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Historic Commission approves 3 story addition and renovation of Fourth Ave. building

The future is looking bright for a renovation project intended to light a fire under the development of S. Fourth Ave. in downtown Ann Arbor. The plan to transform the four-storefront building formerly known as Town Center Plaza into a five-and-half story residential and commercial property has gained approval from Ann Arbor's Historic District Commission. 
"I believe this project is going to ignite many other opportunities on the Fourth Ave. block," says developer Joe Barbat of Barbat Holdings. "A development of this magnitude will propel many others. However, most importantly, the idea of having residents live in the area offers many extraordinary opportunities." 
The redevelopment plan will add three-and-a-half stories, including 32 one- and two-bedrrom residential units to the building. Barbat calls the units "beautifully designed," and each will include a balcony. 
The building, now referred to as the Montgomery Building, has been known as the home of Bandito's and the now-closed Eastern Accents. Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase has already signed on to relocate in the building's basement. As for the remaining commercial spaces, Barbat says he's received interest in the spaces but has not signed any leases.
"We are hoping to attract casual food users or even a specialty market," he says. "The units are planned for a complete makeover." 
A timeline for the project is undetermined, though Barbat hopes to have the project completed by the end of 2014. 

Source: Joe Barbat, Barbat Holdings
Writer: Natalie Burg

Ann Arbor SPARK expandswith "stage two" space for growing start-ups

In downtown Ann Arbor, there's a pretty big gap between a start-up with a couple of employees and one that is ready to sign an expensive, multi-year lease for a commercial space. The ever-busy Ann Arbor SPARK Central incubator is now giving their tenants the chance to better bridge that gap with the addition of 2,500 square feet of space dedicated to "stage two" startups.
"If I have eight employees, but I know I'm going to have 20 a year form now, it's hard for me to find a commercial lease," says Bill Mayer, business accelerator director for SPARK. "What the expansion allows is space for someone who secures external revenue, has four to five full-time equivalent employees, and they're getting too big for our stage one incubator." 
 SPARK Central has long been continually at full capacity. It's original footprint, which is now its stage one area, provides 14 desks for tenants, some of which use  multiple desks. The new stage two space has an open office place and can hold about 30 workers. Two companies are already working in the new space, and Mayer expects two more to move in next week, filling it to capacity.
"This falls into one of those good-problem-to-have categories," says Mayer, "but our goal is to have our companies graduate. We don't want them to have a residency with us this longer than 12 to 18 months."
Transformation is also afoot at the SPARK East incubator in Ypsilanti, where a large conference room has been renovated into co-working facility. SPARK will continue to hold events and host community groups in the same space.

Source: Bill Mayer, SPARK
Writer: Natalie Burg

Water Hill Motors brings auto repairs to Miller Ave neighborhood

After working in the auto repair business in Brighton for five years and studying the trade at Washtenaw Community College, Warren Terrell decided it was time to open his own shop. With a specialization in working on Subaru and Volvo vehicles, Ann Arbor seemed like an idea location.
"It's so close to downtown and right in the neighborhood here with houses all around it," Terrell says of his Water Hill Motors on Miller Ave., which opened less than two months ago.
The shop offers a broad range of auto repair services, including everything from engine repair to oil changes. In addition to Subaru and Volvo, Terrell says he's worked extensively on American-made cars, especially late-model Mustangs. Though he opened the shop quietly, he says business is already doing well.
"For no adverting it's been good," he says. "Last week was slow, but the week before I was at full capacity."
Terrell intends to add up to two additional technicians to the Water Hill Motors staff over the next couple of months as his business continues to grow. He hopes to develop a clientele for high performance modifications at the two-bay auto shop.

Source: Warren Terrell, Water Hill Motors
Writer: Natalie Burg

$5M hotel and restaurant renovation unveiled at Ann Arbor Holiday Inn

After a year and $5 million worth of investment, the Holiday Inn on Plymouth Rd. in Ann Arbor looks and feels like a whole new place. 
"We literally touched every surface in the hotel," says Joe Sefcovic, general manager for the Holiday Inn Near the University of Michigan. "We completely remodeled the exterior of the hotel, as well as inside."
Renovations extended into every guest room, a completely refurbished lobby, including a 24-hour pantry store and business center, a newly renovated ballroom and more. 
According to Sefcovic, the renovations were inspired by the beginning of the hotel's third 10-year agreement with Holiday Inn. 
"They came in and told us some of the things we needed to do," says Sefcovic. "We took that opportunity to say, 'What kind of things would we like to do differently?' We really tailored the hotel to serve the community for the next 10 years." 
The upgrades even included a total renovation and rebranding of the hotel restaurant, now called Guy Hollerin’s Ann Arbor Bar & Grill. No longer a sports bar, the restaurant will feature new menu items including healthier dishes as well as gluten free and vegan options. 
The Holiday Inn and Guy Hollerin's Ann Arbor Bar & Grill grand re-opening was marked with a blues-themed celebration last week. The festivities continue online, where a contest to name the hotel's new mascot – a wood-carved wolverine – will be open to the public for the next several weeks. 

Source: Joe Sefcovic, Holiday Inn
Writer: Natalie Burg

The Paint Station brings entertainment and education to amateur artists

Entrepreneurs Kendra Wilkins and Katrina Vaughn are out to prove that anyone can enjoy the fun and artistic expression of being a painter – with or without proven art skills. At their new business, The Paint Station, patrons can join classes or arrange painting events with friends during which an artist leads attendees through the process of completing a painting. 
"I haven't painted since elementary school," says Vaughn, pointing to a lovely painting she completed in one of her business' classes. "I'm surprised by my own talent. If I can do it, you can too."
Though not artists themselves, Wilkins and Vaughn know a thing or two about business and teaching. Wilkins has taught business marketing for Detroit Public Schools and in Ann Arbor, and Vaughn currently teaches social studies for Ann Arbor Tech High School. 
"Teaching economics, I talk to the kids about the economy and business," says Vaughn. "Instead of just talking about it, I thought we should do it ourselves." 
The Paint Station opened above Panera Bread on Washtenaw Ave. on Sept. 6. The partners work with three artists who instruct the classes and parties. People can choose between attending a pre-scheduled class in which the painting has already been chosen, or, if scheduling a private event, they may select a painting from The Paint Station gallery. 
Wilkins and Vaughn hope the Ann Arbor area finds the paint studio to be a fun place to create and make memories. Their private events are ideal for girls' nights out, team-building sessions for businesses and family outings. Eventually, the pair would like to expand to multiple locations and franchise their business. 

Source: Kendra Wilkins and Katrina Vaughn, The Paint Station
Writer: Natalie Burg

Unique healing and health experiences offered at Shakti Yoga and Massage

A new business on Fourth Ave. is bringing a new kind of yoga and massage services to downtown Ann Arbor. Shakti Yoga and Massage specializes in massage for spinal injuries and desk workers, as well as incorporates community outreach into their business. 
"It's been going really well," says co-owner Leah Kasle of the new business. "Our yoga classes are growing. We just did a Groupon, and I had a quite few people buy massage packages right after using it."
A former massage therapist for the University of Michigan, Kasle partnered with yoga instructor Nicole Teufel to expand her clientele. They were drawn to the 1,300 square foot space on Fourth Ave. after looking for about six months. 
"We got really lucky when we found this space," Kasle says. "It is a little bit small for Nicole's student body, but it has a storefront, and it's on a first floor."
Kasle's massage techniques focus on spinal and rotator cuff injuries, as well as aches and pains common among those who work at desks for long periods of time. Two additional massage therapists and one additional yoga instructor work for Shakti Yoga and Massage.
The studio celebrated its grand opening two weeks ago. In addition to massage and yoga classes Shakti Yoga and Massage offers free self-defense classes for women in need.

Source: Leah Kasle, Shakti Yoga and Massage 
Writer: Natalie Burg

Maple Village will be home to new Bikram yoga studio

Bikram Yoga changed Lora Rosenbaum's life 13 years ago, and she's been committed to bringing others to the practice ever since. After the hot yoga regime inspired her to quit smoking and become healthier, she became a certified teacher, offered the first Bikram Yoga classes in Michigan, and is now opening a new studio in Maple Village Shopping Center, Bikram Yoga Ann Arbor West
"I think that the demographics in Ann Arbor support two studios," says Rosenbaum, who recently sold her eastside studio, Bikram Yoga Ann Arbor to open the new location. "It's the same type of yoga, all the teachers will be certified to teach Bikram Yoga, we just have different ownership." 
The 4,000 square foot studio will offer a large practice area, lounge, men's and women's showers, patio area and more to create a space for healing and relaxation. The Maple Rd. location appealed to Rosenbaum because of its size, parking, as well as proximity to Plum Market
"I think that this is a great space for the health conscious people on the west side," Rosenbaum says. "I like to be able lead yoga and go get a juice from Plum. It's also a really pretty space that has nice eastern exposure."
Work on Bikram Yoga Ann Arbor West began about a month ago, and Rosenbaum hopes to begin classes in November. Her classes are available on a drop-in basis, and she says every class is suitable for beginners, as well as all levels of yoga practitioners. Rosenbaum anticipates bringing in additional instructors to teach classes as the studio gets closer to opening.  

Source: Lora Rosenbaum, Bikram Yoga Ann Arbor West
Writer: Natalie Burg

Today Clothing brings men's attire to Fourth Ave. retail community

In his previous job in the wholesale business, Kevin Pearson used to travel frequently. It was during these trips that he typically did his apparel shopping, as he just couldn't find the types of clothes he wanted in Ann Arbor. Now that he and partner Eric Harden have opened Today Clothing on Fourth Ave., he doesn't have to go far at all. 
"There are stores similar to this around the world, but we'd like to curate a slightly different mix of products," says Pearson. "We've got a strong focus on clothes make in the US, and handful of European designers mixed in. It's mostly items you can't get anywhere else."
Today Clothing opened about a month ago in the former location of the Gallery Project. While it was the white-walled, hardwood-floored space that attracted Pearson and Harden to the location, the burgeoning retail community on Fourth Ave. turned out to be the perfect location for the store. 
"Literati is a great addition to the block," Pearson says. I think there's a lot more foot traffic on Fourth than people give it credit for. Sava's new restaurant around the corner is going to be great, hopefully, the development across the street is coming. Within a year or two these intersections of Fourth will look pretty great."
Pearson and Harden have been hard at work on the space since taking over the space in May. Though they opened quietly with no advertising, or even a sign, Pearson says word about Today Clothing has gotten out through social media, and they've been happy with business thus far. 
Today Clothing carries men's apparel including young professional and casual attire. The store also offers bags, accessories and shoes. Their online store is in the works, and Pearson expect it to be up and running in the new few weeks. 

Source: Kevin Pearson, Today Clothing
Writer: Natalie Burg

V2V opens Arbor Hills Crossing location with new look, brands, 10 new jobs

If you think you know everything longtime Ann Arbor retailer V2V has to offer, then you haven't been to the store's newest location in Arbor Hills Crossing. The 3,200 square foot store not only has a more modern design than its Kerrytown predecessor, it also carries a new array of products. 
"I think Tes [Haas, V2V owner] was looking for a different feel," says Mia Bell, store manager of the new V2V location. "She also wanted to carry things that are different from Kerrytown. We have some of the same brands but more products, as well as different brands like Fossil and Vince Camuto." 
Entirely new types of products can be found as well, including lingerie, more body products and home goods. The new V2V opened about two weeks ago in the new Washtenaw Ave. shopping center. A few finishing touches are still in the works, such as a forthcoming chandelier for the center of the store, and the shop's official grand opening will take place Oct. 5. 
"Coming here was a kind of a no-brainer," says Bell. "Washtenaw Ave. is busy, people have a place to park, and we're next to some national brands we can compete with."
V2V Arbor Hills Crossing currently employs a staff of 10 workers, and some hiring is still underway. According to Bell, the ultimate goal of the new V2V location is simple: to become every woman's favorite place to shop. 

Source: Mia Bell, V2V Arbor Hills Crossing
Writer: Natalie Burg

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

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

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

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