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Saline : Development News

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Wixom-based Total Sports Shop expands with new Saline location

Sometimes everyone's timing just lines up. Just as the longtime owners of the Saline Sport Shack on E. Michigan Ave. were ready to retire, the Wixom-based Total Sports Shop was ready to open a new retail location. Part of the Total Sports Complex, which has locations in Novi and Farmington, the Total Sports Shop is the first retail shop for the company outside of its Wixom location. 
 
"They were looking to retire, and we were looking to expand," says Jeff Fisher, store manager for the Saline Total Sports Shop. "We already wanted to get into this neck of the woods."
 
Similar to its predecessor, Total Sports Shop focuses on supplying teams with athletic gear. According to Fisher, visitors may still notice some differences in the 1,700 square foot store, which will carry additional brands and has been renovated to have a more open and spacious feel. 
 
"There is actually a lot of change here, and we've gotten a lot of positive feedback from the community," Fisher says. 
 
Total Sports Shop opened Dec. 1. The Total Sports Complex brand has plans to continue to expand across the state with additional locations forthcoming, including a store in Monroe set to open in March. The new Saline store currently employs a staff of three. Fisher anticipates they will eventually expand to a larger location to accommodate in-store product demonstrations. 
 
Source: Jeff Fisher, Total Sports Shop
Writer: Natalie Burg

Main Street Coins & Collectibles brings antiquities to Saline

It was never Bill Ortell's plan to own a rare coin and collectibles store, but after he met Ralph Leffler, the owner of D&R Coins in Milan, a plan was made for him. 
 
"He was a wealth of knowledge," Ortell says of Leffler. " He and I hit it off real good. He didn't want everyone else to buy the business out. Some people don't know how to talk to people about coins." 
 
It was a good instinct. After all Ortell has been collecting coins for more than four decades and loves to talk about the antiquities for hours. When he was offered a great deal on the business, he took it, and when Leffler recently passed away, he decided it was time to relocate and rebrand the business as his own, opening up Main Street Coins and Collectibles in downtown Saline. 
 
"On Main St. [in Milan], I could count a hundred cars go by in a day," says Ortell. "In Saline, I have more on than that go by in one hour."
 
It's a good sign for downtown Saline that Ortell says his new 3,000 square foot storefront was chosen because it was the only available space he could find in the district to fit his needs. 
 
Main Street Coins and Collectables employs Ortell and one employee. Ortell says his goal is to be as fair as possible to customers and offer in-depth knowledge. While Ortell specializes in American currency, his employee has experience with foreign coins, as well as extensive knowledge of antique jewelry. 

Source: Bill Ortell, Main Street Coins & Collectibles
Writer: Natalie Burg

Detroit Dog Co. to feed the foodies with gourmet hot dogs in Saline

Catrina Vlisides' Detroit Dog Co. won't open for another couple of weeks in Saline, but she already has plans to expand into Ann Arbor. She's not alone in her high expectation for the hot dog shop for foodies. Before tasting a single dog, she's received franchising inquiries from entrepreneurs wanting to get on board.
 
But one thing at a time, Vlisides says.
 
"I want to build a reputation and a staff and make sure everything is running well first," she says. "But I'm so happy it's so appealing and people have responded well already."
 
Vlisides comes from a family of restaurateurs, and was inspired to jump into the business herself after living in Chicago. The amount of high quality, modern fast casual cuisine available in the Windy City seemed ripe to replicate in the Ann Arbor area.
 
"Saline has had a lot of growth," she says. "There are a lot of people who are involved in Ann Arbor, and there are a lot of foodies here. I wanted to bring something modern and cool here for them."
 
Detroit Dog Co. will open in mid- to late November in a 500 square foot downtown Saline space. Vlisides has been hard at work renovating the small space with reclaimed wood from Detroit to make the décor match the locally-sourced hot dogs.
 
Vlisides says the menu will include a fun variety of Michigan foods, beginning with Dearborn sausages and including McClure's pickles and homemade chili. Options will include a Detroit Dog, with chili and pickles, a Boblo Island
Barbeque Dog with deep friend onion rings and coleslaw, and a Rock City Dog wrapped in bacon and deep-fried.
 
Detroit Dog Co. will initially employ a staff of up to three, in addition to Vlisides. She hopes to expand with an Ann Arbor location in six months. 

Source: Catrina Vlisides, Detroit Dog Co.
Writer: Natalie Burg

Chiropractic meets nutrition at Saline's new Thrive! Wellness Center

Achieving good health is a comprehensive endeavor, and that's why a new Saline business is combining multiple practices – good nutrition, chiropractic and massage therapy. Thrive Wellness Center opened on State Rd. near Michigan Ave. about two months ago and will celebrate it's grand opening on Aug. 22.
 
".We help people improve their lives with nutrition," says Thrive Wellness Center's Front Desk Manager Jessica Bonesteel. "Dr. Shannon has found people respond to chiropractic [treatment] better when their nutrition is in line."
 
Dr. Shannon Roznay's approximately 2,500 square foot office currently employs Roznay, Bonesteel and a part-time massage therapist. In the future, Bonesteel says they plan to grow Thrive with additional practitioners based on the needs of their clients.
 
"We want to fill up the space and see as many people as possible," she says. "If we do that, we'll look at opening up another one."
 
In addition to treating clients with her comprehensive approach to wellness, Roznay also teaches her technique, called Nutrition Response Testing?, to other doctors. 

Source: Jessica Bonesteel, Thrive Wellness Center
Writer: Natalie Burg

Saline pizzeria to move into renovated downtown space, expand staff

Nick Wallen has been two things for nearly his entire life: a Saline resident and a part of the pizza business. A graduate of Saline High School and son of a Domino's Pizza district manager, it was perhaps inevitable that he and a friend would open their own pizza restaurant in Saline in 2011. 
 
"One of the big perks about being in Saline is our pretty expansive network here," says Wallen. "We've had great support from the community."
 
Wallen and his partner decided to open a Benito's Pizza after meeting with the owner and his son. The small, regional restaurant has 25 stores throughout Southeast Michigan, and Wallen felt the local brand was a good fit for Saline.
 
He couldn't have been more correct. The Saline Benito's was recognized in their first year for having the largest increase in sales of all Benito's locations. The store's popularity, Wallen says, is a combination of their great food and service, and their involvement with the local school system.
 
With all of their success, Benito's is ready to grow in Saline. A renovation is currently underway on a historic building in Downtown Saline. Similar to the restaurant's current location, the 1,770 sq. ft. storefront will have limited seating, but will focus on delivery and takeout. The new downtown location will allow the Benito's location to expand into curbside pickup and selling pizza by the slice during events. 
 
"The visibility is just awesome," says Wallen. "There aren't that many quick-serve food options downtown. Especially during the events, it'll be great that you can grab something quick and simple here." 
 
Wallen expects the renovations and move to be complete by the end of August. The new location will allow him to expand his staff, adding up to five new employees to his staff of 10. 
 

Source: Nick Wallen, Benito's Pizza
Writer: Natalie Burg

Rosales Insurance Agency opens Saline office with 3 new staff members

In a world in which so many people buy insurance from faceless companies online, Susan Kirk Rosales hopes to bring real relationships into the equation with her new business, Rosales Insurance Agency in Saline. 
 
"We try to get to know our clients," says Rosales. "You're going to need us when you're in a time of need. You want to know that when we're there in a time of crisis, you can recognize that face."
 
In addition to insurance, Rosales offers financial services to her clients in the new E. Michigan Ave. office. Her office, which is affiliated with State Farm Insurance, opened in January and celebrated its grand opening this month. 
 
"It's growing area here, a great place to be," Rosales says of her location, which formerly served as home to a dry cleaner. "We're in Saline, near Ann Arbor and near Ypsilanti. It's going very well." 
 
Rosales recently moved back to the Ann Arbor area where she grew up after living in Texas for six years. She returned to the area to be closer to family. She hopes Rosales Insurance will grow to be deeply involved in the community through civic organizations and support of local kids' groups. 
 
The new, 800 square-foot office currently employs Rosales and three additional team members. 


Source: Susan Rosales, Rosales Insurance Agency
Writer: Natalie Burg
 

Jan. 24 visioning mtg. set for potential arts & cultural center in Saline

Be it resolved that this harsh winter, arts boosters will get their day in the sun. The city of Saline's Arts and Culture Committee is putting forth the idea of a new arts and cultural center in Saline. The first of two meetings will be held this week in order to gauge public interest.

"The purpose of this cultural "campus" or "mall" would be to offer established and growing arts and cultural organizations a common location with space to meet teaching, storage, rehearsal, performance, and display needs, as well as space to grow and expand," says an invitation letter for the meeting.

The intention is not for Saline's arts and culture committee, the city, or its school system to either drive or fund the center. "It really needs to be a community effort," says Saline City Council Rep. Linda TerHaar, who is also a Saline Arts and Culture Committee member. "We see our role as the catalyst to get the discussion going."

TerHaar says the center, which would be years away from fruition, is not intended to replace any current arts organizations or infrastructure in Saline.

The committee is seeking a range of public input on everything from potential locations to funding sources to uses for such a center, according to TerHaar. One location that's been floated is Houghton School, which is not currently in use. The school is located near Saline's downtown and Mill Pond Park. It's also expected that the center would be funded privately, with options including private donations, grant funding, and charging users rent.

"We've talked about studio space for individual artists. Houghton School has a kitchen, so if we're at Houghton School there could be culinary arts classes and demonstrations. The Saline Area Players could have a performance, just as an example," TerHaar says, adding, "We see the possibilities as pretty unlimited. We've also talked about landscape art, gardening art. Once again, depending on the facility, the Houghton School has a lovely inner courtyard that we could foresee landscape artists just having a wonderful time designing and working in."

The first of two meetings is set for 7 p.m. on Thurs., Jan. 24 at Stone Arch Arts & Events, at 117 S. Ann Arbor St. in Saline. The second will be at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 25, at a location to be announced on the Saline Arts and Cultural Center's Facebook page. All are welcome.

Source: Saline City Council Rep. Linda TerHaar
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

Global auto supplier Faurecia expands Saline operations, improves facility



A new high-speed slush skin line has been installed to support the Ford Focus program.


In time for the winter auto show season, dollars are hitting the road. Faurecia, the sixth-largest automotive supplier world-wide, is using the proceeds of an Industrial Facilities Tax incentive from the city of Saline to make what Ray Boufford, vice president of strategic transformation for Faurecia, calls a "significant investment" at its Saline factory.

Ann Arbor SPARK helped to facilitate the deal between the manufacturer and the city of Saline. In its 1.6 million sq.ft. factory, Faurecia manufactures cockpits, instrument and door panels, and center consoles for Ford vehicles.

"Under Faurecia ownership, Saline will become a technology plant that focuses on such core technologies as injection molding, skin manufacturing and foaming operations for interior systems. Faurecia is reconfiguring the plant into a streamlined, one-piece flow operation replacing the previous lay out," Boufford says in an email.

The redesign work started when Faurecia began operations in Saline in June of 2012, and will continue over the next few years. Other upgrades include new plant floor lighting and painting the formerly brown walls white for a brighter work atmosphere.

Over the past year, Faurecia has added eight new North American locations, including four in Southeast Michigan.

"The plant will employ approximately 1,200 once the transformation is complete," Boufford says.

Sources: Ray Boufford, vice president of strategic transformation for Faurecia; Ann Arbor SPARK
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

Image courtesy of Faurecia

Michigan Saves offers incentives to businesses making energy-efficient upgrades

In time for the winter indoor-project season, a new statewide low-interest rate program for businesses making energy-efficient upgrades to their properties has come into effect.

Under the Michigan Saves Business Energy Financing Program, businesses can obtain 2-5 year loans ranging from $2,000-150,000, at rates starting at 5.9%. The financing is provided through Ervin Leasing for businesses using program-authorized contractors, according to Julie Bennett, executive director of Michigan Saves.

A special incentive in the form of a 3.99% rate and a $2,000 rebate from Michigan Saves is available to food industry companies cutting energy use by 20%. That includes grocers, convenience stores, food wholesalers, and restaurants.

"We're really targeting that industry because they use a lot of energy, but they typically don't have the time and resources to make the improvements," Bennett says.

The incentive program is grant-funded and short-term, so Bennett encourages food industry business owners to apply as soon as possible. The loan program, however, has about $50 million in committed funds and is intended to be perpetual, according to Bennett.

"There's a recycling that happens with this money as loans are paid down, so we're hoping that we'll never have to stop this program. But at this time we can do 1,000 businesses...if we had a rush to the door, we could do 1,000."

Qualifying projects include energy-efficient lighting, heating, and cooling, insulation, refrigeration, and motor, door, or window replacement.

The program is targeting business enrollment, and employment as well. "We're always looking for more contractors to enroll in the program," Bennett adds. "It's a kind of job creation angle - that we're really trying to get contractors enrolled."

Source: Julie Bennett, executive director of Michigan Saves
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

Downtown Saline to add outdoor dining to spiffed up alley

The alley is becoming the next promenade in cities like Saline. Saline Main Street, an organization charged with improving the vitality of the downtown, has signed an agreement with the city to spearhead an improvement project in a one-block alley off of Ann Arbor Street, behind the Brecon Grille and Mangiamo Italian Grill on Michigan Avenue.

Alley enhancements include replacing a wooden planter with a wrought-iron fence, raising concrete, stringing overhead lighting, adding planters, and installing an entryway feature of a design yet to be determined. The lighting should be in place later this fall, in time for Saline's holiday parade. The restaurants plan to install outdoor seating in the alley when the weather warms next year, according to Rebecca Schneider, the design team leader for Saline Main Street.

"It's a wonderful way for us to get more community gathering space, and one of the wonderful things about when you find that space in an alley is that utilizing the space doesn't require closing the street or closing a parking lot, which disrupts commerce and traffic in your downtown," Schneider says.

The total project cost is still unknown, says Schneider, due to the expense of overhead lighting and the yet-to-be-determined entryway feature. The city of Saline has contributed $10,000 towards the project. Saline Main Street will raise additional funds as necessary.

Saline Main Street will also hold up to six public events a year in the alley. "It's not just outdoor seating for Mangiamo and Brecon Grille, it's also community space which will be utilized for different functions, where we hope to engage all different facets of our city in that space," she adds. Possibilities include wine tastings, art displays, musical performances, and events for children.

Source: Rebecca Schneider, Saline Main Street design team leader
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

Bank of Ann Arbor to open Saline branch, add 5 jobs

The Bank of Ann Arbor is branching out with the opening of a new Saline location. A new branch is coming to 179 E. Michigan Avenue, close to Saline's downtown. A mid-December opening is planned, according to Hans Maier, a senior vice president at the bank.

The 1,600-square-foot building has been home to branches of various financial institutions since 1968.

The bank is capitalizing on Saline's growing residential population. "With the proximity of Saline in our market area, we thought that would be a great location because of the number of Saline customers we already have in our Ellsworth [Road] office," Maier says.

Five employees will staff the branch, according to Maier.

Source: Hans Maier, senior vice president, Bank of Ann Arbor
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor, & Saline are on the National Solar Tour map

The sun may be lower on the horizon now, but solar activity is rising, beginning with the National Solar Tour in October. Nine installations in Ypsilanti, along with one each in Saline and Ann Arbor, will be open to visitors interested in seeing solar.

Eight of those sites are within approximately one mile of each other in and near downtown Ypsilanti.

The Ypsi Food Co-op and River Street Bakery at 312 North River Street sport three installations. Other hotspots are: Krzyzanski Apts A,B,C at 403 Huron Street; Ypsi City Hall at 1 South Huron Street; Adams School at 503 East Oak Street; Frog Island Park at 600 Marketplace; and the Corner Brewery at 720 Norris Street.

Power Panel, the provider of the large installation at the Corner Brewery, will be presenting at the brewery at 12 and 2 p.m. And local solar installer John Wakeman will be speaking about the "25% by '25" legislation, an initiative to require that Michigan utilities obtain 25% of their energy from renewable sources by 2025 (the current requirement is 10% by 2015), will be speaking there at 1 p.m.

"We have [panels] on roofs, things on awnings on the side of buildings. We have micro-inverters, regular inverters...it's a lot of examples in a short distance," says Dave Strenski, volunteer coordinator of Solar Ypsi, points out. Strenski will be at City Hall throughout the day to answer questions, and Solar Ypsi volunteers will staff some of the other spots.

Other displays within driving distance will be at the Graf residence at 6232 Munger Road in Ypsilanti and the Bredernitz residence at 2114 Windmill Way in Saline.

All sites will be open from 10 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Also in conjunction with the National Solar Tour, Novi, Michigan-based Srinergy will host a bus tour of residential and commercial solar installations that day. Ann Arbor's AMMA Center will be a featured stop. Click here for more information and to register.

Both tours take place on Saturday, October 6.

Sources: Dave Strenski, volunteer coordinator of Solar Ypsi; Srinergy
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

Washtenaw County 5-year transit plan takes shape

With the GetDowntown Commuter Challenge coming to an end, what would the quality of life in Washtenaw County be like if it embraced mass transit every month, not just in May?

One significant impact of residents embracing the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority's (AATA) vision for mass transit in Washtenaw County would mean that everyone in the county could get around, sans car. The AATA has just concluded a final series of meetings to acquaint the public with its five-year transit program, the first stage of the county's 30-year transit master plan completed last year.

The most significant aspect of the proposed program, says Michael Benham, AATA's special assistant for strategic planning, "is that every single person in the county has access to the transit system, without a car."

The program calls for extended service on the current core Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor network of bus service that would be fed by a series of fixed routes consisting of express bus services in the outlying communities, and also community circulators, small bus networks to transport people within Chelsea, Dexter, and Saline, and link them to express bus routes. The final component is a system of would-be demand responsive services that can bring people from their doors to fixed-route bus stops.

Seniors and the disabled would get the added option of door-to-door service anywhere in the county. "Over the next 20 or 30 years there's going to be a more than doubling of the senior population," Benham notes, adding, "We're really trying to focus on either giving people mobility or letting them keep their mobility as they age."

Plan execution is contingent on creation of a countywide transit authority. "Over the years, one community after another has come to us and they are basically asking us to sell them transportation on an annual basis," Benham says.

The city of Ypsilanti, Ypsilanti Township, and Pittsfield Township have purchase-of-service agreements, subject to the vagaries of municipal funding. "It's not a particularly stable arrangement, and that's why we'd like to go with a countywide authority. A countywide transit authority would have its own funding base so these townships wouldn't have to come to us and buy the service anymore."

Funding would also need to be in place. Possibilities include increased fares, a .5-mill countywide transit tax, and bills pending in the state legislature, such as a motor vehicle registration fee applicable to counties with a regional transit authority.

When, exactly, the clock could start ticking on the five-year program is the question. "If the funding comes into being within the next six months and if we can get our countywide board pulled together in, say, the next six months, then the service could be operating in a year and a half. But those two ifs are big ifs. I can't stress that enough," Benham says.

Source:  Michael Benham, special assistant for strategic planning, AATA
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

Washtenaw Cty acquires more land for Natural Areas Preservation Program

Washtenaw County is continuing with its purchase of properties for its Natural Areas Preservation Program (NAPP). Some of the recent deals have resulted in contiguous tracts of 100 acres or more.

Last November, with a 151-acre purchase in Lima Township, the county established Trinkle Marsh at Easton Farm. The cost was $725,000, or $4,800 an acre. "The real key feature is a marsh that has some open water and it's really a very, very popular spot for birds, not only during summer but especially during spring and fall migration," says Tom Freeman, coordinator of Washtenaw County's Natural Areas Preservation Program. The preserve will be opened later this year with trails and birder-style overlooks with blinds.

In December, the county bought 19 acres for $123,500, $6,500 an acre, in York Township just outside the city of Milan from the Schrock family. The areas will be called the Shrock Family Sanctuary and will be added to the 80-acre Draper-Houston Meadows Preserve. The parcel fronts along the Saline River, a tributary to the River Raisin, and will have trails.

And just last week, the county purchased a conservation easement on a 100-acre plot in Superior Township. This was done in partnership with Southeast Michigan Land Conservancy, which will own the land. The total cost was about $700,000, or $7,000 an acre. The Ann Arbor Greenbelt is contributing towards the conservancy's expense, according to Freeman.

"In that case it becomes part of a very, very large collection of property in Superior Township that is part of the Superior Greenway. We're well over 1,000 acres in terms of protected land in that area."

And in partnership with Ann Arbor Township and the Ann Arbor Greenbelt, the county is acquiring 23 acres from J.A. Bloch and Company for about $163,000, or $7,100 an acre. The plot is on the northern boundary of Ann Arbor Township, in close proximity to the Northfield Woods Preserve. "We're hoping through this acquisition and another that's also pending, but probably much later this year, that we'll have connected about 100 acres and be able to connect them all with trails," Freeman says.

As of the end of 2011, the NAPP program has protected just over 2,200 acres. The county has 19 nature preserves that are open to the public.

Source: Tom Freeman, coordinator of Washtenaw County's Natural Areas Preservation Program
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

Plans are cooking for a commercial kitchen incubator

Innovation is spreading to the kitchen, with incentives both financial and social. Washtenaw County officials and other area organizations are assessing the potential for a commercial kitchen incubator to open in the county. The project, which is in the early planning and needs assessment phase, has a triumvirate of goals: to provide jobs training for chronically unemployed people in the foods and agri-business sector; to improve the low income population's access to healthy, locally-grown foods; and to support food business development.

"The local food industry is a growing industry, and a lot of people are making their own products in their basements and kitchens and so forth," says Tony VanDerworp, project manager for Washtenaw County's Office of Community and Economic Development. "We could not only help train some of our residents in various jobs in the food sector but also help grow companies through this project."

Potential tenants are being surveyed to assess the regional demand for such a facility. That demand would dictate the size of any potential facility, from an existing 600 square-foot church kitchen to a 15,000 square-foot building. "We envision enough kitchen space to accommodate several tenants," VanDerworp says.

A specific location is still to be determined, but could possibly be on the eastern side of the county in order to provide easier access to lower-income residents lacking transportation, he says. A nominal rent will be charged to tenants, who will also get business support services.

"Their goal might be to sell at the farmers market, their goal might be to start a business, their goal might be to start a product line or a catering company," VanDerworp notes.

The Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners has set up a task force with representatives from the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University, Washtenaw Community College, Ann Arbor SPARK and others.

Various funding sources, which could be a mix of philanthropy and grants, including federal workforce development monies for worker training, are under consideration. After the tenant survey is reviewed, larger institutions and food prep companies will be surveyed as to their demand for trained workers.

"This is all the due diligence kind of things you would do, with an added twist that we're going to delve very deeply into how we can train and place people. That's our main goal," says VanDerworp.

A go or no-go decision will be made by early summer, he adds.

Source: Tony VanDerworp, project manager for Washtenaw County's Office of Community and Economic Development
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar
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