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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.

Construction starts on Ypsilanti's Thompson Block renovation

Roof work is in progress and residential leases are being signed for the Thompson Block redevelopment project in Ypsilanti’s Depot Town.

Investment partner and Real Estate One agent Tyler Weston, who is handling the development’s leasing and marketing, confirmed that construction has begun with the roof as the first goal, soon to be followed by foundation work and other interior build-outs. They're looking to deliver keys to commercial tenants next February and are also taking reservations for the lofts on the second and third floor of the building; in fact, only two of the six, third-floor units remain available.

"Over a year out, people are already reserving them and signing leases," Weston says. "We’ve got positive momentum going and are looking forward to getting it off the ground."

Weston doesn't yet have an idea of the size of the crew needed, but says bids are out and quite a few people will be involved in making the project happen. New leases had to be signed for the commercial spaces, and although he’s not ready to reveal the tenants, he will say they are "super awesome and super local."

Weston also says he’s especially excited about adding to "what's already thriving in Depot Town."

"It feels really good to add other local businesses that are going to be a part of the fabric of Depot Town for years to come," he says. "It's a great city and there's great opportunity here. We stay in network and help each other out. Thompson Block's the perfect iteration of that."

The $4 million redevelopment project will feature 14,000 square feet of commercial space. It was built in 1861 as barracks for the Civil War and is located at River and Cross streets.

Source: Tyler Weston, Thompson Block partner
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

Ann Arbor-Howell commuter rail seeks public input for feasibility study

Community meetings seeking feedback were just the most recent step toward saying "all aboard" to building a commuter rail line from Ann Arbor to Howell.

Public input was gathered earlier this week and last week for the North-South Commuter Rail (WALLY), a proposed 27-mile long commuter rail service that would connect Ann Arbor and Howell and have intermediate stops along the way. The meetings are one piece of the feasibility study puzzle, which will determine whether or not the rail is a viable option for the community.

"It's intended to answer in detail the question: 'Can the service happen or not?'" says Michael Benham, Strategic Planner at the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority.

Benham explains that the study will encompass three general categories: service, which includes the bricks and mortar of the stations and the rails under the trains; government, which will determine whether one entity or an authority will run the service; and funding, where taxpayers weigh in on whether or not the service will be worth the backing necessary. The project is still early in the process, so there's still many questions to be answered, from ridership estimates to operating costs to necessary track upgrades.

Benham says feedback has been mixed, as some don’t believe the rail would be a good use of public funds, but others see it as helping them get to where they want to go without having to drive.

"People are getting their licenses later, and when they do they drive less," he says. "Especially younger people, they want to be able to get around without a car."

Among the issues being evaluated are how the line would affect property values, economic development and job creation in the region. The federally-funded study is expected to take about 15 months; if the line is found to be feasible, the study will help prepare it for federal funding.

Residents are also invited to weigh in online at www.nsrailstudy.com.

Source: Michael Benham, strategic planner for the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

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

Petition for Ypsilanti solar array gathers support

A former Ypsilanti landfill could see new life as a solar array, if supporters of solar energy have their way.

A petition at Solar Ypsi's website is gathering support to build a solar array on several acres on what was a city-owned landfill, along I-94 near Huron Street. Dave Strenski, founder of Solar Ypsi and solar energy proponent, explained that several years ago, DTE Energy put out a request for proposals looking for places that would be good fits for solar arrays. Through his solar energy contacts, a proposal for Ypsilanti was put together and submitted.

A friend helped create an online petition in support of the solar array, which has gathered nearly 800 supporters. "Hopefully this tells DTE that this is a safe place to put solar panels, that it’s supported here," he says.

Strenski says although there may be concerns about that property being on a landfill, the solar array design would sit on concrete blocks and not penetrate the ground. "Old landfills are a perfect location for a solar array making use of land that would otherwise sit idle forever," the petition says. "A ballasted solar rack design has no ground penetrations and poses little to no risk of disturbing the landfill’s contents."

Projects such as solar arrays are one component of a larger plan to make Ypsilanti a solar destination, Strenski says, as well as developing what has been an unused, undevelopable property. And that's not to mention the eventual cost savings and job creation that will come with creating that new energy source.

"I'm convinced that solar power is the future," he says. "I think this would give Ypsilanti a very positive image, that we’re on the leading edge."

Source: Dave Strenski, founder of Solar Ypsi
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

Shinola's newest store brings watches, ping pong, etc to downtown Ann Arbor

Shinola will bring its handcrafted watches, leather goods, bicycles and more to Ann Arbor at a new store set to open in downtown this May.

Shinola Chief Operating Officer Heath Carr says there has been "overwhelming response" from people who live in Ann Arbor visiting the existing location in midtown Detroit, whether driving or filling a shuttle bus that ran regularly between the storefront and Ann Arbor this past holiday season.

"We always talked about how do we expand in the state of Michigan, and Ann Arbor seemed like a logical place," Carr says.

Some final preparation has to be completed at the 1,500-square-foot location, at the corner of Liberty and Main, and then Shinola can start getting the space ready for summer shoppers. The store will also include a Commonwealth coffee shop and about 2,000 square feet in the lower level that will include a community lounge with tables and seating, ping pong tables and event space.

Carr says he wants the stores to be integrated into the community and feel like they've always been there. "We're excited to continue to roll out the Shinola story and products and be a part of these communities," he says.

Carr expects to hire about six to eight people to start and possibly more as the store expands. Commonwealth will also hire a few of its own staff.

The Ann Arbor location will be Shinola's seventh brick-and-mortar store. It has other locations in New York, London, Minneapolis, Los Angeles and Chicago.

Source: Heath Carr, chief operating officer at Shinola
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

Ann Arbor seeks fresh round of proposals for Library Lot

The Library Lot in downtown Ann Arbor may be coming out of development limbo soon, as the city is looking for proposals to build above the underground garage completed a few years ago.

Steve Powers, city administrator for the City of Ann Arbor, says the process is moving forward with the city soliciting proposals for the rights to develop above the garage, which is and will continue to be owned by the city. Proposals are due May 15; he's expecting them to be reviewed shortly afterward with the preferred developer or developers selected in June.

The property is just larger than 35,000 square feet at Fifth Street between Liberty and William, near the library, Blake Transit Center and federal court building. According to the official Offering Memorandum, put together by CRBE Group, Inc. of Southfield, the city's goal is for the property to be transformed into "a high density, modern, sustainable urban redevelopment that contributes to the fabric and livability of downtown Ann Arbor."

Potential uses are listed as commercial development with retail, office, residential housing and/or hotel/hospitality. Powers explains that the lot is zoned for D1, the city's highest density zoning, which makes it what he called "a rare opportunity in downtown Ann Arbor."

City council also wants an urban public park, set to be an approximately 12,000-square-foot portion of the property along Fifth Street, incorporated into the plans. "What it looks like and how it’s integrated into the development is going to be one of the key values for evaluating proposals," Powers says.

It's early and development plans for the site have been ongoing for years, but Powers says he’s optimistic there will be renewed interest in developing the site. "The results of the public process will be a development that will bring in some needed revenue to the city, that will add to the downtown's vibrance, and will be something that will be a source of pride for Ann Arbor," he says.

Source: Steve Powers, city administrator, City of Ann Arbor
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

New Kerrytown condo development breaks ground

Shovels are in the ground at 121 Kingsley West, a new condo development project in Ann Arbor's Kerrytown.

Earth retention and foundation systems are currently in the works for the residential condo project will be 19 units at Kingsley and Ashley, says Tom Fitzsimmons, Huron Kinsley development team partner and builder with Huron Contracting. After foundation systems are in and site work is done, utilities and steel and wood framing are next . This will keep things on schedule for moving people in during spring or summer 2016. Condos will range in size from 1,000 to 2,400 square feet, include off-street parking, and cost from $400,000 to $1 million depending on the unit.

Although a residential development, the project will likely still help boost the downtown economy by virtue of having more people living in the city's core, Fitzsimmons explains. In his own experience, he's seen more empty nesters move to downtown areas to be close to businesses and services.

"We're getting more people to live downtown, and more people living downtown affects the downtown economy," he says. "It's a good thing for the businesses downtown."

His own construction management firm employees are working on the project as well as contractors, so at any given day a dozen or so people could be working at the site, he says.

Source: Tom Fitzimmons, 121 Kingsley West partner and builder
Writer: Kristin Lukowski
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