DBusiness Daily Update: City, Developers to Revive Detroit’s Lee Plaza as Affordable Senior Housing, and More

Our roundup of the latest news from metro Detroit and Michigan businesses as well as announcements from government agencies, including updates about the COVID-19 pandemic. To share a business or nonprofit story, please send us a message.
Lee Plaza is being transformed into affordable housing for senior citizens. // Courtesy of City of Detroit
Lee Plaza is being transformed into affordable housing for senior citizens. // Courtesy of City of Detroit

Our roundup of the latest news from metro Detroit and Michigan businesses as well as announcements from government agencies, including updates about the COVID-19 pandemic. To share a business or nonprofit story, please send us a message.

City, Developers to Revive Detroit’s Lee Plaza as Affordable Senior Housing

Lee Plaza in the city of Detroit, a skyscraper that has been abandoned for decades, is being transformed into affordable housing for senior citizens.

Mayor Mike Duggan and developers The Roxbury Group and Ethos Development Partners made the announcement of the $59 million renovation project Thursday.

The first phase of the redevelopment will see the creation of 117 units of affordable housing for seniors at or below 50 percent area median income, the equivalent of $28,000 for a one-person household and $32,000 for a couple. The affordability will be guaranteed for at least the next 45 years. Construction is expected to begin next year and finish in 2024. A $20 million second phase that will include 60 to 70 market rate apartments is expected to be completed in 2025.

“Today is a great day in the city of Detroit,” says Duggan. “Not only are we announcing that we are eliminating a dangerous abandoned building in our community, but we’re creating more than 100 units of senior affordable housing and preserving a historic Detroit landmark at the same time. This announcement is a win for everyone.”

The Lee will undergo a full renovation, including 4,500 square feet of its main-floor common space, and many of its historic features will be restored. Its iconic ballroom, the frequent subject of so-called “ruin porn” photography of the city during the 2000s, will be restored to its original grandeur by a largely Detroit-based team.

Though the building’s significant vandalism and decay has led many observers to believe the building to be beyond repair, the development team of Roxbury Group and Ethos Development have a track record of saving Detroit landmarks that others have said cannot be saved. Most notable are the Metropolitan Building and David Whitney Building downtown and the NSO Bell Building on Oakman Boulevard at the Lodge Freeway.

“The restoration of the Lee Plaza is not only critical to the ongoing growth of the Northwest Goldberg neighborhood, it represents a significant milestone in Detroit’s remarkable story of rebirth,” says David Di Rita, principal of The Roxbury Group. “As recently as a decade ago, Detroit had the dubious distinction of being home to dozens of long-vacant high-rises. Today, we stand at the precipice of restoring its last.”

In addition to providing senior affordable housing, the project will create an estimated 200 permanent and temporary jobs, help revitalize this section of the West Grand Boulevard corridor near Grand River, and eliminate a major source of blight and safety concerns for the students of Detroit Collegiate Preparatory Academy at Northwestern next door.

Michigan Jobless Rate Declines in December

Michigan’s seasonally adjusted jobless rate fell by three-tenths of a percentage point to 5.6 percent during December, according to data released today by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget. The number of employed rose by 16,000, while total unemployed decreased by 15,000. The state workforce was nearly unchanged over the month.

“Labor market conditions in Michigan showed clear improvement in 2021,” says Wayne Rourke, associate director of the Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives. “The unemployment rate fell sharply over the year, and payroll jobs rose steadily throughout 2021.”

The U.S. jobless rate moved down by three-tenths of a percentage point in December to 3.9 percent. Michigan’s unemployment rate was 1.7 percentage points above the national rate. The U.S. unemployment rate fell by 2.8 percentage points since December 2020, similar to the Michigan trend (-2.6 percentage points).

Highlights of the report include:

  • The number of employed statewide edged up by 0.4 percent during December, an increase identical to that exhibited nationwide.
  • Michigan’s workforce decreased by 2.0 percent over the year, while the U.S. total labor force advanced by 1.0 percent since December 2020.
  • The statewide number of unemployed declined significantly by 33.8 percent over the past year, although that was outpaced by a sharp 41.4 percent reduction in unemployed nationwide.
  • Michigan’s December 2021 jobless rate of 5.6 percent was nearly two percentage points above the pre-pandemic February 2020 rate.
  • Michigan’s employment total in December 2021 was 249,000, or 5.3 percent, below the February 2020 level.
  • The number of Michigan unemployed rose by 81,000 since February 2020.

The Detroit-Warren-Dearborn Metropolitan Statistical Area’s (MSA) seasonally adjusted unemployment rate declined by 0.3 percentage points to 5.2 percent in December. Employment in the Detroit MSA rose by 15,000, while unemployment moved down by 6,000. The region’s labor force increased by 9,000 over the month. The Detroit MSA jobless rate dropped by 5.1 percentage points over the year. Employment advanced by 66,000 since December 2020.

Total nonfarm employment in Michigan advanced by 11,000 in December, or 0.3 percent, according to the monthly survey of employers. This resulted in a statewide job total of 4,248,000.

City of Detroit to Host WinterFest at Palmer Park Feb. 11-13

The City of Detroit will host the inaugural WinterFest at Palmer Park Feb. 11-13 with a full schedule of outdoor activations for the entire family.

The event will feature ice skating, snow shoeing, a sledding hill, horse and carriage rides, food trucks, Detroit-based vendors and entertainment including DJ Righteous, DJ Ray Oshea, 313 The Live Experience Band, Charivari DJ Collective, and The Detroit Youth Choir brought to you by Bedrock, and more.

“Detroiters know we have the gift of having all four seasons so we wanted to provide an opportunity to enjoy winter at one of Detroit’s premier parks,” says Brad Dick, group executive of services and infrastructure for the City of Detroit. “This event is a family friendly way to give back to our city and we couldn’t be happier to provide all of it for free. We also want to thank our partner Bedrock for coming onboard to support the Detroit Youth Choir performance.”

Palmer Park is located between McNichols and Seven Mile roads and west of Woodward Avenue in northwest Detroit.

For more information, visit here.

Plant-based Eatery to Open in Downtown Detroit

Aratham Gourmet To Go, which specializes in sourcing plant-based and organic foods to support holistic lifestyles, is opening in the historic Chrysler House (719 Griswold Suite 100) on Monday.

Aratham offers a full range of side dishes, entrees, juices and desserts; and natural supplements, candles, soaps and more.

“Aratham is a labor of love in every sense of the word. Love, quality, health, and creativity in plant-based cooking is the essence of Aratham,” say Gabriel and Tiffanie Vera, co-owners of Aratham. “We truly care about our customers, our community, and the health of the planet. It’s because of this love that we developed a menu that is gourmet in quality, plant-based and lower in price. Food can heal and fortify, and we fully believe organic, gourmet cuisine and other natural products for the home and body should be affordable for all.”

The downtown Detroit location is Aratham’s third expansion, and the rotating takeaway menu will feature Aratham favorites such as the plant-based crab cakes, “lobster” po boys, soups, salads, fresh juices, and Aratham’s own Elderberry syrups.

“Aratham will bring Detroit residents, commuters, and visitors a convenient yet elevated experience that is new to the market,” says Naumann Idrees, senior vice president of Leasing at Bedrock. “Gabriel and Tiffanie have a unique skillset and background and are perfectly positioned to provide excellent plant-based cuisine.”

For hours and to view the full menu, visit Aratham.com.

TechTown Recruiting Entrepreneurs for Spring Retail Boot Camp Cohort

TechTown Detroit is recruiting entrepreneurs for its Spring Retail Boot Camp.

The Boot Camp is an intensive, hands-on, 12-week program that prepares serious entrepreneurs for the opening of their brick-and-mortar establishments in Detroit and, for the first time this year, Hamtramck and Highland Park. The program curriculum is designed to grow businesses to a permanent location as they look to thrive in today’s retail environment.

“The goal of TechTown’s Retail Boot Camp is to impart as much knowledge as possible to entrepreneurs,” says Amanda Saab, small business services director at TechTown Detroit. “This program helps entrepreneurs to comprehensively think through how to open a location that will service customers. During the course, industry experts will speak to the clients to help them think like business owners and entrepreneurs.”

TechTown Detroit is providing free information sessions for individuals wanting to learn about Retail Boot Camp, the history of the program and what to expect during the application process. Business owners will also have a chance to ask questions about the program. Information sessions take place virtually on the following dates/times:

  • 27 from 5-6 p.m.
  • 3 from 5-6 p.m.
  • 10 from 5-6 p.m.

To join an information session, participants register for the night of their choice here.

New Events Coming to Meadow Brook Hall

Meadow Brook Hall in Rochester is launching new events, a Flashlight Tour and a Servant’s Life Tour, in 2022 and bringing back events that were on hiatus during the pandemic.

During a Flashlight Tour, docents will go behind ropes, under tables, and inside cabinets to highlight the secret spaces often missed in the daylight. Three tours will run Feb. 10, 17 and 24. Tickets are $30 per person and tours can be booked here.

The “Downton Abbey”-inspired Servant’s Life tour takes place on weekends in February. Guests will explore the secret lives of the downstairs staff by going behind-the-scenes to experience life as it was lived in the “downstairs” of Meadow Brook Hall. The experience includes tea and scones in the servant’s dining room, and a special commemorative gift of a special loose leaf tea sampler and strainer. Tickets are $45 per person and must be booked in advance here.

Other February highlights include Downton Days Tea, Talk and Tour, and an evening of romance with the Valentine’s Dinner for two.

Meijer Expands Supplier Diversity Event in Search of Diverse Brands and Suppliers 

Grand Rapids-based Meijer is expanding its third Supplier Diversity event to include diverse-owned service providers, as well as retail-ready products for its shelves. The March 29-31 event will give diverse-owned businesses nationwide the opportunity to showcase their offerings for interested Meijer buyers and procurement teams.

“Our supplier diversity efforts reach beyond just the brands customers see on our shelves,” says Peter Whitsett, executive vice president of merchandising and marketing at Meijer. “We aim to support diverse-owned businesses throughout our stores, from the products we offer to the signage we hang and the services that keep the stores running. That’s why we’re excited to include a broad range of business categories in this event.”

Diverse-owned brands with merchandise in the following retail categories can apply for the event here:

  • Beauty and personal care
  • Over-the-counter and wellness
  • General merchandise
  • Grocery

Additionally, the retailer is accepting submissions from diverse-owned business service providers offering the following goods and services here:

  • Inbound transportation carriers
  • Skilled trades for construction and facility maintenance
  • All business services (Marketing, HR, IT and Financial)
  • Supplies, packaging, MRO and signage
  • Environmental, real estate and new site services
  • Store fixtures, manufacturing, and warehousing equipment

Certified minority-, LGBTQ-, woman-, veteran- and disability-owned businesses with products or services in the listed categories can apply by Feb. 7 for consideration.

Once applications for the event are submitted, Meijer teams will review and select the vendors they would like to meet virtually. Suppliers not chosen for the event will still be accessible through the RangeMe or STARS registration tools and may be reviewed by Meijer buyers and business teams again in the future as business needs change.

New U-M Certification Pathway Designed to Help Stem Teacher Shortages

A newly expanded program at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor offers an alternative route to teacher certification to help alleviate the teacher shortage while ensuring the development of quality educators.

Michigan Alternate Route to Certification at U-M is expanding its program and creating the Initial Certification Pathway to serve aspiring educators who hold bachelor’s degrees in any subject throughout Michigan. Incoming candidates won’t need prior teacher certification.

With this new offering, M-ARC builds on its success in preparing and certifying about 230 teachers in the last 12 years, positively affecting students’ lives throughout the metro Detroit area. The program began as a partnership with Teach For America-Detroit by providing the teacher preparation program for its corps members to hold certification required to teach in Michigan schools.

“This new pathway is opening (M-ARC) up to anybody with a bachelor’s degree and can pass the certification tests to become a teacher,” said M-ARC associate director Jean Mrachko. “Instead of just working with a specific group of teachers in a small set of schools, all based in the Detroit area, we’re now able to work with teachers statewide. Plus, they will be in the classrooms this fall.”

Candidates can apply directly through the M-ARC website or request information by email at m-arcprogram@umich.edu.

DNR Finalizes Walleye Management Plan for Inland Waters

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has finalized a plan to guide the department’s management of walleye fisheries in inland waters. The aim is to maximize both angler satisfaction and ecological concerns.

Although walleye reside in the Great Lakes, rivers, and inland lakes, the plan focuses on inland waters because walleye management in Great Lake waters is primarily addressed in various other department-approved management or rehabilitation plans.

The new walleye management plan for inland waters provides an overview of:

  • The status of the species in Michigan.
  • The biology and ecology of inland walleye populations.
  • Angler perceptions about walleye management and fishing opportunities.
  • Previous management efforts.

The plan also identifies several management goals that broadly address ecological and social characteristics of walleye fisheries, because both elements are key to successful species management. The plan provides a formalized management framework for walleye that accounts for habitat suitability and describes recommended actions to efficiently and effectively protect and conserve walleye populations throughout the state.

“Walleye is an ecologically important species that also receives substantial attention from our anglers,” says Seth Herbst, lead author and manager of the Aquatic and Regulatory Affairs Unit in the DNR Fisheries Division.

“It is essential that we formalize and implement statewide manage strategies to maintain and enhance walleye populations during a time frame when this species is threatened by changing habitats, including establishments of detrimental aquatic invasive species. Effective management leads to robust walleye populations, and that means diverse fishing opportunities for anglers.”

For more information and to review the final plan, visit here.

Wonderbrett Cannabis Brand Completes Michigan Grow Facility

Los Angeles-based cannabis brand Wonderbrett has launched of the brand’s ultra-premium indoor flower and rare strains in Michigan, in partnership with Michigan operator Cloud Cannabis Co.

The operators have co-designed a state-of-the-art grow facility that will provide Michigan customers with the safest, ultra-premium cannabis strains available, according to the companies.

“We knew launching in Michigan would be an important moment in our company’s history and the only way to do it authentically would be to collaborate with our partners on the cultivation design and harvesting process,” says Cameron Damwijk, co-founder of Wonderbrett. “That’s why I spent the past year working directly with Cloud Cannabis Co. leadership and their cultivation team to design and engineer a customized, state-of-the-art facility that’s fine-tuned for consistent small batch, craft style harvests of our strains at scale. I’m excited to see the result of our hard work. To walk into Cloud’s stores and see people engaging with our products is an indescribable feeling.”

By launching Wonderbrett’s slate of ultra-premium strains and flower in Michigan, Cloud Cannabis Co., anticipates an immediate positive sell-through impact on the adult-use market, with continued growth and expansion into additional form factors, such as edibles and vaporizers.

For more information, visit www.wonderbrett.com and www.cloudcannabis.com.