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Detroit Regional Aerotropolis takes off again with new name and new leader

Goodbye, Detroit Regional Aerotropolis. Hello, VantagePort.

The economic development effort to attract transportation-centered companies and industries to developable land between Detroit Metropolitan and Willow Run airports is taking off with the naming of its first CEO and the launches of a new rebranding strategy and marketing plan.

The new name, VantagePort, and the new CEO, Tim Keyes, will carry on the work -- and successes -- of what was the Detroit Regional Aerotropolis, which formed in 2006 and in the nearly seven years since claims to have facilitated nearly 2,500 new jobs and more than $300,000 million in investment by small and large businesses.  While economic development has materialized, much of the work by the Aerotropolis board, including Wayne and Washtenaw County and state officials, has focused on information gathering, planning and preparation to achieve the goal of creating as many as 60,000 jobs and $10 billion in investment in 25 years. 

The goal is to shape 100,000-plus acres of land in, around and between the two airports into a global logistics hub by spreading the word about the area's convenient, potentially money-saving access to air, water, rail and highway and to make clear the benefits that might be reaped by companies needing these things to move their products, people and information all over the world.

Keyes,the new CEO and former director of economic development for the city of Romulus, has been a part of Detroit Regional Aerotropolis since the beginning and is charged with executing a new strategic and marketing plan that was written by Greyhill Advisors, a global site selection and and economic development consultant from New York, and the rebranding that was the work of Applied Storytelling, which has offices in Detroit and Oakland, Calif.

Metromode took a look at the plans and the concept of airport-centered economic development, in this 2011 story.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Kelly Chesney, Business Leaders for Michigan

Nightclub and private party space comin' to life at Stayin' Alive Novi

DJs, bartenders, security staff and servers are being lined up for a new nightclub and private party space that's opening in Novi in an era when dance clubs are borderline novel.

Stayin' Alive, billed as a '70s, '80s, '90s and more nightclub and a place "where real people have fun," is scheduled to open in mid-to-late August in the Fountain Walk of Novi, 44325 Twelve Mile Road, on top of the Lucky Strike Entertainment complex.

Renovations for Stayin' Alive a la John Travolta and the Bee Gees are turning the space that was formerly occupied by MBarGo into a weekend dance club with one of the biggest disco balls in the USA spinning over a huge lighted dance floor, say the owners and promoters, Vladimir Mirkovich, J. Kyle Hagerty and Brian DJ Godfather Jeffries, all metro Detroiters. They are teaming up with Lucky Strike Entertainment, a national chain of bowling lounges with 21 locations in the U.S.

The club wil include a rooftop bar, VIP room and be available for conferences, private parties, bachelorette and divorce parties.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: J. Kyle Hagerty, developer, Stayin' Alive Novi

FoodTruck Cafe's trucks under one roof concept takes off

The idea of re-creating faux food trucks inside a cafe is taking off in Berkley, where locals are walking and biking to the newest restaurant based on an off-beat idea.

The FoodTruck Cafe, with its three food trucks without wheels, is also drawing destination diners, says Kerry Johnson, who co-owns the business with Jon Glab.

Wherever they come from, they're looking for good food, creative food that's fast and in a fun setting, they say.

The trucks inside the space at 28557 Woodward Ave., which previously was a Coffee Beanery, serve sandwiches, salads, Mexican, coffee, and smoothies.

The Sideshow Sandwich Emporium, Air Stream Espresso and Nacho Ordinary Nacho are the creations of the pair with a background in restaurants and hospitality. Johnson founded the Cupcake Station and Glab owned the Strawberry Moon in Ferndale.

They combined sit-down restaurants with the outdoor feel of food trucks by decorating the cafe with picnic tables inside and outside and plastering the main wall with photographs that look like an outdoor scene of Detroit from the early 1900s.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Kerry Johnson, co-owner, FoodTruck Cafe

Yoga + Therapy = Zen business plan in Plymouth

Balance Yoga Therapy, a business that combines the physical and mental effects of yoga with emotional well-being through counseling, is moving into a larger space in downtown Plymouth to keep up with a growing number of clients and services.

Owner Patricia Kozlowski, a licensed professional counselor and certified yoga therapist, is a believer in the positive effects of yoga and physical fitness on relationships and mental health. She designed her business around that connection.

After 20-plus years as a counselor and six years as a yoga therapist at various studios and fitness facilities and for youth hockey teams and health system employees, she has also seen how yoga therapy can end chronic pain. It was yoga that finally cured her severe back pain following a car accident. Through yoga she began to see the parallels between yoga and physical and mental health.

"I started realizing that the things I had learned in medical school I was learning in yoga," she says.

After several years of counseling and teaching yoga around Southeast Michigan, she decided to open her own studio and counseling center in February 2012. She still counsels at a separate center in Northville, but was not able to incorporate yoga therapy so she decided to open Balance Yoga Therapy in February 2012.

In just over two years she outgrew the 12-mat, 500-square-foot space in downtown Plymouth. On Aug. 1 she moves into a much larger spot with room for 60 yoga mats, a separate pilates studio, and counseling rooms.

The interior will be calming, painted in colors of the sea, decorated with Spanish tile and bamboo and come with "revolutionary, state of the art flooring that you can't find within a five-state area from here," Kozlowski says.

The new, larger studio opens at 589 South Main Street a few few blocks from the original location at 292 South Main. Kozlowski will celebrate the opening with a day of free yoga on Aug. 10. Go to Balance Therapy Yoga to register.

The success of her practice, she says, is "the authenticity of the message I send to people. I genuinely live what I speak…It's absolutely addictive…never yelling..always encouraging, loving them through the process…very physically demanding…And it's so rewarding to work with a family with a child who no longer wants to commit suicide or to get a person through anxiety that's keeping them in bed all day and missing life. I feel so fortunate to meet and work with so many amazing people, and even though the days are long it never feels like work."

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Patricia Kozlowski, owner, Balance Yoga Therapy

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
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