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Pure Detroit featured in AmEx national campaign, launches Detroit Small Business Passport

If you haven't already, you might soon see a familiar brand featured in a national American Express Small Business Saturday/Shop Small campaign. Our very own Pure Detroit is one of five small businesses from across the country featured in a series of Shop Small videos from American Express. The campaign launched Nov. 4 and will run through the rest of the month.
 
The two-minute video highlights the three Pure Detroit shops and their employees, loyal customers, and the variety of cultural programming they host.
 
In this video Pure Detroit, which celebrates 15 years in business this year, announces the launch of their Detroit Small Business Passport, which encourages customers to shop at all of the other independent retailers throughout the city by receiving "Shop Small" stamps when they make a purchase at each of the 18-plus participating locations, unlocking various discounts and freebies. Passports are now available for pickup at each of Pure Detroit's locations in the Renaissance Center, Guardian Building, and Fisher Building and will be active and valid through Jan. 31, 2014.
 
Particpating passport retailers include Pure Detroit, Vera Jane, Stella Good Coffee, HUMAN, RUNdetroit, Cass Corridog, Nest, City Bird, Detroit Hardware, Source Booksellers, Emily’s Fashion Place, Todd’s Facets & Jewelry, Detroit Athletic Co., Workshop, Hugh, Nora, Detroit Gallery of Contemporary Crafts, and the Rowland Cafe. Each business is offering at least 10 percent off your purchase (terms vary per store).
 
Source: Ryan Hooper, Creative Director for Pure Detroit
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg 

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


Anytime Fitness to open downtown Jan. 1, now selling memberships

Downtown Detroit will soon have its own premiere 24/7 fitness facility at 735 Griswold, and memberships are available now.
 
Mike Ferlito of Ferlito Construction, also a partner in Bamboo Detroit, recognized the need for Detroit to have a 24/7 fitness facility with all of the influx of business professionals and people moving downtown. Though there are private membership-based gyms like the YMCA and DAC, there are currently no traditional membership-based, 24/7, in-and-out type gyms. So Ferlito reached out to Anytime Fitness and has licensed the concept for both downtown and Midtown.
 
The downtown location will feature 5,000 square feet of equipment space. They will also have personal trainers on hand, and are currently looking to hire four to six trainers as well as a full-time manager. Interested parties can email here.
 
They just started selling memberships last Friday and are currently running a special for the first 100 people who sign up, who will receive half-off their down payment and be charged only $32 per month. You must sign up for your membership in person 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Sign-ups are in the same building, 735 Griswold, one door north of the soon-to-be Anytime Fitness entrance. Also, if you successfully refer a friend, you will receive one month of membership for free. Membership to the downtown gym also includes 24/7 access to the 2,200 Anytime Fitness locations worldwide.
 
The space is currently under construction, but they plan on a Jan. 1 opening date – just in time for those New Year's resolutions.
 
Source: Mike Ferlito, The Ferlito Group
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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Detroit Achievement Academy is a new kind of charter school in Grandmont Rosedale

Kyle Smitley, founder and executive director of the new Detroit Achievement Academy at 15000 Southfield in Grandmont-Rosedale, describes herself as "aggressively ADHD." At the age of 24 she was a full-time law school student in California while also running a multi-million-dollar organic children's clothing line. She was named among Inc. Magazine's "30 Under 30" in 2009. She has had dinner with President Obama. And now she's running a charter school in Detroit.
 
She recalls that dinner in D.C. surrounded by other rich young entrepreneurs where they all sat around talking about how they were going to make their next million. This triggered something inside her.
 
"(I remember thinking) if this is the best we (successful young entrepreneurs) have to give the country is f-ed," she says. (She speaks rather colorfully. And isn't afraid of being honest.) Her company gave some money to a charter school in Chicago and she had the opportunity to meet "all these wonderful, bright, charming kids." Looking at Detroit Public Schools, she says, "This is insane. You can do better for your kids." And this was the beginning of Detroit Achievement Academy.
 
Detroit Achievement Academy is a free public charter school that uses the rich cultural history of Detroit for project-based learning. Located inside an old church that had lost about half of its congregation in recent years, Smitley plans on staying in this location for about three years until they are able to secure government funding to build new.

"There are no buildings being occupied with room to lease that don’t need to be gutted and brought to code," she says, a sentiment increasingly being echoed by eager entrepreneurs and community leaders looking for space in Detroit. "Any school in a big, beautiful, abandoned building would need three-quarters of a million dollars sunk into gutting the building, putting in sprinklers, and bringing it up to code. That's just not in the budget for 40 kids. I've been watching other charters not open because they couldn't find a building."
 
She was fortunate to find the space in Grandmont-Rosedale. Detroit Achievement Academy has launched with four kindergarten and first grade-level classes and one arts class. Next year the Academy will have second grade for the students already enrolled and the Academy will continue to grow with its student population up to fifth grade.

"We're starting small and growing upwards," Smitley says. Referring to older students going through the DPS system, Smitley says, "These kids don't know how to be in school any other way. We can't snap our fingers into K through 5 and unbrainwash them."
 
Nearby schools in the surrounding neighborhoods are among the poorest performing in the state, with 50 kids in every classroom and violence in the parking lots. For Smitley, it was important to open by putting the kids first, regardless of how many were enrolled. She aimed to open with 100 kids but instead got 40. "…and it's been wonderful. I'm not an evil capitalist. (We're) not part of a management company with a bottom line where we have to have (a certain number of) kids."
 
She admits that it is a challenge to open a charter school in the city and convince parents to send their kids there, especially since some charter schools have reputations as poor as DPS. But for the parents who took a chance on Detroit Achievement Academy, Smitley says they are "thrilled." The Academy receives state funding and the school is free. To find out more about the school and enrollment, visit their website here.
 
Source: Kyle Smitley, founder and Executive Director of Detroit Achievement Academy
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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Eastern Market is a prime example of urban placemaking according to MIT

A study conducted by the Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP) at MIT that was just released last week that explores the evolution of the urban planning and design of public places toward placemaking, evaluating high-profile placemaking projects throughout the country including Detroit's Eastern Market.
 
Researchers looked at the market before and after the public-private partnership of the Eastern Market Corporation was established in 2006 to handle the district's operations. Since then, monumental change has occurred in the historic market district, as noted in the report:
 
"Since EMC took over the market’s management, two major facilities have been revitalized for more than $8 million, and another $8 million worth of renovations are underway on a new plant and flower center, Community Commercial Kitchen (available for rent to food-related entrepreneurs), and a new public plaza. By 2016, more than $80 million will have been invested. Plans include a mixed-use shed, streetscape projects, a greenway, a parking facility, and alternative energy projects. Additionally the EMC has created far-reaching food-access programs, a series of food-business incubator programs, a new Tuesday market and 'after hours' markets, and is planning a Sunday market featuring artisanal merchants. Part of the stakeholders’ vision is to use the success of the market to revitalize the entire area while retaining its authenticity, grit, and productive industrial uses."
 
Researchers further delved into the types of products sold at the market and spoke with EMC President Dan Carmody about the future of the market as it continues to grow and expand, reaching wider and wider audiences and growing to international prominence for the very same efforts outlined in this report. As the market brings in more specialty food producers that appeal to a wealthier and/or trendier clientele, EMC leadership is constantly mindful of keeping the market a place that appeals to a broad audience; a place where, yes, people have access to those local artisan food producers that get featured in national lifestyle publications, but also a place where everyone in the community has access to fresh, healthy, affordable food. They want to ensure the market continues to have this hip appeal while still retaining its authenticity.

As stated in the report:
 
"Perhaps the greatest ongoing challenge is how to get the right balance between gentrification and revitalization. Dan Carmody says, 'EMC is actively avoiding becoming too "cool,"' and decisions have been made to clean up the market but not make it 'too pretty;' limit the number of specialty foods vendors; and make sure residential zoning is kept to the outskirts of the district.' With every weekly market and event, EMC works to rebuild Detroiters' faith in community, revitalize a struggling district, increase food access, bring suburbanites back to the city, and help bridge socioeconomic and racial divides."

Read the full paper here.

Source: MIT Urban Planning: Project Placemaking
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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

Kraemer Design Group wraps up work on M@dison Block, moves on to Woodward

Detroit-based Kraemer Design Group has completed historic designation consulting, architectural and interior design projects at two properties on the recently re-christened "M@dison Block" at 1520 and 1528 Woodward Avenue. Both buildings are owned by Bedrock Real Estate.
 
The two early-20th-century buildings were not previously part of a historic district. Previously owned by the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, when Bedrock took them over the state historic tax credit was still available so there was a "mad dash" to get these buildings designated as historic properties, which Kraemer assisted with.
 
According to Bob Kraemer, founder and Principal of KDG, both buildings were heavily renovated in the 1950s and 1960s and little of the original buildings' original exterior or interior design elements still remained. In their renovations, KDG restored the mid-century renovations.
 
1520 Woodward Avenue, the former Lane Bryant Building built in 1909, is now comprised mostly of office space with as-yet-unoccupied retail space on the first floor and basement. KDG worked with the fifth and sixth floor tenant Detroit Labs on interior design to create an open workspace that juxtaposes the old structural wood framing and exposed brick with new, finished interior design elements. There are no other tenants currently in the building.
 
1528 Woodward Avenue, a 45,146-square-foot, six-story building, was built in 1916. It now exudes a midcentury appeal from its renovation in 1960 when it became the headquarters for the United Foundation. The second floor contains conference room spaces and a lounge/event space, and KDG restored and updated its décor in a style that complements the remaining 60s-era components.

"It had a real modern look to it so we restored that," Kraemer says. "It has a real (mid-century) ad man feel to it." KDG created clean, bright, modern elements within each of the tenant spaces that allow future tenants flexibility in customizing their space. The office floors of the building are now fully occupied, with Sachse Construction in the top two floors, and Bizdom and a Bedrock co-working space on the third and fourth floors. Retail space is still available on the ground floor.
 
Kraemer says he is seeing increasingly more activity in Capitol Park as development along the Woodward Corridor slows in anticipation of M-1 Rail construction. The next big renovation project for KDG is the 1201-1217 Woodward block, once again for Bedrock.
 
Source: Bob Kraemer, founder and Principal of KDG
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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

Storey Commons pops up in Jefferson Chalmers as a result of cross community collaboration

The Jefferson-Chalmers neighborhood saw some success with activating vacant storefronts earlier this year during their June on Jefferson pop-ups. Local developers Shelborne Development renovated several vacant buildings, then the Jefferson East Business Association (JEBA) in partnership with the American Institute of Architects Urban Priorities Committee activated them with several lifestyle pop-up concepts to attract people from outside the neighborhood to the area and also to serve the people in the neighborhood.
 
Now JEBA is introducing the Storey Commons, a new pop-up storefront in one of the previous pop-up locations that will serve as a community library of books.

"In my time here at JEBA, in speaking with folks from the community, I found people are really looking for the types of amenities that make their community more liveable," says Ritchie Harrison, Economic Development and Policy Director at JEBA. They want places like sit-down cafés and bookstores where they can connect with other members of the community.
 
Storey Commons is a place where people can bring a book or borrow a book. Made to look like a bookstore, the space was designed by architect Mike Styczynski and his team at Midwest Design, who had worked on the original pop-up spaces over the summer. Books were donated by a cohort of community residents in Jefferson-Chalmers and Grosse Pointe Park during the inaugural meeting of AlterGather, a new community organization gathering residents of the East Riverfront neighborhoods to have conversations about how the community divide can be bridged. The first-ever meeting was held at Coffee and (______), a coffeeshop and bakery located next to Storey Commons. Peter Ruffner, owner Detroit-based publishing company OmniGraphics, also provided substantial book donations.

"We got more books than I expected," Harrison says. "So many folks came out to give books that love the idea, the concept and what it could mean for community development."
 
On the other side of Storey Commons is another new pop-up, the Jeff Chalmers Pop-Up Gallery, curated by local artist Halima Cassells featuring artwork from area residents. Harrison says that the whole project is made possible by the generosity of Shelborne Development, which owns the properties and has allow JEBA to use the spaces for the pop-ups.  
 
These pop-up projects are a cross-community collaboration made successful only by the number of separate groups involved with and supporting them, from the developer to area economic development organizations to nearby residents.

"It's all about helping to rebuild the community," Harrison says. "My hope is that this encourages the possibilities in the neighborhood for the vacant commercial storefronts we have and encourages revitalization and the opportunity for someone to see this and want to bring this type of business to the community (permanently)."
 
There is no official end date for the Storey Commons pop-up, but the space is available for a permanent tenant.
 
Source: Ritchie Harrison, Economic Development and Policy Director at Jefferson East Business Association
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

Detroit City Distillery receives approval from the city, aims at spring 2014 opening

After a five-month-long process requiring two public hearings, Detroit City Distillery has been approved as a distillery by the City of Detroit.
 
Detroit City Distillery is a partnership between seven young professionals who are also long-time homebrewers and distillers. At the center of it is distiller J.P. Jerome, a Ph.D. in microbiology, and Michael Forsyth, manager of retail development for the DEGC and director of the REVOLVE Detroit program. The distillery will be in a 2,700 square foot space at 2462 Riopelle St. in Eastern Market, a former slaughterhouse.
 
"It has been a long time in the making," says Forsyth. "As the microbrewing industry took off our thinking evolved to getting into the craft distilling market, (and making) spirits in Detroit again."
 
The spirits industry was once second only to the auto industry in Detroit, but the industry dried up during Prohibition. Like the recently-opened Two James in Corktown, Detroit City Distillery will pay homage to the city's distilling history, as well as being inspired by their own personal history with Detroit.
 
"Everything aligns in the market for a distillery," Forsyth says "It is the center of distribution. Jerome's grandfather used to be a butcher in Eastern Market. The Market is all about local food in one place, and all the market's customers want better, fresher, locally-produced food. Those are our customers."
 
The partners behind Detroit City Distillery value working with local farmers and using all organic, locally-grown grains, and are even growing their own rye on Forsyth's family farm. They have already received federal approval and are still in the process of receiving approval from the state. Buildout of the space will begin in November and they are currently working on their packaging and labels. They plan on opening next spring. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for updates. 

Source: Michael Forsyth, co-owner of Detroit City Distillery
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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

Busted in Detroit opening in Park Shelton in time for holidays

After gaining a sizable following as a semifinalist in this year's Hatch Detroit competition, Busted in Detroit has officially announced that they will open in a permanent location inside the Park Shelton in time for the holidays.
 
Construction has already started on the 1,300 square foot space, formerly a hair salon, in the back of the building. Co-owner Lee Padgett, who owns the business along with her husband Patrick, says she is knee-deep in making her first orders and making sure they have a good variety of sizes, styles, and colors when they open. As we have previously reported in Model D, Busted will be a full service bra boutique providing bras in sizes from 30A to 56K, with cup sizes up to an N. Their bra selection will include categories of everyday, sports, nursing, fashion, strapless, bustier, bralets, and T-shirt bras. They will also have lingerie, bra accessories (dimmers), cleaners, panties, and smoothing foundations.
 
Even though they didn't win the Hatch competition, the exposure and support they received from it was enough to get them off the ground. Since then an investor has come on board and Padgett has also been talking with other independent undergarment storeowners across the country for advice and guidance.
 
Some of the specialty lingerie lines that Busted will carry include Curvy Couture, Goddess, Elomi, Fantasy, and Freya. Busted will open with more everyday items (and possibly some sexier items) and will expand their selection to include activewear, maternity items, and more down the line. These different designers all specialize in different kinds of lingerie for different body types, from full-figured women to those with tiny frames who need larger cups and other non-traditional sizes. Whatever Busted doesn't immediately stock can also be special-ordered.
 
Padgett says the Park Shelton management has been wonderful to work with. She also says fellow Park Shelton retail tenants the Peacock Room, Emerald, Goods, Fourteen East, and even CARE Chiropractic have been very supportive.
 
The store will have a play area for kids so they can be entertained while moms shop, and it will also display artwork on the walls from local artists – a bit of a throwback to Padgett's days as owner of Café de Troit downtown, which was known for showing works by local artists and making huge efforts to support the local arts scene. Slaw will be the first artist to show at the store.
 
Padgett hopes to have their grand opening in conjunction with Noel Night on Dec. 7.
 
Source: Lee Padgett, co-owner of Busted in Detroit
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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

Spielhaus Toys popping up as part of D:hive's PILOT program through the holidays

2013 Hatch Detroit semifinalist Spielhaus Toys will pop up as part of D:hive's PILOT program starting Tuesday, Oct. 22 through Dec. 24 in downtown Detroit.
 
As we have previously reported, PILOT tenants receive two months rent-free in the 375-square-foot space inside the D:hive space on Woodward. Kurt Spieles, owner of Spielhaus Toys, is confident that there is a market for retail stores aimed at children in Detroit and looks forward to proving it during this pop-up run.
 
The store will stock a variety of toys, games, and books for kids, and will also have a reading corner for storytimes and an area for coloring, crafts, and a place to play with the store's toys and games. It won't just be a store but a place for parents to bring their kids to play.
 
Spielhaus Toys focuses on unique, high-quality products. Spieles says they're looking for items made in the U.S., companies that are environmentally-friendly, and also local companies and designers. "We can't overlap with the big box stores because we can't compete," he says. They will also stock items from big manufacturers that focus on specialty independent stores.
 
They will stock wooden toys from the classic German toymaker HABA Toys as well as wooden toys from Treehopper in Illinois, a family-owned toy company that makes everything by hand in their woodworking shop. They'll also have board games and riding toys for toddlers, single-player logic games, unique stuffed animals and puppets, a wooden rocking horse, and a small selection of children's books. "We're trying to cover it all," he says.
 
Spielhaus Toys will be open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays until Dec. 24. Spieles hopes to open a permanent location soon after this but for now is focused on making the pop-up a success.
 
Source: Kurt Spieles, owner of Spielhaus Toys
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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

Late October Development News round-up

Dan Gilbert's Bedrock Real Estate Services has purchased another two downtown buildings, adding 84,000 square feet to the company's already swollen downtown commercial real estate portfolio. The new acquisitions are the eight-story 1505 Woodward, built in 1931 and designed by Albert Kahn, and the six-floor 1265 Griswold, built in 1897. According to a press release from Bedrock, this latest purchase brings Bedrock's portfolio up to nearly 8 million square feet of commercial and parking space over more than 40 properties in downtown Detroit. Rumors abound that Gilbert is also looking at the historic National Theatre on Monroe for a new residential development that will partially demolish the theatre. 

The Shanghai-based DDI group is the new owner of the 38-story David Stott Building at 1150 Griswold (purchased for $9.4 million and besting Dan Gilbert, the other bidder on the property) and the Albert Kahn-designed Free Press building at 321 W. Lafayette (purchased for $4.2 million). The group plans a $40-50 million redevelopment of the Free Press building and may add residential units to the Stott in the future

A press release from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation says that a $1 million Community Revitalization Program performance-based grant has been awarded to Harbortown Riverside, LLC and Harbortown Riverside Financing, Inc. to construct a 164,620-square-foot, five-story riverfront residential apartment building within the existing Harbortown complex on approximately 4.6 acres of land on the Detroit River. The residential apartment building will include 134 rental units, with a mix of one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom apartments. All units will offer views of the river. The project is expected to cost nearly $20 million.

A press release from Midtown Inc. announced that a fund of $30 million designed to spur development along the Woodward Corridor is now accepting applications and will award loans in the amount of $500,000 to $5 million. This fund is backed by NCB Capital Impact and Kresge Foundation, among others. It will allow residential developers to take advantage of long-term, fixed-rate loans for mixed-income projects that feature a commercial component.

The NSO Bell Building celebrates completion of its $52 million renovation with a ribbon-cutting ceremony this Wednesday. 

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

Greening of Detroit will plant over 1,525 trees this fall

The Greening of Detroit will plant more than 1,525 trees throughout the city before Thanksgiving. According to Greening, a healthy tree canopy should be about 40 percent. Detroit currently has a tree canopy of 22.5 percent. Greening will work in collaboration with neighborhood groups and corporate partners, including Quicken Loans, to help restore the tree canopy in Detroit neighborhoods during its fall 2013 tree planting schedule.
 
"We plant trees in the spring and fall, but we really like to highlight the fall planting season even though it's not the one people think about all the time because it gives the trees a chance to establish roots before the growing season," says Greening of Detroit President Rebecca Salminen Witt.
 
Trees add economic value to an area. Trees raise the home values of residential areas while in commercial districts people tend to shop more on a forested street. Greening also strategically plans their plantings to prevent stormwater runoff so Detroit's sewer systems aren't overwhelmed with sewage ending up in the Detroit River. Trees planted on the West Side means the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department can avoid replacing a $1.2 billion system.

"Using plant materials to suck up storm water really adds an economic value to the city," Witt says. "It also saves the city money in getting water out and also on water treatment. It will literally save the city billions of dollars."
 
The nonprofit uses about 40 different species of trees selected to be resistant to aggressive insect infestations and diseases like the ash bore and Dutch elm disease, both of which have had devastating effects on the tree canopy. They are using the Detroit Future City framework as a "playbook" to that to decide what projects to pursue in what areas in a given season.  
 
Every Saturday through November 16, The Greening of Detroit, with their own army of volunteers as well as volunteers from corporate and neighborhood partners, will plant hundreds of trees each week in different Detroit neighborhoods. Upcoming locations are as follows:
 
Oct. 19Pierson and Braile streets
Oct. 26Rouge Park
Nov. 2Southfield Plymouth E. streets
Nov. 9 – Southfield Plymouth W. streets
Nov. 9 – Ilene Express
Nov. 16 – Lafayette Boulevard
Nov. 16 – Patton Park                                      
 
They started in late September with 450 trees in Rouge Park, where they plan on planting a total of 1,600 trees over the next 18 months in partnership with U-Haul and The Conservation Fund.

Anyone interested in volunteering with the Greening of Detroit can sign up online here (click on "Get Involved") or call 313-237-8733. 
 
Source: Greening of Detroit President Rebecca Salminen Witt
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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Focus: HOPE receives $50,000 grant for HOPE Village Initiative

Focus: HOPE has received a $50,000 grant from Bank of America to support a wide range of community revitalization efforts coordinated through the organization's HOPE Village Initiative.
 
HOPE Village is a community change initiative with the goal of having 100 percent of the residents educated, economically self-sufficient, and living in a safe and supportive environment by the year 2031.
 
Right now there are over 5,000 people living in the neighborhood where Focus: HOPE's campus is on Oakman Boulevard. Almost half are considered poor, two-thirds of the children are impoverished, and about half of the adults are not working.

"There's a lot of need," says Kathy Moran, communication manager for Focus: HOPE. "There are a lot of opportunities for helping people get a good education, get a good job and help rebuild the neighborhood."
 
The grant will support a number of programs Focus: HOPE has for planning in that direction, including the Job Seeker's Boot Camp, an employment and entrepreneurial training program, other on-campus employment training opportunities, training supporting pregnancy and childbirth, initiatives to combat blight and focus on safety, placemaking strategies, housing revitalization strategies, community connectedness and engagement, and more.
 
The neighborhood has recently shown some signs of life. The Neighborhood Service Organization took over the Bell Building (which they will officially celebrate with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Oct. 23), Lutheran Child and Family Services has an apartment for homeless families and youth aging out of foster care, and the Presbyterian Church has housing for very low income senior citizens. Focus: HOPE is working with community organizations, churches, and neighborhood residents to best address the needs of the neighborhood. They have also received support from United Way.
 
Source: Kathy Moran, communication manager for Focus: HOPE
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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Urban Land Institute unveils recommendations to SDBA for 6.9-acre Vernor Square

Last week the Urban Land Institute (ULI) unveiled its formal recommendations for a city-owned 6.9-acre site on W. Vernor in the middle of the Vernor Commercial District currently overseen by the Southwest Detroit Business Association (SDBA).
 
Eight renowned ULI experts analyzed the vacant property, formerly the Detroit Public Works property at W. Vernor Highway and Livernois. They conducted over 60 interviews with local community and business leaders as well as Detroit city stakeholders and government officials, transit officials from organizations like SEMCOG, and economic development authorities in Detroit and neighboring Dearborn (which abuts the site) to shape their recommendations on what the greater community feels it needs.
 
Currently the old DPW property is the midway point between the east and west ends of the commercial district, in effect separating them instead of joining them. The plan that the ULI panel unveiled on Oct. 7 will act as a commercial district connector and a hub for business growth in Southwest Detroit. "It really does create quite a blighted influence in the neighborhood and in the commercial district," says Kathy Wendler, SBDA president. "We feel it’s a great opportunity to create an anchor and connect these commercial districts."
 
The panel proposed a project named "Vernor Square," built around a central plaza area that would include public gathering spaces, a variety of major retailers, and also space for artisan businesses that are very prominent in Southwest Detroit including ornamental ironworkers, potters, and ceramic mosaic makers.
 
"We absolutely want to start this process," Wendler says. "The panel tested the market so we know there is a demand on both fronts." Now the SDBA will focus on addressing the issues of site remediation and number-crunching to make it work.
 
"This is a great location smack dab in the middle of the neighborhood on the commercial corridor which gets huge traffic," Wendler says. The site also borders Livernois with easy access to both I-75 and I-94. "The location is critical to its success."
 
Though the city still owns the property, the SDBA has a hold on the site through October 2014 and hope that they will be able to leverage ULI's site proposal to work with the city on the redevelopment of the site, especially as the city determines how to dispose of surplus property such as this.
 
Source: Kathy Wendler, SBDA president
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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Bravo Graphix now open on the Avenue of Fashion

Bravo Graphix has a brand-new state-of-the-art studio on the Avenue of Fashion.
 
The full-service multicultural advertising, creative marketing, design and print agency completely renovated the 1,700-square-foot space at 19434 Livernois Ave. with an open floor plan and bright colors to capture the vibe of the agency, and also added a photography studio for fashion and beauty clients.
 
The agency offers everything from postcard design and printing to billboards, offering everything it takes to start, grow, and maintain a business. Founded by Faren Young, Priest Price and Donald Hand, Bravo Graphix had been located on the upper West Side, at Huntington and 7 Mile Rd., since 2007. The decision was made to move to the Avenue of Fashion after hearing so much about the growth and revitalization of the area from customers. This location is also more centrally located for clients from all over the city and east and west suburbs.
 
With the move they were also able to add five new positions, hiring two designers, two photographers, and a secretary.
 
Source: Faren Young, Priest Price and Donald Hand, owners of Bravo Graphix
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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Detroit Bus Co's Eight & Sand in Hamtramck will be an entertainment complex and business incubator

The Detroit Bus Company has officially made the move to Detroit after purchasing a 90,000-square-foot building at 3901 Christopher St. in Hamtramck that they are calling Eight & Sand, a term used in the 19th century to wish a steam locomotive conductors safe travels.
 
"The methodology around here, to borrow from Daniel Burnham, is make no small plans," says Andy Didorosi, founder and president of Detroit Bus Company. And 90,000 square feet of space certainly isn't small.
 
Eight & Sand will be used as a sort of business incubator meets entertainment complex. The industrial building was built in 1920 by the Gear Grinding Company and was turned over into a constant-velocity joints production facility in 1940. Cranes and other heavy machinery still remain from its days as a factory, and they're leaving it that way for the certain "ambiance" it gives to the place.
 
While there is still PLENTY of space to lease out, Eight & Sand already has several tenants. First is the Detroit Bus Company, which should go without saying. All DBC operations have been moved inside, including the vehicle fleet. "I always thought DBC needed to be in Detroit," Didorosi says. "Hamtramck is close enough! (It's) perfect; it's right in the middle of everything. We'll be successful here."  
 
He also says that the building, along with its five acres of parking, was affordable and they are able to provide affordable space to tenants because of it. "We can cut through the red tape when renting space to people because it's ours." He wants the Eight & Sand businesses to be able to "get things done and hire the sh*t out of people," instead of wasting time and money dealing with corporate bureaucracy. "Immediately available space is pretty finite. Here we are going to make it easy." He jokes that if you wanted to open an industrial-scale bike manufacturing facility, you could do it tomorrow.
 
Eight & Sand is perfect for small businesses looking for big spaces. Pot & Box, a semifinalist in the 2011 Hatch Detroit competition, will have a 4,000-square-foot event space inside (the Corktown retail storefront is still planned). Fowling Warehouse will be the anchor tenant, occupying 40,000 square feet in the center of the building complete with a full bar and concert stage (with hopes of drawing in some big-name talent). Fowling Warehouse is nearly doubling its space from its previous location at 17501 Van Dyke St. (which the business moved out of earlier this year) and will have 30 lanes of "fowling" – football plus bowling. 
 
Eight & Sand also houses a processing and storage space for Reclaim Detroit and is providing free space to Sit On It Detroit, a completely DIY effort to build and install benches for bus stops. Didorosi says they will provide free space for one tenant at a time that needs some help starting up. There is no limit on the amount of time the business can occupy the space. Didorosi says of Charles Molnar, founder of Sit On It Detroit, "Once he's big fish he'll move out (to somewhere bigger) and we'll give the space to someone else." Both of these tenants came with the building and are staying.
 
Eight & Sand will also have seven bays for food trucks to come and dock that come with power hookups, a wash bay, and an on-site commissary kitchen. Didorosi's long-term plan is to enable these trucks to vend indoors so they can continue running their businesses in the winter, which is a real challenge for mobile food vendors.
 
Space is still available for tenants with needs for large and slightly less large spaces. "We've got pretty specific requirements for the kind of businesses we want. We want to foster growth in terms of businesses that are going to grow the city."
 
Source: Andy Didorosi, founder and president of Detroit Bus Company
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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