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LTU Center for Design + Technology to break ground in August

The Kresge Foundation has awarded Lawrence Technological University $300,000 to help its College of Architecture and Design consolidate all Detroit programs inside the new LTU Center for Design + Technology opening in 2014.
 
The university is based in Southfield but has a strong presence in Detroit, with four programs currently offered across the city. There is the Detroit Studio in New Center, the detroitSHOP in Chrysler House, Studio Couture downtown on Woodward Avenue, and a satellite classroom and design studio inside Ponyride in Corktown.
 
It was recently announced that LTU would be the anchor business of a new two-story commercial construction development in Midtown at the corner of Woodward and Willis. Despite the main campus being in Southfield, Associate Dean Amy Deines feels a presence in the city is integral to the students' curriculum, emphasizing the importance of having the College of Architecture and Design students engage with the urban environment.
 
"With the Center itself we'll be able to consolidate the four programs we have in a very practical way," she says.
 
LTU has received huge support from Midtown Detroit Inc.'s Sue Mosey as well as Quicken Loans. The detroitSHOP will be relocating from the Chrysler House to the Federal Reserve Building while the Design Center is under construction.
 
The Center will feature open studio spaces that encourage collaboration between students of different disciplines, from architecture to graphic design. "My interest is that students use each other's skill sets to come up with a new model," Deines says. "The way the space is designed really supports that open conversation." The Center will also host artists from all over the region and country to "expose the community to the relationship between art, design, and architecture."
 
Currently Deines is still raising money for the roughly 14,000-square-foot Center. LTU will control the whole second floor and has currently secured funding for about 7,000 square feet of space, which will include studios, conference rooms, a research lab, and a 1,200-square-foot storefront gallery on the ground floor. This first phase will also include K-12 outreach and summer camp programs.
 
Additional funding will allow LTU to further expand its programming at the Center, including makeLab, which will provide digital fabrication services for a wide range of design projects. Ideally Deines would like LTU to control the whole building and collaborate with other architecture and design schools and businesses to turn it into a shared design community space. 
 
LTU students will commute between both campuses for a well-rounded urban design center and traditional classroom experience. Deines hopes to implement a shuttle program between the two, which would also tie into the school's transit design program.
 
The Center will break ground in August and will be completed next fall.
 
Source: Amy Deines, Lawrence Technological University Associate Dean
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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Woodward Gardens Block Development on track to be completed by end of 2013

Construction on phases III and IV of the Woodward Gardens project on the 3900 block of Woodward is humming along nicely. Eric Means, a representative of the Woodward Gardens Block Development, says that the project is on track to be completed by the end of the fourth quarter of this year.
 
The 32,505-square-foot Garden Theatre will be completed first, targeted to open by the end of the third quarter. The theatre will host live performances that "align with the Midtown energy;" more grassroots and indie performers "geared to attract the audience that makes up (the Midtown) demographic." The theatre will have a total occupancy of 1,300, with mostly standing room on the main floor and a VIP balcony for private functions. The front portion of the theatre will have a café.
 
The five-story Woodward Garden Apartments at the corner of Woodward and Selden will open next, featuring 52 one-bedroom units with an average of 600-700 square feet, seven two-bedroom units with a 1,500-square-foot average, and two studios with a 500-square-foot average. Some of the apartment units' amenities include bamboo floors, granite countertops, and in-unit washer/dryers. Means says they will be "market rate." They have not yet started leasing units but with Midtown already at 95 percent rental capacity, the demand is certainly high and they do not expect to have an issue leasing the units out. The 302-space parking structure at 25 W. Alexandrine, phase I of this four-phase development, will offer secured parking for residents.
 
The apartment building will also have two ground floor commercial spaces (currently being used as temporary construction offices). Developers are currently in talks with Chase Bank and local cupcakerie chain Just Baked to fill those spaces. "We want them to be aligned with the overall vision of Midtown," Means says. "We want them to be a recognized brand that doesn't conflict with other places in Midtown."
 
Phases I and II of the project are already complete, and included the renovation of the Blue Moon Building, now home to the Great Lakes Coffee bar, and Midtown Inc.'s new headquarters.
 
Source: Eric Means, representative of the Woodward Gardens Block Development
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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Detroit Central City to open integrated health center for under- and uninsured

Detroit Central City Community Health, Inc. is working on a new health center in on the ground floor of its offices at Woodward and Peterboro in Midtown.
 
DCC has applied to become a federally-qualified health center through Health Resources and Services Administration (HERSA). It has been a couple of years since HERSA has opened up applications for that status and will only award about 25 organizations (out of over 400 applicants) nationwide the status. "We're going forward as if we're going to be designated as federally-operated," says Jane Damren, Director of Integrated Health Initiatives at DCC.
 
The 900-square-foot health center on Woodward will give priority to DCC clients, which includes the homeless, residents of DCC-operated public housing, and the mentally ill, though a federally-qualified health center is open to anyone uninsured or underinsured. "There is a huge need for primary health care (in this special population) that is not being addressed to date," Damren says. "We know in medically underserved populations it's very difficult for those individuals to overcome the stigma of mental illness or homelessness to try to obtain the services that we take for granted as primary care."
 
Initially they hope to serve 500 in the first year with a goal of 2,500 by the end of the third year. If they receive federally-qualified status, they project a reach of 4,500 patients by the end of their third year. As they are able to penetrate the community and establish a patient base, they would also like to move into a larger storefront on the Peterboro side of their building.
 
Federally-qualified health centers receive an annual grant of $650,000, which covers the cost of the uninsured patient population, and also receive enhanced Medicaid reimbursement. Right now about 40 percent of the DCC's clientele start without any insurance. Case managers work to get them enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid. Damren realistically hopes for the center to get "lookalike" status, which they will be eligible to apply for after 12 months of operation and which will enable them to receive enhanced Medicaid.
 
Damren hopes to have the health center open in 2014.
 
Source: Jane Damren, Director of Integrated Health Initiatives at DCC
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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The DIA's Cultural Living Room in the Kresge Court opens June 14

After being closed the last two months, the Kresge Court inside the Detroit Institute of the Arts is about to reopen this Friday at 10 a.m. as the Cultural Living Room.
 
The Cultural Living Room is a concept that came about through Bradford Frost, a fellow in Wayne State University's Detroit Revitalization Fellows Program and special assistant for community and economic development at the DIA who wrote the ArtPlace grant that secured the $268,500 in funding for this project.
 
"(Basically they) wanted to (figuratively) break these marble walls down and open up to the community a spot where people come to meet, have coffee, meals, work meetings, or sit and read, learn about art, and be inspired," says Patrick Thompson, whose Detroit-based design firm was selected to lead the project. "They wanted to really maximize the potential of the space."
 
The DIA wanted Kresge transformed into a comfortable and collaborative space – a well-designed, welcoming living room free to the public and open to all. Thompson describes his design as "a modern living room with a traditional English garden." There is a lot of greenery in the space and different seating groups throughout, "different vignettes and very symmetrical leading through a traditional English garden with furniture and greenery. We wanted to make it the grandest living room in Midtown."
 
There are dining tables for meetings and social gatherings that will accommodate 4-10 people, one and two person seating spaces, and areas for people to sit in a corner and read a book quietly. "The idea is there is something here for every type of experience people are looking for."
 
There will also be coffee and tea service, an elevated menu of small plates, wine and beer. Initially the Cultural Living Room will have the same hours as the museum, with the hopes of extending the hours beyond the museum's in the future.
 
Thompson's design blends the modern and the traditional, with modern pieces from designer Patricia Urquiola for Coalesse, classic mid-century modern chairs by Euro Saarinen for Knoll, and Danish designer Hans Wegner's iconic Wishbone Chair, along with traditional Chesterfield chairs and wingbacks. The selection of the furniture is also a reflection of the museum itself: these are classic pieces of design, functional art in their own respect. There is also custom woodwork carved from oak throughout the space, as well as a new audio system and new lighting.
 
All of the furniture has power outlet access for meetings and personal use. The large library tables also have built-in iPads, which have an interface that links to the museum's collection so guests can learn more about the art around them. "It's basically a humongous, beautiful hotel lobby right in the middle of DIA," Thompson says.
 
The space will still be heavily programmed with events. There is also an outdoor extension of the Cultural Living Room, a seating area on the DIA's South Lawn with large concrete community tables, that will be completed mid-August.
 
Thompson says, "This is the project of a lifetime. It is a true honor to work with the DIA."
 
Source: Patrick Thompson, owner of Patrick Thompson Design
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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Ocelot Print Shop is a collaborative workspace and commercial screen printer and design studio

The Ocelot Print Shop at 3535 Cass Ave. in Midtown celebrated its grand opening this past weekend. Similar to a makerspace in that paid memberships fund the purchase of equipment and shared space, but also operating as a for-profit screen printing business and design studio, Ocelot is a new kind of community-minded business in Detroit.
 
Co-founders Kinga Osz-Kemp, Bayard Kurth, and Stacey Malasky envision this as both a business and something of an experiment. It is a collectively-owned business. Interested parties can purchase memberships by the month or even by the hour, which grants them access to all of the shop's equipment, including an automatic screen printing press, a dye cutter, a guillotine cutter, and eventually an "ink bank" that members can contribute money towards and share collectively for more elaborate color print jobs.
 
"The idea is to share the resources and run it so it's not a nonprofit," says Osz-Kemp. "We decided to further explore the meeting place of arts and commerce." Ocelot will offer design services and commercial screen printing. They plan to offer screen printing classes and to eventually embrace other kinds of printing, including letterpress. In the future they would like to establish a local printer's guild and partner with Detroit youth organizations to teach students print-making and offer classes to people who couldn't otherwise afford them, turning their profit to also support the community.
 
They welcome artists of all types, not just screen printers. They want to foster relationships with other Detroit artists and build a network that will facilitate design and print job opportunities – again, resource sharing, just in a different kind of way. 
 
This collective makerspace model is, Osz-Kemp says, "indicative of the times we're in: people banding together. The 'I can do it myself' mentality is no longer interesting or sustainable."
 
The shop is open for the public to browse Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. Hours are extended for members' use.
 
Source: Kinga Osz-Kemp, co-founder of Ocelot Print Shop
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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Cass Corridog pet supply retailer now open inside the Auburn Building

The newest tenant to open inside the Auburn Building is Cass Corridog, a retail store selling pet care and nutrition products.
 
Michelle Potas has operated Woofbridge Feed & Supply out of Canine to Five on Cass Ave. for the last two years. She will no longer be operating out of this location, instead moving everything to one place. She will also be introducing a pet bakery as part of the new store, which is why it also has a new name.
 
Potas says she outgrew her old space over a year ago, and was interested in moving in the Auburn but at the time all of the spaces were full. When space became available again she got back in touch. Cass Corridog celebrated its soft opening this past weekend.
 
Her new space gives her 800 square feet of selling and storage space, versus the 150 square feet she had at Woodbridge. This required her to have off-site storage a mile away and she was only able to carry one of each item in the store at a time. "Now I don't have to wait (until I can run to storage to replace inventory) and not be able to give customers what they need," she says.
 
Of the many changes and additions you'll see at Cass Corridog, there will be a greatly-expanded selection of cat food and supplies, some small animal and fish supplies, and natural foods. They will also be doing some events in the future, partnering with rescue groups for single-day fundraising events and also offering guided dog-walking tours.
 
Though Potas was located inside of a doggy day care facility, most of her clientele were walk-ins. (Dog-parents often being too busy dropping off or picking up their pets to do any shopping.) With the vibrant, walkable community emerging at Cass and Canfield, Potas is confident that this will be an ideal location for her.
 
Source: Michelle Potas, owner of Cass Corridog
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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Whole Foods in Midtown gets ready to open, has distinctly Detroit flair

The new Whole Foods in Midtown – set to open on June 5 – is not just another grocery story. It's not even just another Whole Foods store.
 
Tremendous efforts were made to ensure that this Detroit store reflected the personality of the city itself. While the five other Michigan Whole Foods locations are relatively generic, this location aims to be deeply and distinctly Detroit. "We took the time and effort to really reflect Detroit," says Amanda Musilli, Whole Foods Market Community Liaison.
 
It starts with the design. On the exterior wall are murals by local artists Jerome Ferretti, Tylonn Sawyer, Katherine Larson, and Mathew Sharum. Immediately upon entering you are greeted with 1970s booster Emily Gail's classic words "Say Nice Things About Detroit." To the left is the produce section; all the photography overhead is of D-Town Farms in River Rouge Park. The lettering above the cheese section is styled after street art, which Detroit is certainly known for. Over the prepared foods section are reclaimed Detroit factory windows. An overhead timeline reads, "Detroit: Proud to Be Here," and mashes up Detroit history with the history of Whole Foods, terminating in the store's opening.
 
The booths and tables in the café are made of locally-sourced reclaimed wood and reclaimed car hoods. The café will also have outdoor seating and free WIFi with plenty of electric outlets.
 
Upstairs, where there are spaces for classes, workshops, and private events, is a tile mural of the City of Detroit by local artist Elysia Vandenbussche on the theme of food justice.
 
But it's not just about the aesthetic. In addition to what can be called the usual suspects – Avalon Breads, McClure's Pickles, Simply Suzanne granola – this location will also carry products from smaller local producers like Ellis Island Tea, Good People Popcorn, Nikki's Ginger Tea, Chugga's Bakery, and the Water Station.
 
To prepare for opening, they've hired 94 people, 70 percent of which are city residents.
 
Source: Amanda Musilli, Whole Foods Market Community Liaison
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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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

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Patrick Thompson Design studio to open inside the Auburn in May

Next up in the emerging Detroit Design District at Cass and Canfield in Midtown, Patrick Thompson Design will relocate its design studio from the Detroit Creative Corridor Center to the Auburn Building.
 
The five-person commercial and residential interior design firm had been working out of the DC3, but as the firm continues to grow they need more space of their own. Their new home in the Auburn is 900 square feet, and the build out is almost complete.
 
"We really want to have a presence in the neighborhood in Detroit," says owner Patrick Thompson. "A lot of our work is Detroit-based. It seemed a really good fit with the other businesses in that area." While the storefront isn't actually a store but a working studio, Thompson says, "People are welcome to stop by, meet the team and see our work. There won't be items for sale but people can see our creative process."
 
Patrick Thompson Design started in a spare bedroom in 2009 before moving into the basement, then into the DC3 a year and a half ago. Currently the firm is overseeing the renovation of the Kresge Court inside the DIA, which will be called the Cultural Living Room, and a renovation of TechTown's whole first floor, in addition to several residential projects in the city and suburbs.
 
The Patrick Thompson Design studio is targeted to open May 7.
 
Source: Patrick Thompson, owner of Patrick Thompson Design
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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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.

Global Detroit Human to open in the Auburn in May

Global Detroit Human will open inside the Auburn in the coming weeks, joining retailers Hugh, Nora, and Source Booksellers in what is fast becoming Midtown's de facto shopping district at the intersection of Cass and Canfield (on the other side of Cass, Run Detroit and Shinola will both open soon, while Nest and City Bird already anchor West Canfield).
 
Global Detroit Human (GDH) is clothing design collective, a boutique that exclusively carries lines from metro Detroit designers. Some of the local labels that can be found inside include Homeslice Clothing, Emily Thornhill's line of classic fashion pieces for day or evening made from eco-sustainable materials; Lavinia Curves, which produces fashionable dresses for curvy women sizes 12-22; SIX LUXE, a line of reversible resort wear for multiple looks in one for those who like to travel light; and Corrosive Clothing, a line of men's T-shirts designed with custom print injection technology that injects the ink directly into the threads for longer-lasting designs.
 
GDH was envisioned by owner Jill Drnek about a year ago. She wanted to have a collection of metro Detroit designers to show off to the world, and traveled the fashion capitals of Europe to speak with store owners, do some research, and start building excitement for Detroit designers. After hosting a pop-up in Livonia and participating as a vendor at events like Dally in the Alley, Drnek decided it was time to open a store in the city. A space inside the Auburn unexpectedly became available in November, and she jumped at the opportunity to open in a viable retail district near other design-focused stores.
 
"The goal is really to take the Detroit design community into a storefront," says Drnek. "This will help designers better understand their market and continue to build their brand and contribute to the growth of the Detroit design community," ultimately with the goal of shopping these designers to the European market.
 
Buildout of the space is near completion. Drnek hopes to open in early May.
 
Source: Jill Drnek, owner and curator/buyer of Global Detroit Human
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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La Palma Mediterranean Cuisine now open in Midtown

Midtown workers and residents have yet another option for weekday lunch and dinner: La Palma Mediterranean Cuisine, located at the corner of Canfield and John R.
 
Opened just two weeks ago, La Palma is an open, airy space with prepared foods and select pre-made hot items displayed in cases by the cash register, and options for carry-out or sit-down service.
 
The space is immaculate, and far exceeds any expectations for a quick grab-and-go kind of restaurant, which is ultimately what this is. Owner Adam Maheawiyan says that he saw a need for this kind of fast, casual, healthy Mediterranean cuisine after being involved with Biomet on Canfield for the last five years. Specifically he noticed that this was a busy corner with plenty of built-in clientele (thanks to the nearby DMC, Karmanos Institute, and Wayne State University School of Medicine), but a previous business in this location (a deli) did not meet his standards of service. When the space became available, he took it.
 
Everything they serve is made from scratch in-house, right down to the dressings and bread. The bread is baked in a custom-built brick oven, one of the showpieces of the restaurant. But once you're inside, don't forget to look up: hand-carved curved wooden panels on the ceiling took two months themselves to complete. There is also detailed stone and brickwork and ceramic tile floors. All construction was overseen by the Livonia-based firm the Nam Group, a company in which Maheawiyan is also a partner.
 
Maheawiyan says the space, which was totally gutted from previous tenants, was designed with specific attention to hygiene and cleanliness: in addition to having an open kitchen (so customers can see what all the cooks are doing), bathrooms are totally touch-less, including the toilet paper.
 
The menu is a selection of appetizers (like falafel, hummus, and grape leaves), salads, pitas, and larger plates (like kabobs and ghallaba). They are open Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and closed on Sundays.
 
Source: Adam Maheawiyan, owner of La Palma
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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

Shinola to open flagship retail store in Midtown this June

The excitement surrounding the Detroit-based manufacturer of watches, bicycles and leather goods Shinola is palpable, and already the brand is getting buzz from national news and entertainment media outlets – not bad for a retailer whose products only just went online last month and hasn't yet opened a storefront.
 
Well, that will soon change. The Detroit store, located in Midtown on the ground level of Willy's Overland Lofts, will open this June. This will be the flagship store, and one of only two in the country (with the other in TriBeCa). The Midtown space is 5,000 square feet, with half dedicated to the company's bicycle assembly. Guests will be able to watch the bikes being assembled without walls or glass barriers. The rest of the space is designed as a retail store and community "hang out" – "A place not just to shop but more of a community hub," says Daniel Caudill, Creative Director of Shinola.
 
They'll work with Avalon Breads to provide pre-packed foods to complement juices from a local juice company in an environment with comfortable seating and an outdoor landscaped area. The retail portion will offer a combination of their products, "thoughtfully selected to serve (the Detroit) market," as well as other American-made products that pair well with the Shinola collection. It will also include "curated products and one-of-a-kind items we are calling 'Issue of One.'"
 
The space will retain its industrial features with blonde wood fixtures and warm leather furniture. One of the highlights of the space is the original skylight. "The space will feel light, modern and warm," says Caudill. "It will be a place you'll want to shop in, hang out and ultimately spend time in." It will also be used for events, from screenings and art exhibitions to talks and roundtable discussions around design and American manufacturing.
 
Shinola's plans also include partnering on and producing events, from last year's inaugural Dlectricity to being the official timepiece and timekeepers of the Detroit Grand Prix this June and the title sponsors of Detroit Restaurant Week, which starts this Friday, April 19.
 
Source: Daniel Caudill, Creative Director of Shinola
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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

Hellenic Museum celebrates grand opening in Detroit's cultural center

Though they've been hosting special events for over a year now, the Hellenic Museum in Midtown officially celebrated its grand opening this past weekend.
 
The building, located at 67 E. Kirby in Detroit's Cultural Center, was purchased from Wayne State University in 2009 for $355,000.
 
The Hellenic Heritage Society, the nonprofit organization that is dedicated to the promotion and celebration of Detroit's Greek heritage and growth of Greek culture, has spent the last four years restoring the building, formerly the Detroit Children's Museum, which included a new roof, a whole new geothermal heating system, air conditioning and more repairs, all while building up the inventory that is now the museum's collection.
 
Detroit's Hellenic Museum is one of only two such museums in the country (the other one opened about 15 years ago in Chicago). Joan De Ronne, vice president of operations for the Hellenic Museum, says, "The reason for the establishment of the Hellenic Museum in Michigan is because there is really nothing that was a reflection of Greek history and culture other than a small exhibit at the DIA and (in the libraries)," despite the tremendous impact Greek culture has had on the whole of Western civilization. Additionally, the roots of Greek culture in metro Detroit run deep, beginning with the immigration of the Greeks to the area in the early 1900s into Greektown. "So many (cultural) contributions have been made and those things are being lost. We want to preserve the story of their contributions, not just to Hellenic culture but also to greater metro Detroit as a whole."
 
The museum's collection consists of heritage items collected from families and churches – books, artwork and pottery, an eighteenth century bridal gown. The museum is also collecting the oral histories of local Greek families, which will eventually be available on the Hellenic Museum website.
 
The museum will continue hosting and partnering on events that celebrate and promote Greek culture – music, art, food, and history – such as the annual Greek Independence Day Parade that was held in tandem with their grand opening last Saturday.
 
Source: Joan De Ronne, Vice President of Operations for the Hellenic Museum
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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

TechTown goes beyond tech with SWOT City and Retail Boot Camp

"(There was a time when) TechTown was trying to be all things to all people," says TechTown President and CEO Leslie Smith. Now, with community partners like Hatch Detroit and D:hive, which are better-suited to validate and launch ideas, TechTown is able to focus on what they do best: validate and launch businesses.
 
Two programs TechTown runs that focus on launching businesses are SWOT City and Retail Boot Camp.
 
"In 2008, when the economy crashed, we found ourselves involved in a new economy initiative that suggested entrepreneurship was a new career path for many people," says Smith. TechTown also found themselves involved in businesses that were decidedly non-tech. "We looked at where was the most ripe opportunity for businesses and the existing market demand; from these places these programs were born."
 
SWOT City places new businesses to fill community voids and promote entrepreneurship, connects neighborhood businesses with key resources and provides personal coaching and information sessions to address a business's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT).
 
"SWOT attempts to address underserved populations in the city of Detroit who don't necessarily have the information or transportation to even get to TechTown," says Smith. "We saw we were not serving the city in as many ways as we could, so we developed a neighborhood strategy that allows us to go to them and meet them where they are." They did their initial testing in Midtown and the North End before launching in Brightmoor last October, a socioeconomically challenged neighborhood that has already seen positive results.
 
In six months, the partnership with Brightmoor has provided 400 hours of technical assistance, retained 53 jobs, completed 15 business assessments, and created one business and four jobs with six more businesses currently in the pipeline. In late March, TechTown announced their next community partnership is with the Jefferson East Business Association to develop the East Jefferson commercial corridor.
 
Retail Boot Camp is a new program offered by TechTown, which acts as an aggressive accelerator program for brick and mortar retail businesses. Applications for the first round are being accepted through this Friday, April 19. The intensive 10-week evening program starts in May with the goal of launching a dozen new retail storefronts in the city within the year.
 
Source: Leslie Smith, TechTown President and CEO
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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