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Don Knight at classic Ann Arbor steakhouse Knight's new downtown location
Don Knight at classic Ann Arbor steakhouse Knight's new downtown location - Doug Coombe | Show Photo

Ann Arbor : Development News

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All About Furniture expands footprint with 20,000 sq ft retail space

All About Furniture may be new to Jackson Rd., but owner Sanjay Panjwani has been in the Ann Arbor furniture game for years. The new, 20,000 square foot retail space represents Panjwani's entrance into the general retail market after selling directly to apartment developers and even diving into designing his own furniture. 
 
"I wanted to take some risks and diversify," Panjwani says. "I was going to buy a warehouse, but this building was available and a good price, so I thought let's try it out." 
 
The new store opened in the former home of House of Sofas, and Panjwani says the four to five months of renovations he put into the space have entirely transformed the building's look. 
 
All About Furniture celebrated its grand opening last week. The store includes furniture for all rooms of the home, featuring both Panjwani's own designs as well as other brands. 
 
"It's a diverse mix," says Panjwani. "It's mid- to high-end. We get all the upholstery made in the USA. Most of the furniture is made in the US, but we do have some imports."
 
While All About Furniture opens Panjwani's business up to a wider retail market, he'll continue to work directly with developers to furnish entire apartment complexes. He's found an ideal market in campus towns, having already expanded into the South Bend market. He hopes to soon move into the East Lansing market.
 

Source: Sanjay Panjwani, All About Furniture
Writer: Natalie Burg

Lake Village unveils expanded facilities in residential complex

Chicago-based property management company Habitat has invested in their local apartment complex, Lake Village of Ann Arbor in the form of renovation and expansion of their facilities. The renovations were celebrated with a grand opening celebration in early June and an open house last week. 
 
"The idea was to improve on what we feel is a premier apartment community in Ann Arbor," says Habitat Regional Vice President Theodore J. Verner Jr. "With our recent renovations, our residents now have access to some of the finest amenities in the Ann Arbor area. "  
 
The renovations included the expansion and renovation of the fitness center, clubhouse, leasing center, business center and lounge. According to Verner, both residents and employees are thrilled with the upgrades. The investment was part of Habitat's desire to increase the value of their property, as well as further grow their business locally. 
 
"The Habitat Company’s acquisition team is actively looking to grow the business and increase our total number of units under management," says Verner. "Ann Arbor is one of our core markets and we are looking at expanding in that market."
 
Source: Theodore J. Verner Jr., Habitat
Writer: Natalie Burg

Saline's My Urban Toddler opening second location in Arbor Hills Crossing

Some things are just meant to be. Rosa Lee had been thinking about opening a second location of her popular store My Urban Toddler for some time, and after reading an article about the mix of stores planned for the forthcoming Arbor Hills Crossing, she felt like she'd found the perfect home. 
 
That feeling was validated when the project developer returned her call right away. 
 
"He said, 'If I could have my pick, I want a hair salon and a baby store,'" Lee says. "He's like, 'I'm listening.'"
 
Within days, My Urban Toddler was on its way to becoming the newest addition to the Washtenaw Ave. shopping center. The rush is warranted. Lee signed her lease just 90 days before the planned opening of Arbor Hills Crossing in August. Fortunately, Lee's background as an architect has helped speed along the process. 
 
"We're full steam ahead," Lee says. "Even before signing the official lease, I'd met with architects, who are my friends, and we started drawing up schematics designs." 
 
The new, 2,200 square foot My Urban Toddler will feature the most popular items from the original store, including such services as a lactation specialist, bra fittings and breast pump rentals. 
 
Lee hopes to begin work on her portion of the build out in mid-July and will open with the other shopping center businesses on Aug. 22. The new shop will employ a staff of about four to six part-time employees. 


Source: Rosa Lee, My Urban Toddler
Writer: Natalie Burg

Knights to invest $900K in second Ann Arbor location in former Borders space

There's no question about it: Ann Arborites loves Knight's Steakhouse. And after looking around neighboring cities for several years to open what will be their third restaurant, the Knight family confirmed just how much they love Ann Arbor as well. 
 
"We've looked around other cities, like Brighton," says Don Knight. "We put a lot of thought into it, but we kept coming back to Ann Arbor because we're really well known here."
 
The newest Knight's restaurant is set to open in January of 2014 on the first floor of the former Borders building in Downtown Ann Arbor. The 4,000 sq. ft. dining area will bring the family business' signature looks and food to a whole new audience with a downtown twist. 
 
"It's not going to stray too far from the concept," says Knight. "We're definitely going to have some change in the menus. We'll have a more updated, fresher look, but it will still be very comfortable." 
 
One thing that won't change, promises Knight, it’s the steakhouse's signature cocktails, famous for their potency. 
 
"We'll probably have a few more martinis and stuff like that," he says. "But they'll be the same strength." 
 
Work on the build out will begin in August. Knight anticipates the development will be about a $900,000 investment and will create 30 to 40 jobs. The restaurant will seat around 150 diners inside and an outdoor patio could seat another 40.


Source: Don Knight, Knight's Steakhouse
Writer: Natalie Burg

$110M gift to create innovative grad housing at UM

The largest donation in University of Michigan history will fund an innovative new housing option for graduate students downtown. 
 
"The University has had a very strong relationship with Charles Munger for the past several years," says UM Housing Communications Director Peter Logan. "He provided funding for the Lawyers Club, and it was out of that contribution that the idea of a graduate residence began to formulate." 
 
Munger's $110 million donation will help fund the 600-bed graduate residence in two ways. While $100 million will go toward the construction of the estimated $180 million facility, the remaining $10 million will fund a unique fellowship program for graduate students who will play a role in the residence. 
 
Munger also funded a graduate housing project at Stanford University. This project, says Logan, will build upon his original idea for that development. 
 
"He talked about carrying that vision forward into something that would have more collaborative living arrangements," he says, "something that would go even further than the Stanford residence."
 
While details and plans are still underway, the development is intended to be constructed on S. Division and include innovative community spaces to foster collaboration among graduate students. 


Source: Peter Logan, University of Michigan
Writer: Natalie Burg

Local leaders honored at second annual Regional Transit Awards dinner

With southeast Michigan's Regional Transit Authority underway and M1-Rail about to break ground, a crowd of over 150 transit advocates had considerable cause for a buoyant mood as they strolled the stately gardens and ballroom of the Grosse Pointe War Memorial at Transit Riders United's second annual Regional Transit Awards dinner on May 21st.
 
"Developing a quality regional transit system is a marathon, not a sprint," said Megan Owens, TRU's Executive Director. "It's important to pause and recognize progress, and the people who are making a difference."
 
The Citizen Activist of the Year Award went to Neil Greenburg, whoseFreshwater Railway website depicts a fictional Michigan rail system. Greenberg, a self-taught professional transit cartographer and operations consultant, developed the site to garner support for transit by offering a visual experience of the possibilities. Tools to rally public support are needed now more than ever, according to Greenberg.
 
"It's too early to say 'Mission Accomplished'," he said.  "We are at the beginning, not the end."
 
Michele Hodges, who until recently served as Executive Director of the Troy Chamber of Commerce, won the Corporate Transit Champion Award forengaging business, education, and labor leaders in the successful fight against former Troy mayor Janice Daniel's attempt to reject federal funding for the Troy Transit Center.
 
The Unsung Hero Award went to former legislator Marie Donigan, who worked to establish the RTA and make state laws and funding sources friendlier to transit. Donigan continues her transit advocacy work, recently helping to coordinate a 2-day Metro Detroit Transit Workshop.
 
Dennis Schornack, Senior Strategic Advisor to Governor Snyder, won Most Effective Public Servant Award for his work shepherding the RTA legislation through the political process.
 
A Transit Employee of the Year Award went to Detroit Department of Transportation bus driver Michael Childs, who was nominated by a rider for being on-time with a big, welcoming smile every day, despite an increased workload owing to recent cuts in DDOT funding and service.
 
Ann Arbor Transit Authority's new AirRide program, which now provides daily round-trip service between Ann Arbor and Detroit Metropolitan Airport, won the Exemplary Innovation Award.
 
The TRU board sprung two surprises: a Transit Opportunities Award for the entire RTA Board, and an Above and Beyond Award for Owens for her work at TRU.
 
Winners were selected by a panel of 4 judges, including Clark Harder, former legislator and Michigan Public Transit Association Executive Director, Heather Carmona, chief administrative officer of M1 Rail, Sue Zielinsli, managing director of Sustainable Mobility & Accessibility & Research & Transformation at the University of Michigan, and Polly Sedewa, transit activist and past TRU board member.

Writer: Nina Ignaczak 

The Gown Shop grows into adjacent space, expands offerings

The Gown Shop in downtown Ann Arbor has nearly doubled in size, but owner Stacy Fork says the expansion won't change the bridal boutique's focus on personal service. 
 
"The Gown Shop expansion stemmed from the desire to cater to more brides, but still offer our signature private appointment experience," Fork says.
 
The 1,200 square-foot shop expanded into an adjacent 1,100 square-foot space, providing room for new bridal suites separated by shoppers' desired price points. Additionally, The Gown Shop now also carries social dresses for bridesmaids and special occasions. 
 
The expanded space is currently open for business. Fork says she is currently examining the best way to grow The Gown Shop in other ways, but still maintain the atmosphere of a small shop.
 
"We are able to service more brides and also welcome new clients that may not be in their own wedding mode quite yet," she says, "as well as offering more distinguished and exclusive designers to the state of Michigan and those who visit The Gown Shop."
 

Source: Stacy Fork, The Gown Shop
Writer: Natalie Burg

Classic book arts meet high tech tools at new boundedition studio

The book arts industry is undergoing a considerable amount of change, and so are the options for studying them in Ann Arbor. When Hollander's announced the end of their School of Book & Paper Arts, a group of local bibliophiles decided they would both pick up where the traditional books arts school left off – as well as introduce new technologies into the community. 
 
"Ann Arbor has a rich history of producing high-quality books," says boundedition partner Laura Earle. "There are a number of people in the area who love all things bibliophile."
 
Boundedition opened this week on Plaza Dr. inside the Maker Works space. The LLC is a partnership between five book lovers and book arts instructors, including Earle, Jim Horton, Barbara Brown, Tom Veling and Gene Alloway. The member-based community will offer classes in the classic book arts, such as bookbinding, but will also partner with Maker Works to blend high tech tools into the process. 
 
"It's definitely old world craftsmanship meets new world technology," says Earle.
 
This could include incorporating such tools as laser cutters into traditional bookbinding techniques, or creating books out of unconventional materials. Earle says she hopes the community will attract a new generation of people interested in learning the book arts. Ultimately, she says, the member-based business will become whatever the members make it. 
 
"This is a really innovative, creative community," she says. "I have high hopes that they'll do interesting things with it." 
 

Source: Laura Earle, boundedition
Writer: Natalie Burg

Wildly Fit offers personal training, outdoor fun with new studio

Personal trainers Amy and Christian Wilds were drawn to Ann Arbor because of the community's commitment to health and fitness. Now the husband and wife team are helping Ann Arborites keep that commitment with their new personal training and fitness studio, Wildly Fit.
 
"Both my husband and I are degreed – mine is in kinesiology and his is in exercise science," says Amy Wilds. "We started in corporate fitness, but we decided we wanted to do a small personal training studio with classes. We just settled in with Ann Arbor and love the community." 
 
Wildly Fit opened in early 2013 in a 1,000 square-foot studio on Felch St. near downtown in Ann Arbor. Now that the weather has broken, they've expanded their usable space outdoors with an outdoor gym area. The Wilds celebrated their grand opening with a kick-off party last week. 
 
The new studio focuses on one-on-one personal training and classes that are small enough to maintain a feeling of intimacy. Wilds says all four trainers at Wildly Fit are American College of Sports Medicine-certified, something that makes a big difference in their work. 
 
"We feel that having that knowledge and having a small facility gives such personal attention help you focus on your goals," says Wilds.
 
The Wilds hope to continue growing their clientele, and plan to offer more programs for kids. 
 

Source: Amy Wilds, Wildly Fit
Writer: Natalie Burg

Herb David luthier traditions carried on with Ann Arbor Guitars

Hesh Breakstone and David Collins never intended to be business owners. But when the pair of luthiers recently learned that their employer, Herb David Guitar Studio, would be going out of business, they decided to form their own business to carry on their guitar repair work, opening Ann Arbor Guitars just two months ago.
 
"It's had its challenges, but we've pulled it off much more smoothly than I thought we could," says Collins of the transition. "We kept the customers' instruments going through." 
 
Tucked into the 1,000 square-foot workshop on the third floor of the iconic Herb David Guitar building on the corner of Liberty and Fifth Ave., Ann Arbor Guitars is building a business based on a set of harmonious opposites: old world repair tools and custom-designed guitar repair software, as well as corporate-minded business ethics and hands-on customer service. 
 
"We both tend to be technologists," says Breakstone, "which is interesting, because we'll also use couple-thousand-year-old hide glue."
 
Between Breakstone, Collins and their third technician, Brian DeLaney, Ann Arbor Guitars brings an eclectic mix of resumes to their guitar repair operations. Breakstone, a retired corporate executive, began working with Collins as an apprentice some years ago. He picked an apt teacher. A former student and instructor at Galloup School of Guitar Building and Repair, Collins worked with Old Town Lansing's Elderly Instruments before joining the team at Herb David. DeLaney has worked as a guitar tech for such big names as Ted Nugent, Sarah McLachlan, and Elvis Costello.
 
Though Collins says the growth of Ann Arbor Guitars is inevitable – due to the lack of luthiers in southeast Michigan, he says they could stay busy even if operating in secret – the team is committed to slow, steady growth, so as to keep turnaround time on their guitar repairs reasonable for customers.
 

Source: Hesh Breakstone, Ann Arbor Guitars
Writer: Natalie Burg

SVS Vision celebrates grand opening in Westgate

Like Goldilocks' search of the best porridge, chair and bed, Cathy Walker, VP of marketing and advertising for SVS Vision, says the company's new branch in Ann Arbor's Westgate Shopping Center offers customers the benefits of being not too big, not too small, but just right. 
 
"We can offer more than what some of the smaller places can because of our size," she says of the Mt. Clemens-based SVS Vision, "but we're not huge. We have a much more personal touch than what some of the big places have."
 
The 2,000 square-foot Westgate SVS Vision first opened in January, but celebrated its grand opening last weekend as the company's 57th branch. It the Ann Arbor area's second, joining an Ypsilanti location. 
 
"We knew we didn't have enough locations in Washtenaw County, and we knew Ann Arbor was a place we wanted to be," says Walker. "The location in Westgate opened up and it made a lot of sense to us."
 
SVS Vision began nearly 40 years ago as a vision center servicing the auto industry. Walker says the company began to expand its brand in 2008 by opening retail stores for the general public. The company is now in a growth mode, with locations throughout Michigan and seven other states. Walker expects at least one more SVS Vision location to eventually open in the Ann Arbor area.
 

Source: Cathy Walker, SVS Vision
Writer: Natalie Burg

Casa Bella Salon to open in Ann Arbor, benefit at-risk kids

Some salons are just salons, but not the new Casa Bella on N. Maple Rd. The hair, nails and massage spa won't just be servicing the beauty needs of clients, but also a very special community need. Owner Kaliah Wolf says that 90 percent of Casa Bella's profits will be used to fund Caron's Crazy Corral, Wolf's new non-profit that pairs at-risk children with therapeutic horse lessons. 
 
"Some of these kids' parents are drug addicts; some are in jail," says Wolf. "Our mission is to teach them that they are only limited by their dreams."
 
The seven-month-old 501(c)(3) is located on Sylvan Rd. in Chelsea and has received an outpouring of support and interested from the community already. Within three months of opening, Caron's Crazy Corral was serving 25 local kids. Wolf is now developing a 4H program at farm, and is partnering with other non-profits to expand their services to more kids in need. 
 
In the meantime, the 785 square-foot Casa Bella joins a rush of occupancy at the Maple Rd. shopping center in which Juicy Kitchen, El Harissa Market and a new tattoo shop have or are scheduled to open this year. Wolf says the sense of community in the complex is what drew her to the location. 
 
"Everybody in the shopping center has been helpful and friendly," she says. "It's a little downtown there. "
 
Though not technically open yet, Casa Bella has been servicing a few clients in their new location and Wolf plans to open to the public soon. The salon currently employs a staff of three and Wolf is looking to hire another stylist, massage therapist and makeup artist. 
 

Source: Kali Wolf, Casa Bella
Writer: Natalie Burg

Reimagine Washtenaw seeks feedback on future of Washtenaw Ave.

It's no secret that things are happening on Washtenaw Ave. From the forthcoming Arbor Hills Crossing shopping center to new pedestrian walkways, the corridor between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti is in the midst of a transformation. With these changes in mind, the multi-jurisdictional land use planning and public transit initiative, ReImagine Washtenaw, wants to get public feedback on the future of the avenue.
 
"We want the public to review various corridor cross-section alternatives and give us their preference," says ReImagine Washtenaw Project Manager Nathan Voght. "We’re also asking for feedback on best locations for mid-block pedestrian crossings, and where other pedestrian safety enhancements may be needed."
 
The initiative is already involved in multiple projects to make Washtenaw Ave. friendlier to pedestrians and bicyclists and addressing traffic congestion and land use issues. Based on feedback from the public forums scheduled this month, future projects could address traffic congestion with a boulevard, a “road diet” or other variations. Voght says knowing what the public wants Washtenaw Ave. to be like will help ReImagine Washtenaw partners know how to act when the time is right.
 
"When MDOT funding becomes available, they will have a strong sense of what the community wants for the corridor," says Voght, "and we’ll be able to work quickly and efficiently to develop construction drawings for the work that achieves our goals." 
 
The public forums will take place on May 28 and 29 at the Washtenaw County Service Center, May 30 at Carpenter Elementary School, and May 31 at EMU's McKenny Union. Additional details are available at: washtenawavenue.org.
 

Source: Nathan Voght, Washtenaw County
Writer: Natalie Burg

World of Beer aims to draw beer lovin' professionals to S. University

As if 40 rotating taps of craft beers and 500 rotating bottles from craft breweries around the world weren't enough to get a beer lover excited about S. University's forthcoming World of Beer, co-owner Chad Wilson says the bar's true specialty will be a well-educated staff. 
 
"All of our servers and bartenders go through a two-week beer school," says Wilson. "We give them a broad knowledge of beer. We'll have a great atmosphere and live music, but we'll also have a commitment to knowledge."
 
That means every server will be able to answer guests' questions about the flavor profiles and origins of the hundreds of beers available at the 3,000 square-foot World of Beer, which is scheduled to open in mid-June in the Landmark building with 35 to 40 employees. 
 
University of Michigan graduates Wilson and co-owner Steve Rossi's decision to open on S. University was carefully made, even though they anticipate their typical patron to better fit the Main St. market over the more student-oriented S. University area. 
 
"We'll brand ourselves as a different type of bar on South University," Wilson says. "We want to change the dynamic of the area, to introduce craft beer to the kids, and also to get some of the business professionals down there to make it a more universal destination."
 
The Ann Arbor World of Beer will be one of more than 40 locations of its kind in the United States. Wilson says World of Beer operates unlike a typical franchise, and the Ann Arbor location will be owned and operated by himself and Rossi, who are local to the area and will place an emphasis on Michigan beers. The co-owners plan to eventually open six World of Beer bars in the state. 

Source: Chad Wilson, World of Beer
Writer: Natalie Burg

South State Street Corridor Plan inspires affordable housing proposal

With affordable housing projects underway in 25 communities around the United States, Ann Arbor's McKinley is no stranger to the concept – they just haven't had the opportunity to bring one to fruition locally, at least not yet. 
 
The proposed changes to zoning included in the new South State Street Corridor Plan, however, could finally open the door for an affordable housing project to happen on a McKinley-owned parcel on State St. Should staff recommendations be approved, the area including that property would change from light industrial to an office zoning designation that would allow for multi-family residential use.
 
"It would be great to do this in Ann Arbor," says McKinley CEO Albert Berriz. "We hope we get the opportunity to do this. With all the setbacks affordable housing has had here, this would be a fun thing to see come to life."
 
Berriz clarifies that the target market for the affordable housing project would be those at around 60 percent of the area median income level. The current area median income is $59,737. 
 
"This is the [demographic] that is least talked about," says Berriz. "They talk about homeless housing, but there's no effort in the area of workforce housing."
 
The S. State St. location is ideal for workforce housing, adds Berriz, because of its proximity to bus lines, as well as employment opportunities throughout the corridor, including Briarwood Mall. 
 
No plans have yet been released about the number of units the affordable housing project could include, or the amount McKinley plans to invest in the development. Berriz plans to utilize the Michigan State Housing Development Authority's Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program, but says no local or county assistance will be required for the project. McKinley plans to proceed with the development immediately upon approval of the South State Street Corridor Plan's zoning changes. 
 

Source: Albert Berriz, McKinley
Writer: Natalie Burg
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