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Ferndale incentivizes environmental sustainability practices in new projects

The city of Ferndale is serious about its environmental sustainability efforts. So much so, in fact, that the city has integrated green infrastructure into its negotiations with developers. They've since further developed those efforts by adding a new position to the planning department. Erin Quetell was hired as the city's first Environmental Sustainability Planner just six months ago.

Ferndale uses incentives to get developers to add green infrastructure features like permeable surfaces to manage stormwater runoff. Should a developer want access to something like Brownfield tax increment financing, they have to work with the city on its environmental sustainability requests.

Jordan Twardy, Community and Economic Development Director for Ferndale, takes part in those negotiations. He's helped green infrastructure become a priority in development talks. Examples include introducing an underground water retention system at the Parkdale Townes townhouse development and permeable surfaces at the new parking structure downtown. Even saving old oak trees is on the table.

"Basically, what I do is lay out what we're trying to accomplish. There's always some back-and-forth, some trade-offs," he says. "It's an extra layer of nuance but worth the effort."

According to Twardy, Quetell's hiring has helped the city better formalize the process, while also improving Ferndale's own green infrastructure.

Lately, Quetell has been focusing on improving waste management and recycling rates in the city. She's been studying the implementation of an anaerobic digester to improve on city compost practices. The anaerobic digester uses a closed system to deprive compost of oxygen, breaking organic materials down while capturing methane emissions to provide energy to power facilities or gain energy credits.

"We're looking at making small efficiency updates like street lights and interior lighting, and then go bigger from there," says Quetell. "We're working toward a sustainability master plan."

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

Rochester develops data-driven tool to help inform development decisions

The city of Rochester might have an indoor, year-round farmers market coming its way. But then again, it might not. Rochester might be in line for 1,500 to 2,000 brand new residential housing units. But again, maybe not. Office, commercial, residential--the city of Rochester has its pick of the litter. But the city has decided it best not to rush into any big new developments just yet.

Area developers and construction companies have been waiting on bated breath as the city has decided to take a step back from developing the seven to eight of its remaining big sites to consider just what it is that will benefit Rochester the most. And not solely in an economic sense, but taking into account quality of life issues, as well.

It's called the Sustainable Rochester tool, and its results were debuted Wednesday, Feb. 28, at the Royal Park Hotel at 7 p.m.

The city's planning department tapped planning firm McKenna Associates to develop Sustainable Rochester, which takes into account a range of datasets that have been fashioned into an informative matrix, helping the city decide just which development projects to approve.

While a new farmers market or mixed-use development might seem exciting at first blush, Nik Banda, Rochester's Economic & Community Development Director and Deputy City Manager, says that each potential development could significantly alter the city and its quality of life.

There are no more roads to be built, he says, so how much more traffic can the city accommodate. Same goes with sewers and other questions of infrastructure. The information gleaned from Sustainable Rochester will help city planners inform their decisions. Development will occur, it's just a matter of what kind.

"Development can mean change, and change is hard for some people to accept. This is about finding a balance," says Banda. "Not everyone is going to be happy, but we do our best."

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

Cantoro Italian Trattoria to open in May in former Tre Monti space in Troy


Cantoro Italian Market and Trattoria in Plymouth Township announced it will open a new trattoria at 1695 E. Big Beaver Road in Troy, behind the San Marino Club in the space formerly occupied by Tre Monti. The announcement was made by Cantoro Italian Market and Trattoria owners and brothers John and Michael Fallone.

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Local coffee roastery, bakery, and cafe to expand to downtown Royal Oak with third location

Dessert Oasis Coffee Roasters is expanding to a third location — this time in downtown Royal Oak. It's a town that Nathan Hamood, President and Director of Coffee Roasting Operations at Dessert Oasis Coffee Roasters, has been eyeing for a while. So when Hamood saw the 3,200-square-foot former home of La Dulce restaurant, he jumped on it.

Hamood hopes for a grand opening in downtown Royal Oak in May.

He expects a pretty easy build out this time around, at least as compared to the other two Dessert Oasis locations. The Hamood family opened Dessert Oasis Coffee Roasters in Rochester in 2009, relocated to a more central downtown Rochester location in 2010, and opened a second location in downtown Detroit's Capitol Park neighborhood in 2015.

Given the building's former role as a restaurant, the infrastructure for a coffee shop and bakery is already there. Hamood will relocate the business baking operations to the Royal Oak location, and also move a coffee roaster to the front of the building, allowing customers and passers-by the opportunity to see—and smell—the coffee roasting process first-hand.

The Detroit location features an industrial, minimalist design aesthetic, and Hamood says he is working with design firm Ideology to maintain a minimalist approach but add some warmth to Royal Oak. Nightingale Company is tasked with the build-out.

"I'm excited about what the growth of our company does for our team," Hamood says. "Over the years, I've learned to delegate tasks to people's strengths. It creates an opportunity for others."

"We're operating like a real company."

Hamood also has his own line of hair pomade, Ace High, as mentioned in a profile that appeared in Metromode in 2016. He says that the business is growing as well, with the addition of hair clay and beard balm products and the hiring of a few employees. Ace High has picked up more local accounts, and even some distributors overseas.

Dessert Oasis Coffee Roasters will be located at 115 S. Main St. in downtown Royal Oak.

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

Valentine Distilling announces expansion


After 10 successful years, Rifino Valentine of Valentine Distilling Co. in Ferndale has announced plans to expand with a $1 million investment in its production operation. 

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RedLine Athletics set to open multiple youth athletic training centers in Michigan


RedLine Athletics, which operates youth athletic training centers that includes coaching from former professional athletes, announced it will open 12 locations in Michigan, with the first opening next month in Farmington Hills.

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Vinotecca re-emerges in downtown Birmingham, focuses on eclectic entrees, live music

Vinotecca has opened in the former The Bird and The Bread restaurant space. Wine fans may recognize the name; Vinotecca used to be located in downtown Royal Oak. That location closed in 2017 to make way for that town's new Jolly Pumpkin outpost. The brand has been re-energized just a few miles north up Woodward Avenue in Birmingham.

Fans of the Vinotecca experience should feel welcome at the bar and restaurant's new digs. There remains an emphasis on great wine and food. The food menu, however, has been re-designed. While there are still the familiar small plates, the new Vinotecca returns with a more prominent entree menu.

Chef Adam Galloway, who has spent the past eight years at the Jonna Family of Restaurants' other wine bar and restaurant bar, Vinology in Ann Arbor, says that the new Vinotecca is more of a hybrid between the old Royal Oak location and Vinology. He characterizes the menu as wine-friendly world cuisine, and not just the predictable Italian and French dishes.

"We have small plates that represent a wide variety from around the world. There's an eclectic feel to the menu -- even on the entree side," says Galloway. "We're putting a twist on the classics, but in modern, fun, and interesting ways."

Entrees include the Cowboy Steak, Curried Scallops and Pork Belly, and Ponzu Glazed Fjord Trout, among others. Like the small plates, entrees are made available to share, with customers having the option to order full and half size plates of the main dishes.

In addition to wining and dining, Vinotecca offers wine education classes, weekend brunch service, and live jazz and blues concerts. One holdover from The Bird and The Bread days is the Elm Room, the 300 person-capacity private events space that remains in the back of the building.

Vinotecca is located at 210 S. Old Woodward Ave. in downtown Birmingham.

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

LTU gets $100,000 state grant for business incubation

The Michigan Strategic Fund (MSF) has approved a one-year, $100,000 extension to fund the Lawrence Technological University Collaboratory Gatekeeper Business Incubator.

The grant runs from April 1 through March 31, 2019, and was part of $1.7 million in state grants to support entrepreneurial resources. 

This is the third year LTU has received the grant to assist entrepreneurs and innovators in Southfield and throughout Southeast Michigan with a variety of programs, services, and events. 

The mission of the LTU Collaboratory is to help small manufacturers and hardware enterprises scale up for success. More about the programs and events available through the Collaboratory at www.ltucollaboratory.com

LTU has partnered with the City of Southfield to foster economic development through the city’s SmartZone. Based on the results from the Gatekeeper Grant, Southfield has provided the LTU Collaboratory additional support over the past year to help foster small business success.

Through the Gatekeeper Grant, the LTU Collaboratory has also strengthened its collaboration and working relationships with agencies such as the Michigan Small Business Development Centers, Automation Alley, Pure Michigan Small Business Connect, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center, and other organizations.

The new Gatekeeper grant will continue the momentum established from the first two years’ awards to assist the growth of early stage technology companies, especially in those companies focused on product design, engineering, prototyping and manufacturing.

For further information on the programs, contact, Mark Brucki, executive director of the LTU Collaboratory, at mbrucki@ltu.edu.

“Collaboration resources such as those available through Automation Alley, TechTown and SmartZones across Michigan are essential in providing our state’s entrepreneurs the necessary support needed to spark innovation and spur the business economy,” said Fred Molnar, vice president for entrepreneurship and innovation at the Michigan Economic Development Corp., the state’s chief marketing and business attraction agency. “The continued funding of these programs demonstrates their impact in not only building and growing startups in Michigan, but in attracting out-of-state talent.”  

Gatekeeper business incubators assist early-stage companies in accessing various services and programs administered by Michigan SmartZones, including mentoring, incubator and wet lab space, technology assessments, market analysis, product development and entrepreneurial training. Under the grants they’ve previously received, Michigan SmartZones have helped 231 companies form, served 1,695 companies, created 730 jobs, retained 4,223 jobs, and assisted companies in raising over $286 million with an additional $125 million in sales.

Lawrence Technological University, www.ltu.edu, is a private university founded in 1932 that offers more than 100 programs through the doctoral level in its Colleges of Architecture and Design, Arts and Sciences, Engineering, and Management. PayScale lists Lawrence Tech among the nation’s top 100 universities for the salaries of its graduates, and U.S. News and World Report lists it in the top tier of best Midwestern universities. Students benefit from small class sizes and a real-world, hands-on, “theory and practice” education with an emphasis on leadership. Activities on Lawrence Tech’s 107-acre campus include more than 60 student organizations and NAIA varsity sports.

Beaumont moving forward on $160 million Farmington Hills expansion


As a member of the Beaumont, Farmington Hills advisory committee and from his position as mayor of Farmington Hills, Ken Massey can see both the business and the community sides of the massive hospital renovation Beaumont is doing.

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ER docs run new urgent care in Milford


A new urgent care facility capable of treating everything from the sniffles to broken bones opened this month in Milford. 

The practice is co-owned by physicians specializing in emergency medicine.  

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Drifter Coffee to open Ferndale cafe this spring


Fans of Drifter Coffee’s mobile trailer will have an easier time finding the brew this spring when owner Alleah Webb sets up a permanent location in Ferndale.

The two-story coffee shop and roastery will be at 780 Woodward Heights. It will be part of a multi-building development known as Iron Ridge District, which also aims to include a full-service bakery, farmers, florist and other local vendors.

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Royal Oak-based Vectorform and Microsoft Partner to expand HoloLens technology for automotive design


Royal Oak’s Vectorform, a digital product and experiences company with capabilities in mixed reality design and engineering, announced a collaboration with Microsoft Corp. to innovate vehicle design and the prototyping processes for the automotive industry.

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Cold juice producer Drought adding production kitchen in Berkley, launches business consulting


Royal Oak-based Drought, a producer of USDA organic, cold-pressed juices, has launched a new arm of its business called Drought Solutions. Services are aimed at small businesses that are seeking to resourcefully expand their operations, including food preparation, manufacturing, distribution, business planning, and growth strategies.

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Retro-themed club Boogie Fever Cafe and Disco to celebrate grand re-opening in Ferndale

What's old is new again. Or is it: what's new is old again. Either way, Boogie Fever Cafe and Disco, that venerable retro-themed dance club in downtown Ferndale, is making a comeback.

In 2014, after 15 years of Boogie Fever, co-owners Mark McConnell and Rob Potter decided to reboot the Woodward Avenue nightspot as Twisted Tavern, a more contemporary club and restaurant. But after just three years of operating Twisted Tavern, McConnell and Potter are bringing the Boogie back.

"We realized that running Boogie Fever is what's in our wheelhouse," McConnell says. "And that's what the people wanted, so we're going to give them what they want."

The retro-themed dance parties are back, and so, too, is the light-up dance floor. There are some slight differences from its first iteration, with McConnell and Potter keeping some of the Twisted Tavern upgrades. McConnell says the decor is a little less cheeky, and a little more chic. The cafe features windows that open up to the sidewalk, and the kitchen will be serving dishes a step above the average bar food, including Ahi Tuna.

What remains the same is Boogie Fever's emphasis on entertainment. The establishment is open Wednesday through Saturday, with each night featuring a different theme. Wednesdays are trivia nights. Thursdays include half-off bottles of wine, and could eventually become New Wave night, featuring early 1980s-era MTV music videos and dance parties. 
There's an acoustic open mic night in the cafe on Fridays, and will eventually host classic rock cover bands on the club side. And Saturdays are reserved for the big Boogie Fever dance parties, with a DJ playing music from the 1970s and 80s, and some from today.

McConnell seems excited to bring back the Boogie Fever brand. Marveling at people's enthusiasm for the club, he says that people are flying in just for the grand reopening party. The demand is there.

"When you work for yourself, you have to recognize trends," McConnell says. "We have a lot of people that work here. We owe it to them to be the best that we can be.

The Boogie Fever grand reopening party is Saturday, Jan. 20. The cafe and club assume regular hours Wednesday, Jan. 24.

Boogie Fever Cafe and Disco is located at 22901 Woodward Ave. in Ferndale.

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

Metro Detroit cities prepare for autonomous vehicles with smart infrastructure

Last spring, Terry Croad started attending quarterly meetings of the Michigan Connected and Automated Vehicle Working Group. As Southfield’s director of planning, he hoped to stay abreast of the latest technology advancements as well as regulatory, financial, security, and other issues tied to the rapidly advancing ecosystem of connected and autonomous vehicles.

Often, he’d be the only planner in a room full of engineers, computer programmers, transportation experts, economic development leaders, and security and defense officials.

Southfield is getting a head start on the inevitable infrastructure changes mobility will require. “We’re already starting to tweak a little bit our land-use pattern and our regulation, and I think as this becomes more and more integrated into our daily lives, it’s going to have a significant impact on the way we park and use cars,” Croad says.

All Metro Detroit cities could look a lot different in the not-so-distant future thanks to the advent of autonomous vehicles and innovative mobility services.

Features we now take for granted, like 10- to 12-foot-wide driving lanes and expansive parking lots, could be rendered unnecessary in areas where people use connected, driverless cars, or ride-sharing platforms to get from point A to point B.

That’s why it’s crucial for local government officials to stay on top of the latest developments in connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) technology and adjust their infrastructure and land-use plans accordingly, says Croad.

Experts estimate that autonomous vehicles will be commonplace within 15 to 20 years. “As a [planning] profession, we need to be embracing this earlier than later ... The earlier we start talking about it and getting our elected officials at least aware that this is coming, better off we’re all going to be,” he says.

Southfield even included a section on “innovative transportation opportunities” in the master plan it updated in 2016. It stressed the need to be proactive to understand the impacts of such advancements so it could better plan and invest for the future.

That kind of awareness is one of the biggest things communities can do to prepare for CAVs, says Valerie Sathe Brugeman, senior project manager at the Ann Arbor-based Center for Automotive Research. Brugeman recently co-authored a “Future Cities” report commissioned by the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC) on the potential benefits and challenges of CAV technology to communities.

At this point she hasn’t seen Michigan communities drastically change their roads, intersections or pedestrian walkways, but she said big changes could be needed as more people use autonomous or shared vehicles.

Intelligent use of space

Since CAVs should be able to stay in their lanes better than vehicles with drivers, roads of the future could have narrower lanes, allowing more space for pedestrian paths, drop-off lanes or other uses. There’s a possibility these technologies could result in fewer vehicles on the road, meaning fewer lanes would be needed. Or it could have the opposite effect, and result in increased vehicle miles traveled with more people opting to commute further to work or using autonomous cars that drive around with no occupants after drop-offs, Brugeman says.

Parking needs also are expected to change. A driverless car could drop passengers off at their destination and then either park itself off-site, or continue driving to pick up different passengers. That would reduce the need for parking spots in prime locations as well as shrink individual parking space sizes. Autonomous vehicles can park closer together if there are no passengers who need to open doors.

As cities build new parking structures, they should consider making them retrofittable so they could be transformed for office space or recreational use as parking needs decrease, says Brugeman. Communities also could change zoning regulations to dictate the maximum number of parking spots instead of minimum number of spots for particular developments.
Southfield recently conducted an overhaul of its parking standards to take these trends into consideration. Croad wants to reduce the parking ratios required for certain land uses and shrink the space between aisles.

Future planning for Michigan cities

While Southfield is considered ahead of the pack in acknowledging the potential impacts of CAVs and other mobility advancements, it’s not the only Metro Detroit community taking action. Last year the City of Detroit created the Office of Mobility Innovation and named Mark de la Vergne its chief.

“The fact that they now have a chief of mobility innovation is telling of the value they place on the topic and the technologies surrounding it,” Brugeman says.

Detroit recently won a nearly $2.2 million federal grant to deploy vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communication and detection technologies at intersections in high-traffic areas in Southwest Detroit, the Riverfront, Corktown, and the Livernois-McNichols corridor. De la Vergne says the connected corridors should improve traffic safety and reduce emergency response times.

The grant will be a jumping off point to understand how and if the city could scale the technology, and what kind of infrastructure it would require.

“Knowing technology is changing a lot, I think that’s the challenge we all face, but at the same time, we want to be able to start getting some of this stuff in the ground so that we can start learning,” de la Vergne says.

Michigan is a national leader when it comes to developing, testing and promoting CAV technology. There are at least 115 dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) roadside units installed throughout the state for vehicle and infrastructure connectivity, according to the Future Cities report. The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is partnering with local and state entities to work on several CAV projects, such as allowing transit signal priority to SMART buses in Macomb County with the goal of improving efficiency and reliability.

“We have all these physical assets here that really make this area unique to other parts of the country,” Brugeman says, noting that one of Michigan’s biggest advantages is the collaboration between MDOT and the MEDC in concert with the auto industry, universities and other entities.

“They recognize the need to remain a leader, because there are a lot of other communities that are vying for a leadership position in this race for CAVs,” she says.
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