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2014 Governor's Awards for historic preservation announced

Gov. Rick Snyder and Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) Executive Director Scott Woosley today announced the selection of the 2014 Governor's Awards for Historic Preservation.

"These awards recognize the outstanding work going on throughout the state to preserve Michigan's historic and cultural sites," Snyder said. "These unique assets help to define the identities of our wonderful communities and are vital to Michigan's future. I am pleased that we can honor those who protect these sites through innovation and hard work."

The State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) at MSHDA initiated the award program in 2003 to recognize outstanding historic preservation achievements that reflect a commitment to the preservation of Michigan's unique character and the many archaeological sites and historic structures that document Michigan's past. Previous recipient projects include the rehabilitation of private residences in Ann Arbor, Calumet, Detroit and Kalamazoo whose owners used state historic preservation tax credits; the rehabilitation of furniture factories in Grand Rapids; the excavation and study of the Riley Mammoth Site in Ionia County by the University of Michigan; the preservation of the Northern Michigan Asylum for the Insane in Traverse City; the restoration of the DeTour Reef Lighthouse; and the rehabilitation of the General Motors Technical Center in Warren.

"This year's award winners have shown that they value Michigan's diverse history and resources and have put a priority on preserving both," Woosley said. "We applaud their dedication to this difficult and important work and their commitment to doing the job right."

The 2014 recipients are:
  • The Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget, Cornerstone Architects, and BCI Construction for the rehabilitation of the Lake Michigan Beach House, Ludington State Park
  • Dr. John Hand and the late Nancy Hand for their stewardship of the Frederick Kennedy Jr. Farm, Hanover Township, and the Hugh Richard House, Jackson
  • Michigan State Trust for Railway Preservation, Inc., for the restoration of Pere Marquette Railway Steam Locomotive No. 1225, Owosso
  • Lafayette Place Lofts, LLC., West Construction Services, and TDG Architects for the rehabilitation of the H. V. Mutter Building, Pontiac
  • Wayne State University, Quinn Evans Architects and McCarthy & Smith Inc. for the restoration of the McGregor Pond & Sculpture Garden
"Our historic buildings and archaeological sites define who we are as a state," State Historic Preservation Officer Brian Conway said. "We learn about previous generations by studying these historic places, and by preserving them we connect with people who came before us for the people who will come after."

The awards will be presented at a public ceremony in the Michigan State Capitol Rotunda at 9 a.m. May 7.

To learn more about previous Governor's Awards recipients, go to Michigan.gov/shpo, click on Special Projects and Governor's Awards.

Woodward Ave. transformation revealed

Plans to redesign Woodward Avenue between Detroit and Pontiac into a thoroughfare that will be prepared for mass transit as well as welcoming to bikers and walkers are being aired on public access cable channels in Oakland County.

Some of the organizations behind the plan, the Woodward Avenue Action Association, Southeast Michigan Council of Governments and the municipalities that line the avenue, are looking for public feedback as local, county and state officials get behind the Complete Streets plan.

Steven Huber, a spokesperson for Oakland County, says the plan could transform Woodward into a scenic thoroughfare in ways to promote business and usability.

Engineering firm Parsons Brinckerhoff came up with a redesign of the 27-mile stretch of road in a master plan that's believed to be one of the largest of its kind in the nation.

The planning and public feedback are moving at a faster pace as Oakland County and several municipalities work to prepare for the arrival of light rail on Woodward Avenue in Detroit.

The idea is to unite metro Detroit through a major corridor that's easy to travel, to stimulate transit-oriented development, and to create jobs.

Source: Steve Huber, marketing and communications officer, Oakland County
Writer: Kim North Shine

Pontiac's Ultimate Soccer Arenas expanding with acquisition of former GM property

Pontiac's Ultimate Soccer Arenas has announced that it will acquire more than 14 acres of land along Centerpoint Parkway and will expand from 267,000 square feet to 335,000 square feet, making it the world's largest non-professional sports facility. 

Read more

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

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

Main Street Oakland County communities receive record number of accreditations

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson announced that a record number of Main Street Oakland County (MSOC) communities have received accreditation for 2012 from the National Main Street Center. The 10 Oakland County downtown communities to receive national accreditation are: Clawson, Farmington, Ferndale, Highland, Holly, Lake Orion, Oxford, Ortonville, Pontiac and Rochester.

"Congratulations to all of our nationally accredited Main Street communities and to all of the individuals in each community who make that happen," Patterson said at a morning news conference at Leon & Lulu in Clawson. "Their hard work reflects well on all of Oakland County."

Each accredited community received a score of 10 out of 10 on their 2012 national evaluations. The accreditations were announced in May at the National Main Streets Conference in New Orleans. The 2014 National Main Streets Conference will be in Detroit from May 18-21.

During the news conference, Patterson highlighted Downtown Rochester which also received the distinct honor of the Great American Main Street Award for 2012 in May. Ferndale achieved that national recognition in 2010. Patterson also acknowledged two communities that joined MSOC earlier this year as associate level members: Oak Park and Lathrup Village.

The county executive was joined by representatives from the 10 accredited communities, the two new associate level member communities, and Oakland County’s Economic Development & Community Affairs Department. Members of the Clawson High School orchestra, cheerleaders and a baton twirler performed prior to the news conference.

MSOC is Oakland County's unique economic development program for its 32 downtown communities with a historic preservation philosophy and an emphasis on "sense of place." It helps local governments develop their downtowns as vibrant, successful districts that serve as the heart of their communities. Patterson established MSOC in 2000 as the nation'' first county-wide Main Street program. Since its inception through 2012, more than $685 million in public and private Investment has created a net of 8,000 new fulltime jobs and established 818 new businesses.

There are currently 18 member downtown communities in the MSOC program. The 12 selected level/full service member communities are Clawson, Farmington, Ferndale, Franklin, Highland, Holly, Lake Orion, Oxford, Ortonville, Pontiac, Rochester and Walled Lake. The six associate level member communities are Birmingham, Clarkston, Lathrup Village, Leonard, Oak Park and Waterford. For more information, click on AdvantageOakland.com.

Oakland County adds fresh foods market to downtown Pontiac

An effort to increase Pontiac residents' access to fresh, healthy foods is spreading in Oakland County with the opening of a third goverment-run market.

The newest market will operate one day a week on Tuesdays and sell fresh fruits and vegetables at a low cost.

The markets are a project of the Healthy Pontiac We Can! Coalition and the Oakland Livingston Human Service Agency.

Two other markets sell on Fridays and Saturdays, and all three share recipes for meals using fresh foods, lead cooking demonstrations and offer free samples.

"This market is a part of Oakland County's strategy to improve the quality of life of our residents through healthier lifestyles," says Kathy Forzley, Oakland County Health Division manager and health officer. "Consuming a diet high in fruits and vegetables decreases the risk of many chronic diseases, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes and some cancers."

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Kathy Forzley, Oakland County Health Division

Ferndale and Pontiac big winners in 2013 Main Street Oakland County awards

The Ferndale Downtown Development Authority and the Pontiac Downtown Business Association took home 16 of 30 awards given out at the Main Street Oakland County awards celebration at the Royal Oak Music Theater.

The event honors member communities of the Main Street Oakland County (MSOC) program for their downtown development efforts. More than 200 people attended the event, which was sponsored by ITC.

“Main Street Oakland County is a model for other Main Street programs across the country,” County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said. “I’m exceedingly proud of the progress Pontiac has made in bringing its downtown to life and Ferndale continues to amaze with the energy and passion it brings to the program. I congratulate both cities as well as the other winners for the contributions they make to create desirable and viable downtowns.”

MSOC, which created the awards program in 2008, recognizes excellence in downtown revitalization in five categories: Special, Organization, Promotion, Design, and Economic Restructuring.

Ferndale was honored for Outstanding Board Member (Stacey Tobar, Ferndale Downtown Development Authority), Volunteer of the Year (Scott Wright, Ferndale DDA) and Volunteer Recruitment Program among others. Pontiac’s honors included the Lafayette Lofts and the Lafayette Market. Pontiac also won the MSOC Spirit Award. A total of 11 MSOC communities won awards.

“Main Street is an economic development program that works and it continues to grow as we added Birmingham to the family this year,” Patterson said. “This is a vital tool that improves our downtowns and our county.”

The winners were:
  • Outstanding Board Member: Stacey Tobar, Ferndale DDA
  • Volunteer of the Year: Dick and Dawn Rossell, Holly DDA
  • Outstanding Fundraising Project: Yard Sale, Rochester DDA
  • Outstanding Public Relations Effort: Lake Orion DDA and Oxford DDA
  • Volunteer of the Year: Scott Wright, Ferndale DDA
  • Volunteer Recruitment Program: Ferndale DDA
  • Outstanding Retail Event: Wish List Window, Farmington DDA
  • Outstanding Promotional Design Piece:  Artwn - The Exhibit Brochure, Ferndale DDA
  • Outstanding Event Series: Rhythmz in Riley Park, Farmington DDA
  • Outstanding Special Event: C-Art, Highland DDA
  • Most Creative Sign: Rust Belt Market, Ferndale
  • Outstanding Signage: Lafayette Lofts and Lafayette Market, West Construction, Pontiac
  • Outstanding Adaptive Use of a Building: Lafayette Lofts and Lafayette Market, TDG Architects, Pontiac
  • Outstanding Public Investment: Downtown Streetscape/Main Street Makeover, Rochester DDA
  • Outstanding Private Investment: Valentine Distilling Co., Ferndale
  • Outstanding Business of the Year: Rust Belt Market, Ferndale
  • Corporate Responsibility and Community Support: Future Help Designs and SCORE Detroit, Pontiac         
  • Best Media Promotions Partner: Cavalier Pictures        
  • Outstanding Retail Recruitment: Hope Ponsart and Holly DDA  
  • Guts & Diplomacy: Madonna Van Fossen, Oxford DDA
  • Best One Year Progress: Clawson DDA                                      
  • Best Historic Preservation Ethic: Village of Franklin and Main Street Franklin
  • Best Work Plans/Action Plans: Pontiac DBA Main Street Program
  • Leadership & Integrity: Pontiac DBA Main Street Program
  • Most Volunteer Hours: Glen Konopaskie, Pontiac DBA Main Street Program
  • Best DPW and DDA Partnership: Ortonville DDA and DPW          
  • Outstanding Public Relations Effort: Ferndale DDA
  • Private Investment over $50,000: Imperial Bar, Ferndale
  • Outstanding Downtown Planning Effort: Downtown Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan, Clawson DDA and Greenway Collaborative, Inc.
Main Street Oakland County Spirit Award: Pontiac DBA Main Street    
Main Street is a trademarked program of the National Main Street Center in Washington. Clawson, Farmington, Ferndale, Franklin, Highland, Holly, Lake Orion, Ortonville, Oxford, Pontiac, Rochester and Walled Lake are MSOC communities. Birmingham, Clarkston, Leonard, South Lyon and Waterford are communities in the associate level program. Oakland County is the first county in the United States to operate a full-service county-wide Main Street program for the 32 distinct, historic downtowns in Oakland County. MSOC downtowns have generated more than $632 million in private and public investment, 7,629 new jobs and 773 new businesses since the program was formed in 2000.
For more information, go to MainStreetOaklandCounty.com.

About Oakland County Economic Development & Community Affairs
The Oakland County Department of Economic Development & Community Affairs, under the leadership of County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, is committed to promoting economic vitality, supporting distinct communities and conserving environmental resources through knowledge, cooperation and consultation services. For additional information, visit AdvantageOakland.com.

GM to invest $200M to expand powertrain headquarters in Pontiac

General Motors will be expanding its Global Powertrain Engineering Headquarters by investing $200 million to build a 138,000-square-foot wing in Pontiac (part of the $1.5 billion GM has said it would invest in North American facilities in 2013), creating 400 additional jobs. 

Read more.

There may be a second act for Pontiac's once grand Strand Theatre

Pontiac's Strand Theatre, a 1920-s era theater darkened since the mid-1980s, is the object of a major investment and revitalization project and one of several developments underway in a downtown that's lost most of its residents and businesses.

The theater renovation, which is funded by at least a $7 million in public investment, is a partnership between West Construction Services and the City of Pontiac and is the recipient of historic tax credits aimed at protecting historic structures and using them for economic revitalization.

The city owns the 1921-Renaissance style entertainment house on North Saginaw. Renovation is scheduled to to be completed in 2014.

West Construction Services is in experienced historic preservation and architecture and is owned by Kyle Westberg. He is developer of the $20-million Lafayette Place Lofts on North Saginaw, down the street from the theater. The lofts development in the center of downtown is taking tenants this month just weeks after ground floor retail tenants opened their doors.  Lafayette Market, a fresh food market, caterer, cafe and takeout business that opened just before Thanksgiving, and Anytime Fitness.

“I feel strongly that through our partnership with the City of Pontiac, the Strand will be restored to its original glory,” Westberg, CEO of West Construction Services, says in a statement announcing the public-private partnership.

“We are passionate about working to revive Pontiac’s wonderful downtown, and with our track record of successful historic projects we are excited about restoring this historic landmark and providing the community with a venue for creative and performance arts.”

The Strand was one of several booming theaters in downtown Pontiac's theater district and the only one to survive. The plan for the Strand is to bring back live theater and musical performances, show films and host community and private events.

The theater has been vacant since 2004, when previous renovation plans - also in the tens of millions of dollars - failed to pan out.

“The Strand is a long standing treasure in our community and we are excited to partner with an organization that has the best interest of our legacy and community needs in mind,” Mayor of Pontiac, Leon Jukowsk says in the announcement. “The team at West Construction has a proven record of excellence through their various investments in Pontiac. The community will reap the benefits of their work with increased community resources, services and now entertainment.”

Pontiac City Council President Lee Jones says a theater rebirth is an "opportunity to once again become one of the premiere meccas and showcase what this magnificent structure was built for," and Louis Schimmel, the emergency financial manager appointed to run the financially crumbling city, says the attorneys and accountants have worked for months on with West Construction in order to determine not only if it could "successfully complete the project, but to also make sure it could be finished with the proper financing.”

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Corinne Petras, spokesperson, West Construction Services and Push22

Specialty food market to open in downtown Pontiac's Lafayette Pl. Lofts

In less than a month downtown Pontiac will have a grocery store, one with fresh foods, take-out lunch and dinner, a butcher, a cafe with coffee and baked goods and wide selection of merchandise like nothing the downtown has seen in years.

The 10,000-square-foot The Layfayette Market will be run by Chris Monette, who's managed a successful market at Oakland University and is part of the larger Lafayette Place Lofts, a project of developer Kyle Westberg's West Construction Services.

Next door to the market, which is at 154 N. Saginaw, will be an Anytime Fitness, and above the two businesses will be 46 loft apartments. It's all inside the former Sears Department Store, a behemoth of a building that's been closed for years. The structure has historic architectural components that are being incorporated into the renovation, including the market's wood floors, which are original. This project took advantage of the free design assistance offered to property and business owners through Main Street Oakland County.

The Lafayette Market will open Saturday, Nov. 17, and the apartments are expected to be completed in December. The market and lofts are close to Oakland McLaren Oakland Hospital.

In the meantime there is an effort to learn what the community wants in the store through an online survey.

"The community is very excited about this," says spokesperson Corinne Petras. "But the survey is to make sure it's clear what the community wants."

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Corinne Petras, spokesperson, Lafayette Lofts

GM moves important research center to Michigan

GM will be relocating fuel cell researchers from their operations in Honeoye Falls, New York back to the Global Powertrain Engineering Headquarters in Pontiac, a practical move that will effectively cluster all of the work being done on electric vehicles and alternative technologies. 

Read more.

Plan would reconfigure Woodward Avenue loop in Pontiac

In an effort to promote long-term livability and economic growth in downtown Pontiac, a plan has been proposed to transform the existing Woodward Ave. "Loop" into two-way traffic, connecting the road to the surrounding neighborhoods and also facilitating bike and pedestrian traffic.

Read more

Changes to Pontiac-Detroit-Chicago rail line topic of state DOT meetings

As plans to improve a 304-mile stretch of passenger rail line that runs through Michigan, Illinois and Indiana move forward, the public is invited to participate in the process that determines what the local impact will be.

For metro Detroiters, the Chicago-Detroit/Pontiac Passenger Rail Corridor could offer connections to places that improve economic situations or quality of life, but it could also affect neighborhoods.

A series of meetings will be held this month and hosted by the three states' Departments of Transportation. The meetings will explain more about the proposal to make changes to the line and also take comments from the public. They will also offer possible route alternatives and identify potential issues that should be considered in the planning. They are required as part of the plan formation and environmental impact assessment to be done before construction can begin.

The rail improvements come as several metro Detroit communities, including Detroit, Pontiac, Troy, Dearborn, and the federal government have invested in new transportation stations that have brought economic benefit to cities around the
country by opening up access to jobs, education and affordable transportation.

According to GreatLakesRail, "the purpose of the program is to improve intercity mobility by providing an improved passenger rail service that would be a competitive transportation alternative to automobile, bus and air service between Chicago and Detroit/Pontiac…The program will provide sufficient information for the FRA (Federal Railroad Administration) to potentially support future decisions to fund and implement a major investment in the passenger rail corridor."

The local meeting will be held Wednesday, Sept. 26 at 7 pm. at the Double Tree Hilton Hotel, 5801 Southfield Expressway, Detroit.

Comments about the changes can also be shared online at GreatLakesRail.org or by telephone, 877-351-0853.

Source: Janet Foran, communications, Michigan Department of Transportation
Writer: Kim North Shine

"Help Build a Better Pontiac" community open house set for Sept. 26

The public is invited to a community open house on Sept. 26 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. to review and comment on a new plan for readapting Pontiac’s Woodward Loop and improving the city’s street, sidewalk and bike path system. The community open house will be held at the Bowen Senior Center, 52 Bagley St. in Pontiac.

Among the options to consider is converting the Woodward Loop to two-way traffic, narrowing Woodward and adding on-street parking along select portions, and adding bike paths. The design was generated by project planners based on research and on ideas from citizens who attended the community open house workshops in March and June.
“Improving Pontiac’s infrastructure is an investment that stimulates future growth,” said Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson. “I encourage all interested residents and business owners to attend this event.”
The open house is part of the Downtown Pontiac Transportation Assessment, an 18-month-long study to find the best ways to connect downtown Pontiac with surrounding neighborhoods and communities. This effort includes Pontiac residents and businesses, the city of Pontiac, Oakland County, the Michigan Department of Transportation and planning consultants from Parsons Brinckerhoff Michigan. 
Oakland County Planning & Economic Development Services, in partnership with Pontiac, was awarded a $300,000 federal grant for this project. Oakland County is providing a $104,000 in-kind match through staff time devoted to the project.
For more information, visit the project website at www.pontiaclivability.org or contact the Oakland County Department of Economic Development & Community Affairs at 248-858-5445.

About Oakland County Economic Development & Community Affairs
The Oakland County Department of Economic Development & Community Affairs is committed to promoting economic vitality, supporting distinct communities and conserving environmental resources through knowledge, cooperation and consultation services. For additional information, visit AdvantageOakland.com.
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