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Soccer and lacrosse complex expanding in Pontiac

A regional soccer and lacrosse complex that includes the largest indoor soccer site in North America is expanding, adding indoor and outdoor fields on a piece of property in Pontiac that was once a General Motors Corp. workplace.

Ultimate Soccer Arenas will build on 14.6 acres along Centerpoint Parkway behind and next to the Ultimate Soccer Arenas complex on East South Boulevard an roll fields for lacrosse, a traditionally East Coast sport that's taken off in metro Detroit and Michigan.

The expansion will add nearly 70,000 square feet and a fourth field and seating to the indoor facility, making it the largest non-professional sports facility in the world, says George Derderian, co-owner of Ultimate Soccer Arenas along with Tom Korpela. Ultimate Soccer Arenas opened in 2007 and moves about 1 million people through in a year and about 20,000 people use it at a time 10 or more times a year.

In addition to youth soccer and lacrosse events, the facility is the site of high school and collegiate soccer and lacrosse, high school and college graduations, after-school education and various community and cultural activities. It also is the home field of the Michigan Bucks, a minor league amateur soccer team, and the Detroit Mechanics pro disc team.

Construction will begin this summer and be completed in time for the fall sports season. About 100 construction jobs will be created and 20 full-time jobs.

The outdoor portion of the former automotive-industry property, which has been cleaned up and developed by RACER Trust, will be turned into a synthetic turf fields for lacrosse and soccer and enough bleacher seating for 2,500 spectators and 600 parking spaces.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: George Derderian, co-owner, Ultimate Soccer Arenas

HAWK signals in Macomb County may make busy streets safer for walkers

A new kind of pedestrian crossing may be coming to Macomb County and making at least two busy streets there safer for pedestrians.

The crossings called HAWK otherwise knowns as High Intensity Activated Crosswalks - were first used in Ann Arbor in 2010 and have resulted in a fewer pedestrian car accidents, says Michigan Department of Transportation spokesman Rob Morosi.

In Macomb County there will be public meetings to discuss the two proposed crossings at wide, busy intersections, both on Gratiot Avenue between Quinn and 15 Mile roads in Clinton Township.

The second meeting to discuss the proposal is set for 4-6 p.m. Tuesday June 25 at Parker Elementary School in Clinton Township.

A HAWK signal is controlled by the pedestrian and gives walkers more time to cross and clearer warnings and instructions about when and how quickly to cross.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Rob Morosi, spokesman, Michigan Department of Transportation

The Clem joins other Metro Detroit cities for summer festival season

With metro Detroit downtowns seeing economic opportunity in festivals, concerts, art shows and other special summer events, a calendar can fill up fast in no time with places to go all summer long.

There aren't many cities without a show to put on.

Mount Clemens is capitalizing on its success as a big party host with the All American Jam this weekend.

The county seat of Macomb County draws thousands to its festivals, carnivals, music shows and fireworks each year, bringing customers to downtown businesses and fun to the streets. The All American Jam, hosted by Powers Distributing, the Mount Clemens Downtown Development Authority and Watts Up, Inc - is a massive combination of them all.

It starts Thursday, June 20, and runs through Sunday, June 23, with a carnival, live music, food, beer, art and special exhibits, including a demonstration by the roller derby team, Bath City Roller Girls, fitness instructors and Cinderella, all with Main Street and Macomb Place in the center of downtown as the main drag. A fireworks show over the river happens on Friday.

There will be stages with live entertainment, musical and other artists. The event is billed as a family-friendly festival and will run from late afternoon to 11 p.m. each day.

Downtown Rochester packs in the crowds all year long with festivals and shows celebrating every season. This summers there's Music in the Park on Thursdays, the Big Bright Ball Aug. 4 and Movies in the Moonlight on Friday nights.

In Grosse Pointe Village district there's Thursday is the day for Music on the Plaza, and on July 26 the annual Sidewalk Sale and Street Festival pulls in deal-seekers and wanderers for the sales, music and food.

Royal Oak has a summer concert series on the lawn of the library every Thursday in July 11-Aug. 15. Each concert features multiple performers, either musicians or other artists. The city's Ford Arts, Beats & Eats is a metro-wide draw, taking over Main Street.

Dearborn’s Homecoming is 33-year-old, three-day festival that runs Aug. 2-4 and ends with fireworks and attracts about 150,000 visitors to the carnival, shows, picnics and other events.

Art fairs in Wyandotte and Plymouth are so popular that downtown Trenton moved the date of its 38-year-old annual summer festival to June 28, 29, 30.

The Wyandotte Street Art Fair is July 10-13. Art in the Park in downtown Plymouth is the July 12-14.

Writer: Kim North Shine

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

Berkley's FoodTruck Cafe bringing food carts indoors

The FoodTruck Cafe is giving customers of rolling restaurants a place to sit down and eat indoors or out.

The cafe is opening June 24 in Berkley with three food trucks re-created inside the cafe: the Sideshow Sandwich Emporium, Nacho Ordinary Nacho and Airstream Espresso. The cafe is taking shape inside a closed Coffee Beanery at 28557 Woodward Ave.

FoodTruck Cafe will be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and serve breakfast, including Airstream Espresso Illy coffee. Lunch and dinner feature the conundrum bacon sandwich with its applewood smoked bacon, avocado, tater tots, tomatoes, onion and mayo from Sideshow Sandwich, or Nacho Ordinary Nacho's barbecue pork nachos with pulled pork, Bermuda onions, Monterey Jack cheese, cole slaw and a dollop of crema de Sriracha sauce.

The founder, Kerry Johnson, wants "to bring street food indoors." There will also be outdoor seating, and the vibe inside and out will be casual with picnic tables and twinkly lights.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Kerry Johnson, owner, FoodTruck Cafe

$1 million in redevelopment grants coming to Macomb County

The Environmental Protection Agency is sending $1 million Macomb County's way so that local economic development officials can redevelop brownfield property that may be contaminated.

A brownfield is land that can be difficult to redevelop, reuse or expand because of  pollution or perceived pollution. The upside is that brownfields let developers use municipal infrastructure that's already in place and also preserve open space.

“Brownfield sites create special challenges due to the expense involved with environmental cleanup,” says Stephen Cassin, executive director of Macomb County Planning and Economic Development. “These funds will help put some of our vacant properties back into new use while creating investment and new jobs in our key industrial areas.”

Macomb County and one of 240 communities nationwide, and the only county chosen in Michigan, to receive the grant from the EPA's Revolving Loan Fund.

In coming weeks and months, county officials will begin to identify and prioritize sites that have the most redevelopment promise.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Stephen Cassin, executive director, Macomb County Planning and Economic Development

College HUNKS expands moving biz in Madison Heights

The local franchisees of College Hunks Hauling Junk have expanded their business in more than one way.

Dan Ryan and Patrick Lipa have moved the company into a larger space in Madison Heights and also added moving to their services.

Junk hauling has been lucrative for the pair who have seen growth every year since opening in 2009 and are hiring new employees to meet demand. College HUNKS, Honest, Uniformed, Nice, Knowledgable, Students, has 45 locations in the U.S.

The new Madison Heights facility includes pool tables and other amenities for a "work-happy atmosphere," says Jill Vanderpol, a spokeswoman for the company.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Jill Vanderpol, spokeswoman, College Hunks Hauling Junk and Moving

Stone Works opens on Grosse Pointe Woods' Mack Ave.

Stone Works is bringing interior design and masonry work for indoors and outdoors to a storefront in Grosse Pointe Woods.

The store can serve as showroom and planning site for home and commercial projects. Stone Works is scheduled to open mid-June on Mack Avenue in place of a closed Verizon store.

"We've had very vibrant activity along Mack Avenue," says the city's building department director, Gene Tutage.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Gene Tutag, director, Grosse Pointe Woods building department

Local leaders honored at 2nd annual Regional Transit Awards dinner

With southeast Michigan's Regional Transit Authority underway and M1-Rail about to break ground, a crowd of over 150 transit advocates had considerable cause for a buoyant mood as they strolled the stately gardens and ballroom of the Grosse Pointe War Memorial at Transit Riders United's second annual Regional Transit Awards dinner on May 21st.
 
"Developing a quality regional transit system is a marathon, not a sprint," said Megan Owens, TRU's Executive Director. "It's important to pause and recognize progress, and the people who are making a difference."
 
The Citizen Activist of the Year Award went to Neil Greenburg, whose Freshwater Railway website depicts a fictional Michigan rail system. Greenberg, a self-taught professional transit cartographer and operations consultant, developed the site to garner support for transit by offering a visual experience of the possibilities. Tools to rally public support are needed now more than ever, according to Greenberg.
 
"It's too early to say 'Mission Accomplished'," he said.  "We are at the beginning, not the end."
 
Michele Hodges, who until recently served as Executive Director of the Troy Chamber of Commerce, won the Corporate Transit Champion Award for engaging business, education, and labor leaders in the successful fight against former Troy mayor Janice Daniel's attempt to reject federal funding for the Troy Transit Center.
 
The Unsung Hero Award went to former legislator Marie Donigan, who worked to establish the RTA and make state laws and funding sources friendlier to transit. Donigan continues her transit advocacy work, recently helping to coordinate a 2-day Metro Detroit Transit Workshop.
 
Dennis Schornack, Senior Strategic Advisor to Governor Snyder, won Most Effective Public Servant Award for his work shepherding the RTA legislation through the political process.
 
A Transit Employee of the Year Award went to Detroit Department of Transportation bus driver Michael Childs, who was nominated by a rider for being on-time with a big, welcoming smile every day, despite an increased workload owing to recent cuts in DDOT funding and service.
 
Ann Arbor Transit Authority's new AirRide program, which now provides daily round-trip service between Ann Arbor and Detroit Metropolitan Airport, won the Exemplary Innovation Award.
 
The TRU board sprung two surprises: a Transit Opportunities Award for the entire RTA Board, and an Above and Beyond Award for Owens for her work at TRU.
 
Winners were selected by a panel of 4 judges, including Clark Harder, former legislator and Michigan Public Transit Association Executive Director, Heather Carmona, chief administrative officer of M1 Rail, Sue Zielinsli, managing director of Sustainable Mobility & Accessibility & Research & Transformation at the University of Michigan, and Polly Sedewa, transit activist and past TRU board member.

Writer: Nina Ignaczak 

Royal Oak's Monty's Beef Co. is where the healthier beef is

A beef from the Piedmonte region of Italy and prized there and in the U.S. for its quality is being sold from a new market in Royal Oak.

Monty's Beef Co. opened June 1 at 324 E. Fourth St. in downtown Royal Oak  and specializes in Piedmontese beef from a herd of cattle imported from Italy and raised humanely by a rancher in mid-Michigan.

It is sold at the store, online and by phone to customers -- whether for home use or by restaurants -- looking for cattle raised organically, fed well, not pumped with chemicals and known for producing meat that's as flavorful as prime, aged beef but with less cholesterol and fat.

The owners Jon and Rachel Leemis spent many months researching the beef industry, looking for purer, higher quality beef.

Their Monty's Beef Co. will sell directly or through orders that can be picked up in the store or delivered. Monty's has a Steak of the Month Club and gift packages as well as its regular menu of choice cuts.

In Italy, the Piedmonte breed of cattle graze in the Alps. The beef has been eaten there for centuries and is said to be tastier and healthier and considered superior to North American cattle breeds.

It can be found occasionally on menus in the U.S., but the owners of Monty's Beef Co. hope to make Piedmonte beef a menu staple.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Rachel Leemis, owner, Monty's Beef Co.

JABS Gym brings BoYo to Birmingham

A new gym that combines yoga and boxing into one workout has moved into Birmingham's burgeoning Rail District.

JABS Gym opened last month at 2285 Cole with a boxing ring inside and an intimate workout studio, where BoYo is taught and combines the stretch, strength and inner calming of yoga with the high-impact cardio of boxing.

Besides BoYo, owners Willie "Fortune 500" Fortune, a pro boxer, David Tessler, a yoga expert, and his wife Meagan Tessler offer kickboxing and boot camps with group and individual classes and workouts.

There is also a weigh room and workout equipment.

The opening is filling out the Rail District, a mixed use development just east of downtown Birmingham off Maple Road, where there are townhouses, successful retailers and service-oriented businesses such as the Robot Garage and Goldfish Swim School and soon-to-open restaurants such as Griffin Claw Brewing Co.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Meagan Tessler, co-owner, JABS Gym

Coffee and juice bar moves into downtown Northville

A man with a name that's pretty close to perfect for his line of work is opening a coffeehouse and smoothie bar in downtown Northville.

Johnny Coffey is the man behind Northville Roast, which opened last month at 133 W. Main, Suite 222, on the downtown square.

He is hoping to make a success of the storefront that's been home to other coffee shops by mixing it up with fresh-roasted beans and adding twists such as bringing in musicians and serving smoothies and fresh juices.

Northville Roast celebrated the opening at Northville's Memorial Day parade and, as Coffey says, "We are so excited to be re-launching your much anticipated hometown coffee shop."

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Johnny Coffey, owner, Northville Roast

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

Michigan-based MJR building $16M theater in Troy

Oak Park-based MJR Digital Cinemas is opening its next theater in Troy, creating jobs and drawing an estimated 800,000 visitors annually to the spot that will also introduce a new concept in movie-watching.

The MJR Troy Grand Digital Cinema 16 will be located at the corner of Maple and Livernois roads and house 16 screens and 3,200 seats.

Ground will be broken on the 74,000-square-foot facility in September, and  opening day is expected by late April 2014.

The $16-million project will also dedicate one of its theaters to the MJR Epic Experience, a new concept that focuses on designing a theater around extra comfort and a higher level of customer service. The 460-seat theater will have a larger screen and larger, overstuffed leather seats with more space between seats. The Epic Experience Theater will also come with the MJR Studio Bar & Lounge.

“Troy has great demographics and is the perfect community in which to build a brand new and truly state of the art facility,” MJR CEO and founder Michael Mihalich says.
 
The Troy Grand will be MJR's ninth theater in southeast Michigan.

“The city of Troy is so proud to partner with MJR in transforming the Maple Road-Livernois corner into a first-class entertainment destination,” Mayor Dane Slater says.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Cindy Stewart, city of Troy; Dane Slater, Troy mayor; Michael Mihalich, CEO, MJR Theaters

Is "community solar" next frontier in alternative energy?

Research into ways of opening up opportunities to ordinary citizens and businesses interested in building solar energy generators is underway, thanks to a grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

Think of it as the community garden of alternative energy. It lets shareholders or investors participate in a shared generation or renewable energy site in exchange for some benefit based on their investment, possibly savings on utility costs or profit. The concept is not a new one in cities such as Seattle and other parts of the Northwest.

“Renewable energy resources, such as community solar, offer many potential community, economic, environmental, national security, and societal benefits for the state,” MEDC President and CEO Michael A. Finney says in an announcement of the grant. “Through this study, we can identify ways to make community solar a growing solution for locally-owned clean energy.”

The $33,304 grant to the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association will be used to perform a Community Solar PV Garden Feasibility Study that will help the MEDC's Renewable Energy Demonstration Program determine what the barriers are to forming community solar projects.

Barriers include high up-front costs and lack of optimal places to install solar gardens.

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