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Ypsilanti's Washington Place Apts rehabs building without displacing residents

When it comes time to redevelop an apartment building in an up-and-coming part of downtown it usually means the developer must move the old tenants out in order to execute the work. Beal Properties is turning that strategy on its head.

The Ypsilanti-based construction company is redeveloping the Washington Place Apts this spring and summer. However, it's doing it with minimal impact on the existing tenants.

"We are not kicking anyone out," says Stewart Beal, president of Beal Properties. "We are making improvements as leases expire."

The 15,000-square-foot building at 210 N Washington has evolved since it was first built a century ago. It was originally built as an office building. Eventually it was added onto over the years, making it a 4-story apartment building. Its 16-units range from studios to four-and-five bedroom units.

Beal bought the building in 2009 and sold it Balmoral Holdings, a Colorado-based investor, last year. Beal still manages the building, however, and will replace the roof this spring, a job that requires 10 roofers working on three different roofs. Each unit is being upgraded with refinished hardwood floors and granite countertops as tenants move out over the next year or two. The idea is to keep the building's cashflow steady to ensure consistent returns for the investor.

"Balmoral Holdings was attracted to project because of Ypsilanti's historic downtown and proximity to Eastern Michigan University," Beal says.

Source: Stewart Beal, president of Beal Properties
Writer: Jon Zemke


Elevation Burger set to open in downtown Ann Arbor

Elevation Burger is opening its second location in Ann Arbor this week, bringing a slow-food business model to a traditional burger joint.

The Virginia-based company specializes in making high-end burgers, using only 100 percent USDA-certified organic, grass-fed, and free-range beef that is freshly ground on the premises of each franchise. The idea it make food that is fresh, local, and delicious.

"We do the milkshakes the old-fashioned way of scooping the ice cream and blending it up here," says Michael Tayter, owner of the Michigan franchises of Elevation Burger.

Elevation Burger's second Michigan franchise is opening in downtown Ann Arbor at 529 E Liberty. It comes two years after Tayter opened his first franchise in Ann Arbor. The University of Michigan alum choose to keep the first two franchises close to each tother in order to maintain quality.

"People expand geographically too quickly and they stretch themselves too thin," Tayter says. "We want to stay close so we can share staff and managers and bring over the culture from the other store."

The new 1,850-square-foot space in downtown Ann Arbor will be able to seat 50 people at a time. It will also have a prep space in the basement of the building. The location will employ 12 people.

Source: Michael Tayter, owner of the Michigan franchises of Elevation Burger
Writer: Jon Zemke


Artist space Ypsi Alloy Studios aims to open in June

A trio of women artists is pooling their resources to launch a new artists collective space in Ypsilanti, Ypsi Alloy Studios.

Ilana Houten, Elize Jekabson and Jessica Tenbusch are in the final stages of opening the new space on Carpenter Road. The 3,600-square-foot space is in a light industrial building that previously was occupied by a print shop.

"It's a shared studio space," says Houten, a sculptor. "It's going to be 99 percent community artists who work in a variety of mediums. Each artist will have their own private space and there will be a communal space."

The three women are active in Ypsilanti's growing artist scene. They wanted to create a space for more artists in their little corner of Washtenaw County, especially now that SPUR Studios is closing.

There will be space for 15 artists and Ypsi Alloy Studios already has commitments from 14 artists in the community. The venture is still looking for a couple more artist tenants. Send an email to ypsi.alloy@gmail.com for more information.

"We hope to be able to move in on June 1st," Tenbusch says.

The trio believes there is a pent-up demand for this sort of space in Ypsilanti, especially now that the economy is picking up and commercial space is becoming harder to come by.

"We hope to get more interest so we can expand into a bigger space," Jekabson says.

Source: Ilana Houten, Elize Jekabson and Jessica Tenbusch, co-founder of Ypsi Alloy Studios
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Ann Arbor's A3C moves to new downtown office space

A3C never had any intention of moving from its headquarters in downtown Ann Arbor. The boutique architecture firm had made downtown its home early on, and built up a sustainability nerd's palace, complete with geothermal heating, solar power, and a green roof. After 33 years, it was doing just fine, having weathered the Great Recession. It was adding staff and working on innovative projects. 

Then a knock came on its door with an offer to buy its building.

"We were given an offer we couldn't refuse," says Dan Jacobs, founding partner of AC3. "We had no intention of ever moving our office."

Jacobs and his team turned down that first offer. Then came another bigger offer, and another one. A friend in the community reached out and explained the original offer is coming from a group of local tech business people who want to use the property and others surrounding it to create a cluster of office space for tech startups. The money and the argument for further economic development was enough to sway Jacobs.

"We saw some real benefits for ourselves," Jacobs says. "It's also a great opportunity for the local community."
That put AC3 into a rush to find a new home for it and its growing staff. The firm has hired a new person over the last year, expanding its employee base to 10 people. It's looking to add another team member now. The firm has a lead on a new office, but the deal fell through.

Then a new option to take over its original office came up at the last second. Jacobs and his team jumped on the chance to occupy the office on the second floor of a West Liberty Street building in downtown Ann Arbor.

"I walked up the stairs for the first time in 20 years and has a deja vu moment," Jacobs says.

Source: Dan Jacobs, founding partner of AC3
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Glass House Brewing aims to open on Ann Arbor's west side

The Payeur family has worked at the family business, Diamond Glass & Feiners, for years. Now it’s starting a second family venture, Glass House Brewing.

The Payeurs will dedicate half of its window and door installation space at 2350 W Liberty Road to the new microbrewery, and are currently on track to open in June as construction wraps up.

"It's been a longtime coming, but it's close now," says Brent Payeur, master brewer & co-founder of Glass House Brewing.

Payeur was introduced to craft brewing by his fiancee about a decade ago, and he fell hard for the hobby. That lead him to recruit his brother and father to open their own brewery on Ann Arbor’s west side.

"I just fell in love with it," Payeur says. "We go on brewery tours all the time. I started home brewing six years ago and love the art of it."

Glass House Brewery will feature a 1,600 square foot tap room with no food service, at least at the beginning. It will feature 20 taps that are primarily ales, such as IPAs, porters, stouts, artisan ales, and fruit beers. There will be constant rotation of new beers to help keep the offering fresh. It will also offer free beer to members of its growlers club.

The brewery will open with a staff of four people. "I am hoping to add staff to keep up with the demand," Payeur says.

Source: Brent Payeur, master brewer & co-founder of Glass House Brewing
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Fraser Bicycle targets old Two Wheel Tango space for new bike shop

A well-known bicycle shop brand from Metro Detroit is moving into the Ann Arbor market, taking over a former bicycle store space and making it its own.

Fraser Bicycle is building out the former Two Wheel Tango space at 3162 Packard. Construction on the 6,500-square-foot storefront is ongoing and working toward a July opening.

"There is a lot of work that needs to get done at the building first," says Ron Schmid, general manager of Fraser Bicycle. He adds that the company choose the location because of established reputation as a bike shop. "It would be easy to move in and open a new bike shop there," he says.

Fraser Bicycle has been operating out of Fraser since 1967. It opened a second location in Canton last December. However, its customers wanted to see another location further west in the region, specifically in Ann Arbor.

"We found that a lot of them aren't willing to leave Ann Arbor," Schmid says. "We also wanted to be close to the campus as well for repair business."

Fraser Bicycle currently employs 16 people after hiring nine over the last year. Those new hires include sales and bike fitting professionals. Schmid expects to employs a staff of 6-10 people when it opens the Ann Arbor store this summer.

Source: Ron Schmid, general manager of Fraser Bicycle
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Arbor Farms Market expands with cafe and salad bar

Arbor Farms Market is expanding, adding more dining and shopping space to its West Stadium Boulevard store. The local, organic grocer is adding 4,500 square feet to its existing 12,000-square-foot space. The newly expanded store is expected to open in June.

"We're taking down a wall that will open into new space," says Leo Fox, president of Arbor Farms Market. "The expanded store will be L shaped where before it was a rectangle."

The new space will include space for a cafe, a soup and salad bar and a sandwich shop. There will also be an expanded deli counter with a broad variety of new items.

"We will have a new 60-foot deli lineup for fresh foods," Fox says.

Fox launched Arbor Farms Market in 1979. It moved to its current location in 2004, doubling its space to 12,000 square feet. Arbor Farms Market currently employs 60 people. It has hired five new associates over the last year and is looking to add a couple more.

"We value serving the community," Fox says. "We value creating jobs. We value the shoppers who want to spend their money locally."

Source: Leo Fox, president of Arbor Farms Market
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

CareEvolutionís growth puts bigger office search on startups radar

Growth is a word that has become synonymous with CareEvolution. The Ann Arbor-based healthcare tech startup has been adding customers and employees. Now it's looking for bigger offices to house its growing workforce.

CareEvolution hired 30 people over the last year, expanding its staff to 80 employees and a couple of interns. Most of its new hires are in software development and healthcare professionals. It is currently looking to hire even more.

"We target about 10 people per quarter," says Vik Kheterpal, principal of CareEvolution. "We have a certain rhythm with our hiring."
CareEvolution's software specializes in breaking down information silos in healthcare systems primarily by sharing of electronic medical records and information. The idea is to make healthcare more patient-centric and efficient.

"Our company builds the bridges between our fragmented systems," Kheterpal says.

CareEvolution has spent the last year moving its software more into the mobile space. Moves like that have enabled CareEvolution's customers to speak highly of it and enable more growth. Its revenue spiked by 91 percent last year and Kheterpal expects his company to keep up that pace in 2015.

"Our revenue is growing exceptionally fast," Kheterpal says.

Source: Vik Kheterpal, principal of CareEvolution
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Tenants filling up renovated 10 N. Washington in downtown Ypsilanti

New ownership has breathed life into the small commercial building at 10 N Washington in downtown Ypsilanti. A local couple bought the 4,600-square-foot structure a year ago, which had previously been occupied by the Green Financial Group. The building has since been renovated into a home for new businesses.

"It was a vacant office building built for a single purpose," says Stewart Beal, president of Beal Properties, which helped redevelop 10 N Washington. "We are in the process of turning it into a multi-use building with nine suites for nine tenants."

The circa-1920 building has 2,800 square feet on the first floor and another 1,800 square feet in the basement. While it's being renovated into a space for as many as nine businesses (some of the office suites can be combined into larger spaces).

So far Beal Properties has signed leases for five of the nine spots. Bodies by Yogi (a personal training firm) has taken one of the suites while Eden Light and a watch and clock repair shop have each taken two suites each. Paint Ypsilanti is also close to signing a lease for another one of the suites.

"There will be about 15 occupants (workers) when its fully leased," Beal says.

He adds that the ownership decided to renovate the building into smaller suites because there is an unmet demand for those in downtown areas, like Ypsilanti's city center.

"We got so many calls from people who wanted to rent smaller spaces so we went in that direction," Beal says.

Source: Stewart Beal, president of Beal Properties
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ann Arbor Distilling Co aims to open near downtown Ann Arbor

A couple of local businessmen are aiming to open a new distillery and tasting room near downtown Ann Arbor later this year.

The Ann Arbor Distilling Co will occupy 6,000 square feet of space in the building at 220 Felch St. The building is currently owned by Icon Interactive, a digital advertising agency. A previous tenant of the space has moved out, opening up the space for new purposes.

"It's something that is exciting. It's way more exciting," says Rob Cleveland, partner with Ann Arbor Distilling Co. "This space was made to be a distillery. It just screams it."

Cleveland is the CEO of Icon Interactive. He is launching the Ann Arbor Distilling Co with Ari Sussman. The business will make vodka, rum, and gin to start with and eventually move into bourbon production. The distillery will include a 1,000-square-foot tasting room and 5,000 square feet for production space.

"There is the same enthusiasm for artisanal liquor as there is for craft brewing," Cleveland says. "It's just a different product."

The Ann Arbor Distilling Co hasn’t set an opening date yet but Cleveland hopes to open the doors to the establishment before the end of the year.

Source: Rob Cleveland, partner with Ann Arbor Distilling Co
Writer: Jon Zemke

Construction begins on The Mark in downtown Ann Arbor

Construction on The Mark is set to begin in earnest this week, bringing a number of high-end condos to the gateway between downtown Ann Arbor and the city's Old West Side.

The four-story structure replaces an old car wash at 318 W Liberty St. Ann Arbor Builders, the development company behind The Mark, tore down the circa 1960s Liberty Car Wash earlier this month and is beginning site prep work this week. Construction is expected to take between 12-15 months.

"The building will anchor downtown to the Old West Side," says Alex de Parry, developer of The Mark. "We will be a great addition to the Old West Side."

The Mark will consist of seven, multi-level condos. Each unit comes with a two-car garage and a private balcony. Five of the seven units come with a private elevator. The units range between two-bed, two-bath to three-bed and two-bath. All of the units have been reserved and there is a waiting list for any cancellations.

The Mark is expect to create at least 200 construction jobs over its project life.

Source: Alex de Parry, developer of The Mark
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

East Main Redevelopment project to help revitalize downtown Milan

Downtown Milan is getting a big shot in the arm as a series of historic buildings are being renovated as part of mixed-use project called East Main Redevelopment.

"Milan is a town with a lot of possibilities," says Dave Snyder, developer of East Main Redevelopment. "This building provides an opportunity for the downtown to take some giant steps forward."

East Main Redevelopment, also known as Wabash & Main LLC, is redeveloping four commercial buildings at the corner of Wabash and Main streets. The buildings are some of the oldest in the city, having been built between 1845 and 1892.

Snyder first became interested in the project when he was a part-owner in the Milan Bakery. He thought the redevelopment of the buildings would make a good spot for a newly expanded bakery. Snyder eventually sold off his interest in the bakery and went on to pursue the East Main Redevelopment.

East Main Redevelopment is taking the 27,000 square feet of space down to the studs and brick walls. All four buildings will be connected, creating 15 loft apartments and eight storefront that could that could house a handful of businesses, including the Milan Bakery. The loft apartments will range between 700 square feet to 1,100 square feet and will include high-end finishes. The entire project is expect to employ about 65 people from 20 different construction trades.

"Our goal is to have it largely done by the of December," Snyder says.

Source: Dave Snyder, developer of East Main Redevelopment
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Brewery addition to double barrel production, expand menu and staff

More beer and more food. What else could patrons of Wolverine State Brewing Co. ask for?

The craft brewery opened up its own tap room on West Stadium Boulevard in the old Big George's space in 2010, and expanded its kitchen about a year and a half ago. Now, it's looking to add 6,000 square feet to allow the brewery to make the jump from producing 2,200 barrels to 4,700 annually.

"Primarily, it's for beer production," says Josh Evans, Wolverine State Brewing Co's taproom manager. "Right now it just seems like we can't make beer fast enough."

Since the expansion is for production, guests won't see too much difference on the other side of the bar, although they will have the chance benefit from the expanded kitchen that will come with the renovation.

"Right now we're killing it with the space that we have" -- the pulled pork nachos are a hot commodity -- "but we're working out of what's basically a large walk-in closet that serves as a kitchen," Evans says. "It would be nice to offer the guests a little more in terms of food selection to go with the beer selection."

They're hoping to have the 4,700 barrel capacity up and running sometime in 2016, which includes both the buildout of the space and bringing in tanks, running lines and putting into place other beer infrastructure. New office space will also be built into the expansion, which is currently in progress and not expected to affect the brewery's existing hours.

Evans adds that the brewery will probably be adding more staff after the process is complete.

"Once it's all said and done it will be fabulous," he says. "I think everyone's excited and looking forward to it being done."

Source: Josh Evans, Wolverine State Brewing Co
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

Ruthís Chris Steak House hiring for new Ann Arbor location

A new steakhouse in downtown Ann Arbor will bring 70-90 jobs to the area in addition to top flight filets and porterhouses.

Ruth's Chris Steak House is scheduled to open in late spring in the location at 314 S. Fourth Ave., which was Dream Nite Club before a $2.2 million renovation added a second story and additional square footage. Construction is ongoing and on schedule, with mostly just fine-tuning remaining to take place between now and the opening, says Rohit Mehra, the location's general manager.

"It is one of the top fine dining restaurants in the world, with the emphasis on quality ingredients," he says. "We're bringing our passion, our dedication, and our cuisine to Ann Arbor."

Mehra explains that the location started hiring in November and has already brought on a bit more than half of the 70-90 employees needed in both the front and back of the house. Plus, they're looking to bring on the services of local vendors -- Zingerman's is on board to provide the restaurant’s bread, for example -- which will trickle down for an additional economic boost.

"When I bring 20 vendors to my restaurant, they need to hire more people," he says. "It's a chain that keeps the ball rolling."

He plans on getting the restaurant involved with local charities and nonprofits, as well. "The most exciting part about coming to Ann Arbor, is being part of the local community," he says.

The chain, known for its steaks and seafood, has about 150 locations worldwide.

Source: Rohit Mehra, Ruth's Chris Steak House
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

EMU tackles next round of renovations and expansions

Health-related programs, the Honors College and student housing are all on the docket for investment from Eastern Michigan University beginning later this year.

The Board of Regents approved a $8.9 million capital budget last week, which includes earmarking $2.8 million for academic facility upgrades, mostly for additional renovations to the Rackham Building, which houses EMU's Physician Assistant Program and other health and human services programs. More than $1 million is budgeted to continue to grow space for the Honors College program, which had its largest class (500) this year, and Wise Hall will close for a year at the end of the semester for a $2 million renovation to improve its student housing facilities.

Geoff Larcom, Executive Director of Media Relations for Eastern Michigan University, explains that the university is always working toward aligning its buildings and facilities with the needs of the students, and that includes reinvesting in student housing. He says the health-related programs in Rackham, for example, have experienced a good deal of growth alongside health-related fields in general.

This helps EMU "align its academic programs with high-job growth, which health care fields obviously are," he says.

EMU boasts a faculty who has a strong relationship with students and a science complex that teaches students job skills for high-demand STEM fields, Larcom says, “so it’s very important to have a marquee facility where students can work comfortably in labs and interact.”

"(This) ongoing investment continues the direction of emphasis on student and academic facilities -- the center of the university’s mission," Larcom says.

Renovations are budgeted for the 2015-16 fiscal year but preparations may start as early as the end of the current semester. Smaller-ticket items include security upgrades, improvements to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, additional Automated External Defibrillators, and classroom and facility enhancements.

Source: Geoff Larcom, Executive Director of Media Relations for Eastern Michigan University
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.
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