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Jolly Pumpkin ripens business with more tap rooms, distribution channels

Dexter-based Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales is growing by capitalizing on a number of revenue streams. This includes adding tap rooms across Michigan and opening up more distribution channels for its popular beers.

Jolly Pumpkin opened new tap rooms in its Dexter home last year and in Detroit's Midtown neighborhood last April, where it employs about 50 people.The artisan ales company currently has four tap rooms across Michigan is looking to open a few more.

"We will continue to find new locations and open up Jolly Pumpkin tap rooms in Michigan," says Ron Jeffries, founder of Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales.

It's part of Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales' plan to focus its growth in the Great Lakes State. Its distribution in Michigan is up 70 percent over the last year. The 11-year-old brewery is aiming to produce 12,000 barrels of beer this year, which would be up from 8,000 barrels in 2014.

Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales is pushing to sell more of its upscale brews in chain retailers. The brand is currently in a number of super markets, like Busches, Whole Foods and Kroger, but it is looking to add more chain restaurants to its distribution roster.

"Our sales team have been making great strides for us," Jeffries says.

The growth has allowed Jolly Pumpkin to hire more and more people. It currently has a employee base of just more than 200 with its tap rooms. A staff of 25 people mans the brewery in Dexter after hiring three people in the last year, and it's looking to hire three more now.

"We are currently looking for more people," Jeffries says. "We have been interviewing people for the last month."

Source: Ron Jeffries, founder of Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Border To Border Trail creates connectivity by shrinking gaps

The development of the Border to Border Trail has always been known for its potential for creating a walkaway across Washtenaw County for pedestrians and bicyclists ...and for the sizable gaps that keep it from doing just that.

Advocates for the trail have been pushing to bridge those gaps this year, which include closing small breaks in the county’s big cities and creating large sections in its more rural areas. The idea is to get more of the region's non-motorized traffic off the road and onto the Border To Border Trail.

"You avoid putting a whole bunch of cyclists and pedestrians on the same road," says Bob Krzewanski, chair of the Friends of the Border To Border Trail. "Motorists usually don't look for cyclists and pedestrians."

A couple of those major gaps that advocates want to close include small but critical sections in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. Ypsilanti has budgeted money to build a pedestrian bridge over the Huron River at Riverside Park and Michigan Avenue, which will enable it to connect the Water Street development, downtown, and Depot Town, through the Border To Border Trail and its park system.

Ann Arbor is making plans to build a pedestrian bridge over the Huron River, too, this time where Maiden Lane crosses the river near the University of Michigan Health Center. Currently, users of the Border To Border Trail need to cross the vehicular bridge next to traffic. Creating a smaller pedestrian bridge underneath it will provide some much needed space between people and cars.

"It (the Maiden Lane bridge) was built with space underneath," says Larry Deck, board member of the Washtenaw Bicycling and Walking Coalition. "There are concrete pads there where the trail bridge should go."

Both Deck and Krzewanski are optimistic that funding packages for both projects could come to fruition within the next year and construction starts soon after.

There are larger gaps in the Border To Border further outside the cities, such as a smaller section at the very eastern edge of Washtenaw County and a large section between Ann Arbor and Dexter.

"The segment in between Ann Arbor and Dexter is problematic," Krzewanski says. "To get it off road you need to get private property easements."

But both are confident these sorts of large projects will get done within the next few years, despite the obstacles ahead. They see a growing demand for this sort of recreational opportunity as what will really make a complete version of the Border To Border Trail a reality.

"A lot of people say they would go out to walk or bike if they has some place to do it," Krzewanski says. "This gives them that opportunity."

Source: Larry Deck, board member of the Washtenaw Bicycling and Walking Coalition; and Bob Krzewanski, chair of the Friends of the Border To Border Trail
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Dexter gets new Sushi Time restaurant

Until recently, when anyone from Dexter wanted to dine in a fresh sushi restaurant, they had to drive to Ann Arbor. Now, they only have to zip over to Dexter Plaza on Dexter-Ann Arbor Rd. to Sushi Time, which was opened about four weeks ago by long-time sushi chef Min Kang. 

"So many of my friends said Dexter is a nice place where many people like sushi," Kang says. "Then, I found a good place here." 

Sushi Time offers both dine-in seating for about 30 customers, as well as carryout. Kang says the restaurant's specialties are their signature rolls, which include the Dexter roll, Chelsea roll and the Lemon Wedge roll. 

"We have some plans to make more special rolls, and more appetizers," says Kang, "We have a lot of things to do, and it's getting busy." 

Kang has worked as a sushi chef in the area for 14 years, and recently decided it was time to start his own restaurant. Sushi Time is a family business, employing himself and his wife, as well as about three additional employees. 

Source: Min Kang, Sushi Time
Writer: Natalie Burg

Dexter Internal Medicine and Pediatrics doubles its size with new location

Until recently, St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea's Dexter Internal Medicine and Pediatrics office was bursting at the seams. But running out of space gave the clinic the opportunity to address a few other issues with their downtown Dexter location.

"We were on the second floor and parking wasn't the greatest," says Chris Ray, office manager for Dexter Internal Medicine and Pediatrics. "We didn't have the greatest signage to let people know where we were. The conversation started with our providers about looking for a different space within the community."

They found it in the Dexter Crossing shopping center on Dexter-Ann Arbor Rd. The 4,500 square foot space nearly doubled their original size, allowing for their growing staff and patient population to operate with a lot more elbow room. All that space, however, won't change the office's quality of care.

"Regardless of the space of how big it looks, we're still providing the same great patient care we were before," says Ray. "We want to provide more opportunities to our patients and better access." 

Dexter Internal Medicine and Pediatrics made their move from one clinic to the next in about five highly orchestrated hours on July 15. As the provides and staff become more acquainted with their additional space, says Ray, they'll begin considering what new those new opportunities they hope to provide to their patients may be. 

Source: Chris Ray, Dexter Internal Medicine and Pediatrics
Writer: Nataie Burg

New Dexter business spices up downtown

After 14 years as a public school teacher, Denise Becker decided to spice things up with her business in downtown Dexter. The Dexter Spice House offers spices, rubs and spice blends that are unique to the area. 

Becker's interest in spices began when she her daughter was diagnosed with celiac disease four years ago. Rather that relying on pizza and take-out to feed her busy family as she had before, Becker was inspired to take to the kitchen and learn how to cook foods her daughter would love. Spices became key to her success. 

"I loved it," Becker says. "I was always on the hunt for different species and rubs and blends. When I had the idea to open my own store, I just decided to go for it."

The Dexter Spice House offers a variety of unique spice rubs like honey chipotle and an adobo lime, and blends such as shawarma, spicy thai, as well as all-purpose blends named after ares of Dexter.

"My blends are ones that you just can't find at any grocery store," Becker says. "Even the nice spice shop in at Ann Arbor — they have some blends that I don't have, but I have some they don't have."

Becker is now working to develop her online presence and expand her business to the web. She currently operates the shop herself with help from her mother and a part-time employee. 

Source: Denise Becker, Dexter Spice House
Writer: Natalie Burg

Bailiwicks Outdoors brings fly fishing accessories and outdoor gear to Dexter

Lauren Kingsley has enjoyed fly fishing for 25 years, during which time she's become an expert in the industry. While she anticipates outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds will enjoy her new Dexter shop, Bailiwicks Outdoors, she especially hopes it will make sportswomen like herself feel welcome. 

"Women are the fastest growing segment in the sport, and yet when women go into the shops, they're often less than woman-friendly," Kingsley says. "We want to be known as a welcoming shop where people don't just buy stuff, but they come for help and knowledge and community — and for that to be particularly true for women."

Bailiwicks Outdoors is a joint venture between Kingsley and co-owner Dirk Fischbach. The shop features high-end fly-fishing gear, adventure wear and gifts with a Michigan outdoors theme. Dexter's proximity to the Huron River and growing downtown business community made it the perfect place for such a shop. 

"It's a goof fit for us because it's a half a block away from the main downtown," says Kingsley. "You can walk to it, but there's ample parking. It's also a house, so it's really cozy, warm and there's great natural light."

The 1,300 square foot location opened April 1. Kingsley plans to add seminars and workshops to the Bailiwicks Outdoors offerings in the near future. The shop is operated by the owners, who will soon share the workload with two part time trainees. 

Source: Lauren Kingsley, Bailiwicks Outdoors
Writer: Natalie Burg

Boxwood Cottage and Home opens in Downtown Dexter

Downtown Dexter is now a little cozier. Boxwood Cottage and Home, a home goods retail and furniture renovation space opened in late November on Alpine St. Owners Gail Hauman and Mandy Pomo off customers home decor items, chalk-based furniture paint and furniture painting workshops. The shop is the only location in Washtenaw County now carrying the unique, eco-friendly paint

"If you haven't painted furniture before, there are so many techniques to learn," says Hauman. "We provide all of the supplies, and we just have a lot of fun. It's a really fun way to bring new life into the furniture you already have."

Hauman and Promo chose the homey, 550 square foot space for its proximity to downtown. After putting their personal touch on the interior, Hauman says customers are finding the show room cozy enough to call home. 

"We have a lot of support from people in Dexter," Hauman says. "They love the space. People just want to sit down and read. It's very homey and cozy." 

Boxwood Cottage and Home is currently staff by the owners. In the spring, they plan to invest in extensive landscaping and expand their inventory to include yard and gardening decor. They are currently celebrating the recent launch of their website, and hope to add ecommerce to the site in the future. 

Source: Gail Hauman, Boxwood Cottage and Home
Writer: Natalie Burg

Jolly Pumkin gets new facility in Dexter, to add a taproom

The forthcoming null Taphouse at the Jolly Pumpkin facility in Dexter has been a long time coming. 
"Ever since Lori and I opened Jolly Pumpkin we wanted to have a tasting room in the brewery," says owner Ron Jeffries. "We opened with a ridiculous shoestring budget, and then we kind of went back and forth over the next ten years of having either not enough space or money at the time."
After moving into a new, 70,000 square foot facility last year, the time is finally right for that vision to be fulfilled. A 5,000 square foot space in the building will be dedicated to the taproom and tasting area, the plans for which are still under development. One thing Jeffries knows for sure is that it will come together with the input of their customers. 
"We always want to get our fans involved," Jeffries says. "We want them to have the opportunity to participate in building out the taproom."
To support the project, customers can join a number of "clubs" by donating funds in exchange for different ways to be a part of the project, such as sponsoring a booth or having their name included on a wall.
The null Taphouse will serve beer tastings, light snacks and possibly sandwiches, include seating, and will also host tours. Jeffries says customers often stop by the facility, and he's looking forward to being able to give them the opportunity to look around. An additional five to ten employees will initially be hired to staff the business. Though progress will depend on a number of factors, he hopes the taproom will be open to the public by early summer.

Source: Ron Jeffries, Jolly Pumpkin 
Writer: Natalie Burg

New beer and wine retail concept to open first location in Dexter

The Beer Grotto coming to downtown Dexter will be more than a retail store. Though beer and wine sales will be its primary function, those sales will come with advice, recommendations and information from alcohol experts, along with samples and even a chance to sit down and enjoy a drink inside the store. 
"Our goal is that you're never going to walk out of the store with something you haven't tried," says Beer Grotto President Sam Short. "We're going to have an educated staff, a good selection and the ability to test stuff in the store before you leave."
East Lansing resident Short is relatively new to Michigan, but has been in the beer and restaurant business for years. After working with a number of well-known names in the industry, such as Grand Rapids' Barfly Ventures of HopCat fame, he is moving into the retail business. In what turns out to be a happy coincidence, the prime location for launching The Beer Grotto is the same village that is home to his wife's family.
"It was serendipity," says Short. "Dexter is great because it's very close to Ann Arbor, but yet it retains this true American small town feel. But it still has 30,000 cars driving regularly through. It's a neat little community."
The Beer Grotto will open in the 3,000 square foot former home of Dexter Pharmacy on Main St. In addition to retail space, the business will include a lounge area in which customers to enjoy a beverage. He anticipates work beginning on the space in Jan., and hopes to open with a staff of about 15 employees in late April or early May.
Short plans for the Dexter location to be the first of 15 Beer Grotto locations. He anticipates the next two will also be in the Ann Arbor area, and will open in 2014. 

Source: Sam Short, The Beer Grotto
Writer: Natalie Burg

Pie it Forward sets down local roots in Dexter

Last year, Sarah Fertig and Chris Kovac started giving away pies. The just wanted be kind and inspire others to think about kindness. They kept giving away pies in Liberty Plaza, and 18 weeks later, they knew they were on to something, even if it wasn't clear what that something was yet. 
"I realized this wasn't going to be a little side project," says Fertig. "I had accidently stumbled across something really great. I just didn't know if I was going to be a travelling pie evangelist, or would be in one location." 
So they took their show on the road. After giving away 251 free pies from San Francisco to Washington D.C., Pie it Forward has returned to Ann Arbor, set down roots in Dexter, and is preparing to get official as a non-profit.  
Pie it Forward makes pies and trades them for any amount between 10 cents and 10 dollars. In addition to apple pies, shepherd's pies have been added to the menu, and pasties may soon join the mix. The newly incorporated non-profit's mission isn't to feed the hungry or raise money, but simply to demonstrate kindness, and that no one does anything without a community. 
"I may have made a pie, but I didn't plant the wheat field. I didn't plant the orchard," says Fertig. "The hope is when people hear about our mission, they think about what they can do. What can I do to improve my own neighborhood? What skills do I have to offer?"
After traveling all over the nation with their concept Fertig and Kovac have decided to keep the Ann Arbor area as the home of Pie it Forward. They are currently seeking out commercial kitchen space and can now accept tax-exempt donations. Fertig says she hopes to grow the organization into a fleet of food trucks to expand Pie it Forward to Flint and Detroit, as well as have a disaster relief truck that can go anywhere in the nation with pies when a tragedy occurs. 

Source: Sarah Fertig, Pie it Forward
Writer: Natalie Burg

Restored, historic barn to be raised again at Zingerman's Cornman Farms

When faced with a historic barn in disrepair, people can get pretty creative. Some sell the "reclaimed barn wood" to be used as flooring or décor, others might slap a coat of paint on it and cross their fingers it doesn't fall over, but neither approach is really up Zingerman's alley. So they decided to deal with the 1837 barn on their Cornman Farms property in Dexter in a way that better fit their style: having it completely disassembled, shipped to a barnwright, restored, and shipped back for reassembly. 
"They're basically sparing no expense," says Zingerman's Marketing and Communications Specialist Eric Olsen. "Most people don't send off a barn to be rehabbed, but that's what we're about. We believe in sustaining this property." 
The final stage of the process will officially kickoff with the raising of the barn on Sept. 29. During the private, all-day event, workers will raise the barn and begin the process of reassembling and refurbishing it for its future use as an events space. Though the project is a lengthy one, expected to continue through next summer, Olsen explains that preserving this piece of history is simply worth it.
"It's a classic, beautiful barn," he says. "It's also an integral part of the at property. It's also been a landmark in Dexter for well over 100 years. We wanted to make sure we didn't disrupt anything out there." 
Private events have already been booked at the future events space for 2014. Zingerman's vision for the barn includes hosting weddings, business meetings and other events in the two-story structure. 

Source: Eric Olsen, Zingerman's
Writer: Natalie Burg

Dancer's Edge to expand into nearby 12,000 sq-ft space in Dexter

A forthcoming Dexter Downtown Development Authority project is coinciding with the growth of a local business. The Dexter DDA-owned property at 3045 Broad Street now houses the 10-year-old Dancer's Edge Studio. Owner Valerie Potsos will be expanding the business from its current, 7,000 square-foot space into a building she is purchasing across the street that will provide an extra 5,000 square feet for Dancer's Edge. The move will come in time for the DDA to proceed with the demolition of the current building.
Though the new space will give her business more space, Potsos says retaining a similar location was a big part of her decision to move right across the street.
"We have students coming from all over the state within a 100-mile radius," Potsos says. "Those students and families bring revenue to downtown Dexter by visiting the village's restaurants and shops."
Work on the building is slated to begin next February, and Potsos says discussions are still underway as to how the space will be utilized. The business now serves about 400 students and maintains a staff of about 20 part-time instructors. The new move not only reflects growth for Dancer's Edge, Potsos believes the entire neighborhood is growing into an artistic neighborhood.
"We plan on building an arts community," she says. "With our close proximity to the theater, there are so many synergistic things we can do together!"
The Dexter DDA intends to create a development plan for the property that will be demolished. 

Source: Valerie Potsos, Dancer's Edge
Writer: Natalie Burg

Kids Fashion Jungle triples in size at new Dexter location

Just a year after opening in a small location in Manchester, the children's resale and retail shop, Kids Fashion Jungle, is preparing to open in a new, larger location in Dexter. 
"Now we can breathe," says owner Tamara Douglas. "We had a lot of stuff stored in the back and had stuff stacked up to the ceiling. We just didn't have enough space." 
Kids Fashion Jungle will nearly triple their space in the new location, going from just over 800 square feet to 2,400. With the additional room, Douglas plans to carry bigger merchandise, as well as add a kids' entertainment element to the jungle-themed store. A craft room will be created where children can get creative. 
"Kids can come in and do a fun, creative gift for under 10 dollars," says Douglas. "We're just trying to make it a fun place for kids in different ways." 
The new store is scheduled to open July 20. In addition to the new craft room, Douglas hopes to offer crafting parties for kids' birthdays and other occasions in her expanded space. 
While Kids Fashion Jungle is currently operated by Douglas with some help from her family. She hopes the new space will allow her to grow enough to hire staff, as well as give back to the community. A key element to her business, she says, is supporting local charities that benefit children. 

Source: Tamara Douglas, Kids Fashion Jungle
Writer: Natalie Burg

Dexter artist opens art, gardening, & design hub with 3.5-acre Bloom!

To say that the former Sloan's Nursery and Dexter Gardens has reopened under new ownership doesn't quite cover it. The new Bloom! Garden Center and Elemental Design on Baker Rd. in Dexter is a nursery, garden boutique, art gallery and hub of landscaping and design-related businesses. 
"[Owner Traven Pelletier] wanted to have a place where a lot of people could explore their passion and work collectively," says Gretchen Warner of Bloom!
The eight-person office staff of Bloom! and Elemental Design is housed in a 1,600 square-foot space in a renovated historic barn on the 3.5 acre property. The innovative space also includes a 2,000 square-foot retail shop and a 700 square-foot art gallery. 
"The gallery space is very neat because you can see up to the ceiling," says Warner. "We currently have four artists exhibiting and they're all local."
The businesses owned by Pelletier are joined by Poseidon Ponds & Landscaping and Serge van der Voo Landscapes, companies that serve as collaborators with Bloom! and Elemental Design as well as offering expanded services to customers. 
Bloom! Garden Center opened in April just a few months after Pelletier took ownership of the property in January. After a tough month of weather, they celebrated their grand opening during the first weekend of May with sunshine and an outpouring of community support. Bloom! features locally-sourced flowers, trees and shrubs, and offers free gardening workshops.
In addition to office staff, Bloom! employs three project supervisors and seasonal work crews. Beginning this week, the business will host a booth from nearby White Lotus Farms offering fresh goat cheese, breads and produce. 

Source: Gretchen Warner, Bloom! Garden Center
Writer: Natalie Burg

Bits and Pizzas to bring unique Italian recipes to Dexter

Rob and Mindy D'Oria's forthcoming Bits and Pizzas restaurant in Dexter won't be anyone's run of the mill pizza place. From imported Italian tomatoes to longtime family meatball recipes, the D'Orias are planning to create a restaurant unlike any Dexter has seen before. 
"I'm from the east coast, so I'm kind of a pizza snob," says Rob D'Oria. "We've spent the better part of the last ten years thinking about the food and testing out recipes."
Patrons will get their chance to try out those recipes around mid-June. D'Oria hopes to have work completed on the downtown Dexter space and a staff of about 20 in place by that point to make and serve the New York-style pizza and other specialty Italian foods. 
The recipes aren't the only aspect of Bits and Pizzas that have been carefully crafted for some time. The 5,000 square-foot building on Main St. in Dexter has been under redevelopment for about a year. 
"The building is almost 150 years old," says D'Oria. "It's pretty well configured from a layout standpoint, and it will give us room to grow."
In addition to updating the infrastructure of the historic building, the D'Orias are building a patio from the rear of the building that will hold out outdoor seating. Eventually, Bits and Pizzas will expand seating into the second floor, including a full bar. 
D'Oria says he's not cutting any corners to make Bits and Pizzas a truly unique place. They'll source their ingredients from local and specialty sources and be making everything – including their own Italian sausage – in house. 

Source: Rob D'Oria, Bits and Pizzas
Writer: Natalie Burg

Dexter's MedHub to invest $1.7M in historic Old Grain Mill building

Healthcare software company MedHub has received a boost from the village of Dexter that will help the firm move toward its goal of renovating and relocating in the historic Old Grain Mill. The recently awarded industrial facilities tax exemption is expected to save the firm $24,000 per year as a 50-percent tax abatement for six years on real property and two years on personal property.
"Dexter is a vibrant and dynamic community that understands economic growth and vitality," says MedHub President Peter Orr. "We considered Ann Arbor, but with just nine miles separating the two, we felt the flexible opportunities available for expansion in Dexter coupled with the close proximity to Ann Arbor was a very easy decision." 
MedHub intends to invest $1.7 million into the 1899 structure. Though Orr says the cost to renovate the building will be triple what it might have been to demolish it and rebuild, both his firm and the village of Dexter recognized the importance of saving a community landmark and made a collaborative effort to preserve it. 
While the tax abatement incentivized MedHub's investment, it will also benefit the village, as it will increase the taxable value of the long-abandoned, 22,000 sq. ft. facility, as well as bring new employees to the downtown. Now employing a staff of seven, Orr expects to double MedHub's staff in the new space. 
"We not only have the space we are currently in the process of redeveloping," say Orr, "but we also have room to develop a training facility in a large non-contiguous out building on the property. Our clients from across the country could eventually congregate in this facility for intensified training. This will add to the economic vitality of Dexter because our new location will be a true campus in every sense of the word." 
MedHub purchased the historic mill in 2011, and expects to renovate and move into the facility in this spring.

Source: Peter Orr, MedHub
Writer: Natalie Burg

Washtenaw County awards $600,000 in trail grants to four communities

In four Washtenaw County communities, projects intended to help people get places will soon be really getting somewhere. Ann Arbor, Dexter, Pittsfield Twp. and Ypsilanti Twp. will each receive a portion of the $600,000 awarded this month by Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission
The awards were a part of the Connecting Communities Initiative, a five-year program intended to invest in the County's non-motorized trail systems. 
"Every once in awhile we'll update our parks and recreation master plan for the county, which includes doing a survey to the public," says Coy Vaugh, deputy director of the Washtenaw County Parks & Recreation Commission. "Trails are always number one on the list. 
This program allows local municipalities to create connections between trails maintained by the County and key points in their communities. 
Now in its fourth year, Connecting Communities has supported such projects as the trail connecting Whitmore Lake Elementary School to surrounding residential neighborhoods in Northfield Twp. and a 950-foot Chelsea trail along Old US-12 connecting the boardwalk system at Pierce Lake Golf Course with neighborhoods and schools.
Of the total $600,000 grant, Ann Arbor and Pittsfield Twp. each received $150,000. Dexter received $225,000 and Ypsilanti Twp. received $75,000. The communities were required to match the funds, which are earmarked for construction only, with the cost of engineering the projects. Eight projects in six communities vied for the funding this year.

Source: Coy Vaughn, Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation
Writer: Natalie Burg

In Dexter, 3-mile B2B Trail link hits the ground running this February

It's full-on winter now, but that's not stopping the Border to Border Trail from growing. In February, work begins in Dexter on a new three-mile segment of what will be a 35-mile non-motorized trail connecting Washtenaw County to Livingston and Wayne Counties along the Huron River.

This three-mile leg is expected to be completed by fall 2013. At that point, 23 miles of the planned 35 will be completed, says Coy Vaughn, deputy director of the Washtenaw County Parks & Recreation Commission. This new portion will run from Hudson Mills Metropark to Dexter, linking up to Warrior Creek Park. It will be mostly asphalt, but there will be a boardwalk through the wetlands and a small pedestrian bridge.

"Once this is done, it will create a 13-mile round trip that you can take from downtown Dexter up through Hudson Mills Metropark. They already had three miles of trails on the other side of the [Huron] River, so overall it will be a 13-mile round trip bike ride, walk, run, or whatever from downtown Dexter," Vaughn says.

On the east side of Dexter, work has concluded on a 1.25-mile trail headed towards Ann Arbor and ending at Dexter-Huron Metropark. That segment connects to the DPW yard in the village, with a small section adjoining Central St. Vaughn says it's not open to the public yet, as the county is in the process of obtaining a railroad easement.

Hudson Mills Metropark is north of Dexter on the river, and to the southeast of Dexter is Dexter-Huron and Delhi Metroparks. "We're trying to connect all the Metroparks to the village [of Dexter] and the city of Ann Arbor," sayas Vaughn.

Source: Coy Vaughn, deputy director, Washtenaw County Parks & Recreation Commission
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

Hotel Hickman's Chuck Wagon BBQ rides into Dexter

Downtown Dexter is less than 10 miles west of Ann Arbor, but it's looking more like Montana if Hotel Hickman's Chuck Wagon BBQ has anything to say about it. You might recognize the catering and take-out joint, which opened in the former sheriff substation at 8050 Main St. in late November, by the chuck wagon parked out front from time to time.

Owner Scott Thomas does a brisk business cooking up Texas beef brisket and ribs on his 1889 chuck wagon, which also often sits outside the Dexter Feed Mill. He smokes all of his meats and makes everything from scratch – dishes like buttermilk biscuits and gravy, and mac and cheese.

Four people staff Hotel Hickman's Chuck Wagon BBQ, open Friday through Sunday all winter long. The foursome also does Wild West reenactments and cooking for private parties. Thomas plans to hire more staff and add outdoor picnic tables during the busier summer season.

"It's kind of a hobby, a little passion doing a little barbecuing," Scott says.

Source: Scott Thomas, owner, Hotel Hickman's Chuck Wagon BBQ
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

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

Dexter's downtown gets a new Coney Island and 8 jobs

The Detroit Tigers may have been ousted in the World Series, but the ballpark hotdogs served at area Coney Islands are here to stay. Dexter's Coney Island is the latest new outpost of this southeast Michigan culinary emblem.

The new eatery, at 8124 Main St. in downtown Dexter, is in the space formerly occupied by Lorene's Village Cafe. Cacini plans to paint and reconfigure seating areas, adding booths. There are currently 99 seats, "plus my own," Cacini says.

Dexter's Coney Island has eight employees, including three part-time staff, serving breakfast and lunch between 6:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Cacini plans to serve dinner and extend the hours until 8 p.m. starting at the end of March.

Source: Jim Cacini, owner, Dexter's Coney Island
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

Johnston Agency opens in Dexter, adds 5 insurance jobs

In the aftermath of Dexter's tornado last spring, a new services business has sprung up. Allstate Insurance agent Jennifer Johnston has opened Johnston Agency at 8071 Main Street in downtown Dexter. The office is located in a historic purple-painted building which formerly housed the Dexter Leader newspaper.

Johnston, a licensed insurance agent, was looking for a business location with a small-town feel, where people look out for each other. Inspired by the quick reaction of Allstate personnel to the tornado: "They were there before the Red Cross," and the manner in which the village pulled together afterward, Johnston says, "we wanted to be part of the Dexter community."

The office opened in early September with three insurance agents and an office manager. Johnston plans to add one or two more agents and telemarketing personnel. "We're already expanding," she says.

Source: Jennifer Johnston, owner, Johnston Agency
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

Dexter gets more mileage out of Border to Border Trail

The village of Dexter has a walkability score of 66 out of 100, according to Walkscore.com. But with the completion of another segment on the county-spanning Border to Border Trail, that score may rise.  

Construction on the remaining portion of the first phase of the 1.42-mile River Terrace Trail, a segment of the Border-to-BorderTrail that connects downtown Dexter with Dexter-Huron Metropark, is to commence in September and should be finished up later this fall, says Coy Vaughn, deputy director of the Washtenaw County Parks & Recreation Commission.

This stretch includes another 650 linear feet of boardwalk and 235 feet of paved trail. An additional 3,195-foot length of trail base will be laid, with plans to pave it as part of the second phase next spring. The county is also working to obtain an easement from Norfolk Southern Railroad to install the last 1,400-foot length to run up to Central Street.

And another three-mile asphalt and boardwalk segment running north from Dexter to existing trail in Hudson Mills Metropark is now going out for bids, and should be finished by late summer of 2013, according to Vaughn. "When this is completed, from downtown Dexter, you'll be able to take a 12-mile roundtrip bike ride through the metro parks and stay all on off-road trails."

Once that section is laid, over 20 miles out of 35 Border-to-Border Trail miles will be complete, Vaughn says. "We're just getting over the halfway mark, but we're piecing it together and it's one of our priority projects. It's having a lot of impact on the communities along the Huron River."

Source: Coy Vaughn, deputy director, Washtenaw County Parks & Recreation Commission
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

Newly completed Mill Creek Park adds to draw of downtown Dexter

The village of Dexter has a new face on the waterfront after the official opening of Mill Creek Park during the Dexter Daze festival last weekend.

The $1.24 million, 2.15-acre downtown park has an amphitheater, a pair of boat launches, observation and fishing decks, plazas, and a quarter-mile pathway bridging Mill Creek around the park's perimeter. Workers are completing the stairway from the park to the library and farmers market and installing more railing on the boardwalk.

"I think that the benefit to the community with respect to creating a destination in our downtown is going to have a huge economic impact, both with residential development and people visiting our community," says Allison Bishop, Dexter's community development director.

Included in the village's master plan is Mill Creek Park Phase 2, a trail segment connecting the park south to Shield Road, but the need for more grant funding and collaboration with local schools will probably push that project out for another five years, Bishop says.

Source: Allison Bishop, community development director, village of Dexter
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

Honey Bee Academy childcare facility to open in Dexter

In time for the back-to-school rush, a new daycare center is opening in Dexter. Honey Bee Academy owner Melissa Pangle is accepting new enrollment and plans to open the center, located at 7415 Dexter Pinckney Road, during the first week in September.

The 2,100-square-foot building was home to another daycare facility that closed about nine months ago. "It's basically move-in ready," Pangle says.

Honey Bee Academy will have room for 40 children. Pangle has been running a home-based childcare for the last seven years. However, with her capacity limited to six children, "I've always had a waitlist," she says.

The center will provide all-day care for infants aged six weeks through pre-schoolers, along with before- and after-school and summer care for school-aged children.

Staffing at the center will grow to 8-9 employees as it reaches capacity, according to Pangle.

Source: Melissa Pangle, owner of  Honey Bee Academy
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

Zingerman's renovates Dexter's Hoey Farm, opened for school tours and catering

The distance between farm and table is being measured in feet rather than miles, with Zingerman's Roadhouse chef Alex Young's recent purchase of the Hoey Farm property on Island Lake Road in Dexter Township.

The 27-acre property at 8540 Island Lake Road adjoins Young's Cornman Farms, a sustainably raised livestock and vegetable supplier to Zingerman's Roadhouse. Over 27 types of vegetables comprising over 130 varieties are grown at Cornman Farms.

Young's new farm purchase accompanies his recent participation in the James Beard Foundation Food Activist Boot Camp, whose goal is to "try to effect more positive change in terms of agriculture in this country."

Hoey Farm will be used for school tours, as a catering destination, and for livestock raising. "We have a small dairy goat herd," Young says. "We're going to be milking goats there as well. And we're going to grow some pigs. A small herd of pigs, a medium-sized herd of goats, and then a handful of cattle."

On the near-term horizon is a major restoration of an 1854 farmhouse on the property, a couple of barns, and a smokehouse. "They haven't received any love or care in 20 years, probably," he notes. One building will be converted into a dairy parlor, another is to be a shelter for school tours and a place to eat.

Cornman Farms currently has five people on staff. "We'll probably be nearly double that next year," Young says. He plans to open the property to the public in the spring of 2013.

"My work through Cornman Farms has been very rewarding, and being able to share it with kids and make great food for the restaurant is fun."

Source: Alex Young, chef, Zingerman's Roadhouse
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

Jake's BBQ heats up Dexter's dining options

Those not wanting to wheel out the grill this summer can drop in to Jake's BBQ, Dexter's new restaurant devoted to all things cookout. The restaurant space, which opened earlier in June at 8050 Main St., formerly housed owner Bart Aniolczyk's Jake's Place, a venue for Polish cuisine takeout.

The European concept didn't pan out, Aniolczyk says, but his luck has turned for the better with the new barbecue menu. He's in the process of adding more smokers to meet the demand for, among other things, pulled pork and other artisanal comfort foods.

While Jake's BBQ's primary business is take-out, the revamped interior now seats 10 and has 12 outdoor seats. Aniolczyk will add umbrellas and bring the outdoor seating up to 20. He cites Dexter's "family feel" as reason for keeping his eatery there.

He has added two jobs, with more planned, but there is no firm count yet. "I'm sure I'll have to add more people as I go," he says.

Source:  Bart Aniolczyk, owner, Jake's BBQ
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

Dexter Wellness Center to open doors, create at least 100 jobs

At long last, the Dexter Wellness Center is getting in shape to open its doors. The Chelsea-Area Wellness Foundation has signed on to operate the center, which will be constructed by A.R. Brouwer at 2810 Baker Road, a half-mile's walking distance from downtown Dexter.

The 46,000-square-foot family center will be a full-service facility with a swimming pool, a therapy pool, mind-body space for pilates and yoga, massage therapy, a gym, and strength and aerobic conditioning equipment.

Programming for children of all ages will be offered, as will assistance for medical patients. "We'll work with local providers to transition patients from the hospital ... We have programs for them when they're discharged so we can help with strengthening and make their quality of life better," says Amy Heydlauff, executive director of the Chelsea-Area Wellness Foundation (CWF).

A physical therapy practice run by Medical Rehabilitation Specialists, but not affiliated with CWF, will occupy 2,000 square feet in the building.

Construction will commence after the builder removes some existing structures on the property. "We're anticipating an opening date of either summer or early fall of '13," Heydlauff says. Usage fees have not been set yet, but will be commensurate with comparable facilities in Ann Arbor and Chelsea.

She figures the center will employ, at minimum, 100 people.

Source:  Amy Heydlauff, executive director, Chelsea-Area Wellness Foundation
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

Jolly Pumpkin brewery to quintuple production space at new Dexter location

A former automotive parts warehouse in Dexter will be undergoing a cleanup and transformation into a new brewery and distillery for Northern United Brewing Company, LLC, doing business as Jolly Pumpkin. A tasting room and retail shop is also included in the plans for the former Martinrea/Pilot building located at 2319 Bishop Circle.

Last week, the Dexter Village Council approved Jolly Pumpkin's application to the state for micro brewer, small winemaker, and small distiller licenses. As the property is zoned industrial, the company is working with the village to obtain the necessary approvals for a tasting room, according to Ron Jeffries, co-founder and co-owner of Jolly Pumpkin.

Jeffries hopes to be up and running in the new location by September or October. The company will move production from its Broad St. site in Dexter, where it has 10,000 square feet of production space. The purchase of the new building will nearly quintuple the production floor, to 48,000 square feet.

The facility is about 85,000 square feet in total. Jeffries says renovations will include new sloped floors with floor drains and trench drains, plumbing, CO² drops to production areas for bottling, modification of existing offices, and the installation of quality assurance and quality control labs.

"Every year we've doubled our sales," says Jeffries. "We're just flat out of space in our existing building so we've been looking for a while to find the right space and we wanted to stay in Dexter ... We take orders from our wholesalers that we can't fulfill for months just because of the size of our production facility. There's an opportunity for oak-aged sour beer, which takes quite a while to produce, for some instant growth."

Jeffries projects adding anywhere from 10-20 jobs as an immediate result of the expansion, and possibly up to 50 within a year and a half after opening. Staff will be needed for brewing, quality control, packaging, office support, and sales and marketing roles.

While distilling and wine making operations will be ongoing, first and foremost, the facility will be a brewery, he says. "While we will have wine and spirits going on there, it's not any sort of Jack Daniels or something."

Source: Ron Jeffries, co-founder and co-owner of Jolly Pumpkin
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

CPA2Biz zeroes in on CPA firms, opens new Dexter office

After the busy tax season, accountants and finance professionals are making time to upgrade their technology. A couple of weeks ago, technology and marketing firm CPA2Biz, a for-profit subsidiary of the New York-based American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, held the official opening of its downtown Dexter office.

"Our Dexter focus is strictly in the technology area, working with CPA firms of all sizes throughout the United States," says David Pollak, vice president of sales for CPA2Biz. The company works with firms to assist in the deployment of web-based technologies used in such areas as training, billing, and engagement letters: "Anything that would do with the operation and the growth of a CPA firm," he adds.

The 100-plus employee firm also has offices in New York City, Santa Clara, Calif., and Durham, N.C. Pollak says the management chose Dexter as a new location "because they liked the proximity to Eastern and U-M and Michigan State and all the other colleges that are around here, and felt that it would be a good place for us to expand."

CPA2Biz has seven sales employees at its office in the Dexter Monument Building at 8031 Main St. The firm may add another 6-10 jobs there over the next year, according to Pollak.

Source:  David Pollak, vice president of sales, CPA2Biz
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

Lucky Penny Mosaics opens studio for classes in Dexter

It's much more fun than assemble-it-yourself furniture and infinitely less frustrating than puzzles. The newly opened Lucky Penny Mosaics studio offers classes in mosaic art at 3205 Broad St. in downtown Dexter.

Owner Lisa Wandres also co-owns the Artistica Gallery, which carries the creations of about 30 local artists, as well as completed mosaic works.

"It's a little concentrated village here," Wandres says of both of her Dexter locations.

Students at all levels are welcome for multi-week classes. "It's kind of a get-together and we are having a lot of fun just meeting together and doing mosaics as a group," Wandres says.

"It's like a little therapy, and it's way cheaper than therapy," she adds.

Examples of mosaic artwork will be on view at Artistica's monthly Fourth Friday event this Friday, April 27 from 5 to 8 p.m.

Source:  Lisa Wandres, owner, Lucky Penny Mosaics
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

Polly's Paper Studio pushes paper arts in Dexter

A tangible counter to the spread of digital art and e-cards, Polly's Paper Studio has opened at 3238 Broad St. in downtown Dexter. The boutique offers a selection of paper for scrapbooking, card making, and other paper crafting supplies, including flowers, stickers, ribbons, and other bling.

Attracted by Dexter's artsy vibe and convenient, walkable location, owner Ginny Nemchak relocated her store to Dexter after 1½ years in Pinckney. "We felt like this would be a good fit for what we do because we're very visual and it's nice for people to come in and see things and handle them and do that kind of thing," she says.

The store, open Tuesday through Sunday, will also be offering classes in paper crafts. A schedule will be posted on the store's blog soon, Nemchak says.

Source: Ginny Nemchak, owner, Polly's Paper Studio
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

k-Space doubles Dexter facility size, will add 10-12 jobs

k-Space Associates, Inc., a maker of diagnostic tools for the semi-conductor industry, is capitalizing on burgeoning demand for solar power and LED (light-emitting diode) lighting by doubling the size of its manufacturing and R&D facility in Dexter.

"We are currently supplying diagnostic tools for the people that make LEDs; that market is growing, and hence we need additional capacity to both develop the diagnostic tools for the LED market and to manufacture them," says Darryl Barlett, owner of k-Space. Additionally, "we've again adapted our tools to monitor the production of solar panels, and that's a large market as well."

The expansion of the facility, located in the Dexter Research and Development Park at 2182 Bishop Circle East, from 7,000 to 14,000 square feet is nearly complete and should be ready for use by mid-April. The R&D labs will remain in the original facility, while the new space is to be used primarily for manufacturing, Barlett says.

The firm employees sales reps abroad and has several distributors worldwide. There are now 21 employees in Dexter, and another 10-12 positions will be added there over the next 18 months as a result of the expansion, Barlett says.

Source:  Darryl Barlett, owner, k-Space Associates, Inc.
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

New path opens in Dexter for Border-to-Border Trail

With 80-degree spring days feeling like summer, a new Border-to-Border Trail segment is becoming a well-worn path already, and other segments are following. Even prior to last weekend's ribbon-cutting ceremony, the freshly completed West Side Connector running from downtown Dexter to Warrior Creek Park was getting a lot of traffic.

"Every time I'm out there, there are families using it," notes Coy Vaughn, deputy director of the Washtenaw County Parks & Recreation Commission. "Especially from the [West Ridge] subdivision, because they were basically, from a pedestrian standpoint, cut off from the village."

Another section currently under construction that will run from Dexter-Huron Metropark to the village of Dexter should be done by June, Vaughn says. A bridge over the Huron River and a quarter-mile path is being laid in the first phase, followed by a link-up to downtown.

And since the bridge-crossing over Mill Creek that connects to the West Ridge subdivision and the border of Hudson Mills Park is done, the next phase commences in August. A 2.9-mile stretch will begin at the park border and follow the Huron River valley, adjacent to the Huron River.

"That will provide direct access to residents of Dexter all the way through to the Hudson Mills trail system," Vaughn says. The majority of that project should be done by winter, with wrap-up next spring.

Source:  Coy Vaughn, deputy director of the Washtenaw County Parks & Recreation Commission
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

Nichols and Stafford gives homey vibe to downtown Dexter

Since last November, Nichols and Stafford has been making downtown Dexter feel more like home. The home décor shop at 8106 Main St. opened by co-owners Cathy Swan and Laura Telesco carries a variety of home accoutrements such as lamps, mirrors, accent tables, throws, pillows, clocks, and a collection of vintage tin.

Telesco says the shop was intended as a complement to The Home Store, a furniture purveyor located two doors down and also owned by Swan.

Telesco and Swan are the sole employees, but Telesco says the store has expanded the number of reps whose products they carry from four to 20.

"We're generating business for people who are repping these companies, bringing foot traffic hopefully into Dexter, and complementing the other stores," she says, adding, "People are coming here to have lunch, to walk around, go in some stores. Now that our riverfront is being developed this summer, we're going to have an amphitheater down there, a canoe livery. I just think Dexter is turning into more of a little destination town to come and visit."

Source: Laura Telesco, co-owner, Nichols and Stafford
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

MedHub puts $1 million into Dexter grain mill redo, adds jobs

In a merging of high tech with the antique, medical education software provider Med Hub is embarking on a $1 million renovation of the circa-1899 Old Grain Mill at 3515 Broad Street in downtown Dexter.

The $1 million project involves a complete rebuild of the 10,000-square-foot interior and installation of basic systems such as heat, according to Peter Orr, MedHub president and principal. The structure is "as it was in 1899," Orr says.

The general contractor is Phoenix Construction, the same firm responsible for construction of the Zingerman's Deli expansion. Med Hub awarded the contract to Phoenix Construction because of its experience working with historic buildings. The firm will preserve as many original details as possible, including the wood flooring and grain chutes. A wooden grain silo will be repurposed into a conference room.

Construction could be complete by late summer or early fall, after which the firm will move its larger staff from Scio Township into the new space. "We're doubling in size this year, so we've already hired two in the first two months of the year and we're looking to hire three to five more in 2012," Orr notes.

He cites Dexter's growing downtown and business-friendly, less-congested environment as the reason for Med Hub's investment. "We have kind of a full campus out here in Dexter, a number of different buildings and some land. That just wouldn't be feasible in downtown Ann Arbor."

Source:  Peter Orr, MedHub president and principal
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

Smart meters coming online for DTE customers in Washtenaw County

Bill-shocked electric and gas utility customers who are trying to cut their energy consumption 30 days after the fact will be a relic of the past.

As part of its ongoing SmartCurrents program, DTE Energy will be installing another 450,000 advanced electric meters and gas modules (smart meters), with 120,000 of those destined for Washtenaw County. The cost of the installation is $66 million, according to Scott Simons, a DTE Energy spokesperson.

The meters are being installed in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and Ypsilanti Township this month. Dexter, Dexter Township, and Scio Township will see theirs starting in April, followed by Saline, Saline Township, Superior Township, and Whitmore Lake in May. Installations in Chelsea, Milan, Manchester, and York Township will begin in June.

With the new technology, meters will be read remotely and power outages trackable down to the individual meter. It also allows for customers to track their daily energy consumption.

"Customers will be able to see their individual energy usage online and make usage decisions with that information," Simons says in an email. "They can also choose to purchase in-home displays and programmable thermostats, and even appliances, that work with the meter."

Source: Scott Simons, DTE Energy spokesperson
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

Washtenaw County focus of $1M Pure Michigan campaign

Washtenaw County will play host to a bigger suitcase contingency of leisure and business travelers, with some of those visitors possibly choosing to stay and do business in the region, if the new $1 million Pure Michigan national advertising campaign has its way.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC)'s Pure Michigan initiative is putting $500,000 towards the campaign, which is being matched by a collective $500,000 put forth by the Ann Arbor Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), the Ypsilanti Area CVB, and Ann Arbor SPARK.

The effort, to be called, "Sense of Place" is a first-time pilot program to combine support for both tourism and economic development, the only area in the state being considered for this combination, according to Mary Kerr, president of the Ann Arbor Area CVB.

"Like tourism marketing, economic development attracts attention to what Ann Arbor has to offer, and creates demand for Ann Arbor as a destination; both are about people: Tourists, visitors, students, families, business owners, job-seekers," Donna Doleman, Ann Arbor SPARK's vice president of marketing and talent, says in a statement.  "Businesses want to locate in a desirable location where they can hire and attract workers, including those who would relocate for a job. This new marketing partnership allows us to scale and amplify our economic development and business attraction efforts."

The campaign follows a three-year partnership between the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti CVBs and Travel Michigan to promote the area to other Midwestern cities.

"We're partnered as a regional partner with Travel Michigan promoting the Ann Arbor area as a tourist destination in Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis, which are three of the state's regional markets. And it's been very successful for us. We've seen strong results for Washtenaw County and we feel this is the natural path for moving forward," Kerr says.

"This pilot program gives us the opportunity to reach a much larger audience than we've reached previously with our regional campaigns," she adds.

The campaign is to consist of a national ad running on cable television, articles on the Michigan.org website, press tours for journalists, and a promotional video residing on michiganadvantage.org. And subject to negotiations with HGTV, a House Hunters episode featuring a family's search for a house in the Ann Arbor area will air in June. A firm campaign launch date has not been determined yet, but Kerr expects more details to be available later in March.

In 2010, out of 83 Michigan counties, Kerr says Washtenaw County ranked number 5 and 7 in business and leisure travel spending, respectively. Travel spending in the county totaled about $595 million. Of that, business travel was $223 million and leisure travel $372 million. According to metrics released by the Pure Michigan campaign, $3.29 is returned in sales tax for every $1 spent on advertising.

Kerr says Pure Michigan is "probably the number one tourism campaign in the country, definitely the number one tourism website in the country as well. So we're not just a $1 million national campaign, but very much a part of the overall state's national campaign for Pure Michigan."

Sources: Mary Kerr, president of the Ann Arbor Area Convention and Visitors Bureau; Donna Doleman, vice president of marketing and talent, Ann Arbor SPARK
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

Decorative streetscapes, sidewalks to be planted in Dexter

With five weeks to go until spring, streetscape projects are shaking off the winter frost.

The village of Dexter has a couple of projects in the wings. The first, on Main St. between Jeffords and Baker, will commence in early-to-mid April and should be done by mid-May, says Community Development Manager Allison Bishop. That will involve the installation of a dozen stamped concrete crosswalks during a mill and resurface of Main St.

The crosswalks "will just be additional beautification to downtown and assist with pedestrian circulation," Bishop says.

Following in late spring, around the first week of June, Central St. from the Mast Road Bridge to Second St. will be the focus of construction, according to Bishop. A road re-do, eight LED light fixtures on decorative street poles, trees, and new sidewalks to connect to the eventual Border to Border trail segment heading east from the village are in the plans.

"They're high-impact, but pretty easy projects," Bishop says.

Source: Allison Bishop, community development manager, village of Dexter
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

Village of Dexter plans public art installations

Next spring brings to Dexter not just the new Mill Creek Park and Border to Border Trail extensions, but new artwork to boot. The Dexter Village Council is in support of a proposal brought by the Dexter Arts, Culture, and Heritage Committee to install public art in various temporary park and downtown locations.

Potential spots include the corner of Jeffords and Main, at the entrance to and within Mill Creek Park, on Alpine Street between the farmers market and the library, downtown Main Street, and Peace Park at the corner of Inverness and Main Street, at the top of the hill, according to Mike Vickers, chair of the Dexter Arts, Culture, and Heritage Committee.

The committee is finalizing the plan and hopes to bring it to a formal vote by the village council in January. Once the plan is officially approved, the committee will solicit works from local artists or at least those with some connection to Washtenaw County, says Vickers.

Similar to the work displayed at the Chelsea SculptureWalk, all types of media, such as steel, other metals, rock, and stained glass will be considered. The village would cover the costs of delivery and installation, but will not purchase the works outright.

"A lot of sculptors are willing to have us utilize these pieces for one year at a time, with their intent of not only showing their work, but selling the work, so it gives them an avenue to display their work in a public place," Vickers explains.

"In the future, depending on how well this does, we may do more of a definitive sponsorship type of thing."

Source: Mike Vickers, chair, Dexter Arts, Culture, and Heritage Committee
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

Put on your snowshoes: Washtenaw County increases trail mileage

With the completion of a trail segment connecting Warrior Creek Park in downtown Dexter up to the Hudson Mills Metropark just in time for December snows to drift in, the 35-mile Border to Border (B2B) Trail spanning Washtenaw County will be about halfway done.

The asphalt and concrete path and the bridge spanning Mill Creek have been installed and a boardwalk connecting the bridge to the West Ridge subdivision and up to the Hudson Mills Metropark is set to be laid by year-end, says Coy Vaughn, superintendent of park planning for Washtenaw County. In turn, the Huron Clinton Metropolitan Authority is finalizing its plans to start construction next spring on a 2.5-mile stretch that picks up where the B2B Trail leaves off. That segment will run up to the park's existing trail system.

"When that's all completed, there'll be about eight miles of trail that is accessible from downtown Dexter going north that will be in place and then eventually there'll be more than that as we finish the Border to Border Trail," says Vaughn.

And on the southeast side of Dexter, the plans for another bridge crossing on the Huron River and 1.4 miles of new trail through Dexter Huron Metropark have been drawn up and just went out to bid, Vaughn says. "Eventually the plan is to connect up to Ann Arbor as we continue to build the Border to Border Trail in that direction."

Also, a separate non-motorized trail network funded by Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission via its Connecting Communities mini-grant program, is spreading. Of the projects funded in 2009, a trail in Northfield Township connecting Whitmore Lake Elementary School to other residential neighborhoods along Barker Road was finished earlier this fall. New in Pittsfield Township is a 2.4-mile trail along Lohr and Textile Roads linking Ann Arbor and Saline.

And in Chelsea, a 1,000-foot, mainly boardwalk, trail along old U.S. 12 that will connect Pierce Lake Golf Course to neighborhoods, schools, and the commercial district has been designed, Vaughn says. A construction contract will be awarded shortly, with work to commence this spring.

Source: Coy Vaughn, superintendent of park planning for Washtenaw County
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

New life in store for downtown Dexter landmark; downtown vacancy nears zero

Of late, downtown Dexter's landscape is blooming with new tenants, renovation work, and progress on the Mill Creek Park project. To start with, health care software provider MedHub has recently purchased the Old Grain Mill property, consisting of two circa-1899 buildings totaling 13,825 square feet.

"They're proposing some renovations to finally achieve the vision that I think everyone had for that building ten years ago," says Allison Bishop, Dexter's community development manager. "They are going to continue to make the building as historically accurate as possible and finally have some activity over there, bring in new business and new jobs to the village, so we're very excited about them."

MedHub plans to hire at least five new software developers in 2012, according to its website.

And a new home décor store, Nichols and Stafford, has opened at 8106 Main Street. Over the last eight months, the downtown has filled all but one of its vacancies – the former Dexter Pharmacy – Bishop says. The downtown is home to about 50 businesses.

The Dexter DDA has also purchased and will be taking possession of the former Dapco Industries building at 3045 Broad Street, bordering Mill Creek Park, in 2012. The village has awarded a contract to OHM/Bird Houk to do a feasibility study to determine whether the building should be leveled and rebuilt or renovated. Village officials intend for the new or renovated building to be mixed-use in nature.

"Anyone who decides to develop, lease, or live there will overlook the park and the creek," Bishop says.

On the outdoor front, the Mill Creek Park project work will continue through the winter, with much of the landscaping and final touches to be installed next spring, she says. "And with the [Huron Clinton Metropolitan Authority] starting their construction next spring, we'll have close to 16 miles of trails between Dexter's downtown and north up to Hudson Mills."

The first phase of the Border to Border trail on the west side of town up to the Hudson Mills area should be done even sooner – by the end of November, adds Bishop.

Source: Allison Bishop, community development manager, village of Dexter; MedHub
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

RiverUp! to improve river health and recreation for Huron River communities

Using the restoration and tourism efforts that took place over the last decade within the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge as a model, state and local leaders are launching RiverUp!, a new initiative to make the Huron River a recreation-friendly front door to the communities it flows through. And throw in some ecological healing.

"While we're kicking this project off now, the genesis of the idea...really kicked off a couple of years ago when Congressman Dingell was celebrating what had been accomplished on the Detroit River with the International Wildlife Refuge, an accomplishment that he worked for, that he was personally invested in and wanted to be sure that that happened," says Elizabeth Riggs, watershed planner for the Huron River Watershed Council. "And then he turned and looked to the Huron River, which is also part of his district, and said, 'Now, what can we do similarly for the Huron?'"

One facet of the initiative is the Huron River Water Trail, a series of upgrades to make the river's 104 navigable miles more contiguous and accessible to paddlers. Fixes include dam removal and portage improvements, better signage, and trail maps. Efforts during the first year will center first on river segments in the communities of Milford, Dexter, Ann Arbor, and Flat Rock, and then spread to the rest of the navigable river, Riggs says.

Projects slated for the first year of RiverUp! include improvements to Superior Dam near St. Joseph Mercy hospital, funded through private contributions from the Wolfpack, a contingent of conservation-focused leaders associated with the National Wildlife Federation. Other high-priority dams include those at Ford Lake, Belleville Lake, and Flat Rock Pond.

The campaign has been seeded with $75,000, including $50,000 in private donations from Wolfpack members and a $25,000 grant from the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan. Leadership will be devising a plan to raise a mix of public and private funds for the effort that Riggs thinks will show substantial progress over the next four years.

Project leaders are also working with owners of contaminated or underused industrial properties; specifically, DTE's MichCon brownfield site in Ann Arbor and, in Ypsilanti, the former Ford Visteon plant now owned by Angstrom USA.

Says Riggs, "We'd really like to see those two sites be further along in completing what right now is a promise...Angstrom [will grant] a 100-foot conservation easement next to the river so that the Border to Border Trail can continue from the river into Ford Lake. And also we'd like to see DTE's MichCon site that is cleaned up or on its way to being cleaned up so that it can be used for the benefit of the Ann Arbor community as a park or a restaurant or similar uses."

RiverUp! officially launches at 1:30 p.m. on August 16 with a public gathering at Island Park in Ann Arbor. Featured speakers include Congressman John Dingell, MDOT Chairman Jerry Young, and HRWC Executive Director Laura Rubin. Organizers are awaiting confirmation of the attendance of Gov. Rick Snyder.

Source: Elizabeth Riggs, watershed planner for the Huron River Watershed Council

Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

Dexter's Mill Creek Park to flower starting in July

A concerted effort over three years in the making will spawn a new creekside haven for the village of Dexter. Last week the city was awarded a $1.24 million contract for the first phase of construction of Mill Creek Park.

Utica, Mich.-based Cedroni Associates, Inc. is expected to start work in mid-July and should be substantially complete by winter of 2012, with finishing touches that spring, says Allison Bishop, community development manager for Dexter.

About $495,000 from various village funds will go towards project costs. The village has also received a $450,000 Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant and $45,000 from the Waterways Infrastructure grant program. Washtenaw County is picking up the remaining $345,000, Bishop says.

The work will extend from Forest Lawn Cemetery north to the Main Street Bridge. The new park will  boast a stairway from the park to Alpine Street downtown, a restored stream, enhanced habitat, a fishing dock, a put-in and take-out for boats (one above and one below the Main Street dam), boardwalks and sidewalks, landscaping, an amphitheater, streetscape improvements on Jeffords Street, and a circular path.

The park will be four acres large but work will be spread over a seven-acre plot on both sides of the creek. The property, a large grassy field, was formerly a dam impoundment.

"It's an area that no one has ever been able to have access to and now we're providing a real great opportunity for people to get reconnected with the stream, sit and read a book, and enjoy nature just right outside of the downtown," Bishop says. Mill Creek Park will also link up to the county's Border-to-Border trail system. "It's a great asset to local land and regional trail enthusiasts."

Source: Allison Bishop, community development manager for Dexter
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

Downtown Dexter fills storefronts, restaurants

As spring temps finally warm, downtown Dexter's vacancy rate is melting to near-zero.

With two new shops opening over the past couple of months and a pair of new eateries coming by mid-June to the historic downtown, only the Dexter Pharmacy building will be empty, says Allison Bishop, community development manager for the village of Dexter. The downtown is home to about 50 businesses.

The Lucky Haskins antique emporium and gift purveyor Modern Vintage opened earlier this spring; eats-wise, Loreen's Village Cafe and a branch of Ypsilanti-based Aubree's Pizzeria & Tavern are expected to fire up their kitchens in late May and mid-June, respectively.

Both restaurant properties are undergoing renovations. Loreen's Village Cafe will get new flooring and a general spruce-up, while Aubree's, which will occupy the defunct North Point Seafood & Steakhouse, is repositioning its bar, among other things, Bishop notes.

"[The former North Point restaurant] is a great space and a beautiful building right across from our main park that has all sorts of activities in the summer. I think that was just a matter of time before that space was scooped up."

In other news, the village is set to close on 8077 Forest Street, one block south of downtown, by the end of May. Bishop says the home on the parcel will likely be demoed. In September 2012 the village takes possession of an industrial site just to the west of 8077 Forest Street, which will likely be added into a larger, possibly mixed-use, redevelopment plan.

"We're going through a process right now to try to select a consultant to come up with some concepts for us to ultimately present to developers to see if they would be interested..." says Bishop.

Source: Allison Bishop, community development manager for the village of Dexter
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

Washtenaw County holds its own in the Green Communities Challenge

In what's deemed a friendly competition, the cities of Saline, Ypsilanti, and Ann Arbor, along with the village of Dexter, are taking part with roughly 90 other communities state-wide in the Michigan Municipal League (MML) Green Communities Challenge. The challenge began two years ago as a collaboration between the MML and the state to offer resources and information on eco-friendly activities and serve as a forum for local governments to share environmental intelligence.

Any unit of local government in the state is eligible to join, says Project Coordinator Luke Forrest. While the MML stops short of directly offering financial resources, "we work with the state and federal government and share information about finding resources and other sorts of assistance that's available, so it's a good way for a local government official or activist to really stay on top of the cutting edge in terms of what communities can do in order to be more environmentally sustainable."

Communities earn green brownie points for various qualifying activities. For instance, Ann Arbor is developing a comprehensive Sustainability Plan to meld over 20 documents the city has on environmental issues. "They'd be one of few cities in the state that have done something that ambitious," Forrest says.

Ann Arbor is also the first city to offer a Property-Assessed Clean Energy program, which allows it to finance energy efficiency improvements for private commercial buildings through public bond offerings. Property owners reimburse the city by spreading payments out via several years' worth of property tax bills.

In other examples, Dexter has replaced 124 streetlights downtown with LED lights.

Saline installed solar photovoltaic (PV) systems on the roof of its city hall, and also has a water protection education and tree planting and preservation programs.

Ypsilanti also has solar PV panels on its city hall. And it created an energy efficiency revolving loan fund to pay for future projects, including LEDs on Cross Street and in several city buildings.

"Washtenaw [County] definitely has a lot of leader communities in this area," Forrest notes.

In what officials hope will become an annual event, the MML will be hosting the Michigan Green Communities Conference in Lansing this fall to recognize exemplary work and serve as an information swap for local governing bodies.

Source: Luke Forrest, project coordinator for the Michigan Municipal League
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

$1 million grant program backs high-tech lighting

Southeast Michigan communities wanting to display the latest in lighting technologies have just over one week left to apply for grants to install LED, induction lighting, or plasma lighting demonstration projects.

The Michigan Energy Office has made a minimum of $1 million available to communities statewide, and expects to award about 15-20 grants in the range of $30,000 to $100,000 apiece. The application deadline is May 26, and communities must have their installations complete by June 30, 2012, says Jan Patrick, Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) program manager for the Michigan Energy Office (MEO).

The funds are the last of a nearly $20 million allocation for local government energy efficiency projects via the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and came about as the result of a round of grants made in 2010, some of which were subsequently returned to the MEO for various reasons. Potentially more than $1 million will be available, which would mean funding for a few more projects, Patrick notes.

"We don't want to send any of that scarce energy efficiency money back to Washington. We want it all used here," Patrick says.

The MEO chose advanced lighting as the focus of this new round, Patrick explains, because in the last round of grants for LED lighting demonstrations, five times as many communities filed applications as there was money to give. State officials also saw the opportunity to support a nascent industry in Michigan.

"The great thing is is seeing these half a dozen new industries - some of which were involved with the car industry, and they used to do lighting for taillights and headlights and so forth -  and they made the jump into municipal lighting," she notes. "… we chose lighting, in part because it was so popular before and we weren't able to meet the need, and in part because we saw the opportunity to stimulate the marketplace for these new companies that are still small and getting going."

Eligible demonstration projects include street lamps, traffic and crosswalk light signals, and lighting for parking structures and lots, as well as public building exteriors and interiors.

Says Patrick, "We're going to have communities pick and choose what kind of technologies they want to dabble in."

The following Washtenaw County communities took part in the $20 million EECBG grant program: The city of Ann Arbor received a $218,712 grant and leveraged another $84,000 to install demonstration LEDs. Ann Arbor Charter Township and Pittsfield Township expended $50,000 and $38,389, respectively, for energy audits and recommended energy conservation measures. Superior Township used $73,853 for energy audits and technical assistance follow-up. The village of Dexter installed $50,000 worth of LEDs.

Source: Jan Patrick, Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) program manager, Michigan Energy Office
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

Dexter plows ahead on $14 million brownfield redevelopment front

With developer BST Investments getting the all-clear from the Washtenaw County board of commissioners last week on an amendment to the brownfield redevelopment plan for the property at 2810 Baker Road in Dexter, another milestone in the $14 million project has been achieved.

The project involves demolition of three buildings on the site and the erecting of three new ones totaling 88,000 square feet, according to a review of the brownfield plan amendment. One of those, the Dexter Pharmacy, a mixed-use pharmacy and office building, was completed in 2010. A wellness center is forthcoming; the third will be a mixed-use structure, the nature of which is yet to be determined, says Brett Lenart, administrator of the Washtenaw County Brownfield Redevelopment Program.

Originally the project only used business tax credit incentives but the plan is now amended to provide for $312,000 in tax increment financing to support some additional demolition activities, Lenart says. He anticipates demolition and construction work will begin in late 2011 or 2012.

The undertaking is expected to retain 40 jobs and provide for 80 more.

Lenart says the project will "result in the removal of source contamination, it's going to be the removal of old buildings and replaced with an existing infrastructure network of new investment, in addition to the benefits of new businesses for the village of Dexter."

Sources: Brett Lenart, administrator of the Washtenaw County Brownfield Redevelopment Program; 2810 Baker brownfield plan amendment
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

Gordon Hall landmark gets a grand restoration plan

Gordon Hall, a circa-1840s manse with a suspected tie to the Underground Railroad, is getting the once-over from a team of consultants preparing a historic building rehabilitation master plan. The Dexter Area Historical Society & Museum (DAHSM) owned property sits on a 50-acre plot in Webster and Scio Townships but is visible from downtown Dexter, says Melissa Milton-Pung, a project manager with the Washtenaw County Department of Economic Development and Energy.

"I believe that there is a connection to the Underground Railroad - a lot of people do," Milton-Pung says. "It's just difficult to find documentation, obviously, for something that was so hidden during the time when it was active."

The work on the storied property is funded by a $14,752 grant from the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office along with a $10,000 grant from the Knight Foundation. Local architecture firm HopkinsBurns Design Studio won out over a dozen bidders to lead the project, which Milton-Pung expects will be completed this summer.

Katherine Dexter McCormick, an early supporter of birth control pill research and granddaughter of original owner Judge Samuel Dexter, for whom the village of Dexter is named, gifted the property to the University of Michigan in 1950. In 2000, the DAHSM purchased the 9,900-square-foot home from the university, which had divided it into four faculty apartments in the 1950s.

"In doing so...they gutted the entire interior, and so there is practically no original historic fabric left on the interior, and the exterior has been sided aluminum," explains Milton-Pung. "So there is a lot that needs to be done to assess the current condition of the property in terms of its historic integrity, but the property is not in disrepair."

The original central staircase and grand entry foyer were removed during the reconfiguration.

The team will have access to drawings done by U-M's first dean of architecture, Emile Lorch, (for whom Lorch Hall is named) and the Historic American Building Survey prior to its alteration, which Milton-Pung believes will be incorporated into the consultants' recommendations. Estimated rehab costs are unavailable but will be addressed in the plan.

Its purpose, she says, is to make recommendations for maintenance and restoration of the property for different possible uses. "There is some desire to have it as a house museum, and there is also some desire to make sure that we have it in a more active use so that people can continue to want to go there and not say, 'Oh, well, I've already been there.'" Gordon Hall has hosted weddings and other events, school trips, and it is also the site of a Civil War days commemorative event from June 10-12.

And the completed plan will be a mark of credibility behind future funding requests when it comes time to do the actual rehabilitation. Says Milton-Pung, "I have every confidence that major work will be taking place at the property over the next several years."

Source: Melissa Milton-Pung, project manager with the Washtenaw County Department of Economic Development and Energy
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

Washtenaw County's 6.8% pop. growth counters state's regional decline

Population trends in Washtenaw County are moving at crosscurrents with much of the region represented by the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG). Collectively over the last decade, the seven-county area lost 2.7% of its population, or 128,625 people, while Washtenaw County gained 22,021 residents, for a 6.8% increase, according to the 2010 U.S. Census figures. That growth rate was second only to that seen in Livingston County, which saw a 15.1% jump in residents.

"Washtenaw County has the advantage with the universities, and some of the other businesses...the economy is already more diversified than other parts of the region, and that is probably the biggest reason that Washtenaw County did better than the rest of the region," says Paul Tait, executive director of SEMCOG.

The county's two largest cities posted flat to declining numbers, with headcounts in Ann Arbor dropping .1% and Ypsilanti losing 12.6%. Much of the growth was in the townships and outlying communities, with the village of Dexter's 74% rise as the standout exception. The cities of Milan, Chelsea, and Saline gained 23%, 12.4% and 9.7%, respectively.

"These are good numbers for Washtenaw County," Tait says.

But maintenance and enhancement of the county's core infrastructure is still of concern. Tait points to U.S. 23, slated by the Michigan Department of Transportation for a major rebuild and widening - a project that will probably not be daylighted, for now. "We're driving more fuel efficient cars, and in part because of the economy, we're not driving as much. We're driving alternative fueled vehicles, hybrids and electric vehicles, so we're not getting the gas tax money that we need to again, even maintain what we've got."

Tait still calls the 6.8% rise "fairly sustainable growth". And that figure is lower than the overall U.S. population growth, a remarkable 9.7% over the decade. Much of that, he says, was due to immigration to the south and southwest to fill entry-level jobs not necessarily requiring a college degree. The Census Bureau will be releasing educational demographic data this fall.

By comparison, Tait says, "when you look at immigration in our region, it tends to be much more highly educated people with advanced degrees."

Source: Paul Tait, executive director of SEMCOG
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

More links coming to Border to Border Trail

The days of rutting along in covered wagons are gone, but alternative transportation is coming full circle. Over the next few months the Border to Border Trail will be getting a couple more links in what will ultimately be a 35-mile non-motorized path following the Huron River clear across Washtenaw County.

Construction has started on a half-mile segment of trail that will run from downtown Dexter to Warrior Creek Park, ford a new bridge over Mill Creek, and extend up to Huron Mills Metropark. The project cost is $500,000, a large part of which is the bridge construction. The county has also received grant funding to connect this new portion north for three miles all the way up through Hudson Mills Metropark – a project slated for 2012, says Coy Vaughn, superintendent of park planning for Washtenaw County.

And this summer a 1.5-mile path will be laid from the Wayne County border to tie into Lakeside Park in Ypsilanti Township. That segment will cost $300,000.

About 17-18 miles of the trail, made of 10-foot wide asphalt and boardwalks through wetland portions, has been completed thus far, Vaughn says.

In other developments, Washtenaw County is partnering with the city of Ypsilanti to write an application for a $300,000 grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund to build a bridge over the Huron River from Riverside Park to the Water Street area.

As the trail is non-vehicular, Vaughn says, "Right now we have a route around Ypsilanti that relies a lot on sidewalks and bike lanes. There is an alternative route, but the long term goal is to get it completely off-road. So that is a key link in the B2B Trail."

Source: Coy Vaughn, superintendent of park planning for Washtenaw County
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

Dexter's Mill Creek Park rises on banks of Mill Creek

The lay of the land at the newly approved Mill Creek Park project is rapidly unfolding with the Dexter Village Council's recent approval of the project's site plan. Approval from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is expected shortly.

"The village has been talking for probably 20 years about taking the [Mill Creek] dam out and making the reclaimed property into a park, so it's just the final steps in the vision that the village has had for at least a decade," says Allison Bishop, community development manager for the village of Dexter. The dam was removed in 2008.

The Mill Creek Park project, located south of the Main Street bridge and just west of the downtown along Mill Creek, is expected to cost in the range of $950,000 to $1.1 million, Bishop says.

The park's physical features include a circular trail network (it will spur off of
Washtenaw County's Border to Border Trail), boardwalks, a fishing and observation dock and non-motorized boat and canoe and kayak put-ins and take-outs above and below the Main Street Bridge, wetland enhancement areas, an amphitheater with natural stone outcroppings for seating, expanses of lawn, and enhancements to stormwater outlets currently on the site.

The project is funded by a $450,000 Natural Resources Trust Fund allocation, along with a $50,000 grant from the Waterways Infrastructure Program to aid in the boating access portion, Bishop says.

"We're doing a lot of the stream restoration so hopefully we can help stabilize the stream that's ever-changing because of the dam removal," she adds. The balance comes from a mix of county Border to Border Trail and village general funds and other restricted park funds.

The village is planning to put the project out for bids this month, Bishop says, and to start construction by May.

Allison Bishop, community development manager for the village of Dexter
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

Dexter adds a new cafe to its small and soon-to-be livelier downtown

With downtowns desiring to fill vacancies with active businesses that attract a steady stream of patrons, rather than, say, banks and offices that go dark in the evening, downtown Dexter's sole coffee shop is one of those "third places" where community apart from work and home life happens in this village of about 3,300 residents.

Rachel Shelley, who opened Joe and Rosie Coffee and Tea last November at 8074 Main Street, at the corner of Main and Broad, aims to bring a bit of the community together. In time for spring, she plans to stay open later in the evening, bring in live music and host poetry slams, and add outdoor seating. Shelley, who hails from England, plans on starting traditional English cream tea service soon. Also on the menu and not easily found elsewhere are flapjacks – crunchy bars of oats, brown sugar, butter, and golden syrup.

Joe and Rosie's is popular with cyclists, who rack their bikes outside, she says. And the shop will probably keep the lights on for 24 hours during the Cancer Relay For Life, the village's 24-hour walkathon taking place on May 14-15.

Since moving in Shelley hasn't made any significant alterations, preferring to keep the shop's Victorian-period architecture intact. "It's what people like. It's why they keep coming back," she says. "I want to keep it old-looking, in keeping, I think, with Dexter."

No new downtown development projects are in the pipeline, says Allison Bishop, Dexter's manager of community development, but Main Street is keeping an even keel. Of the approximately 22 businesses located downtown, two restaurants recently closed but two new businesses, Modern Vintage and an antique shop called Joyce's Acquisitions, opened the first week in March.

Sources: Rachel Shelley, owner of Joe and Rosie Coffee and Tea; Allison Bishop, manager of community development for the village of Dexter; 2007 U.S. Census Bureau estimate
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

Skate on Saline's ice rink this winter

Don't stay inside bundled up all winter -- dust off your old ice skates and head to downtown Saline for some cold-weather fun.

The city's portable ice-skating pool was set up last Thursday. "Now we're waiting for Mother Nature to work her magic, and make water ice," says Downtown Development Director Art Trapp.

Trapp explains that there was an ice rink in Henne Field years ago, and recently there's been a push to bring one back to Saline. The city did some research, including on the one the nearby village of Dexter has, and through some discretionary funding and a donation from the Rotary, the $5,000 was raised to put the rink in place.

The rink is 60 by 100 feet, located in the northeast corner of Henne Field, off Bennett Street. It was still liquid last week, needing a few days of cold weather to freeze it up yet. After it freezes, the ice has to be surfaced so it's smooth for skating.

Trapp says he hopes the rink will draw people outside into downtown, even if it is a little chilly outside. "It's something to do downtown," Trapp says. "Hopefully, it will draw people out, and people will go downtown and visit our stores and restaurants."

Skaters can click here and on the "events" link to get skating rink updates.

Source: Art Trapp, downtown development director for the city of Saline
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

Dexter lights up downtown with energy-efficient bulbs

Dexter hopes to save money in energy bills and light maintenance with the recent installation of 124 light-emitting diode bulbs downtown.

The village recently swapped the light pole bulbs for LEDs, considered to be among the best technology for conserving energy and heat. Most of the project was funded by energy efficiency block grants worth $50,000, to which the village contributed its own $20,000, explains Dexter assistant village manager Courtney Nicholls.

The LED light installation was due to not just grant support, but had already been discussed by the village council and the Dexter Downtown Development Authority. "It's an effective way for us to reduce our electric bills, and also our maintenance costs," she says.

Although the lights are covered under warranty for seven years, they should last closer to 15, and that means fewer trips up to replace them.

Another green project the village is considering for the future is participating in the Michigan Green Communities Challenge, run by the Michigan Municipal League, which gives municipalities ideas for operating with better energy efficiency.

Source: Courtney Nicholls, Dexter assistant village manager
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

Saline adopts Complete Streets resolution, Dexter not far behind

Nearly three months after Michigan adopted Complete Streets legislation, cities and villages are increasingly passing their own resolutions and ordinances to support making streets friendly to all users, wheeled or otherwise.

Saline was one of the first cities to support the legislation, voting unanimously in September to approve an ordinance. Also in the area, Novi adopted a resolution in August, Berkley passed one last month, and others are looking at them; Lansing is another Michigan city to pass an ordinance.

Todd Campbell, Saline's city manager, explained that the city council adopted a non-motorized pathway master plan a year ago. "It's important to the community," he says, pointing out that the city even has a healthy living group, Pick up the Pace Saline, or PUPS. "For the last number of years we've had community walks during the warmer months, and most any day in the morning or evening you see folks walking, running, exercising. That's been a very important quality of life in our past community surveys."

He points out that the city isn't required to make every street accessible to pedestrians -- roads with high traffic wouldn't be suitable for that, for example -- but they will consider it every time a street repair or reconstruction is done. Most projects will have some added cost, at the very least in additional engineering.

The village of Dexter's planning commission was expected to talk about the Complete Streets program at its Monday meeting, with a public hearing and possibly ordinance adoption before the end of November.

Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County both have non-motorized transit plans. Michigan,
the 14th state to do so, passed the legislature in August, .

A Complete Street means it's safe and convenient not only for car travel, but also for pedestrian and bicycle traffic, as well as accessible to public transportation. Cities are encouraged to incorporate sidewalks, bike lanes, special bus lanes, and crossing opportunities into road planning. Cycling and pedestrian advocates were on board with the legislation, but healthy living and senior advocates also benefit.

Source: Todd Campbell, Saline city manager; Michigan Complete Streets Coalition; village of Dexter
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

Dexter to link up to Border To Border Trail

If all goes according to plan, Dexter will boast the first part of its Border to Border trail this fall.

Most of the construction of the trail that is planned to span Washtenaw County has been focused in the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti area, but Dexter plans to build its first 800-foot segment this fall with a concrete path, bridge over Mill Creek, and elevated boardwalk, says Dexter community development manager Allison Bishop. Pending receipt of
a Michigan Department of Natural Resources permit, the go-ahead will be given.

Bishop hopes the trail will positively impact Dexter's economic development, as eventually it will connect to a subdivision with about 250 homes and no current direct walking access to downtown. "We think it's going to be a major trailhead for biking and walking," she says. "How great to go for a short walk, or a long walk, and then end up back downtown where you can go have dinner."

The second phase,
400 feet of elevated boardwalk through floodplains and wetlands, is due to be constructed next summer. Eventually, it will connect to Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority hike-bike trails and Dexter's own Mill Creek Park, creating that area's own network of non-motorized trails.

"We're really improving access to the Mill Creek corridor," Bishop says. "It's currently not accessible to anyone for recreation."

She's also hopeful the focus on parks will bring more of the boating community to the area -- Mill Creek park, especially. "It's going to start to become an activity and recreation hub for Dexter, and bring more people downtown," she says.

The Border to Border Trail will span Washtenaw County, roughly following the Huron River for 35 miles.

The Dexter portions of the trail are expected to cost right around $1 million; the village hopes to contribute its $450,000 in federal transportation funding, which could be available as early as next October. "We're happy about it and we want to support it," Bishop says.

Source: Allison Bishop, community development manager for the village of Dexter
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

Dexter finishes downtown streetscape work along Mill Creek

The final touches are going into the downtown Dexter's streetscape project along Mill Creek. And by final touches, we mean the flowers will be in the planters this weekend.

The village spent $831,000 over the last two years rebuilding one square block between Main, Broad, Jeffords and Forrest streets on the west side of downtown, overlooking Mill Creek. The upgrades include new streets, sewers, landscaping, sidewalks, lighting and other amenities.

But the most visible changes are the pedestrian-friendly features, such as new landscaping and sidewalks overlooking the new Mill Creek greenway. It represents the first time the downtown had embraced its waterfront, an asset it has turned its back on for years. Now its capitalizing on it with this project and the still-in-development Mill Creek Park project.

"It's going to get even better when we finish that up," says Donna Dettling, village manager for Dexter. "It will really bring people to the creek."

The current space features the new streetscape infrastructure overlooking a small green slope to the new rapidly running creek. The space was previously a bog area because of a century-old dam underneath the Dexter-Pinckney Road Bridge. That has now grown into a lush green space.

Village leaders plan to cultivate it into a low-impact park area that connects the downtown, creek and new bridge. Construction on that will begin next fall when village workers regrade the area and then build out the park next year.

The bulk of the work will be done next summer," says Allison Bishop, community development director of the village of Dexter

Source: Donna Dettling, village manager for Dexter and Allison Bishop, community development director of the village of Dexter
Writer: Jon Zemke

Washtenaw County invests $3M in trail network expansion

Washtenaw County plans to invest $3 million in expanding the county's trails, pathways and other pedestrian/bicycling routes. The Connecting Communities program plans to give out $600,000 worth of grants each of those five years.

"Trails are the most popular thing we do," says Coy Vaughn, superintendent of park planning for Washtenaw County. "When we do a survey of things we should spend our money on, trails are always on the top of our list."

The county approved four applications (six applied) for this year's allocation. Those projects include:

-    $300,000 for Pittsfield Township so it can build a 2.38 mile trail along Lohr and Textile Roads linking Ann Arbor to Saline. The $1 million project will connect local neighborhoods to Teft Park and the Saline Community Recreation Center.
-    $120,000 for Northfield Township so it can build the first of three phases of a trail that will connect Whitmore Lake Elementary School to neighborhoods along Barker Road. The first phase of the $600,000 project will build 260 feet of boardwalk over local wetlands. Local officials hope to extend the trail to downtown, the township hall and the library.
-    $100,000 for Ypsilanti Township that will use the money to build the first of two phases of a half-mile trail along Textile Road. The $200,000 project, which is part of the Border-to-Border Trail, will connect Lakeside Park to an existing trail at Huron River Drive.
-    $80,000 for Chelsea, which plans to build a 950-foot trail segment along old U.S. 12. That $225,000 trail, mostly a boardwalk, will connect the trail system of the Pierce Lake Golf Course with adjacent neighborhoods, schools and a commercial district.  

The Connecting Communities program will focus on helping finish the Border to Border Trail. So far 17 of the proposed 35 miles are operational. The trail runs east/west through Washtenaw County connecting Livingston and Wayne counties. The program is also looking for bike lane, crosswalk and other non-motorized projects that can help connect local communities.

"They like a system connecting the parks so they can use it for transportation and recreation," Vaughn says.

Source: Coy Vaughn, superintendent of park planning for Washtenaw County
Writer: Jon Zemke

Renovation planned for old Dexter Pharmacy building

Dexter Pharmacy won't be coming back to downtown Dexter, but that doesn't mean something bigger and better won't replace it soon.

The Schmid family, owners of a number of local pharmacies in the Dexter-Ann Arbor area, plans to consolidate its Dexter-area pharmacies into one new location on Baker Road. In the mean time the old Dexter Pharmacy retail space is being cleaned up and prepared for a new tenant.

"We don't want to leave it as a boarded up building in downtown any longer than we have to," says Marni Schmid, director of operations for Dexter Pharmacy.

The building at 8059 is being renovated on the interior right now and is being prepared for an exterior renovation complete with brick façade and big windows. The 3,500-square-foot building has served as a pharmacy for its entire life. Originally it was McLeod's Pharmacy until the early 1980s when Marni Schmid's father Fred Schmid bought it.

The family is now consolidating its Dexter pharmacies (the Village Pharmacy II in Ann Arbor will remain as is) to a 2-story building on Baker Road near Bates Elementary School. The stand-alone building comes complete with a drive-thru, the pharmacy on the ground floor and medical office space on the second floor. Work on that project began in December and should be finished by October.

Source: Marni Schmid, director of operations for Dexter Pharmacy
Writer: Jon Zemke

Dexter prepares for 1st phase of Mill Creek Park project

The village of Dexter is making preparations for construction on the first phase of the Mill Creek Park project this summer.

The village has roped in a $450,000 grant and is working out the permit process with the state so it can begin construction. Look for shovels to start digging into the ground in July.

"It's moving forward," says Donna Dettling, village manager for Dexter.

The plan calls for a combination of urban park with recreational resources and natural areas filled with trees, shrubs and small woodland creatures. The concept is the work of Ann Arbor-based JJR. The first phase calls for working on the section by downtown between the Dexter-Pinckney Road bridge and the cemetery.

The park will run alongside approximately one mile of the east bank of Mill Creek between Warrior Creek Park and Shield Road. It will be integrated into the city's proposed river walk, highlighting the section of Mill Creek that borders downtown.The idea behind the park is to open up the creek to more village residents and downtown patrons.

Source: Donna Dettling, village manager for Dexter
Writer: Jon Zemke

Legacy Land Conservancy expects big year in 2010 for green belts

The Legacy Land Conservancy finished 2009 strong but expects to easily out flex that performance early this year.

The conservancy --think of it as the non-profit greenbelt for Washtenaw and Jackson counties-- closed five deals in the closing weeks of 2009. That means a little less than 200 acres of woods, farms and wild areas are now protected from development because the conservancy controls their development rights.

"We have projects moving forward now," says Susan Lackey, executive director of the Legacy Land Conservancy, formerly the Washtenaw Land Trust. "In the first quarter or half of 2010 we expect to make or exceed that number."

Those deals will protect high-priority acreage, meaning property that is farmland, near the Huron River or near the Pinckney and Waterloo recreation areas.

Source: Susan Lackey, executive director of the Legacy Land Conservancy
Writer: Jon Zemke

AATA pilot project gets real-time bus info to riders

Few things are as depressing as waiting and waiting and waiting in inclement weather for a bus named Godot, ...except, of course, watching your bus pull away just as you get to the bus stop.

The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority is trying to eliminate such things with a new pilot program via Shepherd Intelligent Systems. The University of Michigan spin-off is testing technology that would let users see exactly where buses are located in real time.

"This is really focused around the riders," says Adrian Fortino, CEO of Shepherd Intelligent Systems.

The mobile technology lets bus riders see the real-time location of the bus they want to catch through active maps on a website or smart phone application. It also supplies accurate predictions (within a minute) of when a bus will arrive at its stop using text messages. The technology comes from the Magic Bus program U-M uses for its buses.

The pilot program will focus on Route #6 for the rest of this year. It could be spread throughout the rest of the AATA bus system next year.

Source: Adrian Fortino, CEO of Shepherd Intelligent Systems
Writer: Jon Zemke

Doors open on new Jolly Pumpkin brewery in Ann Arbor

There is one more place to drink a microbrew or two in downtown now that Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales has opened the doors on its new Ann Arbor location.

The Dexter-based craft brewery took over the old Peppers bar space at 311 S Main St. The focus is decidely on food, but there will be some beer brewed onsite in a small three-barrel brewing system.

"It's really cool," says Daemon Jefferies, head of packaging at Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales. "The food is really good. They have one of the best burgers I have ever had."

The new space offers two floors of seating for up to 160 people indoors, including two bar areas and a room in the back for private parties. There will also be a roof-top deck and patio area with additional seating. The deck is set to open later this fall.

The locally famous microbrew's Dexter operations are for production only. Most craft breweries combine both a restaurant and production brewery. There are plans to add a tap room to the Dexter facility later this year to accommodate tourists who want see where most of the beer is brewed.

Source: Daemon Jefferies, head of packaging at Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales
Writer: Jon Zemke

Dexter Pharmacy goes for new mixed-use building

The Dexter Pharmacy is angling for a new multi-purpose home in the village.

Dexter-based A.R. Brouwer is proposing to build an 22,000-square-foot multi-use building on Baker Road. The 2-story building would replace the old Color Box site.

The first floor would feature retail space for the pharmacy. The second floor would be dedicated to office space.

The Village Council is considering the proposal and needs to sign off on it before construction can begin.

Source: Allison Bishop, assistant village manager for Dexter
Writer: Jon Zemke

Akasha Crystals fills out Ann Arbor's 101 N Main

Akasha Crystals has come a long ways since Adam Kasha started selling decorative glass and stone products for home decor from the back of his car as a student at the University of Michigan.

That was in 1988, when he took a $5,000 loan from his parents and paid his rent late to go into business. Today, Akasha Crystals, soon to become Akasha US Inc., is a $20 million company, growing and moving into One North Main building in downtown Ann Arbor. The new space is meant to serve as the launching pad for some big growth.

"It's really time for us to spread our wings,"
Kasha says. "We have been building up and now is the time."

The company, which sells
decorative glass and stone products to the likes of Target and Pier 1 Imports, employs about 20 people, has a separate Chinese arm and uses three third-party warehouses in Ann Arbor, Dexter and California. It will occupy the entire third floor of the One North Main Building, along with some extra storage space on the fourth floor.

This is the first time One North Main, 101 N Main St, has been full. The 11-story high-rise has gone through a number of owners since it was built in 1989. The mixed-use building houses retail space on the first floor, office space on the middle levels, and residential overlooking the corner of Main Street and Huron Avenue above that.

Akasha Crystals was already located in downtown and had three showrooms spread across the area. The move to One North Main allows it to unify its products into one showroom, along with conference rooms and offices for each employee. Akasha Crystals expects to grow into the space as it marches toward becoming a $50 million firm within the next few years.

"We could double the staff of the company," Kasha says.

Source: Adam Kasha, president and founder of Akasha Crystals
Writer: Jon Zemke

Washtenaw County moves toward establishing land bank

The Washtenaw County Land Bank is about to become a reality within the next few weeks.

The county treasurer, Catherine McClary, is pushing the paperwork forward to make it official by September. Properties could be put back on tax rolls as early as October.

Land banks are becoming the governmental tool du jour to handle blighted and abandoned buildings remaining from the foreclosure crisis. Genesee County has turned its land bank into a nationally recognized tool to right-size the shrinking metropolitan Flint area. It is advising Washtenaw County on setting up its own land bank.

The new land bank will host two public meetings in September on what type of policies it will employ and how it will be incorporated. It will carry a seven-member board that will create the bylaws, articles of incorporation and policies in September.

The board will include the Washtenaw County Treasurer and Sheriff, a representative from the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners, the mayors of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, the supervisor of Ypsilanti Township, and the supervisor of one of the county's western townships.

Source: Catherine McClary, Washtenaw County Treasurer
Writer: Jon Zemke

Jolly Pumpkin plans to open location in downtown Ann Arbor

Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales is happy to announce an expansion into downtown Ann Arbor.

The Dexter-based microbrew plans to take over the old Peppers bar space at 311 S Main St. The idea is to open a eatery side to the business, complementing its traditional beer production facilities in Dexter.

"It's an additional unit we're adding," says Ron Jefferies, owner, founder and brewer of Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales. "It's a restaurant with a small brewery but most of the beer is coming from Dexter."

The locally famous microbrew's Dexter operations are for production only. Most craft breweries combine both a restaurant and production brewery. Jefferies plans to add a tap room to the Dexter facility later this year to accommodate tourists who want see where most of the beer is brewed.

The Ann Arbor location is set to open in mid September. Jeffries choose downtown Ann Arbor for its vibrancy and how it has become the area's primary dinning destination.

"It's really about location and downtown Ann Arbor is a great location for a restaurant," Jeffries says.

Source: Ron Jeffries, owner, founder and brewer of Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales
Writer: Jon Zemke

Dexter begins to nail down grants for Mill Creek Plaza

Dexter Village officials are starting to line up and knock down grants to build the Mill Creek Park.

The village recently nailed down a $48,000 grant that requires a $48,000 match. It also applied for about $1 million more in grants, including a competitive, $500,000 Michigan Natural Resource Trust Fund grant. Decisions on these grants are expected to be handed down by the holiday season.

The village is planning to spend $5 million to develop the Mill Creek Park along the west side of downtown over a number of years. The first phase of that plan, designed by Ann Arbor-based JJR, could begin construction as early as next year.

The park will run alongside approximately one mile of the east bank of Mill Creek between Warrior Creek Park and Shield Road. It will be integrated into the city's proposed river walk, highlighting the section of Mill Creek that borders downtown.

The idea behind the park is to open up the creek to more village residents and downtown patrons. The creek has turned into a mud-filled pond over the years as the old damn under the Main Street bridge has aged. The Washtenaw County Road Commission is tearing out that damn, rebuilding the bridge and the creek.

Source: Courtney Nicholls, spokeswoman for the village of Dexter
Writer: Jon Zemke

Work on Dexter's Main Street Bridge wraps up

Just about all that is left to do on the Dexter's Main Street Bridge is fasten some handrails and put a bow on it. The village-that-wants-to-be-a-city will soon have a nice new shiny gift from the Washtenaw County Road Commission.

"Everybody seems happy with the way the bridge turned out," says Aaron Berkholz, construction superintendent with the Washtenaw County Road Commission. "It's much better than the dilapidated bridge that had been there."

That bridge had fallen into such disrepair that even its pot holes had pot holes. More importantly, the 100-year-old dam beneath it had stopped functioning as it was intended. The road commission ripped out the dam last year, restoring the tributary of the Huron River to its original state of semi-fast rapids and making way for a new riverside park on the edge of downtown.

Road Commission workers finished up the work this spring. Even grass is growing alongside the new bridge. They expect to wrap up the last detail or two of work in early July, provided the weather cooperates.

The new $2.5 million bridge accommodates both motorized and non-motorized traffic. There are still two-lanes for cars, along with bike lanes and sidewalks for pedestrians.

Source: Aaron Berkholz, construction superintendent with the Washtenaw County Road Commission
Writer: Jon Zemke

Work nearly done on Broad St storefronts in Dexter

The road to renovation hasn't been the easy for two storefronts on Broad Street in downtown Dexter, but the bottom line is what really counts. The good news is that work on the storefronts, 3126 and 3115 Broad, is nearly done. The owner is putting the finishing touches on them.

"It turned out a lot better that I thought it would," says Randy Willis, owner of 3115 and 3126 Broad. "My masonry company went bankrupt halfway through the job."

That means it took many times longer to finish the new façade and awning job than expected, but Willis says everyone is paid and happy and the job is "98 percent finished." The new occupants of the late 19th Century industrial buildings are also 96-98 percent moved in, filling up the space.

"I'm 100 percent leased," Willis says.

The diverse group of businesses are occupying them. An off-Broadway musical company is in 3126 Broad's 8,500 square feet while several other businesses are in 3115 Broad. They include Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales and Dexter School of Martial Arts in the 3115 Broad's 12,000 square feet.

The two buildings have had varied pasts, serving as the home for bus garages, beer-and-wine distributors, a dye-and-stamping shop and a bean sprouts grow house.

Source: Randy Willis, owner of 3115 and 3126 Broad Street
Writer: Jon Zemke

Work set to begin again on Dexter Main Street bridge

Think of this as the home stretch for the Main Street bridge project in downtown Dexter.

The Washtenaw County Road Commission plans to begin work on the bridge reconstruction in early April and wrap the whole project up before the end of May.

"We expect to be completed with the work in approximately 4-6 weeks," says Aaron Berkholz, construction superintendent with the Washtenaw County Road Commission.

Last year workers spent their time removing the 100-year-old dam underneath the bridge, tearing out the old bridge and putting in a replacement -all while allowing traffic to pass. This spring is all about tying up the loose ends.

Work crews will be sealing and staining the exterior concrete surfaces, putting the ornamental steel rail on the concrete barrier walls and placing ornamental sandstone caps on the wall columns. Grading, landscaping and remaining road work will also be done this spring.

The new $2.5 million bridge will accommodate both motorized and non-motorized traffic. There will still be two-lanes for cars, along with bike lanes and sidewalks for pedestrians.
Source: Aaron Berkholz, construction superintendent with the Washtenaw County Road Commission
Writer: Jon Zemke

Construction wraps up on Dexter library, March opening set

At long last, books in Dexter have a new home. The new Dexter District Library is finished.

Construction workers are putting the finishing touches on the new building while movers begin to move the library's stacks into their new home. Library officials are planning for an early March opening.

"It's all sort of hitting us pretty fast but it's great," says Paul McCann, library director for the Dexter District Library.

The new building is in downtown Dexter, 3255 Alpine Street, and overlooks Warrior Creek Park and the Mill Creek bridge. The $7.8 million structure measures out at 25,000-square-feet and two stories. It features more space for books and other materials, studying and reading space and meeting rooms. There will also be computer rooms and wireless Internet access for library patrons.

There will be expanded computer resources, significantly more study space, a quiet reading area and more comfortable seating throughout the building. The meeting room space will comfortably accommodate 200 people without the moving book stacks to free up space, which must be done in the current library.

It replaces the 4,200-square-foot old library, formerly the Methodist Church Education Building, it moved into in 1996. The future of the old building has been tossed around ever since the library announced it was moving.

The village at one time intended to move its offices into it, and is still considering that option. McCann says the library is also looking at selling the building to DISS Data by the time it moves into its new home.

Source: Paul McCann, library director for the Dexter District Library
Writer: Jon Zemke

Dexter moves forward with plans for Mill Creek Park

Dexter officials now have an idea of what the new Mill Creek Park will look like and they hope to start construction on it sometime next year.

The plan calls for a combination of urban park with recreational resources and natural areas filled with trees, shrubs and small woodland creatures. The concept is the work of Ann Arbor-based JJR. Village officials plan to add more design details this year while applying for state funding.

"It could change once we get into the design phase," says Allison Bishop, community development director of the village of Dexter.

The park will run alongside approximately one mile of the east bank of Mill Creek between Warrior Creek Park and Shield Road. It will be integrated into the city's proposed river walk, highlighting the section of Mill Creek that borders downtown.

The idea behind the park is to open up the creek to more village residents and downtown patrons. The creek has turned into a mud-filled pond over the years as the old damn under the Main Street bridge has aged. The Washtenaw County Road Commission is tearing out that damn, rebuilding the bridge and the creek.

Source: Allison Bishop, community development director for the village of Dexter
Writer: Jon Zemke

Dexter to discuss five potential sites for new village hall

First there were eleven, and then there were three and now the Dexter Village Council is back up to five options for the Village Hall.

Even though the options seem to fluctuate from more to less and then more again, one thing is consistent.

"I think there is a general consensus that they want to stay downtown," says Donna Dettling, village manager for Dexter.

The options as of now are as follows:

- Expanding the fire and police station on 8140 Main St. The $3 million project would triple the size of the 5,000-square-foot structure, building additions to the Alpine Street side and a new fire truck bay.

- Renovating the old Tupper Property on Broad Street. The DDA announced plans to purchase and redevelop last year.

- Renovating the old Dexter Library building. The Village Council started to follow through on this project in early 2008 but decided against it.

- Leasing space in the new Mill Creek Terrace building. That structure is set to be built on the western edge of downtown next year.

- Buy and revamp the old Cottage Inn structure on the east side of downtown adjacent to Monument Park. That building is mostly vacant except for one attorney's office there.

The Village Council plans to discuss these potential sites at its meeting Monday night.

Source: Donna Dettling, village manager for Dexter
Writer: Jon Zemke

Northern United Brewing seeks microbrewery prominence

Bell's and Motor City have long been considered the mainstays of Michigan's microbrewery world. Northern United Brewing hopes to add its name to that list.

The micro-brewery received a $1.1 million tax credit from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to expand its operations in Ann Arbor, Traverse City and Dexter. The company currently owns North Peak Brewing Co. in Traverse City, Jolly Pumpkin Brewing in Dexter, along with Ann Arbor's Grizzly Peak, Café Habana and Blue Tractor restaurants.

Northern United plans to use the money to expand its operations in those spaces and create 158 jobs within the next five years, including 67 in its first year. It had been looking at other sites in Ohio and Indiana.

Source: Elizabeth Parkison, Ann Arbor SPARK
Writer: Jon Zemke

Downtown Dexter wraps up streetscape improvements for this year

The last of the concrete for downtown Dexter's streetscape improvement is being poured this week.

The village is spending $731,000 to upgrade one square block between Main, Broad, Jeffords and Forrest streets. The upgrades include new streets, sewers, landscaping, sidewalks, lighting and other amenities.

The project is on the west side of its downtown, overlooking the Huron River. The 2-phase project will finish up next year and will complement the adjacent bridge and dam replacement development.

Next year the village plans to install the last of the light poles, plant trees and add more parking spaces. The idea is to create a walkable and aesthetically pleasing space to complement the rest of downtown's main drags.

Source: Carey Baker, principal of Beckett & Raeder
Writer: Jon Zemke

Preservationists work to restore Dexter's landmark Gordon Hall

Dexter's best-known historical structure is taking its first steps on the long road to restoration.

The Dexter Historical Society is raising money to replace the roof of Gordon Hall, just west of downtown. Original estimates put roof and chimney repairs at $100,000. That figure was reduced to $30,000 when it became apparent that the chimneys wouldn't have to be rebuilt.

So far the society has raised $19,000 and hopes to finish fundraising soon. The society has already purchased the home and surrounding acreage for $1.5 million, replaced the front porch and cleaned up the grounds and surrounding farmland.

"That's 67 acres that have been farmed ever since the house was built," says Paul Bishop, chair of the Gordon Hall Committee for the Dexter Historical Society. "The historical society wanted to preserve it and the acreage."

Judge Dexter, who founded Dexter, built the grand white house in 1841. He lived there for 12 years and the house remained in his family until 1899 when his third wife died. One of Judge Dexter's granddaughters bought it in 1939 and restored it.

The University of Michigan purchased the property in 1950 and turned it into four apartments. The society bought it in 2006 with the idea of restoring it to its mid 1800s grandeur.

"We want to eventually turn it back to what it was in 1865," Bishop says. "That takes a lot of money."

It will cost somewhere in the area of $35,000 and $40,000 just to create a master plan for the property, which is the next step after the roof is replaced. Once done, local leaders see the property serving as a great asset for the village.

"We think it's going to be as important to us as Central Park is to New York," Bishop says. "It's 67 acres that's going to be preserved."

Source: Paul Bishop, chair of the Gordon Hall Committee for the Dexter Historical Society
Writer: Jon Zemke

First two homes of Cedars of Dexter retirement development done

Some thing old. Something new. Both are just outside downtown Dexter.

The United Methodist Retirement Communities have finished building the first two homes of the The Cedars of Dexter development. The rest will be built once the development has secured 36 deposits on the homes.

"We hope to have our first residents move in by the winder of 2010," says Stacey Olson, director of marketing and public relations for United Methodist Retirement Communities

The project calls for 60 craftsman-style houses on 15 acres in an old farm field just on the other side of train tracks of downtown Dexter. The single-family homes will range in size from 1,500 to 1,900 square feet and come with an attached garage. The smaller will have two bedrooms and two bathrooms. The larger will have all of that and a den.

There will also be a clubhouse in the development that comes with room for a spa, casual and fine dinning and life-learning studio space.

The homes range in price between $189,000 and $309,000, along with an entry fee.

Source: Stacey Olson, director of marketing and public relations for United Methodist Retirement Communities
Writer: Jon Zemke

Main Street Bridge gets ready to reopen in downtown Dexter

The second half of Dexter’s Main Street Bridge is about to come online. Workers at the Washtenaw County Road Commission plan to begin building the rest of the bridge deck next week. If all goes well and snow stays out of the forecast, county officials expect to reopen the entire bridge by the end of November.

"We're thinking traffic will be allowed in the full width of the bridge right around the first week of December," says Aaron Berkholz, construction superintendent with the Washtenaw County Road Commission.

The road commission has been rebuilding the old, worn out bridge for most of this year. It began by tearing out the century-old dam beneath before workers refurbished half of the bridge. The other side was left open to allow for traffic to pass.

Once the first half was finished, the road commission directed motorists to the new half and began tearing out the other side. The entire project is expected to wrap up next spring when the road commission adds some finishing touches, such as paint and landscaping.

The bridge is part of a major artery into Dexter, just west of downtown. The decades-old structure had worn down to the point where its pot holes had pot holes. The dam below had ceased to be useful, accumulating sediment at one end of the creek. Removal of the dam will allow for the marsh like area to be drained and a river walk to be installed on the west side of downtown.

Source: Aaron Berkholz, construction superintendent with the Washtenaw County Road Commission
Writer: Jon Zemke

Border to Border trail expansion projects set for 2010, 2013

Big improvements are in the near future for Washtenaw County's Border to Border Trail.

The Washtenaw County Road Commission's 5-year Capital Improvement Plan calls for building two sections along the 35-mile trail in the next five years.

The plan first calls for constructing a section between Hudson Mills and Dexter in 2010. That will cost $1.474 million. A second section between Dexter and a Delhi Mills Metropark is set for 2013. The price tag for that is $800,000.

About 15 miles of the 35-mile trail, stretching from the northwest corner of the county to the southeast corner, is done. The trail runs through Dexter, Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti with the latest additions coming in Ypsi.

There are completed segments in Ypsilanti, Dexter and Ann Arbor. Maps of those open trails can be found here.

The idea behind the Border to Border Trail is not only to provide recreational options in the county, but also create another path for economic opportunity. Supporters say the trail will serve as way to connect users to the cities (and their businesses) the trail passes through.

Source: Washtenaw County Road Commission
Writer: Jon Zemke

Old industrial buildings in downtown Dexter get new leases on life

Just because a building is old doesn’t mean it can't be beautiful. That's what Randy Willis is about to prove in downtown Dexter.

The landlord plans to take two late 19th Century industrial buildings on Broad Street and turn them into showcase structures. One, 3126 Broad, will serve as the new home to an off-Broadway musical company. The other, 3115, will serve as the home for several small businesses.

Both buildings will receive new brick facades, complete with awnings. Willis wants them to complement the other historic downtown structures that are currently being restored, the new ones that are going up and the streetscape improvements being put into place along Broad Street.

"Dexter is changing dramatically," Willis says. "It's such a dynamic little community and it's so vibrant."

The two buildings have had varied pasts, serving as the home for bus garages, beer-and-wine distributors, a dye-and-stamping shop and a bean sprouts grow house.

The Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales and Dexter School of Martial Arts are just a couple of the well-known names that occupy the 12,000 square feet of 3115 Broad. Encore Productions will move into the 8,500 square feet of 3126 Broad in October and hold a grand opening later this year.

Both buildings will also receive a number of infrastructure upgrades, such as fire protection and new water and sewer connections. The $150,000 renovation project is expected to be done by the end of November.

Source: Randy Willis, owner of 3115 and 3126 Broad Street
Writer: Jon Zemke

Dexter narrows new city hall options to three

Dexter has narrowed the options for its new home to three plans, but it hasn't gotten much beyond that yet.

The Village Council is debating between expanding its police and fire station into a new city hall, buying the old Pilot property or going back to buying the old Dexter Library.

"The board is not really focused on one thing or another yet," says Donna Dettling, village manager for Dexter. "There are still a lot of options on the table."

Expanding the fire and police station on 8140 Main St. would include tripling the size of the 5,000-square-foot structure. The $3 million project would build additions to the Alpine Street side and a new fire truck bay to the century-old building.

The village is also looking at buying the old Pilot industrial building on Grand Street. The $5-$7 million project would reconfigure part of the 90,000-square-foot structure and rent the rest of it out.

Building a new 5,000-square-foot building on vacant land was also discussed. However, doing that would cost at least $1.2 million, which does not include land acquisition costs. The village also still hasn’t ruled out buying and revamping the old Dexter Library building.

The Village Council plans to hold a public meeting at 7 p.m. Oct. 16 in the Dexter Senior Center, 7720 Arbor St., to find out which option village residents prefer.

Source: Donna Dettling, village manager for Dexter
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ypsilanti opens new and improved Border to Border Trail

Washtenaw County's Border to Border Trail may still have some large gaps but work on it is moving forward.

About 15 miles of the 35-mile trail, stretching from the northwest corner of the county to the southeast corner, is done. The trail runs through Dexter, Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti with the latest additions coming in Ypsi.

Aproximately one mile of trail, adjacent to Eastern Michigan University from Hewitt Road to Cornell Street, is now open after being repaved in August. That section, where an old railroad bed was converted into trail, is arguably the oldest rail trail in Michigan. The former rail line connected Ypsilanti to Saline.
There are also completed segments in Dexter and Ann Arbor. Maps of those open trails can be found here.

Washtenaw County is also hoping to bridge several miles of the Dexter and Ann Arbor trail but plans are being held up by the state, which needs to approve a bridge over a small waterway.

The idea behind the Border to Border Trail is not only to provide recreational options in the county, but also create another path for economic opportunity. Supporters say the trail will serve as way to connect users to the cities (and their businesses) the trail passes through.

Source: Richard Kent, park planner for Washtenaw County and Bob Krzewinski, member of the Friends of the Border To Border Trail
Writer: Jon Zemke

Bearclaw coffee renovates and expands in Chelsea

Bearclaw Coffee adds another notch in its belt, expanding into Chelsea as it plans for growth throughout southeast Michigan.

The Chelsea-based coffee company bought one of its franchise stores on Old U.S. 12 near the Fletcher Road exit to I-94 just outside of Chelsea in June. Since then it has reworked the 1,800 square foot space into a corporate boardroom and model store for the franchise.

The new space will be used for board meetings and as the base for Bearclaw University, the week-long orientation that franchise partners attend before setting up their store.

"We do all of our franchise training in that store," says Casey Hurst, director of franchise operations for Bearclaw Coffee.

Bearclaw Coffee started six years ago with a store just north of Dexter. It has since grown to 26 franchises throughout southeast Michigan with three more on the way.

Source: Casey Hurst, director of franchise operations for Bearclaw Coffee
Writer: Jon Zemke

Work crews to pour concrete for first half of Dexter Mill Creek Bridge

The beams are in, the damn is out and work on the new Dexter Main Street is quickly coming to a head. Workers are expected to begin pouring concrete soon so they can open up the first half of the new bridge in about two weeks.

"We're in the process of forming up the new deck," says Aaron Berkholz, construction superintendent with the Washtenaw County Road Commission.

That's construction speak for they're making preparations to pour the concrete road portion of the bridge. Once it is poured and has dried for a little more than a week, half of the bridge will reopen to traffic in both directions.

Then the Road Commission will begin working on the other half of the bridge, which they expect to be travel ready by November. Some painting and landscaping work will be done in the spring to finish off the project.

The Mill Creek Bridge is begin replaced because the old one was, well, falling apart. Potholes were forming in pothole patching on the old bridge and the almost 100-year-old dam underneath ceased to serve a useful purpose.
The county is replacing the bridge and removing the dam as part of a multi-million-dollar project. It will also significantly alter an adjacent pond, opening up the sediment-filled area into a river walk-style park.

The new bridge will accommodate both motorized and non-motorized traffic. There will still be two-lanes for car, along with bike lanes and sidewalks for pedestrians.
Source: Aaron Berkholz, construction superintendent with the Washtenaw County Road Commission
Writer: Jon Zemke

Dexter residential home first in state to win platinum LEED certification

To say Dexter is just getting in on the green building craze wouldn't be fair. One Dexter-area home builder was building environmentally friendly buildings well before they were commonly known as green.

"We've been green building for 12 years," says Bob Burnside, owner of Fireside Home Construction. "It's nothing new for us."

But the company's model home is something new to Washtenaw County. It was the first local residence to receive platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environment Design rating system. There is no higher level of recognition than platinum.

The structure was the first house in the state to achieve platinum status and the 12th in the nation. Now builders left and right are jumping on the green building bandwagon, trying to keep up with the precedent Fireside help set.

Among the house's green credentials are a geothermal heating and cooling system, insulated concrete forms and a 2-kilowatt solar panel system that satisfies 20 percent of the home's electrical needs. See a Youtube video of the house here.

"Virtually everything put into this building was considered from a green standpoint," Burnside says.

The company is using the 4,000-square-foot house as a model for potential customers. It also serves as the firm's offices and provides some storage room.

Want to see a video created by the home builders? Click the YouTube video below.

Source: Bob Burnside, owner of Fireside Home Construction
Writer: Jon Zemke

Dexter Village Hall search begins anew, six sites under consideration

To go downtown or not to go downtown? That's a question that has been pretty much answered as Dexter officials renew their search for a new home for the village hall.

The village had planned to buy the old Dexter Library just outside downtown earlier this year but backed off that idea. The Village Council now has toured 10 possible sites for a new village hall, all but one of which is downtown. Of those 10 sites, six are still being considered and those six are in the central business district.

"We're talking about finding an architecture and design firm to help us," says Courtney Nicholls, assistant village manager for Dexter.

Among those still under consideration are 3238 Broad Street, 8005 Main Street, 8140 Main, 7931 Grand Street and a vacant lot on Baker Road.

The current village hall is on the second floor of the National City Bank building in downtown where it has 2,000 square feet without a meeting space. Currently the village uses the local senior center as its meeting space.

Source: Courtney Nicholls, assistant village manager for Dexter
Writer: Jon Zemke

Dexter moves to establish arts, culture and heritage committee

To Dexter Village Councilman Paul Cousins, arts and culture is all about the bottom line.


Economics is the reason he has pushed for an arts, culture and heritage committee in his hometown. He recently got his wish when the Village Council established that committee and he hopes it will help put some money into local pockets.


"There is a lot of evidence that for every dollar you put into art in the community, $7 comes back in investment," Cousins says. "It brings a lot of money into the area.


Even though the new committee is finding its feet and defining its purpose, it will focus on bringing more public art into the village, specifically the downtown area. It will also help bring in more cultural groups to help enhance the overall arts scene.


A number of other cities across southeast Michigan and the nation have policies and committees to encourage public art and promote the local art scene. Ann Arbor has been one of the major promoters of such causes in Michigan. The city is looking into creating a 1 percent program that would require developers to devote 1 percent of a new building's budget to installing public art on it.


Right now, Dexter's committee is in the "idea generation phase," according to Courtney Nicholls, the assistant village manager for Dexter. The village is looking for volunteers to serve on the committee and aide. For information, call Nicholls at (734) 426-8303.


Source: Courtney Nicholls, assistant village manager for Dexter and Paul Cousins, village councilman for Dexter
Writer: Jon Zemke

Dexter begins planning for park along Mill Creek

Mill Creek, the murky waterway most people in downtown Dexter ignored for decades is about to become a central part of the village's core.


The Village has hired Ann Arbor-based JJR to help create a preliminary design for a linear park along Mill Creek. The park is planned for the east banks of the creek between Warrior Creek Park and Shield Road.


"We're at the very, very beginning of the process," says Allison Bishop, community development director of the village of Dexter.


That means village officials have a concept for the park but not much else. They hope to finish a conceptual design early next year before going for state money in April to build it.


The idea behind the park is to open up the creek to more village residents and downtown patrons. The creek has turned into a mud-filled pond over the years as the old damn under the Main Street bridge has aged. The Washtenaw County Road Commission is tearing out that damn, rebuilding the bridge and the creek this year.


The park would be small and be dedicated for passive use, such as providing walkways along the waterway.


Source: Allison Bishop, community development director for the village of Dexter
Writer: Jon Zemke

Dexter to raze old DAPCO building, expand downtown

The decision to get rid of an industrial complex in favor of extending Dexter's downtown took a major step forward.


The Dexter Downtown Development Authority has purchased the original DAPCO industrial building for $1.6 million and intends to raze it in order to allow for more downtown developement. The 1.45 acres on 3045 Broad St. will be cleared so Jeffords Street can be extended.


"It's really a big thing to buy this building and do something with it," says Courtney Nicholls, assistant village manager for Dexter.


Once cleared, Dexter would like to turn Jeffords into a dense, urban street, while
making room for riverfront space along Mill Creek.


"It’s a hidden jewel we don't enjoy enough," Nicholls explains.


The occupants of the large industrial complex will be allowed to finish out their leases before the structure is razed. Demolition is tentatively set to begin 2011.


Village planners envision filling Jeffords Street with lots of storefronts, office space and residences like Main Street. The Mill Creek Terrace project is the first project in this plan.


Source: Courtney Nicholls, assistant village manager for Dexter
Writer: Jon Zemke

Developer to start work on Mill Creek Terrace in Dexter

Work is about to begin on the first new building expected to anchor Dexter's second Main Street.


Schulz Development plans to raze a vacant 19th Century structure later this month so it can begin work on the Mill Creek Terrace in June. The building, 150 Jeffords, is adjacent to Mill Creek and one block south of Main Street on the west side of downtown.


"The views from the third floor overlooking Mill Creek are gorgeous," says Joe Schulz, president of Schulz Development.


The Ann Arbor-based company plans to create a three-story, 27,000-square-foot mixed-use building. It will have space for ground floor retail and options for residential and office space on the second and third floor. This is significant because it creates space --for sale or lease-- in a downtown where there isn't much office space to be had.


"This is a very good opportunity for us because the office/condo market is very good right now," Schulz says.


The building is all new construction but it's designed in the traditional downtown storefront style. The builder will use a special brick that is as thick as masonry block but looks like brick on the exterior and interior walls.


"What we basically are trying to do is create a new building that looks old," Schulz says.


Work is expected to wrap up next summer. It will be the first new building for Jeffords, which village planners are trying to turn into another dense urban area with lots of storefronts, office space and residences like Main Street.


Source: Joe Schulz, president of Schulz Development
Writer: Jon Zemke

Dexter to upgrade and improve access to downtown Huron River frontage

Add Dexter to the growing list of communities committed to improving public access along its waterfront. Starting June, the village plans to start a streetscape improvement project on the west side of its downtown, overlooking the Huron River.


The $731,000 project will improve one square block between Main, Broad, Jeffords and Forrest streets. The upgrades include new streets, sewers, landscaping, sidewalks, lighting and other amenities.


"It will actually open up and improve the area," says Donna Dettling, village manager for Dexter.


The two-year project will consist of two phases. Phase I includes rebuilding Forrest, Broad and parts of Jeffords. The second phase will be done in 2009. The project is meant to complement the adjacent bridge and dam replacement development.


A vacant apartment building will also be razed during the project. However, that demolition is being handled by a private developer who plans to replace it with a three-story mixed-use structure.


Source: Donna Dettling, village manager for Dexter
Writer: Jon Zemke

Dexter Village Hall makes offer to move into old library

Its municipal musical chairs in Dexter as the local library prepares to move into a new home next year and village offices look to move into the old library.


Village officials have made a $435,000 offer on the old Dexter District Library and expect an answer by early May.


The potential move is not without controversy. The village council voted 4-3 in favor of making the move, with dissenters arguing that village hall should remain downtown. The old library is within a few minutes walk of downtown while the current village hall is on the second floor of the National City Bank building in downtown.


The move would bump up the village hall from 2,000 square feet to 4,300 square feet, which includes a meeting space. Currently the village uses the local senior center as its meeting space.

The proposal is to take possession of the building early next year when the library moves to its new home downtown, then refurbish the building and move in shortly after.


The village council is expected to take up the issue again later this spring if and when a deal for the property has been agreed upon.


Source: Donna Dettling, village manager for Dexter
Writer: Jon Zemke

Work begins to replace Dexter's Mill Creek Bridge

Anyone who has driven through downtown Dexter has probably gone over the Mill Creek Bridge, and has the vehicle damage to show for it.


The decades old bridge, whose pot holes have pot holes, is being replaced starting this spring. The multi-million-dollar project will rebuild the bridge, remove an old damn beneath it and significantly alter an adjacent pond.

But the big change people will notice when it's done is a smother ride.


"The existing bridge is in bad condition," says Aaron Berkholz, construction superintendent with the Washtenaw County Road Commission. "You can see it when you go over it. It's just terrible."


Removing the nearly century-old damn is also part of the project. This will result in the elimination of a tiny, nearby pond.


"At this point the damn serves no purpose except to keep the pond," Berkholz says. "And the pond isn't what it once was. It's filled with sediment."


The $2.5 million bridge will be open during construction. The pond side of the bridge will be replaced first with work on the main structure expected to finish by fall. Final landscaping and painting of the new bridge is expected to occur next spring when the weather breaks.


The new bridge will accommodate both motorized and non-motorized traffic. There will still be two-lanes for car, along with bike lanes and sidewalks for pedestrians.


Source: Aaron Berkholz, construction superintendent with the Washtenaw County Road Commission
Writer: Jon Zemke

Construction on new Dexter Library on schedule, to be completed by fall

The foundations for the new Dexter District Library are in, the frame is rising out of the ground and construction workers are whistling a merry tune as they push to get the job done by this fall.


Well, maybe the workers aren't whistling but the new building in downtown Dexter, 3255 Alpine Street, is still on schedule for completion by this fall.


"We're trying to get through the last bit of bad weather," says Paul McCann, director of the Dexter District Library.


And he points out there are a lot of people eagerly looking forward to the project finally finishing up. Use of the library has increased more than 1,000 percent in the last 10 to 15 years, making it one of the top 10 busiest libraries in the state.

Half of the 16,000 some inhabitants in the library's district carry a Dexter Library card.  Those users range from students looking for a place to study to new economy workers popping open a laptop to do their jobs. Library officials expect more by the time the library opens.


"We're looking forward to having a building that will accommodate the incredible increase in demand we have seen in the last few years," McCann says.


The $7.8 million project will build a 25,000-square-foot, two-story structure, replacing the 4,200-square-foot old library, formerly the Methodist Church Education Building it moved into in 1996. The new facility features more space for books and other materials, studying and reading space and meeting rooms. There will also be computer rooms and wireless Internet access for library patrons.

There will be expanded computer resources, significantly more study space, a quiet reading area and more comfortable seating throughout the building.  The meeting room space will comfortably accommodate 200 people without the moving book stacks to free up space, which must be done in the current library.

The new location is centrally located downtown and overlooks Warrior Creek Park and the Mill Creek bridge.


Source: Paul McCann, director of the Dexter District Library
Writer: Jon Zemke

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