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Farmington Hills offers green building incentives

The city of Farmington Hills wants to share its wealth and make homes and businesses more energy-efficient in the meantime.

Federal funding is still available for property owners looking to make environmentally sound improvements. The stimulus money came from the
U.S. Dept of Energy's Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program, with the purpose of reducing fossil fuel emissions and total energy use and improving energy efficiency.

"There's a broad range of improvements that qualify for the program," says city management assistant Nate Geinzer. Those include heat pumps, hot water heaters, new windows, and other technologies. "We know as exciting as energy efficiency can be in a home -- the idea of reducing energy costs appeals to most people -- economy-wise, not everybody has the capital to invest. Our EECBG funds provide a little extra incentive to take these measures."

The city has been getting multiple applications per week, he says, and had awarded $14,000 by the end of last quarter since its launch in December. He expects there will be money to award through the busy fall season, even with an onslaught of people tightening up their homes for winter.

Farmington Hills has also set aside money to fund energy audits, although those have been of less interest; Geinzer believes families with limited amounts of money to spend on energy efficiency would invest in a product before an audit. "But for homeowners who know there's a lot to do in a home, but don't know where the best dollars could be spent, an energy audit is a good way to go," he points out.

The city received a total of $791,300 from the Department of Energy, of which it set aside about $50,000 for its energy efficiency improvement incentive program, as well as a separate fund for its building energy audit incentive program. Other improvements include renewable energy and energy enhancements at city hall, the Southeast Michigan Regional Energy Office, and public information dissemination.

Download an application
here.

Source: Nate Geinzer, management assistant for the City of Farmington Hills
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

Oakland U establishes downtown Mt. Clemens campus

Oakland University will soon be setting up shop in downtown Mount Clemens after it received a donation of a building for classes.

The Towne Square Building, 20 South Main Street, was recently given to the university by developers Gebran S. Anton and Stuart Frankel. The building, valued at about $2 million, was built in 1984. It's two stories, 25,422 square feet, and constructed of brick and glass.

Mary Otto, Oakland University's vice president for outreach, said the university hasn't yet nailed down which programs will be offered there, but both criminal justice and social work have been considered. While some university programs can be completed in Macomb County, others require going to the main campus for at least part of the time.

"One of our goals right now is to increase the number of programs that Macomb County students can complete in Macomb County," she says. "This will give us the opportunity to expand to yet another (area), in Mount Clemens."

Another boon to the donation is that the site is located right on Gratiot, on a public transportation line. "It's very exciting that we will be able to offer course work and programs to a broader audience," she says.

The building itself is in good shape, as it used to hold offices, but it still needs to be remodeled into classrooms. Otto hopes to be in early enough to offer classes by January, but would be happy if it could be open by next summer.

Faculty and staff enjoyed a recent tour of the building. "It's small enough that they could easily navigate it, but it's big enough that there's a lot going on, and it's right downtown," she says. "We've had extraordinary response from students who think it'll be a great place to go."

Source: Mary Otto, vice president for outreach, Oakland University
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

Pontiac breaks ground on new transit hub

The new Pontiac Transportation Center, which will be home to both a Greyhound bus and Amtrak train stop, will break ground in about two weeks.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held last week for the new station, which is expected to be completed by next summer. The state is funding the entire $1.4 million cost, says Janet Foran, spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Transportation.

The building will have several green features, including a white roof to reflect the sun, and bioswales, natural collection points for rainwater, which then filter it through native plants instead of draining it into the sewer. Lighting will also include compact florescent bulbs.

The actual work is expected to begin in about two weeks. "We hope to have a ribbon cutting next summer," Foran says.

The facility will be at 51000 Woodward Ave. and serve as a hub for mass transit, including Amtrak's Wolverine service to Chicago and Greyhound's eight daily routes through Pontiac. There is also a SMART bus stop within sight of the new facility.

During the construction, passengers for a train or bus will either have to go online or to another facility to buy tickets. The previous transportation center was demolished in 2008.

Source: Janet Foran, spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Transportation
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

LED lights brighten downtown Oxford, Macomb County

Downtown Oxford and a Macomb County warehouse will be a little bit brighter and more energy-efficient at the same time.

The village of Oxford will be converting 83 existing streetlights in its downtown to energy-efficient LED globe fixtures from
Relume Technologies. The project is partially funded by a Michigan Economic Development Corporation Downtown Urban Revitalization Grant.

The bulbs are expected to save about $8,000 annually in energy and maintenance costs. The outdoor
LED lights use less than half of the energy of a conventional streetlight and can last up to six times longer, which leads to an average payback on the investment in less than four years.

Madonna Van Fossen, director of the Oxford Downtown Development Authority, explains that the close proximity of Relume's headquarters drove the village's decision to secure LED lighting. "That's one of the goals in Oxford: to be a totally green community," she says.

The LED lights will be radio controlled, the first in the world with that technology, she says. "Since Relume is right here, itís going to be huge for Oxford, the exposure that we're going to get."

Van Fossen says the lights should be in place by the end of the month. "The goal is to have the whole DDA district lit with LED lighting," she says.

In Macomb County, a warehouse on Hall Road has had 180 high-intensity discharge lighting fixtures replaced with energy-efficient fixtures from Alumalight. Also, occupancy sensors were installed to turn the lights off in an area that is not in use.

That lighting upgrade is expected to reduce energy usage and cost by half, saving more than $9,000 annually. It was funded in part by a $14,000 rebate from
DTE.

Source: Macomb County and Madonna Van Fossen, director of the Oxford Downtown Development Authority
Writer: Kristin Lukowski


Stimulus helps weatherize hundreds of homes in Macomb County

Weather stripping, adding insulation, and replacing light bulbs can all make a difference in a home's energy costs, and a Roseville residence recently showed off exactly how.

The weatherization assistance program, federally funded through the U.S. Department of Energy's Weatherization Assistance Program, is managed in Macomb County through its Community Services Agency. The program has been in existence since 1977, explains Joe Cooke, community operations coordinator for the Macomb County Community Services Agency, but it got more publicity last year after receiving stimulus funding.

The agency used to weatherize about 200 homes a year; now it's closer to 900. Staffing has been doubled to keep up with the demands that came from the increased funding.

To show off the work, agency representatives picked a house that had been weatherized in the past and brought the contractors and inspectors back to talk about some of the things they'd done. "One of the reasons for the demonstration house is to show people their stimulus dollars at work," Cooke says.

Weatherizing actions usually consist of caulking, weather stripping, insulating, new light bulbs, and replacing refrigerators and furnaces that aren't energy-efficient. The fixes are dependent on
available funds, so, Cooke explains, a pre-inspection is done on the house to see where energy is being wasted. Then a computer program reports what can be done to the house to tighten it up.

The stimulus funds, an $8.7 million boost for weatherizing homes in Macomb County alone, are available through March of 2012. Cooke says he already has about a year's worth of work lined up.

It's important to concentrate on the homes of those living on a lower income because on average, they spend a greater percentage of their income on utility bills. Weatherization can reduce those costs by about a third. "That's money they can use for food, shelter or other items," he says.

Source: Joe Cooke, community operations coordinator for Macomb County Community Services Agency
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

Emagine Entertainment plans to break ground on Royal Oak movie theater in August

The founder of what will be Royal Oak's new movie theater hopes to break ground by the end of this month or early next on the entertainment complex.

Paul Glantz, founder and chairman of Plymouth-based Emagine Entertainment, says the process has been challenging, yet exciting to bring a first-run theater complex offering food, alcohol, and bowling to the city. Yet, "I think this venue is going to be very successful," he says. "And I think it's going to be successful not just for our benefit, but for downtown Royal Oak."

He expects that not only will the theater bring in new visitors to the downtown area, but they'll stay and visit the existing restaurants, coffee shops, and stores. It's expected to create 100 full-time jobs in the kitchen, at the ticket counter, and in the food-service area.

"It's going to be a pretty substantial economic engine," he says.

At this time Glantz is reviewing contractor bids before breaking ground this summer. Helping to fund the project is a $1.25 million Brownfield Tax Credit from the Michigan Economic Development Corp, which helped garner support from Royal Oak's Downtown Development Authority, and what Glantz calls a "substantial economic boost."

"We are really in the home stretch in terms of starting construction," he says. "It's very exciting. You pour a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into bringing one of these projects to fruition."

He still hopes to have the theater up and running by April, to get all the kinks worked out before next summer's blockbuster season starts.

The 10-screen complex, 73,000 square feet spread over two stories, will be located on the parking lot on 11 Mile Road just east of Main Street, behind the Main Art Theatre. The $14 million project will house 1,680 seats and 16 lanes of bowling. There will also be a private party area/meeting room on a second-floor mezzanine level over the main entrance.

Source: Paul Glantz, founder and chairman of Emagine Entertainment
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

Metro Airport replaces trash cans with state-of-the-art recycling machines

Recycling containers are a long time in coming for Detroit Metro Airport's McNamara Terminal, as the facility now offers divided waste bins to collect recyclable plastic bottles, metal cans, and paper separate from other trash.

Scott Wintner, public affairs manager for Wayne County Airport Authority, says the recycling bins were first launched when the North Terminal was built in 2008, and it's always been the desire of the authority and Delta Airlines, which has a hub in McNamara, to place them in that terminal as well. The logistics of the program took some time because of security precautions, according to Wintner.

"I think it's the right thing to do for the environment," he says. "It's responsible, and I think our customers also think it's responsible. We're glad to be able to provide that opportunity to our customers."

The 70,000 travelers who pass through McNamara each day will see 19 new bins, the contents of which are taken to dedicated recycling dumpsters and then a recycling center. Nearly 7,080 tons of trash were removed from the McNamara Terminal in 2009.

As the program started on the first of this month, it's too early to gauge any success. Wintner does know, however, that people have been pleased to see the program in North Terminal.

"People just sort of expect (recycling programs)," he says. "Everywhere you go now, it seems to be the norm."

Delta has been running an in-flight recycling program since 2007. Metro Airport has also participated in a number of other environmentally friendly projects, including being a world leader of recycling aircraft de-icing fluid, which also prevents it from being washed into local waterways; installing wind spires, like mini-turbines, to help offset some of the airport's energy use; recycling cooking grease into B-100 biofuel; and replacing the incandescent airfield lights with LEDs, which have already yielded financial savings.

Source: Scott Wintner, public affairs manager for Wayne County Airport Authority
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

Walsh College building earns LEED Gold certification

The Jeffery W. Barry Center on Walsh College's Troy campus gets most of its power from renewable resources, captures and filters its water, and converts waste heat into electricity. And now, it has a shiny new plaque to hang on the wall.

The Barry Center, a 37,000-square-foot, two-level classroom building, was certified LEED Gold by the U.S Green Building Council for utilizing green design and building practices. Ground was broken in 2006 and the facility opened for classes in January of 2008.

Christine Stout, director of facilities and auxiliary services for
Walsh College, explains that the project came about as part of a master facility planning process, which in part identified what the college needed space-wise. While not a public institution and therefore not required to be LEED certified for its building project, "We thought it would be a worthwhile goal," she says.

Committee members had originally set its sights on bronze (now certified), then silver, and upon realizing they were close to the requirements for gold, decided to go for it. "We do think it's important to be good stewards of our common resources," Stout says. "We are a member of the community, just like everyone else."

Plus, Walsh being a business college, the committee realized that having a LEED-certified building could have in impact on the business community: When students go out into the business world, they can remember their "comfortable, functional and efficient building."

"They can say, 'When I was at Walsh, they did a building project and it wasn't hard.' It's good for us."

Among the Barry Center's green accomplishments: 70 percent of its electricity comes from renewable resources; every year 7 million gallons of water are captured and filtered in bioswales and a constructed wetland before being recharged into the water supply; and landscaping with native plants that do not require irrigation saves 825,000 gallons of water and $5,000 in city fees annually.

Other benefits include the conversion of waste heat into electricity through energy recovery technology; a
20-percent energy savings via a doubling of the building's insulation; and energy-efficient plumbing that reduced potable water use by 40-percent.

Stout says she was excited to show off the LEED certification plaque, a circle of recycled glass that will be hung in Barry's main hallway.

Source: Christine Stout, director of facilities and auxiliary services for Walsh College
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

WA3 breaks ground on Woodward Tribute in Pontiac

From Chief Pontiac to the Pontiac car brand, the eponymous city was vital to Woodward Avenue's history. A tribute sculpture is soon to commemorate that role.

Ground was broken Wednesday for the Pontiac Tribute, the second along Woodward, to help raise awareness about the history behind Michigan's Main Street and its importance to not only the state but the U.S. and the world. The sculptures are robust columns a story or two tall that depict part of Woodward's history. Ferndale's was installed in 2008.

The structures "tell the story of that community's contribution to Woodward," says Nicole Brown, the outreach and promotions coordinator for the Woodward Avenue Action Association, which is spearheading the project. "The one for Pontiac tells the story of Pontiac's rich automotive history -- its heritage in terms of transportation. It's acknowledging the past and what that area contributed to Woodward, and the world."

Pontiac's Tribute will be at the corner of Woodward and Whitmore, in the area commonly known as the "teardrop." Ground is expected to be broken for the Detroit Tribute later this year. The ultimate goal is to have one for each city along Woodward to recognize each of their unique contributions.

"We're really excited about the project," Brown says. "It's something the community can rally around. It's something that acknowledges what a great city Pontiac was, is, and will be into the future."

The Pontiac Tribute's $150,000 price tag will be funded in part by the Federal Highway Administration National Scenic Byways funds and other contributors. The monument is expected to be completed by mid-summer.

Source: Nicole Brown, outreach and promotions coordinator for the Woodward Avenue Action Association
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

Work set to begin on Utica's pedestrian bridge

Hiking and biking through downtown Utica is about to become easier, as work is set to begin next week on a pedestrian bridge over the Clinton River.

The bridge, a component of the 70-mile hike-and-bike trail throughout Macomb County,
will connect the Macomb Orchard Trail to downtown Utica as well as the Clinton River Trail in Oakland County. It will provide pedestrians and bicyclists with a safe place to cross the river without having to navigate the busy Van Dyke/M-59 intersection.

"The hike-and-bike trail is an amenity that enhances the quality of life for people way beyond the city of Utica," says
Utica Mayor Jacqueline Noonan. "People want walkable communities."

The bridge will be funded mostly by grants from the Michigan Department of Transportation and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and is expected to be completed by this fall, Noonan says.

She points out that Utica is one of the few downtowns on the 70-mile trail plan. It offers people the chance to stop in for some ice cream, visit the library, or make other stops. "It's an enhancement directly to our downtown, to our community, and to the statewide trail system."

Source: Jacqueline Noonan, mayor of Utica

Writer: Kristin Lukowski

LTU continues renovating Frank Lloyd Wright house

A lot of sanding, a lot of scraping, and a lot of staining is how recent Lawrence Technological University graduate Doug Metiva plans to spend his summer.

Metiva is working on and living in the university's Affleck House in Bloomfield Hills, designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright, for the third summer in a row. This summer, he hopes to refinish much of the wood throughout the house, including the hallways, bedrooms and bathrooms -- work he started with former fellow student Justin Butler.

Metiva will continue with the project as he looks for a permanent job after graduating in May with degrees in architecture and construction management. "The school is kind enough to let me stay working on this, to finish what I started," he says. "It's kind of been a work in progress. I'd like to see it finished."

Lawrence Tech also received a $7,500 grant for the re-creation of furniture for the 2,300-square-foot house, which was completed in 1941. The house was donated to the university in 1978 and has since been used as a teaching tool for students in Lawrence Tech's College of Architecture and Design.

The Affleck House is on the State and National Registers of Historic Places, and is one of the 50 most significant structures in the state, according to the Michigan Society of Architects.

Source: Doug Metiva, recent Lawrence Technological University graduate
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

Numerous construction projects recognized with Engineering Society of Detroit awards

Social significance and innovation are part of what made several local construction projects stand out enough that they were recognized by the Engineering Society of Detroit.

The Construction and Design awards are awarded annually to projects either located in Michigan or built by local companies. The projects were selected based on the quality of the overall design; use of unique engineering solutions; innovative construction techniques and sustainable design; use of environmentally safe products; and economic and social impact.

In the metro area, award recipients were the College for Creative Studies'
Alfred Taubman Center for Design Education (Detroit) and JARC's Nusbaum House (Farmington Hills), a group home for adults with disabilities. Robert Stevenson, chair of the committee in charge of selecting the winners and senior vice-president of GHAFARI Associates, says CCS's building was socially significant because of its location in Detroit and the schools involved. "From a design standpoint, it was well done," he says. "Some of the things they did were interesting, like how they brought in light, how they handled utilities."

Recognized with honorable mentions were
Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital and Wayne State University's Marvin I. Danto Engineering Development Center in Detroit. Wayne State's engineering building includes outdoor walls that actually lean inward from the top down, but Stevenson says what also makes that building interesting is its housing of high-tech testing. "It's important because it's an important research center here in southeast Michigan," he says. "And then to put that on a college campus and make it look good -- we thought that was a challenge."

Winners from the last few years have had a focus on green and sustainable features. Since the awards are given by a peer group of other architects, that will hopefully foster more innovation, Stevenson says. Teamwork also plays a large part, and that's why the owner, contractor, and designer are all recognized. "We're not an (American Institute of Architects) award -- it's not a beauty contest," he says. "We're looking beyond the skin."

Source: Robert Stevenson, Engineering Society of Detroit award committee chair
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

Detroit Zoo renovates landmark water tower

The animals will continue marching around the Detroit Zoo water tower, but with a new graphic and a new coat of paint on the tower.

The colorful tower at Woodward Avenue and 10 Mile Road in Royal Oak will have the existing graphic steamed off and then be power washed, scraped, and hand-painted, says Patricia Mills Janeway,
communications director for the Detroit Zoo. The graphic is starting to look a little ragged, with the decal coming off in places. "(Passers-by) will definitely notice that it's more spruced up," she adds.

The hand-painting will reduce any overspray that can float down on cars and other things below, she explains. A new graphic, 40 feet by 270 feet and made of adhesive vinyl, will then be applied to the tower. The "critter parade" logo of animals and humans walking across a plain at dusk is nearly the same as the original, except the elephant will be replaced with a rhino. (Detroit's elephants have since retired to an elephant sanctuary.)

"People are used to seeing that critter parade," she says. "They recognize it and love it, and we love it."

The $200,000 makeover is expected to be complete by mid-July, weather permitting.

And here's some Detroit Zoo water tower trivia: It was built in 1928, but only supplied water until 1984. Now its sole purpose is to be a giant, round zoological billboard.

Source: Patricia Mills Janeway,
communications director for the Detroit Zoo
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

Work complete on Dearborn Town Center exterior

The walls for the Dearborn Town Center are up, the parking garage is up, and work continues on the interior to ready it for an end-of-the-year opening.

The 162,000-square-foot building will offer a mix of office and retail space, the vast majority of which will be occupied by 500 workers from Oakwood Healthcare System and Midwest Health Services. Two hundred of those employees will be new.

Progress has continued to the point that the project looks finished from the outside, says Barry Murray, economic and community development director for the city of Dearborn. "Both the building and the parking deck are up, and the bridge between them is up," he says. "All the exterior finishes are close to being complete."

Murray's recent tour revealed the medical suites to be in various stages of completion: Some stud walls were bare, some had drywall, and some rooms have been painted. The timeline still calls for the project to be finished in December or January.

The Dearborn Town Center replaces the recently demolished Montgomery Ward department store. Montgomery Ward opened the store in 1937, expanding it to 93,000 square feet. It went belly-up in 2001 and had been vacant until its demolition.

The brick and stone facade and glass gives the new structure a look that's not overpowering, in Murray's opinion. "I think it blends well with city hall and other buildings in the areas," he says. "I think it's a very important architectural design, and for an important corner."

Murray also appreciates the building of a 530-car public parking garage, which is a more efficient use of space than surface parking. "That's really one piece of the puzzle, trying to create an urban environment that people will come out and enjoy," he says.

Source: Barry Murray, economic and community development director for the city of Dearborn
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

Oakland Comm College upgrades theater, parking lots

Oakland Community College students, staff, and visitors will have a smoother ride getting around campus, and a safer way to get around in the theater, beginning this summer.

Both the Auburn Hills and Orchard Ridge campuses will see parking lot repairs and replacement of some of the roads, which, considering the college is a commuter school, affects just about everyone coming to campus. Plus, the school is open from early in the morning to late at night, almost every day of the year, says George Cartsonis, director of college communications for Oakland Community College.

"As a commuter school, the condition of our parking lots is absolutely essential," he says. "Those parking lots get a lot of wear and tear. We want to make sure they're in the best possible shape so our students are not inconvenienced."

Also taking place at the Orchard Ridge campus will be the installation of stair and aisle handrails in the Smith Theatre, as well as a replacement of some of the floor coverings.

The Smith Theatre stairs are steeply pitched, Cartsonis says, and many events for senior citizens take place in that auditorium. "The investment is well worth it, from a safety standpoint."

All three improvements come to just under $2.5 million, which is the last of the 0.8-mill property tax levy from 2001. Work is expected to begin in phases on the projects this summer and to be complete by August 2011.

Source: George Cartsonis, director of college communications for Oakland Community College
Writer: Kristin Lukowski
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