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Royal Oak bar, O'Toole's, opening in Rochester

O'Toole's Irish American Grill in Royal Oak is opening a restaurant in Rochester.

The second O'Toole's could open by fall after renovations on the 9,000-square-foot former restaurant space it will occupy are complete.

O'Toole's owner, Keith Wadle, is a resident of Rochester Hills.

His new restaurant, which is expected to be a family friendly sports bar, will be located at 139 South Main St.

Source: City of Rochester
Writer: Kim North Shine

Taylor & Colt barberspas coming to metro Detroit

Two brothers from Birmingham will be importing Canadian-based Taylor & Colt barberspas to the U.S., starting with two metro Detroit locations.

John and Tom White are the U.S. franchisees for the chain of Toronto spas that combine old-fashioned barber shop services and more modern grooming treatments in high-end surroundings.

The first Taylor & Colt barberspas will open in the Villages in Rochester and on Liberty Street in Ann Arbor. They are seeking a location in Birmingham, says John White.

Renovations are underway on the first two spas, and they are expected to open in January.

"We're bringing this to Michigan first, and hopefully as we open new locations and expand, we'll bring it to a number of different states. We'd like Boston, Charleston, Austin."

The spas have an old-fashioned meets contemporary feel with rough woods and stone in the interior and traditional barber shop chairs. There are iPads at each chair and big-screen TVs throughout. There will be a reception bar with coffee, tea, juice, and newspapers. Services will include haircuts, hot towel shaves, laser hair removal, massage and more.

After seeing Taylor & Colt in Toronto, "We kind of thought, 'You know what this makes a lot of sense.' When you visit men's barber shops, a lot of them have been there forever. They're old, they're tired. They're a basic place to get a haircut, but not much more," says John White. "We've seen this whole movement that younger men are indulging in more careful grooming and more attention to their appearance. We think there will be much interest in this."

Source: John White, Taylor & Colt U.S.
Writer: Kim North Shine

ShareSpace Rochester revives downtown co-working spot

Plans for a co-working space in downtown Rochester are back on after the investor/owner's decision to return to full-time living in Rochester.

Doug Van Slembrouck, founder of ShareSpace Rochester and owner of digital strategy company Red Pawn Creative, plans to open the shared work space, which would be outfitted with desks, WIFI, conference tables, and other office amenities, at 150 S. Elizabeth St., just a few feet away from the Clinton River Trail and directly behind Rochester Play, an indoor activity center for children and families.

For a fee, ShareSpace will give independents, freelancers, and office-less employees all the perks of an office, including meeting space, people to talk to, and no coffee shop or home office distractions.

"It's perfect for access to downtown, a brief stretch of the legs or bike ride, and great if you need to parent and work at the same time. We're now accepting memberships and visitors," Van Slembrouck says.

The plan was put on hold after Van Slembrouck's work had him commuting to Chicago throughout the week, and "I quickly realized that ShareSpace would require significantly much more attention."

In addition, a Kickstarter fundraising campaign for ShareSpace fell short. Projects that fail to meet their fundraising goal get no money.

"We did learn the community of freelance and mobile professionals in the greater-Rochester area is quite large," he says. "The supporters of our campaign were so interested in bringing co-working to the area that they still offered their original donations, essentially prepaid two-month memberships, regardless of the overall Kickstarter results. In the end however, I didn't feel comfortable accepting funds if I couldn't be there full-time to be involved in the day-to-day operations."

He says he's excited to make it work this time. His own company, Red Pawn Creative, will have its office at ShareSpace.

"I believe Oakland County needs a place for people with the flexibility to work anywhere, anytime to call home."

Source: Doug Van Slembrouck, founder, ShareSpace Rochester
Writer: Kim North Shine

Sports fans cheer for new downtown Rochester biz

Autographed baseballs, collectible sports cards, jerseys, helmets and all manner of sports gear and paraphernalia make up the stock of a new shop in downtown Rochester.

Rochester Sports Cards & Memorabilia opened earlier this month at 407 South Main Street.

Customers are kid collectors and serious purveyors of athletes' autographs.

All sports are represented in the merchandise, and the owner has years of experience in the world of memorabilia collecting, authenticating and dealing.

Source: Rochester Downtown Development Authority
Writer: Kim North Shine


Friendship Factory's blend of social good and retail comes to Rochester

The Friendship Factory has added a second store in downtown Rochester, expanding from its Clinton Township location where crafting, parties and lessons in kindness have combined into a good business idea.

The newest Friendship Factory brought its bracelet makers, beads, stickers lanyards, and oodles of craft supplies to the former Avon Township Library at 210 West University in downtown Rochester. The crafts combine with the owners' wish to help girls weather storms of friendship and socializing.

Both stores, the one at Partridge Creek shopping center in Clinton Township, and the new one host birthday parties, Moms Night Out events, painting parties, holiday gatherings and have rotating themes such as the current Michigan-Michigan State rivalry.

Whether dropping in to craft or there for a party, the point of the interactive studio is to "connect friends and family and build friendships."

It also offers friendship-building workshops hosted by a licensed therapist. The owners want its target market, 8- to 14-year-old girls, to understand how relationships change and how to manage change with social skills that emphasize support and kindness.

Source: Friendship Factory
Writer: Kim North Shine

Up North-based custom bed designers expand to downtown Rochester

A mattress designer who makes beds in any size, shape or form by hand, from scratch has opened a store in downtown Rochester.

Beds by Design, which started in Harbor Springs, Mich. in 2005, has built a mattress manufacturing business on a customer base that wants mattresses made exactly as they ask, whether it's for comfort or for special spaces, say tight cottages, RVs, yachts, you name it.

Downstate interest in the Up North-based Beds by Design prompted owner Rory Karpathian to open a Rochester showroom last month at 111 W. Third St.

Karpathian, a former high-ranking mattress company executive who tired of industry changes focused on making more money by manufacturing shorter-lived products, says mainstream manufacturers can't come close to the careful, detailed and time-consuming process he and his employees use to make mattresses.

"I make hand-crafted, natural, heirloom quality mattresses. My mattresses are made to last a lifetime and are the finest you will find in North America," he says.

Source: Rory Karpathian, owner, Beds by Design
Writer: Kim North Shine

Olive Vinegar offers gourmet oils, vinegars in downtown Rochester

The stainless steel dispensers that are the centerpiece of the new Olive Vinegar in downtown Rochester add up to an attractive decor, but it's the function of what's inside the shiny containers that is the basis for the business.

Inside the Fusti storage containers are high-quality olive oils and vinegars from around the world. Paired with them is the knowledge of Michael and Nicole Loffredo, owners of Olive Vinegar. They opened the store and tasting room stocked with more than 50 varieties of oils and vinegars last month at 205 S. Main St..

Besides selling tasty oils and vinegars such as Persian lime, mushroom, raspberry, and coconut to enhance food, an integral part of the business is spreading the word about the health benefits of products such as high-phenol olive oils.

Recipes, demonstrations and access to information comes with a visit to the store as do foods that can be paired with liquid product that's imported and fills Olive Vinegar's own bottles. Gluten-free pastas, meatballs, orzo, kitchen supplies, spices and other products are also sold at Olive Vinegar.

Source: Olive Vinegar
Writer: Kim North Shine

Musical institution opens new location in downtown Farmington

The 94-year-old Hewitt's Music has packed up its instruments and everything else and opened a new store in downtown Farmington.

It left Dearborn last month and opened at 23330 Farmington Road in mid June. An grand opening party is planned for July 18 and 19.

Hewitt sells and rents musical instruments and supplies. It's also given lessons to generations of music students. It is also in the repair business.

Just a few years shy of being in business nearly a century, the owners decided to add an Oakland County location to its lineup of stores. Hewitt's also has locations in Rochester and South Lyon and in Big Rapids. The original Hewitt's opened in Detroit in 1920.

Source: Hewitt's Music
Writer: Kim North Shine

B Spot Burgers opens in Rochester, plans Royal Oak location by fall

Michael Symon, known nationally as the bald and colorful Iron Chef in Ohio for his eclectic, buzz-worthy burgers and locally for his Roast restaurant at the Westin Book Cadillac in Detroit, may also become known here for his B Spot Burgers.

The small but growing burger chain known for unusually topped and tasty burgers since opening in Symon's hometown of Cleveland opened its first Michigan location about two weeks ago in Rochester. Long lines and waits are greeting customers wanting a taste of the famous chef's creations.

Symon & co. are working on the next location for  a B. Spot: downtown Royal Oak. It is expected to open by fall.

Source: Roast and B Spot Burgers
Writer: Kim North Shine

Arab-American youth focus of Oakland U nursing school grant

A grant awarded to Oakland University's School of Nursing will test the effectiveness of community health education of Arab-American youth.

A nearly $80,000 grant from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation will pay for a program that will pair Arab-American students from Dearborn with teen mentors who guide them through healthy eating and lifestyles. The students' responses, lifestyle changes and health will be compared to the effects of similar lessons given to them by teachers in a classroom setting. The effect of parental involvement will also be measured.

The grant is part of BCBS Foundation's program called Improving Health Behaviors in Arab American Youth.

“This project has a special emphasis on obesity prevention and is targeted at reducing the number of chronic illnesses for young Arab Americans,” says Dr. Suha Kridli, the grant’s principal investigator. “We are going to offer specific guidance and provide practical tools that can improve students' overall health while lowering health care costs."

Dr. Kridl says Type 2 diabetes and obesity in Arab-American youth is increasing, while preventive programs are not.

The program begins this month in Dearborn, where the largest concentration of Arab-Americans in the U.S. live, and will be administered in partnership with Wayne State University, Dearborn Public Schools and the Dearborn Board of Education.

Sources: Brian Bierley and Suha Kridli, Oakland University
Writer: Kim North Shine

Yates Cider Mill opening new location in Orion Twp

Yates Cider Mill, a top metro Detroit destination for cider, donuts, jams, other small-batch foods, and the entertainment experience of watching the cider-making process, is taking the family tradition to a new location in Orion Township.

It's not uncommon to see long lines and crowds at the Rochester Hills mill.The new location is expected to follow suit, building on the business based on Michigan apples.

It will be located at Canterbury Village and is expected to open by the fall, the high season for the cider mill outings.

Owner Mike Titus is also expanding the Rochester Hills operation, opening for the first time for a spring pressing. Opening day is April 15.

And by the first of May Yates will open the Ice Cream Shoppe and sell chocolate and vanilla custards.

Yates, a grist mill that dates back to 1863, is said to be one of the longest continuously operating businesses in the state, and the popularity of the mills, which merge agriculture and economics, is at a high.

Source: Mike Titus, owner, Yates Cider Mill
Writer: Kim North Shine

Revival in the making for historic Hills Theatre in downtown Rochester

Local history lovers and civic boosters in Rochester are pushing a plan to bring back the 1940s-era Hills Theatre downtown, and the idea got a boost recently when a feasibility study showed it could well be economically viable.

If the idea moves forward, after a major fundraising campaign and renovation Rochester would join several Michigan cities who are turning to "theater-nomics" to add life and dollars to their downtown.

The 820-seat Hills Theatre is located in the heart of downtown at 412-416 S. Main Street, and a renovation could cost between $3-4 million.

The Rochester-Avon Historical Society started exploring the idea about two years ago, and along with the city's Historical Commission worked with a consultant, paying $15,000 to advise on the best use of the theater and how to proceed with a campaign and building plan.

While the crux of the project will rely on private donations, Mayor Jeffrey Cuthbertson has said the city could provide services, engineering and other professionals in the interest of building a downtown entertainment destination.

The supporters of theater revival also expect to ask the Michigan Economic Development Corp. to chip in on Rochester's project as it has in other cities.

Source: Rochester Avon Historical Society and city of Rochester
Writer: Kim North Shine

Automation Alley and Oakland U launch training center

A training center designed to improve the talent pool for small- to medium-sized manufacturers in Michigan is opening at Oakland University's business incubator.

The Automation Alley Product Lifecycle Management Center is a partnership between Automation Alley, Michigan's largest technology business association; Siemens;  the Michigan Economic Development Corp.; Geometric Solutions; solidThinking Inc.; and Oakland U's School of Engineering and Computer Science.

The Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) Center will offer affordable training and PLM certification and training using traditional, mainstream and new technologies in computer aided design, engineering, manufacturing and other PLM skills such as digital factory simulation and 3-D scanning and printing.

Product Lifecycle Management is the process of seeing a product through from concept and design to manufacture, service and disposal. Knowledge and technologies in PLM can bring a company's processes up to date and prepare them for the future as well as increase efficiency, quality and profits by bringing products to market faster.

Besides training and certification, the new management center will help companies move from traditional design and manufacturing methods to the latest digital processes.

The center is located at One Golfview Lane in Rochester.

"In recent years, we've received a lot of feedback from the local manufacturing industry that they are desperately in need of employees trained in PLM. In many cases, they've had to look outside of Michigan to find these employees. Now, with the creation of this center, they will be able to find these employees right here in Southeast Michigan. So what we are creating is a talent pipeline that will ultimately lead to the creation of new jobs, but we can't say exactly how many jobs will be created or at what time," says Erin Sommerville, spokesperson for Automation Alley. "Ultimately, our hope is that Southeast Michigan will become known as a center of excellence for PLM, which would attract both companies and talent."

Source: Erin Sommerville, spokesperson, Automation Alley
Writer: Kim North Shine

GearBox Rx opens in Rochester to serve Crossfit athletes

GearBox RX, a soon-to-open store in downtown Rochester, wants to make it easier to buy Crossfit gear -- shoes, clothing, food, supplements, etc. -- by stocking only products that are tested and trusted and used by the owners themselves.

The owners, three casual CrossFit enthusiasts, know the frustration of ordering CrossFit supplies online and winding up with things that don't work or are no good. Figuring there are other CrossFitters in the same situation, they decided to open GearBox RX at 416 S. Main Street. Opening day is Jan. 24.

The owners are not "professional athletes or boutique wannabes," they say on their website "About Us" page.

"GearBox Rx mission is to be a community house for all things CrossFit and functional fitness. We are a retail store that sells shoes, clothing, accessories and nutrition to functional fitness athletes," according to the website. "We are also a place where that community can gather and talk shop, watch competitions or just share and learn about stuff that's important to us."

They chose Rochester because of its midway location for much of metro Detroit, its proximity to more than 40 CrossFit boxes, and hundreds of miles of running and biking trails and parks.

The store has a mini box where gear can be tried before you buy, and a market where natual and paleo products are sold.

Source: Rochester Downtown Development Authority and GearBox RX
Writer: Kim North Shine

Crittenton Hospital adds high-tech tower to Rochester campus

Crittenton Hospital has expanded its hospital campus in Rochester Hills by adding a six-story tower where patient care will come with the latest in medical technology, treatment and education wrapped in a building that took a non-traditional, money-saving approach to construction.

The 165,000-square-foot South Tower on University Drive near Oakland University opened Wednesday, Jan. 8. It has 87 private patient rooms outfitted with smart beds that monitor patients' vital signs and activity without being hooked to electrodes.

The pharmacy in the new tower is operated by an automation system with bar code technologies that can help eliminate prescription errors.

The tower houses a cardiac center for medicine, where Crittenton doctors work in an open heart program partnership with the University of Michigan. Other floors are dedicated to family and primary care medicine as well as orthopaedic, joint and spine medicine and musculoskeletal disorders and injuries.

Education is incorporated in the new tower with innovative nursing stations that support training and clinical instruction to nursing students. Crittenton South Tower is also a learning center for Wayne State University School of Medicine's graduate residents.

A sanctuary for all religions and an outdoor garden meant to support emotional and spiritual well-being round out the new facility.

The $65-million tower also comes with an energy-efficient design that includes recycled materials. The construction project used an approach called Integrated Project Delivery. Hospital leaders and construction company reps from Barton Malow Company and Frank Rewold & Son say the approach, which re-evaluates and reworks traditional, costly construction not only saves health care costs but should be a model for other construction projects. They also say it is the largest such IDP project in Michigan.

Source: Brian Birney, director of marketing and communications, Crittenton Hospital and Adela Piper, Push22
Writer: Kim North Shine

Closed metro Detroit Caribou Coffees come back as Peet's Coffee & Tea

Six closed metro Detroit Caribou coffee shops are re-opening this week and next week as Peet's Coffee & Tea.

After months of renovations and employee training, Peet's Coffee & Teas opened Nov. 11 in Royal Oak, Novi, Shelby and Commerce townships and Rochester Hills.

A shop in Grosse Pointe's Village business district is opening Nov. 18, as is a store in Ann Arbor.

The new Peet's are retaining and retraining many Caribou employees and also hiring new ones as well as investing in upgrades and decor at the new shops.

The Emeryville, Calif.-based company began selling the rarity of small-batch, high-quality roasted and brewed coffee from its first store in Berkeley, Calif. in 1966. The company is in the midst of an eastward expansion. It recently opened 18 stores in Ohio and four in the Pittsburgh area.

Many of its new stores are just doors away from Starbucks, which opened in 1971, five years after Peet's first shop. Friends of Alfred Peet, the founder of Peet's Coffee & Tea, opened Starbucks after being taught by Peet, a Dutch immigrant who, as the story goes, was appalled by the coffee Americans drank. He wanted to enlighten them and teach them how to find the best beans and make a better cup.

Starbucks initially sold only roasted beans, not brewed coffee, but has since far surpassed Peet's in size.

Source: Peet's Coffee & Tea
Writer: Kim North Shine

Wanderlust Boutique brings affordable Euro fashion to Rochester

The women behind the new Wanderlust Boutique in downtown Rochester are bringing their love for European fashion to locals.

Ally and Denise Martin say they've figured out a way to make Euro style affordable by scouring hundreds of vendors, looking not only for good prices but original styles. Besides casual clothing, the store sells accessories such as jewelry, watches, belts and shoes.

Wanderlust opened Oct. 11 in a redone store painted in aqua blue mixed with exposed brick walls.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony with the Rochester Regional Chamber of Commerce is planned for Nov. 1.

Source: Ally Martin, co-owner, Wanderlust Boutique
Writer: Kim North Shine

Holy Cannoli's expands to OU campus

The reach of Holy Cannoli's family recipe for sweet-filled Italian pastry is expanding once again.

The downtown Rochester bakery that opened in 2010 first expanded to a second store in Berkley in April, then started selling its goods last week on the campus of Oakland University.

Traditional cannoli and cannoli chips will be sold at the coffee shop inside OU's Human Health Building on Squirrel and Walton roads.

Holy Cannoli's, which come in several flavors, are also on the menu at D'Amato's in downtown Royal Oak, and can be found at Eastern Market on Saturdays and the Bank of Antiques store in Washington Township.

Source: Nicole Franey, co-owner, Holy Cannoli's
Writer: Kim North Shine

The Clem joins other Metro Detroit cities for summer festival season

With metro Detroit downtowns seeing economic opportunity in festivals, concerts, art shows and other special summer events, a calendar can fill up fast in no time with places to go all summer long.

There aren't many cities without a show to put on.

Mount Clemens is capitalizing on its success as a big party host with the All American Jam this weekend.

The county seat of Macomb County draws thousands to its festivals, carnivals, music shows and fireworks each year, bringing customers to downtown businesses and fun to the streets. The All American Jam, hosted by Powers Distributing, the Mount Clemens Downtown Development Authority and Watts Up, Inc - is a massive combination of them all.

It starts Thursday, June 20, and runs through Sunday, June 23, with a carnival, live music, food, beer, art and special exhibits, including a demonstration by the roller derby team, Bath City Roller Girls, fitness instructors and Cinderella, all with Main Street and Macomb Place in the center of downtown as the main drag. A fireworks show over the river happens on Friday.

There will be stages with live entertainment, musical and other artists. The event is billed as a family-friendly festival and will run from late afternoon to 11 p.m. each day.

Downtown Rochester packs in the crowds all year long with festivals and shows celebrating every season. This summers there's Music in the Park on Thursdays, the Big Bright Ball Aug. 4 and Movies in the Moonlight on Friday nights.

In Grosse Pointe Village district there's Thursday is the day for Music on the Plaza, and on July 26 the annual Sidewalk Sale and Street Festival pulls in deal-seekers and wanderers for the sales, music and food.

Royal Oak has a summer concert series on the lawn of the library every Thursday in July 11-Aug. 15. Each concert features multiple performers, either musicians or other artists. The city's Ford Arts, Beats & Eats is a metro-wide draw, taking over Main Street.

Dearborn’s Homecoming is 33-year-old, three-day festival that runs Aug. 2-4 and ends with fireworks and attracts about 150,000 visitors to the carnival, shows, picnics and other events.

Art fairs in Wyandotte and Plymouth are so popular that downtown Trenton moved the date of its 38-year-old annual summer festival to June 28, 29, 30.

The Wyandotte Street Art Fair is July 10-13. Art in the Park in downtown Plymouth is the July 12-14.

Writer: Kim North Shine

Deck Art celebrates skateboards as art in downtown Rochester

Skateboarders and downtown shops have had a rocky relationship through the years, but downtown Rochester is celebrating skateboarding -- and art -- with Deck Art 2013.

Deck Art invites anyone to buy a blank board -- the canvas -- for $20, decorate it and have it displayed in local businesses for special public exhibitions.

Deck Art is May 16 and 17 and starts with an art crawl beginning at the South Street Skateshop. It takes visitors in and out of businesses, which will offer special promotions. They can see more than 200 pieces of skateboard art spread throughout downtown.

The South Street Skateshop is the host. The city and the Rochester Downtown Development Authority supports and helps promote it as Deck Art nights are a way to fill downtown, bring in business and give the community something to do just as the weather turns nice. There will be food trucks each day, and entertainment.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Rochester Downtown Development Authority

New dance school goes back to basics in downtown Rochester

A former professional dancer and classically-trained dance teacher is opening a studio this month in downtown Rochester with hopes of replacing the competitive, reality TV twist of some dance studios with one that's focused on classical education and performance.

Cindy Raffel, 27, will bring her experience as a dancer and choreographer with companies around the country and as a certified K-12 dance instructor to her 2nd Street Studio of Dance. It will open with a ribbon-cutting on May 17th, with three days of free classes that day through the 19th. By July, classes for ballet, tap, jazz, modern dance and hip hop and other forms of dance will begins.

The studio at 100 E. 2nd Street is 5,600 square feet of space with three dance studios and classes for children and adults.

She plans to keep prices low, partly by eliminating the competitive dance aspect that can come with so many costs. Classes themselves will be affordable, she says.

Raffel, who's danced with ballet and theater companies in places such as Virginia, where she is from, and Florida, where she was with the Tampa Ballet, moved to Michigan in September after her husband, Tom, received a tenure-track position at Oakland University. They bought their home in Rochester and really dug downtown, she says. They loved Rochester and after hearing about the vacant RARA building -- Rochester Avon Recreation Authority -- she decided to open the studio she's dreamed about for years.

"Obviously with dance I started as a kid and I always wanted to have a dance studio…As an elementary schooler I was making up a show, picking out a costumes and showing my parents my choreography," she says. "It was always in the back of mind because I didn't know how far my professional career would go. When we decided to move here, we bought a house really quickly. I thought, this is going to be where we're settling down. I should for it. Lo and behold there was this vacant building waiting for me.

The studio "is literally steps away from Main Street," she says. "For me it's a great location only because it is a great area…but for all that's going on. You can walk out the door and be at a parade. Amazingly enough the house that we bought in August is exactly halfway between the university and the studio."

Before finding a place to open, she had been researching what was missing in the local dance scene.

"It's kind of hard as an outsider looking in…The dance world is so much word of mouth," she says, "But I think people are looking for something kind of different. something that's not competitive…I want dance to be a fun, happy experience. I want it to be enjoyable for everyone, including the parents."

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Cindy Raffel, owner/instructor, 2nd Street Studio of Dance

Oakland County opens business center for entrepreneurs

Oakland County is trying to make starting a business or taking it to the next level easier for entrepreneurs by offering free, walk-in business counseling.

The One Stop Shop Business Center at the Oakland County Executive Office building, 2100 Pontiac Lake Road, in Waterford will open May 9 and offer regular walk-in hours after that. The hours for May 9 are 9:30-noon and 1:30-4:30. The business center is on the first floor of Building 41W.

“We usually operate on an appointment-only basis but many entrepreneurs walk into our One Stop Shop with questions on how to get started with their business idea,” says Greg Doyle, supervisor of the One Stop Shop Business Center. “By designating special walk-in days, we hope to reach more entrepreneurs and help them understand their next steps as well as present the resources we can make available to them. Our aim is to get them started quickly in a way that makes the most sense to their unique situation.”

Counselors at the business center can answer specific questions, suggest planning tools and give direction on where to go to solve problems or achieve goals. All sessions are confidential. The counselors have expertise in business development, community planning, financing and market research.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Greg Doyle, supervisor, One Stop Shop Business Center

Downtown Rochester wins 2013 National Main Street award

Downtown Rochester is one of three cities in America to be named a Great American Main Street.

The 2013 Great American Main Street Award given by the National Trust For Historic Preservation recognized the Oakland County city for its success at preserving history while promoting economic revitalization and a strong relationship with the community. The announcement of the award, which was given in New Orleans April 11, described the Trust's reasoning for picking Rochester out of hundreds of historic Main Streets across the country.

"The Rochester DDA has succeeded in transforming a mill town that had fallen on hard times into a thriving suburb of Detroit built around a strong sense of place and community. A robust mix of public events, creative use of social media and a broad spectrum of volunteer involvement has attracted a loyal following to downtown Rochester," it says. "The DDA's Big Bright Light Show, for example draws 1 million visitors each holiday season to enjoy 1.5 million lights-lighting up merchants' cash registers in the process"

Other winners were H Street Main Street in Washington, D.C. and Ocean Springs Main Street in Mississippi.

In picking Rochester, Valecia Crisafulli, acting director at the National Main Street Center, says, "The Rochester DDA is a true innovator in marketing and small business assistance, and has the vibrant downtown to prove it. At a time when many municipalities are losing population, Rochester has experienced a 20-percent increase in population. With a 4-percent vacancy rate downtown and 132 new businesses since adopting the Main Street Approach, the DDA can take great pride in creating an inviting place for people to live, shop and open businesses."

Kristi Trevarrow, executive director of the Rochester Downtown Development Authority, says it goes without saying that it's an honor and recognition of much hard work and devotion from volunteers, business owners and city and county officials.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Kristi Trevarrow, executive director, Rochester Downtown Development Authority and Erica Steward, spokesperson, National Trust For Historic Preservation

Holy expansion: Rochester-based Holy Cannoli's adds Berkley shop

The fifth-generation recipe for Holy Cannoli's cream-filled pastries has caught on so much that the downtown Rochester business has opened a second location in Berkley.

The new store is at 2752 Coolidge Highway. The first, which opened about a year ago, is at 415 South Main St. in Rochester. The business has been in the making since at least 2010, when owners Nicole Franey, her mother Cathy Schulte and grandmother Sharon Beheler decided to sell to friends, to their friends' friends, and at festivals and farmers markets, and then make the jump from family service to anonymous consumers.

Franey calls the expansion "an anniversary gift to ouselves."

Holy Cannoli's cannolis come filled with traditional creams and specialties such as key lime, pistachio, Michigan cherry, cookies and cream, and revolving choices. The creams are piped in after customers order.

Holy Cannoli's is also known for baked goods like its cassata cake.

Although it's moved into retail spaces, Holy Cannoli's hasn't abandoned farmer's markets. Every Saturday, Eastern Market shoppers will find Holy Cannoli's at Shed #5 in Eastern Market.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Nicole Franey, co-owner, Holy Cannoli's

Rochester's historic Chapman House to be converted into a restaurant

The nearly 100-year-old Chapman House in Rochester is in the process of a renovation that will make the former family home turned longtime home furnishings store into a restaurant and elegant event site.

For now the renovation is overshadowing what the Chapman House as a restaurant will be. Besides the painstaking daily details of preserving the historic structure itself, all sorts of historic keepsakes and fun finds are being uncovered.

A decades old Hershey's candy bar wrapper. A 1917 newspaper. Photographs. Original tile. A 200-plus-year-old gas light fixture.

The grand home was built in 1917 by William Clark Chapman, a prominent business owner and politiican, and remained in the Chapman family until 1973, according to the Rochester-Avon Historical Society. Several businesses operated there, most recently a furniture and interior design store. The home also survived two fires.

The renovation could be complete by spring, but developer Geoff Dancik can't yet announce a date. Historic renovation is an uncertain, windy road.

What is known is that a French-inspired restaurant will take up much of the first floor and most of the second floor of the Italian Renaissance-style mansion.

A terrace overlooking Walnut Street, just a few blocks from downtown Rochester, will offer outdoor seating as will part of the grounds behind the home.

The grounds and formal gardens will be available for private events.

As the renovations inside and outside continue, parts of the home such as the iron balconies have been sent away for proper restoration. A centerpiece of one patio, a five-burner gas fixture that dates back to the reign of King George IV during the mid to early 1830s, is also being restored.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Geoff and Brenden Dancik, Chapman House

Downtown Rochester seeks public input on parking improvements

Downtown Rochester is coming off a complete rebuild of Main Street, and now city planners see this as an ideal time to determine if parking options downtown also need updating.

To figure it out, the Rochester City Council and the Rochester Downtown Development Authority have gone the survey route, asking anyone with an opinion on what's needed and what's not when it comes to parking. The survey, which also includes an open-ended question, is getting high responses and also yielding useful information not necessarily related to parking, says Kristi Trevarrow, executive director of the Rochester Downtown Development Authority.

"We're getting an insane response, over 100 surveys in the first 40 minutes. We're at almost 800 now," she says.

The Main Street makeover, which was completed in November and included a re-do of downtown sidewalks and the addition of amenities to make being in downtown easier and more convenient, took out all parking meters.

Before deciding whether to replace those and make any other parking changes, say structures, kiosks, or re-arranged lots, the survey was sent out. The city council, planning commission and the DDA will review the findings April 10.

"It's fast. We don't want this to be a long, drawn-out thing…We want it to be a working document," says Trevarrow.

The changes will affect not only immediate parking needs, but attempt to plan for the future. The last parking study was done in 2003 and determined that the parking as it was was adequate.

"If a big development were to come in, maybe residential with retail or a large company, we want to be prepared," Trevarrow says. "The economy is snapping back. At some point there will be a development. We want to be prepared and have that answer when the time comes."

Want to share your thoughts? See the survey here.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Kristi Trevarrow, executive director, Rochester Downtown Development Authority

New $30M student housing, other upgrades for Oakland University

Oakland University's campus will take on big changes, millions of dollars in changes, by 2014.

The changes include a $30 million student housing development, a new recreation and athletic complex, a new facility and grounds maintenance building and 1,240 parking spaces to keep up with student growth.

On top of that, the 1,443-acre campus in Rochester Hills will build a carillon tower on campus. The housing complex will provide additional parking as well as businesses such as a cafe, classrooms, student gathering space and more. The new athletic facilities will be equipped to host NCAA Division 1 events.

The future changes follow several other improvements to the campus, including a new engineering center and a human health building.

The goal is to enrich the college experience for students and to build on a 37-percent increase in student enrollment over the last 15 years.

Benjamin Eveslage, student liaison to OU's Board of Trustees, says the changes are what students have asked for.

“These improvements will greatly contribute to student life, the growth of our university, and the value every graduate holds in their diploma, Eveslage says in a statement. "I am glad to be a student at OU, at a point where OU is changing its game and improving in so many new ways”

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Oakland University

Newer, larger Dessert Oasis Coffee Roasters moves to Rochester's Main St.

After more than three years at its old Second Street location on the fringe of downtown Rochester, the Dessert Oasis has moved to middle of Main Street and changed its name to reflect its specialty of roasting coffee.

The opening this weekend of the newly-named Dessert Oasis Coffee Roasters at 336 S. Main St. will double seating capacity and sport a stepped-up interior of wood floors and exposed brick. Manager Andy Vickers is excited about the prospects.

Besides seating more of the customers who come for coffee that's roasted right in the back, for after-dinner desserts made on site or who attend open mic, live music nights and other special events, the new location is "smack dab in the middle of downtown. It's just such a great place to be. We have a lot of great events coming up and we always have people strolling around town after dinner or going out," Vickers says.

Dessert Oasis also serves fondues and fresh fruit crepes and sandwiches. "We provide all the coffee and the desserts and we can seat up to 20," Vickers says.

The new shop has a larger private room for rental, and already book clubs, writing groups and a Bible study class use it.

This weekend and others owner Jamal Hamood's daughter, Stephanie Hamood, will perform. She just returned from touring with singer Anita Baker. Son Nate Hamood, only 17, is an award-winning coffee roaster and will do his thing with the beans. Monday nights are open mic nights and attract many promising singers.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Andy Vickers, manager, Dessert Oasis Coffee Roasters

Downtown living options moving up in Rochester

A new residential living option for downtown Rochester is in the planning stages with a 62-unit, 5-7 story building for the corner of Walnut Boulevard and First Street.

The 112 Walnut residence would be designed in a cantilevered building giving each floor different views of the the city. The bottom two floors would be for parking, and the four floors above would each have 14 apartments. A penthouse floor would be devoted to six apartments.

The city's planning commission is working with Joe Latozas and Joe Lochirco with Designhaus Architects on the project that is seen as a way to up the urban living aspect of downtown Rochester, which recently underwent a major reconstruction of Main Street.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Nik Banda, economic development directory and deputy city manager, City of Rochester

Historic preservation and dream menu come together in Rochester

A much-watched restaurant project in downtown Rochester keeps going deeper into history as its owners build an new eatery that maintains ties to the building's past.

Owners Jason Mood and Chris Johnson had hoped to open The Meeting House in October, but they decided to go ahead with bigger plans to renovate both floors of the 1880s-era building at 301 S. Main Street rather than just the first. They are also seeing how painstaking preservation can be but expecting it to pay off as the historical features of the 1880s era building are uncovered and highlighted.

Construction began last summer, which was the start of a dream for the two former staffers of Beverly Hills Grill. Mood was a host, Johnson a chef.

Kristi Trevarrow, executive director of the Rochester Downtown Development Authority, says the renovation is impressive and "It's pretty phenomenal what they've found there and what they've worked through," she says. They've worked with historic committee people and discovered many interesting things. Its a really cool project. It's been challening, but it's been so good."

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Kristi Trevarrow, executive director, Rochester Downtown Development Authority

Rochester wraps up Main St. re-do with higher retail occupancy rate

The final touches are being put on the massive rebuild of Main Street in downtown Rochester.

Kristi Trevarrow says the project, which rebuild the road, the infrastructure under it, sidewalks and more, will be done Nov. 23 in time for the start of holiday shopping.

Currently, trees, decorative fencing, benches and street signs are going in - the last of the work.

While the project has been a headache and hassle for some business owners and locals, amazingly, Trevarrow says, downtown's occupancy rate is higher than before construction.

Although about four businesses closed during the project, she says, more have moved in or expanded, bringing the occupancy rate to 97 percent.

Pre-construction that number was 95 percent, she says.

"We've had a lot of people who came in saying they want to start a business. They say, 'We knew before that this is a great place to be, and now we with all the improvements we want to get in before anyone else.' "

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Kristi Trevarrow, executive director Rochester Downtown Development Authority

Dessert Oasis expands in downtown Rochester

The three year old Dessert Oasis in downtown Rochester is moving into a larger space to bring its specialty in-house roasted coffees desserts and live music to more customers.

Renovations are happening now at the new location, 336 South Main, just down the street from its current store at the corner of Main and 2nd.

The new location should be open sometime this winter winter and will offer more seating, a larger stage and a larger roasting area for the business that prides itself on pulling in the high quality beans and roasting them the way they're meant to be. The beans come from only from farms that Dessert Oasis knows as respected and reputable and the desserts are baked daily. Live entertainment happens nightly.

The Dessert Oasis even has a director of quality control, and the staff of baristas, sales people and managers is growing.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Dessert Oasis

Luca's Chophouse serving steaks, family tradition and more in Rochester Hills

A Grand Blanc steakhouse establishment has opened a second location in Rochester Hills and because of the success is working on a third location in Dallas.

Luca's Chophouse opened last month on Rochester Road near Tienken, five years after the opening of the Grand Blanc location that launched the Luca's brand. The Rochester Hills location is in a former Mexican that's been turned into a posh restaurant and bar.The Luca's in Dallas will open in that city's Uptown neighborhood.

"It's going really well," says restaurant manager Viktor Krcaj, pointing out that more than 30 full-time jobs have resulted from the opening. "The community accepted us and welcomed us. They've been supporting us from day 1."

Luca's is a family affair started by patriarch Luca Gjonaj and run by sons Nik and Steve. To them, Krcaj says, family service equals hospitality, something Luca's wants to be known for.

"That's the backbone of our business. We pay so much attention to that. We do not forget about the hospitality," Krcaj says, "It's about hospitality and great food. Luca told us when we were planning the menu and the food to just bring the best cuts. Make it great food."

Luca's menu runs the gamut from Italian and comfort food to veal, seafood and, of course, steaks. It has a wine list of 160-plus wines.

The Rochester Hills location is in a former Mexican that's been turned into a posh restaurant and bar.The Luca's in Dallas will open in that city's Uptown neighborhood.

"The community in Grand Blanc and Rochester made us believe we can do it."

Source: Luca's Chophouse
Writer: Kim North Shine

Trekt outdoor store calls adventure seekers to downtown Rochester

A new apparel and outdoor outfitter has opened a store in downtown Rochester and aims to be an alternative to Moosejaw and REI.

Trekt opened Sept. 7 at 425 South Main St. and is launching a website today. The store sells footwear, clothing, eyewear, climbing and camping gear, and more. Stock for the store and for the website, which offers free shipping, comes from a warehouse down the road in Rochester Hills.

"We're brand new. We're on the ground floor. We'd like to be between Moosejaw and REI. We have the level of technical knowledge, but we're not as loud and in your face as Moosejaw and we're more personal than REI," says Kolin Karchon, internal operations manager for Trekt.

Michigan-grown outdoor outfitter, Moosejaw, is based in Madison Heights and started in Keego Harbor in 1992. It has six stores in Michigan and four in other states and has bred a loyal following. Karchon and his parnters believe there's room for a competitor.

Trekt is owned by Derek Gaskins, grandson of the late Joseph Gaskins, who lost his leg as a child and went on to open a health care and footware store in Pontiac in 1957. The store is still in business and part of a company that has grown into alevastores.com.

Karchon says "the buzz in Rochester has been great. We're very happy with the reception."

Already, the store will increase the selection of merchandise for children who are part of active families.

"We're catering to the 30-somethings who have children but are still looking to keep that fun outdoor aspect to their lives," he says.

Source: Kolin Karchon, internal operations manager, Trekt
Writer: Kim North Shine

Rochester's Main St. reconstruction is no barrier to entrepreneurs

The truism that road construction is a business killer may not be so true for downtown Rochester. Several businesses have recently opened or are about to despite a major rebuild of Main Street through the heart of downtown.

"It's like nothing we've ever seen. We are busier this year than all of last year," says Kristi Trevarrow, executive director of the Rochester Downtown Development Authority.

The project is expected to be finished July 20, Trevarrow says. The closure of Main Street started in early April and involves completely rebuilding the road, including unearthing the original brick road, and adding new amenities, decorative details, and energy efficient features. The decorative details such as planters won't be in until September, she says.

Some of the businesses coming to town:

The Meeting House, a restaurant owned by two guys with impressive restaurant backgrounds. Owners Jason Moon and Chris Johnson bought the whole building at 301 S. Main St. and will use the outdoor patio and first floor for dining and the upstairs for private events, Trevarrow says.

Carrie Lee's is expanding from its popular Lake Orion location to 227 Main St., former home of Fuse Lounge & Bar.

Mama Mia's will serve a Tuscan menu on the site of Fortesa, 543 Main St., which closed last year. It was approved for a liquor license this week, Trevarrow says.

Dublin Fish & Chips moved in about a month ago, she says, after deciding a downtown location was better than a shopping strip in Macomb Township.

The trend of self-serve yogurt with a buffet of toppings comes to Sweet Island Yogurt, which is at 404 Main and undergoing renovations.

Also recently opened, and getting lots of traffic (the good kind), is Moon River Soap Co., which purchased a building at 339 East St. to replace its location in New Baltimore.

"It's been absolutely wonderful," Trevarrow says, "even with the construction."

Source: Kristi Trevarrow, executive director, Rochester Downtown Development Authority
Writer: Kim North Shine

Downtown Rochester's reconstruction leads to cool historical finds

Downtown Rochester's big dig of 2012 is turning up some finds that may dull the pain of the Main Street rebuild that has disrupted business.

Two discoveries that were unearthed when the street was ripped up are already bringing more people into downtown and could result in new points of interest for visitors to downtown.

One major find was the original brick road that ran through town, some 600,000 bricks, from two brick-makers. One was a stamped brick called Hocking Block, the other comes from a company Speedway because it built the International Speedway in Indianapolis,

The masonry motherlode were put up for sale at a special event that pulled hundreds of visitors into downtown last week. They also came to buy lamp posts, parking meters and other items that are being replaced during the road rebuild and streetscape makeover.

About 15,000 of the bricks will go back into the streetscape, into planters and other parts, Kristi Trevarrow, executive director of Rochester Downtown Development Authority.

More are available to the public, and thousands have already been sold.

"People can get a couple or thousands," she says. "People want to build fireplaces with them, do driveways with them. It's great.

Another "very exciting, very cool thing" was a collection of papers shoved into an underground coal bin. They turned out to be operation and instruction sheets from a Kroger that few knew was once located downtown, Trevarrow says. The selling tip sheets and other explainers from 1931-1933 store "are hysterical," she says. Pictures can be seen on the Downtown Rochester's Facebook page.

Kroger officials were so excited about the find, she says, they donated $2,500 to help Rochester's Historical Commission preserve and display the papers.

"This is the most exciting thing so far…This is the one that stood out as a piece of Rochester," Trevarrow says. This is a very stressful project for everyone. Our biggest thing for us was we wanted people to have access to our history."

Source: Kristi Trevarrow, executive director, Rochester Downtown Development Authority
Writer: Kim North Shine

Dwtn Rochester music academy grows

Rochester Musician's Academy in downtown Rochester is expanding to keep up with local desire to strum guitar, beat a drum, play a piano, sing a song.

Some in the music education industry say TV shows like Glee, American Idol and the numerous, melodious Disney creations, are spurring the interest.

Rochester Musician's Academy, formerly J.C.'s Drum Store, moved to its 119 S. Main Street address about five years ago, and since then has added staff and students, up four instructors from one and adding more classes, lesson space and a studio. The remodel is expected to be completed in May.

The Academy calls itself the fastest growing music school in Oakland County and credits the growth to the fun classes it offers: Rock Band, Pee Wee Percussion, Steel Band Camp among them.

"We strive to be the most complete musical education in the greater Detroit area,"  onwer Joe Chila says on his website. "Our students come from as far away as Grosse Pointe on the east and Southfield on the west."

Source: Rochester Musician's Academy
Writer: Kim North Shine

Rochester Mills Beer Co. moves its microbrews to mass production

The last of the tanks, equipment and supplies that will be used to make barrels and barrels of beer by Rochester Mills Beer Co. at its new production facility in Auburn Hills are moving in this week.

The final move-in and finishing construction chores may even be happening as dignitaries and media come to RBMC's new production facility this Friday to see how the brewpub is preparing to sell its suds in bars, restaurants and stores. Rochester Mills Beer Co's. is planning to make the jump from microbrew to mass produced, putting its beers on menus and shelves that are increasingly being taken over by craft brews.

Initially, the new brewhouse will produce kegs to be served on draft, followed by canned beers. The kegging and canning, distributing and selling will create six to ten full-time jobs, including office staff, a controller, an accountant, marketing and sales people, says David Youngman, spokesman for Rochester Mills Beer Co.

"Our roll out plans include adding additional fermentation tanks every couple of months," Youngman says. "As we do that we'll staff up. Our initial capacity with the equipment on hand is 6,000 to 12,000 barrels of beer this year. The site itself, once filled with tanks, could hit 100,000 barrels a year. At that point we'll have 30-40 employees."

Rochester Mills Beer Co. was opened nearly 14 years ago by Mike Plesz in downtown Rochester. He started it - and its successful restaurant - after a three year run at the Royal Oak Brewery, believed to be Michigan's first brewpub in 1995.

RBMC's Cornerstone IPA, Rochester Red Ale and Milkshake Stout as well as seasonal selections made by award-winning beer masters have drawn a loyal following and folded into Plesz's "vision from the beginning to distribute craft beer statewide and beyond," Youngman says.

"This production facility was really 20 years in the making," Youngman says.

Youngman says Rochester Mills Beer Co. canned beer will be part of a growing number of beers that will be canned instead of bottled.

"We selected to go with cans because it was best for the packaged product. Two things that affect beer are light and oxygen…Think of the can as as a little keg. It's the best delivery system for craft beer. You'll see more and more high quality craft product in cans."

The new facility, at 3275 Lapeer West Road near I-75, is within view of the Palace of Auburn Hills and five miles door to door to the brewpub. The new production house is going into a renovated facility that's been home to a rockscape business, an automotive seat manufacturer and a leather bound book maker.

Inside is a "state of the art brewhouse," Youngman says.

A grand opening for the public is set for May 12 from 1-5 p.m. and will include tours and tastings.

Source: David Youngman, spokesman, Rochester Mills Beer Co.
Writer: Kim North Shine

Holy Cannoli's brings 5 generations of recipes to downtown Rochester

Holy Cannoli!

It would have been an appropriate expression, something said under pressure as the bakers at the newly opened Holy Cannoli's in downtown Rochester worked to keep up with demand for thousands of the little Italian pastries that were selling like hot cakes in the days leading up to Easter.

It was the debut holiday for Holy Cannoli's, a bambino of a family business that made the leap from farmers markets, festivals and private events to full-blown store at 415 S. Main St.

Holy Cannoli's "soft opening" over the Easter week - really a trial by fire - was preparation for the official grand opening still to be set. The family - wives, husbands, children, cousins, aunts, uncles, friends - were so busy making thousands of cannolis, which come in a variety of flavors, there was never time to have the new equipment delivered.

They improvised, turning out their orders without the new oven and other equipment.

Franey owns and runs the store with her sister, Christina Granger, mom, Cathy Schulte and grandmother Sharon Beheler, who also owns an antique store in Washington Township, about four miles outside downtown Rochester.

Franey left her full-time job last week to devote herself full-time to the business and its handmade, traditional cannolis made from a recipe that goes back five generations in the Pino family, which has bonded for decades while sitting around table, each person having their part in the making of the cream-filled, deep-friend sweet.

It was pretty much that scene in a downtown Rochester retail space that played out last week before Easter, Franey says. It's all been a whirlwind for the family that only turned the family tradition in to the beginnings of a business in January 2010.

"You do what you have to do," Franey says, laughing. "It was crazy, but we did it."

Source: Nicole Franey, co-owner, Holy Cannoli's
Writer: Kim North Shine

Multi-million-dollar re-do of downtown Rochester's Main St. begins

A major reconstruction project that started this week is shutting down Main Street in downtown Rochester and generating enthusiasm and dread at the same time.

The short-term pain - about three months of a complete closure of Main Street if construction goes as planned - is expected to lead to long-term gains. That is attracting customers and businesses to a smooth road and a downtown with new amenities.

It's a mixed blessing for business owners who will have to wait out the inconvenience to their customers. The business owners are worried the road closure could keep customers away, but city planners are encouraging everyone to put the focus on the potential benefits.

There's the practical: a smooth road; exposed, aggregate sidewalks; a replaced 1890s era water main. And then there are the extras, potential draws for customers and businesses: bike racks; decorative planters fashioned from the bricks excavated during construction; trees and plantings; benches; decorative, energy conserving street lights; and more components that will make up an inviting new streetscape for downtown.

In addition, it is likely that artifacts will be uncovered in the construction process. Those artifacts, possibly gas pumps, streetcar tracks and underground cistern, will be preserved, and there are plans to build an observation window onto the cistern for passersby - if not history-seeking-tourists-to see, Kristi Trevarrow, executive director of the Rochester Downtown Development Authority, says.

The Main Street Makeover, as it's being called by the city's Downtown Development Authority, began April 2 and should be completed in September. The Main Street closure will finish sooner, in July, and during the closure all sidewalks and parking lots, except for the one on Main Street, will be open. Parking on side streets will be free until the work is done.

The entire length of the road reconstruction, which in large part was driven by demands of the Michigan Department of Transportation to improve the worn road with an available federal grant, goes from the Clinton River Bridge to the Paint Creek Bridge. The complete Main Street closure runs from north of Second Street to south of University Drive.

Source: Kristi Trevarrow, executive director Rochester Downtown Development Authority, and Nik Banda, economic development director and assistant city manager, city of Rochester
Writer: Kim North Shine

Clinton River wins national contest for waterway improvement grant

A grant of $25,000 will go toward bank restoration, public access improvements and environmental awareness projects for the Clinton River in Rochester Hills.

The grant, which was awarded to the city and its grant applicant partner, the Clinton River Watershed Council, was the result of a national online vote hosted by MillerCoors and the River Network. The Clinton River project won by five votes.

The company and non-profit interested in promoting clean water gave away a total of $80,000 to water improvement projects.

The grant will pay to restore damage to the watershed and support more but responsible recreation of the waterway. it will also educate the public about how to protect the watershed, which connects to smaller and larger waterways around the state and beyond.

“We are excited to partner with the city on such a great project, and we appreciate all the hard work and help from our stakeholders in getting the word out to vote,” Michele Arquette-Palermo, the Clinton River Watershed Council's education and stewardship director, says in a statement announcing the grant.

Kim Marotta, director of corporate social responsibility for MillerCoors, says the MillerCoors/River Network grant competition has had more than 50,000 votes from around the world cast since the contest launch four years ago.

"MillerCoors depends on water to brew beer, and by partnering with organizations like River Network we believe we can help improve local watersheds,” Marotta says.

"We are excited to further engage communities on water issues that affect everyone, everywhere," she says.

Todd Ambs, president of the River Network, says: “Healthy rivers are vital to the health and future of our communities. Through this partnership, MillerCoors is supporting the protection and restoration of waterways across the country that will produce long-term benefits for people, fish and wildlife, and future generations. ”

Source: Michele Arquette-Palermo, education and stewardship director, Clinton River Watershed Council
Writer: Kim North Shine

Grants given to bike, pedestrian paths in Rochester, greenways link in Flat Rock

Federal transportation enhancement grants are helping cover improvements to biking and walking paths, and unattractive intersections in the cities of Rochester Hills and Flat Rock.

In Rochester Hills, paths for pedestrians and cyclists and non-motorized vehicles will be added to the intersection of Livernois and Avon roads. The $345,825 project will also pay for aesthetic improvements at the major intersection. The paths and other improvements coincide with installation of bridges for pedestrians and bicycles at the same area and over the Clinton River.

The bridge project by the Road Commission for Oakland County  prompted the city to direct its grant from the Federal Transportation Enhancement fund - $207,495 of the project price - to direct the dollars to the same intersection "and further enhance safety and connectivity," according to an announcement from the Michigan Department of Transportation.
The city of Rochester Hills is putting in $138,330 toward the project.

In Flat Rock, a multi-use path from Huron Park in Flat Rock to Oakwoods Metropark will be funded with a federal transportation enhancement grant of $342,150. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is matching that amount for a total investment of $684,300.

The path will be the final link in the Downriver Linked Greenways Initiative. It will finish the east-west route that connects Oakwoods Metropark to Lake Erie Metropark, providing residents, tourists, recreational and competitive riders, hikers and others with a continuous pathway through Metroparks and waterways.

The grant will pay for trail construction, signs and railroad crossing work.

Overall, the purpose of the grant is to boost interest in Michigan recreationally and economically, according to MDOT, which administers the federal dollars.

"Transportation Enhancement projects boost a community's appeal to residents and businesses," State Transportation Director Kirk T. Steudle says in a statement announcing the award of more than $1 million in grants to four counties. "Increasingly, new generations demand multi-modal communities, meaning those that offer access to bicycling and walking, which contributes to healthy, active lifestyles, and streetscape projects that improve safety, walkability, aesthetics and economic vitality."

Source: Jeff Cranson, spokesperson, Michigan Department of Transportation
Writer: Kim North Shine

Rochester, Rochester Hills and Auburn Hills to share services

The cities of Auburn Hills, Rochester Hills, and Rochester are looking to preserve residents' quality of life and enhance their business climates by sharing services. By doing so, the communities expect to save money by eliminating redundancies while also providing the services that each is best at.

The three cities formally agreed to regionalizing public works such as road and sidewalk repair, water and storm drain systems management, street lighting and more.

Shared services and consolidation is a move that more cities and counties are taking - a move encouraged by Gov. Rick Snyder - as a lagging economy has led to new thinking on how to preserve public services when there is less revenue to work with.

In a statement announcing the collaboration, which is an extension of earlier shared services (or interlocal) agreements, Auburn Hills director of public services Ron Melchert says: “Each community has specific areas of expertise, specialized skills, knowledge, equipment and tools that are difficult to obtain from other service providers to perform economically, properly and in a timely manner.”

A group of citizens, city staffers and elected officials from the three municipalities formed the Tri-City Sustainability Advisory Committee in 2011. The "overarching goal of the Sustainability Advisory Committee is to ensure an ongoing high quality of life for all residents and a strong business climate for commerce."

Source: Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce
Writer: Kim North Shine

How metro Detroit municipalities tried to create the downtown experience

The word downtown was tossed around a lot in 2011. Everybody has one or is working on creating one as they pursue the newfound love of things urban. Downtown Development Authorities, Chambers of Commerce, Main Street programs had Main Streets - and their equivalents - throughout metro Detroit putting money into makeovers and facelifts in 2011 as city leaders saw promise in creating places that preserve history, have varied businesses and invite walking, biking, strolling.

The changes were big and small. Together should convey: You want to come here. Decorative, energy-efficient street lights, attractive, theme-appropriate benches, trash-receptacles, pedestrian-safe sidewalks and crosswalks, art installations, benches, historic preservation projects, special events, facade grants, kiosks to direct visitors, even phone apps to get them around town - all wrapped in business recruitment and PR.

Cities with the most real downtowns: Rochester, Ferndale, Royal Oak, Mount Clemens, Dearborn, Plymouth, Northville. The up-and-comers: Auburn Hills, Clarkston, Berkley, Novi, Wyandotte.

Downtown Rochester $1 million streetscape re-do is on

Downtown Lake Orion gets $2 million streetscape, new microbrewery

Mount Clemens invests more than $250K in way-finding signs

Wyandotte DDA's business improvement grants paying off

Nightlife builds in downtown Plymouth

Ice rink cometh to Auburn Hills heating up plans for downtown

Graduate housing, downtown parking and retail complex coming to Auburn Hills

Main Street Oakland recognizes top downtown projects

By Kim North Shine

The train has left the station - sort of

Regional mass transit champions, especially of train and light rail, received several pieces of good news in 2011 as Amtrak operators and bus service providers saw ridership hit record numbers. Funding added up, new stations opened and Woodward Avenue light rail moved as close as ever to leaving the station.

Metro Detroit suburbs liked what they saw and threw money and manpower behind studies and possible land acquisition into linking their main corridors, namely Woodward Avenue and possibly 8 Mile, to light rail or other regional mass transit system.

Of course, the Woodward Avenue Rail project has been put on hold in favor of a rapid bus transit plan... but the conversation deepens and most assuredly continues. 

Note: The record numbers and the funding have been a "trend" since at least 2008, but 2012 might show us if this thing that has brought so much economic stimulus to other towns can happen in metro Detroit. It's why we posed this in 2011: If Dallas can do it, why not Detroit?

As train and bus ridership gorw, $47 million is committed to new transit options

Transform Woodward ponders light rail beyond Detroit

Woodward Avenue as linear city

If Dallas Can Do It, Why Can't Detroit?

Case for Detroit light rail grows with $25M federal grant, 23 percent growth in Amtrak ridership

Nearly $200M federal grant accelerates high speed rail in Metro Detroit

Next stop: Dearborn. New new train station pulling in

New transit center in Pontiac welcomes bus, train commuters

By Kim North Shine

Streets for all. Designing cities that welcome all forms of transportation

Streets for everyone. The Michigan Complete Streets initiative gained momentum in 2011 in metro Detroit and around the state as cities enacted changes or made plans to design roads and sidewalks that take pedestrians, cyclists and drivers into account. The Michigan's Complete Streets movement got props for being a role model nationwide. Separately from Complete Streets, cities and various nonprofits worked on the same goal: streets that accommodate all. It's been a process playing out for a few years now so expect to see more bike lanes, new style crosswalks and other changes coming to a town near you.

Michigan is national leaders in street design that serves cars, bikes and pedestrians

Streetscape grants from Royal Oak's WA3 help unify Woodward Corridor

Royal Oak's non-motorized transportation plan is out for public feedback

Walkers, cyclists may like changes coming to Grosse Pointe, Dearborn

By Kim North Shine

Downtown Rochester $1M streetscape re-do is on

The final piece of funding for a massive redo of Rochester Road in downtown Rochester is in place.

A $523,778 federal grant - combined with a matching amount from the city - will set off a project that will modernize the street, lights and sidewalks while preserving history and enhancing safety, appearance and usefulness.

Rochester Road, the city's main thoroughfare through downtown, is one of Michigan's most admired Main Streets. The million-dollar-plus streetscape project will include new LED street lighting fixtures, pedestrian benches, trash receptacles, reconstructed crosswalks and sidewalks, and more. New street lights and posts with the energy saving bulbs will be replaced along the stretch from Second Street to the Paint Creek Bridge. The old lights, if financially feasible, will go into alleys, says Kristi Trevarrow, executive director of the Rochester Downtown Development Authority.

During construction, which will begin in April and end in September 2012, it is expected that the original brick-paved Rochester Road will be uncovered. Those bricks will be used to make new planters, not only repurposing what could be waste but adding greenery to the city, says Trevarrow.

In addition,the sidewalks will be restored to their original exposed brick walkways. Crosswalks will be made of stamped concrete that slows cars and have downward facing lighting for pedestrians - both for safety. Street signs will also have backlit illumination.

Bike racks will be constructed into the new planters and the streetlamps.

The project has the potential to draw visitors and business to the area and also make Rochester another example of how to build a thriving downtown. But it only began because the state-owned Rochester Road was due for maintenance improvements. The Michigan Department of Transportation helped the city obtain the federal dollars.

"We thought this was a great opportunity to do things we've been wanting to do," Trevarrow says.

Source: Kristi Trevarrow, executive director, Rochester Downtown Development Authority
Writer: Kim North Shine

DTE adds 16 new electric car charging stations to growing network

It's getting easier to park and plug in electric cars as more charging stations open across metro Detroit.

DTE Energy is adding 16 plug-in electric vehicle charging stations, or PEVs, to the mix, including four at Detroit Metro Airport. They will be located in the two main parking decks at the airport – two on the eighth floor of the McNamara Terminal and two on the fourth floor of the Big Blue Deck by the North Terminal. There will be no cost for PEV drivers to use the charging stations, and they're scheduled to be operational within one to two weeks, DTE Energy spokesman Scott Simons says.

Of the 12 other stations which are installed or soon to be installed, two each are in Ferndale, Mt. Clemens, Rochester, the Village of Rochester Hills and Auburn Hills. Saline and Automation Alley in Troy have one apiece.

These latest PEVs join several electric vehicle chargers at DTE's downtown headquarters.

The installations are part of a General Motors Corp. project with the Department of Energy to build a system of charging stations to support the move away from oil reliance and toward alternative energy for automobiles. The project is supported by grants being shared with DTE and four other utilities across the U.S., Simons says. DTE received $400,000 and is matching with $400,000, he says.

"The more infrastructure there is, the more there will be an impetus for people to buy electric vehicles,"  Simons says. "The more infrastructure that's built in the country…the more people will see that this is as a viable option. Hopefully this will be the start of the nation's acceptance of electric vehicles and, going forward, being an environmentally-conscious country."

Source: Scott Simons, spokesman, DTE Energy
Writer: Kim North Shine

Shared workspace and idea incubator planned for downtown Rochester

A new kind of office is opening up to keep up with the rising number of floating workers, whether freelancers, work-from-home professionals, independent contractors, or any of those generally flexible employees who define the new way of working in this new economy.

Shared workspaces are giving home-based and vagabond workers who office at coffee shops, restaurants and other public places their own work place and more. It comes with a desk, internet, conference rooms, and other office supplies, along with the opportunity to collaborate, brainstorm and interact with co-workers in and out of their fields.

Shared workspaces can be found in Chicago, New York, San Diego, Denver, Austin, and even smaller cities in the U.S. and also across Europe.

Downtown Rochester is in the process of joining the list.

Rob Ray, president and organizer of ShareSpace Rochester, has found a 2,200-square foot, second floor space to lease at the Rochester Area Regional Athletics (or RA-RA) building downtown on Second Street. He expects to welcome workers by November 1.

For a membership - there are many levels - or drop-in fee, workspace sharers will have access to a desk, wi-fi, conference rooms, projectors and other office supplies -- even coffee. Some memberships come with a floating desk and other services for $25-$150 per month, depending on services. Or for $300 a month, a permanent work area with lockable file cabinets and other office equipment and supplies is available.

"This segment of workers keeps growing. As of late, with this whole economic malaise we're going through people are getting more creative in trying to find employment and thinking outside the box," says Ray.

Membership would also come with a reciprocal use of workspaces in other cities and countries, giving Rochester members an office when they travel and visitors to Detroit a space to work as well.

"With this you have a place that you're supposed to go to for work and the coffee is free," Ray says. "Instead of working on a 2-foot-by-2 foot little table where people are bustling around, you get a collaborative environment. It can be a place for inspiration or to get some feedback on an idea or you can just work on whatever it is you're working on."

Across metro Detroit there are groups participating in meet-ups for this very reason, but this gives them a permanent place. Ray sees ShareSpace Rochester as a pre-incubator where there's no need to have a proven business plan or financial stability to join, as is the case with most business incubators. He also hopes it will nurture the enthusiasm that comes from conferences such as TedX and Ignite.

"My hope is this space becomes the hub where these ideas and these people have a place to go so these ideas don't die," he says.

Ray pictures it working something like this: Members wanting to work undisturbed could display a red card, maybe on a coffee coaster, meaning, let them work. A green coaster would indicate willingness to hear ideas or just talk.

"It's more affordable than your own office and you pick up the social enterprise aspect of the co-working environment plus the resources we'll offer with conference rooms, copier, projector, coffee, wi-fi, the whole kit and caboodle," says Ray, whose architect friend will design the space pro bono. "And you can do it without being stuck in a coffee shop or a closet."

Source:  Rob Ray, president and organizer of ShareSpace Rochester
Writer:  Kim North Shine

Come walk - or run, skate or bike - across Macomb County and beyond

A final nine miles of pavement - along with a some pretty major major - are the finishing touches on the Macomb Orchard Trail.

The 23 1/2-mile, multi-use, non-motorized paved path crosses Macomb County and beckons walkers, runners, skaters, bikers, stroller-pushers and the like to a pathways that will take them across the county and for many miles outside.

"It's opening up a whole regional trail system," says John Crumm, director of planning for the Macomb County Department of Roads.

The final nine miles are being laid in Armada and Richmond. A bridge is also being built over the Clinton River, and a soon-to-be announced park will open in Romeo in a brownfield where now stands an unattractive county road department service center, says Crumm.

The building in Romeo will become an access point, park, and parking lot, he says. "It will immensely improve that neighborhood."

There will also be many more access points on the trail, including more for the disabled.

The work should all be done this summer, Crumm says.

The Macomb Orchard Trail ties together Macomb County communities and their natural features. It connects to Oakland County at Dequindre Road and leads into Rochester to Paint Creek.

The trail is also a link in a statewide system to connect the Great Lakes, rivers and such, this one a piece of the path between Lakes Michigan and Huron.

Source: John Crumm, director of planning, Macomb County Department of Roads
Writer: Kim North Shine

Rochester offers more places to charge your car

It is the wave of the future and Rochester is starting to catch a ride. Two electric car charging stations will be hooked up within eight weeks in the city. One plug-in will be installed downtown, says Kristi Trevarrow, executive director of the Rochester Downtown Development Authority. The other is likely to go in near near Rochester City Hall. A final decision on locations and pricing to users is expected this week.

DTE Energy is providing $25,000 via a U.S. Department of Energy program for the equipment. It's part of an effort to promote alternative energy.

The need for car charging stations is there as two electric car charging stations at the Royal Park Hotel are in high demand, Trevarrow says.

"People come in and say, 'I'll plug in at the Park,' " she says. "I think there would definitely be demand."

Source: Kristi Trevarrow, executive director, Downtown Development Authority
Writer: Kim North Shine

Rochester DDA microloan program puts money where retail is

Retailers are being enticed to downtown Rochester with the offer of loans with no payback for two years and business start-up assistance from Oakland University.

The micro loan program was announced last week and loans may be made starting in the fall, says Kristi Trevarrow, director of the Rochester Downtown Development Authority.

"Basically the idea is the DDA is putting in $100,000 and we're looking for private investors to fund an additional $400,000," Trevarrow says.

The fund will offer two-year loans of up to $50,000 with payback coming at the end of two years and a 12-percent interest rate, which is how private investors will see a return on their put-in.

"What it does is it gives time to get your business going," she says.

It also gives the retailers access to Oakland University INCubator's "kitchen cabinet," she says. The incubator provides answers, guidance, connections, "areas where we identify issues where they need assistance before the end of the two-year period."

The requirement for the loan is to be a retail business operating in Rochester's DDA district, which is bordered on the north by Woodward Avenue, the west by Helen Street, the east by Elizabeth, and the south by Diversion.

Trevarrow says she and others behind the micro loan program have not located any other cities doing something similar.

"We're kind of the guinea pigs to see how something like this will work," she says.

Source: Kristi Trevarrow, director, Rochester DDA
Writer: Kim North Shine

Six Oakland County Main Streets ace their tests

What does it take to be declared a perfect downtown Main Street?

Six Oakland County communities have been told they're perfect when it comes to their Main Streets and carrying out the mission of working to make their core go-to destinations for great shopping, eating, working and living and community gathering places.

Farmington, Ferndale, Lake Orion, Ortonville, Oxford and Rochester all received perfect 10 out of 10 scores on their accreditation from the National Main Street Center in Washington, D.C..

Each community has its own character: Ferndale with its eclectic, hipster vibe, Rochester with its upscale feel mixed with history, and all the rest their local style and appeal.

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson recognized the accomplishments of the Oakland County Main Street programs (half a billion in investment in 11 years) last week at the Rust Belt Market on Woodward and 9 Mile in Ferndale, a poignant example of concerted DDA efforts to keep Main Streets thriving.

"The perfect scores attained by these six Main Street communities in their annual evaluation attests to the hard work of many in our downtown areas involved with our Main Street Oakland County program," Patterson says in a statement. "This is a wonderful and well-deserved recognition."

The 10 criteria for scoring were:
Broad-based community support for downtown revitalization
A clear mission and vision statement for the downtown
A downtown revitalization work plan
A historic preservation ethic recognizing the importance of sense of place
A downtown management organization
An adequate operating budget
Paid professional program manager
Ongoing training for staff and volunteers
Reporting of key investment statistics
National Main Street membership

Oakland County was the first county in the United States to operate a county-wide Main Street program, Main Street Oakland County.

Main Street is a trademarked program of the National Main Street Center in Washington, D.C. In addition to the perfect score recipients, members of Main Street Oakland County are: Franklin, Highland, Holly, Pontiac, and Walled Lake. Berkley, Clarkston, Clawson, Hazel Park, Leonard, South Lyon, and Waterford are in the Main Street Oakland County mentoring program.

Since Main Street Oakland County's formation in 2000, there has been more than $560 million of new investment in Main Street Oakland County communities, over 5,100 jobs created, 551 new businesses opened, and almost 170,000 volunteer hours logged, according to the county.

Source: Pam Tremble, executive assistant, Oakland County
Writer: Kim North Shine

Propane-powered vehicles deliver for Wright & Fillippis

Goods delivered by Rochester-Hills-based healthcare supplies provider Wright & Fillippis are getting to their destinations on propane power as the company converts 25 percent of its fleet to this clean form of fuel.

That means 12 of Wright & Fillippis' trucks and vans will run on propane as they deliver goods in Michigan. About half the vehicles have already been converted and are on the road and a propane station is up and operating at the company's headquarters.

"They're hoping to convert the entire fleet eventually," says Matt Sandstrom, mobility division manager for the Clean Energy Coalition, an Ann Arbor-based non-profit that steers companies through the process of converting to alternative fuels, whether for transportation or building.

The Wright & Fillippis fleet conversion came out of a partnership with the coalition through a $15 million grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. 

Wright & Fillippis and the Clean Energy Coalition worked with Roush CleanTech, a Plymouth Township company that designs and manufactures liquid propane autogas fuel systems for a variety of light and medium Ford vehicles. The technology, which reduces vehicle operating costs and vehicle emissions, is available to consumers through authorized Ford dealerships.

The Wright & Fillippis project is one of several clean-fuel conversions being directed by the coalition through a $40 million agreement with the Department of Energy, says Sandstrom.

Of all the clean fuel projects, about a third are propane, he says. The others are compressed natural gas, electric, and hydraulic hybrid, he says. The type of fuel used depends on the type of fleet and uses of the vehicles, and the coalition guides companies through the learning process to select what's best for them.

Companies working with the Clean Energy Coalition include Frito-Lay, which is converting 90 of its vehicles, about half of its Michigan fleet, to propane, and U-haul, which is converting 30 vehicles.

"It should be very clear that this is not R&D. This is a deployment of these technologies… They've already been true and tried," Sandstrom says.

For Wright & Fillippis, propane autogas will result in the use of 48,000 fewer gallons of gasoline, the elimination of 931,200 pounds of carbon dioxide released, and a savings of $3,000 per converted vehicle, or $36,000 total thus far.

Source: Matt Sandstrom, mobility division manager, Clean Energy Coalition
Writer: Kim North Shine

Hungry for outdoor dining? Menu expands in downtown Rochester

Like so many cities, downtown Rochester business owners are eager to say hello to the good weather and al fresco dining by opening their sidewalk cafes.

In Rochester, there's at least three new sidewalk dining choices. The cafes could have opened April 15th, but the weather had other ideas.

So as soon as possible, Sanders' ice cream and candy store is opening an outdoor area, as is Tower Pizza. The former Andiamo's Italian, which became a Rojo Mexican restaurant last year, will also for the first time throw open its large wooden shutters on downtown. Penny Black, a restaurant opened in November in the former downtown post office and named after the first postage stamp, offers an outdoor patio at busy 4th and Walnut Street this year. Penny Black's owners also operate The Hills restaurant in Rochester Hills. 

"We didn't have a restaurant there all last summer, so that was a pretty dead corner for us," says Kristi Trevarrow, executive director of the Rochester Downtown Development Authority.

Downtown Rochester's retail vacancy rate is still low at three percent, and its downtown office space vacancy rate is 20 percent, or about 120,000 square feet, she says. New owners of the office space are taking an active approach to finding new tenants.

"We're excited when it's time for the outdoor dining to return," she says. "It adds more interest. It put more people on the streets. People walk or drive by and want to stop and be a part of the activity."

Source: Kristi Trevarrow, executive director, Downtown Rochester DDA
Writer: Kim North Shine

Smart meters spreading across Oakland County

Installation of high-tech electric meters that will change the way DTE Energy receives power usage information and increase customers' control over energy use has begun in Oakland County.

Over the next several months about 350,000 meters will be placed at homes and businesses in 25 communities: Berkley, Beverly Hills, Bingham Farms, Birmingham, Clawson, Farmington, Farmington Hills, Ferndale, Franklin, Hazel Park, Huntington Woods, Lathrup Village, Madison Heights, Northville, Novi, Oak Park, Pleasant Ridge, Rochester Hills, Royal Oak, Royal Oak Township, Southfield, Southfield Township, Troy, Walled Lake, and Wixom.

This portion of the installation of the "smart" meters come at a cost of about $168 million, half of it from a Smart Grid Investment Grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. The meters will form what DTE Energy is calling "the backbone" of its SmartCurrents program. DTE's matching $84 million grant helps achieve a nationwide effort to update the country's electrical grid.

The meters will provide detailed information about energy usage directly to DTE, recognize power outages without customer input, and allow DTE to quickly locate and repair outages and other service problems. The meters will nearly eliminate estimated billing and allow for service to be remotely connected or disconnected rather than requiring appointments with  technicians.

In addition, technology will be wired into the meters to allow customers to better manage their energy usage and bills. The SmartCurrents technology can be tied to similarly "smart" appliances, thermostats, and such. The DOE funding will allow DTE Energy to offer an in-home display product and special thermostats to nearly 1,500 customers. Check out smartcurrents.com for more information.

DTE has installed about 250,000 meters so far in Bloomfield Hills, Bloomfield Township, Commerce Township, Grosse Ile, Harsen's Island, and West Bloomfield Township. By early 2012 a total of about 600,000 meters will have been installed.

Source: Scott Simons, spokesman, DTE Energy
Writer: Kim North Shine

Beaumont Hospital opens $20-million health and wellness center in Rochester Hills

Rochester Hills is now home to a new $20 million health and wellness center that will offer not only the obvious, medical treatment and therapy to patients, but also a workout facility, massage therapies, tai chi, yoga, personal training and numerous other healthy lifestyle services to patients, employees and the general public.

It will also add jobs to the local economy and could even spur development.

The three-story, 98,000-square-foot Beaumont Health & Wellness Center sits on 6.5 acres near M-59, on South Boulevard between Dequindre and John R. roads. A 45,000-square-foot Sola Life & Fitness is the centerpiece of the facility. Sola, the first tenant, offers an indoor track, exercise areas for individuals and classes, a four-lane lap pool, therapy tubs, sauna, and steam room.

Surrounding Sola are several medical practices, including the Center for Pain Medicine, a rehabilitation services and integrative medicine practice, and an MRI testing unit, which is coming this summer. As a whole the Health & Wellness Center is meant to be a place to treat illness and injuries whiley keeping people strong and healthy through exercise and education.

The center is open to Beaumont patients, employees, and the general public and is competitively priced to other fitness centers, says Eric Hunter, senior vice president for administration services.

"Certainly the medical-based follow-up and return to health and staying healthy is a big theme," Hunt says. "But it's also about exercise for our employees to stay healthy and for the general public."

The Beaumont Health and Wellness Center -- a concept that is expected to spread here -- is the longtime aspiration of Beaumont CEO Gene Michalski, who was introduced to the usefulness of a wellness center while working for a hospital near Chicago, Hunt says. Landmark Healthcare Facilities and Dr. Richard Easton, director of spine surgery at Beaumont collaborated on the project, which could also act as an economic stimulator.

Besides the $20 million investment in the center, new employees have been hired and more development may follow. Of about 60 employees, probably 60 percent of them are new hires, and the other 40 percent transferred from other Beaumont operations, Hunt says.

"We think this number will grow over time," he says.

Around the Beaumont Health & Wellness Center is vacant, development-ready land. The possibility of the center attracting hundreds, if not thousands, of people each day (Sola has 1,400 members already), could be a magnet for new developments.

"Who knows, maybe a little medical row," Hunt suggests. "This has been in the cooker for quite awhile. We're very happy to get this off the ground."

Source: Eric Hunt, Beaumont Hospital's senior vice president of administration services
Writer: Kim North Shine

U.S. Census numbers as development tools

While population declines were the mostly the rule, according to U.S. Census data released last week, many metro Detroit communities are using news of their population gains to lure business and attract more residents.

Sterling Heights, Macomb County's second largest city and the state's fourth largest, and Rochester, one of the fastest growing cities in Michigan and Oakland County's fastest with an increase of 21.4 percent from 2000-2010, have already hailed their growth as harbingers of future prosperity.

Rochester officials are calling their population jump from 10,439 in 2000 to 12,711 in 2010 evidence that a formula of mixed housing options, a vibrant downtown, access to trails and water and a solid commercial base has worked and is reason to show other prospective businesses and residents that the city is on solid ground and poised for economic prosperity.

Sterling Heights, which grew 4.2 percent from 124,471 in 2000 to 129,699, in 2010, is spreading word about how it got here.

"Sterling Heights is known as one of the safest cities in America," Mayor Richard Notte says. "Businesses have seen fit to reinvest, build and relocate in our city, as witnessed by $1 billion in development over the past year. Sterling Heights is still experiencing a strong housing market with two residential developments in full swing. And finally, residents choose the city because of our excellent public school systems and proximity to world-class higher education opportunities."

Other population gainers include Birmingham, Dearborn, Macomb Township, Brownstown Township, and Romulus.  Losers include Royal Oak, Pontiac, Ferndale, Warren, Mt. Clemens and Livonia.

Overall, Southeast Michigan lost 2.7 percent of its population, dropping from 4,833,368 in 2000 to 4,704,743 in 2010. However, the number of households remained nearly the same.

A large part of the loss is due to a 25 percent population decline in Detroit. According to SEMCOG, the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, population of many of the nations' cities declined. However, many of those same urban centers are experiencing an economic rebirth, according to SEMCOG.

Wayne County, Michigan's most populous county with 1.8 million people, lost 11.7 percent of its residents.  Its neighbors in the tri-county area, Macomb and Oakland, saw population gains. SEMCOG's Southeast Michigan figures cover seven counties in addition to these three: Livingston, Monroe, St. Clair and Washtenaw.

In metro Detroit, Oakland County came up with a 0.7 percent increase in the 10-year span while Macomb registered a 6.7 percent gain.

Whether the population gains were minimal or substantial, communities are celebrating the upticks and awaiting anxiously a demographic breakdown, namely age groups which point to a community's attractiveness and chance for thriving. Those numbers will be released by the U.S. Census Bureau this summer.

Source: SEMCOG, city of Sterling Heights and Mayor Richard Notte, Rochester City Manager Jaymes Vettraino
Writer: Kim North Shine

Rochester Hills' overpass gets "Complete Street" make-over

Reconstruction at M-59 and Crooks Road this year will do the usual road repair but also use a new approach that takes into account travelers not in cars.

Called a Complete Street, the Crooks Road overpass will be built wider and with designated lanes to accommodate bikes and pedestrians. The $8 million project will also lay new sidewalks from Austin to Hamlin roads, Morosi says.

The busy intersection is in Rochester Hills and is part of the 2011 construction line-up from the Michigan Department of Transportation. It is one of at least two Complete Street approaches in the package of road construction contracts to be awarded.

"When we're developing a Complete Street project we're required to meet with the local community to take into account non-motorized uses and facilities. The idea is to make it a more walkable community," says MDOT spokesman Rob Morosi.

"Even before the Complete Street legislation we would meet with local communities to see if there's something we can include that the local community has always wanted but has been prohibited to do because of the way the road is constructed," he says.

This M-59-Crooks project is "a great example of what we're doing to address that," he says. "So now people riding their bikes or walking won't be in conflict with traffic...People can ride, their bikes, Rollerblade, walk safely."

The project is one of many included in $274 million in road contracts to be awarded in 2011 for a four-county area in southeast Michigan. Some 82 miles of road and 105 bridges will be repaired or constructed in Macomb, Oakland, St. Clair, and Wayne counties, which account for 40 percent of traffic in Michigan, according to MDOT.

Source: Rob Morosi, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Transporation
Writer: Kim North Shine

Iconic Rochester Grain Elevator elevated in the history books

The Rochester Grain Elevator has been added to the National Register of Historic Places after more than a year of work by local historians, volunteers and city officials.

The designation not only generates the possibility of drawing visitors to the city's historic landmarks, it bolsters Rochester's image as a vibrant, contemporary community that honors of its past history.

Located in a paint-thin red barn plastered with worn ads for feed, the building looks out over the city's modern-day business district .

"It was once the center of all business and agricultural life in Rochester," Mayor Jeffrey Cuthbertson says. Today it operates as a supply store -- one of the, if not the, city's longest operating businesses, Cuthbertson says.

"I think that this is part of maintaining our historical character,"  Cuthbertson says. "I think that when people come to Rochester they feel a real sense of place. The elevator is one of those iconic buildings that contribute to that."

Groups involved in pursuing the historic designation include the Rochester/Avon Historical Society and the Rochester Historical Commission. The project has the endorsement of Lawrence Smith, owner and operator of Rochester Grain Elevator, which has been owned by his family for 55 years.

Source: Rochester City Manager Jaymes Vettraino and Rochester Mayor Jeffrey Cuthbertson
Writer: Kim North Shine

Rochester Fire Dept goes solar-powered

The Rochester Fire Department has tipped its hat to environmentalism and financial responsibility by installing a solar paneled roof on its building.

The project was completed in January and is believed to be the first of its kind in Michigan and one of the first in the United States.

"The environmental aspect is obviously an important piece of this," City Manager Jaymes Vettraino says. "But the City Council was really moved by the dollars. They asked to show if money could be saved, and it could."

The roof, which generates solar power, came at the recommendation of New Energy Solutions, a consultant hired by the city to identify areas where energy costs could be saved or improved. That relationship began following a free energy audit provided by the Michigan Dept of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth through a clean energy grant program.

The roof was installed by Allen Brothers Roofing's recently-founded branch company, LUMA Resources, which formed as a solar products division. Federal and state stimulus grants were used to help LUMA transfer from traditional to solar roofing. The company, based in Rochester Hills, was lauded for its new economy innovation and for adapting to clean and renewable energy by President Barack Obama during the 2011 State of the Union address.

The roof cost $41,000, $22,000 of which was covered by DTE's Solar Currents program, which supports efforts to use alternative, clean and renewable energy. Energy from the fire department's solar panels will be returned to DTE's power grid. 

The final cost to the city was $19,000, and the roof is expected to save $150,000 in energy costs over the next 25 years, he says. The fire department, which was ideal because of its westward-facing roof, is a test vehicle for the city.

"We're very excited about where this could go,"  Vettraino says. "We're very happy with the product so far. Obviously if it keeps going like it is, we'll keep saving money."

Source: Jaymes Vettraino, Rochester City Manager
Writer: Kim North Shine

Record number of new businesses open in downtown Rochester in 2010

The year 2010 saw 36 new businesses come to downtown Rochester, for a net gain of 26 new businesses, dropping the retail vacancy rate to a mere 3 percent, says Kristi Trevarrow, executive director of the Rochester Downtown Development Authority.

"We're pretty proud of that,"  Trevarrow says.

Recruitment efforts, incentives and other projects that make downtown more appealing, including bike racks used by downtown workers, are part of the DDA strategy to pump up downtown.

The new businesses will be witness to one of the city's most popular events, the Fire & Ice Fest, which runs this weekend and becomes a venue for another business-boosting plan of the DDA: the Sweet Deals discount card.

This is the first year that Fire & Ice is running three days, bringing visitors snow tubing hills, fireworks, and ice sculptures carved this year in the theme of toys and a light show, among dozens of other activities.

Trevarrow says downtown businesses report this as being a top sales weekend. The hope is to feel the warmth again come February when the Sweet Deals discount card will give users 15 percent off at some 25 downtown restaurants, salons and shops.

Source: Kristi Trevarrow, executive director, Rochester Downtown Development Authority
Writer: Kim North Shine

Oakland County makes energy efficient upgrades, saves $4 million

Window replacements, new weather stripping, new heating systems, and heating and cooling system management are all energy efficient improvements that Oakland County plans to make in its buildings.

And with those improvements, savings are estimated at $627,000 a year on utility bills for those buildings, according to a recent audit.

Art Holdsworth, director of facilities management for the county, says that although the audit turned up significant potential savings and improvements, it also determined that the county was already doing a lot of things right. "The audit was very complementary to the campus and what we've been doing here. We've gone a long way toward green activities and energy conservation."

The $200,000 audit, done a few months ago, was paid for by a $4.8 million Energy Efficiency and Conversation Block Grant from the U.S. Dept. of Energy. More than $3.5 million worth of energy retrofit projects were identified, of which at least $2.5 million will be covered by the grant.

Some examples of pending projects include tightening building envelopes through new weather stripping, new windows, and additional insulation; replacing inefficient heating and cooling systems; replacing light bulbs; and improving energy monitoring systems, such as controlling on and off times for heating and cooling.

Holdsworth says the Dept. of Energy likes to have EECBG recipients using half their funds by the end of June, so over the next few months, the county will issue requests for proposal for the projects.

"Clearly the energy savings is very important because the county and local governments are seeing their revenues plummet, property devaluation, and so on," he says. "At the same time, if we can be environmentally friendly on top of the energy savings, and pursue them both hand in hand, then that's a real win-win."

With other energy management technology, Oakland County has already saved about $4 million in utility bills over the last few years. These energy savings are part of Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson's OakGreen Program and Challenge announced in May to encourage local governments, businesses and residents to reduce their energy consumption 10 percent by the end of 2012. For more information on the OakGreen Program and Challenge, click here.

Source: Art Holdsworth, Director of Facilities Management, Oakland County
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

Diversifying economy boosts Oakland County's bond rating

Seven years ago, Oakland County executive L. Brooks Patterson saw a headline proclaiming that 200,000 jobs had left Michigan. He turned his director of economic development onto a research project: look into what new sectors of business were being developed.

By the next year, they had a program - Emerging Sectors, dedicated to growing new economy jobs.

Now, six years after that program took effect, the county is reaping awards in addition to the jobs now in place -- Emerging Sectors was among the reasons the county's AAA bond rating was reaffirmed on the $3 million Bloomfield Township Combined Sewer Overflow Drainage District bonds and $1.2 million Highland Township Well Water Supply System bonds.

What this means for the taxpayer is millions of dollars in savings. With a higher rating, there's less interest on the bonds, and taxpayers end up paying less. "It's a reflection of the confidence by Wall Street of how Oakland County is managing in these tough times," Patterson says.

And, "It gives me as an elected official bragging rights," he jokes.

Through Emerging Sectors, the county focused on growing the health care sector and worked to diversify the county's job base. "When we're done, we won't be recession proof, but we will be recession resistant because we have diversified our economy among many sectors," he says. "Wall Street saw that."

"It's proof that we can and we will manage our way through these very tough times," he says.

The sale of bonds was approved earlier this year for inspection and rehabilitation of the Bloomfield Township system; the Highland Township system will see 6,500 feet of new water main to connect two well water systems.

Source: L. Brooks Patterson, Oakland County executive
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

Students, staff embrace Oakland U bike share program

A fleet of 60 purple bikes have been carrying students and staff around Oakland University's campus this semester, after the university expanded its bike share program.

Last year, OU tried a pilot bike share program using abandoned or unclaimed bikes, and due to that program's success more students are cruising around campus on the matching bikes. It's not uncommon to see a faculty member riding one, either, says OU's Director of Campus Recreation Greg Jordan.

The two-wheelers are a mix of residents and commuters; residents may use a bike to get from their residence hall to class, but commuters may also have to park relatively far away. "There's a large concentration of bikes in the parking lots, just as many as over in the residence halls," Jordan says.

Among the shifts in culture he's seen so far are an overall increase in bicycle use on campus, meaning resident students are bringing their own to keep on campus, and commuters are bringing theirs on the backs of their vehicle. "Since parking is a challenge on campus, when you're in the parking structure or in a non-central parking lot, people are pulling their bikes off, riding to class and locking them," he says.

Not only do walkers and riders decrease congestion around campus, but the program increases physical fitness. "We're trying to encourage healthy lifestyles, and riding a bike is part of that," he says. "We're trying to improve lifestyle on campus, trying to make parking and getting around campus more enjoyable."

Programs exist on other campuses, some with checkout systems, but Oakland's is free, based on the honor system, and can by used by anyone who spots an available bike. Jordan says the university may consider designated bike lanes in the future.

To learn more about the bike share program, click here.

Source: Greg Jordan, director of campus recreation for Oakland University
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

Q&A with Ron Campbell on the Oak Street Fair

Preserving and improving existing building stock will be a central theme to this year's Oak Street Fair in Hazel Park. The event will focus on helping Oakland County's urban stakeholders revitalize their neighborhoods through sustainable rehabilitation and playing to the area's strengths, such as its local character.

The free event will be held in Scout Park from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Ron Campbell, a principal planner/preservation architect for Oakland County Planning & Economic Development, is helping organize the event and Oakland County's Oak Street program. He agreed to answer a few questions over email about the event and preservation of the region's housing stock.

In a sentence or two, could you sum up what people attending the Oak Street Fair could come away with in regards to improving their home and their neighborhood?

Oak Street and the Oak Street House is a generic term that we are applying to any house built before 1960. We want these home owners to realize that their homes are unique. The issue of keeping and maintaining a house built in 1890 is going to be different than it will be for a house built in 1930, which will be different than for a house built in 1950. Homeowners should come away understanding that maintenance and repair can be very cost effective and there are resources available from experts who understand and have worked with older homes, which is far different than new construction. We want to build a resource bank of knowledgeable and skilled people to share with homeowners.

Metro Detroit's urban housing stock is aging and in many cases crossing the century mark, but many of its building and housing policies, practices, and even conventional wisdom are geared toward new housing. Could you name one policy or idea that either already is or could help bring more of a focus on making the most of the building stock that we have?

A good example that comes to mind is Oakland County's Oak Street program. The primary purpose of Oak Street is to make homeowners and local officials more aware of the economic and social value embodied in established neighborhoods. Also, there are many existing programs/movements focusing on the existing housing stock. The Community Development Block Grant Funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has also provided focus to the importance of existing neighborhoods and homes. But by far the best-known one is the green movement or sustainable design. If it makes sense to recycle soda cans and bottles, how much more sense does it make to recycle our buildings. The greenest house in America today is one that you don't have to build –because it already exists. Building green is more than using Energy Star appliances and bamboo flooring. It is far more environmentally friendly to repair than replace. Fairgoers will find exhibitors to show how you can be green, save money, and have curbside appeal for your home.

Historic preservation is a term that everyone in Metro Detroit seems to easily identify with but is not the best at when it comes to practicing its ideas. The state also recently passed enhanced historical preservation incentives. How much of an impact could these incentives have on making local stakeholders more preservation inclined?

There are various incentives for historic homes, including tax credits, which are effective for those stakeholders, but those incentives apply only to a very small percentage of the existing housing stock. While historic preservation is a component and tool within the Oak Street program, Oak Street is more of a smart rehab program than a historic preservation program. We would certainly advise homeowners to the principals of historic preservation when they repair and remodel their homes; but it would be more with an eye to the economic and environmental sense it makes. The more we can help people realize the extent of the investment our neighborhoods represent and the benefit that we all receive when that investment and unique character that distinguishes their house or neighborhood from others is protected, then the more new and innovative programs will be available to help this larger population.

Name an idea, policy, or mindset from elsewhere that you would like to see this region adopt?

We don't have to go too far to find examples of strong and vibrant neighborhoods. They are sprinkled throughout this region. What helps neighborhoods stand out comes from the housing stock being maintained and the intrinsic character of the houses and neighborhood being preserved. Recognizing what the important features and character are is difficult to put a finger on, but it includes everything from architectural style to walkability. Oak Street is envisioned to help homeowners and neighborhoods discover theirs and provide the means to protect it.

Source: Ron Campbell, principal planner/preservation architect for Oakland County Planning & Economic Development
Writer: Jon Zemke

Oakland, Macomb counties push forward green programs

Oakland and Macomb counties are pushing toward a more sustainable government with a recent spate of announcements for environmentally friendly programs. Those programs include a website dedicated to information activities on sustainability, cutting energy costs through efficiency improvements, and challenging local residents and businesses to cut energy use by 10 percent within the next two years.

That last one is called the OakGreen Challenge and was issued by Oakland County Executive L Brooks Patterson just before the county's second annual Green Summit in mid-May.

The program is similar to Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje's Green Energy Challenge. That initiative, announced in 2005, calls for Ann Arbor to use 20 percent green energy by 2010 for municipal operations and by 2015 for the whole city. The city is now on a path to reach 30 percent green energy usage by the end of the year.

Not to be left out of the energy efficiency fun is Macomb County, which recently announced that it has saved taxpayers $44,400 in energy costs through implementing energy efficient improvements. Those savings took place in the first two months of contracting electrical power from First Energy for nine buildings that draw power from its main powerhouse, plus the Administration Building. The savings are projected to hit $600,000 over the next two years.

Macomb County also recently launched Green Macomb, a website dedicated to green initiatives and information. Think of the efforts being undertaken to create everything from energy efficiencies to clean water initiatives.

Source: Oakland and Macomb counties
Writer: Jon Zemke

Oakland U goes green with $2.7M geothermal project

Oakland University is getting ready to break ground on its greenest building yet, thanks to a multi-million dollar grant.

The $2.7 million federal grant will pay for a geothermal heating system for the new $63 million Human Health Building. The project also includes a huge solar water heating system.

"That is one of the largest, if not the largest, solar water heating systems in the Midwest," says Jim Liedel, energy manager for the facilities management department at Oakland University.

Both of those systems are big-ticket items in green building and go a long ways toward achieving gold-level LEED certification. Geothermal uses a well to draw upon the earth's constant temperature before the frost line. Solar heating systems pipe water through tubes in solar panels to heat them to near room temperature, thereby requiring less energy to provide hot water, for instance.

The geothermal heat pump and roof-mounted, solar thermal hot water array will provide the 160,000-square-foot facility with summer dehumidification of ventilation air, as well as cooling, heating, and domestic hot water.

Construction should start this summer and wrap up in 2012. The building will go on a vacant parcel of land on the northwest corner of the university's campus. It will house the School of Nursing and the School of Health Sciences.

Source: Jim Liedel, energy manager for the facilities management department at Oakland University
Writer: Jon Zemke

Karmanos and Crittenton open new cancer center

Karmanos Cancer Center and Crittenton Hospital Medical Center have opened a new shared facility in Rochester Hills that boasts a bevy of green features.

The new $16 million building features 30,000 square feet of state-of-the-art cancer treatment space. Patients will be able to receive advanced radiation treatment, chemotherapy, diagnostic imaging, and on-site laboratory testing. Seventeen employees staff the facility and that number is expected to grow later this year.

The center also has a number of sustainable features such as a white roof, occupancy sensors, and energy-efficient lights. All of these features were designed by Albert Kahn Associates and installed by Barton Malow, including the daylight harvesting system.

"The lobby has a lot of glass so you get a lot of natural light," says Larry Dziedzic, senior project manager for Barton Malow. "As the day gets brighter the daylight harvesting system shuts down the lights you don't need."

Source: Larry Dziedzic, senior project manager for Barton Malow
Writer: Jon Zemke

Meadow Brook Hall to open renovated kitchen to public

The renovation of Meadow Brook Hall is just about complete and ready for its first public viewing on April 6.

Meadow Brook Hall spent $700,000 to completely gut and replace many of the structural and mechanical systems in its kitchen. Think upgrading the ventilation system, providing new equipment, refurbishing the counter tops, and replacing flooring, plumbing, and lighting. The refrigeration system now also meets modern standards.

"It accomplished a lot of goals," says Kim Zelinski, associate director of
Meadow Brook Hall. "We had a lot of infrastructure issues that needed to be addressed. Out pipes were 80 years old and some were leaking."

The kitchen was previously renovated in the 1970s and '80s. The hope is that modernizing it again will allow Meadow Brook Hall to put its best culinary foot forward for catered events.

The Matilda R. Wilson Fund is financing the project. The grant also supports a number of other smaller efforts over this decade. Among those are the restoration of the dining room portraits of Matilda and Alfred Wilson, as well as ongoing preventative repair projects and ecological systems preservation.

Kim Zelinski, associate director of Meadow Brook Hall
Writer: Jon Zemke

Main St Oakland County marks $540M in investment

For those who think of sprawlville development in Sticks Township when Oakland County comes is mentioned, keep the county's main street program in mind.

Main Street Oakland County recently celebrated its 10th anniversary with some impressive numbers in its 11 downtowns.

  • $540 million of investment
  • More than 4,000 jobs created
  • 407 new business established
  • Over 2.7 million square feet of floor space (primarily retail)  constructed
  • $6 million-plus in cash sponsorships for events and programs
  • More than 129,000 volunteer hours

And those downtowns don't include two of the county's most vibrant – Birmingham and Royal Oak. Main Street Oakland County includes downtowns in Farmington, Ferndale, Franklin, Highland, Holly, Lake Orion, Ortonville, Oxford, Pontiac, Rochester and Walled Lake.

It's all part of Oakland County Executive L Brooks Patterson's vision of diversifying the economy so it can become more resistant to economic downturns.

"In his (Patterson's) mind he calls it balance," says Bob Donohue, program director for Main Street Oakland County. "In my mind it's called the right focus."

He adds that developing and redeveloping property and businesses in the county's urban centers is a "key part" of its overall economic policy. Accomplishing this includes creating a sustainable environment that emphasizes making the most of a downtown's assets through practices like historic preservation.

For instance, Main Street Oakland County communities generated $19 million in new investment and attracted 19 businesses that created more than 300 jobs last year. Although the construction of 11 new buildings played a part, the renovation of 237 others proved to be the main driver of that economic opportunity.

Source: Bob Donohue, program director for Main Street Oakland County
Writer: Jon Zemke

Can Metro Parks save Detroit's State Fair?

Metro Detroit is about to score the green space hat trick now that Huron-Clinton Metro Parks is making moves to take over the State Fairgrounds in Detroit.

The scores would include Detroit receiving its first Metro Park, establishing the first inner-city Metro Park in the region, and saving the annual Michigan State Fair.

"The State Fair has been one of our regional jewels for more than 100 years," says Tim Greimel, an Oakland County Commissioner representing Pontiac, Auburn Hills, and Rochester Hills, who is helping push the deal forward. "It provides family friendly entertainment to hundreds of thousands of people. It would be a great shame if we lost the State Fair."

Under the deal, the state would lease the State Fairgrounds at Woodward Avenue and 8 Mile Road to Metro Parks for $1 a year. Metro Parks would agree to run the State Fair and create a year-round park with the rest of the 135 acres. That park could include amenities such as a fishing area, cross country skiing, and athletic fields.

"One of the challenges southern Oakland County has is the lack of large-acreage parkland," Greimel says. "The alternative is our southeast Oakland County communities would have a vacant eyesore across the road."

One of the major complaints Detroit and the inner-ring suburbs have had is that they pay taxes for Metro Parks, but most of that parkland is at the outer fringes of the region. Turning the State Fair into a Metro Park would go a long way toward remedying that complaint.

The Metro Parks Board of Commissioners tabled the proposal yesterday afternoon and will revisit it after 60 days.

Source: Tim Greimel, Oakland County Commissioner
Writer: Jon Zemke

Oakland U renovates Meadow Brook Hall

A key component to the Meadow Brook Hall is about to get a major overhaul.

Oakland University is spending $700,000 to completely gut and replace many of the structural and mechanical systems in the hall's kitchen. Those repairs include changing the ventilation system, providing new kitchen equipment, refurbishing the counter tops, and replacing flooring, plumbing and lighting. The refrigeration system will also be upgraded to meet modern standards.

The kitchen was previously renovated in the 1970s and '80s. The hope is that modernizing it again will allow Meadow Brook Hall to put its best culinary foot forward for catered events.

"It's really just improving our business and staying true to the Meadow Brook Hall," says Shannon O'Berski, marketing manager for Meadow Brook Hall.

The Matilda R. Wilson Fund is financing the project, which should be done by April. The grant will also support a number of other smaller projects over this decade. Among those are the restoration of the dining room portraits of Matilda and Alfred Wilson, as well as ongoing preventative repair projects and ecological systems preservation.

Shannon O'Berski, marketing manager for Meadow Brook Hall
Writer: Jon Zemke

Rochester brewpub earns USDA organic certification

--This article originally appeared on October 8, 2009

One of Metro Detroit's greenest restaurants is now organic – certified organic.

Mind Body & Spirits has been certified USDA Organic by Oregon Tilth, a third-party nonprofit organization. The downtown Rochester-based firm is now Michigan's first fully certified organic restaurant. There are fewer than a dozen certified organic restaurants in the U.S.

"It's a third party source that ensures that what we say we're doing, we're doing," says David Youngman, director of marketing and communications for Mind, Body & Spirits. "A lot of businesses are making claims of organic products."

Mind Body & Spirits had already been embraced by the tree huggers when it opened last fall. It took a 100-year-old building, renovated it, and added 2,000 square feet and a load of sustainable features.

These include the largest bank of solar power panels in Michigan, used to generate clean energy and to heat water. The restaurant also has a geothermal heating and cooling system. It also used VOC-free paint, bamboo flooring, and sustainable furnishings. A greenhouse was built along Third Street to provide fresh herbs and produce for the kitchen and to beautify the sidewalk.  

Source: David Youngman, director of marketing and communications for Mind Body & Spirits
Writer: Jon Zemke

Oakland U goes green with new hydration station

Going green could be as easy as offering people a choice to do so. That's what Oakland University is doing by adding a hydration station to the mix for its students.

Most of the time the term 'hydration station' comes across as fancy jargon for a water fountain. The university replaced one in the Oakland Center with a water dispenser that makes using a refillable bottle more convenient and lessens the need to buy bottled water.

"It's designed to refill water bottles quickly," says Richard Fekel, director of the Oakland Center.

The idea is to encourage more students to carry their own containers instead of buying disposable plastic ones that too often clog landfills. While this is the first hydration station on Oakland University's campus, however, more might be in the future.

"My guess is this will start a new trend," Fekel says. "We sell a lot of bottled water on campus so this is just another way for our students to give back to their environment."

Source: Richard Fekel, director of the Oakland Center
Writer: Jon Zemke

Oakland U adds more green vehicles to its campus

Oakland University's vehicle fleet is becoming greener around the mud flaps now that it has added some zero-emission trucks to its mix.

The university's Facilities Management department purchased three Miles ZX40ST electric trucks. Each one charges from a standard 110-volt outlet and has expected regenerative breaking and a battery life measuring out to 25,000 miles.

The trucks have a payload capacity of more than 1,000 pounds each. They are street legal and can drive as fast as 50 mph, although they are built to go at speeds of around 25 mph.

"They're not only lightweight but they can do all of the work the little Mitsubishi gas-powered trucks can do," says Jon Barth, manager of custodial and grounds for Oakland University. "They're working very well for us."

Oakland University bought them from North Central Zenn in Ohio for about $14,000 each. Officials expect to save as much as $2,500 on annual gas and maintenance costs. The vehicles will be evaluated over the winter and summer to see if these projections pan out.

These are not the first environmentally friendly vehicles the university has purchased for its Rochester campus. It also uses an assortment of gas-powered pickup trucks and vans built by the Big Three.

Source: Jon Barth, manager of custodial and grounds for Oakland University
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ferndale, Rochester big winners of Main Street Oakland County awards

When it comes to downtowns, Ferndale and Rochester came home with all of the hardware at the 2nd Annual Main Street Oakland County Awards.

The awards recognize excellence in downtown revitalization in five categories, including organization, promotion, design, and economic restructuring.

Ferndale took awards in all five of the categories. The judges recognized the city for its outstanding public relations outreach and special events for the DIY Festival. Two of its businesses, Pinwheel Bakery and Elegance by Design, were recognized for their facade renovations.

Rochester won awards for promotional design for its In Town magazine and for its community commitment.

Source: Oakland County
Writer: Jon Zemke

Oakland U creates more parking within existing space

More parking. It's a refrain that has become the bane of redevelopment in Metro Detroit, a region still chained to four wheels.

Providing more parking often comes at the expense of good urban development, if it doesn't scuttle the project altogether. Oakland University has come up with a way to provide it without extending the sea of asphalt.

The university, which experienced record enrollment this fall, re-striped some of its parking lots in a more efficient manner. The project, which cost $2,000, created 72 extra spaces. The goal is to give a little extra breathing room for drivers at the commuter campus in Rochester.

Among the lots that received extra spaces are the lot at Squirrel Road and Walton Boulevard (26) and along the connector road between Varner Hall and Pawley Hall (23). The rest were scatted on parking lots throughout campus. All of the university's parking areas can be found here.

Source: Oakland University
Writer: Jon Zemke

The Factory's Zeitgeist opens in downtown Rochester

The Zeitgeist has arrived in Rochester as part of one of downtown's most vibrant nightspots - The Factory.

Shane Ford and Jerry Wald, the early 20-something creative entrepreneurs behind The Factory, opened the
Zeitgeist as a complement to their music venue at 334 S Main St. behind Tower Plaza. Zeitgeist is the retail portion of the operation.

"We're open," Ford says. "We’re just getting some art in and loading it up."

Zeitgeist sells shirts, music, and other music paraphernalia. The old house turned commercial storefront across the street from The Factory will sell merchandise and even have a smaller performance area for events like poetry readings.

Future expansion is possible but not in the immediate future.

"We're always looking at new things so we can expand, but we're all over the map right now," Ford says.

Source: Shane Ford, co-owner of The Factory and
Writer: Jon Zemke

Oakland U improves labs, updates equipment

A number of renovated science labs recently opened their doors at Oakland University.

The Rochester-based school recently finished work on 18 labs and classrooms in Hannah, O'Dowd, and Wilson Hall that are used for studies in chemistry, biology, physics, nursing, art, and physical therapy, along with a computer lab.

The original science-based labs dated back to the 1960s and '70s. The new spaces are both better lit and safer, meeting more modern expectations for education. The improvements include plumbing, electrical, and aesthetic work, along with new floors, ceilings, equipment, and upgraded mechanical systems.  

(waiting for a call back with more details and a quote)

Source: Oakland University
Writer: Jon Zemke

N Oakland colleges expand alt transit options

Getting around northern Oakland County's commuter campuses is getting easier now that more transportation options are becoming available.

Both Oakland University and Cooley Law School's Metro Detroit campus are known for their large sprawling parking lots, landing pads for most students' mode of transportation to and from class. That's starting to change, if only a little.

The Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation has added Cooley Law School's Auburn Hills campus, which sits in the shadow of the Chrysler headquarters, to its list of destinations. Maps, routes and links can be found at the Campus Resources link here.

Oakland University has already signed up for SMART service, but is now expanding its transit options to pedal power with its launch of a Bike Share Program. The student-led initiative makes use of the honor system, providing 30 free-to-use bicycles to students at bike racks around the campus.

Another 23 bikes have been donated to the cause by students and staff since the program began earlier this fall. Organizers are finding a number of bikes left at the local parking lots, but are looking at adding more bike racks to improve availability and convenience.

Source: Oakland University
Writer: Jon Zemke

Oakland U opens new tech center in Kresge Library

Learning in the 21st Century is getting a boost at Oakland University, thanks to its new Technology Learning Center.

The center is in the university's Kresge Library. It opened earlier this year but will have its grand opening on Tuesday. The new tech center features an information commons, along with e-learning and instructional support.

"We are trying to create synergies between different areas of information technology that help learning and research," says Frank Lepkowski, associate dean of the Kresge Library at Oakland University.

The Rochester-based facility offers computer workstations, laptops, software, peripherals and media computers with large-screen LCD monitors. Students will also have access to the library's wireless network, digital library resources, staff, Web 2.0 and other technologies at their disposal.

"It's very flexible space," Lepkowski says. "If you want to work at a computer with some extra space, you can do that. If you want to convene a study group, you can do that."

Source: Frank Lepkowski, associate dean of the Kresge Library at Oakland University
Writer: Jon Zemke

Oakland U starts bike-share, van shuttle services

It's not just the University of Michigan and Ann Arbor that are finding new and innovative ways to get university students, staff, and faculty around. Oakland University and Rochester are getting into the groove, too.

"It is important to start looking at alternative forms of transportation," Glenn McIntosh, dean and assistant vice president for student affairs at Oakland University, said in a press release.

Oakland University plans to start two new alternative transportation programs this fall – a bike-share and van-shuttle programs. These environmentally friendly services will be available to all university patrons for free.

The bike-share program is a student-led initiative that will depend on the honor system. It will feature 30 bicycles for on-campus use only at 30 different bike racks across the campus. The bikes will be stored in the winter term.

Another seven bike racks will be added to campus to facilitate the program. Student and university officials are also working on plans to make the commuter campus more bike-friendly by adding bike lanes and trails throughout the campus.

Shuttle buses, a pilot program, will enable students and staff to travel between campus points without having to worry about losing their parking spaces. The 12-seat vans will run in a loop between Busch's shopping center, Buffalo Wild Wings, the Village of Rochester, and downtown Rochester during weekends.

Source: Oakland University
Writer: Jon Zemke

The Factory looks to build out with Zietgiest in Rochester

Shane Ford and Jerry Wald weren't looking to start their own music venue when they stumbled upon 334 S Main St. in downtown Rochester, but that's what they got when they did last year.

Today The Factory is one of downtown Rochester's most vibrant spots, attracting dozens of people several times a week for performances. It started when Wald, 22, was looking for some downtown studio space for his photography business. Ford, a 21-year-old musician, wanted a practice space for his band. Then Wald found the space behind Tower Pizza and both fell in love with it.

"We just kinda fell into it," Ford says.

They set up the space for an intimate concert venue. Their first show attracted about 90 people to a place with a capacity of 100. Since then they have been doing several shows a week from various music genres. Those attending range in age from 6-60 years old.

"It all depends on who the bands are and what their fan base is," Ford says.

And they do this without an alcohol license. Several bars are within easy stumbling distance, so Ford and Wald direct patrons to them if they want a drink. They make their money at the door.

It has been so successful that they are planning on opening a retail store nearby to complement The Factory. Zietgiest will sell shirts, music and other music paraphernalia. The old house turned commercial storefront will sell the merchandise and even have a smaller performance area for things like poetry readings.

Source: Shane Ford, co-owner of The Factory
Writer: Jon Zemke

Oakland County workshop focuses on green downtowns

The last of three workshops aimed at the revitalization of downtowns in Oakland County is set to go down on Friday, August 14.

The "Lead Your Downtown from Brown to Green" workshop will focus on tackling sustainability issues, such as historic preservation and eco-friendly development.

"As the title says, we're trying to take downtowns from brown to green by letting them (local stakeholders) know what they can do in this economy," says Bob Donahue, executive director of Main Street Oakland County.

A number of topics, including how to make best use of brownfield sites, effective historic preservation, and how to incorporate green-building practices, such as LEED standards, will be covered. Other subjects will include tapping into farmers markets, the cost-effectiveness of LED lights, and how best to employ urban forestry.

Main Street Oakland County is encouraging local architects, planners, preservationists, developers, city officials, and community activists to attend. The cost is $75 per person. The workshop will be held between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. in the Oakland County Executive Office Building Conference Center, 2100 Pontiac Lake Road, west of Telegraph, in Waterford.

Source: Bob Donahue, executive director of Main Street Oakland County
Writer: Jon Zemke

Oakland County pushes for land bank to deal with foreclosures

Oakland County is beginning to publish its stock of foreclosed buildings electronically to prepare them for auction. However, at least one Oakland County official would like to see this process changed -- with a land bank.

Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner sees a number of things wrong with the auction process. It's why he is pushing for Oakland County to form a land bank, as many other Michigan communities have done, to handle its problem properties.

"There are some perils with the auction approach," Meisner says.

For instance, speculators are scooping up large batches of these homes and, at best, turning them into rentals. More than people like to admit end up falling further into blight and becoming eyesores, weakening what were once otherwise strong neighborhoods. Meisner says this sort of speculation is the junk food of the real estate market, supplying short-term profits at the expense of long-term investment.

"We're rolling up our sleeves and trying to get families in those houses," Meisner says.

He adds that a land bank gives local officials the power to package parcels and sell them to a developer or even ensure that individual buildings end up in the hands of local residents. Right now he is trying to build up awareness about the idea, and hopes to begin a legislative push for one later this year.

Source: Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner
Writer: Jon Zemke

Oakland U establishes urban gardens on campus

Oakland University’s Meadow Brook Hall is undergoing an urban agriculture makeover this summer.

Student volunteers and staff are working on establishing gardens and green spaces around the Hall on the university's campus in Rochester Hills. The group has created a garden and a variety of organic compost piles. It is also identifying and implementing new sustainable practices.

The compost piles are providing the fertilizer and top soil needed to grow the vegetables in the garden, including tomatoes, bell peppers and pumpkins. They will be harvested and used in the hall's food preparation.

Source: Oakland University
Writer: Jon Zemke

Oakland U greenlights new human health building

Oakland University's healthcare curriculum is about to become a bit healthier now that the school plans to build a new Human Health Building.

The 160,000-square-foot building will house the university's schools of Nursing and Health Sciences. The structure will be built on the northwest corner of the university campus and is expected to open in 2010 to accommodate the growing enrollment of healthcare students.

The 5-story structure, designed by Detroit-based SmithGroup, will house both academic and clinical faculty. The professors will take a more hands-on process to teaching with state-of-the-art classrooms, seminar rooms, an interactive media center, physical therapy clinics, and clinical learning labs. These amenities will be designed to replicate what happens in hospitals.

"We believe the students deserve a state-of-the-art facility to experience education and help it translate into the workplace," says Virinder Moudgil, provost and senior vice president of Oakland University.

The state is paying $40 million of the $62 million project. The university will finance the remaining $22 million, plus another $11 million in related infrastructure and technology improvements through general revenue bonds.

This will be the fifth academic building Oakland University has built in the last 13 years. Student enrollment has jumped 80 percent in the same period of time.

Source: Virinder Moudgil, provost and senior vice president of Oakland University.
Writer: Jon Zemke

Rochester takes steps to create new park

Rochester is taking the first steps in a long journey toward creating a new park on the city's south side.

The Planning Commission expects to begin forming zoning for parks, recreation, and open space at its July 8 meeting. This would allow the city to switch the zoning of its old wastewater treatment plants from industrial to the new classification, clearing the way to create a park there.

"In our master plan it's listed as a prime location for a park, recreation or open space," says Jaymes Vettraino, city manager for Rochester.

The site, which is several acres in size, housed the city's wastewater treatment plant for several decades until the mid 1990s, when it was decommissioned. Most of its buildings and tanks have either been razed or filled in. One building remains and is used by the fire department as a training and record storage facility.

The rest of the area is open space. It's also near the Clinton River and the Clinton River Trail.

Source: Jaymes Vettraino, city manager for Rochester
Writer: Jon Zemke

Main Street Oakland County brings in AIA Michigan for workshops

Main Street Oakland County is bringing in a big gun to help keep the investment in its downtowns going - the American Institute of Architects Michigan.

The renowned association for architects is helping Oakland County with issues vital to vibrant city centers, such as sustainability, revitalization, and preservation. AIA Michigan members will provide advice about how to best take advantage of tools and opportunities that spur growth and development.

"The idea is to help businesses understand what is going on," says Ron Campbell, principal planner/preservation architect of Oakland County and president of AIA Michigan.

The first workshop will be held Friday, June 19 and will focus on dealing with and taking advantage of today's economic situation. It will also take a macro view of development in downtowns, including how to find the best design and identify financing.

The downtowns present opportunities for all sizes of projects and firms," Campbell says.

The workshop will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Oakland County Executive Office Building Conference Center, 2100 Pontiac Lake Road, west of Telegraph Road, in Waterford. Architects, planners, preservationists, Main Street staffers, developers, business and building owners, community officials, and downtown stakeholders and activists are invited. For information, click here.

Source: Ron Campbell, principal planner/preservation architect of Oakland County and president of AIA Michigan
Writer: Jon Zemke

Rochesters look at consolidating some city services

Two cities with practically the same name are trying to push the envelope on how to play efficiently in Metro Detroit.

The city councils of Rochester and Rochester Hills will hold a joint meeting on Monday, June 15 to talk about ways the two municipalities can save taxpayer money by enacting a more regional approach to doing business. It looks like a smart move in this time of tough economies and ever shrinking budgets.

"We all have to evaluate things differently," says Bryan Barnett, mayor of Rochester Hills. "In the era we are in now we have to find ways to share more things."

The two cities already share library and senior citizen services. They're now looking at further collaboration, like mutual aide agreements and big ticket purchases, such as street sweepers or road salt.

"Some of these things we could go in on together," Barnett says.

Other local communities have talked about operating more regionally recently, such as consolidating Farmington and Farmington Hills or creating a Downriver Area Fire Authority. Both of those ideas floundered but state officials have continued to push for creating efficiencies through regionalism.

The special joint meeting will be held at 6 p.m. at the Rochester Hills Museum at Van Hoosen Farm, 1005 Van Hoosen Road. For information, call (248) 656-4600.

Source: Bryan Barnett, mayor of Rochester Hills
Writer: Jon Zemke

Locals work to preserve Rochester Elevator

Sometimes all an old building needs is a fresh coat of paint, and that's exactly what a group of local volunteers will give to the Rochester Elevator on Saturday.

The barn-like structure at University Road and Water Street is still in great structural shape, considering it originally went up in 1880. A section of another grain elevator was added to the Rochester Elevator in 1909, which includes wood dating to the Civil War.

People can buy seed, salt and propane, among other agricultural items, at the elevator. The only thing that needs to be improved is its appearance.

"It just hasn’t been painted in many years," says Rod Wilson, president of the Rochester-Avon Historical Society.

A group of local community activists, historical preservationists, and businesses are chipping in to pay for a new coat of paint. Professional painters will put on the primer coat and the second coat for the higher parts of the building. The lower 10 feet will be left for members of the community to complete on Saturday.

The painting starts at 10 A.M. and will continue throughout the day until the job is done. Free food is available for everyone who wishes to help out.

"The community owns the heritage," Wilson says.

Source: Rod Wilson, president of the Rochester-Avon Historical Society
Writer: Jon Zemke

Oakland County to hold workshop on zoning flexibility

Oakland County officials want local governments to become more flexible in their zoning rules and master plans, and now they're ready to teach them how to do it.

The county wants municipalities to be ready to welcome and facilitate growth from new economy firms; hence, it will hold a Technology Planning Toolkit workshop on Monday, June 8.

"We hope they can use this as a basis when they update their own planning documents," says Bret Rasegan, planning supervisor for Oakland County.

It introduced this program as a way of making local governments friendlier to knowledge-based firms. By streamlining the old bureaucracy, the hope is to make these cities more attractive for new economy start-ups and their new jobs. For instance, buildings zoned for one purpose can be diversified to include a number of uses.

"It's very important, especially with how quickly the market is changing," Rasegan says.

The free workshop will be held at the Oakland County Executive Office Building Conference Center, 2100 Pontiac Lake Road, west of Telegraph in Waterford. For information, call (248) 452-2166 or send an email to browningj@oakgov.com.

Source: Brett Rasegan, planning supervisor for Oakland County
Writer: Jon Zemke

Main Street Oakland County hosts downtown preservation workshops

Oakland County's downtowns have spent decades turning themselves into some of Michigan's most vibrant urban centers, and the county isn't going to allow a few bad economic years to retard that progress.

That's why Main Street Oakland County is being proactive this summer, with three workshops aimed at helping keep these downtowns thriving and continuing their development momentum. And this is while those downtowns are in slightly better shape than the overall state economy.

"The whole thing is about how to make it in a tough economy," says Bret Rasegan, planning supervisor for Oakland County.

The workshops will feature local, state, and national experts for a range of urban issues, such as preservation and obtaining grants. The idea is to help downtown stakeholders get new perspectives on these topics and see how they can help each different downtown.

The first workshop, set for June 19, will tackle issues like dealing with declining property values in a down economy and financing projects in a tough credit market. The second (July 17) will examine how to encourage new economy development in the downtowns and take advantage of historic assets. The last one (August 14) will tackle sustainability issues like LEED architecture.

All will be held at the Oakland County Executive Office Building Conference Center, 2100 Pontiac Lake Road in Waterford. For information, call (248) 858-1848.

Source: Bret Rasegan, planning supervisor for Oakland County
Writer: Jon Zemke

Sanders to add 4 more stores in Metro Detroit

Back in the day it seemed like there was a Sanders on every neighborhood corner in Metro Detroit. The local institution provided a place for young and old alike to indulge in their sweet tooth. Those times fell by the wayside in the latter part of the 20th Century, but today they’re making a comeback.

The local icon has opened four shops in places like downtown Wyandotte, downtown Grosse Pointe, Laurel Park Place mall in Livonia, and even up north in Mackinaw. Over the next few months, there are also plans to open new stores in Rochester, 12 Oaks Mall in Novi, and at the company’s Clinton Township headquarters. The company also plans to open one more in a yet-to-be-announced location later this year.

"Fred Sanders had a great vision," says Brian Jefferson, chairman of Sanders. "He was ahead of his time. We're trying to recreate that vision."

The company is going for higher-quality ice cream and sweet treats as it opens new stores. Many of its ingredients are all natural and are used in recipes from the early 20th Century that stressed quality more than quantity. Sanders also plans to incorporate some newer recipes in the near future.

Source: Brian Jefferson, chairman of Sanders
Writer: Jon Zemke

Downtown Franklin highlights historic architecture with contest

The local leaders in Franklin have found a new way to make the historic aspect of their downtown work for them -- host an Architecture ID contest.

Franklin officials took 20 up-close-and-personal pictures of parts of downtown buildings on Franklin Road just south of 14 Mile Road. The idea is to let people figure out where they came from and what building they belong to.

"What it does is it gets people up and walking around downtown looking for these photos," says Eddie Delbridge, main street director for Franklin.

The contest is part of National Historic Preservation Month and Oakland County's Main Street Oakland County program's efforts to get more people to utilize the county's downtowns. Some of the other events include Ferndale Foot Frolic 10K on May 17 and the Rochester Heritage Festival over Memorial Day weekend.

"We're having a great time with this," Delbridge says. "The response we have been getting is incredible."

Franklin was one of the first communities in Michigan to establish a historic district. It was also the first community to take advantage of Michigan's historic district laws.

"They're very progressive," says Bob Donahue, program coordinator for Main Street Oakland County.

Source: Eddie Delbridge, Main Street director for Franklin and Bob Donahue, program coordinator for Main Street Oakland County
Writer: Jon Zemke

Oakland U plans for major campus upgrades this summer

Oakland University is in line for a lot of upgrades and renovations this summer as the Rochester Hills-based school redoes everything from entrances to building interiors.

Ted Montgomery, director of media relations for Oakland University, described the work as deferred maintenance that has been a long time coming for the university. The projects will be done throughout the summer and will wrap up in time for the students' return this fall.

The university is revamping its two plazas, bringing in more inviting designs to greet its thousands of students. These plazas are between the North and South Foundation Halls leading to the Oakland Center and the plaza between the Oakland Center and O’Dowd Hall.

Oakland University is also going to repave the main entrance to the campus at Squirrel and University between mid-May and August. Culvert and road repairs will be done on Meadow Brook Road between Hamlin Hall and the University Student Apartments. This will complement sidewalk upgrades throughout campus.

The university also plans to renovate the second floor of O’Dowd Hall for the Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine. It will also replace floor tile on the first and second floors. Wilson Hall, Anibal House, Dodge Hall, Hamlin Hall, and a corridor in North Foundation Hall will also undergo renovations.

These projects don't have any big sustainable features, but Oakland University officials are looking at incorporating some in the future.

"We are developing sustainable projects, but they are a little ways off yet," Montgomery says.

Source: Ted Montgomery, director of media relations for Oakland University
Writer: Jon Zemke

Downtown Rochester's Millrace Lofts nearly full

The Millrace Lofts are quickly filling up now that the development has opened its options to include land contracts and leasing.

The downtown Rochester development features 16 loft units. Only five of those are still available. More than half of the development has been sold. All of the units are 1,650 square feet with two bedrooms and 2.5 baths. Each unit comes with an attached garage and a balcony. Each also has an open, loft-like floor plan and high ceilings.

The townhouse-style development at 98 Mill St. is at the edge of downtown, overlooking the Clinton River and adjacent to the Clinton River Creek Trail. The trail has turned into a major selling point for the development.

"The people enjoy being right next to the trail," says Laurie Hough, spokeswoman for Millrace Lofts. "A majority of the people who live here are young and like to take advantage of the trail."

For information, call (248) 765-0026.

Source: Laurie Hough, spokeswoman for Millrace Lofts
Writer: Jon Zemke

Oakland County downtowns receive $67 million in investment

Even though the real-estate market is down, investment in some of Oakland County's most vibrant downtowns is up significantly. New investment for 12 downtowns registered at $67 million in 2008 compared to $51 million the year before.

This investment came in downtowns that are part of the county's Main Street program. Those downtowns include Rochester, Walled Lake, Ferndale, Farmington, Keego Harbor, Pontiac, Lake Orion, Holly, Highland, Ortonville, Oxford and Franklin.

More than 590 full-time and 291 part-time jobs were created through this investment. Another 29 new businesses also set up shop in these downtowns. 200 buildings were renovated and over 166,280 square feet of new space was created.

Downtown Ferndale was a big winner of this investment. More than $19 million came into the inner-ring suburb, creating 220 new jobs and 75,352 square feet of new space. Some of its big-ticket projects include the Lofts on the 9 and new offices for Foley Mansfield.

The Main Street program started in 2000 and has helped usher in more than $518 million in total investment in those 12 downtowns.

Source: Oakland County
Writer: Jon Zemke

Rehab, urban redevelopment top list of real-estate trends

The Top-5 real-estate and development trends for 2009 all point toward urban, sustainable and new economy.

Giffels-Webster Engineers named infrastructure rehabilitation, urban redevelopment, energy generation, life sciences and healthcare expansion/renovation as the top development movements of 2009. The Rochester Hills-based civil engineering firm annually ranks the top five hottest growth areas.

Sustainability principles also play major roles in those five sectors, ranging from green building to developing alternative energy sources.

Infrastructure Rehabilitation was named because of the need to upgrade aging infrastructure and President Obama's push to use hundreds of billions of dollars to accomplish this very goal while helping to jump start the economy.

Urban Redevelopment made the cut because retail and residential re-development opportunities already exist in urban areas where the population and infrastructure foundation are in place. Reconfiguring these facilities will be cheaper to do, and coincide with the swing toward investment in urban areas.

Energy demand continues to grow as demand for just about every other commodity declines in the economy. The emphasis to develop renewable alternative energy sources is being pushed in the public sector, paving the way for energy generation to make the list.

Research-and-development facilities for the life sciences industry are also expected to expand as the Baby Boom generation enters its golden years. This will mean much greater investment in biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and diagnostics and the research space needed to further develop these sectors.

Also accompanying this trend is the expansion and renovation of healthcare facilities. The aging population and infrastructure means that hospitals and other medical care spaces will have to be renovated and expanded to keep up with demand.

Source: Giffels-Webster Engineers
Writer: Jon Zemke

Oakland County pushes new home buyer program

Oakland County officials are trying to help solve the foreclosure crisis and its ripple effects by getting people to buy into it.

The county is sponsoring a new homeownership program that will hold a workshop Saturday morning in Waterford. The idea is to get low- to moderate-income families to buy some of the vacant, foreclosed homes in the county. The program hopes to help mitigate housing and blight problems while preserving local tax base.

Oakland County officials see the low prices created by the crisis as an opportunity to create new homeowners from people who weren't able to afford their own place in a more successful economy.

The county plans to make this possible with no-interest loans for down payment assistance, closing costs, home improvements or other financing for home-buyers who pre-qualify for a fixed-rate mortgage. The loan can represent at least 51 percent of the purchase price while the county will finance up to the remaining 49 percent of the purchase and rehabilitation costs up to $100,000 as long as home-buyer puts down at least $2,000.

The money to make this possible is coming from the foreclosure money provided by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program late last year. Other cities have focused this money on things like demolition while Oakland County is focusing on preserving its local building stock, a.k.a. tax base.

The workshop will be held at 9 a.m. in the Oakland County Executive Office Building Conference Center, 2100 Pontiac Lake Rd., just west of Telegraph Road. Registration is not required. For information, click here or call 248-858-1529.

Source: Oakland County
Writer: Jon Zemke

Oakland U exhibit explores foot traffic in urban areas

People who walk through cities experience them much more poignantly than those who simply drive through them. That idea is the thrust behind the Oakland University Art Gallery latest exhibit - CONTEMPORARY FLÂNERIE: Reconfiguring Cities.

The exhibit focuses on the perspectives of people who walk about cities and how they confront them. This pedestrian mode of transit is often the choice for tourists and potential residents of those areas. The exhibit utilizes photography, video and computer-based art mediums. It challenges those encounter it to consider how they view their urban experiences.

The exhibit opens the evening of March 7 and runs through April 12 in Oakland University's Rochester Hills campus. An opening reception will be held at 8 p.m. Saturday and a curator’s talk will take place at 2 p.m. the following day. The events and exhibit are free and open to the public.

Source: Oakland University
Writer: Jon Zemke

Oakland U adds new café in Rochester campus

Oakland University's Kresge Library is in line to receive a $10,000 refresher course in student comfort.

The university's Student Congress is paying the first installment to build a café and renovate the lounge area in the library. Most of the money will go toward new furniture, work tables and vending machines in the building on the Rochester Hills campus.

The students and university officials are working to raise another $75,000 to finish funding for the rest of the project. For information on the project, contact Alysa Hunton at hunton@oakland.edu or (248) 364-6106.

Source: Oakland University
Writer: Jon Zemke

Oakland University branches out into downtown Rochester

Looks like Oakland University is seeing the advantages of urbanism after all.

The university is teaming up with the Royal Park Hotel in downtown Rochester, designating the hotel as the university's officials conference center and preferred destination for guests. University's officials called the hotel one of the area's "premier" hotels, a place that will significantly enhance the school's culture.

The partnership is expected to bring more foot traffic and business to Rochester, which has one of Metro Detroit's most vibrant city centers. Oakland University is located in Rochester Hills and is the stereotypical suburban-style commuter campus.

The Royal Park Hotel is one of Metro Detroit's top downtown hotels, on par with The Townsend in downtown Birmingham and the Book Cadillac and Fort Shelby hotels in downtown Detroit. It's designed to look like old English manor.

The hotel is on the south side of University Drive, a few blocks east of Main Street. It overlooks the banks of the Paint Creek and the Paint Creek Trail.

Source: Oakland University
Writer: Jon Zemke

Oakland University considers SMART Bus service

Oakland University has long been known as a commuter school, but university officials are looking to broaden the local definition of commuting.

For years and years students have mainly gotten to and from the school via personal transportation (re: cars). University officials have begun talking with their counterparts from Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation about linking the school to a number of local institutions.

Now that the university has strengthened its ties with the Royal Park Hotel, school officials are looking for new ways to get students and staff to and from downtown Rochester, along with several other destinations like shopping malls.

Local education, municipal and business leaders have been talking about the idea and appear to support it. It is also popular with students, according to a recent survey conducted by the university.

The road block to all of this appears to be the cost, creating a route costs about $400,000 annually. Local officials are still trying to figure out where that money will come from.

Source: Oakland University
Writer: Jon Zemke

Paint Creek Bridge nearly done in downtown Rochester

Workers are putting a fresh coat on the Paint Creek Bridge in downtown Rochester.

The renovation of the historic bridge is set to wrap up in early December. This will free up a major pedestrian artery for the downtown. The 100-plus-year-old bridge behind the Royal Park Hotel was originally built for the Penn Station Railroad, but has become a pedestrian bridge connecting downtown to the Paint Creek Trail.

The Rochester Downtown Development Authority is paying $425,000 to rehab the bridge. Workers have completed both structural and aesthetic improvements, adding another 20-25 years to its life-span.

The rehabilitation of the bridge is the last piece of the puzzle for Rochester's riverfront area. The city recently finished improving lighting along the river walk and in a nearby park.

Source: Gary Tressel, engineer with Hubble Roth & Clark
Writer: Jon Zemke

Oakland University set to build new $61 million building in Rochester

Oakland University is set to build a new Human Health Building in Rochester now that the state will pay for $40 million of the $61 million project.

The university's School of Health Sciences and the School of Nursing will occupy the 157,300-square-foot structure. The university plans to build the new space to facilitate the education of more medical professionals, thus helping address the looming shortages of health-care professionals.

The new building will provide state-of-the-art simulation labs, media center, distance learning classrooms and a public health clinic for pre-symptom treatments. The new Human Health Building will complement the new Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine, which is set to open in 2010.

The push for new and improved medical education facilities is part of the Oakland Medical Initiative. The idea is to help cement Oakland County and Oakland University as centers for the rapidly growing health-care industry.

Source: Oakland University
Writer: Jon Zemke

Main Street Oakland County welcomes new members

Main Street Oakland County already includes the county's big names in downtown development, such as Ferndale, Farmington and Rochester. Now it's welcoming some smaller names into the fold, namely Clawson, Clarkston, Hazel Park and Franklin.

The first three cities are joining Main Street Oakland County's Mentoring Program while Franklin becomes a member of the Downtown Development Program. Other members of Main Street Oakland County include Highland, Holly, Keego Harbor, Lake Orion, Ortonville, Oxford, Pontiac and Walled Lake.

Main Street Oakland County uses a four point approach to spur economic development and job creation in these city centers. Those include fine tuning organization, design, promotion and economic restructuring. These techniques have helped land $451 million in investment, create 2,782 new jobs and 344 new businesses since 2000.

Oakland County's 32 downtown include some of Michigan's most vibrant urban centers, including Royal Oak and Birmingham. Main Street Oakland County is the first county organization to work with the National Trust Main Street Center, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Source: Oakland County
Writer: Jon Zemke

Oakland U wraps up summer projects, set to start Macomb expansion this fall

Just as Oakland University is swallowing up its construction projects this summer, the Rochester Hills-based college is preparing to bite off another big expansion eastward.

OU is opening up a satellite campus in Macomb County. The new Oakland-Macomb campus will offer classes in health care, education, international business, engineering and communications arts

While the new campus is based out of the headquarters
that is still being determed, classes will be held throughout the county at various facilities at Macomb Community College, the Macomb University Center and the Macomb Intermediate School District. OU aims to have 2,000 students at the campus by 2010 and 5,000 by 2020.

OU also recently finished extensive work on a number of construction projects on the college's 1,500-acre campus. The $3 million in work ranged from upgrading 40-year-old labs and classrooms to repairing roofs, elevators and sidewalks.

Another $2 million in improvements is scheduled for this fall.

Source: Oakland University
Writer: Jon Zemke

Rochester to rehab downtown's Paint Creek Bridge

A key piece of downtown Rochester's infrastructure will get some T.L.C now that the city has scheduled its rehab to begin on the Paint Creek Bridge next week.

The 100-plus-year-old bridge behind the Royal Park Hotel was originally built for the Penn Station Railroad, but has become a pedestrian bridge connecting downtown to the Paint Creek Trail.

"It's huge for us in Rochester because we're always talking about walkability," says Kristi Trevarrow, executive director of the Rochester Downtown Development Authority.

The $425,000 project, paid for with DDA funds, will rehab the bridge both structurally and aesthetically. The repairs will add another 20-25 years of life to the span. A majority of the work is expected to wrap up by October and some final touches be done next spring.

The rehabilitation of the bridge is the last piece of the puzzle for Rochester's riverfront area. The city recently finished improving lighting along the river walk and in a nearby park.

Source: Kristi Trevarrow, executive director of the Rochester Downtown Development Authority
Writer: Jon Zemke

Rochester DDA holds downtown property showcase

Think of it as taking by the bull by the horns. That's what Rochester officials are doing to help fill up the few vacant retails spots left in downtown. They'll be hosting a property showcase on Aug 14.

The idea is to get entrepreneurs and developers to look at downtown as a place to set up shop.

"We just felt we needed to be proactive about filling our vacancies," says Sheila Harris, business development assistant for the Rochester Downtown Development Authority.

The showcase will feature 20 open retail spaces in the central business district on a self-guided tour. Those attending will meet at 314 Main St. in the center of downtown between 1 and 7 p.m. From there they will be given a list of properties they can tour, along with information about the spaces.

Representatives from the local DDA, Oakland County Business Development, National City Bank and other local business start-up firms will be on hand. This year will only focus on retail spaces, but the DDA could expand the showcase to include other commercial and office spaces in future showcases.

Ferndale has held similar yet more comprehensive showcases each summer.

Source: Sheila Harris, business development assistant for the Rochester Downtown Development Authority
Writer: Jon Zemke

Harris Fountain dedication set for mid August in downtown Rochester

The long, strange journey of the Harris Fountain is about to come to an end in downtown Rochester. Think of it as the prodigal drinking fountain coming home.

"The Harris Fountain is reassembled, cleaned and looking good," says June Hopaluk, a member of the Rochester Historical Commission.

The city plans to hold a dedication for the fountain at 2 p.m. on Aug. 17 in front of the municipal complex. The event will feature descendants of Samuel Harris (who gave the fountain to Rochester in 1917) and Civil War re-enactors firing an era cannon in honor of the fountain.

The locally famous drinking fountain has been moved five times since Rochester-native Harris gave it to the then village. Harris served as a cavalry lieutenant under Gen. George Custer during the Civil War. He eventually went onto become a successful businessman in Chicago before coming back to Rochester to give the fountain to the town.

It has since been set up at 4th and Walnut streets, in front of the old American Legion Hall at University Road and Walnut and on the east end of the Mt. Avon Cemetery. The city moved it to downtown near the World War II memorial so
more people can appreciate it.

Source: June Hopaluk, member of the Rochester Historical Commission.
Writer: Jon Zemke

Harris fountain moves into downtown Rochester

One of Rochester's historical landmarks is now standing in its new permanent home in the city's downtown.

Municipal workers are putting the finishing touches on the surrounding landscaping as a dedication is expected to be held in mid August.

The locally famous drinking fountain has been moved five times since Rochester-native Samuel Harris gave it to the then-village in 1917. Harris served as a cavalry lieutenant under Gen. George Custer during the Civil War. He eventually went onto become a successful businessman in Chicago before coming back to Rochester to give the fountain to the town.

It has since been set up at 4th and Walnut streets and in front of the old American Legion Hall at University Road and Walnut. Last year it was on the east end of the Mt. Avon Cemetery. The city and the Rochester Historical Commission moved it to downtown so it can be appreciated by more people.

Source: June Hopaluk, member of the Rochester Historical Commission.
Writer: Jon Zemke

Rochester Riverwalk to finish work by end of month

A summer stroll along the waterfront is about as good as it gets. And now that city workers are close to finishing downtown Rochester's Riverwalk, locals will experience this first hand.

Workers are putting the finishing touches on the lighting improvements along the riverwalk and expect to complete the $150,000 project by the end of the month.
The new lights are along the side of Paint Creek between East Second Street and the park adjacent to city hall. The lights will utilize an acorn-style glass cap similar to the historic lights throughout downtown off Main Street.

"It gives us a better looking riverwalk and it's safer, too," says John Hiller, interim city manager for Rochester.

Rochester is the latest city in Metro Detroit to invest large sums of money in improving its public spaces along waterways. Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Farmington and Detroit Riverfront Conservancy have all invested, or are planning to invest, in upgrades to riverwalks or waterfront parks.

Source: John Hiller, interim city manager for Rochester
Writer: Jon Zemke

Downtown Rochester's Millrace Lofts sells half its units


It's the one of the primary reasons why half of the 16 units at the Millrace Lofts in Rochester have sold. The lofts are within walking distance of downtown, classic neighborhoods and the Clinton River Creek Trail.

"Most of the perspective buyers have come in or purchased because they have easy access to downtown Rochester and the Clinton River Creek Trail," says Laurie Hough, a spokeswoman for the project.

The townhouse-style development at 98 Mill St. is at the edge of downtown, overlooks the Clinton River and is adjacent to the Clinton River Creek Trail. All of the units are 1,650 square feet with two bedrooms and 2.5 baths. Each unit comes with an attached garage and a balcony. The units also have open, loft-like floor plans and high ceilings. They are priced starting at $299,000.

For information, call (248) 765-0026.

Source: Laurie Hough, spokeswoman for Millrace Lofts.
Writer: Jon Zemke

Meetings set for development of regional transit plan

Improving regional transit, it's one of those phrases everyone likes to say but few seem to want to put the hard work into doing.

Until recently. Maybe it's those $4 a gallon gasoline projections.

Within the last few years regional leaders have worked to streamline and integrate rival transit authorities, establish commuter rail lines and propose light rail lines. But putting all of these pieces of the transit puzzle together is arguably the most important aspect of improving overall regional transit, which is exactly what Metro Detroit's Regional Transportation Coordinating Council (what's left of DARTA) is trying to do.

The council, led by transit czar John Hertel, will host regional transit planning open houses in the tri-county area in early April. Hertel's group is developing a regional transit plan for Metro Detroit as a basis for applying for federal funds (the mother's milk of mass transit initiatives) and is hosting the meetings to get public input on developing this vision.

The first meeting will be held on April 8 in downtown Detroit at the SEMCOG Conference Room in the Buhl Building, 535 Griswold. That will be followed by meetings in Oakland County (April 9) and Macomb County (April 10).

The Oakland County meeting will be held in the Oakland County Board of Commissioners Auditorium, 1200 North Telegraph Road, in Pontiac. The Macomb County meeting will be at 15 Main in Mt. Clemens.

For information, contact the Regional Transportation Coordinating Council at drmt2006@sbcglobal.net or at (313) 393-3333.

Source: Megan Owens, executive director of the Transportation Riders United and John Swatosh, deputy director of the Regional Transportation Coordinating Council
Writer: Jon Zemke

Rochester looks to finish up Downtown Riverwalk upgrade by January

Riverwalks seem to be all of the rage in Metro Detroit. Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Farmington have all invested, or are planning to invest, tens of thousands of dollars in upgrades to riverwalks or waterfront parks. And of course there is the much heralded efforts of the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy.

You can now add Rochester to the list of cities taking advantage of their idyllic scenery. The city plans to finish putting in new pedestrian lighting along its Downtown Riverwalk by early next year. The historic-looking lights should be in place by January and the whole project completed in the early spring.

"It will compliment what we have nicely," Rochester City Manager Ken Johnson says. "We're a very pedestrian-oriented community and this will help make our downtown more walkable at night."

The $150,000 project will install new lights along the side of Paint Creek between East Second Street and the park adjacent to city hall. The lights will utilize an acorn-style glass cap similar to the historic lights throughout downtown off Main Street.

Source: Ken Johnson, city manager of Rochester
Writer: Jon Zemke

MDOT looking for input on state's five-year transportation plan

State officials are looking for regular Joe's (or Josephine's) to give their opinion on where state transportation should go and how they want it to get there. The solicitation is part of the annual comment period for the Michigan Department of Transportation's Five Year Plan.

The plan covers how Michigan intends to spends its resources on transportation issues, such as road construction and mass transit, in the next five years. In the past this has mainly focused on road construction, but this year the emergence of the Detroit to Ann Arbor commuter rail project, Ann Arbor to Howell commuter rail project, Detroit Transit Options for Growth Study (aka Woodward mass transit line) and a host of local greenway initiatives are giving locals a variety of subjects to pontificate on.

You can make your opinion known where it counts here. The deadline for public comments is Dec. 21.

Source: Michigan Department of Transportation
Writer: Jon Zemke

Feds honor Metro Detroit's 100-mile network of greenways

It's not always a bad thing when the feds are paying attention to you. Such is the case when the Federal Highway Administration recognized the Michigan Department of Transportation with an award for "exceptional environmental stewardship" of its 100-mile network of trails and greenways in southeast Michigan.

"This award reflects our commitment to making non-motorized trails available as a transportation mode," says Kirk T. Steudle, director of MDOT. "Trails are a part of the transportation mix that is essential to protecting the health and well being of Michigan residents, and greenways contribute to enhancing quality of life."

The award largely recognizes the efforts of the Southeastern Michigan GreenWays Initiative. The public and private partnership has helped organize efforts to finance and develop a 100-mile network of greenways across Metro Detroit since 2001. The regional effort involves more than 75 municipalities in Warren, Oakland, Macomb, Monroe Washtenaw, St. Clair and Livingston counties.

Greenways provide recreation, transportation, conservation, tourism and economic benefits by creating non-motorized trails in developed areas that nurture and preserve green space. The GreenWays Initiative has worked to expand and enhance local greenways, helping leverage more than $82 million in investments in greenways from public and private sources. Although great progress has been made in recent years, Metro Detroit's greenways system is still behind leaders like Indianapolis, leaving plenty of work for southeast Michigan's leaders.

Source: Michigan Department of Transportation
Writer: Jon Zemke

Harris Fountain finds new home in downtown Rochester

The wandering Harris Fountain is set to find a new home in downtown Rochester later this summer, perhaps by the end of July, when the city moves the historic structure to its municipal complex.

The locally famous drinking fountain has been moved five times since Rochester-native Samuel Harris gave it to the then village in 1917. Harris served as a cavalry lieutenant under Gen. George Custer during the Civil War. He eventually went onto become a successful businessman in Chicago before coming back to Rochester to give the fountain to the town.

It has since been set up at 4th and Walnut streets and in front of the old American Legion Hall at University Road and Walnut. It is now on the east end of the Mt. Avon Cemetery. The city plans to move it to downtown where it can be appreciated by more people.

"We wanted it in a place where it was more recognizable and more in tune with what is around it," says Jim Kemler, Chairman of the Rochester Historical Commission. "The World War II memorial is there, too."

The city expects it will take a day to physically move the fountain and a couple of weeks to get the water for it to work again.

Source: Ed Alward, building inspector for Rochester; Jim Kemler, Chairman of the Rochester Historical Commission and June Hopaluk, member of the Rochester Historical Commission.
Writer: Jon Zemke

Farbman's Michigan Now! program offers free office space to growing companies

Taking a page from the "Only we can solve our problems" playbook, Southfield-based Farbman Group is starting the Michigan Now! program to attract, retain and grow new businesses in Metro Detroit.

The program is offering office and commercial space at greatly reduced rates, or even free in some cases, to businesses and entrepreneurs in growth industries both in and out of state.

"Now is the time for businesses to play a role in moving our state forward. We cannot sit by idly and place the burden solely on the shoulders of government," David Farbman, co-president of Farbman Group, says in a statement. "The old way of doing business is no longer working for Michigan and business owners have the power to make a positive impact. The state is its own greatest resource. We have creative and well educated individuals, tremendous real estate spaces and a wealth of natural resources that simply need to be connected."

The idea is that by defraying the rental costs will free up capital in start-ups, allowing them to focus their resources on improving their business. It also hopes that the reduced rates will be big enough incentives to attract out-of-state businesses to Michigan. Farbman Group hopes growing businesses like this at the grassroots level will help boost the state’s sagging economy in the short and long term.

The program will also offer to match up these companies with local banks, consulting firms and attorneys to help them grow their business. So far about a dozen such organizations have signed up to take part in the program.

Applications for the program are due by July 31. More information can be found online at michigannow.net or by calling 866-NewMich (642-4639).  

Source: Farbman Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

Construction of Millrace Lofts in downtown Rochester finished, sales brisk

By foot, car or canoe; that's how residents of the Millrace Lofts will be able to get to the development in downtown Rochester.

The 16-unit townhouse-style development, 98 Mill St., at the edge of downtown overlooks the Clinton River and the Clinton River Creek Trail. Laurie Hough, a spokeswoman for the development, says the proximity to the urbanity of downtown and natural features of the trail and river are big factors in why 6 of the 16 units have sold so far.

"It's fantastic," Hough says. "People can walk everywhere. They have the downtown setting and the nature of the trail."

Construction on the project recently wrapped up this year. All of the units are 1,650 square feet with two bedrooms and 2.5 baths. Each unit comes with an attached garage and a balcony. The units also have open, loft-like floor plans and high ceilings. They are priced starting at $299,000.

For information, visit millracerochester.com or call (248) 765-0026.

Source: Laurie Hough, spokesperson for Millrace Lofts.
Writer: Jon Zemke

Construction of Overlook condos in downtown Rochester to begin

Big-money condos will be coming to one of Metro Detroit's smaller downtowns when ground is broken for the Overlook condo development next spring.

Seventy luxury condos will be built a 9-acre site on Letica Drive and Second Street overlooking the Clinton River. Approximately half of that acreage will be left as open space while the rest is set aside for construction.

The condos will be either stacked ranches or townhouses. Each unit will be approximately 3,000 square feet in size and come with balconies and attached garages. The units will be priced between the mid $400,000s and the mid $600,000s. 

Detroit-based Soave Real Estate Group is behind the project.

Source: Tom Turnbull, vice president of Soave Real Estate Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

Mill Town condo project set to break ground next spring in downtown

Downtown Rochester is capitalizing on its waterfront property with the impending ground breaking of the Mill Town condo development.

The project features 176 units overlooking the Clinton River and Paint Creek. The condos range in size between just under 2,000 square feet to 2,500 square feet. They come with balconies and attached garages and are priced in the high $200,000s.

The development has both ranch- and townhouse-style homes. The units are split between three, three-story buildings. Detroit-based Soave Real Estate Group is behind the project.

Source: Tom Turnbull, vice president of Soave Real Estate Group
Writer: Jon Zemke

Late summer ground breaking for Rochester's Grandview Office Center

Ahhh, summer. The sound of children playing, birds chirping and bulldozers upending tons of dirt.
Developers are set to begin work on a new four-story office building in downtown Rochester late this summer.

The Grandview Office Centre, 251 Diversion St., will feature 18,000 square feet of Class A office space one block west of Main Street. Developers have lined up a tenant for the space but won't announce the firm until the final deal is complete. The project is expected to take six to nine months to complete.

Rochester-based Preview Architecture designed the building and Apex Engineering, of Shelby Township, served as the principal engineer. Diversion Street Associates LLC is the developer behind the project.

Source: Joseph Salome, member of the Diversion Street Associates LLC

Rochester moving forward with feasibility study for downtown arts center

Rochester contemplates whether home is really where the art is. Community leaders are looking for ways to make the northern suburb more appealing and they are now focusing on the idea of building a downtown arts center.

Rochester's Legacy Project, made up of local residents, is conducting a feasibility study for building a new cultural and performing arts center. It is proposed to go on a three-acre site at Third and Water Streets near Paint Creek and the Royal Park Hotel and could serve as a home for several community arts programs and non-profits. The city's downtown development authority is also looking at building a parking deck next to it.

The study is seeing whether such a facility is economically feasible, how much demand there is for one and what groups might be interested in partnering in it. The first phase of the study is expected to finish in August and the second phase is set to wrap up by the end of the year.

Source: Pat Botkin, chair of Rochester's Legacy Project

Rail service could bring $719 million in investment to Michigan

A study by the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative states upgrading passenger rail service across the Midwest could provide up to $719 million in investment, $3.5 billion in user benefits to Michigan, 6,970 new jobs, more transportation choices and a significant reduction in pollution.

Nine states from across the Midwest, including Michigan, are part of the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative, which is pushing for the creation of a 3,000-mile Midwest Regional Rail System, similar to systems on the east coast. Trains running out of a hub in Chicago would travel to nine Midwest states at speeds up to 110 mph, making travel times competitive with driving.

The proposed system would have three routes in Michigan that would connect Chicago to Metro Detroit, Port Huron and Grand Rapids. The study estimates the system would generate $23.1 in user benefits, such as time savings, and $4.9 billion in investment in the Midwest during the project's first 40 years. Of that, Metro Detroit could see as much as $315 million in user benefits.

Passenger rail service, provided by Amtrak, ridership in Michigan has increased steadily wince 2002 from 447,000 passengers to 673,000 passengers in 2006. The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments is also moving forward with plans to create a commuter rail line connecting Detroit, Dearborn, Metro Airport, Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor by the end of this year. 

For information on the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative study, visit michigan.gov/mdot/0,1607,7-151-11056---,00.html

Source: Michigan Department of Transportation

Rochester Ridge Condos in downtown Rochester open to strong sales

So far 10 of the 38 units have been reserved in the Rochester Ridge Condo development in downtown Rochester.

The units, located at 495 Baldwin Road, are priced between $99,900 and $115,000. They include new windows, custom flooring, new counter tops and private balconies. The condos are in two buildings, one of which overlooks a nature preserve. 

Rochester Ridge Condos are located in an apartment building constructed 1972, which has been renovated for condo conversion.

For information, visit micondoliving.com or call (248) 601-2450.

Source: Steve Cubba, vice president of real-estate development for Michigan Condo Living

Rochester Village condos nearly sold out

Only 12 of the 49 units at the Rochester Village Condos project near downtown Rochester are left.

The development is on Romeo Road overlooking Samuel A Howlett Park. Each unit is about 900 square feet and has two bedrooms. They include new windows, custom flooring and new counter tops. The condos are priced between $99,900 and $102,900.

Rochester Village Condos are located in an apartment building constructed 1968, which has been renovated for condo conversion.

For information, visit micondoliving.com or call (248) 601-2450.

Source: Steve Cubba, vice president of real-estate development for Michigan Condo Living.

New Papa Joe's "gourmetrion" opens its doors in Rochester Hills

The new 23,000-square foot Papa Joe's, a gourmet grocer, wine market, deli, bakery...and more...has opened its doors in Rochester Hills.


Guests to the new store, which has been dubbed a “gourmetrion,” will be greeted with flowers, chocolate and pastries at the front door. Then it’s on to house-made ravioli, pizza, bread and soups, in addition to the produce, seafood, meats and groceries Papa Joe’s customers expect.

The store will offer not only a wide variety of groceries, but cooks who can prepare any item for a customer. They’ll be at work at rows of stainless steel ovens on two levels of the store, visible to customers.

Read the new article here.

Greenways network taking shape for entire region

$89.5 million in funding will eventually result in a network of bike and pedestrian paths through the entire 7-county region. $15.3 million of that total stems from the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan's Greenways Initiative.


The project's scope could be huge. A Rails-to-Trails Conservancy study reported the potential for 2,400 miles of trails in southeast Michigan. "That's the big vision," says Anne Weekley, vice president of the community foundation. The GreenWays Initiative-funded projects will total about 100 miles — double the existing routes — when completed.

Read the entire article here.

Tiger sculptures appear in Metro Detroit this spring

Large sculptures of tigers will begin appearing across Metro Detroit en masse after opening day.

The fiberglass Tigers are a fundraiser and public-art project for the Children’s Charities Coalition, which is made up of four Oakland County-based charities. At least 80 tigers will appear throughout Metro Detroit, although most of them will be in Birmingham and Bloomfield. The tigers are approximately 4 feet tall and 100 pounds and will be displayed in front of businesses between April and June.

“Our inspiration was the Detroit Tigers, but we have all sorts of tigers,” said Gigi Nichols, public relations director for The Community House, which is part of the Children’s Charities Coalition. “They’re not necessarily tigers that have something to do with baseball, although some of them do.”

Money raised from the sculptures will go toward the four charities that make up the Children’s Charities Coalition: Child Abuse and Neglect Council of Oakland County, The Community House, Orchards Children’s Services and Variety The Children’s Charity.

For information, call (248) 594-6403.

Source: Gigi Nichols, public relations director for The Community House

TRU holding contest: what will mass transit look like in the future?

Transportation Riders United, a Metro Detroit non-profit mass transit advocacy group, is holding a design contest on what the future of mass transit in Metro Detroit could look like in 2025.
"Detroit in Transit: Visions of a Region on the Move" is looking for drawings and designs of what Detroit’s future transit and transit-oriented neighborhoods would look like with convenient, high-quality rapid transit.
"What we’re really hoping to do is launch a public conversation about what rapid transit can do to revitalize a city like Detroit," says Megan Owens, executive director of TRU.
TRU is looking for artists, designers, urban planners, architects, students and others to submit designs and drawings. The contest has three categories. The first is to design transit vehicles on a streetscape. The second is looking for architectural designs of transit stations incorporated into a streetscape. The third is for designing vibrant neighborhoods and intersections around transit stops.
Submissions are due by April 30. Finalists will be revealed and displayed during a gala event during National Transportation Week, between May 13 and 18. For information on the contest, visit detroittransit.org/design-contest.php or call (313) 963-8872.
Source: Megan Owens, executive director of Transportation Riders United

Bordine's Nursery to reinvest in R. Hills

Bordine's Nursery is planning a mixed-use re-development of the site on which they are currently located, the corner of Rochester Road and Hamlin in Rochester Hills.


Bordine said Hills Councilman Greg Hooper, who also serves on the planning commission, is the only one who has seen detailed plans. Hooper said Friday the plans are impressive and include a new building for the nursery operation, upscale retail space, new housing and extensive landscaping.

Read the entire article here.

Luxury condos headed for downtown Rochester

Plans for a 60-unit luxury downtown condo project is coming before the Rochester city planning commission on Feb. 5.


Though the project still would have to be approved by the Planning Commission and Rochester City Council, city officials are excited about the prospect of adding more downtown housing.

"People who live right in the core of downtown are likely to utilize services that are immediately available," City Manager Ken Johnson said. "The site is right next to the downtown river walk. It's very accommodating to any residents."

Read the entire article here.

$100,000 gift to Rochester Hills Museum capital campaign

Former US Congressman William Broomfield has donated $100,000 to the Rochester Hills Museum at Van Hoosen Farm.


[Museum Director Pat] McKay said the donation will go toward a new $800,000 capital campaign to restore the roof on the farm's calf barn. It has been without a roof since 1990.

Once restored, plans call for the building to provide new storage for the museum's archives, which are expected to include some items from Broomfield's collection.

Read the entire article here.

Feasibility study commissioned for Rochester downtown arts center

Rochester City Council has approved the use of up to $50,000 in city funds to go towards a feasibility study for a downtown arts center.


Phase one of the study will shape the size of the theater and include a needs assessment, demographics, cultural analysis, potential partners and goals.

If the conclusion reached is a positive one, the study will advance to the second phase, which will identify comparable projects, suggest governance for the building, identify staffing requirements, project rents and user fees and an operating budget, as well as potential economic impact and fund-raising strategies.

Read the entire article here.

Historic Rochester fountain to be installed near city hall

Rochester's historic Harris Fountain is bound for new life as a part of the city's municipal complex.


City council voted unanimously Monday night to award a bid for installation of the fountain next to the World War II memorial outside city hall, even though the bid was substantially over budget. Donations will cover the cost of moving the fountain from Mt. Avon Cemetery. The city will cover the cost of the installation, which was bid at $31,590, including a water line to restore the drinking fountain to use.

Read the entire article here.

Papa Joe's developing $35M shopping center in R. Hills

A new Papa Joe's will be opening up in Rochester Hills this spring, with a central focus on prepared food.


When the $35 million lifestyle center opens in late March or early April, 350 jobs will have been created and shoppers will find entertaining new offerings, including a spa, banquet hall, restaurants and a big market with wine bar, library and complete cooking services.

The two-story space, which is one-and-a-half times the size of the former Papa Joe's store at Hamlin and Rochester, was designed by Ron Rea and Roman Bonislawski and will feature wine-themed decor. Like the old store, it will offer floral, bakery, wine, meat, seafood and more, but with many unique features.

Read the entire article here.
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