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Detroit Development News

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Update: Corktown's Rubbed restaurant nears opening

Though it's taken a little longer than originally planned, the sandwich and charcuterie shop Rubbed is moving quickly now as it prepares for a spring opening. Rubbed owners Abbey Markell and Jason Frenkel are turning to crowdfunding to close the funding gap and get the community involved in the shop's opening.

Rubbed is offering market rate rewards in its crowdfunding campaign. "We're a for-profit business," says Markell. "We didn't want to just ask people for money." Taken that way, one could look at the rewards as orders placed in advance.

Markell says she receives several calls a week from people asking if Rubbed is open yet. The pair have been building anticipation while catering a number of events at Detroit businesses, including Two James Spirits, the Sugar House, and Frontera.

"We were hoping to be open by last fall but that may have been aggressive on our end. Especially with the catering jobs," says Markell. "Still, we're less than a year in development."

Markell and Frenkel are planning to temporarily open for Corktown's busiest day, the St. Patrick's Parade. The end of March would then be devoted to a number of pre-opening events, including the Rubbed After Dark dinner series and the Rub Down party. They hope for Rubbed to officially be open in April.

Markell estimates that the restaurant is 80 to 90 percent done. The small things remain, including the city permit process. But Markell says that talking to other business owners around town has assured her that the city's permit process is moving at a faster pace these days. The pair recently made a trip to East China, Michigan, where they picked out a tree to be turned into a single-piece, three foot-wide counter top.

Rubbed will be located at 2015 Michigan Ave.

Source: Abbey Markell, co-owner of Rubbed
Writer: MJ Galbraith

Local group tries to draw development interest to historic Milwaukee Junction

A group is putting out a call to property owners, developers, and artists to help save a concentration of historic buildings that don't receive as much attention as those in Detroit's more popular neighborhoods. The Friends of Milwaukee Junction is a non-profit organization formed to preserve an area of town once known as the center of Detroit manufacturing power.

Friends of Milwaukee Junction is looking to achieve more historic designations within the district, stabilize the neighborhood, and attract new developers. "There's no one watching these buildings," says president Dave Biskner. "If we don't get concerned citizens paying attention, we're going to lose another after another."

Biskner is hoping one way to curb vandalism and blight is to duplicate what's being done in the Grand River Creative Corridor. He recently connected with GRCC founder Derek Weaver. While he's open to any idea and encourages people to reach out, Biskner is looking to make public art a key selling point of the district. He's hoping for both artists and property owners to donate talent and space.

Recent successes include a mural painting in the Beaubien Street viaduct and eliminating vandalism on a local church.

Milwaukee Junction contains one of the largest -- if not the largest -- concentrations of early 20th century industrial architecture in North America. The area first sprang up around an east-west and north-south railroad junction, ideal for manufacturing operations of any sort. Milwaukee Junction remains attached to a major transportation hub, as interstates 75 and 94 meet at its center.

The 710-acre district reaches across the expressways, touching Woodward, Warren, and St. Aubin at different points. Within its boundaries are a variety of industrial buildings, from re-purposed factories such as the successful Russell Industrial Center to the abandoned and blighted Fisher Body Plant 21.

Connect with Friends of Milwaukee Junction here.

Source: Dave Biskner, president of Friends of Milwaukee Junction
Writer: MJ Galbraith

Co-working space round-up: Another space announced plus a new directory

The hottest new industry in Detroit may be the co-working space as the shared work venues continue to multiply. The new trend in work life offers startups and freelancers the ability to network and grow while getting those who work from home out and into a more social environment.

As the list grows and grows, it can become increasingly difficult to keep track of them all. As a result, the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation has compiled a Detroit Co-Working Space Finder that's available on their website. The directory lists 13 different co-working spaces throughout the city. They are:
The DEGC will have to update their directory rather quickly as another co-working space is already in the works. A new Detroit-based LLC called Quality Pheasant has announced plans to transform the former Saint Vincent Middle School into Saint Vincent Corktown, a boutique office space.

The 40,000 square foot building rests in the shadow of Michigan Central Station. Located at 2020 14th Street, Saint Vincent will be split into common work areas and private office suites with micro-lounges throughout. A skylit, stained-glass chapel tops the building, an architectural highlight.

As reported last week, Junction 440 is the latest co-working space to open in Detroit. It is one of seven co-working spaces to participate in the inaugural Co-Lab Detroit. The event was designed to create a community of co-working spaces rather than a competition. Open houses, tours, and free co-working days are available at each venue throughout the week. Co-Lab Detroit is happening now.

Source: DEGC, Saint Vincent press releases
Writer: MJ Galbraith

North End urban farming group to showcase new blight fighting techniques

After reportedly growing 10,000 pounds of produce in 2013, the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative is expanding operations in its North End neighborhood. The group is in the beginning stages of transforming three blighted houses and one apartment complex into a variety of uses. Each building will address a different challenge the city faces in tackling blight.

As previously reported, the apartment complex, 7432 Brush, is a three-story building that the group is turning into a community center. Recently secured and boarded up, the building will host a community kitchen, small food startup business incubator, biergarten, and demonstration space. It will also act as the group's headquarters.

MUFI has recently acquired three houses in the neighborhood that are beyond repair. In one case, the group bought a habitable home through the Wayne County Tax Auction and traded houses with someone in the neighborhood to get them into a more livable building. Each of the three houses will be transformed into working models that address the challenges the city faces when tearing down homes.

Since removing a foundation is often the most expensive part of demolishing a blighted building, MUFI is devising methods for removing blighted homes while leaving foundations and basements intact. The group will install a recycled shipping container home over the first foundation, a hoop house greenhouse over the second, and a retention pond membrane over the third. The plans are within the blue and green framework introduced by the Detroit Future City proposal.

"The idea is to pilot this project, showcase the ideas, and show how cheap we can do it," says Tyson Gersh, co-founder and president of MUFI. "The overall site is supposed to be a large demonstration space that can be showcased and spread elsewhere throughout the city."

The group relies heavily on volunteer work. To help out, show up on Saturdays, MUFI's volunteer work day.

Source: Tyson Gersh, President of Michigan Urban Farming Intitiative
Writer: MJ Galbraith

Detroit's co-working scene keeps growing and growing

Junction 440, Detroit's newest co-working space, has opened. Located in TechTown, Junction 440 will take part in the week-long Co-Lab Detroit event beginning Jan. 20 at downtown's Bamboo Detroit. Junction 440 will host an open house on Jan. 21 with food, drink, and a staff ready to answer questions about services offered and the Tech One facility itself.

Junction 440 is a membership-based co-working space, offering relative rates for day passes, 10-pass punch cards, monthly memberships, and dedicated desks and locking file cabinets. Conference space, day lockers, bike storage, and a printing station highlight some of the amenities offered. A galley kitchen is available for local food entrepreneurs.

The co-working space is on the first floor of the Tech One building, a former General Motors design facility. Leslie Smith, President and CEO of TechTown, wanted to re-design the first floor in a way that returned the space to its urban roots, she says, and restore a sense of creativity to the building where the Corvette was designed. Walls and offices were torn down to favor an open floor plan with exposed columns.

"My problem was that while there was always creativity before, you couldn't see it," says Leslie. "Our goal was to extrovert the work and make the creativity more exposed."

The space has opened in time to participate in Co-Lab Detroit. The event highlights Detroit's growing co-working scene with many of the city's different facilities offering open houses and events Jan. 20 through Jan. 24. Located in various parts of the city, the spaces participating include Bamboo Detroit, An Office in Detroit, Bizdom, Practice Space, Grand Circus, and Junction 440. OmniCorpDetroit will host the after party. On the last day of the event, Jan. 24, each space will offer a free day of co-working to the public.

Source: Leslie Smith, President and CEO of TechTown
Writer: MJ Galbraith

Telecommunications company moves from suburbs to city

Telecommunications company GTS Direct has moved from St. Clair Shores to Detroit's Corktown neighborhood. The company bought the former Archdiocese of Detroit print shop at 1501 Sixth Street. Friday Jan. 10 was their first day of business in the city.

The move is an expansion for the company as it goes from a 1,500 to 10,000 square foot facility. CEO Mark Stackpoole identifies a number of factors that went into the re-location, from distinct competitive advantages to a desire to be a part of the new downtown business community.

The company started its re-location search in the downtown rental market. Stymied after encountering what he calls a rigidly-priced rental scene, Mark turned his attention from renting to buying.

"For what we saw in rental prices at 3,000 square feet, we could purchase this building with minor repairs and come out at an advantage from a budget standpoint," Stackpoole says. GTS Direct bought the building at Sixth and Labrosse from the Archdiocese of Detroit for $210,000.

Stackpoole is looking to quickly become a part of Corktown and invites neighbors to stop by and see what's happening inside. The company is already philanthropically involved with a number of organizations -- including YouthVille Detroit, City Year, and Racquet Up Detroit -- and is hoping to do more within the neighborhood.

One reason for neighbors to stop by 1501 Sixth Street is the still-in-progress interior décor. Stackpoole enlisted the help of Derek Weaver, Managing Director of 4731 Gallery in Woodbridge, to organize a graffiti competition. Eleven artists from around Detroit, including Sintex, FEL3000ft, and TEAD, came in and painted murals in the GTS Direct offices.

Source: Mark Stackpoole, CEO of GTS Direct
Writer: MJ Galbraith

Coming soon: Corktown, Woodbridge condominium development

Three Squared, Inc., a Detroit-based real estate development company specializing in re-purposing used cargo containers into condos, is moving toward breaking ground on the first of its three structures in Detroit. First will be a three-story, 4,400 square foot mixed-used Model Center and, pending appraisal, the company will break ground by the beginning of February. Three Squared CEO Leslie Horn says that once started, the Michigan Avenue building will be completed in six weeks.

The model center, located between 1350 Michigan Ave. and Grinnell Place Lofts, will serve as a condo showcase and office for Three Squared, with the rest of the building available to lease for office use. The company plans on breaking ground on its two condo buildings in May with construction expected to take less than six months. The first, a four-story, 26,000 square foot building with 20 units, will be built on Rosa Parks Boulevard at Warren Avenue. A second building, with an expected 10-12 units, will be built behind the Michigan Avenue Model Center.

The buildings were designed by Detroit-based architect Steven Flum. Three Squared has also enlisted the assistance of architect Eric Lloyd Wright, grandson of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, to help with the details of the second Michigan Avenue condominium development.

Each unit will sell at market rate, according to Horn, and fall in a range of 853 to 1,920 square feet. Horn says that a list of people waiting to see the units is growing and the company is looking at two more sites for potential development. The company expects to do between $8 and $10 million in construction business over the course of the project. "We'll be keeping the industry busy," Horn says.

Both condo developments will qualify for the popular Live Midtown and Live Downtown incentive programs.

Source: Leslie Horn, CEO of Three Squared, Inc.
Writer: MJ Galbraith

Pop-up theater turns permanent in Midtown

After a brief hiatus, the old Burton School in Midtown is a movie theater once again. Paula and Tim Guthat have moved their Cinema Detroit into the former Cass Corridor school building. The married couple feature art house, indie, and local films Thursdays through Sundays. Classic movies such as the occasional film noir are also shown.

Cinema Detroit started as a series of pop-up theaters. The move to a permanent location allows the company the ability to show first-run films. The theater first started showing films at another pop-up that has since gone permanent, Coffee and (____), on the city's East Side -- a "pop-up within a pop-up," as Paula tells it. The Guthats then lugged their projection gear across the city, showing movies at Corktown's Ponyride and New Center's Jam Handy Building.

Though the couple enjoyed their series of pop-up cinemas, the grind of loading and unloading the projection equipment became tedious and the Guthats began to search for a permanent location. At the same time, the owner of the Burton school building was searching for a new group to operate the theater there. It's a fit that has allowed the Guthats the ability to plan ahead. Permanence should do the former pop-up well.

"It's easier to get the word out because we know we're going to be in one place," says Paula. "It's easier to promote because people know it's going to be there. I'm starting to book movies as far ahead as I can."

Cinema Detroit should eventually operate seven days a week, as the business settles in and stabilizes. The Guthats, who are currently the only people operating the cinema, plan to hire part-time workers once business hours expand.

Source: Paula Guthat, owner of Cinema Detroit
Writer: MJ Galbraith

Downtown law firm changes game for entrepreneurs with unique pricing policies

A new legal practice in downtown Detroit is helping entrepreneurs navigate all things required for operating on the level. Sadek Legal offers a range of services, from contract drafting to entity formation, licensing to pulling permits.

After moving to Detroit from Chicago, Houston native Tifani Sadek was inspired by Deroit's energetic startup scene. She left her job at a corporate law firm to start Sadek Legal in October 2013. The one-woman practice operates out of downtown's collaborative workspace Bamboo Detroit.

Unique to Sadek Legal is its pricing policy. Rather than charge her clients by the hour like most law firms--a practice, says Sadek, that often makes little sense for both parties involved--Sadek offers a flat rate agreed upon before the work is begun.

Flat fee billing is more value-based, says Sadek, and it alleviates the pressure to rush through a job. It can ease clients' minds as well, affording them the ability to know just what to expect and not encounter any surprises. "There are very few businesses where you don't know the price going in," she says.

Sadek is planning to offer classes for entrepreneurs, leading workshops on topics such as social media and crowdsourcing. And while a lot of what she does is teach--or fill in the gaps, as she puts it--Sadek says that she has learned a lot from her clients as well. She has learned what it means to be a small business owner herself. Small legal practices are small businesses, after all, and need to act accordingly. Marketing, branding, risk-taking, and the ability to "run lean" have all been lessons learned while running Sadek Legal.

Sadek anticipates her practice to keep growing and may take a partner in the future.

Source: Tifani Sadek, owner of Sadek Legal
Writer: MJ Galbraith

Mike's Kabob Grille to open downtown in February

Downtown dining options continue to increase in Detroit as Mike's Kabob Grille, a restaurant featuring authentic Lebanese fare, will open come mid-February. Mike Abdallah, son and collaborator of the restaurant's owner, says that they are currently prepping a first floor space in Bedrock Real Estate's Chrysler House. As they pull the proper permits for the restaurant, workers are painting walls and installing kitchen equipment and booths. Soon, Detroiters will be able to stop in for grape leaves and shawarma in the heart of downtown.

Food is the Abdallah family business. Mike's father opened his own Lebanese restaurant in Metro Detroit in the 1990s. Mike started working as soon as he could. "I've been working in a restaurant since I was 12 years old," he says. "That's 13 years of my life." That experience has paid off for Mike, a Wayne State graduate.

An Abdallah-run catering company was providing food to workers at Title Source in Troy. When Title Source started moving jobs to downtown Detroit in 2012, the catering company followed. That's when things really started going well. Mike says that the enthusiasm for the dishes was so high that customers started asking them to open a permanent location. After searching a bit, the Abdallahs found the Chrysler House space. Mike calls the whole experience a blessing.

One of Mike's main goals is to provide downtown workers a more healthy place to eat, he says, as he extolls the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. He emphasizes keeping the food fresh and lean. He's excited, too, to prove himself with a hands-on role and continue the legacy of his family's business. 

The Abdallahs plan on hiring at least 12 workers for the downtown location.

Source: Mike Abdallah of Mike's Kabob Grille
Writer: MJ Galbraith

How pedicabs can fill gaps in public transportation

A new pedicab company is getting ready to launch in Detroit. Pedicabs, or rickshaws, are bicycle-powered taxis. Gabby Bryant is currently prepping her pedicab company, Reddicabs, for a summer launch.

The company is in the midst of a crowdfunding campaign that ends Jan. 20. Venture for America helped Reddicabs launch the campaign. In a contest with other Venture for America Fellows, Reddicabs stands to win an additional $10,000 if they raise the most money. Gabby says $10,000 is enough to buy three pedicabs and provide drivers the training necessary for operating the taxi service.

Reddicabs plans to separate itself from the city's other pedicab companies by being more visible in the community and offering more continuous and predictable services. Gabby is working to establish a series of hubs outside hotels, restaurants, and bars to build a more reliable system of pedicabs. In doing so, she says that pedicabs will fill in the gaps that buses and standard taxis can't--or won't.

The idea of Reddicabs originally began as a service that would deliver people from parking lots to events, such as a Tigers game or a concert at the Music Hall. But the more Gabby thought on the state of public transportation in Detroit, the more the service grew.

"Detroit is so interesting because we don't use different types of transportation," she says. "We're just now becoming more of a bike city. Public transportation is kind of foreign to a lot of people and those that do use it aren't the biggest fans of it. We have to gauge the different options for public transportation."

Gabby is partnering with Thrive Detroit to train individuals to be able to rent and run the taxis. She also credits the people at Green Garage in helping craft a strategy for the system of pedicabs.

Source: Gabby Bryant, owner of Reddicabs
Writer: MJ Galbraith

The 2013 year in development news

It was a big year for development news in Detroit, no doubt. While major news - like every time Dan Gilbert announced that he bought another building - hit news outlets like Crain's Detroit Business and Detroit Free Press almost instantaneously, at Model D we tended to focus more on small business stories. And you, dear readers, seemed to enjoy those the most, because numbers don't lie. (Except scales and birth certificates. Those lie.) So, for our final issue of the year and the final issue with Development News Editor Nicole Rupersburg at the helm, we're taking a moment to reflect on the year that was 2013. Here are our top stories from this year.

Starting Jan. 7, Model D will welcome a new Development News Editor, Michael (MJ) Galbraith. We look forward to seeing how he makes this news section his own in the coming year, and wish Nicole all the best in her future endeavors (and hope her voice will still occasionally be heard on Model D, even if not on a weekly basis).

(1) Top of the Pontch, Jefferson House, Urban Cellars opening in the Crowne Plaza Hotel Pontchartrain
You loved restaurant news this year, and there sure was a lot of restaurant news to love. Almost every major opening received major clicks (including Whole Foods Midtown, Two James Spirits, and Detroit Institute of Bagels), it was the stories that Model D was able to cover first that got the most attention - including MotorCity Wine's move to Corktown (#9), a new Indian restaurant in Midtown (#11), Always Brewing Detroit going permanent in Grandmont-Rosedale (#15), and a new sandwich shop called Rubbed coming to Corktown (#19). 

(2) Security Trust Lofts, downtown Detroit's newest housing development, ready to start leasing
Most major construction, renovation, and historic preservation projects in Detroit are met with a PR parade. This one was not.  It happened quietly, with hardly a whisper. Model D was the first to cover it.

(3) SkyBar and Lounge now open on 33rd floor, previous ground floor space being renovated and expanded
Booze news. Always a winner. 

(4) More Palmer Park apts set to come online in Feb, April
Previous Development News Editor Jon Zemke got the scoop on this one and got people talking about Kathy Makino-Leipsitz, co-owner of Shelborne Development, the developer that is heading up the renovation of the apartment buildings in Palmer Park and well as much of the redevelopment in Jefferson Chalmers

(5) Pie-Sci to open own pizzeria next to Woodbridge Pub
Another food story! We got the intel on Pie-Sci's soon-to-be permanent location (it just so happens to be attached to Woodbridge Pub, home of their weekly pop-up). Detroiters have spoken, and they want more pizza.

Restaurateur Maurice Wiggins to open The Addison, Restaurant 55 next spring

Maurice Wiggins, CEO of International Hospitality Group, has plans to open two new restaurants early next year.
The first is located inside the former location of Atlas Global Bistro at 3111 Woodward, and is called The Addison. The Addison is an upscale restaurant that will be open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily (though will likely open with just lunch and dinner to start) and happy hour Mondays through Fridays. Breakfast will include items like eggs benedict with crabmeat, while lunch and dinner menus will have steaks and seafood with vegetarian options for each meal. Renovation work is currently underway inside the space. Wiggins plans on opening this in March and hiring 20-25 people.
The second is located near the Renaissance Center and is called Restaurant 55. One half of the building will be a full-service fine dining restaurant and the other half will be a lounge with more shareable plates and appetizers, though both menus will be available on both sides. The space is undergoing a complete renovation down to the studs and is expected to open late spring. Wiggins is looking to hire 30-35 people for this concept, and wants to hire as many Detroiters for both concepts as he can and be an active part in Detroit's economic recovery.
Both restaurants will have price points ranging $9-15 per item.
Wiggins was one of the opening partners of Hudson Café but has since sold out his share in that business. He was also behind the now-shuttered Ah!More International Café in Ford Field.
Source: Sherrie Handrinos, representing International Hospitality Group
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

2013 SAFE Grants awarded

Michigan Community Resources recently completed the fourth installment of their Security Alternative Funding and Empowerment (SAFE) mini grant initiative. Launched in 2011, SAFE provides mini grant funding to community-based organizations for the purpose of conducting neighborhood beautification activities designed to enhance community safety.
“MCR’s mini-grant program has become an important tool to increase quality of life in the neighborhoods," says Jill Ferrari, CEO of Michigan Community Resources. "They show a little bit can do so much to help improve a community and that everyone has a role they can play. MCR is very happy to help community organizations make their goals a reality.”
SAFE mini grants range in amounts between $1,000 and $5,000 and are available to community-based organizations that have a 501c3 nonprofit status and an operating budget of at least $2,000 during the previous fiscal year.
This year, MCR received applications from 32 organizations and awarded $50,000 to 16 organizations in the Central Woodward/Northend and Southwest neighborhoods. Recipients are as follows:
- Sages & Sprouts
- New Electric Vision
- Springdale Block Club
- New Horizons CDC
- Clark Park
- Vanguard CDC
- Women's Empowerment Center
- Stafford House
- Cameron ST Block Club
- Greater Woodward CDC
- Motor City Youth All Stars
- NE Neighborhood Patrol
- NE Neighbors Block Club
Award decisions were made by MCR’s external review committee, which is comprised of representatives from a number of community-focused nonprofits throughout Detroit as well as in the respective target areas.
Source: Jill Ferrari, CEO of Michigan Community Resources
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

Restaurant round-up: what just opened and what's coming next

We love to write about food, and you love to read about it. So, since 2013 is closing with a flurry of food-related activity, more than we've even had the chance to cover, here's a quick look at places that have recently opened and places that are coming up next.

The Grille Midtown at 3919 Woodward is now open for lunch and dinner, part of the Woodward Garden Block development project that has been completed in phases over the last decade. The menu is solidly "new American," with red meat and seafood getting prime billing. 

Thomas Magee's Sporting House Whiskey Bar is now open in the Eastern Market district and the locals already love it. Michigan craft beer and artisan spirits elevate this above just another sports bar, and the cozy wood-paneled interior helps. Feel free to give this place a short nickname, though. Tommy Magee's, perhaps? That's got a nice ring.

Delite Cafe is now open in Hamtramck, serving coffee from Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company and deli sandwiches made with Boar's Head meats in a handsome space with limited but comfortable dine-in seating. They also serve soups, salads, smoothies, ice cream, a full menu of espresso beverages, and halal meats for the area's significant Muslim population. 

Alley Taco will open inside the extensively renovated Marcus Market in Midtown late January. Until them, you can catch them Tuesdays at Great Lakes Coffee Midtown. 

Frontera in Eastern Market is soooooooooo close. Maybe spring 2014? They're hosting pop-up dinners in the meantime, giving eager diners a chance to see inside the space that some are already hailing as the best-looking restaurant in Detroit. 
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