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Pontiac : Development News

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Pontiac erases empty storefronts with free rent program

Why would retailers move into a downtown area where there are few office workers? And why would an office relocate to an area where there are few retailers?

Two reasons: they do it together, and they get a year's worth of free rent to do it. The solution may be in the Rising of the Phoenix program in Pontiac's business district, a program between renters and landlords to offer a year's worth of free rent in exchange for a multi-year lease.

Phil Wojtowicz, a member of the Pontiac Downtown Development Authority's economic restructuring committee, said the idea came about after visiting with brokers in Pontiac to discuss what can be done to improve the vacancy rates and to move some of the vacant properties, either by selling or leasing. "At the initial meeting, we just basically listed all the impressions that people have of Pontiac, positive or negative," Wojtowicz says. "We were mainly interested in the negative impressions, because those are the ones we have to deal with on a daily basis in order to get people to come into the downtown area and do business."

They found many of the perceptions, including Pontiac's crime-infested reputation, as inaccurate; in fact, they found, Pontiac's not far from other nearby communities, especially during business hours. "The crime statistics for the downtown area relatively low," he says. "Pontiac itself has issues, but the DDA is a pretty safe place to do business."

Wojtowicz explained that the Rise of the Phoenix plan is a blueprint to re-tenant Pontiac and increase business activity by luring tenants to open, relocate, or add a new location in Pontiac. "What we're trying to do is get a synergistic opening between so there's a lot of new tenants, retail and office, so they help each other out," he says.

He said they've received tremendous response so far, mostly retail, but with a smattering of office openings as well. Among the retail he believes the business district needs are things like dry cleaners, ice cream stores, clothing stores, and maybe a grocery store -- services not only important to residents but visitors, too.

The program offers strength in numbers, as it would be more difficult to fill the space piecemeal rather than through an organized program with retail, offices, and landlords all on the same page.

Wojtowicz points out Pontiac's good location, on M-59 and Woodward, and near I-75. He says offices looking for space can find rent at half or a third of price of the surrounding cities. "In today's economy that's a true way of growing your bottom line," he says.

While hammering out details for the Rise of the Phoenix plan, Pontiac also put more cops on the streets through their auxiliary police force, and hosted two street cleanups. The city also re-energized the Pontiac Business Association, which had been dormant for several years.

Source: Phil Wojtowicz, member of the Pontiac DDA's economic restructuring committee
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

Pontiac breaks ground on 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

WA3 breaks ground on Pontiac's Woodward Tribute

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

WA3 unveils a virtual Woodward Avenue

You don't have to travel down Woodward Avenue to experience Michigan's Main Street anymore, now that the Woodward Avenue Action Association has released WAVE.

The Woodward Avenue Virtual Experience offers a 3D virtual tour of the M-1, accessible from a web browser. The virtual experience (think Google Earth) offers not only a similar tour to what one might experience walking up Woodward, but also offers information on destinations, available properties, businesses, and development opportunities.

"We wanted to think of something that was really different but everybody could use, too," says Nicole Brown, outreach and promotions coordinator for the Woodward Avenue Action Association, a non-profit advocacy organization for
the communities along Woodward. "This isn't just for tourists. This is also for people who want to start a business here."

Users should expect to be able to find out what properties are for sale or lease along Woodward, their zoning or land-use regulations and economic development, and historic preservation tax incentives. There will also be a bevy of information about events, attractions, dining, sporting events, entertainment, and tours on Woodward.

"This is one of the things that will keep growing as we develop the funding for it," Brown says.

WAVE is designed and maintained by Luna Tech Designs, which used Google Earth technology to create it. The Sterling Heights-based firm has made similar virtual experiences for other local communities, including downtown Plymouth and Detroit. A $15,000 Michigan Centers for Regional Excellence grant paid for WAVE.

Source: Nicole Woodward, outreach and promotions coordinator for the Woodward Avenue Action Association
Writer: Jon Zemke

Woodward sculptures ready for downtown Pontiac, Detroit

The Woodward Tribute sculpture project is set to gain momentum this summer, now that plans for one in downtown Pontiac have a green light and another in downtown Detroit are primed and ready to go.

The UAW and General Motors have pledged $10,000 toward the Pontiac tribute sculpture, helping the Woodward Avenue Action Association (which is spearheading the project) meet the $150,000 price tag. Construction is set to begin in late July or early August and complete by the Woodward Dream Cruise.

"Once they break ground it only takes a week or two to install," says Nicole Brown, outreach and promotions coordinator for the Woodward Avenue Action Association.

The non-profit is also finalizing plans for the tribute sculpture in downtown Detroit this spring. Once the location is finalized (near the Spirit of Detroit statue at Woodward and Jefferson avenues) the project will be announced, probably within the next few weeks.

The Woodward Tribute sculptures help raise awareness about the history behind Michigan's Main Street and how important it is to not only the state but the U.S. and the world. The sculptures are normally a robust column a story or two tall that depict part of Woodward's illustrious history.

Ferndale built the first one in its downtown in 2008. More are being planned for other communities along the Woodward corridor.

"We're speaking to several different communities to go forward with a fourth one," Brown says. "This is a great piece of art that helps people see the story of Woodward in an artistic way."

The sculptures are funded by a number of organizations. Those chipping in for the Pontiac sculpture are the Federal Highway Administration National Scenic Byway funds, Oakland County, and Genisys Credit Union.

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

Habitat for Humanity of Oakland County expands into Madison Heights

For years, the Oakland County chapter of Habitat for Humanity has concentrated its efforts almost exclusively on Pontiac. That changes this year as the non-profit begins building houses in Madison Heights.

Madison Heights utilized federal Neighborhood Stabilization Funds to raze three houses recently and has donated the land to Habitat for Humanity. The organization plans to build two bungalows and a ranch home there in mid-April.

"The city has been so gracious to us," says Sally LePla, executive director for Habitat for Humanity of Oakland County. "We can't wait to break ground."

The non-profit is not forgetting about Pontiac. It built nine homes and renovated two more last year in the Oakland County seat. It plans to renovate another six homes and build five more there this year. The organization doesn't usually take on renovations because of acquisition costs, but the housing crisis has enabled it to do so recently.

"It's sort of taking Habitat back to its roots," LePla says. "The founder for Habitat started with renovating houses."

The organization is starting a new Home Prep Program that will help qualify families to take over its new and renovated homes. For information on participating in that program, contact RaJon Taylor at rtaylor@habitatoakland.org or at (248) 338-1843 ext 303.

Source: Sally LePla, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Oakland County
Writer: Jon Zemke

Pontiac Silverdome reopening as sports venue

The new owner of the Pontiac Silverdome wants to sell you a whole seat to one of its new sporting and entertainment events, but thinks you'll only need the edge.

Triple Sports & Entertainment plans to host 6-8 events this year at the 82,000-seat stadium and former home to the Detroit Lions. More events in the next year or two are expected to be announced soon.

The first event will harken back to a spectacle that has helped make the Silverdome locally famous - a monster truck rally. "Domination in the Dome " will feature monster trucks like Big Foot and freestyle motocross races on April 17. Tickets are available at the box office and by clicking here.

Triple Sports & Entertainment, a subsidiary of Toronto-based Triple Group, bought the Silverdome last year for a little more than $500,000. It has since made some upgrades and repairs and plans to invest even more in the near future.

The Silverdome was opened in 1975 and has hosted a wide variety of events, ranging from a visit from Pope John Paul II to Wrestlemania III. It primarily served as the home of the Detroit Lions until the NFL team moved to Ford Field in downtown Detroit. It also served as the home to the Detroit Pistons before the NBA team moved to the Palace of Auburn Hills, and even hosted a FIFA World Cup game.

The city of Pontiac has struggled to find a solution to what to do with the stadium after the Lions left early this decade. Numerous redevelopment proposals started and stalled until the city fell into receivership and sold it at auction last year

Source: Triple Sports & Entertainment
Writer: Jon Zemke

Main Street Oakland County marks $540M in investment

Main Street Oakland County recently celebrated its 10th anniversary with some impressive numbers in its 11 downtowns.

  • $540 million of investment
  • More than 4,000 jobs created
  • 407 new business established
  • Over 2.7 million square feet of floor space (primarily retail)  constructed
  • $6 million-plus in cash sponsorships for events and programs
  • More than 129,000 volunteer hours

And those downtowns don't include two of the county's most vibrant – Birmingham and Royal Oak. Main Street Oakland County includes downtowns in Farmington, Ferndale, Franklin, Highland, Holly, Lake Orion, Ortonville, Oxford, Pontiac, Rochester and Walled Lake.

It's all part of Oakland County Executive L Brooks Patterson's vision of diversifying the economy so it can become more resistant to economic downturns.

Bob Donohue, program director for Main Street Oakland County, says that developing and redeveloping property and businesses in the county's urban centers is a "key part" of its overall economic policy. Accomplishing this includes creating a sustainable environment that emphasizes making the most of a downtown's assets through practices like historic preservation.

For instance, Main Street Oakland County communities generated $19 million in new investment and attracted 19 businesses that created more than 300 jobs last year. Although the construction of 11 new buildings played a part, the renovation of 237 others proved to be the main driver of that economic opportunity.

Source: Bob Donohue, program director for Main Street Oakland County
Writer: Jon Zemke

WA3 begins Woodward Maintenance Fund

The Woodward Avenue Action Association normally engages in maintaining the reputation and brand of Woodward Avenue. However, now it is taking a more active part in the physical appearance of Michigan's Main Street.

The non-profit has created the Woodward Maintenance Fund. The fund will help local municipalities deal with the extra costs of major events and other infrastructure improvements to make it prettier for people who use the corridor all the time.

"It will make Woodward as beautiful as possible and as appealing to everyone as possible," says Nicole Brown, outreach and promotions coordinator for the Woodward Avenue Action Association.

Some of the projects the fund will support include tree planting, fixing public lighting, and installing public art. It will also supply extra maintenance service during special events.

The initial funding ($10,000) for the project came from monies raised during the 2009 Community Foundation Arts & Culture Challenge. The Woodward Avenue Action Association expects to raise even more money from local foundations and philanthropists.

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

Construction starting on Pontiac's Holland Center

Hammers and shovels are about to start swinging at the old Wallace E. Holland Center, which is about to become the new base of operations in Pontiac for the Salvation Army Eastern Michigan Division.

"It's not just about a building but positive affects coming to the people of Pontiac and northern Oakland County," says Health Sells, a captain with the
Salvation Army Eastern Michigan Division.

The non-profit will rehab and expand the existing space as part of a $3 million project. Sells points out this will not only be a base of operations for the charity but a community center, too. The current Salvation Army building on 34 Oakland Ave. will be put up for sale.

The building on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. was originally constructed in the mid-1980s. It has been vacant for the last five years, a casualty of budget cuts at the city of Pontiac, which is now in receivership. The city and the Salvation Army have been working on the deal for the last few years.

The Salvation Army plans to raze 3,300 of the building's original 17,984 square feet. After that it plans another 10,248-square-foot addition to house its Oakland County services.

Health Sells, captain with the Salvation Army Eastern Michigan Division
Writer: Jon Zemke

More Tribute sculptures coming to Woodward Ave.

Detroit and Pontiac are the next cities in line to install tribute sculptures on their section of the famed Woodward Avenue corridor.

They are part of the Woodward Avenue Action Association's Tribute Project, which is building the sculptures along Michigan's Main Street to raise awareness about its important place in history. The sculptures are normally a robust column a story or two tall that depict part of Woodward's illustrious history.

Detroit's sculpture will be built next to the Spirit of Detroit at the intersection of Woodward and Jefferson avenues in downtown. It will have a theme of labor. The Pontiac sculpture's theme will center on transportation. Its location is still being determined.

A combination of federal funds and a local match are paying for the projects. Construction on both is expected to begin late this spring or early this summer.

"They're going to cost significantly less than the Ferndale one because that was the test case," says Nicole Brown, outreach and promotions coordinator with the Woodward Avenue Action Association.

These cities are following the lead of downtown Ferndale, which erected the first column in 2008. The idea is to tell Woodward Avenue's story and increase tourism through 30-foot-high interpretive themed columns made mainly of glass and concrete.

The sculptures will be internally illuminated to help depict visual elements of Woodward's past, present and future, such as its history in autos, technology, and music. Portions of these sculptures are being paid for by National Scenic Byway grants.

Source: Nicole Brown, outreach and promotions coordinator with the Woodward Avenue Action Association
Writer: Jon Zemke

Michigan Department of Human Services to move 400 employees to downtown Pontiac

Four hundred employees of the Michigan Department of Human Services are moving to downtown Pontiac from their current location near Great Lakes Crossing.


The Michigan Department of Human Services will move about 400 people into downtown Pontiac, leaving its current quarters near Great Lakes Crossing.

The state agency has leased 47,000 square feet in the Ottawa Tower building at 51111 Woodward Ave., said Michael Dudash, vice president of brokerage services at Troy-based Hayman Co., the leasing agent for the building.

The state was represented by Jones Lang LaSalle, he said.

As the first significant lease for the 200,000-square-foot Ottawa Tower building, Dudash hopes the deal will create some momentum for the Phoenix Center area of Pontiac.

"It's excellent, both for the building and also for the city," he said. "It's an infusion of people to the downtown area."

Read the entire article here.

Pontiac has Silverdome up for final auction

The white, err… silver, elephant in Pontiac's room appears to finally be on its way out.

The city has begun the auction for the Pontiac Silverdome. A deal for its sale and redevelopment is expected to be nailed down later this year. The online auction, which ends Nov. 12, can be found here.

The Silverdome has been a millstone around the city of Pontiac's neck ever since the Detroit Lions left it for Ford Field earlier this decade. A number of proposals have been developed and floated over the years, but all eventually floundered while the city paid millions to maintain the building.

Pontiac was taken over by an emergency financial manager earlier this year to help straighten out the city's books. One of the first things on the agenda was to move forward on resolving what to do with the 80,000-seat stadium and surrounding 127 acres.

The stadium was built in 1975 for $55 million at I-75 and M-59. It served primarily as the home of the Lions for 27 years. The Pistons also played a few seasons there. A Super Bowl and World Cup soccer matches also passed through the facility.

Source: City of Pontiac and Williams & Williams Commercial Real Estate
Writer: Jon Zemke

New $60M surgical pavilion opens up in Pontiac

St. Joseph Mercy Oakland grew in downtown Pontiac after recently opening a new $60 million surgical pavilion on the east side of its hospital on Woodward Avenue.

This is the first phase of a two-phase expansion of the hospital. The surgical pavilion is comprised of a dozen operating suites totalling 50,000 square feet in size. Eight of these rooms will house their first surgeries next week. The operating rooms were originally located in the main section of the building that was constructed in 1927.

These surgical suites are about double the size of the current operating rooms and feature a wide array of video capabilities for diagnostic imaging display, teaching, consulting, and medical records. There are also ceiling-mounted surgical booms that eliminate tripping hazard and accidental power losses by keeping cords off the ground.

The addition also has a number of green features, including super energy efficient LED lights that produce far less heat for the same amount of light. The heating and cooling systems are much more energy efficient, and other processes conserve both energy and water usage.

St Joseph Mercy Oakland has 443 beds and serves as a teaching hospital. It was founded in 1927 by the Sisters of Mercy and is now part of the Saint Joseph Mercy Health System.

Source: Saint Joseph Mercy Health System
Writer: Jon Zemke

Oakland County dedicates new and old Lady Justice statues

The sheet will come off Oakland County's Lady Justice, both the new and old versions, on Tuesday in a public ceremony.

The Oakland County Courthouse will unveil the new statue that will stand guard at the court's entrance in downtown Pontiac. It will also feature a new marble base that will support the piece of public art.

"We'll have the original out there as well," says Steven Stanford, an Oakland County project coordinator for facilities engineering.

The year-long project began last year when harsh weather damaged the original 105-year-old statue, ripping off the scales and cracking her arm. The Fine Arts Sculpture Center in Clarkston recently conducted a $40,900 restoration of Lady Justice.

A long life outdoors has weakened her zinc statue frame to the point that it must be indoors to survive. The original statue will be kept on display inside the courthouse for the remainder of its life.

A new bronze copy of the statue will replace the original in the courthouse's south plaza. The county also replaced the stucco base with one of marble to match the courthouse's exterior.

The county bought the 9-foot-tall statue in 1904 from W.H. Mullins, a Salem, Ohio-based statue manufacturer. She stood guard in front of the old Oakland County Courthouse until 1962, when the building was demolished. After spending the next two decades in storage, she was returned to the plaza in front of the new courthouse.

Source: Steven Stanford, project coordinator for facilities engineering at Oakland County
Writer: Jon Zemke
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