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Online Tech doubles footprint in expanded, 10,000 sq ft Ann Arbor office

Ann Arbor data center operator Online Tech has been in a growth pattern for some time. Finally, the firm has grown right out of its own office space. Fortunately, Online Tech's Burlington Office Center home on Eisenhower Parkway offered them the opportunity to stay in one place doubling their footprint to 10,000 square feet. 
 
"We were hiring so quickly that we needed more space to keep our team together, and keep that creativity and collaboration going," says April Sage, marketing director for Online Tech. "We really wanted it to be as least disruptive as possible, so when the opportunity came about to add space here, we took it." 
 
Work to renovate the neighboring space in their third floor suite began about six months ago. Knocking out walls has allowed Online Tech to create collaborative spaces for teams, some of which were previously separated into offsite data centers. 
 
The firm eventually plans to take of the entire 13,000 square foot floor, and it's looking like they're going to need it. After hiring 9 staffers earlier this year, Online Tech intends to hire another ten staff members in the third quarter. 
 
"We have about a dozen empty desks yet, so we do have some room," Sage says. "But I don't see any signs of it stopping."
 
Online Tech's growth comes along with the company's plans to expand beyond Michigan's borders and into the Midwest. News of expansions to their data center footprint is expected in the near future. 
 
Source: April Sage, Online Tech
Writer: Natalie Burg

Restored, historic barn to be raised again at Zingerman's Cornman Farms

When faced with a historic barn in disrepair, people can get pretty creative. Some sell the "reclaimed barn wood" to be used as flooring or décor, others might slap a coat of paint on it and cross their fingers it doesn't fall over, but neither approach is really up Zingerman's alley. So they decided to deal with the 1837 barn on their Cornman Farms property in Dexter in a way that better fit their style: having it completely disassembled, shipped to a barnwright, restored, and shipped back for reassembly. 
 
"They're basically sparing no expense," says Zingerman's Marketing and Communications Specialist Eric Olsen. "Most people don't send off a barn to be rehabbed, but that's what we're about. We believe in sustaining this property." 
 
The final stage of the process will officially kickoff with the raising of the barn on Sept. 29. During the private, all-day event, workers will raise the barn and begin the process of reassembling and refurbishing it for its future use as an events space. Though the project is a lengthy one, expected to continue through next summer, Olsen explains that preserving this piece of history is simply worth it.
 
"It's a classic, beautiful barn," he says. "It's also an integral part of the at property. It's also been a landmark in Dexter for well over 100 years. We wanted to make sure we didn't disrupt anything out there." 
 
Private events have already been booked at the future events space for 2014. Zingerman's vision for the barn includes hosting weddings, business meetings and other events in the two-story structure. 

Source: Eric Olsen, Zingerman's
Writer: Natalie Burg

aUM Yoga brings a quirky twist on yoga to N. University

Jessie Lipkowitz gave her new yoga studio a name that is a play on words, and play is exactly what she hopes her students do when they come to class. Rather than the typical, straightforward yoga offerings, aUM Yoga hosts classes with such name as " All Yin, No Yang: Yin Yoga," " Damn! This is Sexy and Slow!: Slow Flow" and " F*** This is Hard: Hot Power Vinyasa."
 
"My vision is to have a fun place where yoga isn't taken as seriously and is fun for beginners," says Lipkowitz. 
 
The 2011 University of Michigan graduate calls her unique approach to yoga a collaborative concept. She hopes to pair classes with monthly books discussions and juice cleanses and to invite businesses to partner with the studio to bring yoga options to their employees. 
 
"I give all my instructors full license to use their creativity," she says.
 
aUM Yoga opened last week on N. University in a 900-square-foot studio below Silvio's Organic Pizza. Lipkowitz says the near-campus location appealed to her, as she hopes to attract students interested in a playful, youthful approach to yoga. The new studio employs 12 instructors. 
 

Source: Jessie Lipkowitz, aUM Yoga
Writer: Natalie Burg

Vehicle research center at Willow Run could create 1,950 jobs, $360M impact

What if it was possible to peek into the future of automotive technology? A place where tomorrow's cars were driving around without drivers and new vehicles were being tested for the first time? That's exactly what Ann Arbor SPARK, RACER Trust, Devon Industrial Group and Walbridge Development, LLC. have in mind for the 332-acre property that houses the former Willow Run Powertrain plant. 
 
The plan announced last week is to deconstruct the existing five-million square-foot powertrain facility to make way for a connected vehicle research center, where automakers and startups could test new technologies.
 
"We're really heartened to see developers step forward. If this site is developed it would be dramatic for the community," says Paul Krutko, president and CEO of the economic development organization Ann Arbor SPARK. "We think it should be an open source environment. Some kind of entity will need to be created to maintain it, and as the companies need to use it, they would book time. We also like the idea of creating an incubating environment so new companies could test their new ideas."
 
The recent announcement is a first step in a long development process, says Krutko. Under the current plan, Devon Industrial Group will manage the dismantling and removal of industrial buildings from the site by MCM Management, which is expected to be a 12-month process. Walbridge Development would then redevelop the property into the planned research center. 
 
"Generally, you test something in a live environment," says Krutko, "but to validate them, to make sure they're safe, you need a controlled environment. A facility would need to be a really sufficient site to test how a car would merge onto a freeway, or what happens when it goes into a tunnel." 
 
The proposed connected vehicle research center would include a number of structures as well as outdoor development courses. According to a whitepaper released by Ann Arbor SPARK, the construction cost is expected to be about $90 million and could create 1,950 direct jobs. The economic impact to the areas is expected to be as high as $360 million, creating 7,800 direct and indirect jobs and $526 million in wages.
 

Source: Paul Krutko, Ann Arbor SPARK
Writer: Natalie Burg

Michigan's largest auto accident law firm opens Ann Arbor office

With 18 lawyers and frequent cases in Washtenaw, Jackson and Lenawee Counties, Michigan Auto Law, the state's largest law firm specializing in auto accidents, is no stranger to Ann Arbor. After the firm subleased a small space from a recently dissolved business, however, owner Steve Gursten decided it was time to make their local presence more permanent.
 
"With the way we've been growing," says Gursten, "We said, let's take a ten-year lease, let's grow and see where it takes us. We're really excited to be in Ann Arbor."
 
A University of Michigan graduate, Gursten says he was delighted to bring his family's third-generation business to the area. The Farmington Hills-based law firm began specializing in auto accidents about 25 years ago.
 
The local Michigan Auto Law office is located in downtown Ann Arbor on Main St. above The Gown Shop. Gursten was attracted to the building for its beauty and accessibility, as well as its proximity to the courthouse. The office is currently staffed by two existing Michigan Auto Law attorneys.
 
"With the tremendous growth of cases we've had in Ann Arbor, I'd love to see it grow," Gursten says. "I'd like it to grow to a full support office with several lawyers."
 
Michigan Auto Law opened its new local office in early August. The firm also has locations in Farmington Hills, Detroit, Sterling Heights and Grand Rapids. 

Source: Steve Gursten, Michigan Auto Law
Writer: Natalie Burg

Familiar Mexican menu under a new name comes to W. Stadium

Local Mexican food aficionados will find something familiar when they open the menu at the new Don Juan Mexican Bar & Grill on Ann Arbor's W. Stadium Blvd. The recently opened restaurant serves many of the same dishes as owner Juan Hernandez's two area Los Amigos restaurants. 
 
That's good news, says manager Miguel Amaral, for fans of the restaurants who live across town. 
 
"People were really asking for this over here," says Amaral. "None of the businesses were on the west side. People were too far away."
 
With its brightly-colored walls and large, vibrant landscapes, Don Juan began answering that demand on Aug 26 when the new bar and restaurant opened. The restaurant, which seats 88 and offers take out, specializes in their parrillada entrée, a daily happy hour, and extended happy hour on weekdays. 
 
"Our happy hour is great, and I think we have very good food," says Amaral. "We try to have good service and have a homey, warm place. That way, people will want to come back."
 
Don Juan employs a staff of eight. 

Source: Miguel Amaral, Don Juan Mexican Bar & Grill
Writer: Natalie Burg

New Westgate Seva to blend original aesthetic with a more urban feel

Though an Ann Arbor staple for four decades, Seva has been growing and changing for some time. The vegetarian restaurant has expanded within it's own space multiple times, and nearly two years ago opened a location in Detroit. The next phase of Seva's evolution will take the original restaurant to the Westgate Shopping Center.
 
"We evolved from about four booths in 1973, and then eventually took over the entire space," says Jeff Jackson, who owns the business with his wife, Maren Jackson. "We've putting these spaces together and trying to make it work. This is actually better use of space and we'll be able to make it the way we'd like it to be."
 
With 500 to 600 extra square feet, the new Seva will have larger kitchens, which will help with preparations for the Detroit location, and will help the restaurant branch out into catering. Jackson says the look and feel of the new Seva will be a blend of the stained glass-adorned original and the more urban feel of the Detroit restaurant. 
 
With renovations happening off-site from their current location, Jackson intends to keep the restaurant open for as long as possible until the Westgate Seva is ready to to.
 
"I bet we'll be closed at least a week," he says. "We hope to be open in the new spot by the beginning of December."
 
The new Seva will seat about 150 diners and will have a private dining room parties and gatherings. Jackson anticipates retaining his same staff in his new location. 


Source: Jeff Jackson, Seva
Writer: Natalie Burg

Park & Party tackling game day parking with new partnership

On the football field U-M and Notre Dame are rivals, but when it comes to the parking lot why not get along?

Ann Arbor-based Park n Party and Game Day Parking out of South Bend say it makes sense to play together in their business of taking the hassle out of game day parking and tailgating.

Park n Party has created a reservation system for parking spots, tailgate spaces and other amenities in cooperation with parking lot owners, and Game Day Parking has built an app to identity parking lots and spaces at several universities, including U-M, MSU, Purdue and Wisconsin.

This season, Park n Party will offer its services to Notre Dame fans, and its the first stop in an expansion that Park n Party co-founder Jason Kapica says will reach Detroit, East Lansing, Columbus, Ohio, Madison, Wisconsin and other Big 10 campuses.

“Nobody has ever put together a service like Park n Party, and we’re confident the idea will catch on like wildfire among fans in town for Notre Dame football,” says Kapica. “We expect to be all over the country in the near future.”

John Ross, GameDay Parking's chief and a Notre Dame graduate, joined with Park n Party because of the demand for online parking and tailgating reservation system for Notre Dame home football games.

"Park n Party's system is perfect for the Notre Dame market. Fans will love how it helps to take the uncertainty out of game day parking, and parking lot owners will really appreciate how it makes their lives easier," Ross says in a release announcing the partnership. "In the end, it makes game day better for everyone."

Park n Party has also expanded into event planning and works with fans to plan parties and tailgates, hooking them up with event spaces, caterers and of course the parking spaces.

"We regularly receive calls from all over the country from U of M Alumni and Alumni of visiting teams. They want to hold a nice tailgate event. They need a venue, parking, and catering," says Park n Party co-founder Taylor Bond. "We're certainly helping the local economy by bringing together buyers and sellers. Those benefitting form our services include lot owners, venues, and caterers."


Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Taylor Bond and Jason Kapica, founders, Park n Party


Running Fit adds east side store, plans condos atop downtown store

Ann Arbor long-running community institution, Running Fit, is moving on up to the east side.

Owner (and appropriately named) Randy Step says the new Running Fit will open this weekend in the Arbor Hills shopping center on Washtenaw Avenue near Platt Road. It'll be the first new store in the eight-store chain in four years.

"We don't really open stores very often. We're not about expanding. It's based on a lot of things: the right staff, a trained staff, knowing the running community, the location," Step says. "We have a far west side store and a downtown store. This will make it easier for people to get to us...We've beent training a manager for a year...One of the best things is you can go for a run right from the store. There's a park across the street."

He's excited to be a part of mix of high-end stores - 17 as of now, he says - opening in Arbor Hills. Among them: Lululemon, The North Face, Anthropologie and a second location of dowtnown Ann Arbor's Cafe Zola.

"This should fit nicely," reaching runners Ypsilanti and other nearby cities. And we like the kinds of tenants that are there. They're for like-minded consumers."

The next big step for Running Fit could be adding condos above the downtown store. Step received approval last week from the Ann Arbor Historical Commission to make changes to the building he calls "the ugliest in Ann Arbor."

After a years of owning all but a fourth of the buiding Step and his parnter now own it all and are being encouraged by the city to add height to it and create density for downtown. The top of the building burned in the 1950s.

The condos, still many months away if the project indeed is worth pursuing, would add height with six, 900-square-foot condos, he says.

"We'll be going through at least a year and a half of approvals," he says. He next appears before the Ann Arbor city council in November.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Randy Step, co-owner, Running Fit

AATA gets new name and new member as Ypsilanti joins regional transit agency

Regional transit got a boost last week as both the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti City Councils unanimously approved the City of Ypsilanti’s request to join AATA/TheRide, prompting the organization to formally rename itself the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority.
 
"The City of Ann Arbor and City of Ypsilanti are economically and culturally linked and the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority serves as a better platform for improving transit in and between the county's two largest cities," says Ryan Buck, Director of the Washtenaw Area Transportation Study.
 
Since the April dissolution of the Washtenaw Ride, a failed attempt to establish a county-wide transit authority, AATA has focused on expanding service within the county’s "urban core" communities, including Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Saline, and Pittsfield Township.
 
The addition better positions the agency to make improvements like increased frequency on more routes and expanded weekend and evening hours, according to Don Kline, Marketing Coordinator for TheRide.
 
"With a stronger and better connected Urban Core, Washtenaw County is on a path towards a brighter future which benefits everyone, not just riders," says Kline.  
 
Source: Don Kline, Ryan Buck
Writer: Nina Ignaczak 

Lunch Room opens with chic style, 20 new jobs in Kerrytown

Considering the amount of hands-on effort Phillis Engelbert and Joel Panozzo put into their creative vegan fare, it's probably no surprise to learn how involved the co-owners of The Lunch Room were in the build-out of their new Kerrytown location, which opened last week. 
 
Working with longtime customers and architects Lisa Sauvé and Adam Smith, Engelbert and Panozzo spent months working to bring the chic, modern aesthetic to their 1,128 square foot space. 
 
"We were active in the construction process," says Panozzo, "but we were are really happy for the construct part to be over, and to be opening and making food."
 
If their first-week crowds were any indication, so were The Lunch Room customers. With busy lunch and dinner crowds, Engelbert and Panozzo grew their new staff from 15 to 20 in the first week, after realizing that their commitment to from-scratch cooking required constant dishwashing. 
 
"The huge thing about our business is not necessarily that it's that vegan," says Panozzo. "We're just making really good food, made in-house with real ingredients, and its conveniently vegan."
 
Among those handmade dishes are favorites from The Lunch Room's original food truck format, as well as a host of new entrees, such as a Southwestern Salad, Mac & Cheese and tempeh reuben, among others. Now open for dinner, Panozzo says The Lunch Room will soon themed nights featuring foods inspired by New Orleans, the Upper Peninsula and paella. 
 
The Lunch Room seats 35 inside and 20 diners outside in a hybrid counter- and table-service style. The restaurant also sells and serves fresh baked goods, such as donuts and muffins. 

Source: Joel Panozzo, The Lunch Room
Writer: Natalie Burg

Chiropractic meets nutrition at Saline's new Thrive! Wellness Center

Achieving good health is a comprehensive endeavor, and that's why a new Saline business is combining multiple practices – good nutrition, chiropractic and massage therapy. Thrive Wellness Center opened on State Rd. near Michigan Ave. about two months ago and will celebrate it's grand opening on Aug. 22.
 
".We help people improve their lives with nutrition," says Thrive Wellness Center's Front Desk Manager Jessica Bonesteel. "Dr. Shannon has found people respond to chiropractic [treatment] better when their nutrition is in line."
 
Dr. Shannon Roznay's approximately 2,500 square foot office currently employs Roznay, Bonesteel and a part-time massage therapist. In the future, Bonesteel says they plan to grow Thrive with additional practitioners based on the needs of their clients.
 
"We want to fill up the space and see as many people as possible," she says. "If we do that, we'll look at opening up another one."
 
In addition to treating clients with her comprehensive approach to wellness, Roznay also teaches her technique, called Nutrition Response Testing?, to other doctors. 

Source: Jessica Bonesteel, Thrive Wellness Center
Writer: Natalie Burg

Above Ground Salon to bring all-natural haircare to new Liberty St. space

After operating on the second floor of a State St. building for 11 years, Above Ground Hair Studio will soon be operating closer to the ground, as well as at the eye level of passersby on Liberty St.
 
"We just wanted to go downstairs and be more in the spotlight and show Ann Arbor what we do with natural methods," says Above Ground Hair Studio owner Cookie Gomez.
 
Gomez's unique approach to hair care focuses on all-natural products, styling techniques and cuts that work with each client's natural hair style. She even specializes in a cutting technique that she says helps stylists maintain a healthier body positioning and cutting motions. Gomez also teaches this technique to other stylists. 
 
"We started all natural from the get-go, doing all kinds of things with ethnic hair and branching out from there," says Gomez. "Girls are now seeing that going natural is best."
 
While her salon floor will be about the same size in her new location, the addition of a basement will give Above Ground more room to focus on hair. The six-stylist salon will soon grow to a nine-person team. 
 
Now working to renovate the space, Gomez hopes to move into her Liberty St. location this fall. Her goals with the more visible storefront is to bring the salon's unique approach to hair care to more people in Ann Arbor. 

Source: Cookie Gomez, Above Ground Hair Studio
Writer: Natalie Burg

Ann Arbor Bike Share program to bring 125 bikes downtown in April 2014

Want a bike? Take a bike. For members of the forthcoming Ann Arbor Bike Share program, it'll be that easy beginning in April of next year. At 14 stations throughout downtown, bike share members will be able pick up one of 125 bikes and use it to run errands, get to appointments or just take a quick ride. 
 
Though the date of the bike share program's launch was announced last week after the Ann Arbor City Council approved a $150,000 local match of a federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) grant, its development has been underway by the Clean Energy Coalition and partners Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, University of Michigan and the City of Ann Arbor for some time.
 
"It was a number of years ago when several stakeholders were sitting around a room and talking about how this would be a great asset for the community," says Clean Energy Coalition's Heather Seyfarth, program supervisor. "We knew it could be a really great program, so we wanted to carefully plan it in such a way that benefits all those involved."
 
The bike share program will launch with $750,000 in capital funding and $800,000 in operational funding for three years. Clean Energy Coalition, along with AATA, secured $600,000 in CMAQ capital funding, and the University of Michigan has pledge $200,000 per year for operating costs. 
 
"[The partnerships] strengthen the program," says Seyfarth. "We have this major entity with an influx of population that comes in every year, and it will certainly serve their community, but with the city involved, it will be able to serve the residents as well, and help with expanding the program in the future."
 
Memberships will be available at downtown kiosks and online with annual, seven-day or 24-hour options. Though specific prices have not been determined Seyfarth estimates an annual membership will be $55 to $65. 

Source: Heather Seyfarth, Clean Energy Coalition
Writer: Natalie Burg

Ollie's Bargain Outlet opens in 36,000 sq ft Ypsi location

There's a new place to find low prices on name brand items in Ypsilanti. Ollie's Bargain Outlet, a Pennsylvania-based store with the slogan "Good stuff, cheap" opened last week on Ellsworth Rd. in the former Busch's Market location. A Lansing-area location opened on the same day.
 
"All of our stores are very similar," says Ollie's VP of Real Estate, Jerry Altland. "We buy cheap and sell cheap, and we always trying to sell name-brand products. That's what we do every day." 
 
Ollie's includes a wide variety of products, including apparel, electronics and grocery items. The 36,000 square foot location is one of 143 stores nationwide, including locations in Westland, Taylor and Farmington. Locations will soon open in Saginaw and Flint. Fifty to sixty new jobs were created with the opening of the Ypsilanti location.
 
"We're moving right across the state," Altland says. "We're trying to fill in from Detroit through the central part of Michigan."

Source: Jerry Altland, Ollie's Bargain Outlet
Writer: Natalie Burg
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