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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.

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Historic church to reopen as condominiums near downtown Milford


The Bell Tower, a new housing project near downtown Milford, includes the redevelopment of the former historic St. Mary's of the Snows Church, built in 1903, into condominiums, along with five new single-family townhomes built across the street. Units will go on sale at the end of the month.

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Michigan's first Container Store is coming to Novi


The Container Store, the place for fun and functional storage boxes, bins and bags, is coming to Novi.

Located in a former Best Buy in the West Oaks shopping center, the 22,000-square-foot store is scheduled to open June 4.

It will be Michigan’s first Container Store.

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IT support firm launches new Farmington Hills office


Even though the company has been supporting clients since 1999, officials at CASS Tech, a company providing IT consulting and managed services, were worried fewer people might know much about them following their recent move to a new facility in Farmington Hills.

So the folks at CASS, a Service Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business, opened their doors to visitors, hosting an open house and inviting local city officials to tour the new facility and learn a little more about what the firm does.

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P3's automotive division unveils mobility innovation center in Metro Detroit

Representing the continuation of its significant North American growth over the past 11 years, P3 unveiled its Mobility Innovation Center (MIC) in Southfield, Michigan, announced plans to hire 100 employees in its automotive division by year end and committed to investing in research and development of new and advanced technology solutions to address the dynamic changes in the industry.

The announcements were made to customers, partners, media and other stakeholders at an open house today at the new facility, which serves as P3’s automotive headquarters in the Americas. Approximately 60 percent of the new hires will be for positions located in southeastern Michigan. The remaining positions will be located throughout North America.

The P3 MIC, located at 25650 West 11 Mile Rd., Suite 300 in Southfield, Michigan, is a modern 25,000 square-foot facility focused on two key areas: the research, development and implementation of future automotive technologies as well as organizational solutions and processes that will support OEMs and suppliers as they evolve their businesses and continue to be successful in the wake of the changes in the automotive industry ahead.  

“We decided to open the P3 Mobility Innovation Center right here in the heart of the U.S. automotive industry in southeast Michigan,” said Dr. Samit Ghosh, President and CEO of P3’s automotive division in North America. “As automotive and technology industries converge, Silicon Valley meets Detroit right here at the MIC. P3 provides local access to the knowledge and advanced solutions that help our clients stay competitive.”  

Ghosh added, “The automotive industry is at a pivotal and exciting time in history given the significant transformation underway as automakers expand from traditional manufacturing to mobility services. As a global leader in connectivity, autonomous driving and mobility solutions, P3 is a fundamental player in partnering with our clients to navigate these new and evolving technologies.”

Globally, P3 has more than 3,200 consultants and engineers, including over 450 automotive and telecommunications experts in North America. As part of its continued growth throughout North America, including more than 50 percent growth in 2015 in its automotive division, P3 plans to hire approximately 100 automotive experts throughout the region by year end, with 60 percent of those new hires targeted for its Detroit-area operations. P3 already employs more than 120 automotive specialists in Michigan.

Current openings are for engineering and consulting positions, including systems and test engineers, connectivity specialists, automotive telematics management consultants and mobility and cybersecurity experts.

The new P3 MIC provides technologies that support the future of mobility in automotive including autonomous driving, device connectivity, eMobility and telematics. It also is designed to support clients at an organizational level, helping customers strategically navigate shifts to system engineering and integration of software development, new business models, global platforms and end-to-end product development including big data-based IT solutions.

In order to meet those needs, the MIC facility features modern, open collaboration spaces and a 10-car full vehicle workshop with prototyping capabilities. It also includes multiple labs created to provide cutting-edge insights on connectivity, autonomous vehicles, eMobility, cybersecurity and other in-vehicle telematics and mobility solutions, in addition to private customer testing and validation labs.

Other speakers at the MIC open house included: Kirk Steudle, director of the Michigan Department of Transportation; Kevin Kerrigan, senior vice president, Automotive Office for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation; and L. Brooks Patterson, Oakland County Executive.

“The automotive and manufacturing knowledge base centered in our state is unmatched anywhere in the world,” Kerrigan said. “P3 is another example of a company that considers Michigan to be a great place to build their business and find the best and brightest employees to lead the high-tech revolution.” 

“Oakland County is the home to Automation Alley and thought leaders from OEMs to all tiers of suppliers,” Patterson said. “We are pleased that the company has decided to grow here in our backyard, and is continuing to create career opportunities for its professionals locally.”
About P3
P3 is a global consulting, management and engineering solutions company with a rapidly growing team of more than 3,200 consultants and engineers working to develop and implement innovative solutions to today’s complex technology challenges. Offering a broad portfolio of services and proprietary tools to the automotive, aerospace, telecommunications and energy industries, P3 adds tangible value that helps clients succeed at every stage, from innovation to implementation.
In the Americas, P3 has offices in Detroit, Morristown, Dallas, Greenville, Los Angeles, San Jose, Portland, Mississauga, Montreal and Mexico City. For more information please visit www.p3-group.com

Local residents to open senior community this fall


There’s a new senior living community coming to Lyon Township.

The Cambrian Group, a Michigan-based senior living development and management company is constructing a state-of-the-art living community designed to meet the unique, individual needs of seniors.

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Farmington Chamber commissions promo videos


With new members joining and retention climbing, the Greater Farmington Area Chamber of Commerce ended 2015 with momentum.

Now chamber staffers believe they’ve found a way to build on that momentum.

The chamber Board of Directors has unanimously approved a plan formed by Executive Director Dan Irvin to film four promotional videos over the next few months that will highlight all the things the Farmington community has to offer.

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Life Skills Village opens brain injury rehab center in Oak Park


Beyond the hype of the NFL scandal and the subsequent Will Smith film, “Concussion,” there are tens of thousands of people suffering the daily trauma of living with a brain injury. Whether that injury comes from a fall, car accident, stroke or aneurysm - the treatment team at Life Skills Village leads the way to rehabilitation and recovery with a newly constructed Center for Brain Injury Rehabilitation, located in Oak Park.

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This cafe in Ferndale serves both people -- and cats

At Ferndale’s Catfe Lounge, owner Deanne Iovan has a kind word and a gentle pet for every cat she meets -- even the ill-tempered, mangy ones.

The Catfe, which opened in November last year, is a volunteer-driven lounge where patrons can hang with cats in a cozy setting for a small donation. Any income helps subsidize the work of the Ferndale Cat Shelter, where Iovan serves as executive director.

As the shelter does not have a permanent space, but instead operates through a network of foster homes, the Catfe greatly increases the number of cats it can accept. Since opening, the Catfe has helped facilitate 40 cat adoptions. These cats were homeless, abandoned, or whose owner could no longer care for them.

While Iovan is proud of that number, there's always more. “The demand never ends,” she says. “We are constantly bombarded with requests from someone who rescued a cat, or someone is moving, or somebody died. There's several every day.”

Iovan tries to help everyone who reaches out, but capacity is limited so she selects cases where the likelihood is greatest for a cat to successfully re-home. But Iovan loves all cats, and doesn't turn away typically less-desirable cats, be they moody or older. That's why the Catfe welcomes a wide assortment of cat personalities.

The community response to the Catfe was immediate. The day it opened, there was a line out the door. New people come every weekend, some from as far away as Grand Rapids, Ohio, and Canada. There are also regulars -- cat-lovers that come for their fix. On any given day you might see a hipster couple hoping to add a cat to their one-dog home, a young mom and toddler who visit weekly to play with the cats, and a curious passerby who simply wants to see what’s up. 

Most cat cafes in the United States are for-profit operations that partner with a rescue. Ferndale’s Catfe Lounge, the only cat cafe in the state of Michigan, is a nonprofit with all proceeds, either from donations or membership dues, benefiting cats.

Along with bridging needy cats to welcoming homesteads, the Catfe has also become a community hub. A Girl Scout troop made and donated cat toys. The Catfe recently partnered with Gilda's Club to facilitate a therapy program (many consider cat interaction therapeutic). Among the other offerings are Kitty Cat Yoga, Purrlates: Pilates with Cats, and Paws and Tiny Tails preschool story time (in collaboration with the Ferndale Area District Library). The space can also been rented for children’s birthday parties. 

“We connect the activity to homeless cats in the community,” says Iovan. “It brings awareness to cat homelessness.”

Money, steady volunteers, and the blending of cat personalities in one space are some of the demands of running the Catfe Lounge and Ferndale Cat Shelter. 

“But the biggest challenge," says Iovan, "is finding a place for every cat that needs a home."

LTU sustainability project in Detroit is finalist for global award

A project to turn a school on Detroit's west side into a learning laboratory for sustainability is in the running for a global architecture award.

The project, called the [sw]LAB NZE Hybridized Ecosystem, was designed by studio[Ci], a Lawrence Technological University architecture and design laboratory, a team of more than three dozen LTU students, and four LTU professors in both architecture and engineering.

The project site is the Sampson-Webber Leadership Academy at 4700 Tireman Ave. in Detroit, a pre-K-through-8th-grade school in the Detroit Public Schools.

The award is a finalist for the Architizer A+ Awards in the category “Landscape and Planning – Unbuilt Masterplan.” To vote for the LTU system, visit http://awards.architizer.com/public/voting/?cid=101. The deadline for voting is April 1.
The Architizer A+ Awards, now in their fourth year, are sponsored by New York City-based Architizer, an online database for sourcing architectural services and building products.

Since fall 2013, studio[Ci] has offered LTU expertise through faculty and students to design and build a Net Zero Energy canopy structure to be part of an outdoor classroom at the academy. To test the long-term vision for the school and the neighborhood, a prototype structure will be installed to generate electricity from photovoltaics and collect water to irrigate gardens at the school site, in an area that will be used as part of an outdoor classroom.

The structure will be a solar and water collection array mounted on a pole, with eight photovoltaic panels and a rainwater transport, storage and irrigation system. The outdoor classroom – designed by sixth graders at the school, with guidance from studio[Ci], the DPS Go Green Challenge and Garden Collaborative programs -- will provide hands-on learning and training in net zero energy technologies, food production, composting and recycling. Included will be six raised garden beds and a raingarden.

LTU professors leading the design project are Associate Professor of Architecture Constance C. Bodurow, who founded studio[Ci] in 2008; Civil Engineering Professor Donald Carpenter; Professor of Mechanical Engineering Robert Fletcher. And Associate Professor of Civil Engineering Keith J. Kowalkowski. College Professor of Architecture Charles O'Geen participated in 2015. Significant technical and design support has been donated by Ruby + Associates, SME, and Roncelli Inc.

Primary funding to design and install the prototype has been provided by a $25,000 Ford College Community Challenge (Ford C3) grant, which also funded the initial neighborhood-wide NZE project in 2010-12, with additional support from the deans of Lawrence Tech’s College of Architecture and Design and College of Engineering, the Coleman Foundation, and Michigan State University’s University Center for Regional Economic Innovation. DPS has served as primary partner and has provided support through lead teachers and administrators.

Eventually, a larger project is planned at the academy, including a large photovoltaic and geothermal energy farm, extensive stormwater management installations, more gardens, and more outdoor classrooms. The ultimate vision, Bodurow said, is not only to achieve net zero energy, but to generate educational and training opportunities through collaboration with the community, as well as creating new economic opportunities, and restoring the school as the hub of the neighborhood. The long-term plan is to make the school – and, eventually, the neighborhood itself -- net zero energy, meaning it produces all the energy it needs through renewable sources, manages its water resources, and produces zero waste, including zero stormwater runoff. The LTU team has developed a monitoring system in collaboration with the school which could form the basis for a curriculum that will engage students in STEAM lesson plans about sustainability using the installed technologies.

Other partners in the project include the office of Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, the Detroit Department of Neighborhoods District 6, Detroit Future City, It Starts At Home 48204, and the residents, parents, and businesses of the Tireman neighborhood.

Approval granted for 100-unit luxury apartments development in downtown Milford

The Milford Village Council has approved a $22-million, high-end development on the former Iverson's Lumber site. DevMar Development has been given the go-ahead to build its two luxury loft apartment buildings on the E. Huron Street property.

Named the District Lofts, the luxury apartment community divvies 100 luxury apartment units across two four-story buildings. The site is the former Iverson's Lumber property located at 300 E. Huron St. Four acres and a block east of Main Street, the site has been vacant for some time.

In addition to 13 penthouse apartment units at 1,350 square feet each, the development mostly consists of one- and two-bedroom loft-style apartment units ranging anywhere from 850 to 1,350 square feet. Units rent at prices from $1,300 to $2,000 per month.

DevMar Development principal Mark DeMaria praises downtown Milford in a statement to the press.

"Milford has a vibrant downtown with a wide selection of entertainment, restaurants and shops," DeMaria says. "When I look for a location to develop, I look for walkable communities with a nice mix of retail, entertainment, outdoor recreation, and great dining experiences; add to that great events like Milford Memories and the concerts in the park that will give my residents a way to immediately become a part of their new town. Milford has all of that with access to five parks, walking trails, rivers and streams. It is a beautiful town."

City officials like Milford Downtown Development Authority executive director Ann Barnette agree, saying that the development will improve downtown Milford's walkability and sense of place.

DeMaria also says that typical tenants in his developments tend to be young professionals and empty nesters. DevMar Development has already begun a similar development in downtown Plymouth called the Starkweather Lofts.

District Lofts will be located at 300 E. Huron St. in downtown Milford.

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

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.

Rochester College to build new basketball, volleyball arena


Rochester College will break ground next month on a new $5.3 million sports arena that will be the new home of its men and women’s basketball and women’s volleyball teams, as well as college events. The Garth Pleasant Arena is set to be completed next February.

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Birmingham-based Goldfish Swim School Franchising named one of the Michigan 50 Companies to Watch

Goldfish Swim School Franchising LLC, which has grown into a multistate franchise network since it was founded in 2006 with a single location in Birmingham, has been named one of the Michigan 50 Companies to Watch.
The prestigious annual list, sponsored by Michigan Celebrates Small Business, honors growth-oriented, Michigan-based businesses that demonstrate high performance in the marketplace or exhibit innovative products or processes.
“We believe this recognition is further validation that the Goldfish Swim School network is built on a solid foundation and is well-positioned for continued expansion,” said company CEO Chris McCuiston, who with his wife, Jenny, founded Goldfish Swim School 10 years ago this month at 2388 Cole St., Suite 101, in Birmingham.
Goldfish Swim School, Michigan’s first aquatic facility dedicated entirely to indoor swim classes, provides water safety education and swim lessons to children ages 4 months through 12 years. Its confidence-building curriculum was developed by Jenny McCuiston, a state championship swimmer at Birmingham Seaholm High School and 17-time Collegiate All-American at the University of Arizona, where she earned her degree in early childhood development & family studies. 
When exploring how to expand the concept beyond the Birmingham location, the McCuistons opted to create a franchising program that resulted in the first franchise location opening in 2009 in Farmington Hills.
Today, more than 55 schools are open or in development in more than 17 states, including nine in Michigan. The McCuistons still own the school in Birmingham, where they also maintain Goldfish Swim School Franchising’s nearby corporate headquarters.
Their future expansion plans include the goal of increasing their franchise network to 130 locations by 2024.
It’s that growth that was recognized by the judges who selected Goldfish as one of the Michigan 50 Companies to Watch. The competition is open to what are known as “second stage” companies that are past the startup phase and facing issues of growth, not survival. They must also demonstrate the intent and capacity to grow based on employee or sales growth, exceptional entrepreneurial leadership, sustainable competitive advantage or other notable successes.
“We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished during our first 10 years in business, and we look forward to further spreading our Michigan-made learn-to-swim program throughout the country,” Chris McCuiston said. “Much of the credit for our success to date goes to our members – families who understand the various ways swimming lessons benefit their children – and our dedicated and passionate franchisees.” 
Each franchise has a significant economic impact in its community. Development costs $1.4 to $3 million per location, on average, and each school employs approximately 50 workers.
“We also sincerely believe that we’re making a difference in the lives of the more than 40,000 students we teach each week who are learning to swim and be safer in and around the water,” McCuiston said. “Children at Goldfish are learning safety skills that will stay with them forever.”
Classes are taught by professional, trained and certified instructors in a safe, kid-friendly setting.
Colorful murals and faux palm trees create a tropical decor in each location. Goldfish pools, which are custom-built for teaching, are 4½ feet deep at their deepest. To create a shiver-free environment, water temperatures are kept at a comfortable 90 degrees while the ambient air in the pool area is always 92 degrees. Parents can observe lessons from an air-conditioned viewing area.
The concept was designed to eliminate the anxiety and chill that often accompany traditional swimming lessons by providing a warm-water pool, small class sizes (maximum 4:1 student-to-teacher ratio) and a focus on perpetual learning that allows children to progress naturally.
Safety is also a constant theme. In addition to focusing on water safety skills in each swim lesson, Goldfish staff members regularly visit schools to give water safety presentations to students in their community.
Michigan Celebrates Small Business consists of organizations that support and celebrate entrepreneurs in Michigan: Chris Holman, small business advocate; the Edward Lowe Foundation; Michigan Economic Development Corporation; the Michigan Small Business Development Center; the Small Business Association of Michigan; and the U.S. Small Business Administration – Michigan.
More information about Goldfish Swim School is available at www.goldfishswimschool.com

Lawrence Tech's drainage system to be featured at White House Summit


A new parking lot drainage system designed to reduce stormwater runoff that was recently installed at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield utilizing technology, in part, from Parjana Distribution in downtown Detroit, will be showcased at the White House Water Summit at the end of the month.

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