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Royal Oak Way now open

The City of Royal Oak celebrated the grand opening of Royal Oak Way, also known as The ROW, at a Small Business Saturday with Santa event on Nov. 24. The new public alley with decorative paving is part of the Downtown Development Authority’s plan to make downtown alleyways more attractive and will complement the new 581-space parking garage, office building, City Hall, police station and two-acre park.
 
The ROW will serve as a functional alley for deliveries, but with the option for seating, decorative lights, murals, special events and more. The ROW is the alleyway behind businesses along Main Street between 11 Mile and Third Street.
 
“The Small Business Saturday with Santa event is one of the first of many community events to be hosted in The Row,” said Sharlan Douglas, Mayor Pro Tem for the City of Royal Oak. “The City of Royal Oak is looking forward to expanding the alleyway project throughout the downtown.”
 
Additionally, an estimated 14 parking spaces will be added to the alley alongside the new parking garage and office building once completed. The alleyway will help connect pedestrians to the Royal Oak Library, Royal Oak Farmers Market and the two-acre park coming in 2020.

“It’s great to see Royal Oak creating other uses for downtown alleys,” said Aric Klar, owner of Toyology Toys. “Creativity like this helps make downtown Royal Oak more attractive, and this inviting new space will hopefully be used for events and more to help bring people to downtown Royal Oak.” 
 
The Small Business Saturday with Santa event in The ROW, featured family-friendly activities including photos with Santa, arts and crafts from Toyology Toys, ribbon cutting and brief remarks from Mayor Pro Tem Douglas, live entertainment from the Royal Oak Children’s Choir and coffee from Dessert Oasis.
 
For more information about the Rethink Royal Oak development, parking information, including a guide that advises available parking options and more, please visit www.rethinkro.com.
 
About Royal Oak
Royal Oak is a vibrant metro Detroit community home to nearly 60,000 residents located in Oakland County. Destinations within the 12-mile community include The Detroit Zoo, The Royal Oak Music Theatre, William Beaumont Hospital, Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle and a successful Farmers Market among others. The city’s recreational services include more than 50 public parks and was recently named one of the Top 10 Most Exciting Small Cities in America by Movoto and the Best Place to Live in Michigan by AreaVibes. To learn more about Royal Oak, visit https://www.romi.gov.

Royal Oak is turning its alleyways into pathways

Downtown Royal Oak is looking to transform five blocks of alleyway into a pedestrian-friendly pathway.

The alley runs behind the buildings on the east side of Main Street. One block, from 2nd to 3rd Street, has already received an aesthetic upgrade, with patterned stamped concrete recently installed. The block connecting 2nd Street and 11 Mile Road is next.

The city has hired the firm Fleis & VandenBrink to draft a master plan to design the alley that connects 3rd and 6th streets, which would add three more blocks to the redeveloped alleyway system.

Royal Oak, which recently joined the Oakland County Main Street program, has applied for "technical assistance" dollars from the county to pay Fleis & VandenBrink. That request is currently under review.

Central Park Development Group, the developer responsible for the Royal Oak City Center project, inspired the program after having initiated the cleanup of the alley that runs adjacent to the eventual structure. The city quickly got on board.

While still making room for deliveries and dumpsters, the alleys will be cleaned up and made attractive to pedestrians. There will be public art and hanging cantina lights.

Sean Kammer, Downtown Manager for the Royal Oak Downtown Development Authority, says that some restaurants are already planning patios for the revamped alleyway.

"The main thing is that we’re giving some much-needed attention to our alleys that are in need of repairs and upgrades. But we’re also taking pedestrian conditions into account," Kammer says.

"The alleyway project will help with walkability and non-motorized connectivity."

The first phase is complete. Now it’s on to the rest.

Kammer is confident that the alleyway project will receive approval from Oakland County. Then comes the design. And then the construction.

"When all is said and done, we will have ornate alleys from 11 Mile to 6th Street," Kammer says.

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


Downtown South Lyon is going retro as it gets a new look

Excerpt: 

A touch of old-school architecture is going a long way toward bringing an appealing new look to downtown South Lyon.

Fueled by the investment and imagination of property owner Ron Borgman, plus the creative strategy of Downtown Development Authority director Bob Donahue, a pair of adjacent businesses on North Lafayette are undergoing eye-catching facade makeovers that will pull the exteriors back to their original forms.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dearborn

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

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

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

Pontiac/Bloomfield Hills

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

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

Placemaking

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

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

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

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

Bonus developments to watch: 

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

Holly schoolhouse to become boutique hotel and banquet center

Excerpt

Holly’s queen of re-purposing has another grand transformation in the works – the conversion of a 1913 schoolhouse into a boutique hotel and banquet center with a speak-easy.

Cari Cucksey, host of HGTV’s Cash & Cari and owner of RePurpose and The Holly Vault, announced at an Oakland County Planner’s Gathering that she and her husband Vince would be opening the hotel by the end of 2018.

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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.

Troy proposal would create downtown center

Excerpt

Shedding its past as a rural outpost, Troy has become Oakland County’s most populated city, and a business and shopping destination in Metro Detroit.

But the suburb of shopping malls and subdivisions forgot one thing along the way, city leaders say: a downtown.

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Crowdfunding campaign launched for Red Pole Park

Excerpt
 
The city of Southfield and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) launched a new crowdfunding campaign through Michigan-based crowdfunding platform Patronicity. The campaign will create an interactive art installation along the new Northwestern Highway Pathway in Southfield’s City Centre. 

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

Excerpt

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

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

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Robertson Larson Group offers new condo development in Downtown Birmingham

Excerpt

A new residential condominium development, called 750 Forest and located in Birmingham’s Triangle District, will be developed from an existing mid-rise building located at 750 Forest Avenue. The location is across the street from Forest, an upscale restaurant.

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

Excerpt

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

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Pinnacle Homes unveils $250M Aspire Collection in Metro Detroit, homes for ages 50+

Excerpt

Bloomfield Hills-based home builder Pinnacle Homes announced the launch of the Aspire Collection, a group of seven luxury communities throughout metro Detroit geared toward empty nesters and adults ages 50 and older living an active lifestyle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paint Creek Trail bridge set to be renovated

Excerpt

A Paint Creek Trail bridge will be renovated thanks to funding acquired through the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund.

Bridge 33.7, which is located on the Paint Creek Trail between Dutton Road and Silverbell Road in Oakland Township, will be replaced by a precast concrete bridge that is 14 feet wide and 60 feet long.

Read more.
 

Labor of love: Otus Supply in Ferndale set to open today

Excerpt

Two years after breaking ground, Otus Supply in Ferndale is now open for full operations.

The 11,000-square-foot restaurant and performance venue, originally dubbed Black Owl, has been divided into more intimate spaces created by Chicago-based designer Alex Morales.

Read more.
 
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