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Sea Life Aquarium ups metro Detroit's tourist draw

More than 5,000 sea creatures, from sharks and stingrays to octopi and jellyfish, have settled in to their new home inside a Auburn Hills shopping mall as opening day for the Sea Life Aquarium arrives.
 
Sea Life Michigan, which is owned by United Kingdom-based Merlin Entertainments, opens today inside a massively overhauled space that was previously a Gameworks.

The attraction at Great Lakes Crossing is expected to draw tourists from across the region and become a new thing to do for families and lover of ocean life, who will find an interactive touchpool, animal feedings, presentations from ocean life experts and more than 30 other tanks. Freshwater fish are part of Sea Life Michigan and will be a part of a Great Lakes education component.

Sea Life is also expected to be a destination for school field trips and other educational endeavors. With its combination of fun, education and conservation/rescue it is expected to be a boon for the mall as a whole and for nearby hotels.

Sea Life Michigan is one of eight U.S. locations and dozens more worldwide.

Source: Steve Berlow, general manager, Great Lakes Crossing
Writer: Kim North Shine
 
 

Pet spa and boutique caters to pet lovers in downtown Plymouth

A new pet spa and boutique celebrated its grand opening in downtown Plymouth

Britt's Bow Wow Boutique & Spa at 550 Forest Ave. also provides doggie day care, and since it's official opening a few months the furry clientele has continued to build.

The new business moved into a closed yarn shop after major renovations were completed to add tubs, showers, grooming areas and retail space.

It is located in the Westchester Square shopping and office development and is next door, ideally, to Three Dog Bakery.

Source: Plymouth Downtown Development Authority
Writer: Kim North Shine

Juice Bar business added to fitness studio in downtown Ferndale

The owners of two health-and-fitness focused businesses are operating under one roof in downtown Ferndale as a way to tap into one another's clients by offering them more products and services.

The grand opening of Pure Juice Bar & Cafe is being celebrated this Friday. It shares its space at 23440 Woodward Ave. with TV Fitness, a workout studio that offers personal training and trainer-assisted workouts with popular TV and DVD exercise routines.

Pure Juice Bar & Cafe serves fresh juices, smoothies, fruits, vegetables and light meals in the cafe or for takeaway. It also is a source for drinks and education for clients on cleanses.

Its counter with bar stools and a small seating area with tables and chairs take up part of the lobby at TV Fitness, which has a gym and workout space behind glass partition off the lobby.

TV Fitness owners and brothers Ryan and Earl Carruthers see the two businesses as natural complements.Friday's grand opening will double as a health expo with TV Fitness hosting an open house while Pure Juice cuts the ribbon on its business opening.

Source: Ryan and Earl Carruthers
Writer: Kim North Shine

M1 MRI Center brings latest tech to $700K facility in Berkley

The M1 Imaging Center, which operates from a $700,000 facility in Berkley, is the only MRI center in the state to hold a license for a weight-bearing imaging device that was developed by NASA and is used to treat chronic back, neck, leg and knee pain.

The owners of M1, one a radiologist, the other a health care administrator, combined their expertise to open the MRI center inside a 75-year-old, 3,000-square-foot former Henderson Glass at 27501 Woodward Ave.

The center offers several forms of MRI, and the latest, the DynaWell L-Spine, is non-invasive and allows patients to stand and bear weight during MRI in for more accurate diagnoses, and potentially, more effective treatment plans.

It is one of several services and technologically-advanced tools offered by M1 to patients and doctors in southeast Michigan, some of them available only at M1.

“By simulating gravity on the lumbar spine through the compression device, we can make a more comprehensive diagnosis than an MRI that does not offer weight-bearing images,” says Joshua Katke, the health care administrator who owns M1 with muscoskeletal neuroradiologist, Dr. Chintan Desai.“What we see may be the difference between conservative treatment and surgery. Weight-bearing MRI will not create a false positive or worse condition of spinal stenosis when there isn’t one but rather will be the first to detect a previously under-diagnosed condition.”

Source: Lynne Golodner, Your People LLC
Writer: Kim North Shine

Indie film destination Maple Theater renovates, adds second location

The Maple Theater in Bloomfield Hills is undergoing a second round of renovations and bringing on a partner theater, The Riviera, which is scheduled to open in Farmington Hills in May.

The Maple, which was built in 1977 and eventually made the best of being too small to show most large run commercial films by featuring independent films, will have a larger lobby and lounge to add to the comfort of patrons. The renovations are expected to be completed by April.

The theater, which is operated by Cloud Nine Partners LLC, was renovated to add a coffee bar and cafe in 2012, when Cloud Nine bought the three-screen theater from Landmark Theaters. The theater will remain fully operational during renovations.

In the meantime, construction will begin Feb. 1 on The Riviera at 9 Mile Road west of Middlebelt in Farmington Hills.

"We're very excited about this," says Ruth Daniels of Cloud Nine. "Michigan is a wonderful state for movie-going. It actually has more independent theaters than most states. And let's face it who doesn't love something new and updated."

The Riviera, which is owned in partnership by Cloud 9 and Dipson Theaters, an operator eight movie theaters in Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania, will have nine screens and a screening room for private parties and corporate events.
Dipson operates the theater that will be replaced by The Riviera. The existing theater closes at the end of the month.

Birmingham design firm, Ron and Roman, will design the new theater, which will reelect a luxury feel, a cocktail lounge, specialty food menu and premium comfort, convenience and technology. Ron & Roman is also redesigning the Maple Theater.

"It will be a very drastic change," Daniels says of the changes happening at the movie theater that will become The Riviera. "A movie is all about the experience and we want to give the best possible movie-going experience. I go across the country and see some of the amazing things people are doing with theaters," she says. " This is going to be amazing."

Source: Ruth Daniels, Cloud Nine Partners LLC
Writer: Kim North Shine
 

Lincoln Park Lofts ready for downtown residents and retailers

A former movie theater and adult club on Lincoln Park's main street are gone and in their place is a new residential loft and retail development.

The grand opening of Lincoln Park Lofts on Fort Street at O'Connor is being celebrated Jan. 15.

The project headed by the Wayne Metro Community Action Agency is a mix of historic rehab and new construction and is meant to offer affordable housing and retail space in place of the historic vacant Park Theater, which was a family draw before closing in the 70s. In the 80s it became the Hustler adult club until closing in 2008.

The facade and marquee of the theater were saved and incorporated into the new development. The marquee is expected to be restored and re-lit eventually. Inside the former theater construction is nearing completion on 12 residential lofts. On the ground floor are two 1,200-square-foot retail spaces. Behind the former theater is a new building that houses 24 condos with ground level parking. The condos are fully occupied.

"We are thrilled to have the Lincoln park lofts opening in our downtown. This is a project that has been a long time coming," says Madhu Oberoi, executive director of the city's downtown development authority.

The project has been in development since at least 2009, when developer Louis Piszker, CEO of Wayne Metro Community Action Agency, told metromode, "It will stand out as an exciting entry point to downtown Lincoln Park. "We're looking at this project as a seed or catalyst to revitalize the downtown of the city."

Today, Oberoi says his prediction holds true even as local preservationists fight plans to demolish a 1920s-era dime store just down the street from the lofts. The Neisner dime store would be replaced with a Save A Lot grocer.

"This will provide a 24/7 resident population in the downtown which is extremely important for downtowns to survive," says Oberoi. "This is expected to generate walkable activity and need for support services to serve the downtown...Hopefully this project will provide a catalyst for other retail type businesses to locate in the downtown."

Source: Madhu Oberoi, executive director, Lincoln Park Downtown Development Authority
Writer: Kim North Shine


 

Vodka, gin distillery, tastng room planned for Royal Oak

Royal Oak may soon be home to small distillery and tasting room. Five Lakes Distillery received a small distiller license from the city commission this week, paving the way for owners Craig Schlicht and Keith Reid to make vodka, initially, and then, eventually, gin from a small space at 4320 Rochester Road.

The plan is to produce vodka on site, 90 percent of it for distribution, 10 percent on site for the weekend-only tasting room, which will take up 190 square feet of the 855-square-foot facility.

The owners have a permit to produce up to 60,000 gallons of spirits per year, says Todd Fenton, the city's manager of economic development, but as of now they expect to produce closer to 6,000 gallons.

No opening date has been set as other city permits are still required. If successful, Five Lakes could join metro-Detroit-made spirits success stories such as Valentine Vodka in Ferndale, Hard Luck Candy Vodka in St. Clair Shores, Griffin Claw Brewing Co. in Birmingham and Zim's Vodka based in Warren.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Todd Fenton, economic development manager, city of Royal Oak

 

Institution of Dance Arts opens in Ferndale

The new Institution of Dance Arts, Ferndale's only traditional dance class studio, is building a following of customers who want to learn dance as well as the skills it imparts imparts in their lives outside the studio.

Owner Ida Lowback opened the studio several weeks ago at 701 Woodward Heights, Ste. 130. She and her four instructors and occasional staff guest artist teach several genres of dance and pilots to all ages.

"Can you believe that the city of Ferndale has not had a studio offering traditional dance classes up until now?  Well, we are here now and excited to fill the void and share our passion for dance," says Lowback.

The business inside a renovated office building, which looks like a former school. The cheery yellow paint on the inside opens onto a studio that was built with a sprung sub floor and a Marley floor covering, both of which make dance more comfortable, effective and safe than regular flooring.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Ida Lowback, founder, The Institution of Dance Arts

 

Taylor & Colt barberspas coming to metro Detroit

Two brothers from Birmingham will be importing Canadian-based Taylor & Colt barberspas to the U.S., starting with two metro Detroit locations.

John and Tom White are the U.S. franchisees for the chain of Toronto spas that combine old-fashioned barber shop services and more modern grooming treatments in high-end surroundings.

The first Taylor & Colt barberspas will open in the Villages in Rochester and on Liberty Street in Ann Arbor. They are seeking a location in Birmingham, says John White.

Renovations are underway on the first two spas, and they are expected to open in January.

"We're bringing this to Michigan first, and hopefully as we open new locations and expand, we'll bring it to a number of different states. We'd like Boston, Charleston, Austin."

The spas have an old-fashioned meets contemporary feel with rough woods and stone in the interior and traditional barber shop chairs. There are iPads at each chair and big-screen TVs throughout. There will be a reception bar with coffee, tea, juice, and newspapers. Services will include haircuts, hot towel shaves, laser hair removal, massage and more.

After seeing Taylor & Colt in Toronto, "We kind of thought, 'You know what this makes a lot of sense.' When you visit men's barber shops, a lot of them have been there forever. They're old, they're tired. They're a basic place to get a haircut, but not much more," says John White. "We've seen this whole movement that younger men are indulging in more careful grooming and more attention to their appearance. We think there will be much interest in this."

Source: John White, Taylor & Colt U.S.
Writer: Kim North Shine

Riley Park ice rink opens in downtown Farmington

The Riley Park Ice Rink in downtown Farmington is seen as keeping winter from putting a freeze on business and keeping the heart of the city pumping when temps plunge.

Barring too-warm temps, the 4,800-square-foot, refrigerated rink opens this weekend as a fundraising campaign to maintain and market the volunteer-run rink.

During warmer months, Riley Park hosts the Farmington Farmers & Artisans Market, Rhythmz in Riley Park and the Harvest Moon Celebration.

As the rink opens for its second year the hope is to keep Riley Park and the businesses that surround it thriving all year long and to foster the feeling of a quaint, downtown park and ice rink as a place to have fun before or after dinner, a coffee, or shopping. Annette Knowles, executive director of the city's downtown development authority, describes the vibe of the park and downtown in winter as "Currier and Ives-like."

"The Riley Park Ice Rink creates a winter destination in downtown Farmington. Until the rink came, the programming in the park was for three seasons, not four," says Knowles. "Now, we have a cool, fun place for families to connect and play.  And the rink is surrounded by restaurants where skaters can warm up and get a snack or inviting boutiques and stores to purchase accessories to keep you warm on the ice."

The ice rink opened in 2013 thanks to a major contribution of $100,000 from the Riley Foundation. Local businesses such as Wright Beamer, Dagwood’s Deli, S3 Architecture, John Cowley and Sons Irish Pub, and OHM Advisors contributed to the project as did the community, with Farmington residents chipping in $10,000.

Source: Annette Knowles, executive director, Farmington Downtown Development Authority
Writer: Kim North Shine

Royal Oak formulates downtown retail development plan

A national retail consultant has looked at the city of Royal Oak and what's wrong and right with its retail situation as the city works to "confirm its position as a retail and entertainment destination."

The city hired The Retail Coach out of Mississippi in September. The company has worked with dozens of local governments, chambers of commerce and economic development corporations in more than 250 cities, guiding them through development and redevelopment of their retail offerings.

The assessment for Royal Oak was expected to be presented to the City Council this week. The assessment will gauge consumer demand and analyze retail trade areas and retail gaps and opportunities. The analysis will target 52 retail categories that are weak or underperforming in Royal Oak.

“Royal Oak has always enjoyed a reputation as one of Michigan’s most exciting cities with several award-winning boutiques and galleries, and a bustling nightlife,” Royal Oak Economic Development Manager Todd  Fenton says in a statement from The Retail Coach.

“By bringing The Retail Coach on board to assist with our retail business attraction efforts, Royal Oak aims to be a showcase of distinct retailers that provide an unparalleled shopping experience...People and businesses are increasingly relocating to walkable urban environments, and Royal Oak boasts one of Michigan’s most dynamic and desirable downtowns," Fenton says. "As foot traffic continues to increase during the day with the addition of new residents and office users, the time is right for a coordinated retail attraction initiative to attract retailers who fit into our unique city.”

Source: The Retail Coach
Writer: Kim North Shine

Michigan & Eastpointe partner on redevelopment & investment strategy

Eastpointe is the third Michigan city to enter a partnership with the Michigan Economic Development Corp. in an effort to promote cities that are easy for businesses and developers to work with.

By being designated as a Redevelopment Ready Community -- the first two in Michigan were nearby Roseville and Allegan -- Eastpointe is provided with guidance and advice on best practices on how to remove hurdles to development and assist small and large businesses that want to move into the aging inner-ring suburb. The advice includes identifying and preparing developable sites, marketing and recruiting potential users for the sites, assisting in city, county and state requirements and informing the public of what the buildings and land will be used for -- and, overall, bringing in companies that meet the needs of the public and the vision of city leaders.

“We are pleased to be part of our region and state and to partner with public service agencies such as MEDC focusing on community economic health with transparency and accountability," says Eastpointe City Manager Steve Duchane.

The Macomb County city has a population of about 32,000 and quick access to I-94 and I-696 There are more than 800 commercial, industrial and service businesses and 60-some major companies within its five square miles, which includes the major thoroughfare of Gratiot Avenue.

The city is marketing property and is prepared to offer incentives and streamline its approvals process so that redevelopment of unused property can move along quickly.

Source: City of Eastpointe
Writer: Kim North Shine

Slow's Bar-B-Q to expand to downtown Pontiac

Detroit's celebrated Slows Bar-B-Q, which hit restaurant gold in Detroit years before today's restaurant boom rolled in, will open a location in downtown Pontiac, where reinvestment and rebirth are once again becoming part of the local lexicon.

The Pontiac Slows will be connected to the Strand Theatre for the Performing Arts, a $20-million redevelopment of a historic building that will bring national shows and live theater and stage acts back to the city.

With Slows as its exclusive partner, the theater will offer the unusual combo of arts and culture and barbecue joint.

Slows Pontiac, on Saginaw St., will be 6,500 square feet and have a street-side entrance for the public and a theater entrance for show-goers. Slows will also cater events at the theater, which will be run by the nonprofit Encore Performing Arts Center and Bill Lee, former vice president of Celebrity Events Group and vice president of sales and marketing at Olympia Entertainment, Inc.

Construction will begin in early 2015. Opening date will coincide with the theater opening in late 2015.

Slows has an exclusivity agreement with the theater so that it will be the only Slows location in Oakland County, says Kyle Westberg, CEO of West Construction Services, one of Pontiac's main developers with projects such as the at-capacity Lafayette Place Lofts and Lafayette Market.

Slow's owners want to be a part of a Pontiac's comeback. They see it, as they did their first restaurant in Detroit's Corktown neighborhood, as a way to run a business and also help the community.

“We chose Pontiac as the site of our first metro Detroit expansion for the same reasons we chose Corktown. It’s an underserved community with a defined identity and potential for an exciting evolution,” Slows Bar-B-Q co-owner Phil Cooley says. “We are excited to become part of the neighborhood and serve up great tasting Slows Bar-B-Q to the folks who live, work in, and visit Pontiac.”

Westberg says Slows, along with numerous large and small projects, from the opening of small tech businesses to multi-million-dollar improvements by GM and St. Joseph's Hospital, may be the tipping point to making downtown Pontiac become a destination again.

"I've been watching Slows's business model for quite a few years, and what was fascinating to me was their thought processes on economic development and working with the community and helping the community prosper and move forward," Westberg says. "That philosophy meets right up with the philosophies we have here in Pontiac."

Source: Kyle Westberg, CEO, West Construction Services; Phil Cooley, Slows Bar-B-Q co-owner
Writer: Kim North Shine

Ypsi fave Rocket Candy bringing sweets & fun to downtown Ferndale

After eight years of selling candy -- and fun, really -- from its downtown Ypsilanti store, The Rocket is expanding to Ferndale and opening a second location.

The Rocket Candy & Novelties opens at 23147 Woodward Ave. this Friday, and the store will be stocked with confections, packaged and bulk, and colorful, crazy, funky and retro toys, cards, t-shirts and other novelties like Archie McFee collection from Seattle and Lip Shit lip balm.

The locally-made t-shirts, like the Ypsi store, will include designs that give a shout out to Ferndale, Detroit and Michigan.

The 2,600-square-foot store is located in a new building near 9 Mile and the owners, Eli Morrissey and Paul Balcom, see Ferndale's fun and eclectic mix of businesses as a good fit for their bacon toys, wasabi gum balls, popsicle and Sharknado ornaments.

There's an eddy entrepreneurial mix here," he says. "We feel it's very similar to Ypsi, and this is just a good place for us to be."

They opened the Ypsi store in 2006 as a way to "bring life to downtown. We wanted to open a store that would draw people in," says Morrissey.

"I guess it started off as an idealistic notion, and it's worked out," he says. "The nice thing about expanding is it creates new jobs here and at our Ypsi store."

Source: Eli Morrissey, co-owner, The Rocket
Writer: Kim North Shine

Highest bidder to push demolition button on OCC building in Southfield

Oakland Community College's investment in property in Southfield is kicking off with an unusual fundraiser.

The college's foundation, which raises money to support students and school projects, is offering the highest bidder the opportunity to push the button on the demolition of a 17-story building, North Park Plaza.

OCC purchased the 42-year-old, 340,000-square-foot property earlier this year. As of Wednesday the bidding was at $8,000.

No date has been set for construction of a future site nor any firm plans made of what will replace the building, but Southfield is the fastest growing of OCC's five campuses. OCC is the largest community college campus in Michigan and the 25th largest in the nation.

Source: Margarita Wagerson, spokesperson Oakland Community College
Writer: Kim North Shine
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