Video: Freighthouse receives $500,000 grant

April 10, 2009 by  
Filed under News, Video

Ypsilanti will restore historic railroad freighthouse for community use

Governor Jennifer M. Granholm today announced during a ceremonial check presentation that a historic railroad freighthouse in Ypsilanti will soon see new life as a community center, farmers market, café and historic education center.

The city of Ypsilanti will restore the historic Ypsilanti Freighthouse, one of 22 transportation enhancement (TE) projects recently announced to benefit Michigan communities, with $500,000 in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act) funds. U.S. Congressman John Dingell also participated in the check presentation.

The 6,500-foot facility is listed on the Michigan State Register of Historic Sites and is located in Depot Town within the city’s local historic district.  The city hopes to reopen the freighthouse as a community facility that would promote cultural tourism and serve as a reminder of the history of railroad activity and early commerce in the area.  Owned by the city, it is operated under the terms of a management contract by the Friends of the Ypsilanti Freighthouse, a 501C (3) organization.  To repurpose the 1878 building, the city will make major structural improvements to the foundation, floor, walls, pilasters, roof and interior mechanical systems (plumbing, electrical, HVAC).  These items, outlined in a conditional assessment report, partially funded by a state historic preservation office grant and completed in July 2006, are required to re-open the facility to public use.  The work will begin this fall.

“This project is going to be a tremendous asset to Ypsilanti residents,” said Governor Granholm.  “All across Michigan, projects funded by the Recovery Act will bolster efforts by groups like Friends of the Freighthouse to make positive improvements to their communities.  We look forward to the transformation of this transportation icon of the past into a much-needed resource for the community.”

“This announcement is a real victory for the city of Ypsilanti, the people of Washtenaw County and the state of Michigan,” said Congressman Dingell.  “With these funds, we will be able to preserve a piece of our history, not as a relic or monument, but as a needed civic facility and a true source of pride for Depot Town.  I am so pleased that our freighthouse will once again serve the people of Ypsilanti and Depot Town, and I applaud the governor and the Michigan Department of Transportation for this wise decision to restore a terrific piece of our past and create a new bright spot for our future.”

Ypsilanti has been mentioned as a proposed stop for the Ann Arbor to Detroit commuter demonstration project led by the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG). The demonstration line would utilize existing tracks with stops at Metro Airport, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and Dearborn.

Under federal law, 10 percent of federal surface transportation funds are set aside for TE projects.  The TE funds cannot be used to build or repair roads.  Administered by the Michigan Department of Transportation, TE grants enable communities to invest in landscapes, streetscapes, bike path development and historic preservation.  These grants provide a maximum of 80 percent of the money required for each project, with the remainder coming from state and local government and the private sector.  Local communities benefit from Recovery Act funding, because it is 100 percent federal, with no local match required.  The Recovery Act requires that every state spend three percent of its allocated funding on enhancement projects.

Source: Office of Jennifer Granholm, Governor

Cafe Luwak adjusts to create new opportunities

April 2, 2009 by  
Filed under News

March sales dramatically increase thanks to new Sunday breakfast

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After 4 years of steady growth, Café Luwak saw things changing this year with their growth shrinking into the single digits for January and February. With costs going up and a kitchen remodeling project halfway completed, owner Jim Karnopp decided he had to do something to bring in new business.

“We have been planning to add a full breakfast menu for the past two years, but until our remodeling project is finished, we don’t have the infrastructure to support that business” Karnopp said. He decided that they could do a breakfast buffet on Sundays, and that would get them moving in the right direction. “My thoughts were if we could start doing the buffet, our customers would see what was coming and we could start building up our base of regulars”.

Karnopp started the buffet in March and by the end of the month his growth for the month was almost 20% over last year, and Sundays, which used to be the slowest day of the week, are now the busiest.

“We started our buffet without much of a marketing effort because we wanted to learn what we were doing without falling on our face. We are still learning, but the buffet is growing very quickly through word of mouth. By the third Sunday we had doubled the business of the first one and we are already seeing a nice group of regulars. I really love the atmosphere of the café when the buffet is going. It feels like the nice local place to go where you can catch up with your neighbors.” Karnopp said.

“I think one of the big things that is leading to our success overall is that we are family friendly and non smoking. My whole business plan is based on keeping prices low, quality high, and getting the volume to support that kind of business. So far with our buffet, it looks like we are going keep our growth in line with our business plan.”

Karnopp said he plans to expand his Sunday buffet to Saturdays as soon as he gets his new coolers installed. After that he will be adding breakfast to order throughout the week. Karnopp wouldn’t go into any details, but he said that he is going to be adding to his lunch and dinner menus eventually too. “In this economy, you have to keep working on new ideas and trying things out. We plan to be here for quite a while, and experimenting with new ideas is half the fun of owning a business like this.”

Source: Jim Karnopp, Cafe Luwak

Porn execs eyeing Ypsilanti for new Studio space

April 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Humor, News

(April 1, 2009) Ypsilanti has been a hotbed for movie shoots and star watching from the burgeoning film industry in Michigan. Things are about to get hotter.

But don’t call it porn, they want to be called the Adult Movie industry.

What ever you call it, it is a $15 billion dollar a year business with the largest players traded on the stock exchange.

In 2004, over 11,000 new adult movie titles were released world wide. Many studios can crank out one or two new films per week.

On Tuesday, while most eyes were focused on the Sidetrack in Depot Town as filming continued on “Betty Anne Waters” starring Hilary Swank and Minnie Driver, a small group of executives from Vivid Entertainment and Larry Flint’s Hustler Video toured the former Ford/Visteon/ACH facility in Ypsilanti.

Agents from the two studios as well as a team from Great Lakes Site Selectors from Columbus, Ohio have been scouting locations in Michigan for a new studio. They are drawn to Michigan and the 42% tax credit for films produced in the state.

The 30+ acre site includes nearly 1 million square of office and warehousing space and includes over 600,000 sf of open bays perfect for sets and sound stages. There is also nearly 200,000 sf of Class A office space.

Warning: Some Web Links in this story connect to adult websites and may not be appropriate for all ages or for the work place.

Automotive Components Holdings (ACH) has the property listed for $7.6 million. Studios execs say they are discussing an all cash purchase.

Given the recent recent problems in the automotive industry, ACH, which is a holding company for Ford Motor Company, is desperately short of cash.

Officials from ACH would not go on the record but privately said the would consider a lower offer if they could close in the next 60 days. “Cash is king,” said one ACH executive.

Steven Hirsch, CEO of Vivid Entertainment according to Forbes makes $100 million a year

Steven Hirsch, CEO of Vivid Entertainment. According to Forbes magazine privately held Vivid earned over $100 million in 2007.

It is hard to imagine Governor Granholm or the Michigan State Legislature could have predicted movie tax credits would be used to fund X-rated movies, the Michigan Film Office confirmed that adult movies would qualify for the film production credits.

Ypsilanti City Planner S. Murf and City Attorney Klem Barista were studying the city’s zoning rules in detail. Murf said after an initial review, it appears an adult movie studio is a permitted use in the manufacturing M1 district.

This is the first time Hustler and Vivid are discussing working together on a production facility. Because of the fractured nature of the business, there is little chance of scrutiny from the Justice Department on this joint venture.

Attorneys familiar with the deal said, “President Obama has bigger worries on Wall Street and Detroit and is unlikely to be worried about happenings in the Adult movie business.”

Despite what had been reported earlier, the Adult Movie industry is not looking for a government bailout. “It was a publicity stunt and it worked,” said late night huckster Joe Francis from Girls Gone Wild.

It is likely Michigan-based company YpsiTucky LLC would be setup to run the studio and rent space to other porn studios wanting to move production to Michigan.

Site selectors were excited about the location. With so much space, it will be easy to build permanent sets including a jail, dungeon, castle, and beach house that are staples in most adult films. With so much indoor space, the studios can film year round.

Hustler Video is part of the massive adult entertainment empire Larry Flint Productions whose holdings including Hustler magazine and Hustler Hollywood Retail stores

Vivid Entertainment is home to some of the industry’s biggest starlets. Called Vivid Girls, they include Jenna Jameson, Briana Banks, and Lanny Barby, who are among hundreds of women signed to exclusive contracts much like in the bygone days of the Hollywood studio system.

Theresa Flynt

Theresa Flynt, VP Licensing and Business Development, Hustler

The demographics of Ypsilanti also make sense said Theresa Flynt, VP Licensing and Business Development, Hustler. The industry is dependent on continually finding new stars. Being able to draw from two massive universities, the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University, for new talent is a plus for producers working on a tight schedule.

Paul Fishbein publisher of Adult Video News, the industry’s largest trade magazine, was shocked to learn executives were looking outside of California for new studio space.

The Adult Movie business, including AVN, has for years called California’s San Fernando Valley home of the porn industry. Locals refer to it as Silicone Valley.

Fishbein said, “If Michigan is willing to fork over a 40% (sic) tax credit for every movie, it makes good business sense for adult movie studios to look at Michigan.”

The Mayor of San Fernando, Guy Grabbit, is not happy that Ypsilanti is poaching the Adult movie business from his town.

“Hands off,” Grabbit warned Michigan politicians eager for a piece of the action, “We invented porn and it belongs here in California.”

Grabbit admitted he had no way to match the 42% tax credit as his city, like many others in California, is facing huge budget shortfalls.

Current Ypsilanti mayor Pauli Schwaibler, who works for one of the automotive companies in the region said he hoped ACH could find a better buyer. ACH executives said there hasn’t been a lot of interest in the Ypsilanti property, but they are willing to talk to any buyer the City thinks would be better.

Ann Arbor Spark was asked if they had anything to do with this site selection group visiting Ypsilanti. Spark spokesman Dean D. Milker responded they didn’t know the property was for sale.

The site selection team’s next stop was Water Street. They expect to conclude their tours on Thursday and could make an offer on studio space in the next 30 days.

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Reporter Steve Pierce is a retired adult movie actor and fiction writer who today restores old houses and spends time with his dog and three cats.

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