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Kercheval Dance studio to open in Grosse Pointe's Village



East siders will have a new dance studio to add to their repertoire when Kercheval Dance opens in Grosse Pointe's Village business district this summer.

Tracy Halso Gap and her husband, Adam Gap, will own and operate the business, which is being renovated inside a space in the block-long building that previously housed a Borders bookstore and an Ace Hardware. Their 3,500-square-foot space will come with two studios -- one with a stage, high ceilings (The husband-wife dance partners know the pitfalls of dance spaces that don't.), special shock-absorbing, bone-protecting sprung floors like the ones used on Dancing With the Stars, professional lighting and sound systems, and a large lobby.

Kercheval Dance will be next door to the offices of Beaumont Health System, which leased the space for the studio and has plans to bring in other tenants. The studio faces a public parking lot behind the building, which fronts Kercheval Avenue. Its entrance is on the alley for easy drop-off and pick-up, and, if needed, convenient access to nearby businesses, says Tracy Halso Gap.

The couple bring with them years of experience in performance dance, dance instruction and competition dance coaching. They've lived and worked in cities around the country.

After graduating from Oklahoma City University, which specializes in dance and musical theater majors, Gap, a Grosse Pointe native and University Liggett graduate, "bounced around like a gypsy," including years spent in New York studying dance and auditioning. That was followed by work as a dancer at theme parks in Virginia, where she and her husband were dance partners, and in Pennsylvania and at Disney World before moving to Boston. There they led a master's program and directed a competition dance team. Adam Gap also danced for Royal Caribbean International, the Bellagio in Las Vegas and the American Spirit Dance Company. During their time in Boston, he received his business degree.

"After living in so many places we really found out what we wanted to do. It really gave us a taste of what's out there. And we both knew we have a mutual love for children and dance," she says.

They also have a love for Grosse Pointe, she says, and after they moved back from Boston last summer, they started looking for a studio location.

"There were a lot of times we contemplated starting a dance school out there. It could be great. Boston is a big supporter of the arts,"  she says. "But the feel of the community in Grosse Pointe is so special and unique… Parents really research what their kids are involved in, and they want high quality. We hope we produce a high quality dance education and a fun place to study for children and the parents as well."

The Gaps will lead classes in ballet, tap, jazz, hip-hop, lyrical and contemporary dance to students as young as age two. Adults will be offered the same courses plus fitness fusion, a workout for dancers or non-dancers, and ballroom dance. Advanced ballerinas will find pointe classes, and there will be special classes in tumbling and stretching and leaps and turns to build on gymnastics' influence on dance.

Initially, the Gaps will teach all classes. As enrollment builds they will hire other instructors and expand courses. She says their dance school will be set apart by the quality of the studio construction and its performance space as well as its syllabus-guided instruction that lets students and parents track progress, milestones, set goals, etc.

"We want children to develop and learn and grow with us," she says. "We are just so excited to be here, in the Village and to be a part of bringing back this part of the Village that has been open and empty for so long. We are so grateful for this opportunity."

Check out this video of O'Mara Sprung Floors, the Flint company that's building the studio floors, and this one of the Gaps dancing.

Source: Tracy Halso Gap
Writer: Kim North Shine


Clawson Business Resource Center to open in library downtown

During the cold depths of winter, business was heating up in downtown Clawson.

In that time seven new businesses opened, and now that spring has sprung the city's downtown development authority is coming out to celebrate with a mass ribbon cutting.

The DDA and the Clawson Chamber of Commerce are hoping to stoke the economic flames by opening a business resource center where prospective and current small business owners can come for information and support.

The Clawson Business Resource Center is located in the Blair Memorial Library and "provides easy access to materials and expertise. Although open to everyone, the program targets entrepreneurs and small businesses whether their status is pre-startup, startup or growth and expansion," says Joan Horton, executive director of the Clawson DDA.

The library and the Oakland County Small Business Center are partners as well, and the resource center is opening this week.

The resource center will be stocked with computers, business-related books, magazines, periodicals and other hard copy resources as well as internet-based resources. Business counseling and business seminars will also be offered. Twice a month on Wednesdays, members of SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) and Michigan Works will offer their expertise and advice. The center will be open day and evening hours.

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

Detroit Dogs serves specialty hot dogs in Royal Oak

Detroit Dogs, a new hot dog restaurant in downtown Royal Oak, pays homage to the Motor City while tipping a hat to other locales with its Virginia Dog, Chicago Dog, American Dog, Russian Dog and several other specially topped and sauced dogs.

Detroit Dogs opened in March at 200 W. Fifth Avenue and is hiring to keep up with the demand for its specialties and more straightforward classics.

The Detroit emphasis is tied to the owners' decision to sell Detroit-made products from the dogs down to chips and drinks, all from a simple menu that's drawing families for lunch and dinner and late-night post-bar and restaurant crowds.

Source: Detroit Dogs
Writer: Kim North Shine

Ferndale to add bike lanes on Livernois Road

A one-mile stretch of Livernois Road in Ferndale is shrinking in size as part of a "road diet" that will reduce the street to two lanes and make room for bicycle travel.

A $118,092 Transportation Alternatives Grant from the Michigan Department of Transportation  is helping cover the cost of the project that stretches from 8 to 9 Mile Road.

Lanes will be repainted, buffered bike lanes constructed, bike racks added and a mid-block crosswalk built.

The rebuild of the road also includes the addition of on-street parking.

Altogether, city officials see changes as building on Ferndale's efforts to promote all forms of transportation and to design roads that promote businesses by making it easier for customers to reach them.

Source: Ferndale Downtown Development Authority
Writer: Kim North Shine

Brass Aluminum Forging embarks on $8.6M rehab of Ferndale brownfield

A vacant industrial site in Ferndale will be cleaned up and returned to the tax rolls after a growing local business renovates the property and brings new jobs to the site.

Brass Aluminum Forging's plan to re-use the building at 965 Wanda will come with an $8.6-million investment. The project got the go-ahead this week when the Michigan Economic Development Corp. approved a local and school tax capture of nearly $718,000, money that will help cover the cost of renovations.

The building will be shared by Brass Aluminum Forging and other tenants that lease space.

The company, which makes valve bodies, weapon components, air and hydraulic fittings, and architectural details and provides items that can be forged as well as other processes and products, expects to hire 50 new employees to work at the new site. Building tenants are expected to hire another 50 employees.

The city of Ferndale's Brownfield Development Authority requested the 965 Wanda site be a recipient of the the MEDC's Michigan Strategic Fund's economic development and community revitalization projects.

Source: Kathy Fagan, spokesperson, MEDC
Writer: Kim North Shine

Lawrence Tech breaks ground on residence hall at Southfield campus

An $11.6-million residence hall with room for 160 Lawrence Technological University students is expected to be ready for move-in by fall of 2015.

An April 7 groundbreaking marks the start of construction on a 47,545-square-foot, two-story building near the university's largest parking lot along the Northwestern Highway Service Drive.

The dorm will increase on-campus residential capacity by about one-third. Currently there are about 600 students living on campus. As the school's athletic programs and student activities grow, so too does the demand for housing on campus.

The new residence hall will be designed in a pod-style of five pods that sleep 32 students in 16 double-occupancy units. Each pod will have its own common lounge with fireplace and kitchen. All pods will share a cafe and retail space, laundry room, game room, multi-purpose and meeting rooms on the first floor.

“The building is designed to encourage students to be out of their rooms with plenty of space for interaction and collaboration," says LTU President Virinder Moudgil. "One of the goals is to get new students involved in campus life by fostering collegiality."

Source: Eric Pope, spokesperson, Lawrence Technological University
Writer: Kim North Shine

Roundabouts planned for Orchard Lake Road in Farmington Hills

The city of Farmington Hills is planning to redesign a mile-long stretch of Orchard Lake Road into a series of roundabouts and boulevards as a way to improve traffic safety, promote economic development and encourage bicycle and pedestrian travelers.

The reconstruction could start in the spring on the the busy stretch between 13 and 14 Mile roads. The five-lane Orchard Lake Road is a major entry into the city, and part of the larger Northwestern Connector Project of the Road Commission for Oakland County and the Michigan Department of Transportation. The purposes are to improve traffic safety, including reducing severity of traffic crashes by slowing traffic, to stimulate economic development and to promote ease of use for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Details of the plan will be presented at an April 23 meeting at Farmington Hills City Hall.

Source: City of Farmington Hills Engineering Division
Writer: Kim North Shine

Yates Cider Mill opening new location in Orion Twp

Yates Cider Mill, a top metro Detroit destination for cider, donuts, jams, other small-batch foods, and the entertainment experience of watching the cider-making process, is taking the family tradition to a new location in Orion Township.

It's not uncommon to see long lines and crowds at the Rochester Hills mill.The new location is expected to follow suit, building on the business based on Michigan apples.

It will be located at Canterbury Village and is expected to open by the fall, the high season for the cider mill outings.

Owner Mike Titus is also expanding the Rochester Hills operation, opening for the first time for a spring pressing. Opening day is April 15.

And by the first of May Yates will open the Ice Cream Shoppe and sell chocolate and vanilla custards.

Yates, a grist mill that dates back to 1863, is said to be one of the longest continuously operating businesses in the state, and the popularity of the mills, which merge agriculture and economics, is at a high.

Source: Mike Titus, owner, Yates Cider Mill
Writer: Kim North Shine

Troy-based Autobike partners with Grand Rapids TerraTrike

Autobike, the young company from Troy that's reworked and refined automatic shifting technology for bicycles, is going into business with TerraTrike, a Grand Rapids manufacturer of recumbent trikes.

The partnership gives Autobike a whole new market for its technology that appeals to both techies who love gadgets and cyclists who just want an easy ride.

Techies get a ride that's constantly being analyzed for when to shift by a tiny little electronic brain along with a smartphone app and bluetooth synching. Easy riders get a ride without ever having to shift a gear themselves.

TerraTrike's product combined with Autobike's technology adds up to the world's first smart trike, the companies say. The new high-tech model, part of the TerraTrike's Rover line, debuts within weeks.

TerraTrike and Autobike, which builds and sells its own bikes with its automatic shifters, have customers around the country, and they  expect sales to increase after the release of the smart trike.

Source: Autobike
Writer: Kim North Shine

Ferndale's Go Comedy! improv artists take stage as workplace consultants

Go Comedy! Improv Theater in Ferndale has found another stage for its performers' quick wits, teamwork, and senses of humor in workplace workshops.

It's a sideline to its main business of nightly, rotating shows and one of several ways that the theater's improv artists have added to their repertoire. The workshops, which can last an hour or two or a full day, can "train your group to function as a well-oiled machine," says Go! Comedy Improv Theater's Andy French.

The workshops can go to the workplace or the workers can come to the workshop at the Go! Comedy Improv Theater at 261 E. 9 Mile in downtown Ferndale.

“We use hilarious improv games to teach people how to be a crucial part of the team. Learn to cooperate and create together and have a great time doing it,” French says.

Skills to be learned through comedy, quick thinking, and performing include team building, listening and communication, and leadership skills. French says improvisation teaches listening, agreement, cooperation, supporting the ideas of others, give and take, and conflict resolution.

“We use hilarious improv games to teach people how to be a crucial part of the team, learn to cooperate and create together, and have a great time doing it."

Go Comedy! also teaches improv and other classes related to improvisational skills at its studio and rents its space for weddings and special events.

The team, which consists of 25 improvisers and writers, can also be hired to perform at special events. This week the team headlined the Ferndale Downtown Development Authority's monthly B2B Networking Meeting.

"The Go! experts know that the tenets of improv often parallel the ingredients of being solid in business," says the DDA's Chris Hughes. "By using what they teach to developing improvisers, the Go! team helps businesses owners and employers learn how to be better listeners, cooperate with each other, feel more comfortable on the sales floor and succeed, with a bonus of enjoying life."

Source: Ferndale Downtown Development Authority
Writer: Kim North Shine

Revival in the making for historic Hills Theatre in downtown Rochester

Local history lovers and civic boosters in Rochester are pushing a plan to bring back the 1940s-era Hills Theatre downtown, and the idea got a boost recently when a feasibility study showed it could well be economically viable.

If the idea moves forward, after a major fundraising campaign and renovation Rochester would join several Michigan cities who are turning to "theater-nomics" to add life and dollars to their downtown.

The 820-seat Hills Theatre is located in the heart of downtown at 412-416 S. Main Street, and a renovation could cost between $3-4 million.

The Rochester-Avon Historical Society started exploring the idea about two years ago, and along with the city's Historical Commission worked with a consultant, paying $15,000 to advise on the best use of the theater and how to proceed with a campaign and building plan.

While the crux of the project will rely on private donations, Mayor Jeffrey Cuthbertson has said the city could provide services, engineering and other professionals in the interest of building a downtown entertainment destination.

The supporters of theater revival also expect to ask the Michigan Economic Development Corp. to chip in on Rochester's project as it has in other cities.

Source: Rochester Avon Historical Society and city of Rochester
Writer: Kim North Shine

New and larger Park Grill fires up in Grosse Pointe Park

A look at Park Grill's  Facebook page makes it clear that its absence hasn't gone unnoticed, and since the Grosse Pointe Park Mediterranean eatery reopened Monday, posts of gratitude keep coming.

The family- and friend-run spot in the burgeoning Park business district re-opened this week after an eight-month renovation that enlarged the space and overhauled the aesthetics. The eatery also added to the menu, created an extensive beer list with four on tap, and a specialty cocktail menu with an endless Bloody Mary bar come summer.

"The response has been overwhelmingly positive, and we are excited to see so many loyal customers and new faces come through our doors during our first couple days," says general manager Brian Czerny.

Park Grill is located in a prominent corner spot at 15102 Kercheval Avenue and is one of several new developments joining solidly established businesses in the stretch of blocks with mostly 1920s-era architecture.

The renovated space is nearly twice the size of the old one and will have an outdoor patio. Park Grill, which is owned by the Kokoshi family, Albanian immigrants who turn out some their favorite recipes, can now seat 62 inside, 17 at an L-shaped bar, and 20-25 outdoors.

To keep up with demand, the restaurant has added staff and is still looking for more.

Source: Brian Czerny, general manager, Park Grill
Writer: Kim North Shine

Sea and lake creatures coming to Great Lakes Crossing Outlets

A London-based entertainment company is bringing its expertise in aquariums to the Great Lakes Crossing Outlets in Auburn Hills, building an aquatic attraction inside the shopping and entertainment complex.

Sea Life, which has more than 40 aquarium attractions around the world and six in the U.S., will be built in what used to be a GameWorks. Demolition on the space started about two weeks ago. The complicated project will take more than a year with an opening date expected by April or May 2015, says Scott Berlow, general manager of Great Lakes Crossing Outlets.

Sea Life Michigan will give visitors up-close looks at more than 30 displays that are centered around a tropical ocean tank with a walkthrough underwater tunnel.

United Kingdom-headquartered Merlin Entertainments, owners of Sea Life, also build Legolands and numerous other themed attractions in 12 countries and three continents.

Berlow says the company chose Auburn Hills and Great Lakes because of its draw for tourists, including Canadians and because of its connection to international and national auto suppliers who bring families to Michigan to live permanently or on extended stays. He says 21 percent of visitors to Great Lakes Crossing are tourists that have traveled from more than 50 miles away.

"We know Sea Life draws from more than 100 miles," Berlow says. "This is going to be a great attraction. Certainly for a number of miles, there really is nothing that exists like this….They really ID'd the area for a variety of reasons. It's always location, location, location. The access to I-75 was important too."

Berlow says Sea Life builds on the "entertainment" in the Great Lakes motto: Shopping, Dining and Entertainment. Sea Life will be located across from Rainforest Cafe.

"You'd think they'd have a problem with that, but actually they're thrilled." Sea Life complements Rainforest Cafe as well as the Bass Pro Shop, which is also a draw for metro Detroiters and tourists alike. Field trips will be a regular part of Sea Life Michigan, which has a classroom and field-trip educators on staff and places an emphasis on conservation.

The aquarium at Great Lakes Crossing Outlets will, like the others, will be an immersive and educational experience that puts visitors up close to ocean life. But aquarium visitors will also learn about lake species. Sea Life is also  involved in rescue operations.

The plans for Sea Life Michigan call for more than 30 displays of shrimp, sharks, sea rays, sea horses and starfish. The unique Great Lakes element will feature creatures most associated with the Great Lakes region.

"The naysayers would say we've got a foreign company coming into the area…This creates jobs. This is good for business…It's all positive."

Source: Scott Berlow, general manager, Great Lakes Crossing Outlets
Writer: Kim North Shine

Gluten- and nut-free pizzeria opens in Troy



A dad frustrated by the challenge of taking his daughter out to eat without her getting sick from meals that came with nut-free and gluten-free claims has opened his own restaurant in Troy, and he's seeing a rush of grateful customers who share his desire to just enjoy a meal out without worry.

The dad, Gabe Hertz, and partner and pizza specialist, Ken Karapici, opened Renee's Gourmet Pizzeria in February in Troy. The word of mouth in the allergy community has attracted customers from across metro Detroit to Ann Arbor.  Renee's is located at 1937 W. Maple Road. There's room for 60 to eat and there's carryout.

Hertz named the restaurant after his daughter who was diagnosed with nut allergies and Celiac's Disease, a wheat intolerance, at age 5.

"My daughter can't have one speck of wheat or it can put her into two weeks of pain, and I love taking her out to eat," Hertz says. Nuts are life-threatening. She and most people with her carry an EpiPen. "Finally, she said, 'Dad, that's it, I'm not going anywhere else to eat with you. It was a month and a half before she walked in here."

Once he decided to open his own restaurant, Renee became the taste-tester for what the pizzeria would sell: a thin New York style pizza, calzones, soups, Hungarian dumplings, soups, cinnamon sticks and more.

"I've waited for a long time for someone to do this. Finally, I thought, you know if no one else is doing it, I'm going to do it. And no one is doing 100 percent gluten-free and nut-free like we are. Unless you are 100 percent free, you will have cross contamination."

He wanted to open a gluten- and nut-free restaurant that served food just as tasty as anywhere.

"I didn't want to build a gluten-free facility. I wanted to build a good gluten-free facility. Anybody can put out cardboard."

The reaction from parents has been as important as the bottom line, he says.

"It's not uncommon for someone to drive and hour, hour and a half to get here. Imagine there are parents who can finally open a menu and say, 'Wow, we can have anything on this menu!' The parents are in tears. I'm in tears. It's amazing to see, in my opinion, the comfort we give families. I know, if I could find one place my daughter could eat and not get sick, I would go three hours just to get that dinner with her."

Source: Gabe Hertz, co-owner, Renee's Gourmet Pizzeria
Writer: Kim North Shine

Donation boosts OU's industrial robotics and automation programs

Oakland University will build a four-year industrial robotics and automation program thanks to a donation from a leading supplier of industrial robots.

ABB Robotics' $50,000 gift to OU's School of Engineering and Computer Science will prepare future graduates for work in the industry and companies such as ABB. ABB will also offer an internship to OU students. Three members of the ABB Robotics executive team are OU grads.

One of them, Michael Mahfet, vice president and general manager for ABB, says "We might be a little biased, but we know OU is a highly regarded school in the engineering community. We're pleased to be able to play a part in advising the SECS on their new robotics curriculum. Ultimately, it's good for OU and it's good for companies like ours. The automation industry is changing so fast that it's important to have your finger on the pulse of what customers want.”

Dr. Louay M. Chamra, dean of the School of Engineering and Computer Science, says OU's relationship with the industry strengthens its push to become a "premier research center in this area."

"There have been strong advances in manufacturing, both in southeast Michigan and across the United States," Chamra says, "and industrial robotics has been at the heart of much of that development."

Source: Automation Alley and Oakland University
Writer: Kim North Shine
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