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Heritage Bridge serves as quality-of-life linchpin in Ypsilanti

Work crews are putting the final pieces into place for the Heritage Bridge in Ypsilanti, but the new pedestrian bridge is better seen as the final piece of a comprehensive parks system that is raising the quality of life in the city.

The Heritage Bridge will span the Huron River, connecting Riverside Park and Water Street. More importantly the bridge will serve as the last major connector in Ypsilanti piece of the Border to Border Trail, a major trail system spanning the width of Washtenaw County. The Heritage Bridge will also serve as the last pedestrian  connector for all of the city’s public parks.

"When people choose a place to live and do business, they want it to be attractive," says Beth Ernat, economic development director for the city of Ypsilanti. "This is one of our big amenities for our community."

The $1.2 million project is all but done. The main infrastructure of the bridge is finished with working crews spending the next couple of weeks working on the details of the project, such as installing handrails and signage. When it's all said and done it will be a barrier-free avenue for pedestrians, along with the rest of the trails and parks in the city.

"We are probably within a month of completing it for the year," Ernat says.

She expects people to be able to walk on it by December, and a grand opening for it to be held in the spring.

Source: Beth Ernat, economic development director for the city of Ypsilanti
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Arbor Brewing Co puts on a new face after 20 years downtown

Big changes are coming to Arbor Brewing Co as the ownership plans to mark its 20th anniversary with a comprehensive face-lift of the brewpub.The microbrewery plans to revamp its bar, dining room seating, entryway, kitchen, and bathrooms in an effort to modernize the establishment and make it more accessible. The restaurant has also promoted one of its employees to executive chef and plans to launch a new menu when it reopens early next year.

"We're doing a lot," says Rene Greff, who co-founded Arbor Brewing Co with her husband Matt Greff.

When all the dust settles patrons will notice the changes right away, and throughout the eatery. The entryway will be reconfigured so the door is on the side of the entry vestibule. The bar will also be redesigned into a U shape by removing a faux wall behind the existing bar. The new bar will be able to accommodate more seating and make it easier for people to move through the dinning area.

"It's going to make it a more pleasant entrance," Greff says. "It's also going to make it a more pleasant experience for the people at the bar."

The connection between the main dinning room and game room will be enlarged by removing parts of the wall and a few booths. The downstairs bathrooms will also be renovated. The Greffs also plans to repaint the interior, tear out the old carpet, do some improvements to the kitchen, and upgrade the lighting.

The $200,000 renovation will keep the overall capacity (210 people) and seating (150 people) neutral because of the larger bar and loss of some booths. Work is expected to begin January 4th in the basement. The whole brewpub will shut down for two weeks on January 11th. The new menu will debut when it reopens, featuring vegetarian- and vegan-friendly fare made from scratch inspired by a recent menu revamp at the Corner Brewery in Ypsilanti, which the Greffs also own.

"I like to think of it as gastropub meets food truck," Greff says. "It's still pub fare but with more interesting ingredients."

Source: Rene Greff, co-founder of Arbor Brewing Co
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

New apt building planned for south of downtown Ann Arbor

A new mid-rise apartment building is heading for the greater downtown Ann Arbor area. The Residences at 615 South Main will replace three commercial buildings on the 600 block of South Main with a six-story apartment building. Plans have recently been submitted to the city and the approval process is expected to go on through this winter.

The development would go up across the street from 618 South Main, another mid-rise apartment building that opened earlier this year. The Residences at 615 S Main would feature ground floor commercial space and 245 units, including townhomes, micro-studios (less than 400 square feet), studios, two-bedroom, three-bedroom, four-bedroom, and five bedroom units.

"We probably have the most diverse collection of housing for any development in the city," says Brad Moore, president of J Bradley Moore & Associates, which is the co-architect on the project.

About 51 percent of the units are comprised of the studios, micro studios and townhomes. The larger bedroom-count units only account for a handful of units. The townhomes will feature two bedrooms and a flex space for a potential work-from-home business. Moore says the development isn’t targeting any one specific demographic.

"Anybody who wants to live close to downtown," Moore says. "We imagine the micro studios will be popular with people who work downtown and want to live close to downtown without paying a lot of money."

The development will also feature one floor of underground parking of about 180 parking spots. It will also have 5,000 square feet of commercial space where the builders plan to incorporate an 19th Century buggy factory into the overall development. The current businesses that occupy the commercial space The Residences at 615 South Main will replace will also be given an opportunity to reopen in the new building.

"It's possible some of the tenants from the existing buildings could locate into the new buildings," Moore says.

The development is currently scheduled to go before the city's Design Review Board later this month. The approval process is expected to take the rest of this winter and possibly go into the spring. A construction timeline is roughly set for 14-18 months.

Source: Brad Moore, president of J Bradley Moore & Associates
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Beal restores grandeur to 10 N Washington in downtown Ypsilanti

Another 100-year-old building is coming back online in downtown Ypsilanti, making room for five new businesses. 

The single-story commercial structure at 10 N Washington had been vacant for a couple of years before new ownership took over in the summer of 2014. It has since executed a complete renovation, filling it with five local small businesses, including Bodies by Yogi, Betty Green Organic Beauty, Paint Ypsilanti, Five Star Care Network, and Go! Ice Cream.

"It's all done with the exception of Go! Ice Cream," says Stewart Beal, construction contractor and property manager of 10 N Washington. Go! Ice Cream recently closed a successful crowdfunding campaign to build out a commercial kitchen and soda shop on the alley side of the building early next year.

10 N Washington had been used by a couple of office tenants before it went vacant. The whole building needed love but its exterior hadn't been improved in decades. Beal's team brought it back to its original design.

They team also subdivided the commercial space to accommodate Ypsilanti’s emerging small business scene. Originally Beal the ownership were looking for one tenant to occupy the 2,800 square feet on the ground floor and 1,800-square-foot basement.

"We never got any takers sop we decided to split it onto five spaces," Beal says. "In some cases it's easier to rent out five smaller spaces."

Source: Stewart Beal, construction contractor and property manager of 10 N Washington
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Argus Farm Stop expands with greenhouse conservatory

Argus Farm Stop is becoming even more customer friendly, adding a greenhouse/convervatory space in downtown Ann Arbor.

"You can see all of downtown when you're sitting there," says Bill Brinkerhoff, co-owner of Argus Farm Stop.

Brinkerhoff and his partners took over an old gas station and turned it into a year-round all-local market and coffee shop called Argus Farm Shop. The 100-year-old building at 325 W Liberty, on the border of the Ann Arbor’s downtown and the Old West Side neighborhood, was an eyesore before Argus Farm Shop turned it into a hub of activity.

"It's been a great first year," Brinkerhoff says. "We want to expand the space to have more seating inside."

The expansion project will take the patio area of Argus Farm Shop and enclose it with a greenhouse-style space. The idea is to maintain the outside feel of the space but make it accessible to customers year round. It will have space for up to 15 people. Brinkeroff and his partners choose the greenhouse style so it would blend in with nearby architecture.

Work is expected to begin on the space before the end of the year. Brinkerhoff hopes to finish it in time for the spring.

Source: Bill Brinkerhoff, co-owner of Argus Farm Stop
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Hammers start swinging at Go! Ice Cream in downtown Ypsilanti

Work has begun in earnest on building out the first permanent home for Go! Ice Cream. The business plans to open early next year, adding one more cool thing to downtown Ypsilanti.

Go! Ice Cream is taking over a vacant storefront on the alley side of 10 N Washington. It is utilizing $35,029 from a successful crowdfunding campaign to help jump start the build out.

"We just tore out all of the stuff that was there before," says Rob Hess, owner of Go! Ice Cream. "It was an old office space with a drop ceiling and carpet."

Hess started making ice cream in his home as a hobby. That grew into a part-time business of him selling his cold treats at events and from a tricycle all across Ypsilanti. Opening a brick-and-mortar storefront was the next logical step.

The new space will feature a commercial kitchen for ice cream production. It will also have a 1920s-themed soda shop. Both are expected to open early next year.

"We want to open up the kitchen by February and keep working on the soda shop," Hess says. "We want to have the soda shop open by May."

Source: Rob Hess, owner of Go! Ice Cream
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Artisans fill Ypsi Alloy Studios' new space in Ypsilanti

Ypsi Alloy Studios opened last summer but not in the space where it planned to stake its claim. The small artist community originally was looking in an the area between Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor. Instead it landed in a small industrial space within the Ypsilanti city limits.

"It's a little bit smaller than the one before but it's perfect for us," says Elize Jekabson, co-founder of Ypsi Alloy Studios.

Jekabson, Ilana Houten and Jessica Tenbusch are all artisans active in Ypsilanti’s dynamic art scene. They combined resources to come up with a community space for artisans like themselves. They now have 11 people working at Ypsi Allow Studios, including jewelers, metal smiths, sculptors, painters, illustrators, fiber artisans, fabricators, and a multi-media writer. There is a waiting list to get a space in Ypsi Alloy Studios but interested parties are encouraged to inquire at ypsi.alloy@gmail.com.

The artist space is located in Mansfield Road in 2,440 square feet of a metal worker's shop. The group had to make some small changes to prep the space.

"It ended up working much better," Tenbusch says. "It's in the city limits. The landlord has been a pleasure to work with. He understands what we're trying to do."

"We didn't have much to do beyond adding electrical outlets for each individual space," Houten says.

Ypsi Alloy Studios is looking at launching a crowdfunding campaign in the next few months to fund an expansion of its space. It would like to stay in the same complex. It also plans to host an open house in mid December.

Source: Ilana Houten, Elize Jekabson and Jessica Tenbusch, co-founders of Ypsi Alloy Studios
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Spencer hits crowdfunding goal, plans to open next week

There is good news for Spencer, a new restaurant in Ann Arbor, and its future customers. The eatery recently surpassed its crowdfunding goal of $30,000 with about a week to spare. The restaurant and cheese bar is also set to open its doors for lunch service on Wednesday.

"That gets us going and gets people in the door," says Steven Hall, co-owner of Spencer.

Hall and Abby Olitzky, they are recently engaged, started experimenting with restauranting a few years ago. They gained some recognition with a pop-up called Central Provisions. They switched the name to Spencer last year because another restaurant in Maine opened with the name Central Provisions.

Spencer is set to open in downtown Ann Arbor at 113 E Liberty in a 1,200 square foot space that sits 50 people. They are opening with lunch service first to start generating some revenue. The liquor license approval is a little ways behind but should be done by the end of this fall.

Hall and Olitzky launched a crowdfunding campaign to help put this all together with a goal of raising $30,000. Its now at $32,000 with six days left as of Tuesday afternoon. Hall points out people can still give to help offset the administrative costs Kickstarter charges and other things and still claim the prizes for contributing. More importantly it helps with exposure.

"Every person who gives is one more person that is reading about us," Hall says.

Source: Steven Hall, co-owner of Spencer
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Davis Row plans to bring townhouses near downtown Ann Arbor

More housing is coming to Ann Arbor's downtown area, but this latest development isn't a high-rise. Maven Development plans to build a small row of townhouses just south of downtown Ann Arbor. The development, called Davis Row, will bring four high-end townhouses to the for-sale market next year.

"There is a need for housing downtown," says Dan Williams, principal of Maven Development, and Ann Arbor-based real-estate development firm. "This allows people to have a house near downtown and not be in a high-rise."

Davis Row will consist of four townhouses, each consisting of three bedrooms and 3.5 bathrooms on the 300 block of West Davis Street. They will replace two rental houses that will be razed.

Two of the townhouses will measure out 1,900 square feet and the other two will come to 2,100 square feet. Williams says they will be built in an arts & crafts-style architecture.

Construction on Davis Row is set to begin in late November or early December. Williams estimates it will take 9-10 months to complete construction. The townhouses will be priced between high $500,000s and mid $600,000s. Two of them have already been reserved.

Source: Dan Williams, principal of Maven Development
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

First Martin set to finish downtown Ann Arbor hotel this month

Workers are putting the finishing touches on the new Residence Inn by Marriott in downtown Ann Arbor. The developer, First Martin, expects the hotel to open for business before the end of this month.

"We're almost done," says Darren McKinnon, vice president of First Martin. "We hope to take in our first residents in a few days."

The Ann Arbor-based development company is building the first name-brand hotel in downtown Ann Arbor in more than a generation. The hotel is going up at 120 W Huron at the corner of Ashley and Huron Streets. It's occupying a former vacant lot and Greyhound bus depot. The bus depot's historic facade and signage has been integrated into building but the actual Greyhound station has moved.

The 6-story structure is a mixed-use development with 5,800 square feet of ground floor commercial space that stretches along Huron Avenue between the bus depot facade to Ashley Street. The building will house two Zip Car spots and have access to the 800-space Ann & Ashley Parking Garage.

The Residence Inn by Marriott will feature 110 rooms and other various hotel amenities, like conference rooms and an exercise area. Each of hotel room is built out for patrons who are looking for a place to have an extended stay while they are in Ann Arbor.

"Every room is a suite with a kitchenette and a pull-out couch," McKinnon says. "There is also a free breakfast."

Source: Darren McKinnon, vice president of First Martin
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Ann Arbor Builders plans for rare sub-division inside freeway loop

Building single-family home sub-divisions is nothing new in the Ann Arbor area. Building one inside the loop of freeways that make up the city's defacto borders is rare.

Ann Arbor Builders is working to pull off the development with its Banyan Court project. The custom-home building firm plans to turn a nearly 3-acre lot on the city's southwest side into a 10-home sub-division over the next year. The lot, located on South Maple Road between Jade Court and Country Village Court, used to house an old ranch house that is now razed.

"There aren't too many parcels like this left," says Alex de Parry, developer of Banyan Court.

Ann Arbor Builders plans to build a cul-de-sac straight back from the road and then build the 10 single-family houses off of that street, which will be named Banyan Court. The houses will range in size from a 1,600-square-foot ranch to a 2,200-square-foot two-story house. All of them will be made in a craftsman-style architecture, which de Parry says will match the surrounding area.

"We try to build according to what is on either side," de Parry says. "That's what we did here. We want to blend into the neighborhood, not stand out."

Ann Arbor Builders plans to sell the houses for $350,00 to $450,000 each. It has already taken a couple of reservations for them and will build them out to for individual buyers as they put deposits down. Plans call for construction to take about a year starting next spring as long as the city signs off on the planned-unit development.

"We hope to have approval by January," de Parry says.

Source: Alex de Parry, developer of Banyan Court
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Nutshell lands Series A2 round, plans to move to bigger home

Nutshell is making a sizable impact on Ann Arbor in two ways this year. First, the tech startup has just finished raising millions of dollars to fuel its rapid growth. Second, its co-founders and CEO have recently purchased three buildings in downtown Ann Arbor with the idea of creating a tech hub.

"This is about creating a center of gravity for all things tech in downtown Ann Arbor," says Joe Malcoun, CEO of Nutshell.

Malcoun and three of Nutshell's co-founders purchased 202, 206 and 208 E Huron St through their Cahoots Capital holding company earlier this year. They plan to turn the 24,000 square feet between the three buildings into one tech hub that will house Nutshell and other tech firms, including Notion and Coolhouse Labs.

The group is in the process of choosing a general contractor for the renovation project. They hope to have the new space online and ready to go by summer of next year. Nutshell expects to move into the space not long after it becomes available.

"We really don't want to leave downtown Ann Arbor," Malcoun says. "It's an important part of our value proposition to our employees our company culture."

Nutshell makes customer relationship management software. The platform helps companies organize and automate its systems so its staff can work smarter and collaborate more with each other and their customers.

The 4-year-old startup has watched its revenue jump 60 percent over the last year, prompting it to double its staff to 25 employees and an intern thanks to 12 new hires. Malcoun is looking to hire another 10-12 people now that it has landed a new round of investment. The rest of the money will go toward ratcheting up its marketing efforts.

"The pure volume of marketing will increase," Malcoun says. "More importantly we are committing to an in-bound marketing campaign. We want to build a relationship with people before they purchase our product."

Malcoun describes Nutshell’s latest investment round as a Series A2 worth "several million dollars." He declined to specify how much it was worth but did add that Ann Arbor-based Plymouth Venture Partners is leading the round.

"It's a growth round, an extension of our Series A," Malcoun says. "We are calling it a Series A2 as a sort of homage to Ann Arbor."

Source: Joe Malcoun, CEO of Nutshell
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Ypsilanti aims to empower residents with new side-lot program

Ypsilanti wants to empower its residents by letting some of them purchase the lawns they mow. Talk about grassroots.

The city of Ypsilanti is working to launch a side-lot program where homeowners who live next to vacant lots owned by the city can buy them for as little as $1. Often the lots in question are small city lots where the city razed a blighted building and left a grassy area that more times than not the neighbors take care of.

"We're looking at increasing someone's yard," says Beth Ernat, director of community & economic development for the city of Ypsilanti. "It rewards property owners who have been taking care of the property."

The city hopes selling the lots to local residents will mean generating more property tax revenue and spending less city resources on maintaining vacant land. Similar side-lot programs have been deployed in other Michigan cities, like Detroit, Saginaw and Flint.

"It has worked in very well in other cities," Ernat says. "We think it's worth giving it a try here."

The city of Ypsilanti hopes to have the program ready for launch in October and selling lots in November. Corner lots and lots of big acreage, such as the Water Street properties, are not available. Available lots will first be offered to adjacent owner-occupants who are in good standing with the city regarding property taxes and code violations. For information, contact Ernat at bernat@cityofypsilanti.com or (734) 482-9774.

"We have received a lot of interest from word of mouth," Ernat says. "We will be notifying every neighbor about this."

Source: Beth Ernat, director of community & economic development for the city of Ypsilanti
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

DTE opens huge solar farm next to Domino's Farms

The largest solar farm in Michigan is generating clean energy next to Domino's Farms this fall.

DTE Energy and Domino's Farms flipped the switch on the 1.1 megawatt solar array on Ann Arbor's northeast side earlier this month. Motorist driving past Domino’s Farms at the M-14/US 23 intersection will notice the 4,000 panels on the north side of M-14. DTE Energy owns the solar farm and will operate it for 20 years. It is leasing the land from Domino's Farms.

"We were identified (as a potential home for the solar farm) because we are one of the larger landowners in the Ann Arbor area," says John Petz, director of real-estate and public affairs for Domino's Farms. "We also have a lot of freeway frontage."

The solar farm is putting the undeveloped and underutilized land to use as part of DTE Energy's initiative to generate 10 percent of its electricity from renewable sources as mandated by state law. The Domino’s Farms solar array will generate enough electricity for 200 homes at any given time and is part of the 11 megawatts of solar farms run by DTE Energy at 23 sites across Michigan.

The electricity generated at the Domino's Farms solar array will be enough to offset one quarter of its electrical needs, although the power will be sent directly to DTE Energy's grid. The solar array is part of Domino’s Farms overall effort to become more energy efficient, such as switching the green lights that make up the main building's outline to LED lights. Today Domino's Farms uses as much electricity as it did before it added 200,000 square feet of space several years ago.

"We have been doing those sorts of things for a number of years," Petz says.

Source: John Petz, director of real-estate and public affairs for Domino’s Farms
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Saline group crowd funds to light up Henne Field

Folks in Saline are working to make Henne Field a central part of downtown by lighting it up this fall. The Friends of Henne Field has launched a crowdfunding campaign to install streetlights along the walkways of the near-downtown park. The group wants to raise $35,000 over the next two weeks for the $95,000 project. You can find the crowdfunding campaign here.

"It will make a tremendous difference," says David Rhoads, vice chair of the Friends of Henne Field. "People walk the path only during the day time now."

Henne Field was donated to Saline Area Schools donated in 1947. It fell into disuse in recent years until the Friends of Henne Field began working to make it into a community green space in 2007. They believe its location near downtown makes it an ideal for festivals, car shows and other small events.

The addition of the street lights is the next step forward for the group. It has already raised $25,000 for the effort, and will receive a $35,000 matching grant from the state if it can raise another $35,000 through the crowdfunding campaign. When the money is raised, Rhoads hopes to have project done by the end of November.

Source: David Rhoads, vice chair of the Friends of Henne Field
Writer: Jon Zemke

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