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Tennis anyone? Lawn tennis club coming to Pontiac

The city of Pontiac's waterworks building and grounds are springing back to life as the future home of a members-only lawn tennis club that's being designed by Cranbrook Academy's architect in residence.

Architect and developer Bill Massie is behind the the Wessen Lawn Tennis Club at 235 Wessen Street, also the site of a closed recreation center.

The grounds are are being transformed into an English-style layout of 24 grass courts, four hard courts and an Olympic-size swimming pool. The project includes the renovation of the 1929 Waterworks building.

The club was inspired by the tennis-loving Massie family's visit about five years ago to the Longwood Cricket Club in Boston, Mass.

Massie is the head of the architecture department at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills. Founding memberships to the club, which is exptected to be open mid-2014, are now being accepted at the club's website.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Wessen Lawn Tennis Club

Auburn Hills wants to generate alternative energy use

The city of Auburn Hills is stepping up again in support of alternative energy use, this time by purchasing police cruisers and other city vehicles that run on propane and natural gas and also by passing a resolution to prevent fuel waste and support alternative fuel use in general.

The decision comes after the Ann Arbor-based Clean Energy Coalition provided the city with numerous recommendations spelled out in a Fuel Forward Fleet Study. It showed how the city could save money and reduce emissions by retrofitting city vehicles to be powered with natural gas or propane gas. It also made other recommendations such as reducing police car idling times and building an alternative fuel infrastructure.

The city council adopted the recommendations and also purchased eight propane auto gas units for the new 2013 Dodge Charger police pursuit vehicles, a fuel dispenser, a year's worth of propane fuel, and a jet and vacuum truck for street and sewer cleaning.

Ron Melchert, the city's director of public works, says about $4,000 will be saved over the 4.72 years, the average life of the police vehicles.

Melchert says the city will see a return on investment in two and a half years and reduce the city's reliance on foreign oil as well as decrease its greenhouse emissions by 13 percent.

The latest move follows the city's decision two years ago to promote  electric vehicles by encouraging and supporting the inclusion of electric vehicle plug-ins at local businesses and with contractors and builders.

The city's attempts to boost alternative energy has made it a model for other cities, Mark Rabinksy, project manager for Clean Energy Coalition, says in a statement.

“The city of Auburn Hills has shown time and again they are a leader in Michigan. No other city in the state has been more active in promoting the use of electric vehicles and now, by supporting the advancement of other forms of alternative fuels, the city is paving the way for other municipalities to do the same."

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Ron Melchert, director of public works, city of Auburn Hills

6 Salon moves, expands in downtown Birmingham

6 Salon
opened in downtown Royal Oak 10 years ago with four stylists, a hip and stylish decor and the unorthodox practice of operating from early morning 'til midnight.

Within two years 18 stylists were styling in Royal Oak at 306 W. Sixth St., and by the third year a second 6 Salon had opened in downtown Birmingham.

As the 10th anniversary approaches, the business, which focuses on hiring for personality, personally trains stylists and functions based on customer demands such as longer hours, is employing a staff of 65 and making another move by opening a much larger salon in downtown Birmingham.

The newest 6 Salon opened July 5 at 180 S. Old Woodward, the prominent corner of Old Woodward and Merrill. The 4,400-square-foot space decorated in rich woods and warm colors, a move away from the white, black and stainless steel tableau of its predecessors, replaces a 1,500-square-food shop on West Maple.

The new salon has 21 stylists' stations and adds a lash bar to its list of services.

"We were completely busting out of the other location," says George Nikollaj, who co-owns the salon with brother Johnny Nikollaj and cousin Tomy Lulgjuraj.

"It's unbelievable, the response we've gotten. People stop in and ask if they can see it, have a tour," he says. "We say, 'Of course.' It's great being where people want to come in and get to know us and see what we've done. It's great to be here."

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: George Nikollaj, co-owner 6 Salon

Bistro 82 and Sabrage Lounge heating up downtown Royal Oak

The buzz about a two-story restaurant and lounge under renovation in downtown Royal Oak is that it will be the next "it" place to eat and hang out in metro Detroit

Bistro 82 and Sabrage will be opening in the space formerly occupied by Spanish tapas restaurant Sangria at the corner of 4th & S. Lafayette.

An impressive lineup will staff Bistro 82, which will occupy the bottom floor of the nearly 10,000 square-foot corner spot. Sabrage, which is French for the technique of using a saber to open a champagne bottle, will take over the top floor with a garden terrace, a stage for live music and booth seating along with a white onyx bar for post-dinner drinks.

The staff's resumes will bring experience from top restaurants around metro Detroit, Michigan and California under one roof when Bistro 82 and Sabrage open by fall.

Besides fresh and often locally-sourced dishes and a wine selection that is expected to rival top-seeded restaurants around the country, owner Aaron F. Belen of AFB Hospitality Group wants the two-story restaurant and lounge's interior design and atmosphere to also be a standout.

A large shark tank built into a DJ booth along with a floor-to-ceiling wine cellar, extensive champagne list, private dining room, a specialized sound system designed by Harman Co. and Euro-bistro influenced meals served in courses are part of owner Aaron F. Belen's vision for Bistro 82 and Sabrage.

The establishment will seat at least 159 people and 226 in the lounge, make a major investment to Royal Oak and create 75 full- and part-time jobs.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Justin Near, publicist for Aaron F. Belen and Bistro 82/Sabrage/AFB Hospitality Group

Artist Lounge to be part of Pontiac revival

The artists behind The Artist Lounge, which opens in downtown Pontiac July 13, are designing a business that will be a collage of creativity and fun, social entrepreneurship, city pride, local history and cool architecture.

Wendelin Wilson, a fine arts grad from the Parsons School of Design, an instructor at the Center for Creative Studies and a teacher of the year from Chippewa Valley High School in Clinton Township, and Wendy Fournier, a fine arts grad from Wayne State University, a professional artist whose works are sold in galleries and a teacher who uses art to enhance performance and skills of business people and special needs children, want to promote art to the masses.

Their Artist Lounge at 31 N. Saginaw Road will host classes, parties and be a unique, special event space. It will also give the pair an opportunity to contribute to an economic turnaround for Pontiac -- to be part of a movement of dozens of entrepreneurs, developers, nonprofits and government officials working to bring back the city that's now run by a state appointed emergency financial manager.

"We're all about one vision and the vision truly is about building Pontiac back up," says Fournier, who grew up near Pontiac. "We're not in it for ourselves. It's about community, truly."

The lounge is opening inside a six-story building on Saginaw Street that was once used, among other things, for coal storage and delivery. It comes with an architectural legacy of raw brick and weathered wood that would cost a pretty penny to re-create today.

The space was renovated and is situated among several other new and planned businesses that could transform the building into a destination where visitors can make several stops. Plans with developer IHill, which has office space in the renovated building, call for a wine bar, bakery and work space. IHill, a temporary name, also provides business services such as accounting to the start-ups in the building and will help plan package deals for parties and events that tie in all the businesses in the building. The project joins other new and relocated businesses and a new downtown loft complex that includes a gym and fresh food market, something that's been absent from downtown Pontiac.

As for The Artist Lounge, "the idea has two legs, really. One is to basically communicate and teach art to all walks of life, children and adults…drawing, painting, whatever need comes out," says Wilson. "The second leg is to be a place for a chic night on the town where you can have a night out at painting classes, pair it with a winery, a great old historic environment…a new nightlife.

"What we want to do with The Artist Lounge is bring a huge level of fun there... make it safe and show people how to use that creative side of the brain," says Wilson. "Our focus is the right side of the brain, that creative side. It makes you a happier individual, more successful in business. You don't even realize what's happening. We have so many painters who keep coming back for this feeling, for this accomplishment. It really is such an exciting process to be a part of."

Wilson and Fournier also work with a mobile art studio called Right Brain Projects, and The Artist Lounge gives them a permanent spot to carry out the mission to "help people engage in creative experiences to activate the whole mind which will increase self-confidence, improve critical thinking, and tap into hidden potential to perform better at work and be more content at home."

It's a lot -- running a business, tying in charity by hosting low rates and family days that help make up for cuts to arts in the school and working to attract people to a city that needs an image makeover, but Wilson and Fournier are excited to be a part of it.

"We feel like Pontiac found us," Fournier says. "We would be in meetings where people spoke of their visions and we realized it was our vision. Once we walked down the street, we saw our lives are about so much more than commercial success."

"There's a momentum here," Wilson says. "And we're excited to be a part of it."

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Wendy Fournier and Wendelin Wilson, founders of The Artist Lounge

Marriott hotel planned for Auburn Hills

Auburn Hills' draw as a destination for corporate visitors is leading to the opening of a new hotel -- a $4.6 million Marriott property that will boost the city's property tax revenue and give Oakland County visitors and tourists another lodging option.

The Marriott TownePlace Suites will be built near the Great Lakes Crossing outlet shopping center on I-75 and will have 80 rooms in a three-story building. The opening date is set for sometime in 2014.

It will replace a closed Borders bookstore west of Baldwin road and north of Great Lakes Crossing Drive and be near a Holiday Inn Express and a Hampton Inn, all projects of Michigan hotel developer Basil Bacall.

Stephanie Carroll, a spokesperson for the city of Auburn Hills, says the city has about 2,100 hotel rooms to house visitors, but a Marriott option was missing.

"So many people are looking especially for Marriott," she says, "And because of our corporate presence in Auburn Hills we get people who come here and need to stay a month. They need an extended stay and a mid-priced hotel."

"The story here," she says, "is Mr. Bacall continues to invest in this community."

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Stephanie Carroll, coordinator of community relations and legislative affairs, city of Auburn Hills

Suds soon to flow at Griffin Claw Brewing in Birmingham

Griffin Claw Brewing Company makes beer, of course, but it's more than a pull a stool up to the bar and have a glass kind of place. It's 12,000 square feet of distilling and brewing tanks and equipment, a distribution facility for hundreds of barrels of brew, a tap room, a biergarten and a restaurant.

It is also the newest addition to Birmingham's Rail District, a trendy, walkable community carved out of the city. There are brownstones, residential lofts, small speciality businesses and high-end retailers thriving atop the old rail yards.

The public can see what Griffin Claw is all about as of July 18. There's the outdoor gravel-covered patio with a fire pit and room for 75 to sit at long, biergarten-style tables purchased in Germany and an indoor taproom that's separated from the patio by oversized garage doors and with room for 100.

Griffin Claw's focus is the award-winning suds, including 12 seasonal brews, made by Big Rock Chophouse brewmaster Dan Rogers and to be distributed with the Griffin Claw label. A "casual food" menu will complement the beer, and vodka and gin will eventually be turned out of the distillery. A martini bar is scheduled to open by late fall. Altogether more than 50 full-time employees will be at work at Griffin Claw.

The brewery is at 575 S. Eton Street, and co-owners Bonnie LePage and Mary Nicholson, wives to the owners of Big Rock Chophouse in Birmingham, the Got Rocks Diamond Crown Cigar Lounge, and The Reserve, want Griffin Claw to be a neighborhood place, familiar, comfortable, quality. Altogether more than 50 full-time employees will be at work at Griffin Claw.

"Our brewery is very casual and it's all about the beer but we have great food too," says Bonnie LePage. "We wanted to create a comfortable and familiar environment that fits into the neighborhood so more of our neighbors are able to drop in on a frequent basis."

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Bonnie LePage, co-owner Griffin Claw Brewing Company and Jaclyn Robinson, spokesperson, Griffin Claw Brewing Company

State grants available for food trucks & farmers markets

Farmers market organizers and food truck operators have a chance to get some green -- $10,000 to $50,000 -- from the state if they can prove their business is unique, innovative and will be successful at making their communities a place with a special vibe and feel.

The state and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation wants to promote food entrepreneurship as a means to promote a sense of place in Michigan communities by awarding matching grants through the Farmers Market Grant Program and the Mobile Cuisine Start-Up Program.

“Farmers markets and food trucks improve our downtowns and bring vitality and economic growth to our communities,” says MEDC President and CEO Michael A. Finney in a statement announcing the grants. “These grants will support food entrepreneurs and local markets, strengthen communities and create jobs in our state.”  

The state will award up to $200,000 in grants to farmers' markets and up to $100,000 to food trucks.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Kathy Fagan, communication specialist at Michigan Deparment of Economic Development

Organic nail polish co. sprouts in metro Detroit

Cindis Naturals is a new nail polish company started by families from Grosse Pointe and Clarkston. The business plan is twofold: to develop a polish without harmful chemicals and to give nail professionals a product that their clients can only get from them.

The polish, which has been in salons in metro Detroit salons for about two months and will soon be sold in six locations of Windsor Beauty Supply, grew out of a relationship between husband and wife John and Melodie Scherer of Grosse Pointe Farms and brother and sister Cindy and Rick Lieder from Clarkston.

Cindy Lieder, a longtime manicurist who decided she wanted to create a safer artificial nail, one without chemicals linked to pulmonary, neurological and gynecological side effects, started her company CindiNails in 2005.

In the meantime, the Scherers, veterans of the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries, saw an opportunity to sell nail polish exclusively to nail professionals who had lost their go-to brands, OPI and Esse, after they became available to all consumers, not just professionals. In doing research and interviews the Scherers also heard that manicurists wanted a product that was more organic, less chemical, John Scherer says.

The Scherers had been successful in nail polish in the 1990s but left the business when stores became too difficult to work with. It was a call from an industry consultant in California several months ago, telling them about a void in polishes sold only to nail pros that got the ball rolling on forming a new product.

During the research and development process they learned about the Liebers' low-chemical system for artificial nails and the top coats and base coats that came with it. The Scherers decided to approach them about their new polish formula that could be made minus five dangerous chemicals, including formaldehyde and toluene, and with an organic not synthetic plasticizer (hardener). They asked if the Lieders wanted to combine products. They did and the foursome formed Colors Cindi Nails Naturals LLC.

"We had our polish colors. The thing we didn't have was our top coat or base coat," says John Scherer.

"We thought we would find someone doing it in California, and it turned out we found someone doing it right here in Clarkston, Michigan. We wanted it to buy it in gallon cans from them initially, but they wanted to buy colors and it was perfect. It was a marriage made in heaven."

New salons and independent nail professionals are ordering Cindis Naturals every week, he says, salons in Grosse Pointe, West Bloomfield, St. Clair Shores.

While the business side is looking promising what's been most rewarding, he adds, is how the product has helped nail professionals not only avoid smelly, potentially harmful fumes but also boost their bottom line. The polishes are sold in full size bottles for manicures and pedicures and come with a Skinny Mini that can be sold to clients for touch-ups, etc. and in a bottle size that won't dry up before it's used up. It gives consumers a way to keep their nails fresh and the nail pro a small source of income.

"It's working like a charm," he says. "The pros are happy. Their clients are happy. A safer product is out there. It's working out just beautifully."

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: John Scherer, co-founder Cindis Naturals

Repurposed parking meters raise money for more art in Ferndale

Parking meters, fixtures that are more nuisance than art, have been repurposed into artworks that will help pay for the installation of sculptures to grace the streets of downtown Ferndale, and the public is invited to vote on which sculptures to buy.

The Ferndale Downtown Development Authority wants to purchase two pieces that are currently on display in the city's ARTWN exhibit, which ends soon. To raise the money for the purchase, a party and live auction of artists' re-imagined expired parking meters was held June 21 at the Rust Belt Market.

The expired meter art is a way for the city to poke fun at itself over parking changes that have led to some complaints and ridicule. More than a dozen artists turned the old meters, which have been replaced by latest iteration of modern-day parking meters, into funny, whimsical, sarcastic, art. A final tally of the proceeds is still being taken, says DDA spokesman Chris Hughes, but somewhere between $3,500 and $18,000 is to purchase the sculptures that will leave Ferndale when the ARTWN exhibit ends.

The public can vote on which sculptures to keep by placing dollars in ballot boxes made out of paint cans with a picture of the sculpture of the top. The cans are located at businesses that were sponsors of the ARTWN exhibit. They will also be out at the Get Reel outdoor movie party Thursday July 18.

The top five vote-getters will go to a committee that will decide which pieces become permanent public art. The final picks will be made by December, Hughes says, as fundraising continues.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Chris Hughes, spokesman, Ferndale Downtown Development Authority

Dearborn transit station design moves along

While construction moves ahead on a new transit center in Dearborn, the focus is on how to develop the land in and around the station and how best to connect it to the community.

The station is scheduled to open in 2014 on Michigan Avenue in west Dearborn and, if all goes well, to be a stimulus for economic development and even a local attraction.

The station is multi-modal, a place where trains, buses, taxis will pick up and drop off passengers. It will be a stop on an Ann Arbor to Detroit Amtrak line which is also undergoing improvements to the tracks and the trains in preparation for high speed rail service between Detroit and Chicago. It can also be a spot for bikers and pedestrians to pick up public transit or carpools. In addition, the center is seen as a way to link Dearborn's neighborhoods to its commercial thoroughfares and landmarks such as The Henry Ford and the Ford Performing Arts Center and major employers and schools such as University of Michigan Dearborn and Henry Ford Community College.

The project is part of a federal transportation plan to stimulate transit-oriented development, which promotes public transit and transit centers as magnet for economic prosperity by leading to the creation of businesses, improvement of neighborhoods and quality of life and by connecting cities and bringing about a sense of place. Dearborn received the largest federal grant in Michigan, $28.2 million, to build the station.

 Focuses of the recent public input meetings included what parts or features of the city should connect to the transit station and how it should be designed.

One design could create pedestrian paths rich in landscape with a splash fountain for play, benches and other amenities that make the station a place for the community to come together.

Dearborn was chosen as one of five cities to receive planning and design assistance from the MIPlace Partnership.

The MIPlace Partnership is a collaborative effort of the Michigan Municipal League, Michigan State Housing Development Authority and Michigan State University.

For more information, click here to see the conceptual plan.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: City of Dearborn

New Shine On Yoga does downward dog in downtown Ferndale

After years of teaching yoga in studios around metro Detroit and seeing what inspired and motivated people, Linda Marchione has brought her experiences together in her own studio, Shine On Yoga in downtown Ferndale.

What she wants most out of Shine On is to offer comfort and community - on top of physical strength and peace of mind.

"I've designed it to be inviting so that everyone who comes in knows they're welcome to stay. I want it to feel like my home, like my living room," she says. "It's not designed to make people feel like you come in, take your class and leave, with nowhere to sit or spend time, talking to people, getting to know people," she says. "We're not a factory. We're not a huge money making machine. We're a small local business and and I want everyone to know who walks through the door that we'd like them to stay and have tea."

Shine On opened June 3 at 22751 Woodward Avenue, the southwest corner with 9 Mile, in the heart of downtown Ferndale. A grand opening celebration and ribbon cutting is set for 4:30 p.m. July 19, and there will be live music, refreshments and demonstrations.

Marchione's Shine On Studio has also been selected by yoga and running wear maker, Lululemon, to be it's local studio of the month in July and September. Shine On will lead free Sunday morning yoga sessions each Sunday of the month an hour before the stores open. Shine On will lead yoga at the Somerset in July and in downtown Birmingham in September.

Shine On will also regularly coordinate volunteer days at Gleaner's Community Food Bank, where Marchione is a volunteer coordinator.

"Our teachers do an awful lot of community work. We focus on practicing kindness not just toward ourselves but others" she says, "The body is meant to serve. Yogis teach you to get strong yourself and then give it away."

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Linda Marchione, owner, Shine On Yoga

Soccer and lacrosse complex expanding in Pontiac

A regional soccer and lacrosse complex that includes the largest indoor soccer site in North America is expanding, adding indoor and outdoor fields on a piece of property in Pontiac that was once a General Motors Corp. workplace.

Ultimate Soccer Arenas will build on 14.6 acres along Centerpoint Parkway behind and next to the Ultimate Soccer Arenas complex on East South Boulevard an roll fields for lacrosse, a traditionally East Coast sport that's taken off in metro Detroit and Michigan.

The expansion will add nearly 70,000 square feet and a fourth field and seating to the indoor facility, making it the largest non-professional sports facility in the world, says George Derderian, co-owner of Ultimate Soccer Arenas along with Tom Korpela. Ultimate Soccer Arenas opened in 2007 and moves about 1 million people through in a year and about 20,000 people use it at a time 10 or more times a year.

In addition to youth soccer and lacrosse events, the facility is the site of high school and collegiate soccer and lacrosse, high school and college graduations, after-school education and various community and cultural activities. It also is the home field of the Michigan Bucks, a minor league amateur soccer team, and the Detroit Mechanics pro disc team.

Construction will begin this summer and be completed in time for the fall sports season. About 100 construction jobs will be created and 20 full-time jobs.

The outdoor portion of the former automotive-industry property, which has been cleaned up and developed by RACER Trust, will be turned into a synthetic turf fields for lacrosse and soccer and enough bleacher seating for 2,500 spectators and 600 parking spaces.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: George Derderian, co-owner, Ultimate Soccer Arenas

HAWK signals in Macomb County may make busy streets safer for walkers

A new kind of pedestrian crossing may be coming to Macomb County and making at least two busy streets there safer for pedestrians.

The crossings called HAWK otherwise knowns as High Intensity Activated Crosswalks - were first used in Ann Arbor in 2010 and have resulted in a fewer pedestrian car accidents, says Michigan Department of Transportation spokesman Rob Morosi.

In Macomb County there will be public meetings to discuss the two proposed crossings at wide, busy intersections, both on Gratiot Avenue between Quinn and 15 Mile roads in Clinton Township.

The second meeting to discuss the proposal is set for 4-6 p.m. Tuesday June 25 at Parker Elementary School in Clinton Township.

A HAWK signal is controlled by the pedestrian and gives walkers more time to cross and clearer warnings and instructions about when and how quickly to cross.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Rob Morosi, spokesman, Michigan Department of Transportation

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
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