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New businesses open in downtown Birmingham

New businesses are crowding into downtown Birmingham just in time for the weather to break. The list includes everything from a wine bar to a brand-name coffee shop.

Leading the list is a new Biggby Coffee at 112 S Old Woodward. The new coffee shop, which claims to be the fastest growing coffee franchise in the Midwest, is replacing an old Caribou Coffee. A Great Harvest Bread Co joins Biggby, opening up its doors at 137 S. Adams.

A number of restaurants and bars are opening this spring, too. Mirage Cafe, specializing in Mediterranean cuisine, is opening at 297 E Maple in the old Maple Leaf Cafe space. South Bar plans to open at 2110 S Old Woodward in May and Tallulah Wine Bar & Bistro is setting up shop in a long-time vacant retail space at 155 S Bates.

Tallulah and Delux Bar & Grill plan to expand their outdoor patios into parking spaces this summer to accommodate more seasonal seating. Birmingham allows businesses to rent on-street parking spaces and build temporary patios on them. This creates more dining space, clears the sidewalk for pedestrians, and generates revenue for the city.

Source: Andrea Foglietta, marketing and event manager for the Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber of Commerce
Writer: Jon Zemke

Midtown building undergoing renovation for Computech Detroit offices

Another renovation in Midtown is solidifying the neighborhood's reputation as the most dynamic place in the city. This time, Computech Corp. is turning an old mansion into its new headquarters and bringing lots of jobs with it.


The 7,000-square-foot building located at the northeast corner of Cass and Kirby is currently undergoing renovations and, come May, will be the headquarters for Computech Corp., an IT company currently headquartered in Bingham Farms, with offices in India, Chicago, Toronto, and Atlanta. "I believe in the city and I believe that it is going to take small entrepreneurs to bring us back," says president Greg Cheesewright, a Toronto native who founded the company 14 years ago.

After Cheesewright conducted an extensive search -- "I went to every single building, I swear, in Detroit," -- he found the right one, and it was city-owned. Its Midtown location will enable Computech to work closely with Wayne State University. "It's an opportunity for me to get people from the university, have them come on as students in summer, train them ... and then get them as employees in four years," he says.

Read the rest of the story here.

Ypsilanti Freighthouse construction gears up for summer

The redevelopment of the Ypsilanti Freighthouse is asserting itself in Depot Town now that construction crews are stabilizing the structure.


Construction workers will be able to do some heavy lifting on the Ypsilanti Freighthouse this summer now that they're literally laying the foundation for it this spring.

Workers are currently laboring away on the first phase of the $500,000 redevelopment project. That phase includes restoring foundation stone and pouring concrete piers to support new steel beams that will serve as the building's rib cage.

"That will stabilize the building," says Ed Penet, chair of the building committee for the Friends of Ypsilanti Freighthouse.

Read the rest of the story here.

An Ann Arbor campus for Washtenaw Comm College?

Washtenaw Community College is expanding its horizons beyond the suburban campus outside of Ypsilanti all the way to a downtown Ann Arbor outpost.


Washtenaw Community College is looking at opening a new satellite campus, and downtown Ann Arbor is at the head of its list.

The college's leadership seriously considered signing a lease for 30,000 square feet in the Talley Hall Building (behind Border's downtown location) but backed away when budget constraints pushed the option onto the back burner. McKinley offered the space at $10.50 a square foot and offered a build-out.

"The price was very, very attractive," says Larry Whitworth, president of Washtenaw Community College. "We almost struck a deal with them."

Read the rest of the story here.

Real estate firm plans to renovate Birmingham building

The former home of Century 21 in downtown Birmingham is about to become the new home of Coldwell Banker Weir Manuel, with some significant upgrades.

Two Coldwell Banker offices are consolidating in the mid-20th Century building at 294 E Brown St.
The proposed project calls for a renovation of the 20,000-square-foot, three-story structure. The adjacent parking lot will also be upgraded to improve traffic flow and add a few more spaces.

"We're going to add new finishes and details to to the exterior and interior that will make it a real-estate office of the 21st Century," says Victor Saroki, president of Birmingham-based Victor Saroki & Associates Architects.

The plans are going before the Birmingham Planning Commission. Saroki hopes to begin the project this summer and complete it by fall.

Source: Victor Saroki, president of Victor Saroki & Associates Architects
Writer: Jon Zemke

Meadow Brook Hall to open renovated kitchen to public

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

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

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

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

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

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

OCC green lights $2M in campus improvements

Oakland Community College is moving forward with almost $2 million in improvements, with more possible later this year.

"I am sure there are some on the books," says George Cartsonis, a spokesman for Oakland Community College, adding that those projects will probably be announced after the fiscal year ends in July.

For now the college plans to spend $1.87 million on repairs to facilities at its Highland Lakes and Orchard Ridge campuses this spring and summer.

Highland Lakes will receive $849,500 to repave the parking lot next to the Campus Pavilion. Lighting will be added and the pavilion made accessible to the handicapped.

Orchard Ridge will get emergency structural investigations and repairs to Building K ($375,000), replacement of the emergency generator, distribution panels and lighting in Building J ($199,500), and replacement of 152 campus doors ($473,800).

Source: George Cartsonis, a spokesman for Oakland Community College
Writer: Jon Zemke

Birmingham upgrades downtown parking garage

The city of Birmingham plans to do some renovation work on the North Old Woodward parking deck on the north side of downtown this summer.

The city plans to spend $499,000 to reseal the exterior of the structure this summer to keep it safe. The sealant work will help repair some concrete work on the parking deck's interior and exterior. The building remains structurally sound, according to city officials.

"If we continue to do preventative maintenance on it, it will last a whole lot longer," says Brendan Cousino, an employee of the city's Engineering Department who is helping to oversee the project. He believes that continued maintenance will extend the parking garage's lifespan for another 20-50 years.

The parking deck was built in 1966 and can hold up to 745 vehicles. It is located about one block north of the Uptown Palladium movie theater.

Sources: Brendan Cousino, engineering department employee for the city of Birmingham and Jana Ecker, director of planning for the city of Birmingham
Writer: Jon Zemke

Let's Save Michigan pushes for complete streets

Is your street a complete street? If you live in Michigan there is a good chance it isn't. The Let's Save Michigan initiative wants to change that.

The Ann Arbor-based non-profit is pushing for legislation and policy that calls for making the state's highways and byways less car dominant and friendlier to other forms of transportation, such as pedestrians and bicyclists.

"There isn't a policy that advocates for complete streets," says Sean Mann, director of Let's Save Michigan. "We need to advocate for pedestrians, bicycles and others."

That means spending more public money on improving the infrastructure for those modes of transportation. It's a policy the U.S. Transportation Secretary has recently put forth and one which Mann wants to see Michigan and Metro Detroit communities adopt with things like comprehensive transit plans.

Such legislation is being crafted in Lansing. Mann is hopeful that will be introduced during this year's legislative session. The Michigan Complete Streets Coalition has rallied support from 30 organizations behind it and continues to gather more support for the policy idea.

Source: Sean Mann, director of Let's Save Michigan
Writer: Jon Zemke

Downtown Plymouth boasts 95 percent retail occupancy rate

Recession or not, downtown Plymouth is enjoying a healthy retail business environment, thanks to a 95 percent retail occupancy rate.

"We're extremely lucky," says John Buzuvis, director of business operations and special projects for the Plymouth Downtown Development Authority. "Our occupancy rate is high. We're getting constant inquires. We're faring better than most downtowns."

A big part of that is a steady flow of new companies coming into the city center that revolves around Kellogg Park. This year so far, three have either moved into or are setting up shop in the area.

One of those is Sun and Snow, which is finishing a build-out at 388 S Main St. near Ann Arbor Trail. Eclectic Attic, an upscale consignment boutique, is opening on Forrest Avenue. And the Rock Bar & Grill just opened on 844 Penniman Ave.

Buzuvis expects that occupancy rate to stay high as more firms compete for open spaces this year.

Source: John Buzuvis, director of business operations and special projects for the Plymouth Downtown Development Authority
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ford shrinks carbon footprint, saves $16M to date

Ford is pushing green building forward by lowering the energy consumption of its computer systems.

The Dearborn-based automaker has implemented the PC Power Management program, which centrally manages the settings on Windows laptops and desktop computers. An estimated 60 percent of employees don't power down their computers when they leave at night, so the program does it for them.
It is also expected to increase worker efficiency by running software updates during off-peak hours.

Ford is implementing the system in its North American offices this year and its world-wide offices in 2011. The move is expected to save the company $1.2 million annually in power costs alone, equivalent to reducing its carbon footprint by an estimated 16,000 to 25,000 metric tons annually.

This initiative is part of Ford's ongoing process of making its buildings, both office and manufacturing, more energy efficient. That policy has allowed it to earn the EPA's ENERGY STAR Award for five straight years. The company has accomplished this with simple solutions, such as switching to CFL bulbs and installing electronic thermostats.

Ford has reduced its energy consumption by 5 percent, saving $16
million, since 2008. Energy use has fallen by 35 percent since 2000.

Source: Ford
Writer: Jon Zemke

Detroit Medical Center's new owner has plans for $800M in upgrades

A major change in health care is coming to Metro Detroit now that the non-profit-based Detroit Medical Center has been sold to a for-profit firm from Nashville, Vanguard Health Systems.


Tennessee-based Vanguard Health Systems has acquired the Detroit Medical Center. The company plans to invest $800 million in its city of Detroit facilities and create a number of new jobs over the next five years.

"We would expect to hire additional clinical personnel and management personnel," says Phil Roe, CFO of Vanguard. He added that his firm expects to use local resources (contractors, construction workers, materials, etc.) for the new construction and renovation projects.

Those proposed projects include a new Children's Hospital tower, new modern patient units at Detroit Receiving, a doubling of the Sinai Grace emergency room, a major renovation of Harper, and new physicians' office buildings at Harper and Sinai Grace hospitals.

Read the rest of the story here.

Terumo finishes Ann Arbor HQ expansion, new plant

Complaints about the effectiveness of the state's tax credits have nothing to do with the success story unfolding at Terumo's new Ann Arbor campus.


Two of Terumo's subsidiaries are opening the doors to their new expanded facilities in Ann Arbor, capitalizing on tax breaks recently awarded by the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

Terumo Cardiovascular Systems and Terumo Heart have opened a new production plant and expanded office space on Jackson Road just west of the city. The firm's subsidiaries have consolidated their research, development, and manufacturing facilities in Ann Arbor.

Read the rest of the story here.

Ypsilanti City Hall solar panels flip switch on electricity

A small group of people are making a bigger and bigger impact on alternative energy in Ypsilanti, one solar panel at a time.


The meters are spinning in the right direction at Ypsilanti's City Hall, now that the new solar panels on the south side of the building are generating electricity. Local officials and volunteers who made the project happen flipped the switch last weekend.

That not only turned on the 12 solar panels that adorn the downtown building, but concluded an ambitious grass roots project, Solar Ypsi, that continues to spread its roots throughout Ypsilanti.

Read the rest of the story here.

Oshkosh plans new Warren tech center for military trucks

Oshkosh plans to move its Metro Detroit office to a bigger and better facility in Warren, one that will bring millions of dollars in investment and create dozens of new jobs.

The defense contractor already has an office in Warren, but is moving it to a new $6.5 million facility that will specialize in technical development of military vehicles like army trucks. The deal, made possible thanks to a $6.4 million state tax credit over 12 years, is expected to create 190 new jobs. The Wisconsin-based company was also considering a competing site in Wisconsin.

Oshkosh manufactures and markets commercial, emergency, and military vehicles and equipment. The new tech center will work the company's Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles, such as Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck, Heavy Equipment Transporter, and Palletized Load System.

Macomb County has long been a bit of hub for military-focused companies, specifically because of the TACOM in Warren. However, increasing numbers of defense contractors have been setting up shop in Macomb County, particularly in places like Warren and Sterling Heights.

Source: Oshkosh
Writer: Jon Zemke
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