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Proposed $12.5M project could bring 90 affordable rentals to Ypsilanti

If a proposed housing project for Ypsilanti's Water Street property moves forward, construction on 90 new affordable rental units could begin in March of 2015 and be open for tenants the following year. The proposal, made by Herman Kittle Properties would place the $12.5 million development project in a key area of Water Street redevelopment area. 
"This puts a nice development on the river and it builds the spine we need there. Any other future projects will now have the utilities already there," says Ypsilanti City Planner Teresa Gillotti. "Also, that particular location is on some very difficult-to-build land. We weren't even sure if this site was going to be able to be built out."
By building the project on piers, however, the proposed plan would make the site able to be developed. The 90 rental units would include one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom units, available to residents at 50 to 60 percent of the area median income for Washtenaw County, which is currently $59,063, a value that varied depending upon household size.
According to Gillotti, the timing for such a project is good, as demand for affordable rentals is on the rise. 
"After the housing market crashed, everything stopped, especially for construction," she says, "but what we have seen are rentals really taking off in the last year to year-and-a-half. The demand has gone up."
Before becoming a reality, the housing project must first be approved by Ypsilanti City Council, which will hold a public hearing in March. Then, an application for a Michigan State Housing Development Authority tax credit must be approved in July. Gillotti says the city welcomes the public's input on the project. 

Source: Teresa Gillotti, City of Ypsilanti
Writer: Natalie Burg

Unique mind-body fitness studio coming to Jackson Rd.

A new concept in fitness is coming to Ann Arbor. As people have become more aware of exercise being one part of overall wellness, trainer Elaine Economou wanted to give her clients a place to go for every aspect of their health. After about a year of planning, she and partner Robin Krienke will be opening Move on Jackson Rd. with the aim of doing exactly that. 
"Once people start making changes and start feeling better in their bodies, they start asking themselves, 'What else can I do?'" says Economou. "They start to think more carefully about what they eat, what they wear, what kind of skin products they use." 
Move, which is slated to open March 10, will offer clients guidance on all of those questions. The fitness center will offer personal training, group classes, as well as massage, a juice bar and retail area. 
Formerly Expressions Design Studio, the 2,800 square foot space has been thoroughly renovated, including the addition of bathrooms with lockers and showers, the creation of separate rooms for training, massage and group classes, as well as loft-style storage. The Jackson Rd. location, Economou says, was perfect for her clientele. 
"The west side of Ann Arbor really appealed to me," she says. "It's an up and coming corridor. I train clients in Chelsea, Dexter, Saline and a lot of clients in Ann Arbor, so I was very clear about wanting to be on that corridor."
Move will open with a staff of about 25. According to Economou, the studio will welcome clients of all fitness levels, from experiences athletes to those just beginning to improve their wellness.

Source: Elaine Economou, Move
Writer: Natalie Burg

Total Hockey opens 9,500 sq ft store on Oak Valley Dr.

Missouri-based retailer Total Hockey celebrated the opening of their new Ann Arbor location this week, the company's third in Michigan. The 9,500 square foot store is located in the Oak Valley Center near Target. 

"In general there are a lot of factors that go into the real estate selection process, but certainly proximity to an ice rink is definitely on the checklist," says Total Hockey Marketing Manager Andrea Roewe. "We like to be convenient enough for people to stop in on the way to or after a game."

The new location is Total Hockey twentieth store nationwide, and the retailer has continued expansion plans. The store focuses entirely on hockey and includes both memorabilia and equipment for hockey players at a range of price points. 

"We have a price range for everyone, whether you're a high-end player looking for the latest and greatest, or for newbies, we have everything to help get parents acclimated to the game," Roewe says.

The new Total Hockey store opened on Monday and employs a staff of 15-20 workers. Total Hockey has a particular focus on youth players and in involved in programs that help young players take part in the sport.

Source: Andrea Roewe, Total Hockey
Writer: Natalie Burg

Heritage Collision and Frame grow into second location

Ypsilanti's Heritage Collision & Frame is expanding to a new location. The new Scio Township location will double the family business in both size and staff. 

"We'll have more space to get cars done more effectively and more efficiently," says Mike Berczel, manager of Heritage Collision & Frame. "We've reached capacity here, and are basically at the breaking point."

That capacity is set to double when the approximately 6,500 square foot Jackson Rd. shop opens in early summer. Renovations to the space are now underway, and will include the removal of walls, updates to the office area and state of the art equipment.

According to Berczel, the key to the business' growth that has led to the need to expand has been a commitment to maintaining the atmosphere of a family company.

"We have a family feel," he says. "You're going to get a good experience here. You're going to get honest, up front service."

The current Heritage Collision & Frame shop, located on Carpenter Rd., employs a staff of about ten employees. Berczel says the new shop will begin with fewer workers, but will eventually employ the same number of employees, doubling the business' total staff. 

Source: Mike Berczel, Heritage Collision and Frame
Writer: Natalie Burg

Thingsmiths bring 3D printing services to S. State St.

Nearly everyone has had a thought, at one time or another, that began, "Wouldn't it be cool if someone made a thing like this?" If the entrepreneurs of Thingsmiths have their way, those fleeting thoughts will never again have to trail off into nowhere. Thanks to their 3D-printing on demand service, they plan to help anyone make whatever they can dream up.

"The aim with Thingsmiths is to build a company where anyone can go to have nearly anything made," says Owen Tien of Thingsmiths. "I believe that in the very near future service bureaus such as ours will be in every city, fundamentally changing the way people look at the means of production, and how we all do business."

That big vision is beginning with a small, 200 square foot space on S. State St. that opened as Thingsmiths in late 2013. The staff works with any customer's idea for an object, creates the design and prints the item for them. Tien says Ann Arbor was the perfect location to start such a business, as the community is full of "creative and curious people." Thus far, their customers orders and ideas have not disappointed.

"The response has been really fantastic," says Tien. "You don't open a business without being optimistic, but I would consider myself cautiously so. It's blown away my expectations, and I've felt very fortunate to be able to help so many people get their idea made."

Thingsmiths currently employs a staff of three. Tien says the shop is the first "truly consumer-oriented brick-and-mortar retail 3D printing store" in the state.

Source: Owen Tien, Thingsmiths
Writer: Natalie Burg

Simply Spanish joining Mark's Carts lineup this year

When Xavi Vitta moved to Ann Arbor from Spain years ago, what he missed most was the style of restaurant he was used to at home.
"Something less ceremonial than a restaurant, with outstanding food," he says. 

With Simply Spanish, a food cart coming to Mark's Carts this spring, he intents to bring exactly that to Ann Arbor. Simply Spanish will feature authentic Spanish foods that are simple, made with fresh ingredients. 

"Eating well has also been a pillar in my upbringing," says Vitta. "I would like to share the joy of eating well with others."

According to Vitta, the food cart format is a perfect fit for his concept, enabling a wide variety of customers to share a few tapas during their meal. The cart itself will reflect the Spanish culture as much as the food, decorated in graphics that celebrate the ceramic art of Gaudi. 

Vitta plans to open Simply Spanish in April of this year with a staff of two, which he intends to grow to three based on demand. He is looking forward to sharing his culture with the Ann Arbor community through his tapas style cuisine. 

Source: Xavi Vitta, Simply Spanish
Writer: Natalie Burg

Menna's Joint to add unique cuisine, 30 jobs to E. William St.

College towns across Michigan have been familiar with the "the Dub" sandwich since Menna's Joint opened in East Lansing in 2003. Now with six locations, the home of the grilled sub/burrito hybrid will soon open a seventh on E. William in Ann Arbor. 
"The dub is a unique product and we deliver it to our customer in a variety of ways," says Hank Andries, Menna's Joint owner and president. "We're looking to complement the market in Ann Arbor. There is a lot of competition here, but we're hoping we fill a portion of the market."
Andries had actually considered the space prior to former tenant Topper's Pizza's occupancy, but the timing wasn't quite right. When the property broker reached out to Andries last time, however, everything fell into place. 
"It was really just about waiting for the right opportunity," Andries says. "There is a lot of demand for space in Ann Arbor, and not a ton of supply. It was just a matter of timing for us."
The 1,500-square-foot space will undergo primarily cosmetic renovations as Menna's Joint prepares to open. The restaurant will have seating for 14 diners, as well as offering delivery and carry-out options. Andries intends to open Menna's this spring with a staff of about 30 employees. 

Source: Hank Andries, Menna's Joint
Writer: Natalie Burg

Forthcoming Style Trader store expands on local resale franchise

The Ann Arbor-based children's resale franchise Children's Orchard now has locations in states all across the U.S. In addition to growing out, the business is now growing up, with a new store concept that will soon debut in Ann Arbor on W. Eisenhower. 
"Style Trader is a new concept that we're looking to franchise," says General Manager Jennifer Fields. "It's nice to be bringing it home to Ann Arbor, in a sense, but also to be building on the concept of walking from Children's Orchard to Style Trader in one trip." 
The Ann Arbor Style Trader, which will open in a 2,500-square-foot space in Colonnade Shopping Center, will be the second of its kind. The first opened in Livonia in July of 2012. According to Fields, however, this will be the first time the concept is tested in close proximity to Children's Orchard, which she suspects will be a winning combination. 
Style Trader will focus on upscale clothing lines and styles that are no more than two years old, giving shopper access to the newer fashions and lower prices. While Fields says she anticipates moms and teens will enjoy the store, she's already been surprised by the success of the Livonia location's men's apparel. 
"It's a fun environment that's not just for women," says Fields. "Nowhere else is doing resale for men. We couldn't believe how many men have been coming out in Livonia."
Renovations are already underway at the E. Eisenhower store. Fields plans to open Style Trader in early March and celebrate with a grand opening later in the spring. The store will employ five to six workers.

Source: Jennifer Fields, Style Trader
Writer: Natalie Burg

First Martin plans for hotel, mixed-use on Huron and Ashley

The intersection of W. Huron and N. Ashley has long been a sleepy one, but plans for a new mixed-used hotel development aim to change all that. Local developer First Martin has proposed a 85,000-square-foot, six-story hotel for the site that would include 110 rooms and about 6,000 square feet of first-floor commercial space for a retail or restaurant tenant. 
"There aren't a ton of vacant or nearly vacant parcels downtown," says Mike Martin, vice president of First Martin. "This site has just two single story buildings, and is certainly not improved to its full potential."
While the project has the potential to bring temporary and permanent jobs to the site, as well as a new option for Ann Arbor visitors, Martin says one of the most visible impacts of the hotel would be creating new pedestrian activity on the relatively quiet intersection. 
"We think there is a strong benefit for this type of use to activate the corner," he says. "A lot of the positive feedback we've heard is that this will help energize and add a pedestrian experience to a corner that is anything but that now."
First Martin will partner with a national chain to manage the all-suite style hotel, though the developer is not yet ready to release the name of their partner. The total amount of investment the project will bring to downtown is also yet to be determined. Martin is hoping the project will receive final approval in July and the approximately one-year long construction will begin in the fall. 

Source: Mike Martin, First Martin
Writer: Natalie Burg

Study shows alternative transportation important to downtown Ann Arbor

A recent survey conducted by Ann Arbor's getDowntown program found that more than 80 percent of respondents rate the availability of alternative transportation options as important to attracting customers, clients and employees to downtown. The survey included responses from 194 employers or decision makers and more than 600 downtown commuters.
"Employers recognize that to attract and retain the talent they need, we need to have a strong alternative transportation system," says getDowntown Program Director Nancy Shore. "Over time, this means that employers are more likely to purchase go!passes and find ways to accommodate their employee’s interest in walking and biking to work."
That's exactly what is beginning to happen. The Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority and Downtown Development Authority have recently reported a "sharp increase" in the number of getDowntown's go!passes used by commuters to downtown. Twenty percent of decision makers also reported having employees who would not be able to get to work without their pass.
According to Shore, the good news only encourages getDowntown to continue to develop the go!pass program. They are now looking at the possibility of making the go!pass into a "smart card."
"This would make it even easier to board the bus and we might be able to find ways to connect it to other transportation options like the Bike House or even parking," Shore says. "I’d also like to see us develop a way for go!pass users to track their go!pass use online."
Additionally, Shore says the AATAs 5-year transit plan would be a huge benefit for the downtown commuters and employers, giving riders access to bus options later in the evening and on weekends.

Source: Nancy Shore, Get Downtown
Writer: Natalie Burg

Wixom-based Total Sports Shop expands with new Saline location

Sometimes everyone's timing just lines up. Just as the longtime owners of the Saline Sport Shack on E. Michigan Ave. were ready to retire, the Wixom-based Total Sports Shop was ready to open a new retail location. Part of the Total Sports Complex, which has locations in Novi and Farmington, the Total Sports Shop is the first retail shop for the company outside of its Wixom location. 
"They were looking to retire, and we were looking to expand," says Jeff Fisher, store manager for the Saline Total Sports Shop. "We already wanted to get into this neck of the woods."
Similar to its predecessor, Total Sports Shop focuses on supplying teams with athletic gear. According to Fisher, visitors may still notice some differences in the 1,700 square foot store, which will carry additional brands and has been renovated to have a more open and spacious feel. 
"There is actually a lot of change here, and we've gotten a lot of positive feedback from the community," Fisher says. 
Total Sports Shop opened Dec. 1. The Total Sports Complex brand has plans to continue to expand across the state with additional locations forthcoming, including a store in Monroe set to open in March. The new Saline store currently employs a staff of three. Fisher anticipates they will eventually expand to a larger location to accommodate in-store product demonstrations. 
Source: Jeff Fisher, Total Sports Shop
Writer: Natalie Burg

Chelsea Community Hospital breaks ground on 15,000 sq ft cancer center

Work on the Chelsea Community Hospital's new Chelsea Cancer Center is now officially underway. A groundbreaking ceremony for the 15,000 square foot development was held on Jan. 16. The new CCH facility, which is a part of the Saint Joseph Mercy Health System, will allow local patients to receive treatments closer to home. 
"Research shows that patients who require oncology care prefer their care be provided as close to home as possible," says John Stout, executive director of Oncology Services for Saint Joseph Mercy Health System. "The Chelsea Cancer Center will give patients and their families access to all of St. Joe's regional cancer services right there in the Chelsea community." 
The center will double the CCH's capacity for infusion and chemotherapy treatment, as well as include a linear accelerator and CT simulator. 
"This brings the most advanced technologies and cancer services  to the market," Stout says.
Though the Cancer Center won't be complete until early 2015, cancer patients are already being seen at CCH's Infusion Center, which opened in 2010. The Chelsea Cancer Center is being funded by a $6 million fundraising campaign expected to create 10 to 15 new jobs.

Source: John Stout, Saint Joseph Mercy Health System
Writer: Natalie Burg

Bank of Ann Arbor to grow with 8,300 sq ft addition

Should everything go according to the Bank of Ann Arbor's plans, the corner of S. Fifth and E. Washington could look very different in the not-too-distant future. The bank is planning an 8,300 square foot addition in the form of a third floor on a portion of the building, as well as interior and exterior renovations of the entire structure. 
"We've certainly created a lot of excitement internally because the building does need renovation," says Bank of Ann Arbor Senior Vice President Hans Maier. "Our staff is excited, and I think the community will be excited too."
The Bank of Ann Arbor's main office building currently employs about 95 staff members. The new space would allow for growth, as well as more space for existing employees to work. 
"It's a combination of providing additional space and providing more efficient space," Maier says."
Plans for the project have been presented to the Design Review Board. Maier hopes to present to the Planning Commission in April, City Council in May and begin construction in July. Construction is expected to take anywhere from one year to 18 months. 

Source: Hans Maier, Bank of Ann Arbor
Writer: Natalie Burg

The Little Seedling to sprout up in larger W. Stadium space

The Little Seedling is growing bigger. The maternity and baby retailer has outgrown its Zeeb Rd. location and will soon move to a new storefront on W. Stadium near Goldfish Swim School

"We're really excited," says owner Molly Ging. "Here, we have the store and warehouse, and we'll be able to combine them there, which will save us time and money."

The Little Seedling specializes in cloth diapers and unique maternity and baby gear. When Ging first opened, she says it was important to be so near the Zeeb Rd. exit because, as one of the only diapering retailers in the Midwest, many of her customers drove from out of town to see her. Though her clientele is more local now, she is still growing, running out of space in her 3,200 square foot location. The W. Stadium space will offer about 6,000 square feet of combined showroom and storage, which will provide plenty of space for her shoppers and their busy companions. 

"A lot of our customers enjoy that we're extremely family friendly," says Ging. "Our kids can touch things here. Moms can shop while their kids play. Sometimes it's like a built-in play date."

The larger space will also come with expanded hours and staff. In order to better serve the clients to Goldfish Swim School, she'll open an hour earlier and stay open an hour later each day, and anticipates hiring an additional two employees to grow her staff to ten. The Little Seedling will also expand the age range of her inventory to serve parents with older toddlers.

Work on the new location is now underway. After approximately eight years of vacancy, the space requires significant renovation. Ging hopes to open the new store on or before April 1. 

Source: Molly Ging, The Little Seedling
Writer: Natalie Burg

Mediterranean grocery store coming to Colonnade Shopping Center

It can't be a bad sign for a restaurant if customers love your food so much they are always asking where they can buy the ingredients to make it at home. Rather than continuing to send his customers elsewhere for grocery items Zamaan Cafe owner Ali Hijazi decided to cater to them himself. Beginning in early February, fans will be able to shop right next door at Reena Market. 

"They ask for some Mediterranean food items, and we thought this would be a great place for our customers and the neighbors to come and buy whatever they need," says Hijazi.

The pair of businesses in the Colonnade Shopping Center on Eisenhower aren't entirely unlike another pair of businesses Hijazi co-owns. The TMAZ Taqueria on Packard is also neighbors with a grocery market featuring ingredients used in its dishes. 

The 1,300 square foot Reena Market will also be stocked with convenience store items, such as refreshments and snacks that Hijazi says will come in handy for employees of nearby businesses and the neighboring apartment complexes. 

"The neighbors are so excited for us to be coming here," he says.  "We've started selling a few things when people come knocking, even though we're not quite open yet. 

Hijazi has been working to renovate the space, a former health food store, for about a month. The store is set to open in early February with a staff of about two employees. Hijazi owns a number of businesses in the area, and his next forthcoming project will be a Mexican and hamburger restaurant on Plymouth Rd. 

Source: Ali Hijazi, Reena Market
Writer: Natalie Burg
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