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Station Walls, a new mural project from Grand River Creative Corridor founder, covers 2000-foot wall

Derek Weaver, founder of the Grand River Creative Corridor public mural project, is behind a new street art project in Corktown.
 
Called "Station Walls," the project is located at the corner of Vernor and Newark behind Michigan Central Station on a 2,000-foot-long wall that local business owners claim hasn't been repainted in the past 30 years.
 
"We're taking the Grand River Creative Corridor concept and doing a project in Corktown behind the train station," says Weaver. Though he says that it will not be as elaborate at the GRCC, he jokes that "it will probably end up evolving into something more because it always does!"
 
27 local street artists donated their time to paint murals along the massive wall. The wall is owned by the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, which granted Weaver and his team permission to paint the murals. Supplies for the murals were purchased with private donations. Local business Arrow Chemical Products, which has been in business since 1933, contributed some money and also commissioned the group to paint a mural on their building as well.
 
Participating muralists include well-known local artists FEL 3000ft, TEAD, and Sintex. The mix of murals ranges from fine art to straight graffiti, from professionals to "vandals." "We tried to incorporate everybody," Weaver says.
 
Source: Derek Weaver, founder of Grand River Creative Corridor
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

Got a Development News story to share? Email Nicole here.

TechTown receives $800,000 federal grant to bring SWOT City to three new Detroit neighborhoods

TechTown's SWOT City has received an $800,000 federal grant to expand the economic development program into three new neighborhoods: Grandmont Rosedale, East Jefferson Corridor, and Osborn.
 
"When I read the email (last week) I had tears in my eyes," says Leslie Smith, President and CEO of TechTown. "What a huge boost of confidence and energy this has injected into TechTown!"
 
As we've previously reported, SWOT City places new businesses to fill community voids and promote entrepreneurship, connects neighborhood businesses with key resources and provides personal coaching and information sessions to address a business's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT).
 
The grant itself came from an unlikely source: the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for Community Economics. While there are many grant programs available to technology clusters and business incubators like TechTown, they are extremely competitive. This three-year grant comes from a different federal agency, one not focused on economic development so much as on poverty elimination.
 
Smith says that SWOT City's goals of economic development and community stabilization combined with its education programs is all part of poverty elimination and submitted a "provocative" proposal spinning it thus. TechTown applied for the grant late in the summer and was awarded it last Monday.
 
The grant will allow for a full-scale engagement in the three target neighborhoods. They will first start by creating a plan for the neighborhoods that combines all the elements of TechTown and its partners to stabilize the area's economy, then the next three years will be spent fully engaged in delivering the resources to make it happen.
 
This is the first federal grant that TechTown has ever received.
 
Source: Leslie Smith, President and CEO of TechTown
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

Got a Development News story to share? Email Nicole here.

Tour nationally-recognized historic renovations in Palmer Park this Saturday

Palmer Park continues to undergo major renovation work and receive national recognition thanks to the efforts of Shelborne Development and Malino Construction.
 
Model D has previously reported on the revitalization work being done in this neighborhood. Kathy Makino-Leipsitz, co-owner of Malino Construction and Shelborne Development along with her husband Mark Leipsitz, owns 13 buildings in the area. She is leading the development of the historic apartment buildings in Palmer Park that comprise one of the most uniquely varied and densely concentrated mixes of 20th century architecture styles in the state, spanning more than four decades of Art Deco.
 
Last month Shelborne Development was honored during the Novogradac Journal of Tax Credits conference with the "2013 Historic Tax Credit Development that Best Demonstrates Financial Innovation" award for Palmer Park Square, a $35 million affordable housing development. Makino-Leipsitz, in conjunction with the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA), City of Detroit and Great Lakes Capital Fund, assembled a complex financial package from seven different funding sources to rehabilitate six historically significant, blighted/vacant apartment buildings in Palmer Park that were added to the National Register of Historic Places.
 
Shelborne just completed the renovation work on the Seville Apartments at 750 Whitmore. Previously 40 efficiency units, the interior was gutted to reconfigure the space into 16 larger units. The grand two-story lobby was also restored. They are also currently renovating the Palmer Lodge, the first building built in Palmer Park in 1925. Work is ongoing, but the grand lobby is complete. "The whole building is the symbol of revitalization in the area," says Sarah James, board chair of the People for Palmer Park, a nonprofit organization that focuses on the revitalization of the nearly 300-acre park.
 
Every year the People for Palmer Park hosts an architectural tour of the historic buildings in the area, showcasing the nationally-significant apartment district as well as the park. She says the park and the apartment buildings next to it have a symbiotic relationship, and the health of one directly affects the other. The nonprofit started this tour three years ago to showcase the apartment district as well as the park. This year's tours will be held on Saturday, October 5 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
 
This is the third annual architectural tour and they have been hugely popular, attracting 200 people the first year, 400 the second year, and an expected 600 this year. Because of the significant amount of housing stock in the area, this year's tour will focus on different buildings than last year's. This year's tour includes the newly-completed Seville Apartments, the lobby of the Palmer Lodge, and the Sarasota Apartments at 325 Merton, which were completed by Shelborne in the last year. The tour will also take guests through a 3,000-square-foot unit inside the Albert Kahn-designed apartment building Walbri Court at 1001 Covington, renovated and converted to condos in 2006. The park and its 1800s log cabin will be open for visitors to explore before or after their tours.
 
People for Palmer Park will also offer free Segway tours of the park trails to anyone with a tour ticket, and there will be music, classic cars, and FoodLab vendors.
 
Tours are $15 in advance and $20 at the door with tours leaving every 15 minutes from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
 
Source: Sarah James, board chair of the People for Palmer Park
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

Got a Development News story to share? Email Nicole here.

Zipcar increased Detroit fleet to 40 cars, will open permanent office

After a successful pilot run downtown, Zipcar has expanded its car-sharing services to include New Center, Woodbridge, and more locations downtown in addition to significantly increasing the available fleet.
 
Zipcar launched in Detroit through a partnership with Wayne State in 2011. Then, just this August, they worked with Rock Ventures to make two additional cars available downtown for a pilot run downtown, bringing them up to 10 cars total.
 
With their latest expansion, just made official last week, Zipcar has added 30 more cars to the available fleet, bringing the total up to 40 in the city of Detroit. It also added multiple Zipcar locations in New Center, Midtown, Woodbridge, and several more downtown and in Greektown. See all of the available cars, rental rates, and locations here.
 
With this expansion in the Detroit market, Zipcar will also establish a permanent office in the city. Once a permanent location is secured, three full-time employees – a market manager, fleet manager, and member services manager – will work out of the office, and additional positions will likely become available for brand ambassadors and other roles as the company continues to grow in this market. Detroit is the 25th market globally where Zipcar will have a full-time office presence (this includes all of its offices in the U.S., Canada, Spain, Austria, and the U.K. combined).
 
Zipcar's Detroit presence is sponsored by Ford Motor Company. The majority of the cars in the Detroit fleet are from Ford, thanks to a relationship formed in 2011 when Ford became Zipcar's largest university partner.
 
The new cars and locations are already online and available to rent.
 
Source: Jennifer Matthews, Public Relations Specialist with Zipcar
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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Chickpea in the D now serving fresh, healthy lunches downtown

Downtown workers and residents who often find themselves frustrated at the lack of healthy food options in the city have another place to go for lunch.
 
Chickpea in the D officially opened for business Sept. 10 at 2 John R, the tiny 60-square-foot space that was previously a hot dog stand and before that, the very same place where Good Girls Go to Paris Crepes got its successful start.
 
Chickpea in the D offers fresh, healthy food at a reasonable price. Its theme is hummus, and they offer four different kinds of hummus made fresh in-house daily. Flavors include the standard original, extra garlic and green olive, plus the "hummus of the day" and "hummus of the week." Recent special flavors included banana bread, roasted portabella, buffalo, and pickle. It offers a variety of dippers with the hummus, like pita bread, tortilla chips, pretzel rods and veggies.
 
In addition to hummus they also serve healthful smoothies made with ingredients like carrot, kale, agave nectar, whey protein and flaxseed. They also have a small selection of sandwiches including a sandwich of the week and items like chicken salad and Mediterranean "nachos" (made with hummus and feta). Everything is house-made with ingredients purchased from local markets daily. All items are $5 and under, and they offer a lunch combo for $7. "This is a place you can go to get something that's healthy and tasty that's not going to break your wallet," says co-owner David Ayyash.
 
Chickpea in the D is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays. It is carryout only. Soon they will also offer catering.
 
Source: Chickpea in the D co-owner David Ayyash
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

Got a Development News story to share? Email Nicole here.

ROSSETTI all moved into Federal Reserve building, overseeing all renovations

ROSSETTI – the architecture firm behind the Quicken renovation of "The Qube," the Greektown Casino Hotel, the Wayne State University Welcome Center, and numerous other high-profile projects throughout the state and country – has officially moved its headquarters into a new office downtown.
 
As the first non-Bedrock tenant of the Rock Ventures-owned historic Federal Reserve Building at 160 W. Fort Street, ROSSETTI is handling all of the renovation work currently being done to the 176,000-square-foot building, which has sat empty since 2004. They have completely cleared out of their Southfield office and have moved all 60 employees into their 13,000-square-foot space on the fourth floor of the building, which is nearly completed.
 
"It made a lot of sense for us to be downtown," says Denise Drach, Director of Business Development and Marketing for ROSSETTI. "We are doing masterplanning (for Detroit, including) streetscapes and concepts for retail…we are intimately involved in the design of the urban environment so it made sense for us to be in it. We didn't want to do just an office in the city; we wanted to make the entire commitment."
 
Bedrock currently has offices in the basement of the building. Once renovation work is complete, the first floor will have retail and the remaining floors will be leased as office space. According to Drach, these spaces will be "relatively unfitted," left to the new tenants to personalize. 
 
All renovation work on the 1927 building (with a Minoru Yamasaki glass and marble annex added in 1951) is being done under the guidelines of the Detroit Historic District Commission. Changes to the exterior so far have been relatively unobtrusive: they have replaced the windows, removed the bulletproof airlock in the front, and also removed a large overhang not original to the building.
 
Inside they completely gutted the fourth floor to make it more in keeping with contemporary office space sensibilities. "Offices of the past had a different work approach than what we're working in now," Drach says. "Particularly for architecture, design doesn't happen as individuals. It's really a team effort, so to be in a team environment is critical." Their floorplan is basically a big open loft-style room with lots of lounge areas. "Having a 'third place' is becoming a big trend in offices, so we have a lot of little spaces with living room furniture."
 
The space looks like a studio loft with 14-foot-high ceiling and windows across three walls. The fourth floor also has a 2,700-square-foot patio deck that looks out at the Penobscot Building and all the way to the Detroit River.
 
In addition to finishing their fourth floor offices, which will also be the new home of Lawrence Technological University's  experimental design lab detroitSHOP (which will take 3,000 square feet), ROSSETTI has been focused on finishing the lobby, adding planters to the exterior, and cleaning up the first floor and mezzanine.
 
ROSSETTI is celebrating the move with an open house on Oct. 2 from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m.
 
Source: Denise Drach, Director of Business Development and Marketing for ROSSETTI
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

Got a Development News story to share? Email Nicole here.

Grand Circus all moved into the Broderick, starting classes this week

Grand Circus, the start-up that offers tech training, events, and co-working space for up to 49 entrepreneurs, has now officially moved into its new home inside the Broderick Tower.
 
Previously housed inside the Madison Building during what Grand Circus CEO and co-founder Damien Rocchi refers to as an "incubation" period, the Broderick is the company's permanent home with three floors of activity located on the lower levels of the building.
 
The 15,000-square-foot space includes one level of classrooms that opens into an event space, a second level of only classrooms, and a third level that is a co-working space. The three floors of the facility feature floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook Comerica Park, Grand Circus Park, and the Fox Theatre.
 
Grand Circus was able to manage the development and design of the space themselves, working with Neumann/Smith Architecture (the firm behind the design of the Madison) and Patrick Thompson Design, which has received a lot of buzz for the design of the DIA's new Cultural Living Room. Green Garage tenant Chad Dickinson – Detroit-based builder, developer and designer – made all the furniture. "We wanted to have a lot of Detroit influence in the space," says Rocchi.
 
Grand Circus's classes are held in three main formats: in-depth classes that mirror the format of a three-credit course over a college semester, workshops held over a few days, and seminars that last a few hours. Most classes will have 20-30 students. The first workshop starts on Sept. 25 and everything else starts in October. The community space is already being used for events.
 
Grand Circus's partners include Detroit Labs, Detroit Venture Partners, Downtown Detroit Partnership, Invest Detroit, Opportunity Detroit, Venture for America, and Automation Alley. Automation Alley will also be opening its fourth office (its first in Wayne County) inside the Madison in the space vacated by Grand Circus. 

Source: Grand Circus CEO and co-founder Damien Rocchi
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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Detroit Vegan Soul celebrates grand opening in West Village this Saturday

2012 Hatch Detroit finalists Detroit Vegan Soul will celebrate a grand opening in its new space in West Village at 8029 Agnes St. this Saturday, Sept. 28.
 
After starting out with a vegan meal delivery and catering service, Kirtsen Ussery and Erika Boyd realized that there is a real demand for homemade vegan comfort food in Detroit. Both vegan themselves, they started veganizing their family recipes and found that people really loved it.

"We were inspired by other vegan soul food restaurants, particularly in Chicago," says Ussery. "We saw that there weren't enough vegan options in Detroit. We wanted to do something that appealed to both vegans and vegetarians but also people who aren't."
 
Their niche is vegan soul food – comfort food for a plant-based lifestyle. Vegan Soul is the only 100 percent plant-based restaurant in the city of Detroit. "The meal delivery allowed us to see how people would respond to that," Ussery says. "It's one thing to have a couple of dishes on your menu but another for it to be the whole menu. We got a great response and saw Detroiters are ready for this."
 
After decades of being on every "fattest cities" and "unhealthiest cities" list, Detroiters are making proactive decisions to lead healthier lifestyles. We see this in the fast-growing cycling culture. We see this in the local foods and urban agriculture movement. And now we're seeing it with a growing number of people adopting more organic and plant-based diets. "We think now is the time," says Ussery. "More and more people are embracing this. They want healthier options. We always say there's a burgeoning vegan movement here in Detroit, just like Chicago. At one time (Chicago) was a meat and potatoes industrial city just like Detroit. Now you go there and there are many different kinds of all-vegan restaurants. Now we're kind of at the forefront (of it) here in Detroit."   
 
Co-owner Boyd says, "(D.V.S. is) both unapologetically vegan AND unapologetically soul food. We do soul food but veganize it. We see our food as being a good transition food into a plant-based diet, introduced in a way that is familiar and comfortable."
 
They pride themselves on being a place that appeals to vegans, vegetarians, and those who eat meat alike, where people know they are eating quality food made from quality ingredients – no refined flours or sugars, no GMO products, and as much organic and locally-sourced as possible. This is a place where vegans can come for comfort food and where meat-eaters can come and discover that a vegan diet, even just a couple of days a week, is totally possible.
 
The 25-seat dining room will be open Wednesdays through Saturdays 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sundays 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. They still offer catering and the café will be available for private events Mondays and Tuesdays.
 
Source: Kirsten Ussery and Erika Boyd, owners of Detroit Vegan Soul
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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Bamboo Detroit co-working space on Brush Street open for entrepreneurs and monthly events

With an ever-growing influx of small one- and two-person businesses, freelance and contract workers, and satellite office workers, there is an ever-growing demand for small offices and co-working spaces. Bamboo Detroit, which opened in July, has been building its roster of small businesses and freelancers looking for a space to set up shop in a community environment that isn't a coffeehouse.
 
Bamboo Detroit, at 1442 Brush Street, is a co-working space for entrepreneurs, freelancers, and small teams, providing office space and conference rooms for people to work efficiently. "Entrepreneurial team and tech (startups) are growing in Detroit and people need places to work," says Bamboo Detroit co-founder Dave Anderson, who is also the co-founder of the health app Health-Crunch. "Coffee shops aren't always conducive (to work); also for some people (permanent office space) just isn't working out or is too expensive." At Bamboo Detroit entrepreneurs and freelancers are able to work among like-minded people and share resources to create a community – and get outside of coffee houses.
 
Co-founded by Anderson, Mike Ferlito of Ferlito Construction, and Brian Davis, co-founder of mobile app Friendect, Bamboo is already becoming a creative entrepreneurial hub, hosting the Detroit branch of the monthly 50 Founders event series inspired by Chris Dixon's Founders Stories series in TechCrunch. Previous events have featured Brian Wong, creator of Kiip, and Kevin Krease and Garret Koehler, founders of Action Sports Detroit, the team behind the X Games Detroit Bid and the new annual event Assemble Detroit.
 
The building, owned by Ferlito's family for the last 14 years, had been empty for the last 10. Once the three founders had the idea, it only took them about two months to get up and running. The building has previously housed a German print shop and later and architecture firm.
 
Bamboo Detroit already has 17 companies signed up, which includes a good mix of software and web development companies, bloggers, app developers and social entrepreneurs including Health Detroit, Michipreneur, Hell Yeah Detroit, and Detroit's latest media darling Super Business Girl (featured on NBC). 

Monthly memberships start at $99 and include office desks, conference rooms, space for community events, Wi-Fi, mail services, and 24/7 access to the building. Anderson says it is "set up like a gym membership" and people come and go as they please. "What I'm hearing a lot from members now is that it feels like a strong community and family," Anderson says. "People love being there." Learn more and apply here.
 
Source: Bamboo Detroit co-founder Dave Anderson
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

Got a Development News story to share? Email Nicole here.

Land, Inc. launches "Green T" project, converting vacant lots to biofuel production on East Side

Over the next two years, Detroit's first green thoroughfare will take shape along the Mack Avenue corridor between Conner Avenue and Chalmers.
 
The "Green T" development project overseen by Land, Inc. will convert this corridor into a green byway in an attempt to repurpose vacant commercial land as part of the Lower Eastside Action Plan in accordance with the Detroit Future City adaptive reuse vision for blighted, vacant properties.

Green T is meant to accommodate all forms of traffic – bus, bike, car, and pedestrian – while also providing the community with more aesthetic green spaces that produce alternative forms of energy while also reducing the burden on city services.
 
Currently there are about 80 publicly-owned lots (of 111 total) along the corridor. The Green T plan includes razing vacant structures and planting fields of pennycress on the unused lots, which will then be converted into biofuel. The pennycress was selected as the ideal crop for the area because it is very low-growing, has the highest yield per acre, the highest turnover into fuel from the oil, is non-invasive, isn't appealing to animals as a food source, and also remediates the soul – a very important factor in order to get this land prepared for future redevelopment. Right now this land can't be used for food crops (or other potential developments like children's playgrounds or even other commercial development) because there is some contamination. The pennycress will take care of that, and revenue from biofuel production will also go towards maintenance and further corridor improvements.
 
Metro Ag, a global agency with an office in Detroit, will partner with Land, Inc. on the biofuel production. Land, Inc. has received $50,000 from Bank of America as well as several in-kind donations to develop the first phase of the project in a one-block area of Mack between Lakeview and Coplin. Construction on this demonstration block is already underway.
 
The total cost for the full project is estimated at $2 million. The 350-acre project will take about two years to complete. The full plan includes the demolition of 15 abandoned and unsafe buildings, way-finding signage to direct visitors to vibrant shopping areas located to the east and west, public art, a complete streets treatment, innovative green infrastructure installations like bioswales and infiltration basins for storm water runoff, and alternative energy created through the cultivation of pennycress.

Land, Inc. Executive Director Jacqueline Bejma hopes one day to be able to power the nine remaining businesses located on this corridor with biofuel produced by the pennycress. "There's so much opportunity here that will benefit the whole area. It's fun. It's exciting," she says.
 
Source: Land, Inc. Executive Director Jacqueline Bejma
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

Got a Development News story to share? Email Nicole here.

Link Detroit celebrates groundbreaking of five-phase cycling and greenway infrastructure project

The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, in partnership with the US Department of Transportation, State of Michigan, City of Detroit Department of Public Works, DEGC, Eastern Market Corporation, Midtown, Inc., and the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, will celebrate the groundbreaking of the five-phase Link Detroit greenway infrastructure project next Tuesday, Sept. 24 at 6 p.m. in Eastern Market's Lot 1 (adjacent to Shed 2).
 
"This goes back a few years," says Tom Woiwode, director of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan's GreenWays Initiative. He says that when the Dequindre Cut opened in 2009, it was always intended to run further north than where it currently ends at Gratiot. When the first portion of the Midtown Loop opened in 2010, it was intended to go further south and connect to Eastern Market. Link Detroit is the fulfillment of those intentions.
 
The full $25 million scope of this project is fully-funded, thanks in large part to a $10 million TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant in addition to support from the Community Foundation and other partners (see above).
 
There are five phases to this project, and most are able to operate on independent construction schedules simultaneously. Though the "ground-breaking" celebration is next Tuesday, the event is mostly ceremonial. Woiwode says they hope to already have bulldozers at work by then.
 
The five phases include extending the Dequindre Cut north from Gratiot to Mack, rebuilding five bridges over the Dequindre Cut's extension (with funding from the Critical Bridge Fund), extending the trail system and providing some infrastructure improvements and amenities in Eastern Market along Wilkins and Russell St., connecting Wilkins to the Midtown Loop which will be extended south along John R, and the construction of bike lanes and greenways along Dequindre Rd. north of Mack connecting the Dequindre Cut to Hamtramck. Ultimately Link Detroit will connect Midtown and Wayne State to Eastern Market to the Dequindre Cut to both Hamtramck and the Detroit River.
 
They hope to have construction of all five phases completed by this time next year.
 
Source: Tom Woiwode, director of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan's GreenWays Initiative
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

Got a Development News story to share? Email Nicole here.

Two James Spirits, Detroit's first licensed distillery in nearly 100 years, now distributing

After months of excited buzz, Two James Spirits in Corktown is now open for business.
 
Mostly.
 
The production facility and tasting room, at 2445 Michigan Avenue, has been under renovation since last July. Earlier this month, Two James started distributing its 28 Island Vodka, named for the 28 islands on the Detroit River that were used as hideouts by bootleggers during Prohibition, to bars, restaurants, and liquor stores in metro Detroit and Ann Arbor. Soon their Old Cockney Gin and Grass Widow bourbon will also be available, and they have more bourbons and whiskeys currently aging in barrels for future release.
 
Two James is the first licensed distillery in Detroit since before Prohibition. Partners Peter Bailey, David Landrum, and Andrew Mohr are part of the growing craft distilling movement that is taking off all over the country, in many ways ushered in by the growth of the craft beer industry as well as craft cocktail culture. The brand, named after Bailey's and Landrum's fathers (both named James), pays homage to Detroit's distilling heritage with products like the 28 Island Vodka and the Grass Widow, a brand of whiskey made in Detroit before Prohibition which they are now resurrecting.
 
The stylish tasting room features a massive solid concrete circular bar, reclaimed wood, and custom metalwork. During its "soft opening," the Two James tasting room is open limited evening hours Thursdays through Saturdays with a small list of cocktails that will eventually be expanded. Customers can also buy Two James products directly from the tasting room. Pricing is as follows:
 
28 Island Vodka: $31.99
Grass Widow: $44.99
Old Cockney Gin: $33.99
 
They plan on a production of 2,500-5,000 cases in their first year and will expand from there. Distribution will start in Michigan then expand out into the Midwest and East Coast. Two James products can be found in Detroit at Slows, Roast, and the Sugar House. They will celebrate a grand opening in the next month. 
 
Source: Andrew Mohr, partner in Two James Spirits
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

Got a Development News story to share? Email Nicole here.

U-Haul Moving and Storage of New Center now open, celebrating with VIP ribbon-cutting & public tours

After over a year of renovation work, U-Haul Moving and Storage of New Center, in the 250,000 square foot building at 899 West Baltimore Street built by Nabisco Biscuit Company in 1920, is now open for business.
 
The extensive renovation work is far from complete. The building, which includes six floors plus a basement, is only being partially occupied by U-Haul.

"We just built out two floors of storage," says Stuart Shoen, executive vice president of U-Haul International. "We still have a lot to build out. We're not sure what the demand will be for storage at this New Center site. We see all kinds of residential and economic activity (in the area); we have no idea if (this) will explode or trickle."
 
The building is a full-service U-Haul site, offering everything from rental trucks and trailers to hitch installation, U-Box moving pods, self-storage, and a host of moving and organization supplies and services. All operations are up and running. There are 430 climate-controlled self-storage units for rent, ranging in size from 5x5 to 10x20 with 24/7 access.
 
Regarding the future of the building, Shoen says that right now they are in "wait and see" mode.

"The space is so big there might one day be a demand for that whole thing to be storage, but right now we want to use the building however the community wants it. We don't know if that will mean mixed use or community space, we even talked about doing movie screenings. But we haven't had people in the building (until now). Now those conversations can finally start."
 
Other options in discussions include a loft development and incubator space to serve as a TechTown center or temporary office space. U-Haul representatives have been in discussions with Sue Mosey regarding use of the extra space. "We want to utilize the building," Shoen says. "It doesn't do us any good to just have two and half floors open. We don't want to just sit on it." He says that they company wants to be an active part of the community and also wants to be good neighbors.
 
U-Haul is celebrating the grand opening of this New Center building with a special VIP red carpet ribbon-cutting ceremony this Thursday. Community tours will be offered to the public 6-8 p.m. after the ribbon-cutting. 
 
Source: Stuart Shoen, executive vice president of U-Haul International
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

Got a Development News story to share? Email Nicole here.

The Dissertation, an artists' collaborative and micro art-based business, heads to ArtPrize

Catherine Watson and Sabra Morman are the team behind "The Dissertation." It's difficult to define what exactly the Dissertation is – even when it was explained to you by one of the founders. But here goes.
 
The Dissertation is a blog. It is an arts portfolio. It is an online store. It is an art project that can be found this year at ArtPrize in Grand Rapids (Sept. 18-Oct. 6). It was even going to be a brick and mortar teashop, but Watson and Morman ultimately decided against it.

"We wanted to have a physical space to connect with like-minded others and we started studying holistic lifestyles and tea," says Watson. "But we're holding off on that because we're not really sure how financially stable it would be."
 
Ultimately the Dissertation is potentially a DIY arts career in the making. "Initially we just wanted a creative expression outlet to figure out what we want to do," says Watson, who previously worked at an ad agency. "It morphed together and we pursued everything. We use it as a teaching tool for ourselves…and to figure out different ways to bring in different streams of revenue. We really want to make a living doing this." 
 
To clarify, "this" is art and the Dissertation is an artists' portfolio. "We started off by creating a portfolio of artwork. We wanted to use that to shed light and highlight the struggles of our generation. The goal was to use the blog as motivation, a tool for positive growth capturing the entrepreneurial spirit of the city."
 
At ArtPrize, the Dissertation has a mixed-media installation piece on display. (You can vote for the Dissertation here starting Sept. 18.) After ArtPrize, their focus is on how to turn their portfolio into a profitable business. They are already working with fashion designers to put their designs on T-shirts to sell in stores, in addition to selling art prints through their Etsy site.
 
Both Watson and Morman still work part time jobs as they continue to define and grow the Dissertation, but their DIY efforts at transforming a hobby and personal passion into a portfolio and profitable business by starting on a micro level, as opposed to rushing into a big brick-and-mortar investment, is an interesting cultural experiment if nothing else. Can it work? It's probably too soon to tell, but if it's going to work anywhere, it will be in Detroit.

Source: Catherine Watson, co-founder of the Dissertation
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

Got a Development News story to share? Email Nicole here.

Development news round-up

The $300 renovation of COBO Center continues to spur on major investment nearby in hospitality and tourism development. A historic firehouse located across from COBO, built in 1929, has been sold for $1.25 million to local developer Walter Cohen, owner of 21 Century Holdings LLC, who plans to turn the property into a 75-80-room boutique hotel. The total estimated cost of this project is $23 million. 

Meanwhile, established hotels are upping their game to meet increased demand as well as increased competition in the marketplace. The Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center plans a $30 million renovation to begin early 2014 that will impact all of the hotel's 1,329 guest rooms and 100,000 square feet of meeting space. 

Developers behind the Tushiyah United Hebrew School, located at 600 and 609 E. Kirby St. in Midtown, have received a $1 million state loan to renovate the historic building into 25 market-rate lofts with gated parking. The project, operating under the name 609 E. Kirby Lofts LLC., has also received a 12-year Obsolete Property Rehabilitation Act abatement from the city valued at about $300,000. The completed project will cost about $6.6 million. 

VernDale Products Inc. also received a grant from the Michigan Business Development Program, this one worth $436,000, to open a second facility for their dried milk powder manufacturing. The company will renovate a long-vacant building at 18940 Weaver St. on Detroit's west side. VernDale is also receiving a 12-year plant rehabilitation tax abatement from the city worth about $3.3 million. This expansion will cost about $16 million and create 13 new jobs. 

The former Crain's Detroit Business buildings at 1400 and 1432 Woodbridge St. and 1370 Franklin St. near Chene Park have been sold to ME Enterprise LLC, a Birmingham-based partnership between T.J. Elia and Clint Mansour, who plan on spending about $3 million to renovate and re-lease the office buildings. 

In un-development news, though certainly significant given the city's overwhelming number of vacant, blighted buildings, the city of Detroit has received $52.2 million out of $100 million in newly allocated federal funds to tear down blighted structures.

Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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