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'Ole!', says downtown Clawson, to new Mojave Cantina

A new Mexican restaurant is opening in downtown Clawson.

Mojave Cantina is in the midst of a soft opening, testing its menu of traditional burritos, tacos, quesadillas and its own twist on those Mexican staples, as well as specialties such as a Mojave salad and bacon and tomato guacamole. Margaritas and sangria are on the menu too.

It's located at 48 W. 14 Mile and is one of several new businesses that have opened or plan to open in the downtown, which is also taking on changes that will make it more walkable and bicycle friendly.

The owners, who renovated the space, are continuing to hire staff, host private events and open the doors for limited hours. Hours will go to full-time within two weeks, says Joan Horton, executive director of the Clawson Downtown Development Authority.

Judging by Mojave Cantina's Facebook posts, locals are ready to pull up a chair. The restaurant can seat up to 140 people and will host live music acts and salsa dancing.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Joan Horton, executive director, Clawson Downtown Development Authority

Ethel's Edibles opens new store & bakehouse in St. Clair Shores

People are eating up Ethel's Edibles gluten-free baked goods at such a pace that this toddler of a company has had to grow up quickly and move to a larger bakehouse and its first bakery retail store. The company started at the family dinner table and has spread to stores in metro Detroit and Michigan.

"We really hadn't intended to move so quickly, but this spot came up," says self-taught gluten-free baker and chef Jill Bommarito of Grosse Pointe.

In 2010, she discovered the pecan dandies and hot blondies that would get her name out there in Grosse Pointe. By August 2011, she was shipping her goodies to food bloggers around the country and involved with the Tri County Celiacs Support Group which introduced her to people, events and organizations looking for gluten-free baked goods that didn't taste gluten free. By November, Ethel's Edibles was in its first store. It's now in 25 stores, and in June Plum Market will carry Ethel's in its new Chicago store along with two other Michigan products -- Zingerman's and Cooper Street Cookies.

"It's all about having good people to work with," she says. "And the customers, they are amazing. They have helped us so much in how we do things. They have great ideas, great advice. There are so many good stories."

Eastern Market, too, she says, has been the launching pad for her company and so many food start-ups.

The new bakehouse on Harper Road between 8 and 9 Mile Roads in St. Clair Shores is the stepping stone to more products, more distribution, and relationships with like-minded small businesses, Bommarito says. She has 12 employees and is developing a "decadent cookie like Mrs. Field's and a great gluten-free muffin."

She started gluten-free cooking to take care of family members with Celiac's Disease, an intolerance to gluten that is hereditary. Her goal, she says, was to make the same family favorites without anyone knowing the difference.

The success of Ethel's Edibles, named after Bommarito's grandmother who taught her to bake and cook in a carefree and creative style, resulted from a beautiful collision of circumstances: a growing consumer interest in eating gluten-free, a deepening interest in supporting local businesses and the explosion of social media as a sales and marketing tool.

"Twitter and Facebook have been tremendous," she says. "By the time we were in stores in August we would come up on Google….We receive orders through Facebook from Boston, Chicago, California."

"Last year, our first full year, was a fun year, a busy year," she says. "We intend to double our production this year over last year."

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Jill Bommarito, founder, Ethel's Edibles

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

Marais restaurant taking over two storefronts in Grosse Pointe

The Village in downtown Grosse Pointe is getting a new restaurant, one with a French influence that will take over two storefronts on Kercheval Avenue and be run by a couple connected to culinary standouts in metro Detroit and in Europe.

Marais, owned by David and Monica Gilbert, will be an upscale white tablecloth French restaurant at the corner of Kercheval Avenue and St. Clair, says Jennifer Palms Boettcher, president and executive director of the Grosse Pointe Chamber of Commerce.

The Gilberts have traveled the world learning about food and have cut their chops at the best of the best in the restaurant arena. David Gilbert cooked at top Michelin-rated restaurants in Europe. He and Monica Gilbert left Brian Polcyn's award-winning Forest Grill in Birmingham, where he was executive chef and she was general manager, to build Marais in Grosse Pointe, where the couple lives.

Opening day for Marais could come by August, says James V. Bellanca, an attorney who negotiates lease deals for the family that owns several pieces of property in the Village. Part of the French bistro will be pub and private dining area. The other will be the dining room, says Bellanca. At 6,100 square feet, he says it will be the largest restaurant in Grosse Pointe.

"With David's design and reputation and experience this is going to be an exceptional operation," Bellanca says.

The current occupants of the two storefronts, one a prominent, window-wrapped space at the corner of Kercheval and St. Clair, the other a long narrow space, are moving out so that renovations can begin.

The Grosse Pointe Art Center and Bellissima women's clothing and bridal boutique have found new locations. The art center is moving a block away on Kercheval, and Bellisima is moving to Mack Avenue in Grosse Pointe Woods.

Marais will add variety to the Village, which is home food-wise to two bagel shops, two bakeries, two coffee shops, two casual restaurants and City Kitchen, a slightly upscale restaurant and bar that's expanding its bar.

The expansion and the coming of Marais is building on a buzz across all the Pointes as metro Detroit restaurateurs show some love to the community, where residents are used to leaving town for variety and often asking, "Why not here?"

"I think there is great opportunity for restaurants and other businesses to locate in the Village," says Grosse Pointe City Manager Peter Dame.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Peter Dame, Grosse Pointe city manager, and Jennifer Palms Boettcher, president and executive director, Grosse Pointe Chamber of Commerce

Artspace to purchase, renovate Dearborn city hall

Plans to build a working and living community for artists in Dearborn are progressing now that the city has set a sales price for the city hall building that will be renovated by the nonprofit ArtSpace.

Artspace has built 32 communities around the country, all of them in cities that have seen economic potential in the creative culture and provided artists places to live, work and sell their works as well as perform.

Dearborn Mayor Jack O'Reilly made the announcement that Artspace is likely to pay $1.65 million for the 1922 Georgian revival style city hall that has become too costly and wasteful for the city to keep.

City hall employees will move into a smaller, more energy-efficient city building that's more centrally located while ArtspaceDearborn, in cooperation with the East Dearborn Downtown Development Authority, renovates the old city hall into the City Hall Artists Lofts at 13615 Michigan Ave. Plans call for 40-plus affordable, live/work spaces for artists, art studios and spaces for arts organizations and creative businesses to operate on the east side of the city. East Dearborn, unlike West Dearborn with its influence of Ford Motor Company and the Henry Ford museum, is a more eclectic mix of businesses and has a deep rooted Middle Eastern community. The Arab American National Museum, believed to be the first and only museum devoted to Arab art and culture, is in East Dearborn.

The renovation could cost about $13.5 million, according to Artspace, and it acts as an arts and culture magnet that could attract new residents and visitors to the city.

Artspace’s Mission is to create, foster, and preserve affordable space for artists and arts organizations. Its motto: Bulding Better Communities Through the Arts.

The next step in the process is to apply for low-income housing credits from the state of Michigan, Artspace's Wendy Holmes says. Without those credits a nonprofit Artspace project can't happen. Tax credits typically cover 60-65 percent of the construction cost, the credits being based on the project's ability to provide affordable housing and to act as an economic stimulant. An architect is engaged and drawing up renderings of how an Artspace Dearborn would be laid out and function, she says.

A decision on whether to grant the tax credits is due in August. If approved, construction would start in 2014, Holmes says. If denied, Artspace applies again, and if approved then, construction would begin in 2015, she says.

One thing for certain is that the development would fill a whole city block on Michigan Avenue, where there are two matching City Hall buildings and another building in between. Housing will go into the City Hall building facing Michigan Avenue and in the one just like it around the corner. A third building between them will most likely have studio space,

"It would be a whole campus of arts activity, says Holmes, who has seen the economic spark that comes from providing a gathering spot for the creative community. In Seattle, for example, ArtSpace is about to start construction on its fourth space, this one connected to transit-oriented development, she says.

Along with lofts for living, places for creating or promoting all genres of arts, there would be space for art-related businesses.

"The concept is that space is used by to gather organizations with art interests. It could be a theater company," Holmes says. "There could be a fabrication area for, say, a company that fabricates different forms of art. This is
where creative people can come together in one place."

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Teri Deaver and Wendy Holmes, Artspace

Elwell Grill to join emerging downtown in Auburn Hills

A downtown in progress in Auburn Hills has a restaurant joining the mix of the businesses that are a part of an economic development plan to provide a walkable, community-event centered central gathering place for local families, students and visitors.

Elwell Grill, run by a restaurateur who came out of retirement at age 76, opened in December and is now serving lunch and dinner from a modern American menu in a cozy urban setting. Patrick Elwell has a nearly 50-year history in restaurants in Auburn Hills.

The city's Tax Increment Financing Authority, which is investing in the emerging downtown area around Auburn and Squirrel roads, provided funding so that the restaurant would contribute to a Main Street feel. Originally the entrance would have been at the rear of the Elwell Grill, but with the help of TIFA it was moved to the front and additional doors and windows were added.

The push to create a downtown and attract more businesses is in large part connected to the opening next year of an Oakland University graduate student housing and retail complex that will attract hundreds of residents.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Tom Tanghe, Auburn Hills assistant city manager

B.Nektar Meadery adds jobs, second Ferndale location

On the heels of B.Nektar Meadery's opening a second location in Ferndale, the honey wine maker that's gone national is adding weekend hours and hiring staff.

The five-year-old mead maker is also adding a spring festival to complement the annual mead meet-up that celebrates its anniversary every August. The festival is April 20, noon to 6 p.m. at the original B. Nektar on Jarvis St.

B. Nektar now sells its meads in about a dozen states and added a second production facility, which also has a tap and tasting room, in January. The new location in a warehouse on Wordsworth St. complements the original facility. The new place will make lower-alcohol, more-carbonated mead while the original location will produce higher-alcohol, non-carbonated varieties and be the site of new product experimentation.

The new hours and production demands call for more staffing, and founder and owner Brad Dahlhofer is interviewing this week, looking to expand a work crew that numbers about 10.

To be interviewing and creating jobs is ironic for Dahlhofer, who started B. Nektar with his wife in 2008 after losing his job.

The initial plan before he was laid off was to fit mead, which he made into his basement, in as a sideline pursuit. With a three-month-old baby at the time, attempting a mead business full-time wasn't happening, he didn't think.

"We didn't think this would be a full-time job," he says. Now B.Nektar is the leading mead producer in Michigan, the state that makes more than any other, he says.

"It was our goal to to do this permanently as a living, but we didn't know when or how exactly. It's the fear of the unknown that keeps people from taking the risk. When I was without a job, the risk of doing wasn't there. I was already on the diving board. I might as well jump."

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Brad Dahlhofer, owner, B. Nektar Meadery, Ferndale

Downtown Mount Clemens hair salon cuts its way into larger spot

A hair salon joins several other businesses that have moved and expanded in downtown Mount Clemens.

Chaos Studio Salon made the move from a smaller spot just off downtown to a larger space in the center of town.

After seven years in business in the smaler, Jennifer Case says the move was the obvious next step to grow.

The new salon at 116 Macomb Place underwent a renovation that brought in a rustic and feminine feel, mixing reclaimed barn wood and crystal chandeliers.

The salon doubled in size as did everything inside - more shampoo bowls - four instead of two, more styling stations, eight instead of four, and more staff to offer more services.

Case is a Paul Mitchell Salons national color educator with a local following, and she says the new and larger salon should bring in more businesses.

Chaos Studio Salon is the latest downtown Mount Clemens to move into much larger spaces and see business grow, says Michelle Weiss of the Mount Clemens Downtown Development Authority.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Jennifer Case, owner Chaos Studio Salon, Michelle Weiss, Mount Clemens Downtown Development Authority

Northwood University expands Troy campus

Midland-based Northwood University has renovated a Troy office building into a new campus that will be a hub for metro Detroit. The renovations provided more space, updated technology and programs and planned-for opportunities for business collaborations with students.

Dr. Matthew Bennett, director of admissions for Nothwood University's adult degree program, says enrollment and interest in the Troy and other southeast Michigan campuses and their business programs have steadily increased and the new, updated campus is a response to that.

It is located at 1500 West Big Beaver Road, just down the road from the old campus.

Classes, meeting areas and event space fill 8,000 square feet on the first floor of an office building where the Rehmann Group operates on the second floor.

"There's an openness here, and more opportunities for engagement with students," he says. "It's as high-tech a facility as you can imagine."

The Troy campus will offer several adult degree programs and be a hub for the DeVos School of Management. It will also serve as a regional admission center and offer advising for traditional students.

"The new Troy campus is a response to market demand for business leadership and to our state's need for business leadership," he says. "Northwood's mission is to develop the future leaders of a global free enterprise society. The goal is to be very entrepreneurial, very capitalistic, but student centered."

Classes officially began in mid-January. A grand opening and ribbon cutting is planned for March 21.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Matthew Bennett, spokesperson, Northwood University

Added Oomph buying into Birmingham's burgeoning Rail District

An experienced retailer and marketer is marrying her skills with an interior designer to form a new business partnership in Birmingham's flourishing rail district.

Added Oomph opened earlier this month and combines furniture and home accessory merchandise with the services of an interior designer.

Owners Pam Dennis, the interior designer in the partnership, and Janet Genn, the retailer, see the rail district and its eclectic feel as the perfect place to do bring a business that focuses on individuality. The store is at 2121 Cole.

"We believe our twist is having the store operated by an experienced interior designer that will complement the customer
experience," says Genn in an announcement of the store opening.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Birmingham-Bloomfield Chamber of Commerce

Troy based Qstride adding downtown Detroit office

Troy-based Qstride is expanding to downtown Detroit, adding a new sales and marketing office to support its business intelligence and analytics services to clients.

The new office will be located inside the Chrysler House, formerly the Dime Building, on Griswold.

Employees in the new office will help Detroit-based companies increase performance with Qstride's Business Intelligence solutions, which Qstride says can help decision makers understand how insight into business data can boost the bottom line.

“We chose to open a new office in downtown Detroit because of its rapidly growing technology district, and to be a part of the revitalization of this city,” Shane Gianino, vice president of national business development at Qstride, says in a statement.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Chris Wojtylo, spokesman, Qstride

123.net opening state's largest data center in Southfield

It's being called the largest data center in Michigan, and it's setting up operations in Southfield.

123.Net is building 100,000 square feet of data space at 24700 Northwestern Highway, where several telecommunications carriers currently operate. 123.Net provides voice, internet and colocation services and it will use the new data center to develop what's known in telecommunications as Tier 3 and Tier 4 data center space, the first in Michigan.

123.Net describes the data center as "an Internet Exchange, a place where Internet Service Providers (ISPs), telecommunications carriers, content providers, web-hosters and cloud providers meet to exchange IP traffic with one another. 123.Net is also working with engineering firms to utilize the latest energy-efficient technology to reduce energy costs by 60%."

123.Net CEO Dan Irvin says in a statement that the facility will be a draw for companies around the country.

“As 123.Net continues to grow, and the demand for world-class data center space increases, we have decided to develop a facility that will allow businesses in Michigan and across the country to have access to a premium facility in the Detroit area,” says Dan Irvin, CEO of 123.Net.

The facility will offer a data center so that companies don't have to build their own.

“Businesses are choosing colocation at 123.Net’s facilities over other options to avoid the risk, capital expense, and potential pitfalls of owning and operating their own data center. The carrier-agnostic approach of 123.Net’s four data centers provides access to a marketplace of suppliers,” Dave Curran, Channel Sales Manager at 123.Net. says in the statement.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: 123.Net and Automation Alley

New $30M student housing, other upgrades for Oakland University

Oakland University's campus will take on big changes, millions of dollars in changes, by 2014.

The changes include a $30 million student housing development, a new recreation and athletic complex, a new facility and grounds maintenance building and 1,240 parking spaces to keep up with student growth.

On top of that, the 1,443-acre campus in Rochester Hills will build a carillon tower on campus. The housing complex will provide additional parking as well as businesses such as a cafe, classrooms, student gathering space and more. The new athletic facilities will be equipped to host NCAA Division 1 events.

The future changes follow several other improvements to the campus, including a new engineering center and a human health building.

The goal is to enrich the college experience for students and to build on a 37-percent increase in student enrollment over the last 15 years.

Benjamin Eveslage, student liaison to OU's Board of Trustees, says the changes are what students have asked for.

“These improvements will greatly contribute to student life, the growth of our university, and the value every graduate holds in their diploma, Eveslage says in a statement. "I am glad to be a student at OU, at a point where OU is changing its game and improving in so many new ways”

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Oakland University

Unearthing the Clinton River as economic development in Pontiac

The vision is to have a river running through downtown Pontiac, one with restaurants, offices and shops alongside and perhaps small boats bringing in people and, ideally, ripples of prosperity.

The Clinton River is currently covered up, piped underground beneath a parking lot and the Phoenix Center, a deteriorating city-owned structure that could come down if the vision to daylight the Clinton River is actually pursued. The river opens up on either side of downtown.

As it is now, the Phoenix Center is used only occasionally.

"By daylighting the Clinton River, if it winds up with a river walk along it, it's going to be something that can be used everyday," says Bill Watch, chairman of the Urban Land Institute Michigan.

The idea of daylighting the river, something done in other cities, including Kalamazoo, is being explored with a feasibility study in a partnership between the Urban Land Institute, Oakland County and the city of Pontiac.

In June, students from the institute's Larson Center for Leadership, 34 of them considered business leaders, will come up with a document that outlines what it would take as far as a process, expenses and time to uncover the river.

The student leaders work in real estate, development, planning and other areas and will complete the "Daylighting the Clinton River" feasibility study in order to graduate from Larson.

In part they will determine if the benefits of uncovering the river outweigh the costs. One cost barrier is out of the way as the county has agreed to pay for the demolition of the Phoenix Center, which has seen better days.

"Oakland County had come to us in the fall and they wanted ULI's help to study this," Watch says. "This is something they've been thinking about.The county wants to do something for downtown Pontiac. It's a sort of legacy project."

Uncovering the river, if approved, wouldn't take all that long, he says. It's bringing the investors and companies and residents in to build there, work, and live there.

"It's not going to happen tomorrow. It will be years or even decades," he says. "But this is going to be something that could provide an attraction. It will give Pontiac a feature to bring people in."

The Clinton River was once a scenic gathering place for downtown Pontiac, but it also came with flood issues. It was paved over, built on and covered with drainage projects in an era when the economic draw of having a town on a river -- if well designed -- was less appreciated.

San Antonio's Riverwalk was a flood control project turned top tourist attraction for the Texas city.

"On a smaller scale this is what the Clinton River could become," Watch says. "Kalamazoo daylighted the river there and we'll be looking to them to learn about their experience."

Oakland County  Executive L. Brooks Patterson has called for daylighting the river for several months now, telling the Oakland Press in June, "Every city would love to have a river running through it, and the ones that do use it very well. The river becomes a focal point....I think that's in Pontiac's future."

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Bill Watch, Michigan chairman, Urban Land Institute

Wayne State OKs $12 million tech education center in Warren

Wayne State University is expanding from its urban setting in Detroit, building a suburban campus in Warren and a relationship with Macomb Community College and nearby automotive companies.

WSU's Board of Regents approved a $12 million renovation of an existing building adjacent to MCC on 12 Mile Road. The renovation will turn the building there and surrounding 3.5 acre site into the Advanced Technology Education Center, or ATEC.

ATEC will offer four year degrees in marketable academic programs such as engineering, computer science, business, advanced manufacturing and other areas of study. The degrees will be complemented by the access to collaborations with nearby businesses.

Wayne State and MCC through ATEC will help create an electric vehicle technologies center of excellence where WSU and MCC faculty can research, develop programs and improve delivery of electric and automotive battery technologies. 

“We are excited about implementing this next phase of the university's education strategy in Macomb County, which will serve as a center of excellence and a national model for university–community college partnerships,”  Ahmad Ezzeddine, vice president of educational outreach and international programs at Wayne State University, says in a statement. “We look forward to working with our partners at Macomb Community College and the Macomb business community to develop and offer educational and research programs that meet the talent and workforce needs of Macomb and the State of Michigan.” 

Dates for construction or opening have not yet been set.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Wayne State University
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