DBusiness Daily Update: Ford to Deliver Food to Detroit Residents with Autonomous Vehicle, 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.
Ford Motor Co. and Ford Motor Co. Fund are launching a fresh food delivery pilot program in southwest Detroit using an autonomous vehicle. // Courtesy of Ford
Ford Motor Co. and Ford Motor Co. Fund are launching a fresh food delivery pilot program in southwest Detroit using an autonomous vehicle. // Courtesy of Ford

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.

Ford to Deliver Food to Detroit Residents with Autonomous Vehicle

Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn and its philanthropic arm, Ford Motor Co. Fund, are launching a fresh food delivery pilot program in southwest Detroit deploying specialized autonomous vehicle technology.

The project is expected to provide 10,000 pounds of fresh food to the doorsteps of senior citizens who lack access to food due to mobility challenges. The six-month pilot is one of the first projects located within the Michigan Central impact area where Ford is restoring the Michigan Central Station as its mobility innovation hub.

Residents of Rio Vista Detroit Co-op Apartments senior living center now will see their existing food deliveries from the program — Ford Resource and Engagement Center (FREC) on the Go, launched earlier this year by Ford Fund and Gleaners Community Food Bank — double in the coming weeks as they receive an additional shipment of groceries through the pilot.

The program and pilot are essential to more than 20 Rio Vista residents who already have opted-in to this complimentary service as a reliable way to receive their groceries without needing to secure transportation.

“We’re constantly thinking about how to expand our reach in communities for those who don’t have access to the most basic goods, like groceries or warm meals,” says Joe Provenzano, mobility director for the Ford Motor Co. Fund. “Bringing Ford’s mobility expertise together with local collaborations allows us to create innovative solutions that make communities stronger and people’s lives better.”

The pilot will utilize a low-speed autonomous shuttle operated by the Ford future tech autonomous vehicle team and Quantum Signal AI, a wholly owned Ford subsidiary. It will run along a fixed route between the Southwest Detroit Ford Resource and Engagement Center, where bags will be loaded, taken to Rio Vista, where groceries will be unloaded and distributed to participating residents.

A safety driver will be inside the shuttle at all times and be monitored by a remote operations team that can also intervene if needed. The pilot vehicle has been upfitted by Ford’s experience design team for efficient packing and transit of fresh food items and for easy loading and unloading.

An exterior design on the shuttle representing the southwest Detroit neighborhood, created by Detroit School of Arts 12th-grader Brooke Snow, displays an inclusive message of community. Snow plans to use the $5,000 she was awarded for her design to pay for college expenses.

Ford Fund and Gleaners have distributed 2.4 million pounds of food through the delivery program and Ford Resource and Engagement Centers. Participants currently receive a mix of dry and canned goods plus fresh produce, including milk and cheese. Now, Rio Vista residents will receive another delivery each month containing additional fresh produce and milk. The items were determined based on feedback from residents who are already participating and will be reevaluated throughout the pilot.

Joe Vicari Group Opens Statler French-American Bistro in Downtown Detroit

The Warren-based Joe Vicari Restaurant Group has opened the Statler Bistro and Market in the former Statler Hotel at Washington Boulevard and W. Grand River in downtown Detroit.

The Statler Bistro, the 22nd restaurant under the ownership of the Joe Vicari Restaurant Group and the fourth restaurant to open in 2021, will join the Andiamo and Joe Muer Seafood restaurants downtown. It will occupy half of the first floor of the historic hotel, which now is home to City Club Apartments.

The Statler Bistro will offer 165 seats inside the restaurant as well as outdoor seating. The name was selected to stay true to the historic former hotel, The Statler. The décor will have a European flair. The large open-air outdoor patio, which seats 125 guests, will provide panoramic views of the Detroit skyline and Grand Circus Park. The patio will be open year-round, weather permitting. The portable heaters and fire pit along with a full bar will give guests the opportunity to enjoy downtown Detroit all year long.

The restaurant will offer a modern take on the classic bistro with a menu featuring unique, contemporary twists on French cuisine. The is menu overseen by Certified Master Chef Daniel Scannell, and Jim Oppat, corporate executive chef for Joe Vicari Restaurant Group.

The Statler Bistro also will feature a neighborhood market, to open its doors in the coming weeks, where customers can purchase groceries as well as fresh, healthy, and convenient gourmet packaged meals, to be enjoyed at home, on the go, or at one of the market’s bistro tables. Baristas also will be serving brewed coffee and espresso and fresh baked pastries each morning. This new concept is designed with the city dweller in mind.

“We are thrilled to partner with Jonathan (Holtzman, founder and chairman of City Club Apartments) on this amazing property, which has exceeded our expectations in every way,” says Joe Vicari, president of the Joe Vicari Restaurant Group. “The Statler Bistro will bring an elevated and unique dining experience to the city in a distinctive atmosphere with an exceptional menu and bar. We are excited to be opening this new concept restaurant in the city of Detroit and look forward to opening our third restaurant in the city.”

For more information we well as applications to work at the new establishment, visit here.

Verizon Customer Lockers Bridge Online, In-store Shopping

Verizon stores in Royal Oak and Taylor are providing retail lockers to customers can order products online and pick them up at their convenience.

The Taylor store will have hybrid lockers that can be accessed from inside or outside the building giving customers 24/7 access.

To keep customer’s items secure, the lockers use the MyVerizon app and a proprietary adaptive authentication system developed by Verizon.

Vitrine Boutique to Open Outlet in Plymouth Township

Berkley-based women-owned boutique Vitrine will open the doors to its second location, Vitrine on Main, in Plymouth Township (772 S. Main St.) on Dec. 16.

Vitrine on Main says it has a full inventory of fashion, home goods, spa items, fair trade, handmade items, jewelry from around the world, nationally known brands, vegan handbags, and more.

“Vitrine strives to make positive impacts in our local community and we’re taking that a step further with the new location in Plymouth,” says Rachel Britts, manager of Vitrine on Main. Britts is referring to the store’s “Purpose Patio” where she plans to host local nonprofits, startups, and charities with a purpose of “doing good” rent-free on the store’s deck during the warmer months to help them sell their products and spread their messages.

“We hope Plymouth welcomes us with open arms before our grand opening in February,” says Britts.

Two Revitalization Programs to Create Vibrant Places Around Michigan

The Michigan Economic Development Corp. has announced two new programs designed to strengthen Michigan’s communities by supporting placemaking efforts around the state utilizing federal funding, including American Rescue Plan dollars.

The Revitalization and Placemaking (RAP) program utilizes $100 million in federal American Rescue Plan dollars to support investments that will repurpose vacant, underutilized, blighted, or historic buildings and place-based infrastructure to address impacts of COVID-19. The new Public Gathering Spaces Initiative utilizes $5 million in Community Development Block Grant funding to support the creation and expansion of public gathering spaces that allow residents to gather, relax, celebrate, and commemorate safely together.

“These two programs utilize federal funding to help us continue to attract talent through innovative placemaking and transform underutilized properties into vibrant spaces as part of our efforts to create a holistic, people-first approach to economic development here in Michigan,” says Michele Wildman, senior vice president of community development at MEDC. “As a national leader in innovative placemaking, Michigan continues to develop the tools and resources to support communities as they revitalize their downtowns, attract, and retain young professionals, increase tourism, and support their small businesses.”

Communities, stakeholders, and developers will have the opportunity to learn more about the program by attending a free RAP informational webinar on Dec. 16. Registration is required. To register, visit here. For more information, visit here.

The Public Gathering Spaces Initiative will provide grants between $200,000 to $1 million to create and enhance recreational places, and to fund projects like farmers’ markets, parks, town squares, playgrounds, and amphitheaters. To learn more about the program, visit here.

Busted Bra Shop Opens New Ann Arbor Store

Busted Bra Shop, a lingerie and swimwear retailer with five locations in metro Detroit and Chicago, has opened an Ann Arbor location at 899 W. Eisenhower Parkway with 1,500 square feet of space in the Colonnade Shopping Plaza.

Busted will conduct a grand opening ceremony at 10 a.m. on Dec. 16.

“We are so excited to open a bigger boutique here in Ann Arbor,” says Lee Padgett, owner of Busted Bra Shop. “Our customers in Washtenaw County will love the expanded store offerings and the increase in fitting room space.”  The company previously had a smaller second-floor retail space on Washtenaw Avenue.

For more information, visit here.

Big Sean to Host Private Screening of ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home for Boys & Girls Clubs

Big Sean and the Sean Anderson Foundation will host a private screening of the new film “Spider-Man: No Way Home” for 150 youths from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan tonight at the Emagine Royal Oak.

“I want to wish a happy holiday to everyone and hope the BGCSM youth enjoy Spider-Man: No Way Home as much as I plan to,” says Big Sean. “I haven’t been this hype about a movie since ‘Black Panther’ (and I’m) super ready to experience the Multiverse. Let’s Go!”

Big Sean and his mother, Myra Anderson — co-founders of the Sean Anderson Foundation continue to play active roles in the lives of Detroit youth and families not only through activities such as movie screenings and the annual D.O.N. Weekend, but through collaboration and support of BGCSM.

Amazon 4-Star Store and Lighthouse Make Holidays Happier for Families in Need

Lighthouse, a Pontiac-based nonprofit, is joining forces with Amazon’s 4-star Store at Somerset Collection in Troy at noon Dec. 15 to spread joy to four local families in need this holiday season.

Members of families will receive up to $2,000 worth of their most desired 4-star products, as well as select Amazon.com items to meet each families’ unique needs.

Amazon’s 4-Star Store also will present a check for $15,000 to support Lighthouse’s food, shelter, and affordable housing programs.

“At Amazon, we are committed to leveraging our scale for good, using our ability to innovate quickly to support communities worldwide,” says Jessica Pawl, a spokesperson for Amazon. “We’re humbled to be able to give back to our local community in this way.”

The four families receiving wish list items were randomly selected from Lighthouse’s SOS – Emergency Shelter and PATH transitional housing program for women and children.

“Every year, the holidays are an especially difficult time for the families we serve,” says Ryan Hertz, CEO of Lighthouse. “We are grateful to Amazon’s 4-Star Store for these generous gifts and to all who are participating in our Adopt-a-Family program which will help hundreds of additional families in need.”

For more information and to donate, visit lighthousemi.org.