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Inner State, formerly 323 East, opening May 17

You already know that the popular Royal Oak art gallery 323 East, which is behind the game-changing 1xRUN limited edition time-released online art "store" with an international audience, is moving to Detroit in a space adjacent to Eastern Market at 1410 Gratiot. What you might not know yet is that with the new space comes a new name.
 
"We're in a new space and have a new identity," says Jesse Cory, founder of 323 East. "We needed a fresh new approach to it."
 
That new approach is called Inner State, a name which can be seen as both a semantic play on the extensive interstate systems that criss-cross the Motor City as well as an acknowledgement of the work of the exhibiting artists reflecting their "inner states."
 
After outgrowing their small space in Royal Oak, the 323 team began looking for spaces in the city. "The art world in Detroit is exploding right now," Cory says. "There's a consolidation (that's happening)," mentioning the Butcher's Daughter in Midtown and the Red Bull House of Art, Inner State's new neighbors located in the market district.
 
The three-story, 10,000-square-foot space has a more refined look designed by architect Tadd Heidgerken for et al. Collaborative, who also designed Astro Coffee and the House of Art. "(We knew he) designs spaces that are very comfortable and dynamic. I don’t know where else in town you'd look to get someone with that kind of aesthetic." Cory describes it as being less of a boutique and more of a traditional gallery – cleaner, much larger, and a fitting utilization of the building without "going overboard."
 
Inner State will be open Thursdays through Saturdays and will be more exhibit-oriented with private receptions as well as the grand opening fetes for each new exhibit that they became known for at 323.

"We definitely want to celebrate the efforts people put into these works and have a party," he says. "It's really a coming-of-age of the art world in Detroit. The stigma of galleries in the past has been removed. (Places like) 323 and the House of Art have really made the experience inclusive."
 
The new gallery opens May 17.
 
Source: Jesse Cory, founder of 323 East/Inner State
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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Stella Cafe remodeled and rebranded as Stella Good Coffee in the Fisher Building

Stella International Café inside the Fisher Building in New Center has gone through a major renovation and rebranding.
 
Now called "Stella Good Coffee," the café – owned by Shawn Santo and Kevin Borsay, owners of Pure Detroit, Rowland Café, a second Stella location inside the Guardian Building, and Vera Jane (a women's clothing store) – will focus on all things Detroit, starting with the design.
 
After closing last fall, the space was stripped down to bare walls and floor, grinding away layers of concrete to reveal the original Albert Kahn-produced floor from 1928 (which has a slightly different design than the floor of the main lobby, also original). Santo and Borsay oversaw all of the renovation work themselves, working closely with James Willer of Reclaim Detroit on material sourcing and design. They also worked with local companies and artists on the fixtures, including lamp shades from the Detroit Wallpaper Company (which will feature the designs of local artists and will be rotated regularly) and a white neon sign that reads "Drink Good Coffee" from Spectrum Neon Sign Company.
 
The redesign also allows for more seating inside the café, which will have free WiFi, and additional seating will be available in the Fisher lobby.
 
In addition to a new look, a new name, and a new logo (a complicated geometric figure with a long technical name that includes the word "stella," also known as the "Moravian star"), Stella Good Coffee will have a whole new approach to their products. Instead of the quick grab-and-go coffee shop they were previously known as, they will offer only pour-over coffees, which take longer but, as Borsay says, "is worth it." They will also have loose-leaf teas, soups from Russell Street Deli, and baked goods from Avalon Breads and Traffic Jam & Snug.
 
Stella Good Coffee is celebrating a "soft" opening this week, with a grand opening coming later this spring.
 
Source: Kevin Borsay and Shawn Santo, owners of Stella Good Coffee
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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Oakaloosa, a philanthropic music festival, to benefit Historic Fort Wayne

The City of Detroit is gaining another new music festival this summer. Oakaloosa will be held at the Historic Fort Wayne on July 27, and, much like Orion Music + More, will reinvest into the maintenance and preservation of the concert site itself -- Historic Fort Wayne.
 
The 96-acre Historic Fort Wayne site in Delray includes some original buildings from the mid-1800s as well as faithful replicas, though many are in disrepair. The Fort is operated by the Detroit Recreation Department with other nonprofit assistance. They rely heavily on volunteer efforts and individual generosity.
 
Oakaloosa is a brand-new outdoor concert, billing itself as the region's first fully philanthropic music festival, with a percentage of every dollar raised going back towards the restoration of Historic Fort Wayne. "We were looking to participate in restoring its renown by adding an event there where people can appreciate it and relate this event to its name," says Adrian Pittman, founder of Module, which is handling Oakaloosa's marketing. "What happened to (the Fort) is sort of what happened to Detroit in the rest of the country … it was forgotten. It requires a local to give it a little attention and polish it off a bit. It needs to be maintained for generations of people to come."
 
With connections in the parks & rec department, Detroit Sports Zone, Inc. – the nonprofit group organizing this event – was able to secure the site, which needs little in the way of infrastructure work in order to host the event. "They were looking at the fort from day one. It's such a unique opportunity." A first event of its kind for the site, they hope this event will also encourage other organizations to host festivals here.
 
DJ Mikey Eckstein of Embarco is responsible for programming, which includes both local and national acts. Main headliners include Girl Talk and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony (as part of their big reunion tour).
 
They expect about 15,000 people to attend. Tickets are $45.

The odd name actually came from a typo on a website about the fort's history. The organizers liked it despite it being a misspelling, and decided to use the name for the festival.
 
Source: Adrian Pittman, Director of Development at Module
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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Mosaic Youth Theatre to move into old Miller High School, launching partnership with charter school

In 2001, Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit was commissioned to write a play on Detroit history as part of the Detroit 300 celebration. The result was Hastings Street, a play about teenagers at Miller High School in the 1940s, which they identified as one of the most exciting times and places to be a teenager in the city's history. Two years ago Mosaic decided to produce this play during their 2012/2013 performance season. What they didn't know at the time was that they would also be moving into the old Miller High School in the fall of 2013.
 
Mosaic will relocate its offices to 2251 Antietam, formerly Miller High, while joining a new charter public K-5 elementary school called the University Prep Science & Math Elementary School: Sidney D. Miller Campus (UPSM). This will be a "STEAM" school – science, technology, engineering, and math ("STEM") plus arts. This new charter school purchased the building and is providing Mosaic with 12,600 square feet of dedicated space as well as an additional 31,000 square feet of shared space in the school. In turn, Mosaic is providing their students with arts instruction in a unique in-kind partnership that expands the reach and resources of both entities. Mosaic will pay $1/year for rent plus utilities, though they do have to raise over $1 million in funding for their portion of the construction costs.
 
"It's really better for an arts organization of our size to be part of this larger entity rather than owning our own building," says Mosaic Founder & CEO Rick Sperling. Small and medium-sized arts organizations face a real challenge when they own their own buildings, which inevitably takes the focus away from the organization itself.
 
This partnership between Mosaic and UPSM is also aligned with the Detroit Future City framework. Considered part of the Eastern Market area of the plan, this partnership addresses two of the strategic focuses: both finding a use for obsolete historic buildings (the school is national historic landmark that has sat empty since 2007) and also to promote the arts in residential and industrial areas. While Mosaic's main performances will still be at the DIA, they will hold training and smaller performances in their new home. Between the school and Mosaic, Sperling says there will be traffic at this site seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
 
Most of Mosaic's artistic staff works with young people from all over the city and suburbs on nights and weekends, so the added arts support to the elementary school will not disrupt other programs.
 
The old Channel 56 Building, Mosaic's current home, will be put up for sale and will continue to be used as Mosaic's tech shop and storage facility in the meantime so the building remains occupied. Hastings Street opens on May 10 at the DIA.
 
Source: Rick Sperling, Founder & CEO of Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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Top of the Pontch, Jefferson House, Urban Cellars opening in the Crowne Plaza Hotel Pontchartrain

As the Crowne Plaza Hotel Pontchartrain undergoes a serious exterior overhaul to prepare to welcome its first guests this June, the overhaul happening inside is just as ambitious, both in design and concept.
 
The Jefferson House will be the Pontch's primary restaurant, located across from the lobby. The look is modern meets old world: copper leaf ceilings, plush cream-colored chairs, dark-stained wainscoting covering the walls. It's warm and rich and comfortable, refined without being too stuffy. They'll serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, and will also have a 40-seat outdoor patio on Jefferson. Attached to the Jefferson House is Urban Cellars, the hotel's sizable bar, which will specialize in craft cocktails.
 
Overseeing the operation of both concepts is executive chef and director of food & beverage Justin Vaiciunas. The menu Vaiciunas has created for Jefferson House and Urban Cellars is an exploration of cutting-edge American fusion cuisine. Expect to see the highest-quality ingredients in exquisitely artful presentations, though not impossibly high-end (or high ticket). The Jefferson House and Urban Cellars will open in June with the hotel.
 
The lobby will have a quick grab-and-go café called Tabatchi, which will serve Starbucks coffee and pre-prepared sandwiches and sushi for busy travelers. The hotel will also feature up to 15,000 square feet of completely renovated banquet space.
 
In addition to these new concepts, long-term plans include re-opening the second-floor terrace, as well as re-opening the iconic Top of the Pontch.
 
The 25th floor restaurant, bar and lounge will be totally reimagined – in contrast to the Jefferson House's neutral palette and old-world appeal, the new Top of the Pontch will be flashy, all glass and waterfalls, bringing Vegas style to Detroit. The menu will be ambitious fine dining.
 
Looking ahead, developer Gabriel Ruiz plans on building the hotel's second tower, which was part of the original Pontchartrain's design though never built, and connecting both towers via skywalk to Cobo Center. These plans are at least three years out.
 
Source: Justin Vaiciunas, Executive Chef and Director of Food & Beverage of the Crowne Plaza Hotel Pontchartrain
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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NSO to receive Governor's Award for NSO Bell Building renovation, will move headquarters inside

Neighborhood Service Organization (NSO) is a non-profit organization that does a lot of work in the city and suburbs around mental health, homelessness, and developmental disabilities. They offer community programs, a suicide hotline and also the Tumaini Center at Second Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., which is a walk-in center serving the chronically homeless in Detroit that has been open since 1975. They see about 3,000 people annually at the center, in a city with a homeless population of around 20,000.
 
Joe Heaphy, NSO's Vice President of Real Estate Development, says, "About seven years ago NSO decided it wanted to move away from simply managing and helping homeless folks, but get them housed." They were looking to provide permanent housing for the chronically homeless, not just temporary housing or a traditional shelter. This led to the purchase of the former Michigan Bell building in Highland Park, which had been sitting vacant for 20 years. A $52 million renovation converted the building into 155 housing units, which began leasing last August. Units were filled by November. Residents pay 30 percent of their income, whatever that may be, in rent, while the rest of the $650/month rent is covered by Section 8. NSO also provides on-site resources and support services.
 
But at 255,000 square feet, the 1929 building itself is so massive it is not fully occupied by apartment units. Starting this August, the NSO Bell Building will also be home to NSO's new headquarters, moving 200 administrative staff into the commercial portion of the building. 
 
This renovation and adaptive reuse project is being honored with a Governor's Award this Wednesday, May 1, for outstanding achievement in historic preservation. The building also serves as a model for public-private funding collaboration and investment, utilizing funds as far-ranging as brownfield redevelopment tax credits, foundation funding from the McGregor Fund and Kresge Foundation, and tax credit investment from Morgan Stanley.
 
Source: Joe Heaphy, NSO's Vice President of Real Estate Development
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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Anew Life Prosthetics & Orthotics brings new life to amputee patients in Albert Kahn building

Anew Life Prosthetics & Orthotics is putting the finishing touches on the renovation of the Albert Kahn-designed Detroit Savings Bank Branch #3 at Woodward and Milwaukee. The company launched in 2011 as a mobile operation with partners Chris Casteel and Paul Cauley working out of their cars with their equipment and supplies stored in far-flung locations throughout metro Detroit. They knew they wanted to locate their offices (with lab and equipment) in the city, and after a previous deal fell through they found the building at 6438 Woodward in December 2011. Within two weeks they owned it.
 
Anew Life provides artificial limbs and braces to those who need them. While this does include a small percentage of trauma cases, the majority of their clients suffer from vascular disease and diabetes. They see their clients through the whole process, starting with visiting them in the hospital post-surgery, casting them, making molds and testing the prosthesis, then making the final prosthesis that will last for three to five years. "I love seeing people return to life and thrive," says Casteel, who also runs a support group for amputees.
 
The renovated Detroit Savings Bank building will be home to Anew's offices, a lab where the devices will be built, and a physical therapy gym for recovering patients. They are also completing renovations that will make the building ADA accessible and are awaiting certifications that will enable them to bill Medicare and Medicaid for their patients. 
 
Built as a bank branch, the building has previously been used as a church and a nightclub, among other things. Renovation work included gutting much of the interior, though Casteel says they are "trying to save as much Albert Kahn as we can." Casteel and Cauley were working out of the building during the renovation, and are now at a point where they are able to start accepting patients.
 
Anew's offices, storage, and lab don't quite fill up the whole space, so they have made their basement available to Burners Without Borders, where Danielle "Doxie" Kaltz is able to store all her supplies to assemble backpacks of hygiene and emergency items for the homeless. "We want to help support everything local," Casteel says.
 
Source: Chris Casteel, co-owner of Anew Life Prosthetics & Orthotics
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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Hellenic Museum celebrates grand opening in Detroit's cultural center

Though they've been hosting special events for over a year now, the Hellenic Museum in Midtown officially celebrated its grand opening this past weekend.
 
The building, located at 67 E. Kirby in Detroit's Cultural Center, was purchased from Wayne State University in 2009 for $355,000.
 
The Hellenic Heritage Society, the nonprofit organization that is dedicated to the promotion and celebration of Detroit's Greek heritage and growth of Greek culture, has spent the last four years restoring the building, formerly the Detroit Children's Museum, which included a new roof, a whole new geothermal heating system, air conditioning and more repairs, all while building up the inventory that is now the museum's collection.
 
Detroit's Hellenic Museum is one of only two such museums in the country (the other one opened about 15 years ago in Chicago). Joan De Ronne, vice president of operations for the Hellenic Museum, says, "The reason for the establishment of the Hellenic Museum in Michigan is because there is really nothing that was a reflection of Greek history and culture other than a small exhibit at the DIA and (in the libraries)," despite the tremendous impact Greek culture has had on the whole of Western civilization. Additionally, the roots of Greek culture in metro Detroit run deep, beginning with the immigration of the Greeks to the area in the early 1900s into Greektown. "So many (cultural) contributions have been made and those things are being lost. We want to preserve the story of their contributions, not just to Hellenic culture but also to greater metro Detroit as a whole."
 
The museum's collection consists of heritage items collected from families and churches – books, artwork and pottery, an eighteenth century bridal gown. The museum is also collecting the oral histories of local Greek families, which will eventually be available on the Hellenic Museum website.
 
The museum will continue hosting and partnering on events that celebrate and promote Greek culture – music, art, food, and history – such as the annual Greek Independence Day Parade that was held in tandem with their grand opening last Saturday.
 
Source: Joan De Ronne, Vice President of Operations for the Hellenic Museum
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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Construction to start on Globe Building state park recreation center and events facility

The former Detroit Dry Docks Engine Works complex and Globe Trading Company building, parts of which date back to 1892, will begin its transformation into an adventure and discovery center as part of an expansion of the William G. Milliken State Park & Harbor, Michigan's only urban state park.
 
The project was announced in May 2011 but has seen some delays. "The languishing has ended," says David Di Rita, owner of the Roxbury Group, the Detroit-based development firm overseeing the renovation. They closed on construction financing for the project in mid-March. Activity on the building will start within in the next two weeks.
 
The $12.8 million project is essentially a build-to-suit project for the Department of Natural Resources. Plans include the adventure and discovery center with rock-climbing, zip-lining, and other activities, but much more beyond that. "Really it amounts to a multi-use facility for the benefit of park visitors as well as people who may just wish to visit the Globe and participate in its activities, which includes a combination of exhibit and meeting space all designed around the idea of introducing the public to the state park system and provide year-round opportunities for people to enjoy the state park."
 
There will be activity space as well as permanent and rotating educational exhibits. The DNR will move its operations offices from Southfield into this building. The design includes a lot of attractive open space that can be used for business meetings and private events; the DNR envisions this space being utilized in much the same way as Eastern Market's Shed 5.
 
People will also be able to access the services of any state park office, such as getting their hunting and fishing licenses.

"The idea is really to take people here in the largest point of population in the state and give them a point of entry into the state park system," says Di Rita.
 
The project requires a partial demolition of some of the older portions of the complex, though Di Rita says, "We're doing our best to preserve as much of the facility as possible and are really focusing on the portion of the building that is most recognizable to the public."
 
Di Rita expects construction on the Globe to be complete around this time next year.
 
Source: David Di Rita, owner of the Roxbury Group
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg 

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Neumann/Smith Architecture moving downtown, overseeing several major development projects

Neumann/Smith Architecture, which has been around since 1969, has been working under the radar downtown for years. Now, the firm is making it official this year when it moves into the Wright-Kay Building at 1500 Woodward.
 
The firm has worked on several significant projects in the city out of its Southfield office, including various projects with Wayne State University, One Kennedy Square, the Science Center, the $50 million landscape renovation including meditation gardens and fountains at DTE, Blue Cross Blue Shield's east campus (including the green parking deck and courtyard), and work for several clients inside the Renaissance Center.
 
Most recently Neumann/Smith worked with Quicken Loans and Bedrock on some of their most high-profile developments. The first opportunity was the Madison Building, which has become a technology hub noted as much for its design as for its inhabitants. "(That building) was huge for them and for us," says Joel Smith, partner of Neumann/Smith Architecture. "It got a lot of attention." (Particularly the fifth-floor meeting space and rooftop patio available for private parties, which Smith calls "one of the coolest" spaces in the city.)
 
Next up on Neumann/Smith's Bedrock project roster includes renovations of the Dime Building, One Woodward, First National, and construction on the "Z" lot. "With all of this going on we needed to be closer to our client," says Smith. "We have always had a historic preservation practice but the Detroit office will be the hub for historic preservation and adaptive reuse (and) solidify our commitment to the city."
 
The firm is also heading up the renovation of the Wright-Kay Building, which Smith expects to be complete in June. The six floor, red sandstone building will feature office space on the upper floors (fully committed though not yet all officially leased) with ground floor restaurant and retail space.
 
Source: Joel Smith, AIA, partner of Neumann/Smith Architecture
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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Alley Wine wins zoning ordinance change, moving forward and hoping for fall opening

Alley Wine sounded like such a lovely idea: open up a wine bar in an alley in a converted garage with doors that open to the alley and a backyard that can be used for outdoor seating and recreation. The idea sparked a lot of interest, securing it as a semi-finalist in the first-ever Hatch Detroit contest in 2011.
 
There was just one problem: the proposed building was zoned as residential property. Before any kind of planning in earnest could move forward, the building had to be re-zoned for commercial use (and as a liquor establishment at that, which is not without its own complications).
 
For the past 20 months, partners David Knapp and Lynne Savino have been working on getting this Midtown property at 655 W. Alexandrine re-zoned for commercial use by the city. "I knew we had a major roadblock with zoning issues," says Knapp, who works as an architect and is familiar with zoning restrictions.
 
They started with the Board of Zoning Appeals, which took several hearings over six months to ultimately have their request rejected. From there they went to the City Planning Commission, this time with the help and support of Midtown Inc.'s Sue Mosey. The Alley Wine concept happens to be in keeping with her master vision for more mixed-use development in Midtown, which also includes more non-motorized transit development (Alley Wine will be accessible only by foot or bike). "We were kind of a pilot case for the rezoning," says Knapp.
 
"Mosey and (Midtown Economic Development Manager) Karen Gage really spearheaded on our behalf to work with the City Planning Commission staff," says Knapp. They conducted informal hearings to garner public support and drew up the official language to push the request forward. The request was first approved by the commission, then by City Council, then by Mayor Dave Bing.
 
While Alley Wine is still a way off from opening -- they still need to secure tax credits and building permits and apply for financing and a liquor license, none of which could be started before the rezoning was finalized -- Knapp hopes for a fall opening.
 
Source: David Knapp, co-owner of Alley Wine
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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Downtown Detroit development news run-down

There was an abundance of major downtown development news in the last week. Here is a quick review of some of the biggest projects and purchases announced.
 
• Dan Gilbert once again seems to be on a building-buying spree, most recently adding the 44,000-square-foot Vinton Building at 600 Woodward to his real estate portfolio. This just a week after closing on 1001 Woodward, a 275,000-square-foot building. This brings the total number of residential and commercial downtown Detroit buildings owned by Rock Ventures LLC, Gilbert's umbrella holding company, up to 17, in addition to several more parking structures and surface lots. Gilbert now controls more than 2.9 million square feet of property in downtown Detroit.
 
• In downtown building news not related to Dan Gilbert, Village Green, a privately-owned metro Detroit-based apartment owner and operator, purchased the 338-unit Millender Center Apartments. The complex will undergo renovation work and a rebranding in the next year under its new ownership.
 
• The $279 million renovation of COBO Center is about halfway completed and is both on-schedule and on-budget. The third and final phase is scheduled to be complete by January 2015.
 
• The Whitney Partners, the development team comprised of the Roxbury Group and Trans Inn Management's Lifestyle Boutique Division, have kicked off construction of the $82 million David Whitney Building mixed-use renovation including 105 residential apartment units, a 136-room Aloft Hotel, and ground floor retail.
 
• Perhaps the splashiest development news from last week came, once again, from Dan Gilbert at a gathering of some 400 business and civic leaders and members of the press. At the two-hour briefing, Gilbert shared his overall master plan for downtown retail development, which included official announcements of retail businesses opening (Moosejaw has committed to a multi-year lease; Papa Joe's Gourmet Market will open in a 15,000-square-foot space inside the First National Building), as well as Gilbert's personal vision for placemaking strategies (among them sidewalk cafes, pedestrian walks, and dog parks).

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Bagger Dave's in Greektown moving forward after construction delay

You may have seen the new vinyl banner that reads "Coming Soon!" with the Bagger Dave's logo that was hung over the weekend at 1224 Randolph Street next to the recently-opened Buffalo Wild Wings in Greektown. While the restaurant is still a long way out from opening, Southfield-based Diversified Restaurant Holdings, Inc. is moving forward with plans to open this as a Bagger Dave's despite some unforeseen setbacks.
 
After the lengthy Buffalo Wild Wings renovation that soared into the millions ($3.5 million for the renovation work alone; $5 million when factoring in other opening costs like purchasing equipment), Diversified is now focused on Bagger Dave's. This will be the first Bagger Dave's in Detroit and the fifth in metro Detroit. There are 12 locations total in Michigan and Indiana, and seven are planned to open this year.
 
Because of the old infrastructure on this block, construction has been delayed as they have been working with DTE to bring electrical power over to the building. Michael Ansley, president and CEO of Diversified Restaurant Holdings, Inc., hopes construction will start this summer and be completed in October.
 
The short, narrow building was built as a bank in the late 1800s. Only 18 feet wide, the lower floor will seat roughly 60 while the second-floor bar will seat another 70. One of the building's key features is a skylight that extends the length of the building on the second floor that the bar will sit directly beneath. "It's going to be really cool," says Ansley. "We're really excited to get (this project moving forward)."
 
The building has already been completely gutted. In addition to retaining the skylight, they will also be restoring the building's limestone façade and preserving the historic front window. This renovation is expected to cost about $1 million.
 
Though it has previously been reported that Diversified might move its corporate offices to the third floor of the Buffalo Wild Wings, the company will no longer move forward with those plans.
 
Source: Michael Ansley, president and CEO of Diversified Restaurant Holdings, Inc.
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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SkyBar and Lounge now open on 33rd floor, previous ground floor space being renovated and expanded

Up until a couple of weeks ago, "Sky Bar" was a bit of a misnomer, what with the bar and lounge being located on the ground floor of the David Stott Building in downtown Detroit.
 
"We are in the process of a rebranding," says Marshal Simons of Impakt Digital, community manager of SkyBar & Lounge. "When the owners first opened they were new at the bar industry and wanted to get in on the ground level of Detroit" … so to speak.
 
Owner Lynn Kassotis, president of the Florida-based real estate company CID Investments (which owns the building), fell in love with the art deco architecture of the 37-story David Stott Building and was drawn to the space on the 33rd floor, but because of issues with the sprinkler system they were not able to get a liquor license and open in the upper-floor space initially. They now have a 180-day temporary approval of occupancy as they complete the final necessary repairs, and are currently open on Fridays and Saturdays offering unparalleled 300-degree views of downtown Detroit and the Detroit River.
 
Prior to opening they completely stripped the 33rd floor space down to the studs and totally restored it with a granite and marble bar, tile floors, and three private rooms including a plush library with leather chairs and an oak bookcase. One of the rooms is also designed as a cigar lounge with the proper air filtration system, though they have not yet been approved for the cigar licensing.   
 
The ground floor space, which has been the bar's home for a little over a year, is now undergoing a half-million dollar renovation and expansion which includes a new stage built in partnership with WDET. They hope to have this renovation completed in the next few weeks. There will be live music downstairs on weekends while upstairs will be more relaxed with music played over their internal speaker system. Both floors will continue to offer an upscale environment for drinks and small plates.
 
Source: Marshal Simons of Impakt Digital, community manager of SkyBar & Lounge.
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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Designer of downtown's new Crowne Plaza to give the "Pontch" a whole new, colorful look

Another iconic Detroit building, the former Pontchartrain Hotel, will breathe new life later this spring after sitting vacant since 2009.
 
The Pontchartrain will soon re-open as a Crowne Plaza, an upscale hotel property owned by the Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG). Ohio-based Stephen Berry Architectural Design is the design firm working on the project. The firm specializes in hotel projects nationwide, many of which are IHG properties. The firm has also worked with the previous two owners of the Pontchartrain.
 
Stephen Berry says that the new design concept for the 25-story, 371-room hotel will be sensitive to the building's 1965 modernist design. The vaulted ceiling of the lobby will be completely re-finished with gold and silver leaf. The restaurant and lounge spaces will be totally re-imagined with copper leaf accents, new fixtures and décor.
 
"The lobby and lounge will be very modern and striking. We're really changing the look," says Berry. "(The new design) really gets away from the darkness of the past."
 
The exterior of the building will also see significant aesthetic changes with a whole new color scheme. The face of the building will be neutral beige with green glass. One of the biggest changes includes a new auto-access entrance on Jefferson in IHG's signature plum color, with a white custom-built backlit canopy arcing over it. "It's very colorful. The building was always a monochromatic black and dark gray. Now it will have a whole new look."
 
Significant work is also being done to the second-floor exterior terrace, which Berry describes as a "key feature of the building."
 
Other plans include added ground-floor retail along Jefferson, including a new gift shop concept that internationally-known hotel developer Gabriel Ruiz (who is behind this development) has branded in his hotel chain through North America.
 
Source: Stephen Berry, owner of Stephen Berry Architectural Design
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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