| Follow Us:

Development News

1411 Articles | Page: | Show All

EMU tackles next round of renovations and expansions

Health-related programs, the Honors College and student housing are all on the docket for investment from Eastern Michigan University beginning later this year.

The Board of Regents approved a $8.9 million capital budget last week, which includes earmarking $2.8 million for academic facility upgrades, mostly for additional renovations to the Rackham Building, which houses EMU's Physician Assistant Program and other health and human services programs. More than $1 million is budgeted to continue to grow space for the Honors College program, which had its largest class (500) this year, and Wise Hall will close for a year at the end of the semester for a $2 million renovation to improve its student housing facilities.

Geoff Larcom, Executive Director of Media Relations for Eastern Michigan University, explains that the university is always working toward aligning its buildings and facilities with the needs of the students, and that includes reinvesting in student housing. He says the health-related programs in Rackham, for example, have experienced a good deal of growth alongside health-related fields in general.

This helps EMU "align its academic programs with high-job growth, which health care fields obviously are," he says.

EMU boasts a faculty who has a strong relationship with students and a science complex that teaches students job skills for high-demand STEM fields, Larcom says, “so it’s very important to have a marquee facility where students can work comfortably in labs and interact.”

"(This) ongoing investment continues the direction of emphasis on student and academic facilities -- the center of the university’s mission," Larcom says.

Renovations are budgeted for the 2015-16 fiscal year but preparations may start as early as the end of the current semester. Smaller-ticket items include security upgrades, improvements to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, additional Automated External Defibrillators, and classroom and facility enhancements.

Source: Geoff Larcom, Executive Director of Media Relations for Eastern Michigan University
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

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

Construction starts on Ypsilanti's Thompson Block renovation

Roof work is in progress and residential leases are being signed for the Thompson Block redevelopment project in Ypsilanti’s Depot Town.

Investment partner and Real Estate One agent Tyler Weston, who is handling the development’s leasing and marketing, confirmed that construction has begun with the roof as the first goal, soon to be followed by foundation work and other interior build-outs. They're looking to deliver keys to commercial tenants next February and are also taking reservations for the lofts on the second and third floor of the building; in fact, only two of the six, third-floor units remain available.

"Over a year out, people are already reserving them and signing leases," Weston says. "We’ve got positive momentum going and are looking forward to getting it off the ground."

Weston doesn't yet have an idea of the size of the crew needed, but says bids are out and quite a few people will be involved in making the project happen. New leases had to be signed for the commercial spaces, and although he’s not ready to reveal the tenants, he will say they are "super awesome and super local."

Weston also says he’s especially excited about adding to "what's already thriving in Depot Town."

"It feels really good to add other local businesses that are going to be a part of the fabric of Depot Town for years to come," he says. "It's a great city and there's great opportunity here. We stay in network and help each other out. Thompson Block's the perfect iteration of that."

The $4 million redevelopment project will feature 14,000 square feet of commercial space. It was built in 1861 as barracks for the Civil War and is located at River and Cross streets.

Source: Tyler Weston, Thompson Block partner
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

Ann Arbor-Howell commuter rail seeks public input for feasibility study

Community meetings seeking feedback were just the most recent step toward saying "all aboard" to building a commuter rail line from Ann Arbor to Howell.

Public input was gathered earlier this week and last week for the North-South Commuter Rail (WALLY), a proposed 27-mile long commuter rail service that would connect Ann Arbor and Howell and have intermediate stops along the way. The meetings are one piece of the feasibility study puzzle, which will determine whether or not the rail is a viable option for the community.

"It's intended to answer in detail the question: 'Can the service happen or not?'" says Michael Benham, Strategic Planner at the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority.

Benham explains that the study will encompass three general categories: service, which includes the bricks and mortar of the stations and the rails under the trains; government, which will determine whether one entity or an authority will run the service; and funding, where taxpayers weigh in on whether or not the service will be worth the backing necessary. The project is still early in the process, so there's still many questions to be answered, from ridership estimates to operating costs to necessary track upgrades.

Benham says feedback has been mixed, as some don’t believe the rail would be a good use of public funds, but others see it as helping them get to where they want to go without having to drive.

"People are getting their licenses later, and when they do they drive less," he says. "Especially younger people, they want to be able to get around without a car."

Among the issues being evaluated are how the line would affect property values, economic development and job creation in the region. The federally-funded study is expected to take about 15 months; if the line is found to be feasible, the study will help prepare it for federal funding.

Residents are also invited to weigh in online at www.nsrailstudy.com.

Source: Michael Benham, strategic planner for the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

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

Petition for Ypsilanti solar array gathers support

A former Ypsilanti landfill could see new life as a solar array, if supporters of solar energy have their way.

A petition at Solar Ypsi's website is gathering support to build a solar array on several acres on what was a city-owned landfill, along I-94 near Huron Street. Dave Strenski, founder of Solar Ypsi and solar energy proponent, explained that several years ago, DTE Energy put out a request for proposals looking for places that would be good fits for solar arrays. Through his solar energy contacts, a proposal for Ypsilanti was put together and submitted.

A friend helped create an online petition in support of the solar array, which has gathered nearly 800 supporters. "Hopefully this tells DTE that this is a safe place to put solar panels, that it’s supported here," he says.

Strenski says although there may be concerns about that property being on a landfill, the solar array design would sit on concrete blocks and not penetrate the ground. "Old landfills are a perfect location for a solar array making use of land that would otherwise sit idle forever," the petition says. "A ballasted solar rack design has no ground penetrations and poses little to no risk of disturbing the landfill’s contents."

Projects such as solar arrays are one component of a larger plan to make Ypsilanti a solar destination, Strenski says, as well as developing what has been an unused, undevelopable property. And that's not to mention the eventual cost savings and job creation that will come with creating that new energy source.

"I'm convinced that solar power is the future," he says. "I think this would give Ypsilanti a very positive image, that we’re on the leading edge."

Source: Dave Strenski, founder of Solar Ypsi
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

Shinola's newest store brings watches, ping pong, etc to downtown Ann Arbor

Shinola will bring its handcrafted watches, leather goods, bicycles and more to Ann Arbor at a new store set to open in downtown this May.

Shinola Chief Operating Officer Heath Carr says there has been "overwhelming response" from people who live in Ann Arbor visiting the existing location in midtown Detroit, whether driving or filling a shuttle bus that ran regularly between the storefront and Ann Arbor this past holiday season.

"We always talked about how do we expand in the state of Michigan, and Ann Arbor seemed like a logical place," Carr says.

Some final preparation has to be completed at the 1,500-square-foot location, at the corner of Liberty and Main, and then Shinola can start getting the space ready for summer shoppers. The store will also include a Commonwealth coffee shop and about 2,000 square feet in the lower level that will include a community lounge with tables and seating, ping pong tables and event space.

Carr says he wants the stores to be integrated into the community and feel like they've always been there. "We're excited to continue to roll out the Shinola story and products and be a part of these communities," he says.

Carr expects to hire about six to eight people to start and possibly more as the store expands. Commonwealth will also hire a few of its own staff.

The Ann Arbor location will be Shinola's seventh brick-and-mortar store. It has other locations in New York, London, Minneapolis, Los Angeles and Chicago.

Source: Heath Carr, chief operating officer at Shinola
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

Ann Arbor seeks fresh round of proposals for Library Lot

The Library Lot in downtown Ann Arbor may be coming out of development limbo soon, as the city is looking for proposals to build above the underground garage completed a few years ago.

Steve Powers, city administrator for the City of Ann Arbor, says the process is moving forward with the city soliciting proposals for the rights to develop above the garage, which is and will continue to be owned by the city. Proposals are due May 15; he's expecting them to be reviewed shortly afterward with the preferred developer or developers selected in June.

The property is just larger than 35,000 square feet at Fifth Street between Liberty and William, near the library, Blake Transit Center and federal court building. According to the official Offering Memorandum, put together by CRBE Group, Inc. of Southfield, the city's goal is for the property to be transformed into "a high density, modern, sustainable urban redevelopment that contributes to the fabric and livability of downtown Ann Arbor."

Potential uses are listed as commercial development with retail, office, residential housing and/or hotel/hospitality. Powers explains that the lot is zoned for D1, the city's highest density zoning, which makes it what he called "a rare opportunity in downtown Ann Arbor."

City council also wants an urban public park, set to be an approximately 12,000-square-foot portion of the property along Fifth Street, incorporated into the plans. "What it looks like and how it’s integrated into the development is going to be one of the key values for evaluating proposals," Powers says.

It's early and development plans for the site have been ongoing for years, but Powers says he’s optimistic there will be renewed interest in developing the site. "The results of the public process will be a development that will bring in some needed revenue to the city, that will add to the downtown's vibrance, and will be something that will be a source of pride for Ann Arbor," he says.

Source: Steve Powers, city administrator, City of Ann Arbor
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

New Kerrytown condo development breaks ground

Shovels are in the ground at 121 Kingsley West, a new condo development project in Ann Arbor's Kerrytown.

Earth retention and foundation systems are currently in the works for the residential condo project will be 19 units at Kingsley and Ashley, says Tom Fitzsimmons, Huron Kinsley development team partner and builder with Huron Contracting. After foundation systems are in and site work is done, utilities and steel and wood framing are next . This will keep things on schedule for moving people in during spring or summer 2016. Condos will range in size from 1,000 to 2,400 square feet, include off-street parking, and cost from $400,000 to $1 million depending on the unit.

Although a residential development, the project will likely still help boost the downtown economy by virtue of having more people living in the city's core, Fitzsimmons explains. In his own experience, he's seen more empty nesters move to downtown areas to be close to businesses and services.

"We're getting more people to live downtown, and more people living downtown affects the downtown economy," he says. "It's a good thing for the businesses downtown."

His own construction management firm employees are working on the project as well as contractors, so at any given day a dozen or so people could be working at the site, he says.

Source: Tom Fitzimmons, 121 Kingsley West partner and builder
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

Amplifinity settles into additional space at existing location

Increased sales, additional employees, and a larger office to match -- software company Amplifinity has grown into expanded space on the Ann Arbor’s north side.

Amplifinity recently doubled its office square footage from 6,500 to 13,500 at its location at 912 N. Main St., taking over the whole building after two other companies moved to new space, explained company president Eric Jacobson.

"Our head count has about doubled in the last year," he says, from 25 to 43 employees. "We're growing fast and selling a lot of software."

Amplifinity makes software for companies to manage brand advocacy marketing programs on social networks, and its popularity helped lead the company to its expansion. After employees became more and more packed into their previous space, Jacobson was able to work out an arrangement with landlord Peter Allen & Associates for the whole building, in no small part because he loves the location -- still within walking distance to downtown yet near the Huron River and its adjoining nature trails, and much more inspiring to creativity than a bland office park.

"Being able to walk out and walk away from your computer screen, sit by the river, watch the water flowing by -- it clears your head and allows you to solve problems in a completely different environment, rather than letters and numbers on a crystal display," he says.

Source: Eric Jacobson, president of Amplifinity
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

Former Ypsilanti pub to be reincarnated as co-working space

The new co-owner of Ypsilanti’s former Pub 13 building hopes to bring new life into a "fabulous" building by transforming it into an open co-working space.

Wayne Millette, who bought the building earlier this month with two business partners, says the trio is working with an architectural firm to keep some of the details of the former business and its character, such as transforming the wooden bar into desk space. He'd like to keep the openness of both floors, while incorporating conference rooms and other quiet spaces.

"We don't want to lose the character of that building," he says. "We're really trying to create a space that is user friendly."

Located at 17 N. Washington St., the building first needs a new roof -- it currently "looks like an icicle," Millette says -- and windows need to replaced in accordance to the historic district in which it's located. Then interior renovations can get going in earnest, working toward an aggressive goal of opening in September.

He hopes the space brings more people into the downtown area and expects to hire staff to keep it running smoothly. Ideally, Millette would also like to see green technology incorporated into the building, and perhaps partner with a nearby business school. "We'll always have something going on in the building," he says.

Millette has lived in the area for some 20 years, having been involved in the New Beginnings Academy nearby as well as a few other business ventures. "This is our home -- we want to invest in it," he says. "Ypsi has a bright future, and we're just excited to be a part of it."

Source: Wayne Millette, co-owner
Writer: Kristin Lukowsk

Recycled Cycles Bike Shop keeps Ypsi riders rolling

When it comes to bikes, David Yapp wants to keep the wheels turning.

Yapp recently founded Recycled Cycles Bike Shop, operating out of a storefront at 32 N. Huron St. in Ypsilanti, to buy, refurbish and sell gently used bikes back to the community. "There are so many bikes already out there, it just makes sense," Yapp says. "And maybe not everyone wants a brand new bike -- maybe it’s something classic they enjoy."

Recycled Cycles also accepts donations of used parts to be refurbished or sold, and repairs bicycles. Not only is purchasing a used bicycle usually more economical, but it also holds the opportunity to make the bike unique to the rider, Yapp explains. "Anything that can be of value, we'll save," he says. "We'll use it for the next bike, or a project bike."

Yapp draws from his 15+ year passion of "cycling and everything related," he says, including working in bike shops, racing, and riding all over the country. "This is what I know and this is what I love," he says. "It's really just a fun place to work for me."

He's hoping to manage the workload with volunteers and friends to start, but as the weather warms up and more people dust off their own bicycles, adding a small staff may be necessary based on growth. He also hopes to offer bike maintenance classes.

"There's nothing wrong with used bikes," Yapp says. "We're trying to reestablish a passion for refurbished bikes."

Source: David Yapp, founder, Recycled Cycles Bike Shop
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

Annex of Paredown shop brings home decor to Old Westside

Brenda Brown refers to herself as a lifelong Ann Arbor townie, and after spending 40 years in the book manufacturing industry, she's now turning her attention to helping other townies make their homes more cozy and beautiful. Her new Jackson Rd. shop, Annex of Paredown, offers new and vintage home furnishings, home decor fabrics, as well as design ideas and organizing services. 

"I've been helping people rethink and repurpose their furnishings because they're downsizing or moving, or rethinking how they're living in their homes when they have empty nests," Brown says. 

The character of the homes in and around Ann Arbor's Old West Side is how she ended up choosing her location, right at the division of Jackson and Dexter Aves. The neighborhood's homes fit in well with the era and style of her inventory and services. She opened the doors of her less than 1,000 square foot shop in early November.

"So far the reception has been wonderful," says Brown. "The neighborhood traffic in particular has been phenomenal."

While she currently operates Annex of Paredown independently, she hopes to soon add three to five contractors as instructors for home decor-related classes such as sewing or upholstery. Farther into the future, she would like to add up to two staffers in the shop. 

Source: Brenda Brown, Annex of Paredown
Writer: Natalie Burg

Authentic Mexican comes to Packard St. with Mi Compadre

Nicolas Quintana knows the restaurant industry, and he knows Mexican food. The Mexico native has been working in restaurants for the last 15 years since coming the United States, and now he, his nephew, and his longtime friend are bringing all of that experience to Mi Compadre, a new Mexican restaurant on Packard that promises only the freshest and most authentic of Mexican foods. 

"This is not Taco Bell. This is not Chi-Chi's," says Quintana. "We want people to know what real Mexican food is."

Among those authentic options will be such dishes as tlayudas, a pizza-like entree with a tortilla crust. All of their dishes will also focus on fresh ingredients and will be made from scratch to order. 

Mi Compadre has been in the works for about a year as Quintana and his partners have renovated about 90 percent of the former Ann Arbor Subs space. Updates have included everything from plumbing to new seating. Tables for 48 diners have been installed in the new restaurant. After all that hard work, Mi Compadre finally opened for business last week. 

"Eveyrthing has been very good so far," Quintana says. "We had people who come and say they like it because everything is made to order."

In addition to the owners, Mi Compadre employs a staff of four. 

Source: Nicolas Quintana, Mi Compadre
Writer: Natalie Burg

Mishigama Craft Brewing to add more variety to Ypsilanti's growing beer scene

After more than two decades with General Motors. David Roberts was looking for a new challenge. It just so happened that his daughter's father-in-law, a longtime craft beer brewer, was looking for the same thing at the same time. Their resulting project will soon take place in the form of Mishigama Craft Brewing in downtown Ypsilanti. 

"There is a lot of good beer made in the Ann Arbor/Ypsi area, and we hope to add to it," Roberts says. "There is a market in Ypsi for this type of product." 

Mishigama Craft Brewing will feature a variety of craft beers, including wheat beers, ales and stouts. The goal is to eventually serve food as well, though the business may begin small with six to eight beers on tap. 

"I'm hoping people will come and find us, and hopefully they'll have a nice, enjoyable experience for people in downtown Ypsilanti," says Roberts. 

The 5,700 square foot location, part of which was a former Buffalo Wild Wings, is well-suited to Roberts' vision of a downtown brewery and restaurant with room for growth. He expects Mishigama Craft Brewing to seat between 100 and 125 customers. Initially, he anticipates hiring a brewery staff in the range of five to 10 workers. Once restaurant operations are underway, however, that number could range up to 40 employees. Roberts hopes to open Mishigama Craft Brewing late summer of 2015.

Source: David Roberts, Mishigama Craft Brewing
Writer: Natalie Burg

Popular Ann Arbor Indian restaurant Cardamom to expand

It wasn't long ago when, Binod Dhakal and his wife opened Cardamom Restaurant on Plymouth Rd. in Ann Arbor. Less than two years later, the popular place with the tagline "Fresh Indian" is expanding, allowing them to serve more customers more quickly. 

"The expansion area design will allow folks to wait for a table or carry out order comfortably, and grab a drink while they wait," says Dhakal. "It will also make the dining room more comfortable for seated guests because there won't be all the in and out traffic. And perhaps most importantly will be what you won't see: an expanded kitchen so we can produce more food."

The Courtyard Shops restaurant is currently 1,709 square feet, plus an adjacent outdoor patio. The closing of the Biggby Coffee shop next door is allowing them to expand into an additional 1,105 square feet.

"We knew after about two weeks in business that if we ever had the opportunity to expand we would need to grab it, so when this space came open next door we had to go for it," Dhakal says. "It's a risk since we've only been in business 20 months, but we have really great regular customers and we hope they will lend us their patience through this construction and transition."

Dhakal is waiting for his plans to be approved by the city, but should everything move forward as expected, he hopes to open for business in the new area sometime this summer. He anticipates remaining open as much as possible throughout construction. 

Dhakal anticipates growing his staff by eight to 10 workers after the expansion. In terms of future plans, he hopes to continue to grow and eventually add catering to Cardamom's offerings. 

Source: Binod Dhakal, Cardamom Restaurant
Writer: Natalie Burg

Coffee roasters to set up shop in Ypsilanti's Depot Town

There is no shortage of coffee experience among the partners behind the forthcoming Hyperion Coffee Company in Ypsilanti. Dan Kubera has been a barista, roaster and manager in the coffee business for more than five years, Alex Merz is a longtime coffee connoisseur and Eric Mullins has spent more than a decade in the industry. Together, they plan to create micro-roasted coffee with a focus on relationships, science and education. 

"Our specialization will be in working as much as possible with farmers when we can and to develop that work into lasting relationships that our local community can invest into," says Mullins. "We are trying to focus on educating our customers and wholesaling our coffee so that we can reach a wider audience and to get great coffee into more hands." 

Hyperion Coffee Company will be located on N. River St. in a 1,200 square foot space Depot Town location. As Kubera and Mullins are both former managers at the Ugly Mug Cafe, the Ypsilanti location was a great way to capitalize on their established local network of coffee lovers, a well as position themselves well between Ann Arbor and Detroit. 

"When we first took a tour of the place a few months ago we kind of fell in love with the old brickwork, the giant green doors, great location in Depot Town, and amazing neighbors," Mullins says. "When we all met up after our initial walkthrough we were in awe that such a cool spot had gone unused in Depot Town for so long, we fell in love with it and immediately picked it up."

The Hyperion Coffee team hopes to have their roasting operations underway by mid- to late March. While their focus will be entirely on roasting initially, they hope to eventually add a small cafe to the business. Mullins says they expect to hire two to three employees in the first year, and can foresee employing 10 to 12 workers in the future. 

Source: Eric Mullins, Hyperion Coffee Company
Writer: Natalie Burg
1411 Articles | Page: | Show All
Share this page
Signup for Email Alerts