have been a lot of the essential steps to develop the type of transit system that we want."

Though some projects aren't happening as quickly as some may like, Owens notes that a number of transit-oriented developments are occurring. These include the formation of the Regional Transit Authority citizens committee, the M-1 Rail utility work, and a new Detroit mayor and Detroit Department of Transportation director. A SMART bus millage will be on the ballot later this summer.

Previous winners of Regional Transit Awards include DDOT bus driver Michael Childs (Transit Employee of the Year), Quicken Loans & M-1 Rail (Corporate Transit Champion Award), and Freshwater Transit co-creator Neil Greenberg (Transit Activist of the Year).

Source: Megan Owens, executive director of Transportation Riders United
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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I-375 Alternatives Study hosts first public meeting

Business owners, residents, and commuters affected by a potential transformation of I-375 were joined by the otherwise curious Thursday evening, Feb. 13, as the Downtown Development Authority hosted the first of three public meetings. A crowd gathered at Stroh River Place in an open house setting as the DDA and their partners in the study, the Michigan Department of Transportation and the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, guided visitors through a series of informative stations.

Each station provided data regarding project study areas, ranging from cost estimations to current vehicular usage. One station had a map of the area and visitors were asked to place stickers at the points where they felt unsafe as pedestrians. Another map asked visitors to place stickers at places they thought to be aesthetically unpleasing. Visitors were asked, too, of their overall opinion of I-375 and whether think it should remain an expressway or be transformed for a different use.

The I-375 Alternatives Study is a result of the impending reconstruction of I-375. Current estimates place reconstruction costs at $80 million. MDOT has enlisted the help of area stakeholders to determine whether the land in question could be utilized in a more effective way, such as demolishing the below-grade expressway and transforming it into a street-level boulevard.

Taking into account the information gathered from Thursday's public forum, the group behind the study will craft a number of alternative developments for the project areas. Five alternatives will be crafted for the primary study area, the nearly one-mile stretch of I-375. Two alternatives will be crafted for each of the secondary study areas, the I-75/I-375/Gratiot interchange and the I-375/Jefferson interchange. These alternatives will be presented to the public at a later date this spring.

I-375 was built in 1964.

Source: I-375 Alternatives Study public meeting, Feb. 13, 2014
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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New hires and promotions at Kraemer Design Group, Strategic Staffing Solutions

Two Detroit-based companies have made personnel changes that each hopes will carry their 2013 fortunes into 2014.

Kraemer Design Group, the architecture, interior design, and creative firm involved in such high profile Detroit projects as the Broderick Tower and David Whitney Building, have hired four new employees. The company has added two project architects, a senior interior designer, and an architectural designer to their roster.

Laurie Frey Borer and Nicole Eisenmann have been hired as project architects. Frey Borer is a member of the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Eisenmann possesses a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) accreditation. Both attended the University of Michigan.

Amanda Knight is the new architectural designer for the group, having received a Master of Architecture from Lawrence Technological University. Kimberly Sansone has been hired as senior interior designer. She has over ten years of experience in the field.

The IT and business services company Strategic Staffing Solutions has announced a number of leadership changes. Each promotion has been made from within company ranks.

Among the promotions are Allen Coleman and April Donaldson both being named executive vice presidents. Carl Bentley will also move into a full-time executive vice president role. Shalini Lawson succeeds Bentley as Detroit branch manager and Bob Zhang is now director of Customer Care and Contact Services.

Strategic Staffing Solutions grew from $208 to $238 million in sales in 2013. President and CEO Cynthia J. Pasky expects that the leadership changes will keep the company competitive and growing in 2014, saying, "We can't assume that what was offered (in 2013) will stay the same. We have to act to keep up our services."

Sources: Kraemer Design Group press release and Cynthia J. Pasky, president and CEO of Strategic Staffing Solutions
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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NEI nears second round of grant giving

The New Economy Initiative is about to reach its fundraising goal, having raised $33 of $40 million in funding from local, regional, and national foundations. NEI is entering a three year-long period of grant-giving and support for the region's entrepreneurs. The group is planning a new-look NEI, one that will build on and improve the already successful first round of grant programs that began in 2008.

One planned change is a new focus on pre-existing businesses throughout southeastern Michigan. With so much attention being focused on the region's startup scene, NEI is crafting a contest to reward existing businesses that have the potential to grow. Still in the planning stages, the group hopes to have the contest ready for March.

Still, startups remain at the center of NEI's economy-stimulating strategy. The group's territory includes all of southeastern Michigan with a focus on Detroit. NEI executive director Dave Egner says that one of the reasons for this focus is that, as far as he can tell, there are more organizations servicing Detroit entrepreneurs than anywhere else in the world. That network of organizations allows NEI to more effectively distribute grants to promising entrepreneurs.

Grants are available to entrepreneurs of every stripe, says Egner. "Our focus is industry-agnostic. When we tried to pick sectors, we didn't get the outputs. We've been industry-agnostic since 2009."

NEI is hoping that the modifications planned for its second round of funding will improve on their already impressive numbers.

The New Economy Initiative launched in 2008 and has since awarded $76 million in grants to local entrepreneurs. The program has helped start over 675 new companies and created over 8,000 new jobs in southeastern Michigan. NEI has also helped support BizGrid, an infographic that breaks down Detroit resources for small businesses.

Source: Dave Egner, executive director of New Economy Initiative
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Practice Space works to develop two new businesses

Detroit small business hub Practice Space has accepted two new projects into its Incubator program. One, a retro arcade bar, is searching for the perfect location while the second, a West Village property owner, is searching for the perfect tenant. Practice Space is helping each find what they're looking for.

Practice Space is assisting Donald Behm in opening Offworld Arcade, a retro-themed video game bar. In the four month-long Incubator program, the people at Practice Space are helping Behm articulate his concept and craft his business plan. They're also helping him find a building to purchase. A successful pop-up "barcade" was recently held in Hamtramck.

"One thing we've noticed is we want to work with people who want to collaborate," says Austin Kronig, cultural development director for Practice Space. "Donald realized he did everything he could on his own and now he needs support. He's an accidental entrepreneur. He doesn't have a business plan or a space but he knows the business and is an expert in classic arcade games."

In the second project, Detroit Institute of Bagels co-owner Alex Howbert approached Practice Space about identifying the right use for 1417 Van Dyke in West Village. The late-Victorian house is from the 1880s and features a storefront on the first floor of the building. It's near West Village hangouts like Craft Work, Detroit Vegan Soul, and the seasonal Tashmoo Biergarten pop-up. Practice Space is working with Howbert on architectural and concept designs, identifying the scope and breadth of the project. Kronig says that Howbert is open-minded about tenants as long as they don't need a full commercial kitchen.

This is the second term of Practice Space Incubator programming. Practice Space previously worked with Eleni Zaharopoulos and Jenile Brooks on their North End Store-House project.

Source: Austin Kronig, cultural development director of Practice Space
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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New Corktown gym opens with charity drive

A new gym is opening in Detroit's Corktown neighborhood. The personal fitness club Detroit Tough is celebrating its opening with a benefit for the homeless and under-clothed. Detroit Tough is opening with the help of an Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy grant.

Roger Dyjak is one of the people behind Detroit Tough. He's also responsible for Train like a Savage, a personal training method that uses the pressure of working out within a group to elevate individual performance. This style of personal fitness champions mental toughness as much as it does physical toughness.

Detroit Tough is not a gym in the traditional sense -- there won't be any treadmills or stationary bikes. Instead, it features physical tests like intense obstacle courses to improve fitness. The private club offers tiered training to better fit need and ability.

The gym is celebrating its opening with a charity drive on Saturday, Feb. 15 from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. Organizers are asking for a $20 donation and clothing or canned food. All money raised will be given to New Life Rescue Mission and Empowerment Plan. Clothing will be donated to the Salvation Army.

Music is scheduled throughout the course of the event, including sets from Band B, Velveteen Rabbit, and Volcano and the New Radio Standard. Fellow Corktowners McShane's Pub will be there roasting a pig. University of Detroit Mercy dental students will be providing free dental screenings to the homeless.

Detroit Tough is the recipient of an OTSC grant. The money was secured by U.S. Sen. Carl Levin to redevelop the area of the old Tiger Stadium site. A total of $800,000 was reserved for businesses in the Corktown neighborhood.

Detroit Tough is located at 1244 Beech.

Source: Detroit Tough press release
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Mayor wants to take blighted buildings through nuisance abatement program

The Detroit Downtown Partnership held its first stakeholder meeting of the year Feb. 5, touching on a range of development topics. It featured the first ever public forum between Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and emergency manager Kevyn Orr.

  • The DDP is pushing for a Business Improvement Zone (BIZ) that would provide long-term funding to the Clean Downtown beautification program. The proposed BIZ would also fund downtown landscaping programs, safety and hospitality programs, and marketing initiatives. Funding is raised through an assessment formula that combines assessed value and built floor area metrics. DDP CEO David Blaszkiewicz expects City Council and Orr to approve the request for BIZ formation, leaving a property owner vote as the last step. Passing the BIZ requires at least 60 percent of voting downtown property owners' approval.
     
  • Duggan credits the professionalism of Orr and the new City Council in the election of a new lighting authority, one that will install LED lights throughout the city. The mayor also mentioned that he, the city council, the emergency manager, and the governor were able to consolidate nine separate land banks and blight task forces into one agency.
     
  • Currently stuck in the Michigan legislature, a bill would require all scrapyards pay by check mailed three days after a transaction.
     
  • Duggan advocated for restoring vacant buildings when possible, rather than demolishing them. He also hinted at a nuisance abatement program akin to the one he instituted during his days as Wayne County Prosecutor, saying, "We're gonna go through and take title to all three (blighted) houses (on a block) at once by suing on a nuisance abatement, saying to the owners, you have to maintain your property so it's not a nuisance to your neighbors. Either sign the court order to fix it up yourself or we'll take it and sell it on the Internet."
Source: Detroit Downtown Partnership stakeholders meeting, Feb. 5, 2014

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Federal money to help a number of Corktown businesses open

Nearly all of $800,000 in federal grant money has been spoken for in Corktown, spurring more development in Detroit's oldest neighborhood. The money is part of the larger Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy grant, $3.8 million in federal funds secured by U.S. Sen. Carl Levin in 2009. Though the stadium was eventually razed, efforts to keep the grant money in the neighborhood were successful.

Alexander Zachary is planner and developer for Zachary & Associates. The Detroit-based financial development and planning consultants were charged with the task of managing the $800,000, evaluating proposals and guiding businesses through the application process.

"We're really into sustainability and we've been working with the grantees and getting them connected with DTE Energy for green efficiency credits," says Zachary.

Two businesses recently opened, Two James Spirits and the Detroit Institute of Bagels, were recipients of $50,000 grants, the maximum available.

There are a number of new, yet-to-open businesses that have received approval in their applications for the grant money. These include:

  • Saint Vincent, a "boutique building for startups, freelancers, and mid-sized businesses" located in an abandoned Catholic school.
  • 1701 and 1707 Trumbull, former location of Bagley Trumbull Market. The previous occupant, a party store, took up what was originally two separate store fronts. Zachary says the buildings will be split back into their original configurations with dining in one storefront and retail in the other. Offices and perhaps apartments are planned for the top floors.
  • Detroit Tough, a fitness club located at 1244 Beech St.
  • Gold Cash Gold, located at Michigan Avenue and Wabash, a new restaurant from the Cooleys, owners of Slows Bar BQ.
  • The Detroit Artifactory, an industrial gallery that takes reclaimed industrial products and turns them into functional art and homewares, will open at 2135 Michigan Ave.
  • Lafayette Kitchen and Diner, a new restaurant from the owners of Russell Street Deli in the old Steak Hut Restaurant building.
  • A beer garden is planned for the vacant third of the building occupied by Two James Spirits, the side closest to Michigan Central Station.

Source: Alexander Zachary, planner and developer at Zachary & Associates
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Business is popping for these unconventional restaurants

Pop-up dining is a popular business model for many a restauranteur whether they want to eventually open their own space or not. For Detroit, the trend may have reached its pop-culture zenith when television host Anthony Bourdain featured local pop-up Guns & Butter on an episode of his CNN program Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. That's not to say that pop-ups are going anywhere any time soon. In fact, it's just the opposite.

Pie-Sci is one of the more successful pop-up restaurants in the city. Co-founders Jeremy Damaske and AJ Nanoulian started the pop-up pizzeria in March of 2011, making pizzas out of Jim Geary's Woodbridge Pub every Sunday. Though they started small, Damaske says that they now sell around 100 pizzas every Sunday. They don't even have pizza ovens, having to use the Woodbridge Pub's two conventional kitchen ovens. The business has gone so well that they're moving operations into the building adjacent to the pub. They hope to be operating daily by the end of the year.

Damaske says that the pop-up restaurant model is perfect for people looking to start a business without a lot of capital. It gives people the chance to get their product out there and build a customer base without having the up-front investment of outfitting a space. It also benefits the host business, drawing customers in that may have not come otherwise.

"There was no real liability for us," says Damske. "We got to use their servers, their liquor license, their alcohol."

The nature of pop-ups can turn going out into more of an event and especially so for less frequent pop-ups like Guns & Butter and Tashmoo Biergarten. Others are further customizing the model like the community building Detroit Soup fosters through its monthly dinners, funding creative projects throughout the city. And then there's Hamtramck's Revolver, whose whole business model is built on hosting rotating chefs and pop-ups.

Source: Jeremy Damaske, co-owner of Pie-Sci
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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