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Art Deco gem re-branded as the Block at Cass Park

100,000 square feet of office space has opened up in one of Albert Kahn's Art Deco masterpieces, the former S.S. Kresge World Headquarters at 2727 Second Ave. The building was most recently known as the Metropolitan Center for High Technology before being re-branded as the Block at Cass Park.

Under its new configuration, the 250,000 square foot building is putting an emphasis on office space and openness. The building is owned by Wayne State University and a partnership of private owners. Wayne State manages the space.

When Matteo Passalacqua was being interviewed for the leasing officer position he now holds, he suggested changing the name of the building. Ian Studders, WSU associate director of leasing and retail services, took him one further and suggested a complete re-branding. As WSU moved departments from the building at Cass Park to spaces closer to campus, Passalacqua and Studders had an opportunity to change the entire identity of 2727 Second. The Block at Cass Park is the result of that transformation.

Location plays a big part in the building's appeal. Situated across from Cass Park, the area is near the new hockey arena that will soon be built. Becoming more inclusive in that changing neighborhood is a focus, says Studders, as they plan on offering event space and conference rooms to community members.

"The focus is to not be an island," says Passalacqua. "We'll be helping with the park, landscaping, removing tagging, and picking up trash."

Detroit-based Patrick Thompson Design won the competitive bidding process to re-design the public components of the first floor in an attempt to make the space more inviting. The pricing is competitive too. Passalacqua says that rent is currently available below market rates.

The Block at Cass Park is also home to the co-working space An Office in Detroit.

Source: Matteo Passalacqua, leasing officer for the Block at Cass Park
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Wayne State University planning second phase of South University Village

Nothing stops Midtown. A request for proposals is currently open through the end of the month for development plans for a mixed-use project on Canfield between Cass and Woodward.
 
The RFP was issued by Wayne State University, which owns the land and is considering this site as phase two of its South University Village District (phase one was the Studio One apartments development with ground-floor retail, named "Development of the Year" for 2008 by Crain's Detroit Business).
 
"We want to add density and vibrancy to the neighborhood," says Ned Staebler, Vice President for Economic Development at Wayne State University. "Cass and Canfield is the epicenter of the residential community blooming in Midtown." With all of the retail stores, galleries and restaurants recently opened and scheduled to open in the immediate vicinity, Staebler says that this area is the right scale for walkability. "The next logical step is to add more to it."
 
With Midtown occupancy at 95 percent and developers circling around looking for parcels of land in the area, this location is a prime piece of land for new development, and also saves would-be developers the cost of acquisition.
 
While an open RFP seems like a non-traditional approach to such a potentially major development, Staebler believes it encourages more creativity. "We have done the RFP process in the past. For something like this where it's going to be very visible we think we'll get a better result if we open it up and let a lot of visions come forward from the private sector."
 
Though proposals are due at the end of May, it will be months still before we hear what is planned for the site as the selected developer acquires financing and the university goes through the process of getting a zoning change for the land Staebler hopes for a ground-breaking this fall with construction beginning in earnest next spring.
 
The development will include housing for young professionals, graduate students, faculty and staff, with ground floor retail, office and event space. "We're viewing this as a partnership (to) create a more exciting and vibrant neighborhood. We have a long-term plan for that area and this is part of it. This is us making another investment in Midtown. We're believers in its health and success."
 
WSU owns several more parcels of land and surface lots on Canfield and Willis. The masterplan calls for mixed-use developments on all these sites.
 
Source: Ned Staebler, Vice President for Economic Development at Wayne State University
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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

Restaurateur Tony Vulaj to open Midtown Zeff's and Tony V's Tavern in Midtown

Anton Vulaj, who goes by the nickname "Tony V," has two new restaurants opening in the coming months in Midtown.
 
Vulaj is no stranger to the Midtown restaurant market: he's been in the game for 14 years now as the owner of the Olympic Grill on Warren and Campus Diner on Cass, both just steps away from the Wayne State University campus. "I like the neighborhood," he says. "Clientele-wise I know I won't have a better clientele than I do with Wayne State University."

So when the old Alvin's building on Cass came up for sale, he didn't waste any time. Tony V's Tavern will open later this year (once they receive a liquor license) and will offer what Vulaj says is a "simple menu using good product … we're not going for high prices like some of the restaurants in the neighborhood." He promises high-quality food with low prices; items will range in price from $6-10 and, he says, "We're not going to have a $10 burger."
 
Tony V's Tavern will have a full bar and features a wood-fired brick oven. One of the highlights of the menu will be build-your-own pizzas and a pizza and salad lunch buffet. And, since Alvin's was known for live music and entertainment, Tony V's will continue to have live music every weekend. Tony V's will be open 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily. The kitchen will be open lunch, dinner, and late-night.
 
Vulaj is also a partner in the new Midtown Zeff's, along with Violet, Victoria, Lisa, and Anita Balurshaj, daughters of the original owner of Zeff's Coney Island in Eastern Market (who sold the restaurant several years ago). Midtown Zeff's will open in May serving breakfast and lunch, and will offer healthier options than a typical diner.
 
Source: Tony Vulaj, owner of Tony V's Tavern
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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

Historic steel water tower finds new home at the El Moore thanks to Green Garage

Did you happen to see that massive steel water tower tooling down Cass Avenue with police escorts last Thursday?
 
The water tower came from the top of the Dalgleish Cadillac building (built in 1927), which is part of a $93 million construction project for Wayne State University, the largest single investment in a project in WSU’s history (the building is part of a 200,000-square-foot biomedical research center).
 
Plans for the research center did not include the water tower, though several groups had interest and made serious efforts at trying to save it. "There are groups that want to think outside the box and think more sustainably about moving forward," says Green Garage representative Jason Peet. "Projects like this show that that can be done even with an institution as large as (WSU)."
 
Interested groups included U-Haul International (who are currently renovating the Nabisco building in New Center), Midtown Detroit Inc., and Wayne State University. Initially the desire was to keep this iconic piece of the neighborhood in Tech Town, but as all other attempts fell through, Midtown’s Green Garage was contacted in the last three weeks as a last shot for the old tower.
 
They had to partially disassemble the 25,000-pound solid steel structure to take it down and move it to the site of the El Moore, a four-story apartment building in Midtown constructed in 1898 and owned by Tom and Peggy Brennan of the Green Garage. Though they do plan on renovating the building, which will be a sort of "residential version of the Green Garage" where "sustainability will be highly important," formal plans and an official timeline are not yet known.
 
The old water tower now anchors a corner that was formerly an empty field and will be an architectural part of a planned greenspace that ties in with the Green Garage’s efforts of repurposing materials that would otherwise end up in a landfill and preserving pieces of the neighborhood and the history behind them.
 
Source: Jason Peet, Green Garage Detroit
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

Have a Development News story to share? Send Nicole an email here.

Partners open La Hookah Town and Grace of India Restaurant in Midtown

It wasn’t that long ago that Thistle Coffeehouse was flourishing on Second Ave. at Prentis. But now the space has been reborn with two brand-new businesses owned by partners Sal Sufyan and Abe Aswadi.
 
The first, La Hookah Town, officially opened in January. La Hookah Town offers an inexpensive "hangout spot" for Wayne State students with a variety of flavored tobaccos, free WiFi, free parking, a student study area, and televisions for watching sports (including pay-per-view boxing). It opens at noon daily and stays open until 2 a.m. or later.
 
While there are a number of hookah lounges in Dearborn and Dearborn Heights and a quietly growing hookah culture in Royal Oak, the city of Detroit previously had no hookah lounges of its own. Hookah lounges are increasingly popular study spots for students and social hubs for young adults under the age of 21 who can’t just go to a bar. They also appeal to the large population of Muslim students and young adults in the area who do not patronize liquor bars.
 
In addition to bringing a hookah lounge to the city, the partners are also bringing an Indian restaurant to an area that currently has none. They are opening Grace of India Restaurant next to La Hookah Town, a small restaurant that will serve authentic, affordable Indian cuisine for carry-out and delivery, specifically targeting students. They will have only three or four tables inside where people can wait for their carry-out orders.
 
Sufyan says that they noticed a need for Indian food in the area and are catering to that demand. They have hired a chef who specializes in Indian cuisine to oversee the kitchen. The interior has been totally remodeled and they hope to be open this month.
 
Source: Sal Sufyan, co-owner, La Hookah Town and Grace of India Restaurant
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

Have a Development News story to share? Send Nicole an email here.

CrossFit BMW offers intense training for professional athletes and students alike

Lately it seems that there's a new fitness center or yoga studio opening every week in Detroit. CrossFit BMW (which stands for "Benchmark Workouts"), on Cass between Charlotte and Peterboro in Midtown, is among the more recent openings. It offers something a little different than a traditional gym.
 
CrossFit is a national brand that achieves health and fitness through an interdisciplinary approach, incorporating weight-lifting, gymnastics, sprinting, rope-climbing, and other high-intensity exercises with an emphasis on cardio, strengthening, and conditioning. It's ideal for professional athletes and WSU students (and they get both).
 
Different elements are combined daily to create a unique "Workout of the Day" (WOD), and no two are ever the same. The result of the physically exerting hour-long WOD is similar to that of a one-hour session of personal training, only in a group class format and at a fraction of the cost.
 
"(CrossFit BMW) is membership-based and open to everyone," says owner Jarrod Bell. He started a CrossFit affiliate in metro Detroit six years ago and has wanted to open a gym in the city from the beginning. When the building on Cass (owned by Midtown developer Joel Landy) became available, Bell jumped at the opportunity. "As long as I’ve been (doing this) I’ve been eyeing that building."
 
In addition to the WODs, CrossFit BMW offers power-lifting classes and will be adding additional classes in the future, which will likely include gymnastics, yoga, kickboxing, and kids' CrossFit. Bell also hopes to put together an Olympic lifting team.
 
A monthly membership costs $185 and includes unlimited classes, personal training and fitness coaching. (Students, law enforcement, military personnel, firefighters, and teachers receive a discount.) "When you start talking personal training at the YMCA and L.A. Fitness, that’s just an admission fee," says Bell. "We offer personal training on a daily basis for that amount in a goal-based fitness gym and training studio."
 
Source: Jarrod Bell, owner of CrossFit BMW
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg
 
Have a Development News story to share? Send Nicole an email here.

M-1 Rail is going to happen this summer, bet on it

The journey of bringing a streetcar line back to Woodward Avenue in Detroit bears more resemblance to a roller coaster than a tram in recent years. But feel free to breathe a sigh of relief, Detroit. The train is about to pull into the station. Bet on it.

Friday's press conference announcing the final piece of funding needed for the M-1 Rail project, connecting Jefferson Avenue to Grand Boulevard, offered a lot of optimism and back slapping.

The U.S. Secretary of Transportation is giving $25 million in federal funds for the M-1 Rail and another $6 million to get the newly created regional transit authority off the ground. However, a few other key people in the audience of Friday's press conference were equally confident about the project.

M-1 Rail calls for creating a 3.4-mile-long streetcar line mostly along the outer lanes of Woodward Avenue. It will have 11 stops: at Congress Street, the northern tip of Campus Martius, the southern tip of Grand Circus Park, the Fox Theatre, Sibley Street, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Canfield Street, Warren Avenue, Ferry Street, the Amtrak train station in New Center and Grand Boulevard. More than $100 million for the project has been raised from private, philanthropic and government sources.

Matt Cullen, CEO of M-1 Rail, says the creation of the regional transit authority was the last major hurdle for giving the green light to the project. He expects the final engineering work and construction bidding to be done in the first half of this year. Construction will begin late this summer and take two years to complete.

Megan Owens, executive director of the transit-advocate non-profit Transportation Riders United, echoes Cullen's words and optimism. She adds that drills for the project will go into the ground before shovels. "They're going to start boring to find out of there is anything in the way in the ground," Owens says.

She adds that the $25 million is the last foreseeable major hurdle for the project. M-1 Rail has funding for both construction and operation for the next several years. It won't be impacted by the regional transit authority's efforts to establish a funding source. That means that even though M-1 Rail and the regional transit authority were joined at the hip to land the federal funding, they will independently establish themselves in the next few years. The plan is to bring the two back together when they become established.

"The hope is in 7-10 years the RTA (regional transit authority) will take over," Owens says.

Source: Matt Cullen, CEO of M-1 Rail and Megan Owens, executive director of Transportation Riders United
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Gilbert buys 10th building downtown, One Woodward

Rock Ventures purchased it's 10th building in downtown Detroit yesterday, picking up the iconic One Woodward at the corner Woodward and Jefferson avenues.

World famous architect Minoru Yamasaki designed the 26-story office building, which was built in 1962. Yamasaki's work includes the former World Trade Center towers in New York City. One Woodward is considered an early version of the World Trade Center, which was built in the early 1970s.

Rock Ventures is the real-estate arm of the Quicken Loans family of companies, which are controlled by Quicken Loans Founder and Chairman Dan Gilbert. The billionaire-owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers has bought and refurbished nine other buildings in downtown Detroit over the last few years, moving thousands of his employees into these office towers and helping spearhead the Central Business District's rebirth.

"The office space downtown is not abundant anymore," says Jim Ketai, managing partner of Bedrock Real Estate Services, the real-estate management company of the Quicken Loans family of companies that is overseeing the renovation of One Woodward. "We need more space."

One Woodward is 60 percent occupied with existing tenants. Ketai expects that number to hit the 90 percentile within the coming months as Bedrock Real Estate Services renovates the building and recruits new companies to fill it. Work began earlier this week and the first new tenants are expected to begin moving in within four weeks.

One Woodward is also an expansion of the footprint of Gilbert's cluster of downtown office towers. Gilbert has purchased buildings in the Lower Woodward corridor between Grand Circus Park and Campus Martius as part of an effort to turn that area into a hotbed for tech firms being branded as WebWard. That footprint now stretches south of Campus Martius to Jefferson, and more acquisitions are possible in the near future if the right opportunity presents itself.

Ketai says his team is looking for ways to better connect Gilbert's cluster of buildings with the nearby Riverwalk and Renaissance Center. "We would love to figure out how to bring everything together," Ketai says.

Source: Jim Ketai, managing partner of Bedrock Real Estate Services
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Construction begins on Wayne State's new Biomedical Research Building

Workers have broken ground on the project that will turn the former Dalgleish Cadillac car dealership into Wayne State University's new Multidisciplinary Biomedical Research Building.

The $93 million project is turning the longtime car dealership at Cass Avenue and Amsterdam Street into 200,000 square feet of research space geared toward life sciences. When the project is done it will become the home of 500 researchers and 68 principal investigators for the university.

While the project is Wayne State University's most expensive to date, it will be less expensive than building a brand new building from a vacant lot.

"That's the primary reason we're refurbishing Dalgleish," says Jim Sears, associate vice president for facilities management at Wayne State University. "It's nice not to start from scratch every time."

Wayne State University is going for LEED silver rating for the Multidisciplinary Biomedical Research Building. One of the green features will include replacing the car ramps with a 3-story atrium.

The Multidisciplinary Biomedical Research Building will have space for both wet and dry laboratories, faculty offices and common areas, as well as clinical space. Faculty members from across the university's School of Medicine, College of Engineering, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, School of Social Work, and Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences will conduct research at the facility. Ninety-three percent of the structure will be occupied by Wayne State University, with the remaining 7 percent housing partners from the Henry Ford Health System, including its bone and joint research program and biomechanics motion laboratory.

Researchers will work on a number of thematic areas, such as cardiovascular disease, metabolic disorders such as diabetes, hypertension & obesity, systems biology, biomedical engineering, bioinformatics and computational biology, and translational behavioral science.

Source: Jim Sears, associate vice president for facilities at Wayne State University
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Midtown's Sherbrooke Apts renovation lands key state funds

The Sherbrooke Apartments project in Midtown recently received a key piece of funding that will allow the renovation to continue to move forward.

The $2.4 million project recently received a nearly $600,000 Community Revitalization Program grant from the State of Michigan. The performance-based grant is the replacement for the historic tax credit program that was phased out when the state overhauled and simplified its business tax code. The City of Detroit is also expected to approved a 12-year tax abatement for the project worth $842,413.

"It (the Community Revitalization Program grant) is absolutely crucial," says Lis Knibbe, developer of the Sherwood Apartments project. "Without that subsidy, you can't do this. The numbers just don't work."

The Sherbrooke Apartments opened in 1913 geared toward providing larger, luxury units. It was later chopped into several smaller units before going vacant in recent years. Knibbe, who is also a principal at Quinn Evans Architects, and her partners began renovating the building at the corner of Second Avenue and West Hancock Street earlier this year.

Knibbe and her team are turning the apartment building into six 1-bedroom and eight 2-bedroom units with the potential of combining some of the 1- and 2-bedroom units into a large 3-bedroom apartment. The project will restore the original woodwork in the building, along with a number of smaller original details. It will add a geothermal heating system, restore the building's original windows and provide a balcony or private outdoor space for each unit that is above ground. Rents will range between $850 and $1,500 per month and the project looks to service students and professionals at the nearby Wayne State University. Work is expected to wrap up by the end of this year.

Source: Lis Knibbe, developer of the Sherwood Apartments
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Work begins on Sherbrooke Apartments renovation in Midtown

The Sherbrooke Apartments is coming full circle this year. The apartment building in Midtown started out as plush, luxury units nearly a century ago before being chopped up into smaller, cheaper units. It was vacant for a few years before a local developer began transforming the apartment building back into high-end units.

"It was originally an elegant building," says Lis Knibbe, a principal at Quinn Evans Architects and the developer of the Sherbrooke Apartments. "We want to bring back a little bit of that elegance."

The Sherbrooke Apartments opened in 1913 as six units at the corner of Second Avenue and West Hancock Street. They were designed for upper-middle-class tenants living only blocks away from the present Wayne State University. "Given the size and the quality of these units, they were definitely upper-middle-class units," Knibbe says. "All of these units had maid's rooms."

Knibbe and her team are turning the apartment building into six 1-bedroom and eight 2-bedroom units with the potential of combining some of the 1- and 2-bedroom units into a large 3-bedroom apartment. Rents will range between $850 and $1,500 per month.

The $3 million project will restore the original woodwork in the building, along with a number of smaller original details. It will add a geothermal heating system and provide a balcony or private outdoor space for each unit that is above ground. Work is expected to wrap up by the end of this year.

Source: Lis Knibbe, developer of the Sherbrooke Apartments
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Grants approved for energy-saving improvements

The Economic Development Corporation of the City of Detroit approved $648,000 in SmartBuildings Detroit matching grants to make energy-saving improvements. These improvements will take place at Cobo Arena, the Cobo parking garage, Wayne State University, Grand Trunk Pub and the Charles Condominiums.
 
This set of grants is expected to leverage $3.76 million in additional investments from the building owners or other sources, for a total of $4.4 million in energy-saving improvements.
 
"These grants show how we are working with both small businesses and large, anchor institutions to make substantial energy cost savings," said project manager Scott Veldhuis.
 
The $164,000 grant given to the Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority will pay for energy-saving improvements to Cobo arena and the Cobo parking garage. Upgrades include insulation, LED lighting and motion-detector controls, along with other items.
 
Wayne State University will make $1.39 million in energy-saving improvements to seven different buildings, replacing steam traps, installing controls to conserve water and updating heating and cooling systems. Grant funds are paying for $380,000 of the cost.
 
Owners of Grand Trunk Pub plan to use their $32,437 grant funds to pay for new LED light fixtures, replacement of AC units, a kitchen hood heat capture system, and improved insulation throughout two buildings. The total cost of improvements is estimated at $129,750.
 
The SmartBuildings Detroit Program uses a $10 million U.S. Department of Energy (US DOE) grant to encourage new energy-saving improvements for institutional, commercial and public buildings in downtown Detroit. Boundaries for the program include the Central Business District, Midtown, New Center, the Eastern Market, the East Jefferson Riverfront Corridor, all Detroit Works Demonstration Areas, Southwest Detroit, and sites of most of the city’s major health care and educational institutions.
 
Source: Bob Rossbach 
Writer: Leah Johnson 

New downtown hair market is uniquely natural

Two components helped Victoria Roby found The Natural Hair Market: love of Detroit, and love of her hair. The Natural Hair Market at 204 E. Grand River in Downtown Detroit sells all natural and organic hair and body products.
 
"Naturals have more fun," Roby, a natural herself, said. "And this store is like the African American version of Bath and Body Works."
 
Store products include soaps, bath soaks, shampoo, lip balm, candles and body butter made from organic and natural ingredients such as honey and coconut oil. Much like Madame CJ Walker, an African American hair care inventor and entrepreneur, Roby mixed together different ingredients such as shea butter, peppermint oil, beeswax and vitamin E oil to create the bath soak and lip balm that adorns the shelves at her store. Eventually Roby, 25, wants to blend products for customers on the spot, making just enough for their needs.
 
Roby holds a B.S. in marketing from Wayne State University and is pursuing a Masters in marketing from Walsh College. She is a loyal Detroiter and plans to open a second location in city and to hire local people to expand her business.
 
"I could have left Detroit after graduation, but, the best thing I’ve found in Detroit is myself; and I have this personal responsibility to employ people from Detroit," she said. "I want to carry products for people to buy and feel beautiful and encouraged."
 
Store Hours: The Natural Hair Market is open Monday-Thursday: 11 a.m. -- 6 p.m.; Friday and Saturday: 11 a.m. -- 8 p.m. For more information call 313-638-2551.

Source: Victoria Roby 

Written By: Leah Johnson 

Wayne State Zipcar fleet, Amtrak Wolverine line cars grow

Wayne State University's nascent Zipcar fleet is growing fast, doubling in size since launching last fall.

The fleet started with two cars and has added two more thanks to rising demand for the car-sharing service. Zipcars are available to university students, staff and residents of the greater downtown Detroit area.

"Car sharing is a great alternative for our students," says Kate Baker, senior project manager for economic development at Wayne State University. "We have students combine their trips with Zipcars, going on one big trip to the grocery store and it costs a few dollars."

Also in alternative transportation options in the greater downtown Detroit area is the pending addition of bigger cars for the Amtrak's Wolverine Line which runs between Detroit and Chicago. The Wolverine Line will received 25 bi-level rail cars as part of a larger federal purchase of train cars.

The bi-level cars will allow for more passengers than what the current single-level cars can accommodate. It will also offer Wi-Fi and space for bicycles. These car are already used elsewhere through the country, such as California.

Source: U.S. Dept of Transportation and Kate Baker, senior project manager for economic development at Wayne State University
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Second, Third streets about to become two-way in Midtown, New Center

Life is about to get easier for pedestrians in Midtown and New Center around Wayne State University as the latest phase of construction begins for the Midtown Loop and Second and Third avenues become two-way streets.

Work is set to begin today on turning Second Avenue into a two-way street between I-94 and West Grand Boulevard in New Center. A similar project for Third Avenue between Ledyard and Forrest streets is set to break ground on Monday. Both streets are multi-lane, one-way thoroughfares that cut through Wayne State University's campus. The hope is to ease traffic flow and slow down motorists.

"Hopefully this will help in several ways in slowing traffic down," says Jon Frederick, director of parking & transportation services at Wayne State University. "You are consolidating lanes and making motorists more aware with the addition of on-coming traffic."

Second Avenue will receive new LED street lighting. Third Avenue will receive bike lanes in both directions and maintain parking on both sides of the street. Work is expected to wrap up in mid July.

The second phase of the Midtown Loop construction began in mid-April on the southern edge of the loop, turning a square of sidewalks along Cass, Kirby Street, John R and Canfield into a pedestrian friendly space with colorful sidewalks, benches, bike racks, landscaping and decorative lighting, among other amenities.

Source: Midtown Detroit Inc. and Jon Frederick, director of parking & transportation services at Wayne State University
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Wayne State looks to bridge research and entrepreneurs with new bio-tech building

Once planned to be the TechTwo small business incubator, the old Dalgleish Cadillac building in New Center is now set to become the future home of Wayne State University's Multidisciplinary Biomedical Research Building.

The university plans to begin renovating the former Cadillac dealership's 196,500 gross square feet in size into a research center shared by researchers from both the university and Henry Ford Health System this year. The new $93 million facility will also be a hot spot for entrepreneurs from the TechTown business accelerator across the street looking to commercialize new bio-technologies developed there.

"This is the most exciting thing I have been involved with in a while," says Allan Gilmour, president of Wayne State University. This is the biggest development project Wayne State has taken on in its existence. It is about 50 percent more expensive than the $66.6 million College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences building, which held the record until this project.

The Multidisciplinary Biomedical Research Building will house Wayne State University programs in cardiovascular disease, metabolic disorders such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity, systems biology, bioinformatics and computational biology, behavioral translational science and biomedical engineering. Henry Ford Health System will move its bone and joint center and motion analysis lab into the building.

The building will provide enough laboratory space for Wayne State University to support 48 principal investigators and their teams. It will house approximately 425 workers when it become fully operational.

The project scope will renovate and re-purpose the 127,700 gross square feet of existing space in the Albert Kahn-designed building. It will also build an additional 75,000 gross square feet of a new companion building fronting Woodward Avenue and raze the adjacent American Beauty and Iron Works building. The demolition is set to begin in July and construction will start in November. The university expects to complete the project by 2015.

Source: Allan Gilmour, president of Wayne State University
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Steel skeleton for the Auburn Apts goes up in Midtown

The steel skeleton of the Auburn apartment building is starting to rise up from the project's newly finished footings in Midtown.

The apartment project at the corner of Cass Avenue and Canfield Street will bring 58 new apartments to the Wayne State University area by this fall. The $12 million project will also bring spaces for up to 11 businesses on the ground floor of the three-story building.

"The steel will be erected throughout the next two weeks," Peter Van Dyke, a spokesman for the Auburn, wrote in an email. "The Auburn is still on schedule, with the estimated completion date as the end of this October."

Downtown Detroit-based The Roxbury Group is developing the building. The 58 living spaces will feature both studio and one-bedroom apartments with rents starting at $675. They will feature French balconies, individual parking spaces and two shared outdoor common spaces; one with glass garage doors and a built-in outdoor fireplace.

The Auburn will also feature groundfloor retail spaces. A grant from the Ford Foundation will allow the developers to offer them to would-be entrepreneurs a lower point of financial entry. The 11 first-floor spaces will be reserved for  independent retail only.

Source: Peter Van Dyke, a spokesman for the Auburn
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Rehabbed Newberry Hall set to open in January in Midtown

The final touches are being put on the newly renovated Newberry Hall, the latest in a long line of residential renovation projects in Midtown, prepping it for a January opening.

The former nurses school at the corner of Willis and John R was designed by Elijah E. Myers (who also designed Michigan's State Capitol building) and opened in 1898. Zachary and Associates rescued it after years of neglect and near demolition with a design hand by Quinn Evans Architects. It's about to open as a 28-unit apartment building that provides a high-end living environment by combining both historic preservation and green building.

"People are going to love living here," says Diane Van Buren, who works in sustainable planning at Zachary and Associates.

There is a long laundry of green features throughout the project, chief among them are geothermal heat, energy star appliances, blown-in insulation, an ultra-energy-efficient elevator and sky lights. The developers even used recycled hardwood floors salvaged from a disassembled house in Hamtramck in the lobby restoration of Newberry Hall. The biggest gold star for tree huggers is the reuse of a historic building, and recycling many of the architectural touches that set it apart.

The developers kept and rebuilt the original windows, including the leaded glass on the first floor. Many of the original bricks were recycled back into the building, often featuring stamps from the original manufacturer. The main lobby's wood paneling and coffered ceilings were also restored, creating a substantial 'Wow factor' for everyone who walks through the building's front door. All of these factors have ensure that each resident has a unique living experience.

"Every one of these units is different," Van Buren says.

An open house will be held between 5-8 p.m. Thursday at Newberry Hall, 100 E Willis. For information on the event and development, send an email here.

Source: Diane Van Buren, who works in sustainable planning at Zachary and Associates
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

ArtPlace grants spur localism in Midtown

Major grants to several of Midtown's leaders in creative development, including MOCAD and Tech Town, will use art as an engine for economic growth and local place-making.

MOCAD's $350,000 grant from ArtPlace America, a groundbreaking collaboration of 11 foundations, seven federal agencies and the National Endowment of the Arts, will help renovate the museum's internal offices and public exhibition spaces. Over at Tech Town, the new FAB Lab, which received $90,000 in support from ArtPlace, will offer creatives shared access to specialized and expensive equipment, like 3-D printers, computer-controlled machine tools, industry-leading software and electronic workbenches. Another element is workshop space for the city's roster of woodworkers, photographers and metalsmiths.

Local economic development can come in many forms: more visitors, more spending, more investment, more development, improved brand, more jobs, more income, more jobs for artists, more income for artists," says Carol Coletta, president of ArtPlace. "MOCAD develops local talent by expanding their exposure to art and art buyers, among the other benefits named above. Tech Town is specifically designed to explore how local artists can be supported in the development of their businesses and practices."

Coletta says economic development is traditionally oriented around what she calls "bagging the buffalo" -- that is, securing a big-name employer to move central operations or factories to a city. ArtPlace believes that attracting and retaining local talent is the result of deploying local assets, particularly the arts. Midtown Detroit's significance as a creative corridor and hub for economic activity made locating three ArtPlace grants, worth $1.8 million, within a relatively small district.

"Until you get enough intensity in the area, it is hard to support great places," Coletta says. "That’s why it makes sense to focus so many efforts on one location in Detroit. Then its success can spill over into other areas."

Source: Carol Coletta, president, ArtPlace America
Writer: Ashley C. Woods

Queen Lillian medical building extends WSU's footprint

A partially-vacant lot at the corner of the Chrysler Service Drive and Mack Ave. is seeing redevelopment, with the help of the Michigan Economic Growth Authority (MEGA). The Queen Lillian medical office building will create up to 31 full-time jobs during construction.

The Detroit Brownfield Redevelopment Authority will grant a local and school tax capture valued at $408,647 to support an $18 million construction of a five-story office building on 2.7 acres at 3901 Chrysler Service Drive. Since the land abuts the existing Tolan Playground, the project will relocate and replace playground equipment and tennis courts near the construction. The lot was designated a brownfield property in May. Queen Lillian LLC will also pay for upkeep of Tolan Park for the next two years. Developers will also create and improve storm catch basins, curbs, outdoor lighting and gutters throughout the property.

The main tenant of the office building is Wayne State's Department of Psychiatry, which will lease space from Queen Lillian LLC. Currently, Wayne State's department is scattered among three office buildings throughout the city.

"These projects will help businesses to expand in Michigan and transform blighted, contaminated or functionally obsolete properties to add jobs and diversify Michigan's economy," says Michael A. Finney, President and CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. "Michigan's economic gardening strategy offers wide-ranging help to growing companies in order to generate new job opportunities."

Joe Martin is a community assistance team specialist for the MEDC who is familiar with the project. He adds, "The Queen Lillian project fits well within the MEGA Program Guidelines and is a catalyst development for the area. The new medical office space will increase the density, employment, and tax base for the City of Detroit.”

Source: Kathleen Fagan, communications specialist, MEDC
Writer: Ashley C. Woods

$76 million lecture hall and research facility opens on WSU campus

The second phase of the A. Paul Schaap Chemistry Building and Lecture Hall opened last week at 5101 Cass Ave. on Wayne State's campus, expanding and renovating the school's chemistry laboratories and classrooms to state-of-the-art levels. The $76 million project, which began in 2004, was funded by Wayne State University and a $10 million donation from A. Paul Schapp (a former chemistry professor at WSU) and his wife Carol through the Community Foundation of Southeastern Michigan.

New updates include a four-story glass atrium, a new 150-seat lecture hall, and renovations to the building's 96,000 sq. ft of laboratories and lab-support areas. The Schaap building's labs were expanded, and all feature brand-new case and fume hoods.

Attracting the nation's top chemistry faculty and graduate students is the aim of the Lumigen Instrument Center, which redesigns the Schaap building's basement lab into a cutting-edge machine hub for nanotechnology, drug delivery systems and novel molecule research. The Chemistry Department has "something of an entrepreneurial spirit," says WSU Chemistry Dean Jim Rigby, producing three spinoff entrepreneurial ventures from the WSU labs in recent years. He says the facility modernization have the ability to create new economic activity. "There is substantial opportunity, and in the case of our department, the reality of converting intellectual property into something commercial that provides jobs, creates wealth in the state, pays taxes and all of these things," Rigby. "Really it's only the research universities (University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University) that can lead to that kind of commercial development."

Rigby says achieving silver LEED certification was also a priority for the department. Chemistry buildings, Rigby says, "move either warm air or cold air out of the building; so by definition, it’s a little less efficient than most. But we have aggressively pursued the LEED certification." Two sloped "green roofs" cool the building during the warmer months; all electrical systems were also modernized for additional long-term savings.

A. Paul Schaap was Professor of Chemistry at WSU before leaving to found Lumigen, Inc., after a discovery he made in the very laboratories his gift has funded. Lumigen, recently acquired by Beckman Coulter, discovered a light-emitting molecule, now used in a compound that's used to diagnose AIDS, cancer and hepatitis. "He's one of the ideal donors because he knows what is needed and to move in that particular direction so it's worked out very well for our department," says Rigby.

Find out more here.

Source: Jim Rigby, professor of chemistry; Dean, Department of Chemistry, Wayne State University
Writer: Ashley C. Woods

Digitizing Detroit's history at the Burton Historical Collection

One of the state's largest repositories for manuscripts, the Burton Historical Collection is a treasure trove for Detroit historical explorers. The collection dates back to the city's founding in the late 17th century, and includes 12 million pieces of information. Every historical record for the City of Detroit and Wayne County is stored at the Burton, located beneath the Detroit Public Library, as well as personal collections donated by the likes of Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), Ernie Harwell, and Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Until now, sifting through the Burton's extensive holdings was something of a daunting mission. There was no available index to let researchers, genealogists and history buffs even know what was in those archives. Out-of-town sleuths best hope of discovering that 300-year-old historical map or City Council record from the 18th century was to show up, in person, and get to work.

All this changed with the production of the Burton's new digital index, a project that brought together federal, state and private groups together to digitize every one of the Collection's holdings, available online for perusal (note: the index is available online, but the papers themselves still must be viewed in person).

The partnership utilized matching grants provided by the Friends of the Detroit Public Library and the National Historic Public Records Commission; aid from Michigan state archivist Mark Harvey; and archival support from Wayne State's archivist program, which provided students for the hard work of cataloging through the Michigan History Foundation in Lansing.

"We had the expertise and the students; that was critical," Merritt says. "Staff resources are extremely slim, but it got us students who were able to work on first-rate collections and we had faculty members who were just as anxious."

Who'll benefit most from the digital index? "I would think anyone interested in Michigan history: genealogists, people that want to find connections between the lumber industry and the Upper Peninsula and what happened in Detroit," Merritt says. "Transportation; it has so many socio-economic interests that any historian trying to understanding American history and Michigan's contribution would find this fascinating."

And word has spread -- Merritt reports visits to the Burton Historical Collection have increased by 56 percent already this year.

Source: Patrice Merritt, executive director, Friends of the Detroit Public Library

Writer: Ashley C. Woods
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