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Growing the 'burbs: Top development stories to watch in Metro Detroit in 2018

Ferndale's growing up and out. Ford's helping to transform downtown Dearborn. And metro Detroit's communities continue to embrace the concepts of placemaking in earnest. There is no shortage of developments coming online in southeastern Michigan in 2018. By no means a complete list, here are several of the grand openings we're most looking forward to attending in 2018.

Ferndale
Home of the hippest downtown north of Eight Mile, Ferndale will only cement its status as metro Detroit's most attractive suburb for area millennials in 2018. From single family homes to multi-level mixed-use loft buildings, Ferndale will see a number of development projects begin or conclude throughout the year.

According to its website, the Ferndale Haus Lofts development will be completed by May 2018. Construction is currently underway on the mixed-use building, which is being built on the old Sav-A-Lot site on Nine Mile Road in downtown Ferndale. Expect 90 residential units, more than 10,000 sq. ft. of retail and office space, and integrated parking at the Ferndale Haus Lofts.
A mix of 100 single family homes and townhomes will be built on the sites of two former schools, both of which should offer at least some move-in ready homes over the course of the year. The 72-unit Parkdale Townes townhouse development is going on the former site of the Taft Digital Learning Center and the 28-unit Wilson Park Village of single-family homes is being built on the old Wilson University High School site. Bloomfield Hills-based developer Robertson Brothers Co. is responsible for both projects.

Though it may not be ready for at least another year or two, it will be no less interesting to observe how the development of the Iron Ridge District shapes up over the course of 2018. Located on a 13-acre site that straddles the border of Ferndale and Pleasant Ridge, the Iron Ridge development will eventually include residential, commercial, and office space, as well as a marketplace, brewery, beer garden, and more.

And while it may not be the sexiest of developments, a multi-level parking deck in downtown Ferndale confirms the city's continued and expected growth. Dubbed "The Dot," the four-level and 397-space parking deck will also feature street-level commercial space and the potential for two additional floors of office space. Construction on the structure, located on W. Troy Street, breaks ground in the spring.

Dearborn

In addition to the Ford Motor Company's increased focus on autonomous vehicles and mobility technology, the Dearborn-based company made the headlines several times in 2017 as they announced a number of development plans that embrace the benefits of traditional downtowns. At least two of those plans should come to fruition in 2018.

Work is well underway in west downtown Dearborn, where Ford has purchased, demolished, and is in the process of rebuilding two blocks of that city's main drag, Michigan Avenue. Eschewing the mid-twentieth century idea of an office tower surrounded by landscaping and parking lots, Ford is rebuilding the streetwall on Michigan Avenue to supply offices for as many as 600 employees in a walkable urban environment that is decidedly more appealing to a new generation of office workers. They are also renovating the historic Wagner Hotel as part of the project. The development should be completed by mid-year
Ford is also moving more than 200 employees to a redeveloped building in Detroit's historic Corktown neighborhood, another building that is located on Michigan Avenue. That move should be completed in 2018, too.

Though it won't be completed by the end of 2018, Ford also announced that it is redesigning its Ford Dearborn campus into a high-tech and green campus as it transitions from an automobile company into an automobile and mobility company. The campus redevelopment is a 10-year project and construction is underway.

Pontiac/Bloomfield Hills

The specter of the abandoned Bloomfield Park development in Pontiac and Bloomfield Hills has haunted passers-by for nearly a decade now, but it was announced in 2017 that the arrested development-that-never-was would soon be scrapped and replaced with a re-invigorated plan for the nearly 90-acre site.

The new development, the Village at Bloomfield, will incorporate some of the partially-built buildings while demolishing others, resulting in a mixed-use campus that includes commercial, residential, and a hotel. Openings should roll out over the course of both 2018 and 2019, according to Southfield-based developer Redico.

Placemaking

We reported on several placemaking projects over the course of 2017, and a number of them are scheduled to come online in 2018.

Bike share programs. Bike lanes. Bike racks. Bicycles have become a key component of a number of metro Detroit communities' placemaking missions. In the community of Wayne, a 2017 crowdfunding campaign successfully raised enough money to install 20 custom bike racks throughout the city. In 2018, look for pop-up bike repair stations to continue throughout spring and summer of 2018.

In the downriver community of Trenton, a successful crowdfunding campaign has funded the construction of the Wildlife Refuge School Ship Dock and Fishing Pier at the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge. While construction on the dock and pier have been completed, they won't officially open until this spring. The pier offers free shore fishing access to area anglers while the dock will host Michigan Sea Grant’s Great Lakes school ship, providing metro Detroit schoolchildren a "living laboratory" field trip destination on the river and refuge.

Both the Wayne bike rack program and the Wildlife Refuge School Ship Dock and Fishing Pier were subjects of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation's Public Spaces Community Places placemaking initiative. For successfully reaching their crowdfunding goals, each program received a corresponding matching grant.

Bonus developments to watch: 

It will be interesting to monitor what 2018 holds for three of metro Detroit's most notable sites, those of the vacant Northland Mall in Southfield, the shuttered Palace of Auburn Hills, and the partially demolished Pontiac Silverdome. Each site holds both cultural and nostalgic weight for metro Detroiters, but each is also uniquely situated to provide transformative development opportunities for their respective communities. No doubt that the cities of Southfield, Auburn Hills, and Pontiac are carefully weighing their options for each site.
 

April Wagner's epiphany studios opens downtown Detroit pop-up, plans Pontiac headquarters expansion

April Wagner's epiphany studios, the Pontiac-based hot glass studio and gallery is growing.

Since Sept. 15, Wagner has been selling pieces from her line of functional and decorative glasswork art at the historic Guardian Building in downtown Detroit. It's a perfect fit for a company that's in the business of art and craftsmanship; the Guardian Building is widely considered to be one of the finest examples of Art Deco skyscraper architecture in the world.

"Being in the Guardian has been inspirational. I feel like the role of the craftsperson hasn't changed over the years, even with technology," says Wagner. "Well-crafted things will always be important."

For now, the epiphany studios gallery at the Guardian is a pop-up, though Wagner says that if things go well enough, she'll consider keeping a permanent space there. She'll stay open at least through next year's North American International Auto Show in January.

She currently occupies a 300 sq. ft. gallery-type space in the building's promenade level. The downtown Detroit epiphany studios offer a good representation of Wagner's pieces, from the functional bowls and cups to the more decorative and artistic sculptures. Holiday pieces, too, are a theme, including glass pumpkins for the fall and planned Christmas ornaments for later in the season.

In addition to Wagner's newfound presence in downtown Detroit, the artist is also preparing to expand her Pontiac studio, nearly doubling its size. Wagner's 4,000 sq. ft. Pontiac headquarters serves mainly as a studio, with 3,000 sq. ft. dedicated to machinery, workspace, and shipping. She's planning on building a 3,000 sq. ft. addition on the building, and expects to complete it within the next three years.

One of the things that spurred on the expansion is a current project, a chandelier that is 9.5 ft. tall. Constricted by space, Wagner has to work on the chandelier in pieces. The new expansion will feature a two-story open space that will allow the artist to work on such large projects as one piece.

The epiphany studios gallery at the Guardian Building is open Thursday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and also by appointment.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Restaurant veterans to open southern-inspired Menagerie Lounge in Pontiac

A new restaurant is being planned for downtown Pontiac, and it comes from a few familiar faces in the city's dining scene.

James and April Forbes, the couple responsible for the pop-up kitchen and incubator Menagerie, are planning on opening a restaurant of their own. Dubbed Menagerie Lounge, the restaurant will feature southern-inspired fare, live entertainment, and design work and art from local Pontiac artists. The couple, who won the Food Network's Cupcake Wars in 2012, will also carry their own award-winning desserts.

Scheduled for a February 2018 opening, Menagerie Lounge will be located at 155 N. Saginaw St. in downtown Pontiac.

"When we go out to eat, we've been in the service industry for so long that we have a different lens that we view the experience through. We're more forgiving, but we also know how we want our staff to treat our customers," April says. "The customer service will be top notch because people work hard for their money."

The build-out of the restaurant is being funded, in part, by a recently announced $25,000 grant from Flagstar Bank and a $35,000 Small Business Administration (SBA) loan from Center for Empowerment and Economic Development (CEED). The grant is part of $2.5 million that Flagstar is scheduled to invest in small business development in Pontiac.

"We're super excited about the loan and grant opportunity. It's not often that a small restaurant gets this type of opportunity at all," says James. "We're excited about the direction the city is heading in."

April recommends that businesses interested in applying for the loans and grants be prepared and have their business plans ready. Oakland County's One Stop Shop Business Center, she says, was a big help in preparing Menagerie's business plan.

Menagerie, which got its start as a pop-up kitchen in 2015, moved to Lafayette Market earlier this year, where they facilitate the pop-up kitchen and restaurant incubator programs. The couple says that they will continue to work on the incubator program, even after their own restaurant opens.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Flagstar Bank launches small business development funding in Pontiac

Excerpt

Flagstar Bank announced the first disbursement—$500,000—of its $2.5 million investment in small business development in Pontiac. This small business initiative is part of Flagstar’s five-year, $10 million commitment to help revitalize the city.

“We’re happy to have partnered with Flagstar to bring this $10 million commitment to Pontiac,” said Pontiac Mayor Deirdre Waterman. “Small businesses are the backbone of any economic revitalization, and this funding from Flagstar gives a welcome boost to our community.”

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Downtown Pontiac's newest business boasts 100 percent American-made outdoor sports apparel

Bill Ludwig and his business partners, a group of avid fishers, boaters, and golfers, noticed something as they were walking around ICAST, an annual fishing trade show. In terms of apparel, the fishing and resort apparel industry had grown complacent. While there was plenty to choose from, the offerings were leaving the group unimpressed.

"We walked through and started discussing starting our own brand," says Ludwig. "One of my partners lamented that there was no need for another performance brand. But I said, yeah, but look at the labels. There isn't one manufacturer here with a label that says Made in USA."

So they started one.

American Made Performance is a fishing and resort apparel company based in downtown Pontiac. Ludwig, the CEO of the company, says that all of its products are 100 percent made in the United States. The cotton is grown here, and the fabrics are woven and sewn here. He contends that they're the only ones in the fishing and resort apparel industry to be able to make that claim.

The notion that people want 100 percent American-made products seems to have so far worked out for AMP. The company employs two dozen people at its downtown Pontiac manufacturing facility, an old bank at the corner of Saginaw and Huron streets. And Ludwig says that current revenue projections indicate that AMP will double that number within the next twelve months.

The company has partnered with Ryan Keene as its exclusive artist, which is another selling point for the brand, says Ludwig. Absent are the muted browns and greens one might expect to find in fishing apparel, instead replaced with bright colors and lively illustrations.

"It's rare for a company to have unique selling propositions," says Ludwig. "We have two. The United States and Ryan Keene."

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Thousands of jobs, billions of investment headed for Pontiac, developers say

Excerpt

Pontiac's leaders say the city is on the verge of making major strides toward a comeback as a major economic hub in Metro Detroit.

The city's resurgence, however, won't be based on an over reliance on auto manufacturing this time, and instead supported by a series of developments and corporate moves diversifying its economy.

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Pontiac Notre Dame to open $7.5M science and technology wing in 2018

Excerpt

Notre Dame Preparatory Academy (NDPMA) broke ground on a new $7.5-million science, art, and technology wing at its Pontiac campus.

The addition, designed by Bloomfield Hills-based TMP Architecture, will span 26,000 square feet and will open in fall 2018. The one-story facility will connect to the present shared middle and upper division wings and offer science-laboratory facilities, collaborative-learning classrooms, a robotics lab, a greenhouse, and a fine arts studio.

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Slows Bar-B-Q Pontiac repurposes pieces of local past

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Owner Phil Cooley and architect Brian Gill describe how they worked remnants of the former Pontiac Central High School into the design of the restaurant. 

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MadDog Technology transforming Pontiac into a hub for software development

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Tech248 Director Greg Doyle interviews Mark Hillman, co-founder of MadDog Technology, one of the members of a group that represents 1000 companies. MadDog is in the historic Riker Building in downtown Pontiac, creating a world-class tech space, Hillman said. MadDog incubates and invests in software companies, some eight and counting. Former Compuware co-founder Peter Karmanos is Hillman’s partner – in case you wondered where he went after he left Compuware. MadDog also has raised a venture capital fund.

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Downtown Pontiac's Riker Building celebrates first major tenant: MadDog Technology

The redevelopment team of the historic Riker Building in downtown Pontiac is taking a top-down approach. The ten-story building, opened in 1928, welcomed prominent Michigan public officials and business leaders this past Wednesday, March 22 for a luncheon and open house celebrating the building's first major tenant, MadDog Technology.

From the top floor of the Riker, a group that included the building's developer Tim Shepard, MadDog Technology co-founders Pete Karmanos, Jr. and Mark Hillman, Pontiac Mayor Deirdre Waterman, and Michigan Lt. Governor Brian Calley, among many others, gathered for the grand opening of MadDog Technology.

The venture capital firm MadDog has moved four technology startups into the 6,000 sq. ft. space on the building's tenth floor. Redevelopment of the building is happening one floor at a time, from the tenth floor on down to the first.

The overall theme of the celebration was one of rejuvenation, not just of the prominent downtown office tower but of the city as a whole. Speakers forecasted a pending technology boom for the city, encouraging the audience to invest in Pontiac.

Mark Adams, Senior Business Development Representative for Oakland County's Economic Development & Community Affairs department says that Michigan nearly lost MadDog to another state, but work at the city and state levels, including a state grant, helped convince MadDog to stay in Michigan.

Adams says he expects 100 IT workers to be hired over the next few years, and that MadDog's move to the Riker, "will be a catalyst for more businesses coming to the city of Pontiac."

Mayor Waterman believes MadDog will help establish Pontiac as a technology hub, saying that the city has the largest unused fiber optic network east of the Mississippi River.

"We want to change the narrative of what Pontiac is," says the mayor. "We're at the center of Oakland County."

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Fresh fruits and vegetables store opens in Pontiac

It's only been a few weeks since Sprout Fresh Food Store opened in Pontiac--Jan. 26, to be exact--and co-owners Bethany Blackburn and Coleman Yoakum are quickly learning about their neighbors and customers.

They're starting to learn about people's families, about their lives. They're learning about people's buying habits, too; Sprout can't keep enough grapes and bananas in stock, they're flying off the shelves so quickly. But that's part of Sprout's mission, says Blackburn. Not only did they want to provide fresh vegetables and fruit to a neighborhood slim on such options, but they wanted to become a part of that neighborhood, too.

"Everything's been really well received," says Blackburn. "It's not that we didn't think we wouldn't be, but people are visibly excited when they come in."

The nearest grocery store is two miles away, which is a problem for neighbors with limited transportation options, she says. And the nearby party stores and gas stations don't exactly carry a wide range of fresh produce, either.

Sprout makes an effort to keep prices low and affordable for its neighbors. The co-owners volunteer at community gardens and farms in places like White Lake, Oakland Township, and Romulus in exchange for free and low-cost produce. They also have their own two-acre garden in the neighborhood.

Blackburn says they just found out they've been approved to accept Bridge Cards and SNAP benefits.

Yoakum first moved to Pontiac for an internship, eventually deciding to stay and start Micah 6, a community development non-profit. He reconnected with his old friend Blackburn, who moved to the neighborhood from Arkansas to help run the produce shop. Sprout, she says, is just one avenue of community outreach that Micah 6 has planned.

"This next year is all about building relationships with our neighbors and opening our arms to the rest of Pontiac," says Blackburn.

Sprout is hoping to throw a grand opening party in the next several weeks, and more information on that can be found on their Facebook page as plans develop.

Sprout Fresh Food Store is located at 580 W. Huron St. in Pontiac. They are open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., Fridays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

New Fillmore 13 Brewery coming to downtown Pontiac

Excerpt

Fillmore 13 Brewery LLC is set to open in downtown Pontiac in the next two weeks with about 20 beers on tap in the location which was previously the Oakland Arts Center at 7 North Saginaw St.

Read more.
 

Karmanos hopes to spark Pontiac revival with tech startups

Excerpt

Tech pioneer Pete Karmanos Jr. helped jump-start the downtown Detroit revival in 2003 by moving his Compuware headquarters from the suburbs into the gleaming, new 15-story, $450-million headquarters building at Campus Martius. Now he's hoping to do something similar for downtown Pontiac.

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Flagstar plans $10 million economic development program for Pontiac

Excerpt

Flagstar Bancorp Inc. announced a five-year $10 million economic development program for the city of Pontiac.

The program includes customized home loans for Pontiac residents and veterans; $2.5 million for small businesses, startups and business attraction; $1.5 million for the previously announced naming rights for the Flagstar Strand Theatre for the Performing Arts; and $1 million for financial literacy.

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M1 Concourse officially opens the largest automotive enthusiast destination in North America

M1 Concourse celebrated its official grand opening with a ribbon cutting ceremony attended by large crowds of customers, Detroit area automotive enthusiasts and local officials on Sunday, August 14, 2016. The 87-acre former General Motors property on the northwest corner of historic Woodward Avenue and South Boulevard in Pontiac, Michigan was targeted at the massive audience in Metro Detroit that is passionate about cars and motorsports.

At completion, the development will be the largest mixed-use automotive enthusiast destination in the world containing a 1.5-mile performance track, 250+ Private Garages, restaurants, and an auto-focused shopping village.

The first 130 Private Garages, representing Phase 1 and 2, were pre-sold over the past 18 months.  Our eighty Phase 1 “Founding Owners” began moving into their units in early August. The fifty Phase 2 units will be delivered by early 2017.  Phase 3 (43 units) will officially go on sale in September and is already 50% reserved.

“This was a challenging project to get out of the ground due to the site conditions, lack of traditional funding sources and overall skepticism about the scale of the project,” said Brad Oleshansky, the Founder and CEO of M1 Concourse. “My heartfelt thanks to the many people who believed in this project and provided the necessary support and encouragement.” 

M1 Concourse has received significant interest from companies seeking to reach the audiences who will enjoy M1 Concourse, including the private garage owners, corporations that will rent the track and other facilities for testing, training and marketing events, and the general public. Previously announced partnerships include an alliance with Champion (owned by Federal Mogul) to name the 1.5 performance track the “Champion Motor Speedway,” and Hagerty being named the “Official Insurance Partner” of M1 Concourse.   Additionally, FCA announced that the Dodge Viper ACR would be the “Official Pace Car” of M1 Concourse and its Dodge brand would be a fleet vehicle partner with the provision of Vipers and Hellcats for use in a variety of driving activities on the property.

M1 Concourse received cooperation and support of the City of Pontiac and Oakland County. “The City of Pontiac is proud of Brad Oleshansky and his team’s hard work and dedication to develop this site,” said Deirdre Waterman, Mayor of Pontiac. “The news and accomplishments of M1 Concourse continue to generate positive momentum in Pontiac’s redevelopment.”

The grand opening ceremony, attended by over 5,000 people, included presentations from United States Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence, Oakland County Executive, L. Brooks Patterson, Pontiac Mayor Deirdre Waterman, State of Michigan Representative Tim Greimel and Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner.  The collective theme of the presentations was one of transformation and the catalytic nature of the M1 Concourse development.  Surrounding properties have experience significant increase in value over the past 2 years as a result of the M1 Concourse development and the project is spurring other nearby investment.

Complete details on the project, including the private garage community, facility rental options and public events can be found at www.m1concourse.com, which was completely revamped to include a full event calendar, garage owner portal, the public “M1 Pit Crew” club and M1 branded merchandise store. 

About M1 Concourse
M1 Concourse will be both a private club and public destination designed to leverage the passion of the largest concentration of car enthusiasts in the world. The community of Private Garages will accommodate more than 1,000 classic cars set along a 1.5-mile performance track. A large portion of the project is open to the public, where people can enjoy restaurants, a walkable village of auto-focused businesses and year-round programming, including car shows, concerts, product demonstrations and more. The idea for M1 Concourse grew directly and organically from the needs of the local auto enthusiast community. Complete details can be found at www.m1concourse.com.
 
108 Pontiac Articles | Page: | Show All
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