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Roundabouts planned for Orchard Lake Road in Farmington Hills

The city of Farmington Hills is planning to redesign a mile-long stretch of Orchard Lake Road into a series of roundabouts and boulevards as a way to improve traffic safety, promote economic development and encourage bicycle and pedestrian travelers.

The reconstruction could start in the spring on the the busy stretch between 13 and 14 Mile roads. The five-lane Orchard Lake Road is a major entry into the city, and part of the larger Northwestern Connector Project of the Road Commission for Oakland County and the Michigan Department of Transportation. The purposes are to improve traffic safety, including reducing severity of traffic crashes by slowing traffic, to stimulate economic development and to promote ease of use for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Details of the plan will be presented at an April 23 meeting at Farmington Hills City Hall.

Source: City of Farmington Hills Engineering Division
Writer: Kim North Shine

Metro Work Space adds co-working office in downtown Farmington

In a sign that co-working is  more than a passing trend, Metro Work Space is opening a second location in downtown Farmington next week.

The furniture and supplies are being moved into the 100-year-old, historic building with wood floors, high tin ceilings and "overall charm" this week, says Todd Luhtanen, who owns and operates Metro Work Space with wife Bev Luhtanan.

The 2,500-square-foot office at 33316 Grand River is in the heart of downtown Farmington and offers a different feel and will serve a different clientele than the original Metro Work Space at 8 Mile and Merriman in Livonia, he says.

"We see the demand, but we also different markets. The Livonia office is ideal for people who are meeting across metro Detroit. It's close to highways, central," he says. "Downtown Farmington is completely different. It's a downtown community with all the things happening, people working, restaurants, stores.

"In Farmington we're really targeting people who are already in Farmington and want an office," he says. "There really isn't anything affordable."

Both offices provide a workspace, wi-fi, equipment, supplies and services for the cost of a membership that also brings with it access to networking and business management that will schedule conference rooms and meet other needs, even coffee.

"Some people are seeing it as a cheap alternative when they first sign up," he says, "but once they see it and work here they realize there's additional value."

Metro Work Space is one of about 10 co-working spaces in metro Detroit and Ann Arbor.

Their clients are the growing number of mobile and at-home workers, whether employed by a company or self-employed.
According to DeskMag, co-working has increased 117 percent globally in the last year, and Luhtnanen cites Michigan's strong entrepreneurial culture as a reason for co-working to grow. Nearly 20 percent of graduates from Wayne State and Michigan State universities and the University of Michigan have started their own businesses.

"We're really excited about our own growth, plus the overall growth in co-working," he says. Co-working is still in its infancy in the Midwest, while out west or on the East Coast it's a given way to work.

"People here are [finally] seeing the value of a co-working space. We're here in michigan as opposed to silicon valley or somewhere out west where people really get the co-working.

"People are seeing they can get the feeling of a coffee shop, the getting out into the community, the being around human beings, but without all the negatives of a coffee shop."

Source: Todd Luhtanen, founder and owner, Metro Work Space
Writer: Kim North Shine

Freakin' Unbelievable Burgers opens in Farmington Hills

Flint-based Freakin' Unbelievable Burgers has plans to take a bite out of the metro Detroit burger business with a new location in Farmington Hills.

It's the second location for the company, Spartan Pastabilities LLC, which opened the first Freakin' Unbelievable in May 2012. It quickly made plans to expand and franchise its "burger customization" concept in upscale casual settings.

The Farmington Hills outlet of Freakin' Unbelievable Burgers opened last week at 29206 Orchard Lake Road. The second location cost about $1 million to renovate and will create 10 full-time and 20 part-time jobs.

The new store is designed with digital menu boards so that the always-changing specialty burgers -- Upper Crust Burger, Down Under Burger, Ancho BBQ Burger and many others -- can easily be updated. Burgers also come with gluten-free buns or in vegetarian versions, and regional craft beers will be on tap and sold by the bottle. Create your own burger contests for a placement in the line-up is part of the restaurant's concept as well.

The interior is meant to be more inspiring than a typical burger chain. A monochromatic color scheme is mixed with corrugated metal, intricate tile work, pendant lighting and a  four-foot chandelier.

Company owner Brett Skaggs is optimistic his burger can compete with national biggies, which are located nearby.

"We believe our burger is better," he says, "and we believe that locals want to support a company that's based right here in Michigan."

Source: Megan Spencer and Brent Skaggs, Freakin' Unbelievable Burgers
Writer: Kim North Shine


Farmington DDA readies for downtown residential living

The Farmington Downtown Development Authority is taking on the role of property redeveloper with the goal of increasing residential living options  downtown.

The DDA is seeking a private developer via a request for proposal to build a second phase of condominiums at The Orchards condos on Slocum Drive just off downtown's main thoroughfare, Grand River, and Farmington Road.

The first phase of the mixed-residential project was completed in 2006, but after the housing market collapsed the second phase was never completed, says Annette Knowles, executive director of the Farmington DDA.

When the market began to bounce back, the DDA board decided to purchase the property to retain control over what would happen with it, she says. The DDA purchased the property for $95,000 in October.

“Introducing more development that is appealing to those seeking to reside in a downtown environment will help create a more robust economic base to support the business community," she says. "All signs indicate that development of this nature will again meet market demand."

The RFPs are due by March 7 and two inspections for prospective bidders are set for Jan. 13 and 15.

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

Ice ice baby! Downtown Farmington gets new rink

Downtown Farmington is complementing its growing retail scene and historic downtown gathering spaces with a new ice rink.

The rink is expected to be completed in December and will be located at Riley Park in the heart of downtown. It's being built by Serv Ice Refrigeration, the same company that laid the rink in Campus Martius in downtown Detroit, says Annette Knowles, director of the Farmington Downtown Development Authority.

The George F. Riley Foundation, for whom the park is named, donated $100,000 toward the construction of the rink,which sill cost about $300,000. Fundraisers continue to raise the rest of the money and engineering firm, Orchard, Hiltz & McCliment are donating services for the project.

“Our family is quite pleased at how Riley Park in downtown Farmington has become a hub for families and friends to gather together and has also become a center for key events in Farmington. The Riley Foundation’s commitment to create the Riley Ice Rink creates a fourth season for activity in downtown. We are excited to be able to support this worthwhile enhancement for families and friends enjoying the quality of life in our community," the Riley Foundation says in a letter.

Knowles says the community has expressed a desire for a downtown rink in visioning sessions and other public meetings and that she expects the rink to be a "cool" addition to the city.

"Job creation will be hard to measure at this point, but we do know that seasonal maintenance will be necessary. Spin off business opportunities exist," Knowles says. "For example, we would love for someone to come forward with skate rentals that we do not have to manage."

Source: Annette Knowles, executive director, Farmington Downtown Development Authority

Writer: Kim North Shine

Freakin' Unbelievable Burgers to open in Farmington Hills



Freakin' Unbelievable Burgers
, a Flint Township gourmet burger restaurant that has landed on best burger joint lists and been called one to watch in the fast-casual restaurant concept, is opening its first metro Detroit location in Farmington Hills in late November.

Founder and president Brent Skaggs, who operates two other separate restaurants besides the Flint Freakin' Unbelievable Burgers, says Farmington Hills was chosen for a foray into metro Detroit for a number of reasons.

"We are franchising the concept. We started that in July this year. We wanted to go into a metro market," says Skaggs, who opened the Flint Township store in 2012. "We felt like Detroit metro was a great place and as we started looking around we found that Farmington Hills had the traffic counts, the demographics and we just liked the feel of the city."

He is hoping to have a freakin' unbelievable experience by besting nearby national burger chains, including Five Guys and Smashburger, with his selection of Angus beef burgers that come with a selection of 43 toppings, served on a brioche bun.

"We definitely will have competition, but we are a Michigan-based company so we're excited," he says.

Freakin' Unbelievable Burgers is getting noticed nationally. It ranked 12th on fastcasual.com's Top 100 America's Top Movers & Shakers at the National Restaurant Association convention in Chicago, and industry publication, BurgerBusiness, called the restaurant one of the top new burger joints in 2012. The second Freakin' Unbelievable Burgers will move into a former Burger King on Orchard Lake Road and be renovated to fit the fast casual concept, an upscale version of fast food. Think Panera Bread, Skagg says, counter service in a sit-down arrangement.

"The materials we use in the booths are nicer; so is the type of lighting. It's really a place you can sit down, watch a game, get a cold beer, a glass of wine…There's china, real forks. There's no tipping," Skaggs says. "It's a place you can get a burger fast and to go if you want, or to stay and enjoy if you want."

Once opened, the restaurant will employ 20 full-time employees, Skaggs says, and 20-30 part-timers.

Source: Brent Skaggs, president and founder, Freakin Unbelievable Burgers
Writer: Kim North Shine

Detroit Sandwich Co. to open take-out shop in Farmington Hills



Mark Friday - great name, huh? - has a family history in the restaurant business and a love for Detroit. That has brought him to the place of opening the Detroit Sandwich Co. next week in Farmington Hills.

The Detroit Sandwich Co. at 29801 W. 9 Mile Road will add to the takeout options for the Farmington-Farmington Hills area with a menu that includes a turkey chipotle sandwich, chicken sliders, pasta and meatballs, a signature meatball sandwich, lobster ravioli and a chicken bacon salad.

"I'm always tempted to add more things, things I love, but we don't want to do too much. We want to put out quality food. If you do too much it can bring down quality," Friday says.

The Italian side of the menu comes from Friday's Italian heritage - he's part Italian and African-American with a 100 percent Italian grandmother. He and his wife have been dreaming of restaurant ownership for a while. They looked into a Subway franchise, but "it's like being a manager while you raise the money. There's no creative freedom."

"My wife and I have prayed on it and it kept growing and growing," Friday says.

He almost signed a deal for his business to be located in a spot near downtown Farmington. It would have required a loan and a major renovation. When the deal fell through, he happened to spot the perfect space down the road, no loan required, minimal renovations and with a feel that matched his vision.

"It's a really good space for us to start and learn and grow and open up locations," says Friday, who is training four employees this week in preparation for opening day.

Initially the Detroit Sandwich Co. will be take-out only and then add delivery, he says. The cozy spot with a 20 by 19-foot kitchen, an 8 by 9-foot walk-in kitchen and a 14 by 9-foot counter has fresh colors of paint on the walls. It will have digital menus on TVs and and be decorated with vinyl wall coverings showing downtown Detroit's skyline.

"I used to live in Detroit. I love the city. I go downtown when I can," says Friday, who sees the city and the burbs as one Detroit.  "I chose the name because I want to support the city even though i can't open up in the city yet."

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Mark Friday, owner, Detroit Sandwich Co.

New Farmington bookstore wants to offer all things steampunk

Off the Beaten Path, a bookstore and way more, is moving onto the main drag in downtown Farmington, building on its reputation as a go-to for all things steampunk.

Steampunk is an an emerging and fascinating literary genre and subculture where the Victorian era meets Sci-fi. Steampunkers participate heavily by dressing up, taking on characters and by sharing their own skills and artisan know-how in making clothing and accessories, knitting, crocheting, leather-working and turning out other artwork during Thursday Night Craft Nights at Off the Beaten Path. The same community comes together at festivals, for movie-making, exhibitions and conventions.

Off the Beaten Path's owner, Salathiel Palland, is a steampunker and mother of two. She's moving Off the Beaten Path Bookstore and Emporium less than a mile from her former location down the street on Grand River. While her special event nights, crafting sessions, pop-ups, combat exhibitions, were a major draw for the store that opened in 2010, foot traffic was minimal. The new location in the heart of downtown Farmington should change that, she says.

Th new store at 33314 Grand River will open July 13th. The front half of the store will be a bookstore with new and used selections, including H.G. Wells and Jules Verne. The back half will be a stage, crafting area and emporium, she says.

"Steampunk is very DIY, Do It Yourself. "What I love about having the products in my store is they're not only from Michigan-based artisans, 80 percent of it, clothing and everything, is locally handmade. It's awesome. It's stuff you can't get with your normal mall experience or at your normal store," she says.

"My goal is to have the largest collection of steampunk clothing, accessories, and products in the state…I've i've had people come as far from Ohio, Indiana and Illinois…It's a one-stop shop for the steampunk experience."

Source: Salathiel Palland, Off the Beaten Path
Writer: Kim North Shine

Oakland Comm. College completes $6.3 million renovation

Oakland Community College  has completed a $6.34 million restoration and renovation of its Student Center on the Farmington Hills campus.

Besides making repairs to prevent years of leaks in the building, the renovations entailed new ceilings and lights and an overhaul of the campus bookstore. New study spaces were created, as was a new office for the Student LIFE programs.

A new theater and performance hall with a separate entrance were added to the building.

"We now have an ideal gathering space for our students, one that is inviting, promotes fellowship and has good study spaces," says OCC President Jacqueline Shadko.

The new student center also has display areas for students art work and graphic designs.

"It is our firm belief that an attractive campus environment not only enhances, but positively fosters the quality of the quality of the education experience for our students," Chancellor Timothy Meyer says in a statement. "Maintaining and improving our facilities would not be possible were it not for the confidence and support shown to OCC by the citizens of Oakland County, who have voted three times over the past 18 years in favor of providing OCC with the additional millage funds that make these types of projects possible.”

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Selvia Hines, marketing and communication, Oakland Community College

Grove Street to get $1.1M makeover in downtown Farmington

Construction started this week on a project to turn a beat up, outdated main street in downtown Farmington into a boulevard streetscape of greenery, decorative lighting and stamped walkways.

The $1.1-million Grove Street Reconstruction Project will also add parking to downtown and make over a tired strip retail center as well as connect it to a major pedestrian crosswalk that will lead to another shopping center.

Water mains will also be replaced and a plaza space with seating will be part of the new downtown layout.

The goal of city officials and the Downtown Development Authority is to make downtown more attractive, walkable, and busy as well as match it to a streetscape already redone. The plans call for turning a swath of pavement into a boulevard separated by a center island with angled parking along parts of it.

Mayor Tom Buck says the project is as much about attracting families to downtown as it is attracting small businesses and boosting the local economy.

The project will completely remove and replace Grove Street from Grand River to Main Street. The work was delayed in 2009 due to the costs. It is expected to be completed in two phases over a 10-week period and ready to use sometime in July.

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

Oakland County opens business center for entrepreneurs

Oakland County is trying to make starting a business or taking it to the next level easier for entrepreneurs by offering free, walk-in business counseling.

The One Stop Shop Business Center at the Oakland County Executive Office building, 2100 Pontiac Lake Road, in Waterford will open May 9 and offer regular walk-in hours after that. The hours for May 9 are 9:30-noon and 1:30-4:30. The business center is on the first floor of Building 41W.

“We usually operate on an appointment-only basis but many entrepreneurs walk into our One Stop Shop with questions on how to get started with their business idea,” says Greg Doyle, supervisor of the One Stop Shop Business Center. “By designating special walk-in days, we hope to reach more entrepreneurs and help them understand their next steps as well as present the resources we can make available to them. Our aim is to get them started quickly in a way that makes the most sense to their unique situation.”

Counselors at the business center can answer specific questions, suggest planning tools and give direction on where to go to solve problems or achieve goals. All sessions are confidential. The counselors have expertise in business development, community planning, financing and market research.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Greg Doyle, supervisor, One Stop Shop Business Center

Getting Michigan cities redevelopment ready

Just over 35 cities and townships in Michigan are joining a new state program that teaches them how to prepare their communities for redevelopment and attract the kind of development they want.

Of the cities accepted into the first round of training and certification in the Michigan Economic Development Corporation's Redevelopment Ready Communities program, eight are in metro Detroit. Ann Arbor is also on the list.

It, along with Lathrup Village and Novi, will receive a formal Redevelopment Ready Communities evaluation that could lead to certification as a Redevelopment Ready Community. This means they either have outlined or have plans to outline their redevelopment strategies and draw development to fit their community. This designation could also make them eligible for redevelopment grants.

Dearborn, Clawson, Farmington Hills, Hamtramck, Wixom, and White Lake Township will receive best practice training and assistance and could move onto the certification process later.

They all will learn how to creatively re-use space, support and attract economic innovation, and devise devise plans that bring in redevelopment investment and in turn rebuild thriving communities for employees, residents and recreation.

The program was originally launched by the Michigan Suburbs Alliance in 2003, and its success led to the state program.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Kathy Fagan, spokesperson, Michigan Economic Development Corp.

Public opinion sought on revitalization of Grand River corridor

Grand River, the rather suburban, nondescript swath of road that runs through Farmington and Farmington Hills, may be changing into a more welcoming, walkable, attractive Main Street.

The Grand River Corridor visioning process is an ongoing plan to revitalize the stretch of road between Mayfield in Farmington to 8 Mile in Farmington Hills, including parts of 8 Mile Road. The cities of Farmington and Farmington Hills are working together on a plan that could enter the construction and make-over phase as soon as October and be completed by April.

The public is invited to see the current plan and ideas on March 13, from 5-8 p.m. at the Botsford Hospital community room in Farmington Hills.

The purpose is to tie in public input to a working proposal to make Grand River a livable, working, gathering spot that's easy to navigate whether by car, bike or foot. Already about 300 ideas from business owners, city officials, planning consultants and various stakeholders have gone into the current, changing plan to rework the roadway into a more inviting commercial corridor.

“The planning team will showcase the visioning plan in written and graphic forms,” said Aaron Domini, Senior Planner with OHM Advisors. “This is the community’s chance to review the plan, provide feedback, and help shape the future of this important project."

For more information, go to www.fhgov.com/grandriver.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Nate Geinzer, assitant to Farmington Hills city manager

Peterlin's Restaurant & Bar in Farmington brings two visions, jobs

Zach Peterlin and Kim Decapite are in the dating phase of their relationship, but they've already figured out how to marry their experience into a restaurant and bar in Farmington.

Peterlin's Restaurant & Bar opened about six months ago at the corner of Farmington Road and 9 Mile "and it's been even better than we thought. You never know. Starting a business is a big gamble," Peterlin says.

He says the reasons the customers are coming have to do with value for fresh-made food, customer service that is as much a business cornerstone as the menu, and with backgrounds that he and Decapite bring to the table.

Peterlin, an honors graduate in hospitality management from Northern Michigan University and an experienced chef in corporate and independent restaurants, brings a passion for original and creative foods.

Decapite, with her experience in fine food shops such as Alban's Bottle & Basket in Birmingham and for the last eight years at Joe's Produce and Gourmet Market in Livonia, has perfected a face-to-face, customer-comes-first attitude.

"It's hard to compete with the Subways and Little Caesars and their $5 meals. But it's all processed," Peterlin says. "I think we've found the right price point and we have the quality."

Peterlin also brought with him customers he had cultivated while working as a chef for other restaurants. They chose to open in Farmington because they live there and because they knew there was market potential, he says.

Peterlin and Dicapite met during a food and wine pairing course, and decided about a year ago to go into business for themselves.

"I had gone to work for J Alexander's right out of school and learned a lot. But I wanted to try to the independent thing. So I went to work for smaller, independents. I found out I like doing the independent thing, being creative and doing something that's special, Peterlin explains. "We think we've hit the right combination: a good price point, fresh food, great customer service. In these times you have to give people value and you have to give them what's going make them come back."

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Zach Peterlin, co-owner, Peterlin's Restaurant & Bar

Annoying, little bugs create growth for Rapunzel's Lice Boutique

Little lice - and the families who so desperately want to get rid of them - are responsible for the big growth of the Rapunzel's Lice Boutique, which opened its fourth salon last week in Farmington Hills.

Owner Sarah Casello-Rees, who opened the first boutique in Ann Arbor in 2009, says, "We've been doubling our growth every year."

Sure the ipads, lego tables and TVs have attracted notice for the family-oriented salons but for Rapunzel's growth has come because those pesky head bugs have built up a resistance to traditional treatments and parents want to avoid pesticides to treat a problem that can consume hours, days, weeks, looking for lice and picking nits.

The determined removal specialists at Rapunzel's use a heat treatment and manual removal, a one-time process that is guaranteed.

Rapunzel's started as a mobile operation called the Lice Brigrade in 2008.

"When we opened our first boutique we thought the name was a little too militaristic. We wanted something more comforting," says Casello-Rees.

About 15 employees work for the company and there are more job openings for removal technicians who are paid $25-$35 an hour.

Rapunzel's recently started offering a benefits package to employees.

"As an owner of the company we strive to offer outstanding customer service to the families…and what's equally important is being a good employer," Casello-Rees says.

Employees receive health care coverage and a retirement plan.

"When we started in 2008 we were at the lowest point in our economy, so to do this is no small feat…I call it a recession proof business because people are always willing to pay to get ride of their parasites," says Casello-Rees. "

The Farmington Hills location on Farmington Road opened in response to the large number of Oakland County customers traveling to other shops in other counties.

Besides the Ann Arbor location, which is on Plymouth Road, there are boutiques in Sterling Heights on Metro Parkway and in Grand Rapids.

"It's just like a salon…The only difference is we don't cut hair or wash hair….Licensed hair sons can't treat head lice or service customers with lice," she says. "The hair industry is thrilled we are here….That's where we a get lot of referrals."

And with all the amenities, "the kids love coming there."

"They sometimes ask to come back," she says. "Usually the parents aren't too keen on that."

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Sarah Casello-Rees, owner Rapunzel's Lice Boutique
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