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Riley Park ice rink opens in downtown Farmington

The Riley Park Ice Rink in downtown Farmington is seen as keeping winter from putting a freeze on business and keeping the heart of the city pumping when temps plunge.

Barring too-warm temps, the 4,800-square-foot, refrigerated rink opens this weekend as a fundraising campaign to maintain and market the volunteer-run rink.

During warmer months, Riley Park hosts the Farmington Farmers & Artisans Market, Rhythmz in Riley Park and the Harvest Moon Celebration.

As the rink opens for its second year the hope is to keep Riley Park and the businesses that surround it thriving all year long and to foster the feeling of a quaint, downtown park and ice rink as a place to have fun before or after dinner, a coffee, or shopping. Annette Knowles, executive director of the city's downtown development authority, describes the vibe of the park and downtown in winter as "Currier and Ives-like."

"The Riley Park Ice Rink creates a winter destination in downtown Farmington. Until the rink came, the programming in the park was for three seasons, not four," says Knowles. "Now, we have a cool, fun place for families to connect and play.  And the rink is surrounded by restaurants where skaters can warm up and get a snack or inviting boutiques and stores to purchase accessories to keep you warm on the ice."

The ice rink opened in 2013 thanks to a major contribution of $100,000 from the Riley Foundation. Local businesses such as Wright Beamer, Dagwood’s Deli, S3 Architecture, John Cowley and Sons Irish Pub, and OHM Advisors contributed to the project as did the community, with Farmington residents chipping in $10,000.

Source: Annette Knowles, executive director, Farmington Downtown Development Authority
Writer: Kim North Shine

Royal Oak formulates downtown retail development plan

A national retail consultant has looked at the city of Royal Oak and what's wrong and right with its retail situation as the city works to "confirm its position as a retail and entertainment destination."

The city hired The Retail Coach out of Mississippi in September. The company has worked with dozens of local governments, chambers of commerce and economic development corporations in more than 250 cities, guiding them through development and redevelopment of their retail offerings.

The assessment for Royal Oak was expected to be presented to the City Council this week. The assessment will gauge consumer demand and analyze retail trade areas and retail gaps and opportunities. The analysis will target 52 retail categories that are weak or underperforming in Royal Oak.

“Royal Oak has always enjoyed a reputation as one of Michigan’s most exciting cities with several award-winning boutiques and galleries, and a bustling nightlife,” Royal Oak Economic Development Manager Todd  Fenton says in a statement from The Retail Coach.

“By bringing The Retail Coach on board to assist with our retail business attraction efforts, Royal Oak aims to be a showcase of distinct retailers that provide an unparalleled shopping experience...People and businesses are increasingly relocating to walkable urban environments, and Royal Oak boasts one of Michigan’s most dynamic and desirable downtowns," Fenton says. "As foot traffic continues to increase during the day with the addition of new residents and office users, the time is right for a coordinated retail attraction initiative to attract retailers who fit into our unique city.”

Source: The Retail Coach
Writer: Kim North Shine

Michigan & Eastpointe partner on redevelopment & investment strategy

Eastpointe is the third Michigan city to enter a partnership with the Michigan Economic Development Corp. in an effort to promote cities that are easy for businesses and developers to work with.

By being designated as a Redevelopment Ready Community -- the first two in Michigan were nearby Roseville and Allegan -- Eastpointe is provided with guidance and advice on best practices on how to remove hurdles to development and assist small and large businesses that want to move into the aging inner-ring suburb. The advice includes identifying and preparing developable sites, marketing and recruiting potential users for the sites, assisting in city, county and state requirements and informing the public of what the buildings and land will be used for -- and, overall, bringing in companies that meet the needs of the public and the vision of city leaders.

“We are pleased to be part of our region and state and to partner with public service agencies such as MEDC focusing on community economic health with transparency and accountability," says Eastpointe City Manager Steve Duchane.

The Macomb County city has a population of about 32,000 and quick access to I-94 and I-696 There are more than 800 commercial, industrial and service businesses and 60-some major companies within its five square miles, which includes the major thoroughfare of Gratiot Avenue.

The city is marketing property and is prepared to offer incentives and streamline its approvals process so that redevelopment of unused property can move along quickly.

Source: City of Eastpointe
Writer: Kim North Shine

Hampton Inn hotel & retail planned for Michigan Ave in Dearborn

A vacant fitness center on Michigan Avenue in Dearborn will be demolished and replaced by a hotel and retail spaces.

The project of Hallmark Ventures LLC will include a 5-story, 96-room Hampton Inn and four retail spaces totaling 1,500 square feet at 22324 Michigan Avenue.

The state has approved a $1 million, performance-based grant for the project, and the city of Dearborn's Brownfield Redevelopment Authority is capturing $943,700 in local and school taxes for demolition and asbestos abatement.

The development will create 52 full-time jobs and cost about $8.6 million to complete, according to the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

Source: Michigan Economic Development Corp.
Writer: Kim North Shine

Lincoln Park plans public space, pavilion downtown

Vacant land in downtown Lincoln Park, the subject of debate and discussion now for at least five years, may become a public event space and pavilion.

The Lincoln Park Downtown Development Authority plans to hire a consultant to draw up a blueprint for a re-use of the spot on Fort Street. The location is seen as a prime one for attracting visitors to downtown for fun, eating and shopping.

The DDA owns the vacant land, part of it occupied by the Dorsey Building at 1673 Fort Street. The building is in disrepair and needs to be demolished. The vacant lots next the building are also owned by the DDA, which had that land cleared when the historic Mellus Newspapers Building could not be saved. The other building has also been demolished.

This long process has paved the way for a park and public gathering space. The DDA's executive director, Madhu Oberoi, says a meeting held this week to discuss a public use plan for the property was well attended by residents and business owners.

"We got great responses. The consensus was that the public space was a great idea and the covered pavilion/gazebo is definitely needed downtown for events," she says. "It was felt this would be a catalyst for new development. The level of excitement was definitely there."

Source: Madhu Oberoi, executive director, Lincoln Park Downtown Development Authority
Writer: Kim North Shine

Ferndale to add bike lanes on Livernois Road

A one-mile stretch of Livernois Road in Ferndale is shrinking in size as part of a "road diet" that will reduce the street to two lanes and make room for bicycle travel.

A $118,092 Transportation Alternatives Grant from the Michigan Department of Transportation  is helping cover the cost of the project that stretches from 8 to 9 Mile Road.

Lanes will be repainted, buffered bike lanes constructed, bike racks added and a mid-block crosswalk built.

The rebuild of the road also includes the addition of on-street parking.

Altogether, city officials see changes as building on Ferndale's efforts to promote all forms of transportation and to design roads that promote businesses by making it easier for customers to reach them.

Source: Ferndale Downtown Development Authority
Writer: Kim North Shine

Brass Aluminum Forging embarks on $8.6M rehab of Ferndale brownfield

A vacant industrial site in Ferndale will be cleaned up and returned to the tax rolls after a growing local business renovates the property and brings new jobs to the site.

Brass Aluminum Forging's plan to re-use the building at 965 Wanda will come with an $8.6-million investment. The project got the go-ahead this week when the Michigan Economic Development Corp. approved a local and school tax capture of nearly $718,000, money that will help cover the cost of renovations.

The building will be shared by Brass Aluminum Forging and other tenants that lease space.

The company, which makes valve bodies, weapon components, air and hydraulic fittings, and architectural details and provides items that can be forged as well as other processes and products, expects to hire 50 new employees to work at the new site. Building tenants are expected to hire another 50 employees.

The city of Ferndale's Brownfield Development Authority requested the 965 Wanda site be a recipient of the the MEDC's Michigan Strategic Fund's economic development and community revitalization projects.

Source: Kathy Fagan, spokesperson, MEDC
Writer: Kim North Shine

Roundabouts planned for Orchard Lake Road in Farmington Hills

The city of Farmington Hills is planning to redesign a mile-long stretch of Orchard Lake Road into a series of roundabouts and boulevards as a way to improve traffic safety, promote economic development and encourage bicycle and pedestrian travelers.

The reconstruction could start in the spring on the the busy stretch between 13 and 14 Mile roads. The five-lane Orchard Lake Road is a major entry into the city, and part of the larger Northwestern Connector Project of the Road Commission for Oakland County and the Michigan Department of Transportation. The purposes are to improve traffic safety, including reducing severity of traffic crashes by slowing traffic, to stimulate economic development and to promote ease of use for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Details of the plan will be presented at an April 23 meeting at Farmington Hills City Hall.

Source: City of Farmington Hills Engineering Division
Writer: Kim North Shine

Dearborn builds splash pad as family amenity

The city of Dearborn is installing a splash pad and spray park on the east side of the city, giving current residents a free and fun activity and potential residents an amenity that might make Dearborn a good place to call home.

Construction on the splash pad at Hemlock Park is expected to begin this spring and opening day will come this summer, no later than the Fourth of July.

The splash pad will have two dozen shooting, squirting and spraying water features from colorful shapes. A 20-foot umbrella will stand near the splash pad as will six park benches. A decorative iron fence will surround it all.

Vortex Midwest out of Williamston, MI will build the splash pad. The city plans to add a splash pad to west Dearborn in the future as planners look for ways to add aquatic recreation to city amenities.

"We’re pleased to add the splash pad to our recreational options," says in a statement announcing the splash pad construction, " and know that families, especially those with young children, will find it a perfect way to spend a summer afternoon."

Source: city of Dearborn
Writer: Kim North Shine

Grosse Pointe Park to build second city-run movie theater

The city of Grosse Pointe Park, in cooperation with a nonprofit community foundation, will build a second movie theater at the city park.

This theater will be added to the existing movie theater, which shows first-run films and is a draw for all five communities in the Pointes. Construction on the second screen, which will seat 60-65 people,  will begin this spring.

It is seen as one more way to satisfy locals used to two resident-only city parks that include a free ice rink and warming house, a splash pad and pool, fitness center, gyms and putting green -- amenities not often often found in other cities.

The Grosse Pointe Park Community Foundation is raising about $300,000 of the $450,000 cost to enlarge the theater.

Tax dollars will cover $75,000 and profits from the theater, which charges less than commercial theaters, will cover the rest.

Source: City of Grosse Pointe Park and Grosse Pointe Park Community Foundation
Writer: Kim North Shine

State backs Dearborn Artspace artists' community

Plans for City Hall Artspace Lofts in Dearborn, a community where all kinds of artists could live, work, learn, and sell, took a significant step forward with the approval of housing tax credits from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.

The proposal, which is a collaboration between the city of Dearborn, the East Dearborn Downtown Development Authority and a Minneapolis-based nonprofit real estate developer, Artspace, would renovate Dearborn's historic City Hall, now Plans for City Hall Artspace Lofts in Dearborn, a community where all kinds of artists could live, work, learn, and sell, took a significant step forward with the approval of housing tax credits from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.

The proposal, which is a collaboration between the city of Dearborn, the East Dearborn Downtown Development Authority and a Minneapolis-based nonprofit real estate developer, Artspace, would renovate Dearborn's historic City Hall into 46 affordable housing units for artists and their families. City Hall Artspace Lofts at 13615 Michigan Avenue would also have room for a cafe, working studios, incubator space, galleries and creative businesses.

The project encompasses City Hall, which includes the adjacent West Annex and the concourse. Altogether, it would also provide Dearborn with a community gathering and performance space indoors and out. City Hall was sold to Artspace in August, and city offices will move to a municipal complex west of the current City Hall.

The project comes with a $16 million price tag, and the tax credits from MSHDA, which amount to $7.6 million in upfront equity, are a significant step in chipping away at the capital campaign required to bring a Dearborn Artspace to reality.

With support from the state, the final phase of fundraising can begin with a target date of summer 2014 for construction on a project that Artspace calls one of the most unique of the 33 it's completed around the country in the last 30 years.

Artspace President Kelley Lindquist cited the City Hall Artspace Lofts project as unique in the organization’s portfolio.
“Artspace has a long history of saving and repurposing historic buildings from warehouses to schools to hospitals, but this is our first opportunity to renovate a city hall,” Artspace president Kelley Lindquist said. “I’m thrilled we can help Dearborn preserve this important building, and grateful to the very active and engaged community leaders and artists who are helping make this possible.”

Source: Melissa Kania, executive assistant, East Dearborn Downtown Development Authority; and Melodie Bahan, spokesperosn, Artspace
Writer: Kim North Shine

New diner steps in for closed one in downtown Clawson

RJ's Diner is soon to open in the downtown Clawson spot long occupied by Grumpy's.

RJ's will be a 50's era diner and serve comfort foods like meat loaf and mac & cheese, according to the Clawson Downtown Development Authority.

Opening day at the new restaurant at 230 S. Main Street is expected before winter, after recipes are perfected, renovations are complete and employees are hired.

It's "always sad to see one business leave but so nice when another relocates and finds their new home here," says Joan Horton, executive director of the Clawson DDA.

Source: Joan Horton, Clawson Downtown Development Authority
Writer: Kim North Shine

Age-friendly, plug-in ready neighborhood planned for Auburn Hills

A residential development in Auburn Hills is planned to be much more than another new subdivision.

The Parkways, a project of The Moceri Companies, is meant to create public use spaces, become an entry into the city's emerging downtown district, promote alternative electric vehicle usage and offer specially-designed multi-generational housing in one neighborhood.

City officials say the mix of housing styles and design of the neighborhood keep in mind the city's goals of offering more "age-friendly" and senior living options and promoting the inclusion of alternative energy technology in new construction.

The Parkways is also believed to be the largest residential development in Michigan to wire all property with electric vehicle plug-ins.

"This project was intentionally designed to meet Auburn Hills’ formal commitment to become an Age-Friendly Community with a variety of housing opportunities, parks, sidewalks and complete street considerations,” says Steven Cohen, director of community development for the city of Auburn Hills. “This private investment by The Moceri Companies to build a multi-generational development is a huge victory for the city.  It’s a game changer for Downtown Auburn Hills.”

As for electric vehicle wiring, Cohen says, "If considered when a project is first built, preparing for electric vehicles is very easy and inexpensive.  By prepping these garages with proper wiring, new residents within this development will only need to add a charging station on the wall if they buy or lease an electric vehicle.  It’s like adding a garage door opener and the costs are now very similar.  Having proper infrastructure in place will help this technology succeed. It just takes forward thinking.”

The Parkways will be made up of 76 townhouse, 72 stacked, flat units and a three-story 160-unit senior care complex.

The market value of The Parkways, which will be built on 21.5 acres of property west of Adams road and north of the Clinton River Trail, is expected to be $75 million. Previous plans for a major housing development by another company foundered during the recession, and the property went into foreclosure and then back into the city's hands.

A partnership with the city and Moceri means part of the land will become a two-acre public park and the major road through the property will be designed as a boulevard an eastern gateway into downtown Auburn Hills, where major projects such as student housing, will be completed soon.

Construction on the first of five phases is scheduled to being in the spring of 2014 and be completed by the end of 2017.

Source: City of Auburn Hills
Writer: Kim North Shine

Four new developments coming online in Auburn Hills

Auburn Hills -- and its developing downtown area -- is in a mini-construction boom with four new projects partially or mostly complete.

The developments are an outgrowth of increased enrollment and demands for housing and other services for students and staff at Oakland University, Oakland Community College, Baker College and Thomas M. Cooley Law School.

* The University Center will open in January and replace a restaurant and bar with a two-story building dedicated to educating local high school and college students. The first floor will have two classrooms in 4,800 square feet and host classes for colleges and universities located in Auburn Hills. The second floor will be home to the Avondale Academy run by Avondale Schools.

The University Center is a partnership between the city's TIFA, Avondale Schools, Oakland University, Oakland Community College, Baker College and Thomas M. Cooley Law School.

* The DEN, Downtown Education Nook, will be a relaxing hang-out for students to study individually or in groups and like the University Center open in January. The 1,564-square-foot facility is connected to a historic log cabin and will have two fireplaces and five study rooms.

* Auburn Square Apartments: 97 apartments consisting of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units. The $9 million project will include 6,100 square feet of retail space on the ground floor, helping to increase foot traffic in the downtown area. Apartments are already leasing and move-in should begin in January.

* A public parking structure will be owned and operated by the city and its Tax Increment Financing Authority. It will have space for 233 vehicles, with spaces connected to common hallways that lead to each floor of apartments. It should be open for business in November.

All four projects are the result of work by the city's Tax Increment Financing Authority, which captures increases in the tax base in a designated zone and dedicates them to public improvement projects in partnership with private and other public investors.

Source: Barbara Fornasiero, spokesperson, city of Auburn Hills
Writer: Kim North Shine

Ice ice baby! Downtown Farmington gets new rink

Downtown Farmington is complementing its growing retail scene and historic downtown gathering spaces with a new ice rink.

The rink is expected to be completed in December and will be located at Riley Park in the heart of downtown. It's being built by Serv Ice Refrigeration, the same company that laid the rink in Campus Martius in downtown Detroit, says Annette Knowles, director of the Farmington Downtown Development Authority.

The George F. Riley Foundation, for whom the park is named, donated $100,000 toward the construction of the rink,which sill cost about $300,000. Fundraisers continue to raise the rest of the money and engineering firm, Orchard, Hiltz & McCliment are donating services for the project.

“Our family is quite pleased at how Riley Park in downtown Farmington has become a hub for families and friends to gather together and has also become a center for key events in Farmington. The Riley Foundation’s commitment to create the Riley Ice Rink creates a fourth season for activity in downtown. We are excited to be able to support this worthwhile enhancement for families and friends enjoying the quality of life in our community," the Riley Foundation says in a letter.

Knowles says the community has expressed a desire for a downtown rink in visioning sessions and other public meetings and that she expects the rink to be a "cool" addition to the city.

"Job creation will be hard to measure at this point, but we do know that seasonal maintenance will be necessary. Spin off business opportunities exist," Knowles says. "For example, we would love for someone to come forward with skate rentals that we do not have to manage."

Source: Annette Knowles, executive director, Farmington Downtown Development Authority

Writer: Kim North Shine
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