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Local Habitat for Humanity revitalizes more than just houses

When most people think about Habitat for Humanity, they think about volunteers building houses and renovating them for those in need. For Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley, that's only part of the story, and their commitment to revitalizing more than just houses has landed them a $70,000 grant from Lowe's.

"About three years ago we took a more concentrated approach to investing in the communities in a bigger way than just renovating houses," says Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley Community Development Director Sarah Teare.

That expanded approach includes community planning meetings, visioning, surveys and more to determine how Habitat can help the entire neighborhood become a better place to live. "Long term, we will work with the residents to help make those things that are most important come to life in their community."

The local Habitat affiliate was one of 11 national affiliates and the only in Michigan to receive the grant award from Lowe's. The funds have already been put to use for community planning meetings, home exterior improvements, improvements to a pedestrian and bike path, door-to-door surveys and a clean-up day, all in Ypsilanti Twp.'s West Willow neighborhood. The funds, which came in a combination of cash and Lowe's gift cards, will also help with the construction of a pavilion in the future.

"We hope to give people more of a sense of pride and comfort in their community," Teare says. "We've really seen a lot of connections made and friendships made." 


Source: Sarah Teare, Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley
Writer: Natalie Burg

10,000 sq ft Ypsilanti Town Center renovated for success

A long vacant Ypsilanti Twp. property will soon be getting a makeover, and, should all go according to plans, new tenants. 

"We are going to name it the Ypsilanti Town Center," says Steve Campeau, a partner in the property's redevelopment with Beal Properties. "We want to make it the premier location for office suites in town. We're committed to fixing it up, making it look nice and continuing to add value to the community."

The 9,960-square foot building is divided into 14 suites that Campeau says can be combined or renovated to suit the tenants' needs. The partners are asking $9 per square foot for the commercial space. Formerly a medical building, Campeau says the facility is ideally suited for similar uses, but are available for other uses as well. 

"The township really wants to get this building occupied," Campeau says. "They are working with us to get any kind of business in there." 

Campeau believes the property has been vacant for about seven years. Exterior work is underway on the building now, but the partners plan to wait until tenants have been secured to renovate the interior, so each suite can be built to suit the business's needs. 

Source: Steve Campeau, Beal Properties
Writer: Natalie Burg

Chelsea's St. Louis Center celebrates $2M expansion of adult residence hall

The St. Louis Center in Chelsea opened more than 60 years ago as school for developmentally disabled boys, and has grown and changed ever since. Now, with 52 residents that include men of all ages and women, the center is celebrating a $2 million renovation to their Fr. Guanella Hall for Assisted Living, which adds 2,500 square feet to the 10,065 square foot residence hall. 

"As time has gone on, our population has been aging," says Joe Yekulis, PR director for St. Louis Center. "In 2000, for our 50th anniversary, we said, 'It's great that we've made it for 50 years, but where do we go from here?'"

The decision led to a long-term, $10 million plan the St. Louis Center calls the Three U's: Upgrade, Update and Uplift to renovate the facility to meet the needs of their growing and aging population. Previously, the organization has built a new administration center and a new special needs playground. The expansion of the Fr. Guanella Hall is their most ambitious project to date. 

"I think the impact will be extremely positive," says Yekulis. "It's all about creating a great quality of life for the residents here."

Work on the project broke ground in October and is now about 90 percent complete. The St. Louis Center will celebrate the project with a dedication ceremony on June 8. Most Reverend Bishop Earl Boyea, Bishop of Lansing, as well as other religious leaders and state senators are expected to attend the ceremony, which will include a mass, blessing and ribbon cutting ceremony. The public is welcome to attend.

All funds for the center were raised by the St. Louis Center through donations. The next phase of their Three U's plan is to build an assisted living village on their property for more independent residents.


Source: Joe Yekulis, St. Louis Center
Writer: Natalie Burg

Gift of Life Michigan to double facility size with $12.3M expansion

Gift of Life Michigan has been saving lives for more than 40 years. By next year, they'll be doubling the footprint of their headquarters in Ann Arbor to amplify the quality of and access to organ transplants in our state. A 50,000 square foot, $12.3 million expansion is planned for the organization's Research Park Rd. facility that will connect two existing buildings, and provide room for a surgical center, 250-seat auditorium and memorial area for donor families. 

"There are three things in healthcare that one can always improve upon," says Gift of Life Michigan CEO Richard Pietroski. "There is reducing costs…improving access to a scarce resource, and improving quality. With all our processes centralized, we'll be doing all of that."

With a staff of about 200, Gift of Life now sends teams of employees all over the state. With 145 hospitals of varying resources, coordination can be difficult. With surgical capabilities at Gift of Life's facility, donors can instead be transported to one location for a more streamlined process. 

"About seven years ago, we had an organ recovery team from U-M involved in a plane crash," says Pietroski. "Nationwide, that's something that's happened frequently enough that I'd rather transfer the donor than have teams fly. It's a service to the transplant center and their teams."

While about six months of rezoning and property line changes will preceed construction, Pietroski anticipates construction to be complete by Sept. 2015. About six full-time positions and several more part-time positions will be created by the new facility. 

Currently, 3,300 Michiganders are registered organ donors, indicated by a red heart on their drivers' license. People can become organ donors by visiting the Gift of Life Michigan website.

Source: Richard Pietroski, Gift of Life Michigan
Writer: Natalie Burg

Livonia Builders to bring 32 condos to Carpenter Rd.

New brownstone-style living opportunities will be available in Pittsfield Twp. next year or the following. The 32-unit project, called The Enclave at Arbor Ridge may develop into condos or apartments, depending on the market when they're ready for occupancy. Looking at the current market, they very well could at least begin as apartments.
 
"The rental market is fantastic," says developer Danny Veri of Livonia Builders. "They're set up so that we could switch them to condos at any time. I might flip them sometime in the future, maybe in five or 10 years."
 
Either way, The Enclave at Arbor Ridge will include two- and three-bedroom brownstones ranging from around 1,500 to 1,600 square feet. Though the market will determine the final rental rates, Veri estimates they will be around $1,450 to $1,600 per month. 
 
"I think we're going to pull young professionals," Veri says. "There are a lot of university employees, hospital employees and grad students in the area."
 
The location was chosen for its freeway access, as well as its surroundings. The one-acre development will sit on an eight-acre site, which includes woods and wetland. Veri anticipates residents enjoying the tranquility provided by the undeveloped area of the property, which sits on the corner of Carpenter Rd. and Cloverland Dr. 
 
With other development projects underway and planned for the area, Livonia Builders plans to begin construction on The Enclave at Arbor Ridge in 2015, which will last approximately one year. 

Source: Danny Veri, Livonia Builders
Writer: Natalie Burg

$12M Kingsley Lane Condos could add up to 21 units to downtown

The demand to live near downtown Ann Arbor could be fed a bit more with the proposed Kingsley Lane Condos. The long-delayed project has been been submitted to the Ann Arbor Design Review Board. Currently, the development plans include 21 units, but that could change based on the demands of prospective tenants. 
 
"We started out with an average unit size of 1,000 to 1,100 square feet, but we've already started talking to people about combining units," says Tom Fitzsimmons of Huron Contracting, who is working with developers Peter Allen, Mark Berg. "We've been contacted by about ten people so far. People are interested in larger units."
 
Regardless of how many units it will ultimately contain, the approximately $12 million project will be about 40,000 square feet and include two new buildings and an existing structure on Kingsley Lane. The goal of the project, says Fitzsimmons, is to build the kind of space people are looking for.
 
"We're trying to make nice spaces people are comfortable in, so that includes large decks, balconies, lots of indoor and outdoor space and nice master suites," he says. 
 
If the plan moves forward as planned, Fitzsimmons hopes the Ann Arbor City Council will approve that project in August, and construction would begin immediately. He expects the Kingsley Lane Condo project would then be completed by late 2015.  

Source: Tom Fitzsimmons, Huron Contracting
Writer: Natalie Burg

More than 170 homes included in Scio Twp. development proposal

More than 170 new houses could be built on a Scio Township property if a proposal is approved later this month. Property owner Mark Smith says the project would bring residential infill development that could help stave off suburban sprawl. 
 
"It's a great location," Smith says of the W. Liberty Rd. property. "You're five minutes to downtown, you're two minutes to the freeway and half an hour to the airport. Going all the way back to when Scio Twp. had a master plan, it always called for this area to be developed in low density housing."
 
Smith and his wife have been working to develop the 162-acre property for decades, with plans for golf course and single family housing falling through for various reasons. Now, however, he believes the time is right and the property well-suited for housing. 
 
"It's been in my wife's family for a long time," says Smith. "We live on this property, and it is near and dear to our hearts, and it's a great location relative to the city."
 
The proposed development would ultimately include 176 houses, though some of those homes already exist on the property. Plans include lots of various sizes, including space for what Smith calls "traditional suburban" homes, and others for transitional neighborhood developments, such as multi-generational and smaller homes. 
 
A developer has yet to be selected as the Smiths await approval from Scio Township to move forward later in January. He expects the total amount of investment in the project to be in the tens of millions of dollars, and hopes, should all approvals be given, to begin site work this fall and break ground on housing in 2015. 
 
Source: Mark Smith, property owner
Writer: Natalie Burg

Ypsilanti Freighthouse moves $40,000 closer to renovation

Thanks to the commitments of some local organizations, the Friends of the Ypsilanti Freighthouse (FOYF) are closer to their goal of restoring the historic facility to full use. The volunteer-run group has secured $40,000 in commitments from the Ypsilanti Downtown Development Authority, Eastern Leaders group and private donors, which will be used as matching funds for a hoped-for $60,000 grant from the State Historic Preservation Office. 
 
"This is a community building," says FOYF chair Corinne Sikorski. "It's the only and the best place in our community to have groups of people come together. It's a really fun space." 
 
The FOYF has been working for a number of years to renovate the historic Depot Town building that was once a  part of the Michigan Central Railroad Complex. With the potential $100,000 in funding, should the grant be awarded, they plan to install a required fire suppression system. After completing that project, other necessary renovations to the space include handicap-accessible bathrooms and upgrades to heat and plumbing. When all of those renovations could be completed is currently tentative.
 
"I'm hesitant to set a date," says Sikorski, who says changes in FOYF board members and volunteers has impacted the project's momentum over the years. "But we're hoping in a year to everything done."
 
The vision for the renovated Freighthouse is expanded use as a community space, events venue and indoor farmer's market. 

Source: Corinne Sikorski, Friends of the Ypsilanti Freighthouse
Writer: Natalie Burg

Manchester adds $2.9M bridge project to recent rush of development

A much-needed $2.9 million rebuilding project on Manchester's Main Street Bridge is an exciting enough investment for the village, but as it comes on the heels of two other recent development projects, Manchester is set to look and feel like a rejuvenated community. 

"We have a number of projects that are moving foward," says Manchester Village Manager Jeff Wallace. "We're hoping they will make it attractive for people to come shop here and come visit."

The recently announced MDOT grant will replace the critical bridge at the center of downtown Manchester. Though the village has applied for the grant in previous years, deterioration that has caused the village to limit use of the key bridge gave the project urgency. Though the grant is approved for 2016, Wallace says he will appeal to the state for a 2015 start date, armed with an expedited construction schedule from their engineer. 

"[The bridge is] very important because river bisects the village through the middle," Wallace says. "It's important for transportation, but also health and safety, and economic commerce." 

The new bridge will follow a $750,000 streetscape improvement project last year, which resulted in new sidewalks, bump-outs, seating areas and LED streetlights in Manchester's downtown. After the streetscape, but before the bridge project, Mancheter has a $500,000 maintenance project scheduled for 2014 that will replace ramps to enable ADA accessibility in downtown intersections. 

Wallace says the village doesn't plan to end their revitalization efforts there. They are working with community partners to create a trail through the village, invest in the millpond and create a Safe Routes to Schools program. 

Source: Jeffery Wallace, Village of Manchester
Writer: Natalie Burg

Local developer plans near-downtown condo project with Liberty Landings

With so much momentum in downtown Ann Arbor toward increasing walkability, biking and public transit, a car wash seated on a valuable, near-downtown property makes a decreasing amount of sense. Local developer Alex de Parry has proposed an idea to replace the Liberty Car Wash that he says makes much better use of the land. 
 
"The site was a bit underutilized," says de Parry of Ann Arbor Builders. "It looked like a good site for a condominium.
 
De Parry's proposal is to build a eight-condominium housing development on the Liberty St. property. Though the project is still in its earliest stages, he hopes to get started on by spring of 2014. 
 
Thus far, de Parry has been holding neighborhood meetings to gather feedback from citizens about the project. The reception his project has received, he says, has been positive – not only from the neighbors, but also from prospective residents. 
 
"There is definitely interest," de Parry says. "Everybody wants to live downtown."
 
Though everybody may want to live near downtown Ann Arbor, de Parry says his semi-customizable, market rate condos will attract permanent residents, as opposed to students. The three-story building will include three two-bedroom units on the first and second floors ranging between 1,100 and 1,300 square feet each. The top floor will include two larger units at 2,100 square feet each.

Source: Alex de Parry, Ann Arbor Builders
Writer: Natalie Burg

$5M hotel and restaurant renovation unveiled at Ann Arbor Holiday Inn

After a year and $5 million worth of investment, the Holiday Inn on Plymouth Rd. in Ann Arbor looks and feels like a whole new place. 
 
"We literally touched every surface in the hotel," says Joe Sefcovic, general manager for the Holiday Inn Near the University of Michigan. "We completely remodeled the exterior of the hotel, as well as inside."
 
Renovations extended into every guest room, a completely refurbished lobby, including a 24-hour pantry store and business center, a newly renovated ballroom and more. 
 
According to Sefcovic, the renovations were inspired by the beginning of the hotel's third 10-year agreement with Holiday Inn. 
 
"They came in and told us some of the things we needed to do," says Sefcovic. "We took that opportunity to say, 'What kind of things would we like to do differently?' We really tailored the hotel to serve the community for the next 10 years." 
 
The upgrades even included a total renovation and rebranding of the hotel restaurant, now called Guy Hollerin’s Ann Arbor Bar & Grill. No longer a sports bar, the restaurant will feature new menu items including healthier dishes as well as gluten free and vegan options. 
 
The Holiday Inn and Guy Hollerin's Ann Arbor Bar & Grill grand re-opening was marked with a blues-themed celebration last week. The festivities continue online, where a contest to name the hotel's new mascot – a wood-carved wolverine – will be open to the public for the next several weeks. 

Source: Joe Sefcovic, Holiday Inn
Writer: Natalie Burg

Jiffy Mix devises $4.4M plan to renovate book bindery into food storage

By this time next year, a new white building adorned in Jiffy Mix-blue detailing will join Chelsea Milling Company's campus. After standing vacant for a number of years, a former book bindery purchased by the baking mix company is now slated to receive $4.4 million in renovations to become a new, temperature controlled food storage facility. 
 
"The city owned the building since the early 2000s," says Vice President and General Manager of Chelsea Milling Company Jack Kennedy. "We bought it several years ago because we thought it would make a fine warehouse."
 
A Brownfield Redevelopment Plan will help to defray a portion of the redevelopment costs, as chemicals once used in the book binding process created environmental contamination of the site. Kenney estimates $375,000 of the $4.4 million project will be saved through the incentive. 
 
Initial work on the portions of the project not impacted by the Brownfield Plan have begun. Kennedy anticipates the 7,500 square foot warehouse will be complete by the beginning of 2014's busy season for Jiffy Mix, which begins in September. 
 
"The Brownfield portion of the project isn't a huge amount of money, but it makes us feel good that we'll be returning this to the tax rolls," says Kennedy. "By cleaning up the environmental issues, we're glad to be doing something for the community."
 
The new food storage facility will take over the role of off-site storage currently leased by Chelsea Milling Company. The consolidation of their food storage locations on-site will not only be more convenient for the company, but will also create three new jobs at the facility. 

Source: Jack Kennedy, Chelsea Milling Company
Writer: Natalie Burg

Vehicle research center at Willow Run could create 1,950 jobs, $360M impact

What if it was possible to peek into the future of automotive technology? A place where tomorrow's cars were driving around without drivers and new vehicles were being tested for the first time? That's exactly what Ann Arbor SPARK, RACER Trust, Devon Industrial Group and Walbridge Development, LLC. have in mind for the 332-acre property that houses the former Willow Run Powertrain plant. 
 
The plan announced last week is to deconstruct the existing five-million square-foot powertrain facility to make way for a connected vehicle research center, where automakers and startups could test new technologies.
 
"We're really heartened to see developers step forward. If this site is developed it would be dramatic for the community," says Paul Krutko, president and CEO of the economic development organization Ann Arbor SPARK. "We think it should be an open source environment. Some kind of entity will need to be created to maintain it, and as the companies need to use it, they would book time. We also like the idea of creating an incubating environment so new companies could test their new ideas."
 
The recent announcement is a first step in a long development process, says Krutko. Under the current plan, Devon Industrial Group will manage the dismantling and removal of industrial buildings from the site by MCM Management, which is expected to be a 12-month process. Walbridge Development would then redevelop the property into the planned research center. 
 
"Generally, you test something in a live environment," says Krutko, "but to validate them, to make sure they're safe, you need a controlled environment. A facility would need to be a really sufficient site to test how a car would merge onto a freeway, or what happens when it goes into a tunnel." 
 
The proposed connected vehicle research center would include a number of structures as well as outdoor development courses. According to a whitepaper released by Ann Arbor SPARK, the construction cost is expected to be about $90 million and could create 1,950 direct jobs. The economic impact to the areas is expected to be as high as $360 million, creating 7,800 direct and indirect jobs and $526 million in wages.
 

Source: Paul Krutko, Ann Arbor SPARK
Writer: Natalie Burg

EMU Science Complex addition cuts energy use by 23%

Simple math might suggest that adding 80,000 square feet to a 180,000 square-foot building would increase the facility's energy consumption by somewhere around 45 percent. Thanks to some pretty fancy engineering and technology, however, that wasn't the case when Eastern Michigan University renovated and expanded its Science Complex last year. 
 
In fact, the bigger facility is now using no more energy than it did before its expansion. In fact, in its first year of data, it appears to be using 23 percent less energy.
 
"The initial goal was to design and construct a building that used as little energy as possible given our cost constraints and other goals on the project," says EMU Energy and Sustainability Manager Steven Moore II. "Once the design progressed, we realized that there was the potential to keep the energy use the same, even after adding approximately 50 percent of the square footage to the building. Once that became a possibility, we really strove to make it happen."
 
The development was recently awarded LEED Gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council and earned an honorable mention in the Construction and Design Award category from the Engineering Society of Detroit at its meeting in June. While these achievements are great in and of themselves, Moore says the real winners are the students.
 
"Eastern Michigan University has spent nearly $1,000,000 on utilities some years at Mark Jefferson, so every bit of energy savings equates to significant dollar savings," says Moore. "This monetary savings can then be passed on to the students through tuition restraint."

Source: Steven Moore, Eastern Michigan University
Writer: Natalie Burg
 

IHA breaks ground on 44,000 sq ft Domino's Farms Medical Center

A big change is underway at Domino's Farms that will change the way a number of local physicians do business and patients receive care. IHA, a local not-for-profit multi-specialty group of physicians recently broke ground on a 41,000 square foot facility at Domino's Farms where a number of existing IHA physicians spread throughout the area will consolidate in one building. 
 
"Many of our practices are based in regional facility, which our patients tell us offer better access and more services," IHA President and CEO, Bill Fileti. "Our physicians and nurses tell us they like collaboration options that exist with other specialties under the same roof."
 
The $12 million development will also make IHA offices more regionally accessible, says Fileti. The conveniently located Domino's Farms facility came to be through a longtime relationship between IHA and Domino's Farms' leadership. 
 
"We expressed what we were trying to accomplish, and they looked a us and said, 'I think we can help,'" says Fileti. "And they were right. We couldn't be more pleased with the location as we feel it will give us a long timer base to meet the needs of the community."
 
The groundbreaking on the development took place in May, and IHA plans to have the building enclosed in late Nov., and to have practices moving into the building in May 2014.
 
IHA currently employs more than 1,200 people. The new Domino's Farms Medical Center is expected to foster continued growth to the organization and their number of employees. The new facility will include offices specializing in internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics, gynecology, neurology, after hours care, imagine services, as well as other services that will be added. 
 

Source: Bill Fileti, IHA 
Writer: Natalie Burg
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