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Midtown : Detroit Development News

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Woodward Garden Theater Project in last phase

The Woodward Garden Block project recently received the last funding needed to complete construction of the Woodward Garden Theater.

The project was started on 2002 by developers Woodward Garden Theater, LLC. and Woodward SA-PK, LLC led by long time partners Michael Byrd, William Mosely and George Stewart. The team of supporters include Midtown Detroit, Inc. (MDI), Quinn Evans Architects, McIntosh Poris Associates, Miller Canfield, Strength Property Partners and Zachary & Associates.
 
"Without the willingness of these partners to look for innovative solutions to the obstacles that faced this project, we wouldn’t be celebrating the revival of this block." said Stewart.
 
The theater is a 32,000 square feet, 1,300 person capacity live music-theater, originally designed by C. Howard Crane. The funds will also allow for the development of a mixed-use development with approximately 12,000 square feet of leasable space and 61 market rate apartments adjacent to the theater.
 
The Michigan Economic Development Corporation awarded the project a $750,000 loan via the Michigan Strategic Fund’s Community Revitalization Program. Other critical funding of the Woodward Garden Theater project came in the form of a HUD Section 108 loan through the City of Detroit, HUD 221 funding through financial intermediary First Housing and a variety of brownfield, federal and state historical tax credits. Federal tax credits were purchased by Symetra Life Insurance. 

Stewart, who has lived and worked in the Midtown district since the late 1950s, believes this project has been long overdue. 
 
"Restoring this block to its former glory and providing a place where people will be able to experience great music and soon live (and) work has been the least I can do to give back to a neighborhood that has meant so much to me over the years," he said. 
 
Once completed, the building will house a theater, a full service catering restaurant and a conference center allowing for diverse facility use.
 
On Monday, Woodward Gardens, LLC and MDI celebrated the final phase of the development stage with the "Woodward Garden Block Development Celebration." The event took place on the rooftop of the Woodward Gardens Parking Deck on Alexandrine.

Visit the Woodward Garden Block Development and the Woodward Garden Theater project or call 313-833-5720 for more information. 

Source: Nicole Brown, Midtown Detroit 
Writer: Leah Johnson 
 

Chez Zara welcomes coffee snobs

Mallak Beydoun knows her coffee and she is no stranger to the coffee business. That explains why her slogan for Chez Zara Coffee Shop is "Coffee Snobs Welcome."
  
Beydoun is the owner of Chez Zara, "Chez" meaning "place of" and "Zara" is the name of her 14 year-old niece.
 
Chez Zara has a small kiosk in the Chase Tower, but the flagship location is prepping for its opening this summer in the Madison Building.
 
"This will be the first time we actually got to express what we wanted in a coffee shop and this is the first time I’ve been involved in the whole design process," Beydoun said.
 
The shop will have an urban mixed Parisian look and will feature a certain world coffee every single day, creating an authentic experience. Guests can enjoy one on one interaction with the barista, and small snacks like pastries from Avalon and macaroons to complement the coffee. 
 
Beydoun is excited to utilize this space and partner up with other local nearby businesses such as the Detroit Opera House to offer special Chez Zara promotions.
 
"We want to make this a Detroit landmark, just like Garrrett’s popcorn is a landmark in Chicago," she said.
 
Chez Zara is expected to open in the Madison Building in late July or early August.

Source: Mallak Beydoun
Writer: Leah Johnson 

MSU Community Music School set to rock this summer

Kids in the "D" can get their summer groove on at one of two music day-camps at the MSU Community Music School-Detroit. Rock Camp takes places June 18 through 22 from 1 to 5 p.m. daily, and concludes with the kids performing a rocking gig at Detroit River Days on June 23 at 11 a.m. 

The Aspiring Musicians Program (AMP) Band Camp will be held June 25 through 29 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, with a finale concert at CMS-Detroit on June 29 at 3 p.m. 

CMS-Detroit 's first-ever Rock Camp is led by The Outer Vibe, a five-piece alternative rock/pop band who throws an energetic party onstage with wall-of-sound guitar, dance-inducing drums and bass, and powerful lead vocals. The five band members -- Nick Hosford, Lisa Kacos, Sean Zee, Andrew Dornoff and Jeff Brems -- boast eight college degrees between them. The teen Rock Camps they established in 2009 have exploded in popularity, with budding young musicians from Detroit to the Lake Michigan shoreline lining up to soak up the group’s advice on showmanship, teamwork and marketing.
 
Rock camp is for middle and high school students, ages 12-18, who have some experience on guitar, bass, drums, keyboard or vocals. The camp coaches young musicians in instrumental technique, songwriting and performing, as well as teaches them how to create and promote their own rock bands. Tuition is $200 and financial assistance is available by application. 

The Aspiring Musicians Program (AMP) Band Camp returns to CMS-Detroit to bring together elementary and middle school age students for a harmonious adventure that includes sectionals, big band rehearsal and a Finale Concert for families and friends. 

Beginning and intermediate-level band students will work with CMS-Detroit's popular faculty and mentors, as well as study and perform with other talented students from across Southeastern Michigan. The students will receive class instruction in instrumental technique and theory, and explore music through musicianship classes. Tuition is $200 and includes lunch each day.

Tuition assistance is available for CMS-Detroit music camps. Financial aid applications must be submitted in person at 3408 Woodward Ave., and will be accepted in the order they are received. 
 
Since opening its doors three years ago, CMS-Detroit has offered music education and music therapy opportunities for people of all ages, abilities and incomes. Classes include Early Childhood music classes (for birth-3, ages 3-5 and 5-7); MSU Jazz@CMS-Detroit (for middle and high school-age students); the Aspiring Musicians Program (for elementary and middle school students); Detroit's first New Horizons Bands chapter for adults; Adult and teen group Strings, Guitar and Piano; and Music Therapy clinical services.  

For more information go here, call 313-578-9716 or send an email here.  

Maps created for Detroit Film Tour

More than 60 feature films, television series and other digital media productions have been filmed at different locations in Downtown Detroit over the past several years. Many of these locations are featured in the recent production of the Detroit Film Locations Tour Map, put together by The Michigan Film Office
 
The Michigan Film Office, created in 1979,  assists and attracts incoming production companies and promotes the growth of Michigan’s own film industry.
 
"Detroit is a star in many of the projects that have shot here in Michigan, as itself and as a double for places including New York City, Paris, Boston, and Las Vegas," said Carrie Jones, director of the Michigan Film Office. "Taking this tour captures many terrific locations in a way that promotes an all-around Detroit experience."
 
The tour stops and starts at the GM Renaissance Center with 15 stops along the way including the Old Wayne County Building (showing LOL, Transformers III, Conviction), Harmonie Park (showing The Double, The Five-Year Engagement), Lafayette and American Coney Islands (showing LOL, Whip It, Detroit 1-8-7, Food Wars) and the Detroit People Mover Park Avenue Station (showing Alex Cross, The Giant Mechanical Man). 
 
The maps are available at Detroit tourism organizations including the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau, D-hive, Feet on the Street Tours and Wheelhouse Detroit Bike Shop. Electronic copies are also available at Pure Michigan and Michigan Advantage. Highlighted in the maps are other notable film locations in the city not featured in the tour, as well as a number of other tour opportunities available in Detroit. 
 
"Attractions like this film tour help to reinforce the work we and our local partners are doing to promote our vibrant urban centers here in Michigan," said George Zimmermann, Vice President of Travel Michigan, part of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. "Anytime we can encourage people to explore downtown Detroit it creates positive momentum for our tourism efforts here in Michigan."
 
Work has also begun on film tour maps for other areas of the state to showcase the wide range of locations used in film and television productions throughout Michigan. 
 
Source: Michelle Begnoche
Writer: Leah Johnson

Midtown's Knicker Bocker Apts continues improvements to grounds

The little things are starting to add up to a high quality of life at the Knicker Bocker Apartments in Midtown.

The 1920s-era apartment building at Cass Avenue and Canfield Street has undergone a number of small improvements over the last year. The underlying theme of these improvements consists of a heavy emphasis on the exterior aesthetics and functionality.

"We want to beautify that corner," says Raymond DeBattes, manager of the Knicker Bocker Apartments. "We want to participate in the progress that is taking place in Midtown."

DeBattes and Corin Blust, also a manager of the building, have been spear heading the improvements, which include installing a contemporary bench in the vacant lot next to the building, tuck pointing the brick exterior, laying down several yards in the parking spaces and alleyway behind the building and removing the old chain-link fence in front of the building.

"It looks much better with the fence gone," DeBattes says. He adds that its removal helps make the building more welcoming and increases the sense of community.

DeBattes and Blust plan to add more landscaping improvements this spring and summer. The duo are not doing this to up occupancy. Every one of the Knicker Bocker Apartment's 22, one-bedroom apartments is leased and demand for housing in the greater downtown area, especially Midtown, has been growing.

Source: Raymond DeBattes, manager of the Knicker Bocker Apartments
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

"Design in Detroit" connects creative community

Creativity and the entrepreneurial spirit thrive in Detroit. "Design in Detroit," an online platform and annual festival, will allow individuals and institutions across Southeast Michigan to connect and partner with the entrepreneurial community.
 
"Detroit is becoming a leader in creative and civic innovation," said Rishi Jaitly, program director/Detroit for Knight Foundation. "We hope this project will help foster an environment where all people and institutions can share in the city’s social entrepreneurial momentum and advance the success of the movement itself." 
 
This three-year project is led by Detroit Creative Corridor (DC3) and funded by a $510,000 grant from the Knight Foundation. It will be anchored by the annual Detroit Design Festival, which next month will call on Detroit’s creative community to submit new ideas for design, business and technology that advance local community interests.
 
In 2011, the pilot design festival produced "Mind the Gap," a contest to improve Detroit’s in-between spaces. More than 200 Detroiters viewed and rated proposals to transform vacant and under-utilized spaces in the city. A high school student from Henry Ford Academy: School for Creative Studies in Detroit entered the winning submission. It was shared with hundreds of Detroiters and business and creative-cultural leaders in a series of events that featured the concept.
 
The online platform and real-world forums will allow people and institutions to pledge financial, leadership, volunteer and marketing resources to the submitted projects. Over the course of a year, DC3 will lead programming to nurture the connections, ensuring that the results improve Detroit’s quality of life.
 
"'Design in Detroit' will result in a unique digital and physical infrastructure for the local creative movement to showcase its skills and ideas to the broader community," said Matt Clayson, director for Detroit Creative Center. "We’re looking to create a global model here, one that respects the authenticity of local creative movements in Detroit while encouraging deeper engagement and more meaningful connections."

Sources: Andrew Sherry of Knight Foundation and Matthew Clayson, Detroit Creative Center 
Writer: Leah Johnson 

Wayne State begins taking down marshmallow overhang on Cass

What is arguably the ugliest piece of architecture on Wayne State University's campus is starting to come down this spring, the white, plastic canopy at the corner of Cass Avenue and Ferry Street.

The university is restoring the facade of its facilities management building at 5454 Cass. The project will include restoring the 2-story building's original early 20th Century facade, repairing the sidewalk and installing a new canopy, replacing the decades-old plastic overhang that Wayne State University's Ned Staebler describes as "whale tusk" architecture.

"We're also looking at the building next door (where most of the plastic canopy stands)," says Staebler, vice president for economic development at Wayne State University. "People ask why don't we take down the whole thing? We can't because we don't own the building (at the corner of Cass and Ferry)."

That doesn't mean Staebler and the university don't want to do it. They are in talks with the building's owner to find more solutions that would remove the "whale tusk" canopy and replace it with something that fits the block's original architecture. Staebler hopes to reach some sort of resolution by the end of the year.

A facade-improvement grant from Midtown Detroit Inc helped make the initial canopy removal possible. The university is working on obtaining architectural drawings for the new facade for its facilities management building. Staebler hopes to have the entire facade renovation done by this fall, allowing the building to shine in its original state.

"When we took off the section of the awning we were really struck by how different the building looks," Staebler says. "The architecture detail and how much of a difference there is between the 1- and 2-story buildings is big."

Source: Ned Staebler, vice president for economic development at Wayne State University
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

"Topping Out" ceremony launches Midtown's Auburn

Project partners Invest Detroit, Midtown Detroit, Inc. and the Roxbury Group held a special ceremony Monday for the Auburn, a $12 million residential and retail project in at Cass Avenue and Canfield in Midtown. The "Topping Out" event marked the point on the construction timetable when the final piece of the structural frame was put on the building.
 
"We are very pleased to have the project on schedule," said David Di Rita, principal of the Roxbury Group. "We look forward to adding the Auburn to the growing vitality of the Midtown neighborhood."
 
Currently, construction workers are installing windows, roof and mechanical systems, followed by the interior building of the residences. Full enclosure of the building is set for June 30.
 
Construction on this project began in September 2011. The project consists of 58 residential units and 11 retail spaces with a 97-space parking lot located behind the building.
 
The Auburn is on the Southeast corner of Cass Avenue and Canfield Street and expected to be complete by October 2012. 

Source: Peter Van Dyke
Writer: Leah Johnson

Detroit 24/7 game helps redesign city

Detroiters now have a new way to shape the future of their city. By means of a new mission-based online competition called Detroit 24/7, Detroiters can share their ideas while competing to earn points, badges, and prizes. People of all ages are called on to participate in challenges such as Detroit Trivia, Community Mapping, and Role Playing Exercises.
 
"Detroit 24/7 is another tool we are using to engage city stakeholders to help in shaping Detroit’s future," said Dan Pitera, civic engagement co-lead for Detroit Works Project Long Term Planning (DWP LTP). "It’s a fun, interactive way for Detroiters to share their knowledge and think about the types of factors they consider most important to improving the quality of life in the city."
 
Starting May 7 at 12:01 a.m. Detroiters can begin playing Detroit 24/7 through three time-based missions at no cost. Any smart phone, computer, or tablet with Internet connection allows people to access the game. Mission #1 is Share your Detroit, Mission #2 is Living In Detroit and Mission # 3 is Getting around Detroit.
 
The top point earner, the top youth point earner, and one other member of the 50 players will win an HD Flip Video Camera. Players earning the most achievement badges will be entered into a drawing to receive gift cards to local Detroit businesses.
 
The ideas and input gathered through Detroit 24/7 will be utilized by DWP LTP to help inform and shape the Strategic Framework Plan that’s scheduled to be completed before fall of 2012.
 
This evening, the community is invited to attend the Detroit 24/7 launch party at Wayne County Community College District (WCCCD) Downtown Campus, 1001 W. Fort Street, from 5:30 to 8 pm. Attendees will learn more about the game and register to play. Refreshments will be served and there is no cost to attend. To RSVP email here or call 313-259-4407.
 
Detroit 24/7 was developed in partnership with Community PlanIt and support from the Knight Foundation, making Detroit one of only half a dozen cities that will be using this type of platform to help plan the city’s future. Other partners include WCCCD and Excellent Schools Detroit.

Writer: 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.

Midtown residents breathe life back into Wigle Rec Park baseball field

Many of the good things that are happening in Detroit today are often the result of everyday residents taking the lead in improving their communities. The latest example of that is a small band of young people who are rehabbing the baseball field at the Wigle Recreation Center in Midtown.

The group of close to a dozen people who live near the park close to Martin Luther King Boulevard and the Lodge Freeway have been mowing the grounds, weeding the field, cutting down brush along the backstop and otherwise preparing their little field of dreams for playing this summer.

"Me and my friends are pretty athletic and like to be outdoors," says Matt Duffy, one of the organizer of the Wigle Recreation Center baseball field cleanup team. "This just seemed like the perfect place to fix up and play some games."

The group meets on weekends and organizes around a Facebook page that can be found here. They plan to install bases and make the field ready for some competitive games by late spring. The group also hopes to hook up with Detroit Mower Gang to keep the grass in check for the rest of the playing season.

"It's in fairly good shape," Duffy says. "It just needs to be cleaned up."

Source: Matt Duffy, organizer of Wigle Recreation Center baseball field cleanup team
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

WSU's Danto Engineering building scores LEED silver rating

One of Wayne State University's newest buildings is now one of its greenest thanks for the Marvin I. Danto Engineering Development Center winning LEED Silver certification.

The U.S. Green Building Council awards LEED certification, silver is one of the highest levels, for sustainability features. The Danto Engineering Development Center met specific requirements in five environmental categories, including sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.

"It just makes sense," says Deb Brazen, senior project manager for planning at Wayne State University. "We're a large urban campus and it's prudent for us to be aware of our impact on the environment."

She adds that three more buildings on the Wayne State University campus are up for LEED certification and at least two of those are going for silver status or higher.

The Danto Engineering Development Center is home to engineering research in alternative energy, nanotechnology, biotechnology, smart sensors, advanced propulsion and other translational research areas. It opened with the goal of mixing both the academic and business worlds in a way that would promote economic development in Michigan.

Source: Deb Brazen, senior project manager for planning at Wayne State University
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Historic Woodward corridor gas station transforms into new pharmacy

Detroit Central City Community Mental Health, Inc (DCC) has revitalized Midtown by revamping the interior of a 1940s era Standard Oil gas station into a PharMor Pharmacy. Located on the corner of Woodward and Peterboro, it’s sure to be the only pharmacy in Michigan that looks like a gas station when it opens in a few months.
 
"Our tagline is 'Revitalizing the Community, Rebuilding Lives,'" says DCC President and CEO Irva Faber-Bermudez. "We not only bring people off the streets, get them housed and rebuild their lives, but this is a concrete example of how DCC is revitalizing the community."
 
The redeveloping project has involved a series of grants and brownfield credits as part of a $500,000 funding package and has earned DCC the 2012 Michigan Historic Preservation Network (MHPN) Award.
 
"The Committee felt this was a very interesting repurposing of a historic gas station showing the kind of creativity that is the lifeblood of historic preservation," says MHPN Awards Committee Chair, Ruth Mills. 
 
As owners of the gas station, DCC originally planned to use the vacant building for retail and office space. However, after reaching out to Matthew Darby, an Exxon Mobil Historical Collection archivist in Texas and receiving research by Farmington Hills project architects, Fusco, Shaffer & Pappas, Inc., it was authorized that the exterior remain true to its original form. This unique rental property will provide DCC with a steady stream of income.
 
"This project has taken a number of turns and considerable patience on the part of DCC to get to this point," says Faber-Bermudez. "Now we can finally complete this project and show Detroit we are really revitalizing this community."
 
The new PharMor pharmacy, which has 20 other locations, offers name brand and generic medications, medical equipment, pharmaceutical grade vitamins, and compounds for children. PharMor also provides co-pay assistance for low-income residents and uninsured patient programs.
 
Source: Tom Martin PR for Diane Martin Enterprises 
Writer: Leah Johnson 
 
 

Yoga Shelter latest in new biz openings in greater downtown Detroit

A bevy of new small businesses have opened in Corktown, Downtown, Eastern Market and Midtown with a new yoga studio, Yoga Shelter, leading the way.

Naomi Ruth and her partner Donna Orbovich are opening the studio on 69 W. Forrest in the retail space that a small grocery store was once planned. The 2,700-square foot space is on the ground floor of a Wayne State University parking garage a half block from Woodward Avenue in Midtown. Ruth and Orbovich are building out the space now and plan to open in May.

"We looked at a bunch of different sites," Ruth says. "There was just a really great small business community in Midtown. It's a really great community."

Among the other businesses to open in the greater downtown area in recent weeks:

Just Baked, a gourmet cupcake business has opened in the Dime Building in downtown Detroit.
Germack Coffee Roasting Co. has opened a new coffee shop in Eastern Market, taking over the space that used to house the Rafal Spice Co.
Mercury Burger Bar has opened its doors in Corktown, transforming the former Mercury Bar space across the street from Slows.

Source: Naomi Ruth, co-owner of Yoga Shelter
Writer: Jon Zemke

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