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Garage roof garden is what's growin' on in Pontiac

Ame Houston’s story of growth in Pontiac is quite literal. As co-founder and co-chair of Serendipity Seeds, a sprouting nonprofit dedicated to bringing green spaces to the urban center of downtown Pontiac, Houston is driven by dreams of creative reuse of the top story of the parking garage adjacent to Pontiac’s historic Riker Building, a 10-story 1928 office tower that has recently undergone internal redevelopment.

Tip top of the six-story parking garage is the new home of RootTop Pontiac, a collaborative effort of Houston and her partners Tad Reiner, Houston Robertson, and Stephanie Love, a group of volunteers, and some undisclosed investors in Pontiac and Oakland County.

The project is scheduled to roll out in six phases between this summer and next summer. Meanwhile, plants are sprouting in Houston’s home in Pontiac.

“It’s like a tiny farm in my house right now. There’s a lot of lettuce growing in my extra bedroom,” Houston says.

Plants were specially chosen to thrive in containers and planter troughs in a rooftop setting and grow vegetables or encourage pollination. A future plan is to grow hops on trellis walls, then see the hops used by local brewhouse Fillmore 13.

The weight of the containers, fully loaded with root systems and wet soil, were specially calculated to be appropriate for the space.

“Tad [Reiner] is a mechanical designer for a sustainable engineering company, and a student at Oakland University, so it helps to have his skills on our team,” says Houston. Currently studying greenhouse gardening, with the goal of becoming a master gardener, Houston brings her own green thumb to the project, and, as an embroiderer at Pontiac’s Earth 2 Earth, an artistic flair, as well.

In its roots, the effort is collaborative, pulling in the skills of many volunteers. "Jonathan Sterns is a young architect who has donated much of his time and expertise to the project," says Reiner. "He provided renders and code knowledge while asking for absolutely zero in return. We're super grateful to him."

Eventually, the RootTop space will be available to rent for events, or for educational purposes.

“We are happy to be able to reimagine this underutilized parking space,” says Houston. “We have a lot of passion in urban agriculture. We see green spaces popping up in Detroit, and want to bring this to Pontiac.”

Fillmore 13 sets out to manufacture and distribute craft beers from Pontiac with $100,000 grant

Fillmore 13 Brewery was one of several Pontiac businesses receiving funding on March 14 as part of The Pontiac Big Idea Grant Program funded by Flagstar Bank. The grant program aims to offer one award annually to support manufacturing businesses to grow in Pontiac.


The brewery, which opened its doors in downtown Pontiac in March of 2017, was awarded $100,000 to launch manufacturing and distribution of its craft beers under the brand Fillmore 13: Brewed in Pontiac, MI.


Lee Roumaya, the owner of Fillmore 13, says he plans to use the funds to acquire canning and bottling materials as well as hire two new staff to assist with distribution. Funds will also support marketing and promotion of the product line regionally to bars, restaurants, and retailers.


“This will be a huge help for us, and it'll give us the opportunity with the funding to move forward,” says Kourmaya. “It'll help pay for more labor in the brewery, more products, a canning system, and a promotional program to get our name out there, and let people know we exist, and we are making beer in Pontiac.”


Kourmaya expects it will take three to six months before Fillmore 13 products will be available in bars, restaurants, and stores.


Brewer Bo Holcomb recommends Fillmore 13’s Abricot Belgian Ale. “It’s served right to the line between being a traditional Abbey Pale, and then with the addition of the apricot, opens it up to a lot of other beer drinkers that might sort of stay away from a Belgian style.”


This is the second announcement of grants under the Pontiac Big Idea Grant Program. On January 8, 11 grantees were announced in the first round of funding. Today, nine more are being announced in the second round of funding including:

  1. Fillmore 13 - $100k

  2. Your World Electric - $10k

  3. Libby International - $10k

  4. K&R Studios - $10k

  5. Plug N Play - $10k

  6. Upholstery with Class - $4k

  7. E&K Arts and More - $5k

  8. Epiphany Studios - $6k

  9. Max Out Fitness - $10k

The Pontiac Big Idea Grant Program is committed to investing $700,000 per year into Pontiac over five years. Of the total $3.5 million overall planned investment, approximately $500,000 will be allocated in the form of grants and $250,000 in the form of business loans, with an average grant size of $10,000 and an average loan size of $5,000 to $25,000. The disbursement is being leveraged through a partnership with CEED Lending, a Small Business Administration lender.

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.

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.


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.


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


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.”

Read more

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


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.

Read more

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


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.

Read more

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


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. 

Read more

MadDog Technology transforming Pontiac into a hub for software development


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.

Read more

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


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


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.

Read more.

Flagstar plans $10 million economic development program for Pontiac


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.

Read more.

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.

Regional development news round-up for June

It's been another busy month for development news in metropolitan Detroit. Let's catch up on some more development stories from the past four weeks.

Small for-profit businesses in the city of Pontiac are being encouraged to apply for Pitch 'N Pontiac, a small business competition that awards cash prizes and pro bono business consulting services. Seven finalists will be selected for a Pitch event on Aug. 31 where the $5,000 grand prize will be awarded as well as $3,000 for second place and $2,000 for third. The deadline to apply is Friday, July 29 at 5 p.m. Non-profits and franchises are not eligible for the contest.

Ten Oakland County communities were recognized for their vibrant downtown areas, each receiving perfect "10 out of 10" scores from the National Main Street Center in Chicago. The towns were rated on a range of criteria that included community support and historic preservation. Receiving perfect scores were Clawson, Farmington, Ferndale, Franklin, Highland, Holly, Lake Orion, Ortonville, Oxford, and Rochester.

In Wixom, a new facility is being built by TREMEC Corporation, creating 133 jobs and $54 million in total investment. The manufacturer of high-performance vehicle transmissions is receiving a $731,500 Michigan Business Development Program performance-based grant and the city of Wixom is offering property tax abatement.

Also receiving a Michigan Business Development Program performance-based grant is Karma Automotive, which is being awarded $450,000 from the state for establishing an automotive engineering and purchasing hub in Troy. The company, which designs and manufactures luxury hybrid vehicles, will create up to 150 jobs and a $3.6 million investment. The city of Troy is providing the company marketing and promotional assistance as part of the deal.

A Peregrine Falcon chick hatched on the 11th floor of the Old Macomb County Building. Macomb County Executive Mark A. Hackel named the bird Grace, after his first-grade teacher and as a nod to all educators.

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

Work begins on $20M Strand Theatre renovations in Pontiac


Work began today on a $20-million renovation project of the Flagstar Strand Theatre for the Performing Arts in Pontiac, which will include restoring the theater, along with adding a Slows Bar-BQ restaurant at the facility and an event space. The theater, acquired by Brent and Kyle Westberg, is expected to reopen in the fall.

"Brent and I looked at the Flagstar Strand Theatre project as an opportunity to continue the forward progress of the reinvention of the city of Pontiac, particularly downtown Pontiac," says Kyle Westberg, president and CEO of Pontiac-based West Construction Services.

Read more.

Downtown Pontiac's newest tenant is a women's professional clothing boutique with a mission

Downtown Pontiac celebrated the addition of a new tenant, Career Dress, to its downtown community.

Career Dress is more than a business, it's a nonprofit community service. The organization looks like a typical women's clothing storefront from the sidewalk, but inside the store, the team at Career Dress outfits 30 women a month with clothing suitable for careers. Through their service, Career Dress provides women of low- to -moderate-income with professional attire to help them gain employment and obtain economic independence.

The storefront at 55 W. Huron St. provides Career Dress with some much needed space as well as the added benefit of the exposure gained from occupying a downtown Pontiac storefront. Career Dress was started in 2002.

Career Dress is a welcome addition to downtown Pontiac's small business community, which has added 15 new businesses since Dream Cruise weekend this past summer of 2015. According to the city, downtown Pontiac currently has 33 retail shops and six bars/restaurants.

Career Dress has received support from numerous merchants and corporations throughout the tri-county area. To help outfit their nonprofit boutique with donated professional clothing and accessories, call (248) 481-8276. For those seeking job assistance, e-mail Career Dress at info@careerdress.org. Career Dress receives referrals for new clients through partnerships with 40 different agencies.

Career Dress is located at 55 W. Huron St. in downtown Pontiac.

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

Bike loop, fix-it stations, and more coming to Pontiac

As a slew of economic changes come to Pontiac, officials are turning to quality-of-life improvements for the seat of Oakland County government, which had fallen on hard times for decades and now has the makings of a revival.

Several bike-friendly initiatives are the latest effort to make Pontiac more livable, likeable and economically viable.
New bicycle loops, fix-it stations and way-finding signs were recently installed in downtown Pontiac. They will give cyclists safer and easier paths to the public library, downtown businesses and city parks from the Clinton River Trail. The Friends of Clinton River Trail, Healthy Pontiac, We Can! Coalition, and Oakland County are among supporters and sponsors of the changes.
A special event celebrating the improvements took place on Oct. 21 and featured a ribbon cutting at one of the new fix-it stations. Cyclists from Pontiac Light Riders tried out the new features of the trail.
Source: Bill Mullan, spokesman, Oakland County
Writer: Kim North Shine

Pontiac Silverdome to meet wrecking ball


Six months after hitting the market with a $29 million price tag, the Pontiac Silverdome is out of time.

The property's owner has shifted strategies and is now preparing to tear down the empty and battered 40-year-old stadium next year in the belief that the 127-acre site would be more marketable without the Silverdome than with it.

Read more.

Euro-Peds National Center for Intensive Pediatric Physical Therapy opens standalone treatment center

Euro-Peds® National Center for Intensive Pediatric Physical Therapy announces the building purchase and opening of its treatment center at 3000 Centerpoint Parkway in Pontiac, Mich.; near I-75 and M-59 at the intersection of Square Lake and Opdyke roads. The first Center of its kind to open in the United States in 1999, Euro-Peds has helped more than 1400 children and young adults from Michigan and nearly every state achieve greater mobility. Many patients return to Euro-Peds annually for additional intensive treatment sessions to continue to gain increased mobility.
The new facility has large, private therapy suites for the entire family and features close, front entrance parking and extra-wide hallways for mobility equipment, biking, bowling and other fun therapy games at the one-level, 8,400 sq. ft. building.  The Center previously was located in leased space at Doctor’s Hospital of Michigan, also in Pontiac. Euro-Peds is privately owned and is no longer associated with Doctor’s Hospital of Michigan.
The new building also houses the Euro-Peds Foundation – a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to supporting families with grants for intensive physical therapy and providing education to children and their caregivers.
“This new Center gives Euro-Peds a solid presence in Southeast Michigan and beyond to help us effectively reach and teach children functional skills that lead to greater independence and health. The Euro-Peds ’ licensed staff and Foundation look forward to welcoming new patients and working with current families from all over the U.S. We also look forward to supporting other area healthcare providers with our treatment programs that are complementary to other treatment models at outpatient clinics and hospital-based programs,” commented Michelle Haney, PT, MSPT, Director of Euro-Peds National Center for Intensive Pediatric PT and Euro-Peds Foundation President.
Euro-Peds® National Center for Intensive Pediatric Physical Therapy helps children and young adults with cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, spina bifida and a variety of other gross motor disorders learn new skills to improve mobility, self-esteem and independence.

Located in Pontiac, Michigan, the Center opened as North America’s first intensive pediatric physical therapy center in 1999 for families throughout the U.S. and beyond seeking a specialized regimen of practice conditions, including use of the Universal Exercise Unit and optional patented suit therapy to optimize motor training and significantly improve motor skills. For more information about Euro-Peds’ individualized programs based on intensive therapy techniques originally pioneered in Eastern Europe, visit www.EuroPeds.org or call (248) 857-6776. Most insurances accepted. Treatment and travel grants may be available through the Euro-Peds Foundation. Visit www.EuroPedsFoundation.org to learn more and apply.
Established in 2013, the Euro-Peds Foundation (EPF) raises funds and disburses treatment and travel grants to families of children with gross motor disorders in need of financial assistance for specialized, intensive physical therapy at Euro-Peds National Center for Intensive Pediatric Physical Therapy in Pontiac, Michigan. Governed by a volunteer Board of Directors, the Foundation also assists in providing education about therapeutic interventions for the children and their caregivers. EPF believes every child deserves a first step. For more information, visit www.EuroPedsFoundation.org or call 1-844-EURO-PEDS (844-387-6733).

Is Pontiac the model for blight removal in Michigan?

The city of Detroit's fight against blight is well documented, but it is not the only city in southeast Michigan dealing with this issue. Pontiac, too, is getting aggressive when it comes to the remediation of problem properties, particularly vacant homes, in distressed neighborhoods.
According to a recent opinion piece for Crain's Detroit Business by Bill Pulte, founder of the Detroit Blight Authority and managing partner of Bloomfield Hills-based Pulte Capital Partners LLC, Pontiac is a shining example for how cooperation across sectors can effectively combat blight and increase property values in distressed neighborhoods.
Writes Pulte:
"I have been invited to visit great cities, large and small, across the United States to present time-tested experience, guidance and solutions for their blight challenges. When I am there, I always share the Detroit success stories from the original pilots, but the story that I tell most is that of Pontiac's politicians and leaders working together to solve the problem and put the credit aside. From the beginning, the question in Pontiac has been: How do we quickly and completely remove all blight from our neighborhoods and our city to create a blight-free, truly prosperous city?"
To date, Pontiac has removed over a third of the 905 homes identified as blighted during a 2014 survey of the city's residential properties.
Read more: Crain's Detroit Business

Local organization steps up to be part of the rebirth of Pontiac

Pontiac is open for business. With a renewed spirit, the City of Pontiac is on the cusp of rebuilding. To support local small businesses and address a main concern – lack of financing, The Center for Empowerment and Economic Development-CEED has stepped up to provide loans to small businesses located in Pontiac.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy, the major constraint limiting the growth, expansion, and wealth creation of small firms – especially women- and minority-owned businesses is inadequate access to capital.

CEED has made a commitment to provide $500,000 in loans available for the next 5 years at a fixed interest rate of 5%. Loans up to $50,000 can be used for machinery, equipment, inventory and some working capital.

“It is vital that the City of Pontiac create opportunities for our small businesses to gain access to capital” says Mayor Deirdre Waterman. “We look forward to working with CEED to support as many Pontiac small businesses as possible.”

CEED is no stranger to being a loan provider. As a pioneer in the industry, they were one of the first microlenders in the country in 1984 and have provided more than $5.5 Million in loans creating over 1,800 jobs. The organization has a stellar history of working with neighborhood business districts. By partnering with local municipalities, CEED is able to connect their resources with businesses in need.

“A loan from us comes with more than money. Part of the loan relationship is technical assistance which can range from help with bidding on federal contracts to using social media as part of your marketing strategy” says Michelle Richards, CEED executive director.

“Alternative solutions paired with, or without, traditional banking options are key to our City's business growth right now” says Glen Konopaskie, Executive Director of the Pontiac Downtown Business Association. “I look forward to integrating this program into our new Business Attraction Program that we will be rolling out soon for Downtown."

Learn more about how you may qualify for up to $50,000
Monthly Small Business loan orientations are scheduled in Waterford at the Oakland County One Stop Shop Business Center (2100 Pontiac Lake Road, Building 41W, Waterford, MI 48328). Attendance is free; registration is available through the Advantage Oakland or CEED website – www.miceed.org.

About CEED – www.miceed.org
The Center for Empowerment and Economic Development is a Michigan-based nonprofit organization which advances business owners by certifying 1,000 women business owners as a regional partner for the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, training 15,000 business owners and lending more than $5.5 million resulting in the creation of more than 1,800 jobs and over $11.6 billion in revenue generated. 

Detroit area developer stoked to do condo for car buffs


This winter's snow and ice can't melt fast enough for Brad Oleshansky, Birmingham car buff and founder of the planned 87-acre M1 Concourse off Woodward Avenue in Pontiac.

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New partnership offers connected vehicle technology credentialing program

SAE International, the Connected Vehicle Trade Association (CVTA), and Mobile Comply have formed a partnership to jointly develop and deliver a three-course training and credentialing program in connected vehicle technology.

The program is aimed at IT professionals, software engineers, automotive engineers, information and vehicle technicians, insurance and telecommunications professionals, transportation staff, and service professionals who desire understanding of Vehicle-to-Vehicle, Vehicle-to-Infrastructure, and Vehicle-to-X connectivity inclusive to the rapidly advancing field of Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) and Connected Vehicles.

Using a blended learning approach, the first course in the series, Connected Vehicle Professional I - Function, Protocols, and Architecture, will be offered in conjunction with SAE’s World Congress in April. Access to online course content will open April 13, followed by two half-day classroom sessions on April 20, 21 at the Penobscot building in Detroit. The class, totaling 26 hours of content, finishes with additional online learning modules and final learning assessment which concludes on April 29.

Learners who successfully complete the online learning assessment earn a Certificate of Competency, jointly awarded from SAE and CVTA. To learn more or register for the course, visit http://mobilecomply.com/sae-world-congress/.

The other two courses in the series include Connected Vehicle Professional II - Standards, Organizations, Programs, V2X and Connected Vehicle Professional III - Data, Markets, Policy and Regulations. All three courses combined total 100 hours of training.

Kevin Perry, Global Manager of SAE’s Professional Development program commented that, “This is an exciting opportunity for SAE to address the growing demand in automotive and allied industries to better understand connected vehicle technologies and the systems those technologies enable. Partnering with CVTA and Mobile Comply brings together a strong set of partners that can define training needs, deliver quality training, validate mastery of training content, and confer a powerful industry credential.”

CVTA Executive Director Scott McCormick explained that, “CVTA, SAE and Mobile Comply seek to provide a solid foundation of learning across the full connected vehicle ecosystem. Our goal is to provide a full understanding of the vision, purpose, uses, practices and implementations of vehicle communications so that the trainees may leverage this knowledge for their companies and projects. Business sectors typically outside of the automotive space will understand where the V2X environment is heading, and how to participate in that future.”

Elaina Farnsworth, CEO of Mobile Comply added, "With the potential for hundreds of thousands of jobs in the Connected Vehicle space in the next few years, and the growing participation of non-typical automotive industries such as insurance, IT, analytics and telecommunications, it become imperative to have a common frame of understanding, and a mechanism to establish competency in this field. Credentials are one important and universally recognized way to do this. With the structured and scalable training Mobile Comply can provide, the knowledge CVTA can impart, and the adjudication of that learning independently by SAE International we have a robust, consistent and multi-sector learning environment that is crucial for professionals entering into and working in this space."

SAE International is a global association committed to being the ultimate knowledge source for the engineering profession. By uniting more than 137,000 engineers and technical experts, we drive knowledge and expertise across a broad spectrum of industries. We act on two priorities: encouraging a lifetime of learning for mobility engineering professionals and setting the standards for industry engineering. We strive for a better world through the work of our philanthropic SAE Foundation, including programs like A World in Motion® and the Collegiate Design Series™.

Mobile Comply is an international leader in mobile training and curriculum development. Its training & certifications are recognized worldwide for excellence in mobile connectivity, mobile development, application security and connected vehicle curricula among others. Mobile Comply specializes in programs for mobile implementation, related policy and regulations and how to deploy mobile devices, applications, and proper security practices. We also partner with organizations to develop customized educational content and delivery strategies. Associates include writers, editors, subject matter experts, instructional designers, and trainers.

The Connected Vehicle Trade Association (CVTA) is a non-profit business league established to facilitate the interaction, and advance the interests, of the entities involved in the vehicle communication environment. The Connected Vehicle Trade Association enables the collaboration of companies, organizations, and governmental bodies engaged in developing bidirectional vehicle communications. Membership is open to any corporation, public entities, standards and specification organizations, educational institutions and qualified individuals.



Slows Bar BQ to open location in Pontiac's former Strand Theatre

Can lightning strike a rehabilitating urban neighborhood twice? Corktown's hugely popular Slows Bar BQ has signed a lease to open a restaurant in the former Strand Theatre in downtown Pontiac, which is planning to undergo a $21 million renovation and reopen in the fourth quarter this year.

Read more.


M1 Concourse starts its engines

M1 Concourse announced that it has acquired an 87-acre former General Motors property on the northwest corner of Woodward Avenue and South Boulevard in Pontiac, Michigan. The property was acquired from RACER Trust, which was created in March 2011 by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to seek buyers to invest in the redevelopment and reuse of properties owned by the former General Motors Corporation before its 2009 bankruptcy.

M1 Concourse has received preliminary site plan approval from the City of Pontiac to construct a mixed use development targeted at the massive audience of people in Metro Detroit passionate about cars and motorsports. When completed, M1 Concourse will be one of the largest automotive enthusiast destinations in North America and will contain a 1.5-mile performance track, 250+ private garages, restaurants, an auto- focused shopping village and office space.

“The response to our plans has been overwhelming since we first announced the project,” said Brad Oleshansky, the Founder and CEO of M1 Concourse. “We’re excited to begin preparing the land and proceeding with the development.” The first phase of private garages will be for sale officially in September 2014. “We are appreciative of the support we have received from the City of Pontiac, Oakland County and the State of Michigan, as well as the RACER Trust, who believed in our concept from the beginning,” said Oleshansky.

“We congratulate Mr. Oleshansky and his team and look forward to what promises to be a tremendous new development for Pontiac and Oakland County,” said Elliott P. Laws, Administrative Trustee of RACER Trust. “This is great news both for car lovers and for the community as a whole, and represents an ongoing fulfillment of RACER’s mission to bring new investment and jobs to the former GM properties in our portfolio.”

M1 Concourse recently partnered with Uniprop, based in Birmingham, Michigan. Uniprop made a significant equity investment in the project and will lend its expertise in real estate development, construction and finance. “This is the perfect project for Uniprop as it draws on all of our core competencies, and we are excited about the potential M1 Concourse has to make a significant impact on Pontiac and the surrounding areas,” said Uniprop’s Chairman Paul Zlotoff.

M1 Concourse reports receiving over five hundred positive responses and genuine interest from potential customers considering the purchase of a private garage. Phase 1 Grand Opening is anticipated to occur during the summer of 2015.

“In celebration of the closing, we’re hosting a Dream Cruise Week Kick-Off Car Show on Sunday, August 10, 2014 from 4 p.m. – 8 p.m. at our site,” said Oleshansky. “Initial response to our invitation has been extremely positive, a strong indication of the passion auto enthusiasts share for their cars.”

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.

M1 Concourse is part of a recent resurgence of development in Pontiac and will join much-anticipated projects, like the Indian Hill District Downtown, Wessen Lawn Tennis Club, The Links at Crystal Lake and the Strand Theatre. 

Pulse Design christens new digs in Pontiac

After several years of running a marketing firm from her Waterford home, Tany Nagy found an eye-catching office in Pontiac to be the the best fit for her expanding Pulse Design Studio.

The office at 2409 Voorheis St. is celebrating completion of one year of renovations that turned the 900-square-foot space into an open, flexible, colorful office "that feels warm and inviting," Nagy says. "The backyard boasts an enclosed patio that has a featured tiered garden and Adirondack chairs for staff and guests to enjoy the outdoors...The exterior of the building has a distinctive modern and asymmetrical zinc clad awning and yellow painted door that catches your attention as you drive by."

Pulse Design Studio has four employees designing presentations, graphics, PowerPoints, sell sheets and other marketing needs for print, online and in-person branding campaigns for companies such as Dannon, Barilla, Bing Maps, Claritin and others. A grand opening is set for June 27.

"After thoroughly searching the surrounding areas to lease an office, we had no luck with spaces that were small enough to fit our needs. The option to purchase our building came at the end of our searching, and ended up being the best option for us -- especially with the vision of what the renovations could do for our needs based on the existing architecture," Nagy says.

"The location on Voorheis St. is also a highly traversed section in the Waterford/Pontiac area, and we get excellent exposure daily. I run into people all the time that ask me where we're at, and I say the modern building off of Voorheis, and they say 'I know that place, I drive past that all the time.' "Overall,this building could not have turned out to be a more perfect space for us, and we look forward to being here for many, many more years ahead."

Source: Tany Nagy, founder and principal designer, Pulse Design Studio
Writer: Kim North Shine

Main Street Oakland County honors 11 communities at gala celebration

Farmington and its Downtown Development Authority (DDA) took home five honors Friday at the Main Street Oakland County awards celebration at the Royal Oak Music Theater.

Downtown development groups from Ferndale, Holly, Pontiac and Rochester each picked up three awards during the event, which honors members of the Main Street Oakland County (MSOC) program for their community development efforts. Other Main Street-member communities recognized Friday were Clawson, Franklin, Highland Township, Lake Orion, Ortonville and Oxford.

“Main Street Oakland County continues to be a model for other Main Street programs across the country,” County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said. I applaud these communities and the individual winners for the contributions they make to create desirable and viable downtowns.”

More than 200 people attended the event, which was sponsored by ITC, the Michigan Downtown Association and Future Help Designs.

MSOC created the awards program in 2008. It recognizes excellence in downtown revitalization in five categories: Special, MSOC Spirit, Organization, Promotion, Design and Business Improvement. Since 2001, MSOC downtowns have generated nearly $650 million in new public and private investment, created 6,671 new jobs and established 870 new businesses.

Lon Bone, vice president of Genisys Credit Union and a member of the MSOC board, was honored with the MSOC Spirit Award. Highland Township Supervisor Rick Hamill was honored for outstanding leadership and integrity; and Clawson DDA member Billy Kelly and Pontiac Downtown Business Association Main Street member Glen Konopaskie were named outstanding board members of the year.

The winners were:

• Outstanding Public & Private Partnership
: Lake Orion DDA, Whiskey’s Public Parking Lot • Outstanding Fundraising Project: Farmington DDA, Riley Park Ice Rink Capital Campaign • Outstanding Public Relations Effort: Ferndale DDA, How the West was One
• Outstanding Volunteer of the Year: (two winners) Farmington DDA, Melissa Andrade;
Ortonville DDA, Toni Mariucci
• Outstanding Board Member of the Year: (two winners) Clawson DDA, Billy Kelly; Pontiac
Downtown Business Association Main Street, Glen Konopaskie 

• Outstanding Art Event
: Rochester DDA, Rochester Posed
• Outstanding Retail Event: Ortonville DDA, Christmas Windows • Outstanding Special Event: Pontiac, Holiday Extravaganza

• Outstanding Façade and Building Rehabilitation
: Clawson, Mojave Cantina

• Outstanding Business Development Incentive Program
: Farmington DDA, Façade Incentive
Program – The Groves
• Outstanding Business Retention and Expansion: Ferndale DDA
• Outstanding Business Recruitment: Farmington, Los Tres Amigos
• Outstanding Business of the Year: Ferndale, Modern Natural Baby

• Guts and Determination
: Main Street Franklin Board of Directors
• Outstanding Charity Event: City Lights – Pontiac DBA Main Street
• Outstanding Promotion of the Arts: Life Aquatic Mural – Main Street Franklin Design
Committee and MALTS “aka” Brown Bag in Detroit
• Outstanding Investment: Holly, McDonalds; Oxford, William’s Art Glass Studio, Inc.
• Outstanding Media Partner: Cavalier Pictures, Andy Vance and Peter Watt
• Outstanding Perseverance & Persistence: Holly DDA
• Making the Right Decision: Holly DDA and the Village of Holly: “The Gray Lady”
• Outstanding Aggressive Business & Events Participation: Farmington, Off the Beaten Path
Book & Emporium
• Outstanding Leadership & Integrity: Highland Township – Rick Hamill
• Most Unique & Creative Fundraising Project: Highland DDA, Pickle Sales
• Best Event to Increase Business Sales and Visitors: Rochester DDA, Big Bright Light Show • Outstanding Business outreach Materials: Clawson DDA
• 10 Years MSOC Advisory Board – Thank You: Paul Zelenak
• MSOC Sponsor of the Year: ITC Holdings
• Technical Assistance Sponsor and Partner: Future Help Design, Christian Marcillo
• First MSOC Downtown to use “Kickstarter” for Fundraising: Rochester DDA

Main Street Oakland County Spirit Award: Lon Bone, MSOC Advisory Board

Main Street is a trademarked program of the National Main Street Center in Chicago. Clawson, Farmington, Ferndale, Franklin, Highland, Holly, Lake Orion, Ortonville, Oxford, Pontiac and Rochester are MSOC communities. Birmingham, Clarkston, Lathrup Village, Leonard, Oak Park, Walled Lake, Waterford and Wixom 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. 

M1 Concourse development in Pontiac in final design phase

The M1 Concourse — an 80-acre condo development for car enthusiasts that includes a 1-mile test track and garages that can accommodate between two and 50 vehicles — has entered its final design phase, with plans to begin construction this fall.

Read more.

Pontiac's Woodward Loop to open up city's downtown

A traffic assessment, calling for several changes to Pontiac’s Woodward Loop — including enhanced bicycle and pedestrian facilities — will be included in an updated version of the city’s master plan.

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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. 

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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.

St. Joseph Mercy Oakland to open Center for Wound Care and Hyberbaric Medicine

St. Joseph Mercy Oakland (SJMO) will open its state-of-the-art Center for Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine on Tuesday, Sept. 11.  The center will be located in The Alice Gustafson Center, Suite 200, on the hospital campus, 44405 Woodward Ave., Pontiac.
The center will treat patients who come for treatment of non-healing wounds with advanced equipment, including two hyperbaric chambers, making the St. Joe’s Center for Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine one of the most convenient, comprehensive and sophisticated wound facilities in Southeastern Michigan.
“The new wound care center is another example of St. Joe’s commitment to provide our patients with the safest, highest quality and comprehensive care possible,” said Jack Weiner, SJMO President and CEO.  “This center will do many remarkable things for patients in the community who need this service.”
SJMO’s Center for Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine will take a whole body approach to wound healing that includes:
·      Nutritional assessment and counseling
·      Diabetic education
·      Patient and caregiver counseling
·      Referrals for special needs pressure relief, including beds, seat cushions and footwear.
Among the conditions the SJMO Center for Wound Care can treat are:
·      Diabetic wounds
·      Any non-healing wound
·      Surgical wounds that have opened
·      Skin grafts or surgical flaps that are not healing post-surgery
·      Open wounds caused by radiation therapy
·      Bone infections
·      Pressure ulcers
·      Venous wounds
·      Internal injuries where no open wound exists, such as select acute traumatic and crush injuries, radiation cystitis or proctitis and reconstruction of the jaw or bone.
The addition of hyperbaric chambers, where patients receive pure oxygen needed to speed up the healing of their wounds, will provide a more advanced treatment option for those who qualify for the procedure. The hyperbaric oxygen chambers work by surrounding the patient with 100 percent oxygen at higher than normal atmospheric pressure.  This increase in the amount of oxygen stimulates the tissues and helps the wounds heal more quickly. 
Board-certified plastic surgeon Firas Karmo, MD, is the medical director of the center.  Program Director is Matthew Davis, BSN, RN, CWOCN.  The health care team of multidisciplinary specialists at the wound care center includes:
·      Physicians specialty-trained in wound management and hyperbaric medicine
·      Certified or specialty-trained wound care nurses
·      Highly trained clinical hyperbaric managers and staff
Each year, about six million Americans will suffer from problem wounds resulting from diabetes, circulatory problems and many other conditions, with 1.1 to1.8 million new cases each year.  Studies have shown that patients seeking specialized care at wound care treatment facilities have reduced amputation rates and shortened length of hospital stays by allowing the patient to be discharged and followed by the wound care professionals.
Hours at the SJMO Center for Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.  Free parking is available.  For information, call the wound care center at 248-858-2606.
About St. Joseph Mercy Oakland
St. Joseph Mercy Oakland is a 443-bed comprehensive, community, teaching hospital and a long-time leader in health care in Oakland County.  Founded in 1927 by the Sisters of Mercy, St. Joseph Mercy Oakland has won numerous local and national awards for patient safety, quality and performance, and consistently ranks in the top 10 percent of hospitals nationwide.  A member of the Saint Joseph Mercy Health System, St. Joseph Mercy Oakland is a technologically leading hospital that combines advanced medicine and personal care to assist patients on their path to wellness. With dedicated physicians, nurses and hospital staff committed to providing quality care throughout the patient stay, St. Joseph Mercy Oakland has truly personalized the patient care experience.
For more information about health services offered at St. Joseph Mercy Oakland, please visit stjoesoakland.org
About Saint Joseph Mercy Health System
Saint Joseph Mercy Health System (SJMHS) is a newly expanded health care organization serving southeast Michigan. Health coverage spans six counties, including Livingston, Macomb, Oakland, St. Clair, Washtenaw and Wayne. It includes 537-bed St. Joseph Mercy in Ann Arbor, 443-bed St. Joseph Mercy Oakland in Pontiac, 304-bed St. Mary Mercy in Livonia, 136-bed St. Joseph Mercy Livingston in Howell, 119-bed St. Joseph Mercy Port Huron, 113-bed Chelsea Community Hospital and 74-bed St. Joseph Mercy Saline. Combined, the seven hospitals are licensed for 1,726 beds, have five outpatient health centers, seven urgent care facilities, more than 25 specialty centers; employ more than 14,000 individuals and have a medical staff of nearly 2,700 physicians. 
A member of Trinity Health, the nation’s fourth largest Catholic health care organization, SJMHS is committed to providing a remarkable patient experience by using leading edge technology in a comforting and healing environment. As a mission-based organization, Saint Joseph Mercy Health System provides approximately $100 million in community benefit to the communities it serves each year.
For more information on health services offered at Saint Joseph Mercy Health System, please visit stjoeshealth.org.

$30,000 grant aimed at improving Woodward Avenue

The Woodward Avenue Action Association was granted $30,000 from the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan to develop a "Complete Streets" master plan that will make Woodward Avenue more accessible and friendly to pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists. 

Read more

OCIA terminal cuts utility costs nearly in half

The new LEED Gold certified terminal at Oakland County International Airport is operating with 44 percent greater energy efficiency than its predecessor. From October 2011 through March 2012, the new terminal’s average cost for utilities was 27.5 cents per square foot; whereas the old terminal’s average utility costs from October 2009 to March 2012 were 49 cents per square foot.
“These are real savings,” said Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson. “The energy efficient technology is part of the ‘wow’ factor business and general aviation travelers encounter when they use the new terminal as their gateway to the region.”
Among the terminal's leading-edge green technologies are:
  • Wind and solar generation of electricity
  • A solar hot water heater
  • Geothermal heating and cooling
  • Highly efficient fluorescent and LED lighting
  • A living wall of tropical rain forest plants that clean the air inside the building
OCIA learned in February that its terminal building had attained LEED Gold Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. OCIA's new terminal is the first airport terminal in Michigan and the first general aviation terminal in the nation to receive this coveted designation.
“The airport has a great impact on southeast Michigan,” said Oakland County Director of Central Services J. David VanderVeen, who oversees OCIA. “Nearly every Fortune 500 company flies through here in the course of a year and it has a $175 million impact on the region.”
The terminal at OCIA was built with airport user fees and federal and state grants. No Oakland County general fund dollars paid for its construction. OCIA is the second busiest airport in Michigan.

Oakland County International Airport attains LEED Gold certification

Oakland County International Airport's (OCIA) new terminal building has attained LEED Gold Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). OCIA's new terminal is the first airport terminal in Michigan and the first general aviation terminal in the nation to receive this coveted designation.

"Achieving LEED Gold status at our new terminal is like winning the airport Olympics," said J. David VanderVeen, director of Oakland County's Central Services who oversees OCIA and sits on the Michigan Aeronautics Commission.

OCIA's new terminal opened last August featuring leading-edge "green" technology including wind and solar generation of electricity; a solar hot water heater; geothermal heating and cooling; highly efficient fluorescent and LED lighting; electric car charging stations; and a living wall of tropical rain forest plants that clean the air inside the building, among other "green" features.

"Our new terminal incorporates a number of advanced green technologies and incredible architectural features that tell the business traveler that they have arrived at a county that embraces technology while preserving the environment," said Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson. "Comparing utility charges between the new terminal and the old one, our new terminal is operating at 44% greater efficiency."

Oakland County International Airport's cost for utilities in the terminal has dropped from 70¢ per square foot to 39¢ per square foot.

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design. It is a world-wide recognized green building certification system developed by the USBGC, providing verification that a building was designed and built using strategies intended to improve performance in various areas such as water efficiency, energy savings, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts.

The new 15,000 square foot terminal at OCIA cost $7.5 million. The construction of the new terminal, which began with the tear down of the old terminal building in early 2010 and finished nearly 18 months later in August of 2011, was funded by Federal Aviation Administration and Department of Energy grants; a Michigan Department of Transportation Bureau of Aeronautics grant; and OCIA airport user fees. The new terminal was completed on time and within budget.

Other notable features of the new terminal include a Pitts Special biplane on loan from famed stunt pilot Henry A. Haigh II and the Kalamazoo Air Zoo suspended from the ceiling; historical documents including the nation's first airport certificate issued to OCIA (then known as Pontiac Municipal Airport) in February, 1930, and a document commemorating Michigan's first air tour in 1929 signed by Orville Wright; an expanded U.S. Customs area that handles 70 passengers per flight, up from 20 per flight in the former terminal; an outdoor area for families to watch aircraft land and take off; and a conference center with catering kitchen.

The terminal is the crowning achievement of a master plan to create a world-class general aviation/business aviation airport. Other airport features include the first fuel-water separator in Michigan to keep aircraft fuel from leaching into groundwater; the world’s first aesthetic ground run-up enclosure; and an extended runway.

OCIA can handle aircraft as large as a 727; its runway length allows aircraft to reach the west coast, Mexico, Europe and Asia without refueling. In the course of a year, nearly every Fortune 500 company flies through OCIA. It has an annual economic impact of $175 million on the region.

Silverdome owners plan radical redesign, hope to lure pro soccer franchise to Pontiac

The owners of the Pontiac Silverdome are seeking a tax credit in order to facilitate a radical redesign of the building for a Major League Soccer franchise. They will be presenting their plans at a public hearing on March 15 to Emergency Manager Lou Schimmel and Pontiac officials. 

Read more.

Beautification award for OCIA

Keep Michigan Beautiful, Inc. awarded Oakland County International Airport (OCIA) the President’s Plaque award on Friday, October 21, 2011 for OCIA’s efforts to maintain a beautiful natural landscape throughout the grounds. The President’s Plaque is KMB’s highest annual award in a series that recognizes programs and activities in that contribute to environmental improvement, clean up, beautification, site restoration and historical preservation.

OCIA, Michigan’s second busiest airport, opened the nation’s first LEED-certified general aviation airport terminal in August. Green technology features include solar power and water heating; wind power; geothermal heating and cooling; LED and fluorescent lighting; a living wall; and many other energy efficient technologies.


“Oakland County prides itself on a great quality of life,” said Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson. “Maintaining beautiful surroundings throughout the county – including at the airport – helps make Oakland County among the best places to live, work, play and raise a family.”

For more information, go to www.keepmichiganbeautiful.org.

Mixed-use Lafayette Lofts planned for downtown Pontiac

The latest step in bringing a loft living and retail development to downtown Pontiac was taken with the approval of tax incentives from the state.

The proposal by Pontiac-based West Construction Services for the Lafayette Place Lofts has the development looking down from three connected buildings on Saginaw and Perry streets with multi-level entrances on two sides and underground parking.

The buildings that would be renovated for Lafayette Place Lofts are vacant and have been designated as historic, brownfield, and as an urban redevelopment, which entitles developers to tax breaks and other incentives for putting them back into use.

Under the proposal, according to the Michigan Economic Growth Authority, which last week approved a tax credit not to exceed $2.24 million, the project investment would be $20.4 million.

Kyle Westberg of West Construction Services says there are other issues to finalize before providing more details.

Details provided by MEGA call for the project to have 33,000 square feet of residential space with 46 units, 25 of them affordable housing. Rental prices would range from $700-$1,000 per month. The building might also include a fresh food market and gym in 25,100 square feet of retail.

Lafayette Place Lofts would create 107 full-time jobs and bring new business to downtown as well as promote foot traffic.

Source: Michigan Economic Growth Authority and Kyle Westberg, West Construction Services
Writer: Kim North Shine

New St. Joe's Hospital complex transforms Pontiac & Woodward Ave


St. Joseph Mercy Hospital Oakland is in the midst of a massive construction project that will add a medical tower, new parking areas, pedestrian bridges, including a climate-controlled one over Woodward Avenue, a soaring, contemporary lobby and more to its complex on Woodward near Square Lake Road.

The project, which involves demolition of current buildings and redesign of other facilities, will also bring a new ring road around the main hospital.

Its centerpiece is the new eight-story, 301,000-square-foot South Tower, which will have 208 rooms outfitted with the latest medical technology in patient care. St. Joseph Mercy Oakland is a 443-bed acute care, teaching and community hospital.

The $129-million project will be completed by fall of 2013 and lead to the creation of about 300 new jobs, says St. Joseph Mercy Oakland President and CEO Jack Weiner.

Officially the groundbreaking is Sept. 20, but some of the work has already begun.

Weiner says the modern hospital with its new tower, connectors, parking amenities and other features seen from Woodward Avenue will "create excitement on the way into town."

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Jack Weiner, president and CEO, St. Joseph Mercy Oakland

New transit center in Pontiac welcomes train, bus commuters

A new transit center opened in Pontiac, giving residents and commuters a new, faster, more accessible and appealing way to travel, and the community an economic lift.

The 4,500-square-foot intermodal station at 51000 Woodward opened Aug. 8 and is a starting and stopping point for passengers on Amtrak trains, SMART buses and Greyhound bus lines. Passengers and crew members of the transportation providers now have a modern-designed lobby, indoor and outdoor seating for bus stops and under canopies and other conveniences and comforts.

The Pontiac stop is already showing that train travel is catching on in metro Detroit. Stats for 2010 train ridership in or out of Pontiac increased 10 percent from 2009, for a total of 16,000 riders using the station for train travel. Figures for 2011 are on pace to exceed 2010.

Michigan's state transportation director, Kirk T. Steudle, in a statement calls the station "an excellent example of why it's important for the state of Michigan to invest in safe, modern, accessible transit buildings…"

U.S. Rep. Gary Peters says in a statement announcing the opening that, "transit systems offer safe, affordable, accessible transportation options that benefit commuters, stimulate new business development within the community, and create jobs through the building and maintenance of critical infrastructure. We're making a commitment to the economic development of Pontiac, both today and in the future…"

State Rep. Tim Melton adds, "Not only will this instantly create good jobs for our residents, but this facility will also open numerous employment and economic opportunities for the citizens of Pontiac to access workplaces that, at one time may simply have been too far out of reach. I know that Pontiac is headed in the right direction and this is yet another indication of that progress."

Source: John Richard, Michigan Department of Transportation
Writer: Kim North Shine

Heritage Conference focuses on preserving the past

Oakland County will host their 2011 Planning Heritage Conference, Sept 21 at the Silverdome.

This year, the conference will focus on "white elephant" local and regional areas that have experienced demise, abandonment and re-purposing. The gathering will also provide guidance to communities seeking to save and promote their own forgotten "white elephants."

A registration fee of $35 includes breakfast, lunch, sessions and tours.

For more information, email the Planning Group or visit the Heritage Conference website.

Need a home? Habitat Oakland can help

Oakland County's Habitat for Humanity has homes for sale and is looking for qualified candidates. Those living in substandard, inadequate or overcrowded conditions and do not currently own a home, will qualify. Additionally, certain income requirements must also be met.

For more information go to habitatoakland.org (click on "Apply for a Home").

Habitat's annual Blitz Build needs a hand

Habitat for Humanity's latest Blitz Build aims to put 600 volunteers to work helping families in need build their own homes from July 11-16.

Not a construction whiz? No worries. All are welcome to lend a hand during the Oakland County chapter's massive build-out, which will construct three new homes on Ferry Street in Pontiac. Volunteers are fed breakfast and lunch, courtesy of Habitat for Humanity.

So far, the Oakland County Chapter, which was established in 1996, has brought the community together to raise 126 homes from the ground up. And the families work side by side with community members, providing sweat equity to recognize their dreams.


"Our motto is we offer a hand-up, not a hand-out," Donnelly explained. "We find that when a homeowner works toward their home they have a sense of pride. Habitat was established on these principles. If they work on their house they get to see things like how the windows go in. Maintenance becomes easier for them. We do it for that reason, so they have that sense of pride. The first night you get to put your head to the pillow in your new house, you know you worked really hard for this and it's going to feel really good."

Care to give a helping hand? Click here for more info.

Woodward group gets land institute money

The Woodward Avenue Action Association (WA3) just got a big boost to their newest project, the "Transform Woodward: Woodward Avenue Linear City" project.

That aid comes in the form of a $15,000 grant from the Urban Land Institute. What will the money be used for? Supporting transit-oriented development along the Woodward Corridor. WA3 plans to use the money to convene a task force, who will identify land use, zoning and master plan changes needed to bring mass transit along M-1.


The money will be used to fund research for land use strategies and to conduct policy education, among other uses.

Read more here.

Deadline nears for this summer's Master Gardener training program

Attention, green thumbs!

The very popular MSU Extension Oakland County Master Gardener Training Program will begin on August 23, 2011 and run through November 15, 2011. This 13 week class, which meets on Tuesdays from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.., will allow horticultural enthusiasts the opportunity to fulfill a 40-hour community service commitment to receive certification as a Master Gardener.

As the class is expected to reach capacity, it's best to request an application as soon as possible. The deadline for applications is August 1, 2011. Classes will be held in the Execuvite Office Conference Center, 2100 Pontiac Lake Rd., Waterford. Call MSUE-Oakland County at (248) 858-0887 or email smithlin@oakgov.com to request an application. Seats will be offered on a first come-first served basis. The application fee is $25 and the class fee is $300.

Interested? Find out more here.

Independence Oaks County Park opens 188 new acres to public

Just in time for summer, Oakland County Parks has opened almost 200 acres of new park land at Independence Oaks for nature-lovers and residents to enjoy.

Independence Oaks County Park-North, located just a mile north of Independence Oaks County Park, offers visitors a 312-foot boardwalk and a 180-foot fishing dock for anglers on Upper Bushman Lake.

"The dock provides a spectacular view of 31-acre Upper Bushman Lake which is now open to the public for the very first time. This spring-fed lake is part of the headwaters of the Clinton River watershed," Oakland County Parks and Recreation Executive Officer Dan Stencil said. "We've had residents who have seen the boardwalk under construction from Oak Hill Road saying they can't wait to access the lake."

Visitors can access the park via a 30-space gravel parking lot located south of the intersection of Sashabaw and Oak Hill roads. The docks are located in the northern kettle of Upper Bushman Lake in approximately 15'-19' of water. Anglers can fish for Large-mouth Bass, Bluegill, Pumpkinseed Sunfish, Rock Bass, Bullhead Catfish, Northern Pike and Croppie. Anglers must follow Michigan Department of Natural Resources rules including possession of a fishing license.

"Catch-and-release is highly encouraged to help preserve this unique fishing resource," Stencil said. "This lake will provide fishing opportunities for generations to come."

Park visitors can portage and launch canoes, kayaks or other registered portable non-motorized boats. All watercraft must be hand carried along a 1,200-foot-long gravel trail from the parking lot to the lake. No vehicular boat launch is provided. The property will be open for archery deer hunting in fall, 2011.

The property was named Independence Oaks-North because it connects tip-to-tip through wetlands with Independence Oaks County Park. The two park sections do not currently connect for trail access.

"In the future, we want to connect 1,285-acre Independence Oaks with 188-acre Independence Oaks-North to provide more trail access. The parks system currently offers 68 miles of trails and trails are the number one recreation option county residents and regional visitors want us to provide," Stencil said.

Named a Michigan Natural Features Inventory Priority One Conservation Area, Independence Oaks-North contains rare natural communities such as Southern Wet Meadow, Wet-Mesic Prairie, Prairie Fen and Hardwood-Conifer Swamp.

The 188-acre parcel was acquired in 2010 with a $945,000 grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, a $105,000 Carl's Foundation grant via a partnership with Ducks Unlimited and a $16,000 donation from North Oakland Headwaters Land Conservancy.

An Oakland County Parks and Recreation daily or annual vehicle pass is required for parking and park access. The park is open seven days from 7 a.m. – 30 minutes after sunset or as otherwise posted.Independence Oaks County Park-North is located on Sashabaw Road, 3 ½ miles north of I-75, in Clarkston. For more information, visit DestinationOakland.com.

Oakland County homeowners can win big savings on utility bills

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson announced the OakGreen Challenge Awards program at the 2011 OakGreen Summit. Homeowners who have the "most improved" and "most efficient" homes when it comes to energy savings will be eligible to win up to $1,500 toward their utility bills.

Residents will complete a free EPA ENERGY STAR energy assessment and will receive information on options and incentives for increasing their energy efficiency and saving money. Then using an ENERGY STAR Home Energy "yardstick," residents will keep track of their energy savings. The winners will be announced in early 2012.

"I issued my OakGreen Challenge in May of 2010 to encourage Oakland County residents, businesses and local governments to reduce their energy consumption by 10% by the end of 2012," said Patterson. "The OakGreen Challenge Awards are an added incentive for homeowners to improve their energy efficiency."

For more information, go to www.oakgov.com/oakgreen and click on "Take the Challenge."

The following are the sponsors of the OakGreen Challenge Awards.
- Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber
- Johnson Controls
- Environmental Consulting & Technology
- Hubbell, Roth & Clark
- Harley Ellis Devereaux will assist with judging

Questions? Find out more about the OakGreen Challenge here.

Raleigh Studios brings its moviemaking to Pontiac despite threats to film tax credits

The debate over Gov. Rick Snyder's plan to cap film tax credits goes on, but a movie studio has opened in Pontiac nonetheless.

This week Raleigh Studios Michigan, the newest division of Raleigh Studios Worldwide, officially opened on the site of the former General Motors truck plant and office complex at Centerpoint.

The new location joins studios, production facilities, and other film-making locations in Hollywood, Manhattan Beach, Calif., Playa Vista, Calif., Baton Rouge, Atlanta, and Budapest.

Raleigh Studios Michigan has nine sound stages totaling over 175,000 square feet, the latest in filming equipment and technology, and 360,000 square feet of office space on three floors, some already leased to production companies, production service firms and other vendors. There is also a set lighting department, on-lot cafe and "premier dressing rooms," according to a news release from Raleigh, which says it is the longest continually operating movie studio in the country.

The Michigan studio is owned by one of Michigan's most prolific developers and businessmen, A. Alfred Taubman, along with Linden Nelson and John Rakolta Jr.

Supporters of Michigan's fledgling movie industry oppose Gov. Snyder's $25-million cap on film tax credits and are lobbying for a $180-million annual spending limit.

Raleigh promotes the film incentives on its website, walking producers through the application process and also lists more than 20 films, TV shows and other productions currently happening in Michigan.

Source: Raleigh Studios
Writer: Kim North Shine

This article previously appeared in Metromode.

Oakland County launches pilot program to finance commercial real estate deals

The Oakland County Business Finance Corporation (BFC) can now offer eligible small businesses a chance to refinance their mortgage debt. Under a program backed by a new refinancing loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), small businesses that face maturity of their commercial mortgages or balloon payments before Dec. 31, 2012, may be eligible for assistance. BFC loan officers can be reached at (248) 858-0765 to determine eligibility or answer any questions.

"This is a powerful tool the Oakland County Business Finance Corporation has at its disposal to protect jobs and keep our small businesses afloat," Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said. "We realize that even small businesses performing well and making their payments on time could face foreclosure because of difficulties in refinancing and restructuring their mortgage debt."

Structured like the SBA’s traditional 504 loan, borrowers must commit at least 10 percent equity and work with third-party lending institutions and SBA-approved Certified Development Companies in the standard 50 percent/40 percent split. The program does not require an expansion of the business to qualify. Borrowers may be able to refinance up to 90 percent of the current appraised property value or 100 percent of the outstanding mortgage, whichever is lower, plus eligible refinancing costs. Loan proceeds may not be used for other business expenses. Existing 504 projects and government-guaranteed loans are not eligible to be refinanced at this time.

This is a pilot program. The SBA will begin accepting refinancing applications on Feb. 28 and the program, authorized under the Small Business Jobs Act, will be in effect until Sept. 27, 2012. The SBA estimates that as many as 20,000 businesses may ultimately participate in the program which will provide up to $15 billion in SBA-guaranteed financing leading to total project financing of over $30 billion.

The BFC, authorized under the SBA’s Certified Development Company program in 1982, was formed to stimulate the growth and expansion of the region’s small businesses. The BFC also acts as an agent to analyze, package and submit loan requests under the SBA 504 loan program and is a servicing agent for the approved loans.

Find out more here.

Woodward Avenue gets 50 new signs, All American Road designation

More than 18 months of regional planning and state-local cooperation culminates this week with the installation of federal All American Road signs along a 27-mile stretch of Woodward Avenue.

A total of 50 signs worth $45,000 will be installed as part of the 2009 All American Road project, a U.S. Dept of Transportation program that awards funding for roadways deemed worthy of distinction and therefore dollars that make the roadways more appealing, useful, recognizable and memorable. Many such roadways around the country have been deemed scenic parkways, historic routes and such. The majority of Woodward signs will be installed this week by the Michigan Dept of Transportation (MDOT) with a few not coming until spring.

Royal Oak-based WA3, the Woodward Avenue Action Association, is the local administrator of the program and worked with MDOT, all cities along the route, and DTE on the best placement and process for the sign installation

"The intent is to really bring awareness that this is an exclusive and important designation so that when visitors are here they say, 'Wow I've seen that in other parts of America,' and they understand this is an important part of history," says Heather Carmona, executive director of WA3.

"They're very different signs, not your typical MDOT road sign...It was a long process, 18-20 months. It was very challenging to get these different signs, but MDOT was very accommodating," Carmona says. "We were able to do something that was outside of the box and get something that was eye catching and appealing and safe."

A prototype sign is located at McDonald's on Woodward near 13 Mile.

Of the 50 signs, 23 will be installed in Detroit. The remainder run north through Oakland County communities.

Source: Heather Carmona, executive director of the Woodward Avenue Action Association
Writer: Kim North Shine

Plans revealed for new agricultural fair at Silverdome

Get your cowboy hats and plaid shirts ready, because the Great Lakes Agricultural Fair will kick-off at the Pontiac Silverdome Sept. 2-5, replacing a summertime tradition vacated by the Michigan State Fair.

And while certain agricultural fair standbys will be present -- think carnival rides, livestock animals and educational displays -- Silverdome general manager Grant Reeves says 2011's summer event will offer some new experiences outside of the fair's rural perception.


"We've purposely designed this event to help merge both rural and urban cultures," Silverdome general manager Grant Reeves said.

Organizers say music will also be a big part of the four-day fair with each day having a musical theme. Friday will be R&B/hip-hop day, Saturday will be country music and Sunday classic rock. Monday there will be a battle of the bands competition.

Find out more about the Great Lakes Agricultural Fair here.

More Oakland County businesses join Automation Alley

Automation Alley recently announced that 14 new members joined the business technology organization in December.

"As we begin a New Year, I am excited to welcome these 14 talented companies to our Automation Alley community," said Executive Director Ken Rogers. "This is a time of development and growth for our organization and we are pleased to have the vital support and valuable assets these companies will bring to our new endeavors."

New members in December from Oakland County are: the Chronos Group in Bloomfield Hills, Atrient Inc. of Birmingham, Pyramid Solutions of Bingham Farms, Hybrid 60 of Farmington Hills, Automation Services of Waterford, Falcon Strategies LLC of White Lake, MutliFinish America Inc. of Troy, Greenfield Commercial Credit LLC of Bloomfield Hills and DG Technologies of Farmington Hills.

Automation Alley's Member Directory, which spotlights the group's 1,000 technology members, attracts online visitors from as far as Canada, China and India. Find out more at automationalley.com.

Oakland County wins 12th straight financial reporting award

For the 12th year running, the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) has awarded Oakland County its Popular Annual Financing Award for the fiscal year 2009.

"Our Fiscal Services team continues to make Oakland County shine," says Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson. "It is another example that we have the best of the best serving Oakland County residents."

Every year, the Fiscal Services Division of the Department of Management and Budget compiles its Popular Annual Financial Report (PAFR) to summarize for taxpayers how the county spends their money.

The GFOA gives the award based on the creativity, presentation, ease of understanding and reader appeal of the financial report.

"We have won this award every year we have created the PAFR," says Tim Soave, Fiscal Services manager. "The PAFR is the result of a number of people working together as a team under the coordination of Gaia Piir, our grant and program coordinator in Fiscal Services."

View Oakland County's 2009 Popular Annual Financial Report here.

Promote healthy living: applications available for Brooksie Way mini-grants

The Brooksie Way Minigrant program is accepting grant applications to fund innovative health and fitness programs that benefit Oakland County residents.  The application deadline is December 1.

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson created the program to use proceeds from the Brooksie Way Half Marathon to promote healthy, active lifestyles. Minigrants are awarded three times a year.

The Minigrant Program provides up to $2,000 in financial assistance to local communities and non-profit agencies operating in Oakland County who engage in a health and fitness project/event. Grant guidelines and applications are available on the Brooksie Way website, www.thebrooksieway.com.

Pontiac receives $463K energy efficient retrofit grant

The Clean Energy Coalition will be funneling $4.4 million in grant money to seven distressed Michigan cities for clean energy programs, including Pontiac, Hamtramck, and Highland Park.

The cities will be receiving funds through the Michigan Public Service Commission's Cities of Promise program. Each city will receive $463,000 for installation of renewable energy technology and establishment of a revolving energy fund to pay for the energy management support and future investments.

Joshua Brugeman, a division manager with the CEC, says the initial money helps distressed cities overcome two key hurdles: lack of capital for the investments, and no budget to pay a staff person to manage them. "We provide them with that initial seed capital to improve their buildings from an energy perspective, establishing an ongoing program and revolving energy fund, to turn that initial seed capital into future investments," he says.

The city of Pontiac is at the stage of conducting energy audits, focusing on the city hall and Phoenix Center parking garage. "They present a lot of energy savings potential, and a lot of monetary savings potential as well," he says. "Those are attractive to us because we can build a stronger and more robust revolving energy fund."

Although the chosen cities are distressed, it's still important to invest in energy because of the savings and jobs created long-term, says Jenny Oorbeck, also a CEC division manager. And the funded staff person is also important: "You need someone who knows what they're looking at," she says. "We feel like we're doing the right thing for them, helping them put their arms around the data they need to understand and set up a program going forward."

The CEC is still working out the details of what the final projects will be. Also, some cities, including Pontiac and Hamtramck, received federal stimulus money, so the coalition can co-invest with that funding to create a more robust program.

The CEC, a non-profit organization that works with both public and private partners for smart energy strategies, has also subcontracted with Planet Footprint to keep tabs on the energy usage and savings for the cities, which will help them make informed decisions about their energy projects.

Other cities receiving funds are Benton Harbor, Flint, Muskegon Heights, and Saginaw. All seven cities are part of the Michigan State Housing Development Authority's Cities of Promise program, a program created in 2006 to help redevelopment in distressed urban cities.

Source: Jenny Oorbeck and Joshua Brugeman, division managers for the Clean Energy Coalition
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

Oakland County workshop: "Make Your Business and Downtowns Better Now" on Nov. 18

Main Street Oakland County's November 18th workshop is filled with current and crucial sessions to help you make your businesses and downtowns better right now! Experienced professionals will provide hands on information for success in this economy.

The first of two sessions will be held Thursday, Nov. 18, at The Crofoot, 1 South Saginaw in downtown Pontiac. Registration is $55 and includes conference materials, continental breakfast, lunch and snack. All Main Street Oakland County and Michigan Main Street representatives attend for only $25 each.

To register, see MainStreetOaklandCounty.com.

Sessions include:

• "Creating a Low Cost, Common Sense Market Analysis"
• "Developer Selection Process for Buildings and Sites"
• "Marketing Your Property: The Role of Individual Property Owners and the DDA"
• "Missing Out on Marketing? Let Your Façade Do the Talking"
• "Lower Your Costs and Increase Your Margins: What Successful Businesses Do for Downtown"
• "Coordinate and Promote What You Have: Arts, Culture and Opportunities" and
• "Adaptive Use Examples: Identify Potential. Projects and Buildings in Your Downtown"

Read more here.

OakGov Challenge innovators bring Oakland County to the iPhone

Tom Hoag had a great idea.

His Parcel Viewer application for the iPhone helps Oakland County residents find out county-provided information about properties, parks and other county sites. Using his app, residents could view maps, access harder-to-find information and even get driving directions and phone numbers.

But Hoag's iPhone app is more than an idea. By entering Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson's OakGov Challenge, he and two other runners-up will share $10,000 donated by AT&T Michigan -- plus Oakland County residents will be able to use his iPhone app once it progresses past the prototype stage.

During his 2010 State of the County address, Patterson encouraged those who live, work or go to school in the Economic Growth Alliance (EGA) region to take part in the OakGov Challenge to develop web or smartphone applications that enhance government services for residents.

"The applications created by these three programmers highlight the outstanding technical skills and innovation in this region," Patterson says. "Thanks to our partnership with AT&T Michigan, three very talented individuals had the opportunity to win some prize money."

Second place winner Godfrey Nolan developed the Food Violations iPhone application, which will let customers check any restaurant they plan to visit to see if it has critical or non-critical health violations from Oakland County. Sy Banarjee of Genesee County developed the OMG Campus web application for the 8,000 students who attend University of Michigan-Flint. OMG Campus helps students, faculty and staff access real-time info from their phones like class cancellations, exam deadlines, guest speakers and daily discounts from local merchants.

"These applications combined with county data not only spark innovation, but also create more opportunities for self-service and increase the transparency of government services," said Oakland County Deputy Executive and CIO Phil Bertolini.

In a nod to greater transparency of public records, Oakland County is also rolling out a map-based web application Property Gateway, which will enable those seeking details about residential, commercial or industrial lots to interact with a map to obtain property characteristics, present and historical tax information, and sales transactions. It combines records from the county, cities, villages and townships with Geographic Information System (GIS) software.

Among the innovations of Property Gateway is that users will be able to access basic property characteristics for free in a thumbnail format to ensure they've selected the correct parcel before purchasing a detailed report. Property information is available to individuals on a per transaction basis. Qualified businesses may set up an account.

"Oakland County prides itself on using leading edge technology in order to make government more transparent and save taxpayers money," Patterson says.

Property Gateway is available on the Access Oakland site. Read more about the OakGov Challenge here.

Habitat Oakland moves forward on Pontiac, Madison Heights projects

Families are beginning to move into this year's Habitat for Humanity of Oakland County homes projects, and several more are under construction in Madison Heights and Pontiac.

The three new Madison Heights homes, the first for the city, came about when the city utilized federal Neighborhood Stabilization Funds to raze three houses earlier this year, and donated the land to Habitat for Humanity. Sally LePla, Habitat for Humanity of Oakland County's executive director, says one family has moved into the first home, with walls raised on the second and work to start on the third by the end of this week.

The organization tries to do a one-week blitz, a flurry of building to build the shell of the house, and the inside can then be done more slowly. "We always love to get families in by Christmas," she says. "Habitat's mission is about people, not the buildings."

Six home renovations and five new builds were on the docket for this year for Pontiac. Work is finishing up on three rehabs, with a family already moved into another. The Pontiac projects are in several different neighborhoods; each needed some TLC and upgrades, such as energy-efficient windows and doors, LePla says.

"Habitat is committed to being green, and part of being green is recycling," she says. "Recycling existing homes is a challenge, but is also meets our goal of reusing materials."

The hand-up, not hand-out model -- requiring future homeowners to work on other houses and their own, and paying the mortgage that Habitat owns -- also means that the families are partners with Habitat for 20 or 30 years. LePla says she'd love to work with other cities next year, but they build homes only where they are welcome.

"It's been exciting to see new building going on in the neighborhood," she says. "It creates a spirit of hope in a time when southeast Michigan has been struggling to keep its heads above water."

Call (248) 338-1843 or click here to sign up, donate, or learn about becoming a partner homeowner.

Source: Sally LePla, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Oakland County
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

Solar-powered interpretive sculpture to grace Dream Cruise

A tribute sculpture commemorating Pontiac's role in the history of Woodward Avenue is to be fully in place today, with a celebration planned for next week.

The Pontiac Tribute, the second such monument along Woodward, was installed last month to 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 that depict part of Woodward's history. Ferndale's was installed in 2008.

The final touches on the sculpture are expected to be put in place today. It will also be absorbing light so it can be turned on, says Nicole Brown, outreach and promotions coordinator for the Woodward Avenue Action Association, the organization behind the effort. "The significance of it in Pontiac is celebrating transportation heritage," she says.

The tribute came about as a result of a lot of hard work, Brown says, and a laundry list of supporters and sponsors, including the city of Pontiac, Oakland County, and the Michigan Department of Transportation. "People are really excited about it," Brown says. "It's something positive that's happening in the city of Pontiac. It's been received really well, from residents and members of the business community."

Pontiac's Tribute is at the corner of Woodward and Whitmore, in the area commonly known as the "teardrop." Negotiations are currently ongoing with Detroit for its tribute, with an announcement expected later this year about its location. The ultimate goal is to have one for each city along Woodward to recognize each of their unique contributions.

The Pontiac Tribute's $150,000 price tag was funded in part by the U.S. Federal Highway Administration's National Scenic Byways funds and other contributors.

WA3 and the city of Pontiac are hosting a public tribute illumination reception on Wednesday; click here for details.

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

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

Oakland County workshop focuses on greening downtowns

The last of three workshops aimed at the revitalization of downtowns in Oakland County is set to go down on Friday, August 14.

The "Lead Your Downtown from Brown to Green" workshop will focus on tackling sustainability issues, such as historic preservation and eco-friendly development.

"As the title says, we're trying to take downtowns from brown to green by letting them (local stakeholders) know what they can do in this economy," says Bob Donahue, executive director of Main Street Oakland County.

A number of topics, including how to make best use of brownfield sites, effective historic preservation, and how to incorporate green-building practices, such as LEED standards, will be covered. Other subjects will include tapping into farmers markets, the cost-effectiveness of LED lights, and how best to employ urban forestry.

Main Street Oakland County is encouraging local architects, planners, preservationists, developers, city officials, and community activists to attend. The cost is $75 per person. The workshop will be held between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. in the Oakland County Executive Office Building Conference Center, 2100 Pontiac Lake Road, west of Telegraph, in Waterford.

Source: Bob Donahue, executive director of Main Street Oakland County
Writer: Jon Zemke

Woodward Ave to get $116K in facade improvements

The Woodward Avenue Action Association is ready to spend some big money to put new faces on Michigan's Main Street.

The non-profit has $116,000 at its fingertips for facade improvements of structures along the Woodward Corridor from the Detroit River to downtown Pontiac. WA3 is taking applications for facade-improvement projects until Aug. 14.

About $45,000 of those funds comes from the city of Detroit and will be used to improve facades along Woodward between 6 and 8 Mile roads. The rest comes from the  National Scenic Byway, courtesy of the federal government. The $71,000 can be used for the entire stretch of Woodward.

"This is the second phase of the grant," says Nicole Brown, outreach and promotions coordinator for the Woodward Avenue Action Association.

The first phase of the grant, awarded earlier this year, gave tens of thousands of dollars to a number of communities along the Woodward Corridor. Among the winners were the New Center Council for facade improvements, the city of Pontiac for new trees and landscaping at the entrance to downtown, and to the University of Detroit Mercy and Bloomfield Hills for landscaping improvements.

For information on the grants, call (248) 288-2004.

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

Salvation Army to renovate, expand Pontiac facility

The Salvation Army looks to be the salvation to one of the city of Pontiac's old buildings.

The Salvation Army Eastern Michigan Division plans to turn the old Wallace E. Holland Center into its Pontiac base. That means the non-profit will rehab and expand the existing space, at a cost of $3 million.

The building on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. was originally constructed in the mid 1980s. 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.

Bids are expected to go out later this summer. Work could begin as early as this falll and is expected to take 8-9 months to finish.

Source: Kelly Wirebaugh, a director for the Salvation Army Eastern Michigan Division
Writer: Jon Zemke

Lady Justice now stands atop new marble pedestal

Oakland County's most prominent legal employee is about to get a new soapbox to stand on in Pontiac.

Restoration of the Lady Justice statue in front of the Oakland County Courthouse began last year after foul weather tore away her scales and cracked her arm. She was set to return in May, but county officials discovered that her cinder block and stucco base was also cracked and needed work. A new marble base that not only matches the courthouse's exterior but came from the same stone quarry has been ordered.

"The statue turned out so fantastic we wanted to put it on a better pedestal," says Steven Sanford, an Oakland County project coordinator for facilities engineering.

The county bought the 9-foot-tall statue in 1904 from W.H. Mullins, a Salem, Ohio-based company that manufactured statues. 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 until last year's storm exposed the cracks that had been weathering on her for years.

The Fine Arts Sculpture Center in Clarkston recently conducted a $40,900 restoration of Lady Justice, but a century of life deteriorated her pressed zinc frame to the point that it needs to be indoors to survive. She will be installed in the courthouse and a new bronze copy of the statue will replace Lady Justice at the courthouse's south plaza. Both are expected to be installed by the end of the summer.

Oakland County is currently trying to raise money to restore the statue and to buy a new one. For information, contact Penny Knope at knopep@oakgov.com or call (248) 858-1208.

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

Pontiac says hello with blog

Hello Pontiac, ran by the city's Emergency Financial Manager Fred Leeb, debuted at the end of May to address rumors and misinformation for it's residents.


Pontiac's Emergency Financial Manager Fred Leeb is blogging to address rumors and misinformation about spending and hiring, as well as to keep residents informed about city business.

The blog, called Hello Pontiac, debuted May 21 and addresses topics such as extending a final offer of sale of the Silverdome to current bidders and the reinstatement of televised council meetings. Residents complained about Leeb canceling the airings in April because he said they spread negativity.

Leeb also has talked about the agreement between the city and developers of the Motown Motion Pictures studio to form a tax-free renaissance zone.

Read the entire article here.

Oakland County gets $1M federal brownfield grant

Three looks like the charm for Oakland County and big federal brownfield grants.

The EPA recently gave Oakland County a $1 Million Coalition Assessment Grant, making it the third such award the feds have given to Michigan's richest county. It will help local communities and developers perform environmental assessments on contaminated or obsolete land.

Money from previous grants helped turn an old gas station in Wixom into a new strip mall. These funds also allowed an old illegal dumping ground just outside of the Palace of Auburn Hills to be turned into a large multi-use project, creating space for retail, a bank and a hotel.

"We're open to almost any type of project," says Brad Hansen, environmental program coordinator for Oakland County.

Half of the money will be evenly split between Farmington Hills, Ferndale, Hazel Park, Madison Heights and Pontiac. The remaining $500,000 will be available for projects in other county communities.

The Oakland County Brownfield Coalition plans to focus much of these funds on the Woodward Avenue, 8 Mile Road, and 10 Mile Road corridors. A number of prominent organizations in these areas, such as the 8 Mile Boulevard Association and Woodward Avenue Action Association, helped land the grant as part of the Oakland County Brownfield Initiative.

Source: Brad Hansen, environmental program coordinator for Oakland County
Writer: Jon Zemke

Plans surface for unearthing Pontiac's Clinton River

A section of the Clinton River could see a lot more daylight in downtown Pontiac someday soon.

Oakland County and city officials are working on plans to daylight the section of the river that bisects Pontiac's downtown. The idea is to create a riverwalk environment that helps draw more visitors and development to the city's core. Other suburbs like Wyandotte and Mt. Clemens have parlayed similar waterways into economic development engines.

"It would be a major project to bring some new life to downtown," says Steven Korth, manager at the Oakland County Water Resources Commission.

Major is a nice way of saying expensive. The recently released feasibility study says it would cost at least $47 million to unearth that river segment. The city's dire financial situation and tight budget at the county level means there are no piles of cash ready to move on this project.

The Clinton River was buried in concrete tunnels in 1963 to help solve flooding issues. The plan would create a new, open-air path for the river, cutting along the eastern edge of downtown along Woodward Avenue before turning in front of the Phoenix Center.

"The original closure will remain where it is to handle the flooding flows," Korth says.

The project is on hold until funds can be raised. However, local officials are planning to apply for state and federal grants later this year.

Source: Steven Korth, manager at the Oakland County Water Resources Commission
Writer: Jon Zemke

Main Street Oakland County plays host to downtown preservation workshops

Oakland County's downtowns have spent decades turning themselves into some of Michigan's most vibrant urban centers, and the county isn't going to allow a few bad economic years to retard that progress.

That's why Main Street Oakland County is being proactive this summer, with three workshops aimed at helping keep these downtowns thriving and continuing their development momentum. And this is while those downtowns are in slightly better shape than the overall state economy.

"The whole thing is about how to make it in a tough economy," says Bret Rasegan, planning supervisor for Oakland County.

The workshops will feature local, state, and national experts for a range of urban issues, such as preservation and obtaining grants. The idea is to help downtown stakeholders get new perspectives on these topics and see how they can help each different downtown.

The first workshop, set for June 19, will tackle issues like dealing with declining property values in a down economy and financing projects in a tough credit market. The second (July 17) will examine how to encourage new economy development in the downtowns and take advantage of historic assets. The last one (August 14) will tackle sustainability issues like LEED architecture.

All will be held at the Oakland County Executive Office Building Conference Center, 2100 Pontiac Lake Road in Waterford. For information, call (248) 858-1848.

Source: Bret Rasegan, planning supervisor for Oakland County
Writer: Jon Zemke

Pontiac's newest bridge connects Clinton River Trail

Non-motorized traffic on the Clinton River Trail will soon have an option to crossing Telegraph Road that doesn't include dodging fast moving traffic.

The state has approved spending $2.1 million to build a bridge over U.S.-24 in Pontiac, connecting two points of the Clinton River Trail. The bridge will be built for both pedestrians and bicyclists.

"It will close one of the last remaining gaps and it's one of the most difficult gaps because its a state highway,"
says Dan Keifer, a member of the steering committee for the Friends of the Clinton River Trail.

Crossing that section of Telegraph Road isn't exactly friendly to people trying to get around in something other than an automobile. Car regularly whiz through the seven-lane highway, one of the busiest in northern Oakland County.

The 16-mile-long Clinton River Trail system has been slashing through more and more of Pontiac recently. A 1.5 mile extension was added last year, connecting the trail to downtown and major institutions, like the Phoenix Plaza Amphitheater. The Friends of the Clinton River Trail plans to connect that extension to Auburn Hills soon.

The Clinton River Trail is a recreational trail on an abandoned rail line through the heart of Oakland County. It connects the cities of Sylvan Lake, Pontiac, Auburn Hills, Rochester Hills and Rochester. It also connects with the existing West Bloomfield Trail to the west and the Macomb Orchard Trail to the east.

Dan Keifer, a member of the steering committee for the Friends of the Clinton River Trail and State of Michigan
Writer: Jon Zemke

Habitat for Humanity opens houses with its new program

Habitat for Humanity of Oakland County is starting a new program to give people an up-close and personal experience of what the organization is all about.

The program will be held every Thursday between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., starting next week. The open house will take up to 12 people on a tour through Ferry Farms in Pontiac, the neighborhood that dozens of Habitat homeowners call home.

The idea is to give people who have been interested in volunteering for Habitat for Humanity exactly what it is the organization does, its mission and the impact it has on its communities.

For information, call (248) 338-1843, ext. 301.

Source: Habitat for Humanity of Oakland County
Writer: Jon Zemke

New movie studio to open in Pontiac

A new movie studio set to open in the city of Pontiac could create 3,600 new jobs in the Michigan film industry.
Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said the film studio wants to be making movies within 90 days.


The new venture, called Motown Motion Pictures LLC and currently based in Birmingham, will include a film studio and production company.

The investors plan to spend $70 million for a 600,000-square-foot development, including nine sound stages located inside General Motors' former Centerpoint truck plant at South Boulevard and Opdyke Road in Pontiac.

The state's growth authority expects the studio to create 3,600 direct jobs and another 1,500 indirect jobs by the year 2020 with an average weekly wage of $824.

The authority on Tuesday approved a state tax credit valued at $101 million over 12 years. The project also will receive $12 million in state incentives along with job training assistance through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

Read the story here.

Royal Oak goes after $1 million to help stabilize its neighborhoods

Royal Oak is making a grab at $1 million to help stabilize its neighborhoods in the wake of the mortgage crisis.

Federal and state officials recently let Royal Oak leaders know that the city is eligible for up to $1 million in federal funds meant to help stem the tide of blight caused by foreclosures. City officials are now officially applying for those grants.

The money is meant to help city officials acquire, renovate, raze or sell foreclosed homes. The idea is to help stabilize these properties before their blight causes home values in the neighborhood to slide.

Several other communities in Oakland County are taking advantage of similar funds through both the feds and federal money filtered through the county. Southfield, Hazel Park and Pontiac are receiving the largest chunks of that pie worth millions of dollars.

Source: City of Royal Oak
Writer: Jon Zemke

Woodward Action wants to help fund next streetscape project

The Woodward Avenue Action Association wants to help the communities along Michigan's Main Street put their best face forward with its new streetscape grant program.

The association recently received $160,000 from the Federal Highway Administration to help fund streetscape design or improvements along the Woodward Avenue corridor.

"We are looking for projects that will actually come to life," says Nicole Brown, outreach and promotions coordinator for the Woodward Avenue Action Association.

The grants will range between $10,000 and $50,000. The projects can be for things like crosswalk improvements, new signage or decorative streetlights. Applicants can be either municipalities or non-profits that border the Woodward corridor.

Applications are due by Jan. 16. For information, call (248) 288-2004.

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

Developer of Pontiac's Lot 9 seeks for project financing

Money, money, money... Money! Money! That's what the developer behind the Lot 9 project in downtown Pontiac is looking for.

West Investments is still trying to line up financing for the project. City officials expect him to come back with an update by the end the month.

The Pontiac Downtown Development Authority chose West Investments (headed up by Kyle Westberg, owner of Pontiac-based West Construction) to develop the 6.7 acre parcel at the northeast corner of Saginaw and Pike streets. The property is currently a surface parking lot at the knot end of the Woodward Avenue loop that surrounds downtown.

The development calls for building a 4-story, mixed-use structure. The building will feature ground floor retail space with a yet-to-be-named anchor tenant. Above that will be three floors of residential space. The number of units and whether they will be rental apartments or for-sale condos has also not been determined.

Source: Pontiac Downtown Development Authority

Writer: Jon Zemke

Metro Detroit's Habitats for Humanities join forces to share resources

Even non-profits with practically the same name can learn how to share. That's what the Detroit and Oakland chapters of Habitats for Humanity are doing more of these days.

For years the two non-profits that rehabilitated and built new affordable housing did pretty much the same thing, but on different sides of 8 Mile Road. That includes everything from organizing volunteers to running their respective ReStore shop.

Today the two aren't merging but they are becoming much more regionally focused. The two decided to make the one-year pilot program of running each ReStore (one in Northwest Detroit and the other in Pontiac) as one business permanent. They are also sharing a centralized calling center.

"It makes so much sense," says Sally LePla, executive director of Oakland Habitat for Humanity. We can run them much more efficiently now."

The non-profits are investigating other ways they can share resources and work with a more regional focus.

Now if only our local governments would follow their lead.

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

Oakland renovates technical schools and curriculum

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday. That's when the doors open on the newly renovated Oakland Schools Technical Campuses in Royal Oak, Pontiac, Wixom and Clarkston.

The new state-of-the-art facilities and an updated curriculum will provide advanced educational opportunities for high school juniors and seniors. They will focus on such high-tech disciplines as engineering, emerging technologies, biotech, transportation technology, health sciences and environmental sciences.

The students attend classes at the campuses for about half a day before returning to their home districts to finish the school day at their local high school.

An open house will be held between 2-5 p.m. Sunday. For information, click here or call (248) 209-2194.

Source: Automation Alley
Writer: Jon Zemke

Oakland County using $26 million grant to rehab, preserve foreclosed homes

Details are starting to trickle in about how Oakland County plans to put its $26 million in foreclosure funds to work.

The County recently received that money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s new Neighborhood Stabilization Program to deal with bad mortgages. It then released a plan on how to put those funds to use, which can be found here.

The largest slices are heading to Pontiac ($3.5 million), Southfield ($3.2 million) and Waterford (a little more than $2 million). Oakland County will now spread around nearly $10 million to Hazel Park, Oak Park, Madison Heights, Royal Oak Township, Ferndale, Keego Harbor, Rose Township, Ortonville, Holly Township, Lathrup and Lake Orion.

The biggest slices of that $17.4 million pie will go to Oak Park and Hazel Park ($1.6 million each) while the smallest ($400,000) will go toward Lake Orion and Lathrup.

The rest will be focused on getting people into foreclosed homes throughout the rest of Oakland County. That includes help with securing down payments, lining up financing and helping the new occupants rehab the homes.

"The county is reserving some of it to help anyone who wants to purchase a foreclosed home in any of our communities," says Karry Rieth, manager of the community and home improvement division of Oakland County.

That idea is to help local communities acquire and redevelop foreclosed properties in danger of becoming (or remaining) blight. Some of the money can be used to raze structures redevelop vacant properties.

Oakland County Community & Home Improvement division will release guidelines and application procedures in the near future. For information, click here or call (248) 858-0493.

Source: Karry Rieth, manager of the community and home improvement division of Oakland County
Writer: Jon Zemke

Oakland County International Airport New 'Green' Terminal to Open in 2010

PONTIAC, MICH. - October 29, 2008 - Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson today announced that a new "Green" terminal will be constructed at Oakland County International Airport, replacing the existing building which has been in service for nearly half a century.

Construction of the environmentally friendly building is expected to begin in the spring of 2009 and should be completed by summer 2010. The entire project will cost $5.5 million and is completely funded. It is being paid for by the Airport Fund, which has been saving for several years to pay for the terminal and other capital improvements. The Airport Fund is supported by fees collected by airport users, not from county property tax.

"With Oakland International being the aviation gateway to our county as we attract high-tech firms from all over the world to do business here, it makes perfect sense for this portal to be technologically advanced and environmentally friendly," Patterson said. "The terminal will tell first-time visitors to our county as well as our old friends that they have come to the right place - Oakland County, Michigan."

The terminal will be one of the first of its kind in the country for a general aviation airport. Oakland International is the 16th busiest general aviation airport in the United States and the second busiest airport in the state behind Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

The new terminal will incorporate wind power generating technology to offset electrical power, geothermal power and rain water for landscape irrigation. The county will seek LEED certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) through the United States Green Building Council. Neumann Smith Architecture of Southfield is designing the building. Frank Rewold and Sons will serve as general contractor for the project.

The new terminal will be constructed on the same site as the existing building. Upon completion, it will actually be smaller in terms of square footage (approx. 13,500 vs. 17,000) but the space will be used more efficiently. The new building will include airport offices, a U.S. Customs Service office and have a private meeting room that can accommodate 80 people.

Materials used in the building construction will contain recycled content and be friendly to the indoor environment. Materials from the demolished building will be recycled when possible.

More than 500,000 passengers and pilots pass through Oakland International each year. More than 800 private and corporate aircraft are based there.

"This is the final step in the completion of our master plan which began nearly 10 years ago," said J. David VanderVeen, director of central services for Oakland County who oversees the airport. "The master plan and our capital program stressed safety and security first. In the last few years we have resurfaced and improved the entire runway network. The main runway extension will be complete next summer and so will the noise abatement program. This is an exciting time for us."

Patterson also announced that the county is sponsoring a "Green" summit in cooperation with Lawrence Technological University and Leadership Oakland. The summit will be held in the spring on the campus of LTU. It will recognize the "Green" achievements of Oakland County businesses, communities and schools as well publicizing "Green" resources available to local businesses and business opportunities.

Pontiac installs LED streetlights, expects big savings

It's getting cheaper to keep the lights on in Pontiac, at least since the city has finished installing its first LED streetlights.

The LEDs are part of the $2 million reconstruction that took place this summer. The project rebuilt 1 mile of Baldwin Avenue between Cesar Chavez Avenue and Montcalm Street, just northwest of downtown. That includes replacing the road, sidewalks and 36 light polls.

LED lights are going in all of the new cobra-head street lamps. The LEDs cost $21,000 and are partially funded by federal and state grants.

The 36 lights are expected to significantly cut expenses because LEDs are more energy-efficient and longer-lasting. LEDs typically cut electric bills in half because they use less energy. They mostly produce light that is visible to the human eye. Normal incandescent lights produce a significant amount of ambient light that isn't. They also last much longer.

"It really cuts down on the maintenance cost," says Allan E Schneck, director of the department of public works for the city of Pontiac.

Oxford-based Relume Technologies and its distributor Lumeco provided the LEDs. The company also provided the LEDs for Ann Arbor's downtown.

The technology is already widely used in traffic lights, TVs and brake lights for cars; as well as those expensive flashlights you find at REI. Ann Arbor is in the process of installing them in all its downtown streetlights. Those lights are expected to pay for themselves through energy savings within 4.2 years.

Ann Arbor is also looking to eventually install LEDs in all of its streetlights within the next few years. Other cities like Ferndale, Wyandotte and Ypsilanti are seriously considering similar options.

Source: Allan E Schneck, director of the department of public works for the city of Pontiac
Writer: Jon Zemke
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