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Downtown Birmingham sets up indoor and outdoor wireless hot spots

Birmingham has a new amenity to add to its reasons to live or work in the city: free wi-fi at several city buildings and at Shain Park downtown.

Besides the park, wi-fi access for the public was connected last week at City Hall, the Department of Public Services, and at the Birmingham Ice Sports Arena.

"It was relatively inexpensive and it makes the park more usable," says Christian Wuerth, assistant to the city manager. "The city offices where there's wi-fi are places for public meetings. Internally, it helps people when they have a presentation to make."

Additionally, city boards and commissions that meet at the office will have easier, quicker access to information.

As for a lifestyle amenity, Wuerth says summer will tell if downtown employees and visitors warm up to the hot spot in Shain Park.

"If it's a nice day, it gives people the option to sit outside in the sun, in the shade, maybe have lunch, do a little work."

Source: Chrisitan Wuerth, assistant to the city manager
Writer: Kim North Shine

Birmingham added 11 new businesses in last 6 months, 5 more opening

If there seems to be more business variety in Birmingham lately, that's because there is and will be.

In the last six months, at least 11 new businesses, two of them national chains, J. McLaughlin and Paper Source (see metromode story), have opened in downtown Birmingham and at least five others will welcome customers in coming weeks.

"It’s a positive sign that another, perhaps stronger, year of growth lies ahead for the City’s retail and service sector," says John Heiney, executive director of the Birmingham Principal Shopping District.

Coming soon to Birmingham, according to Heiney, is:

* Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse fills in the the prominent and once top dining spot, Forte, at 201 South Old Woodward. The Ohio-based restaurant chain with steakhouses in Florida, New York and Pennsylvania opens this spring.

* Churchill’s, a long-established tobacco shop, will open a cigar bistro this spring at 116 South Old Woodward, just a few doors down from its familiar storefront.

* Revive will soon open a second Birmingham location at 157 West Maple, across the street from their current location at 154 West Maple. The new store will feature men’s apparel and hard-to-find urban streetwear.

* Mobili Now will bring contemporary home furnishings from lines around the world and pair them with the work of local artists and designers. Mobili Now will be located at 746 East Maple.

HappyDino Playcare will soon open their doors at 375 Hamilton Row and offer more flexible scheduling options.

Recent openings, according to Heiney:

* What Crepe, a bar and 50-item crepe menu, serves breakfast, lunch,dinner and brunch from 172 North Old Woodward.

* The Spice and Tea Exchange, 175 West Maple, is a purveyor of gourmet spices,blends, rubs and teas.

* Lexi Drew, seller of home furnishings, accessories and clothing, has drawn its loyal followers, and ideally new customers, to a relocated shop at 152 North Old Woodward.

* Jeweler Barbara Boz is selling her creations, some worn by Oprah Winfrey and Courtney Cox and sold to local and national customers, from her new boutique at 205 East Maple.

* Level Multisport, (see metromode story) run by triathlete, swimming, cycling owners, will set customers up with running, cycling, yoga and running gear from their weeks-old business at 528 North Old Woodward.

* Axis Music Academy has expanded to a third location in Birmingham at 283 Hamilton Row. Like its academies in Canton and Southfield, the Birmingham location offers private and group rock band classes and lessons in bass, drums, guitar, voice, piano and music technology.

* Elements Therapeutic Massage opened in February at 755 East Maple, offering a new option to the tense and tight with its deep tissue, hot stone, sports, prenatal, Swedish and trigger point massages.

* Dental Radiance at 800 South Adams is a national family and cosmetic dentistry practice operated locally by Dr. Ami P. Doshi.

Source: John Heiney, executive director, Birmingham Principal Shopping District
Writer: Kim North Shine

Level Multisport in Birmingham outfits runners, bikers, swimmers, yogis

Christine and Adam Rosender, competitive runners and swimmers, have brought their love of sports to a new business in downtown Birmingham. Level Multisport, 528 N. Old Woodward, opened last month and is drawing both locals and destination shoppers, Christine Rosender says.

"It's going really well now that the weather is getting nicer and people are coming out and getting excited," she says. "We've had people driving from quite a ways actually. We are selling some brands you can't find just anywhere."

While the business caters to triathletes, runners, swimmers, cyclists, the couple wants "all levels to feel welcome…We want to draw new people in who could use some direction and encouragement," she says. Level Multisport also sells yoga gear.

In addition to the sales side of the business, the owners also host group runs from the store every Thursday. Soon there will be group bike rides on the weekend, she says.

The business was a long standing dream for the couple, who ran and swam for their college teams in Tampa. They left Florida to come to Michigan to be near family.

"It took a little while to figure out if the market would sustain us," Christine Rosender says. "In that time the sport of triathlon and running has grown so much. Seeing that growth prompted us to finally do it."

The opening of the store has created a full-time job for Christine as well as a full-time store manager and a part-time employee.

Source: Christine Rosender, co-owner Level Multisport
Writer: Kim North Shine

Regional mass transit effort expands to include all of Woodward Ave.

An effort to further study and coordinate mass transit options for the Woodward Avenue corridor from Detroit to Birmingham has expanded to include all of Woodward from the Detroit River to Pontiac.

Originally, the four-month-old group effort that includes the Oakland County Woodward-area suburbs of Ferndale, Pleasant Ridge, Huntington Woods, Royal Oak, Berkley and Birmingham focused on extending a mass transit line that would end at Woodward and 8 Mile to Birmingham. But a $2 million federal transportation grant, a change in design of the Woodward light rail line in Detroit, as well as a push by state and federal officials to create a truly regional rapid mass transit system for southeast Michigan broadened the focus area to include the entire 27-mile stretch of Woodward.

The Michigan Suburbs Alliance, the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments and the Woodward Avenue Action Association are working with the original steering committee and inviting all other communities along the route to join in. There will also be opportunity for public input as the planning process moves along.

The grant comes from the Federal Transportation Administration and pays for what's known as an Alternative Analysis, a required part of any mass transit development. It comes after the state legislature passed a bill to create an RTA, a Regional Transportation Authority that would cover Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, and Washtenaw counties and coordinate local bus systems and oversee creation of a rapid transit network. SEMCOG will manage the grant and work to ensure that any plans to come out of the broader effort coordinate with all other work underway in the region.

The larger focus comes as mass transit planners and proponents in Detroit have changed plans for a Woodward light rail line to a downtown circulator system.

Heather Carmona, executive director of the Woodward Avenue Action Association, says the effort goes beyond transit. “We’re working with the cities to make Woodward work for everyone who travels along it, and at connecting all transportation modes to economic development opportunities.”

Richard Murphy, transportation director at the Michigan Suburbs Alliance, says in a statement announcing the new, broader approach: “Detroit and the Oakland County suburbs recognize that better transit on Woodward will spur economic development both north and south of Eight Mile—but they need a regional transit authority to build and run the system. Governor (Rick) Snyder has proposed that the RTA work towards a rapid transit network including Woodward Avenue, and this alternatives analysis will let them move quickly towards that goal."

Source: Carmine Palombo, director of transportation planning, Southeast Michigan Council of Governments and Lori Elia Miller, marketing and communications manager, Woodward Avenue Action Association
Writer: Kim North Shine

How metro Detroit municipalities tried to create the downtown experience

The word downtown was tossed around a lot in 2011. Everybody has one or is working on creating one as they pursue the newfound love of things urban. Downtown Development Authorities, Chambers of Commerce, Main Street programs had Main Streets - and their equivalents - throughout metro Detroit putting money into makeovers and facelifts in 2011 as city leaders saw promise in creating places that preserve history, have varied businesses and invite walking, biking, strolling.

The changes were big and small. Together should convey: You want to come here. Decorative, energy-efficient street lights, attractive, theme-appropriate benches, trash-receptacles, pedestrian-safe sidewalks and crosswalks, art installations, benches, historic preservation projects, special events, facade grants, kiosks to direct visitors, even phone apps to get them around town - all wrapped in business recruitment and PR.

Cities with the most real downtowns: Rochester, Ferndale, Royal Oak, Mount Clemens, Dearborn, Plymouth, Northville. The up-and-comers: Auburn Hills, Clarkston, Berkley, Novi, Wyandotte.

Downtown Rochester $1 million streetscape re-do is on
http://www.metromodemedia.com/devnews/0818rochesterredo0221.aspx

Downtown Lake Orion gets $2 million streetscape, new microbrewery
http://www.metromodemedia.com/devnews/0922lakeorion0225.aspx

Mount Clemens invests more than $250K in way-finding signs
http://www.metromodemedia.com/devnews/0915wayfinders0224.aspx

Wyandotte DDA's business improvement grants paying off
http://www.metromodemedia.com/devnews/0526plymouthnightlife0211.aspx

Nightlife builds in downtown Plymouth
http://www.metromodemedia.com/devnews/0526plymouthnightlife0211.aspx

Ice rink cometh to Auburn Hills heating up plans for downtown
http://www.metromodemedia.com/devnews/icerink0192.aspx

Graduate housing, downtown parking and retail complex coming to Auburn Hills
http://www.metromodemedia.com/devnews/1201ahhousing0234.aspx

Main Street Oakland recognizes top downtown projects
http://www.metromodemedia.com/devnews/0310mainstreetoakawards0200.aspx


By Kim North Shine

The train has left the station - sort of

Regional mass transit champions, especially of train and light rail, received several pieces of good news in 2011 as Amtrak operators and bus service providers saw ridership hit record numbers. Funding added up, new stations opened and Woodward Avenue light rail moved as close as ever to leaving the station.

Metro Detroit suburbs liked what they saw and threw money and manpower behind studies and possible land acquisition into linking their main corridors, namely Woodward Avenue and possibly 8 Mile, to light rail or other regional mass transit system.

Of course, the Woodward Avenue Rail project has been put on hold in favor of a rapid bus transit plan... but the conversation deepens and most assuredly continues. 

Note: The record numbers and the funding have been a "trend" since at least 2008, but 2012 might show us if this thing that has brought so much economic stimulus to other towns can happen in metro Detroit. It's why we posed this in 2011: If Dallas can do it, why not Detroit?

As train and bus ridership gorw, $47 million is committed to new transit options
http://www.metromodemedia.com/devnews/1020masstransit0229.aspx

Transform Woodward ponders light rail beyond Detroit
http://www.metromodemedia.com/devnews/0804woodlightrail0219.aspx

Woodward Avenue as linear city
http://www.metromodemedia.com/devnews/0609woodave0212.aspx

If Dallas Can Do It, Why Can't Detroit?
http://www.metromodemedia.com/features/dallasdetroitlightrail0218.aspx

Case for Detroit light rail grows with $25M federal grant, 23 percent growth in Amtrak ridership
http://www.metromodemedia.com/devnews/lightrailplans0195.aspx

Nearly $200M federal grant accelerates high speed rail in Metro Detroit
http://www.metromodemedia.com/devnews/0512highspeedrail0209.aspx

Next stop: Dearborn. New new train station pulling in
http://www.metromodemedia.com/devnews/0721dearborntrain0217.aspx

New transit center in Pontiac welcomes bus, train commuters
http://www.metromodemedia.com/devnews/0811pontiactransit0220.aspx

By Kim North Shine

Streets for all. Designing cities that welcome all forms of transportation

Streets for everyone. The Michigan Complete Streets initiative gained momentum in 2011 in metro Detroit and around the state as cities enacted changes or made plans to design roads and sidewalks that take pedestrians, cyclists and drivers into account. The Michigan's Complete Streets movement got props for being a role model nationwide. Separately from Complete Streets, cities and various nonprofits worked on the same goal: streets that accommodate all. It's been a process playing out for a few years now so expect to see more bike lanes, new style crosswalks and other changes coming to a town near you.

Michigan is national leaders in street design that serves cars, bikes and pedestrians
http://www.metromodemedia.com/devnews/0317micompletestreets0201.aspx

Streetscape grants from Royal Oak's WA3 help unify Woodward Corridor
http://www.metromodemedia.com/devnews/woodwardcorrgrants0194.aspx

Royal Oak's non-motorized transportation plan is out for public feedback
http://www.metromodemedia.com/devnews/1110royaloakwalkride0232.aspx

Walkers, cyclists may like changes coming to Grosse Pointe, Dearborn
http://www.metromodemedia.com/devnews/0901fedtransgrants0223.aspx

By Kim North Shine

New Year to ring in two new Birmingham restaurants

Downtown Birmingham may be seeing two new restaurants in early 2012, one a tapas-style eatery, the other a European bistro with specialties from a stone oven.

The Social Kitchen & Bar will be located at 223-225 Maple Road and serve small-portion, shareable tapas in an indoor dining room, a small bar and rooftop cafe.

Market, the European bistro, will be located at 474 N. Old Woodward and Ravine and offer a casual and relaxed atmosphere with outdoor seating, says Jana Ecker, Birmingham's planning director.

Variety "is what we're after," Ecker says.

The restaurants were two of six that went through a pre-screening before the city commission weeks ago to determine which two in the group should receive coveted bistro licenses that allow food establishments to serve food and alcohol outdoors and with limited seating. While they won the blessing of the commission in the prescreening, a new process aimed at equalizing the awarding of the licenses and decreasing the time from proposal to opening day, both proposals will go before council Jan. 9, ideally for the last time.

If all goes as expected, Ecker says, construction and renovation can begin and opening day could come in early 2012.

Social Kitchen would fill in vacancies along Maple, one a former sushi restaurant, the other a retail store. Market will move in to the spot formerly occupied by Root & Sprout, and before that, Arkitektura.

Both restaurants have under 65 seats.

Source: Jana Ecker, planning director, city of Birmingham
Writer: Kim North Shine

National chains and Big Apple visit shaping Birmingham's downtown

Downtown Birmingham has grown by two national retailers in recent weeks, adding a Paper Source artisan paper and stationery vendor and a J. McLaughlin clothing store. Representatives from the city head to New York City next week to make a case for why other nationals should bring their business to Birmingham.

The push to attract stores better known in larger cities such as Chicago -- where a Paper Source draws metro Detroiters -- started about two years ago as a new initiative of the city's Principal Shopping District..

Cindy Ciura, a consultant for the district and principal of CCConsulting, says the city is achieving that goal while also attracting local businesses.

"i think most urban areas are a combo of both local and national... the successful ones. There are a few holes for retailers like Paper Source and J. McLaughlin that fill a need out there in the market…"

She says the two newer establishments have reported huge crowds and great sales.

"When you talk to retailers about Michigan in general there is concern because of auto companies, unemployment, etc. Having these national retailers here shows others that we are OK, that there is a market here."

J. McLaughlin, which sells Ralph Lauren-esque American classic styles for men, women and pets, is located at 268 Maple. Paper Source, which deals in artisanal papers, specialty stationery invitations, greeting cards and unique gifts, is at Maple at Pierce.

In the last year several local businesses, including Sanders, have opened and are doing well, Ciura says.

The business success combined with some good press, including Birmingham being named by CNN and Money magazine as one of the top ten towns with six-figure incomes, and as the fifth most successful  walkable suburb by the Wall Street Journal, has generated excitement around a trip to the International Council of Shopping Centers national conference in New York City.

Members of the principal shopping district, which is backed by 300 retailers, will go to New York City to share the successes and the headlines and more, Ciura says.

"It's a great opportunity to mix," she says, "and tell these retailers what's great about Birmingham."

Source: Cindy Ciura, spokesperson, Birmingham Principal Shopping District
Writer: Kim North Shine

As train and bus ridership grow, $47M is committed to new transit options

If the numbers paint an accurate picture, development of mass transportation in Michigan is picking up steam.

A series of announcements this week look promising for light rail and other transportation options for Southeast Michigan. Earlier this week, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced $46.7 million in funding for 16 projects across the state, several in Detroit and surrounding suburbs.

Besides about $7 million for the city of Detroit to replace buses and make other improvements, metro Detroit will see $2 million in funding for the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, which will study transportation alternatives between 8 Mile and 15 Mile Roads.

Part of that research will focus on connecting to a light rail line to run along Woodward Avenue in Detroit, starting in downtown and ending at 8 Mile. That project got $25 million in federal funding last year and a promise of continued support from LaHood this week, who is also encouraging local officials in southeast Michigan to look at a regional approach to the light rail line.

The latest funding comes as a regional transportation task force headed by Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has formed so that counties in Southeast Michigan will look at transportation advancements and opportunities as a united entity, rather than completing projects piecemeal.

And if there is question as to the interest from the public in mass transportation such as trains, record ridership numbers on Amtrak show there is. According to the Michigan Department of Transportation, which released the ridership numbers this week, there has been an increase on its three lines for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.

Ridership of the the Wolverine line, which runs between Pontiac and Chicago, increased by 4.9 percent from last year for a total of 503,290 riders. The increase might have been larger but for track work and freight slowdowns, according to the Michigan Department of Transportation.

The Blue Water line from Port Huron to Chicago increased 18.6 percent, up to 187,065 passengers, and the Pere Marquette route between Grand Rapids and Chicago saw a a gain of 4.7 percent, with 106,662 passengers.

In addition, SMART, the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation, will receive nearly $5 million to replace unusable buses with hybrid biodiesel/electric models.

Tie in the decision in recent weeks by the state of Michigan to take on the Amtrak corridor between Dearborn and Kalamazoo and upgrade to 100-mph-plus high speed rail, and Michigan's mass transit improvements appear to be picking up steam.

There are two important lessons in all of this," says Megan Owens, director of Transportation Riders United, an advocacy group for mass transit.

"One is there is a huge interest and demand for better transit in our community. Whether you're talking city, suburb, business communities, individuals, politicians, there's a huge interest in having better public transportation," Owens says. "While it's great the feds are supportive, the other side of the story is we are dramatically under-investing in a system."

"We are so lucky to have incredible federal support. They've highlighted Michigan and Detroit as a special focus, but they can only do so much. We have to step up ourselves."

Owens shares her thoughts while attending a conference in Washington, D.C. this week on transit-oriented development. In other states, she says, tens of thousands of jobs have been created and billions of dollars invested in light rail, public transportation and in communities along the routes, with success achieved only after committing sales tax or other funding sources to their projects.

She also points out that for all the talk of high speed trains and light rail, buses, the backbone of a transportation system, can't be forgotten. The latest federal dollars do go toward improving DDOT and SMART buses, but again, she says, the commitment locally needs to be greater.

"It's absolutely fabulous we're seeing big investment in this area, but we have to not only maintain but improve the core services."

Source: Michigan Department of Transportation and Megan Owens, director of Transportation Riders United.
Writer: Kim North Shine


Downtown Birmingham adds 15 new spots to shop, eat, hang

A mix of local and national retailers, restaurants and other businesses are making downtown Birmingham their address.

A recruiter hired by the city's Principal Shopping District has attracted some of the newcomers. The Principal Shopping District functions somewhat like a downtown development authority but does not capture taxes as traditional DDAs do or buy or purchase land. The PSD uses funds from a special assessment on commercial properties to operate. That includes marketing downtown Birmingham and hiring a recruiter to find national retailers.

One is Paper Source, a Chicago-based stationery and paper supply store that has 44 locations, with seven opening nationally this year. Paper Source is filling the space occupied by Sherman's Shoes at 115 West Maple.

About 15 businesses, from restaurants and candy stores to salons and clothing stores, have opened recently or are expected to open soon.

Look for Detroit Guitar, which is under construction at 243 W. Maple and will bring music lessons and music gear in funky surroundings to downtown in September.

What Crepe?, a Euro dining eatery, is moving into 167 Old North Woodward. Sanders, the ice cream and candy store, is relocating just down the street to 172 North Old Woodward. Shish Kabob and Subway are adding to eating options, as are three bistros: Townhouse, Bella Piatti and Churchills. Revive, a men's clothing store, is coming to 163 W. Maple, where Adventures in Toys once was. Salons, H202 and Nude, opened in May on Hamilton Row.

"We definitely have had an uptick in businesses coming in," says John Heiney, director of Birmingham's Principal Shopping District.
Last year there was a net increase of 15 businesses, including spas, a florist, a jeweler, home decorating stores and food establishments.

"We seem to be on a similar pace this year," he adds.

The recruiting effort is focusing on national retailers looking for boutique-size operations of 2,500 square feet or less, he says. Apparel stores are the main focus. City Manager Bob Bruner has been on the job since February and comes from Ferndale, which is known for a vibrant downtown.

"We hope the national retailers will join our excellent local retailers," Heiney says.

Source: John Heiney, director, Birmingham Principal Shopping District; Birmingham City Manager Bob Bruner
Writer: Kim North Shine

Transform Woodward ponders light rail beyond Detroit

Southern Oakland County communities are contributing to a study that will look into what it will take to embark on transit-oriented development along Woodward Avenue.

The major thoroughfare ties the communities together and would be an obvious extension of a light rail line that is expected to be constructed along Woodward from downtown Detroit to 8 Mile Road.

The study was commissioned by the Transform Woodward group convened by the nonprofit Woodward Avenue Action Association, or WA3, and will identify land use and zoning and master plan changes needed to support transit oriented development along the South Oakland County portion of Woodward.
 
Royal Oak based LSL Planning Inc. will complete the study.

The Transform Woodward Task Force is made up of elected officials, employers and institutional partners from Berkley, Birmingham, Ferndale, Huntington Woods and Royal Oak.

In announcing the plans to initiate a "transit-oriented development framework," WA3 says the creation of "improved public transit that includes a rapid transit service along the Woodward corridor, including governance, and funding through a regional transit authority, is a significant step toward a larger system that will support the development of jobs and business investments throughout the region, linking Oakland County."

Jana Ecker, chair of the task force and city of Birmingham planning director, says in a statement announcing the consultant's hiring, "We look forward to working with them as we complete the initial data gathering phases and begin to broaden our engagement with the communities along this historic All-American Road."

The task force and LSL Planning will outline existing conditions, transportation patterns, and needs and goals of each community as well as the Southern Oakland County region while building broad support and attempting to ensure that each city's unique character is preserved.

Source: Lori Ella Miller, spokesperson, Woodward Avenue Action Association
Writer: Kim North Shine

Woodward Avenue as linear city

The concept of making Woodward Avenue in south Oakland County a thoroughfare traveled by multiple forms of transportation that move through one unified, "linear" community is taking shape with the award of a $15,000 grant.

The Urban Land Institute's Community Action Grant will fund the latest phase in the Transform Woodward: Woodward Avenue Linear City concept, which aims to identify ways land use can be changed to support transit-oriented development.

The Woodward Avenue Action Association, or WA3, an economic and community development organization with the mission of improving the visual, economic, functional and historic character of the 27-mile All-American Road and national scenic byway, is the driving force behind a five-city consortium working to change the the way the corridor is used and traveled.

Berkley, Birmingham, Ferndale, Huntington Woods and Royal Oak are part of the task force using the grant money to identify the changes that might move the corridor away from its dominance by the almighty automobile.  SMART, the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, the Michigan Suburbs Alliance, Beaumont Hospital, and the Detroit Zoo are also on the task force.

"These are five separate communities but collectively we're all one community when it comes to Woodward," says Heather Carmona, executive director of WA3.

The cities got together in October 2010 to evaluate how south Oakland County figured into plans to bring mass transit to metro Detroit. One project, light rail on Woodward through Detroit, will end at 8 Mile, leaving south Oakland County out.

"We came together due to a lack of consensus on a public transit plan," says Carmona. "We needed to start thinking about what that next link will be."

"But what's happening now is less about transit and more about land use."

The grant from the Urban Land Institute will pay to research land use strategies, conduct policy and education and support promotional activities to roll out plans. The information will assist task force cities to identity land use and zoning and master plan changes needed to support transit-oriented development.

"It's really a progressive group of folks that's thinking big picture," Carmona says. "These are elected officials that have the ability to change affect policy and make decisions."

Carmona says the goal is to have "working drawings and visionary plans" completed by year's end.

"This is a great shot in the arm to get the group moving," Carmona says.

Source: Heather Carmona, executive director, Woodward Avenue Action Association
Writer: Kim North Shine


DTE Energy's community gardens expand

DTE Energy's community gardens are growing by four acres and possibly hundreds of new volunteers this year.

Farming season for the 10 DTE Energy Gardens kicked off in Southfield earlier this week, starting a multi-faceted project that provides food to Gleaners Community Food Bank. The gardens also offer volunteers the opportunity to get involved in their communities, to get more exercise and to learn about gardening. The gardens also serve as aesthetic buffers around DTE facilities.

Last year, the 10 gardens produced 44,000 pounds of food for Gleaners and its food banks. With extra land and more volunteers - as many as 1,000 total - the amount of food grown is expected to increase this year, DTE Spokesman Scott Simons says.

DTE Energy and Gleaners started the program at two electric substations in 2008 and have since expanded to company properties in Allen Park, Birmingham, Farmington Hills, Frenchtown Township, Plymouth Township, Pontiac, Southfield, Lyon Township, Washington Township and Westland.

Source: Scott Simons, spokesman, DTE Energy
Writer: Kim North Shine

Smart meters spreading across Oakland County

Installation of high-tech electric meters that will change the way DTE Energy receives power usage information and increase customers' control over energy use has begun in Oakland County.

Over the next several months about 350,000 meters will be placed at homes and businesses in 25 communities: Berkley, Beverly Hills, Bingham Farms, Birmingham, Clawson, Farmington, Farmington Hills, Ferndale, Franklin, Hazel Park, Huntington Woods, Lathrup Village, Madison Heights, Northville, Novi, Oak Park, Pleasant Ridge, Rochester Hills, Royal Oak, Royal Oak Township, Southfield, Southfield Township, Troy, Walled Lake, and Wixom.

This portion of the installation of the "smart" meters come at a cost of about $168 million, half of it from a Smart Grid Investment Grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. The meters will form what DTE Energy is calling "the backbone" of its SmartCurrents program. DTE's matching $84 million grant helps achieve a nationwide effort to update the country's electrical grid.

The meters will provide detailed information about energy usage directly to DTE, recognize power outages without customer input, and allow DTE to quickly locate and repair outages and other service problems. The meters will nearly eliminate estimated billing and allow for service to be remotely connected or disconnected rather than requiring appointments with  technicians.

In addition, technology will be wired into the meters to allow customers to better manage their energy usage and bills. The SmartCurrents technology can be tied to similarly "smart" appliances, thermostats, and such. The DOE funding will allow DTE Energy to offer an in-home display product and special thermostats to nearly 1,500 customers. Check out smartcurrents.com for more information.

DTE has installed about 250,000 meters so far in Bloomfield Hills, Bloomfield Township, Commerce Township, Grosse Ile, Harsen's Island, and West Bloomfield Township. By early 2012 a total of about 600,000 meters will have been installed.

Source: Scott Simons, spokesman, DTE Energy
Writer: Kim North Shine

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