Link Detroit Partners Celebrate Greenway Project


The partners of the $21 million Link Detroit project cut a ceremonial ribbon at the new Wilkins Street Plaza on the Dequindre Cut Greenway April 29 to celebrate the completion of the $21 million Greenway project.

Link Detroit is a multi-modal enhancement plan put forth by the city of Detroit to enhance and connect existing greenway projects. The completed project now serves as a linchpin in 20 miles of connected urban greenways extending from the Detroit Riverfront to Eastern Market, linking to the cultural institutions of Midtown and beyond to Hamtramck via walking and biking paths.

“The Link Detroit Greenway is the recreational infrastructure that provides better quality of life and opportunities for Detroiters. And, it will attract people to our city, especially young people who are choosing cities and places to work based on the amenities around them. This greenway makes Detroit a special place to live and work and play,” said Rodrick Miller, president & CEO, Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (DEGC).

In 2012, in partnership with U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Detroit’s Department of Public Works secured a $10 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Additional funding came from a mix of different city, state and private sources as well as support from the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, the McGregor Fund, the Kresge Foundation and other members of the philanthropic community.

The City of Detroit Department of Public Works took the lead on the Link Detroit project, with support from the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), DEGC, Midtown Detroit Inc., Eastern Market Corporation and the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy (DRFC).

A community celebration was held April 30 along the new section of the Greenway and the Wilkins Street Plaza featuring music, entertainment, food trucks, Greening of Detroit garden tours and other activities.

Adrienne Ziegler

Associate Project Manager

DDA Approval Brings Redevelopment of Hudson’s Site Closer to Reality


Detroit’s iconic Hudson’s block, which has sat empty since the department store’s flagship location closed in 1983, is now on the verge of a transformational development that would bring 250 new residential units and 225,000 square feet of new commercial/retail space to the heart of downtown Detroit.

The Downtown Development Authority (DDA), chaired by Mayor Mike Duggan, approved an amendment to its development agreement with Rosko Development, an affiliate of Bedrock Detroit, to allow it to build a high-rise development on the site that could be one of the most significant construction projects in downtown Detroit’s history.

The project also includes firm commitments from Bedrock for hiring Detroiters and providing 20 percent affordable housing units across its residential developments that receive city incentives.

The Hudson’s site has sat empty since the department store, once the tallest in the world, was demolished 18 years ago. Since that time, the city of Detroit has used the site as an underground parking garage. The development agreement requires Bedrock to buy Premier Garage from the city of Detroit for $15 million. Proceeds of the sale will be used to reduce the city’s outstanding debts.

“This is the Hudson’s block development Detroiters have waited three decades to see happen,” said Mayor Mike Duggan. “Its impact will be felt far beyond downtown into our neighborhoods for years to come through construction jobs, fulltime jobs and countless other opportunities that will be created as a result.”

Moddie Turay

Executive Vice President – Real Estate

New Economy Initiative Launches Third and Final Year of NEIdeas Small Business Challenge


New Economy Initiative (NEI), a special project of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan (CFSEM), kicked off the third and final year of NEIdeas: Rewarding Ideas for Business Growth, on April 20. The two-tiered challenge awards $500,000 to existing small businesses in Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland Park to grow their businesses.

Over the last two years, NEIdeas has granted more than $1 million in cash awards to more than 60 existing businesses, as well as provided access to business support for all applicants. Nearly 1,200 small businesses from every corner of the three cities applied to the NEIdeas challenge in 2014 and 2015. Business industries have spanned more than 16 sectors, ranging from barbers to manufacturers, mechanics to bakers, and more. Seventy percent of NEIdeas winners were minority-owned businesses, 64 percent were women-owned businesses, and 53 percent were both woman- and minority-owned businesses. The businesses range in age from three to 93 years old.

“Over the last two years, we’ve seen the ripple effect that this challenge has had on so many small businesses in the city,” said Pam Lewis, NEI director. “It’s been incredible to not only watch the winning businesses grow, but to see the impact of the applicants who are now a part of the small business ecosystem and have access to community resources funded by NEI. This challenge is rewarding those whose spirit and determination over the years has kept the city afloat and are crucial to the future success of Detroit.”

NEIdeas features two types of awards:

  • $10,000 for existing businesses that gross under $750,000 annually with ideas to grow
  • $100,000 for existing businesses that gross more than $750,000 and less than $5 million annually with ideas to grow “big”

Thirty applicants will be awarded $10,000 each, and two businesses will be awarded $100,000 each. Businesses must be three years of age or older by the application deadline of June 1, 2016, to be eligible for an NEIdeas award. All applicants who apply to the challenge will gain connections to other small businesses and entrepreneurs, access to resources, and exposure through NEIdeas’ All-Applicant Assistance.

NEIdeas is operated in partnership with DEGC. DEGC coordinates an outreach program that features nearly 30 “ambassador” locations including community organizations, associations and faith-based institutions across Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland Park. The ambassadors provide small businesses with information and guidance throughout the application process.

“The application process is quick and easy,” said Rodrick Miller, president and CEO, DEGC. “Nearly 1,200 small businesses have applied over the past two years, and they all have become part of a network that will help their companies flourish. The time is now to take advantage of this opportunity, so I strongly encourage business owners in Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland Park to apply.”

The application for the 2016 NEIdeas challenge is available online at Printed applications are also available at nearly every ambassador location. For-profit small businesses of any industry are invited to apply by submitting applications online or via U.S. mail.

Application deadlines for the $10k and $100k challenges are Wednesday, June 1. Interested small businesses can learn more about NEIdeas through the five NEIdeas Info Sessions & Workshops. A full calendar of events is listed on

After the application period closes, NEIdeas will narrow the pool of applicants and forward the semi-finalists to a jury comprised of empathetic entrepreneurs (including past NEIdeas winners) and nonprofit, corporate, and neighborhood partners. The jury will recommend finalists and, ultimately, winners. If selected as a finalist, applicants will be asked to submit additional information about their business. Winners will be notified by CFSEM in the fall.

Michael Forsyth

Director of Small Business Programs

D2D Buyer Ready Business: Benkari – Adrienne Bennett, President and CEO


Detroit’s Benkari Mechanical is Michigan’s first and only female, minority-owned plumbing and mechanical contractor. Benkari provides both plumbing and heating & cooling services for a variety of facility types including from commercial buildings and transportation facilities to single family homes. Adrienne Bennett, President and CEO, holds the distinction of being America’s first African American female licensed master plumber, plumbing contractor, plumbing inspector, and medical gas system inspector and installer. Additionally, Bennett was recently named the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) Detroit, Crystal Vision Woman of the Year. She founded Benkari, a family-owned business, nine years ago and within the past few years has brought her son into the business as well.

What is the history and background of Benkari?

I’ve been in the A/E/C industry for 35 years and after holding positions from plumbing apprentice to Senior Project Manager, I decided to utilize my experience in the field and boardroom and launch my own company. My youngest son, Adrian-Keith (A.K.) decided to follow in my footsteps and has become a tremendous asset to the company’s growth as its project manager. Together we are dedicated to providing apprenticeship and employment opportunities to employ the unemployed and give back to Detroit in any way possible.

What are some of Benkari’s notable clients?

We’ve had the pleasure of working with many wonderful clients. One of the largest to date, is the Detroit Transportation Corporation which operates the Detroit People Mover. As their maintenance contractor, Benkari has completed extensive plumbing and heating repairs and renovations including fixture replacement, backflow prevention testing, and replacing significant spans of drainage pipe within the facilities and along the track of the system. We worked on build-outs for The Albert located in Capitol Park. We also had the opportunity to work on the site storm water drainage for the Detroit Events & Entertainment Center in late 2015. We hope to return to “The District” for more work in 2016.

Beyond those two projects, other renovation work recently completed includes PNC Bank, Burger King and the City of Warren.

A project we just began is the Goodwill Welcome Center on E. Grand Boulevard in the Milwaukee Junction area. We’re very excited to be a part of the team building a new facility for Goodwill Industries, a beacon in our community.

What is Benkari’s culture?

We strive to be personable, passionate and loyal to our clients, employees, colleagues and to provide quality services. A personal mantra I try to instill by example is to: be someone people are happy to see coming and sad to see go. Relationships are the bedrock of our business and we take them seriously. Tenacity and perseverance are requirements to survive in this industry and that’s a big part of our culture. We’re small but mighty.

Why did Benkari select Detroit as its headquarters?

I grew up in Detroit and am a graduate of Detroit Public Schools. I spent the vast majority of my apprenticeship here in the city, and I served as the master plumber for Henry Ford Health System for a decade. I was the plumbing inspector for the re-opening of the Fox and worked on the Hart Plaza fountain and Millender Center. The city, its past and present, are in my bones. There’s no question that we want Benkari to be a mainstay of Detroit for decades to come. We are currently planning to purchase property in the city to establish an expanded headquarters with additional office space and a fabrication shop.

What companies have you collaborated with in Detroit?

Clients of ours located in the city include W3 Construction, Sachse Construction, Walker-Miller Energy Services, Blaze-Iafrate, and DAPCO. We strive to use Detroit-based suppliers as well. Engineering Reproduction Inc. supplies all of our blueprints, B & D Construction LLC is one of our trusted subcontractors and we utilize both Advance Plumbing and Heating Supply and Safway Services frequently. We’re always looking to meet and work with other Detroit businesses.

What are the benefits of connecting with other Detroit businesses?

When Detroit businesses work together and support each other, we’re helping the city flourish. As Detroit company revenues rise, tax revenues rise and the city is able to improve its services and areas we operate in. Connecting together helps build a network of businesses and people passionate about Detroit and that network becomes a tremendous source of referrals, contracts and sales.

Brian Watkins

D2D Program Manager


Meet Up and Eat Up Nutrition Education Program Impacts Detroit Students


Meet Up and Eat Up, an Eastern Market program focused on healthy eating and active lifestyle initiatives, just wrapped its three grocery store tour this spring sponsored by the Detroit Lions Foundation, United Way, United Health and Gleaners Community Food Bank.

The three grocery stores, Family Fare, Imperial Fresh Market and Food Town Super Market, hosted elementary and middle school kids at their locations. Several stations were set up for food samples, recipe demonstrations and nutrition presentations to educate children on the importance of healthy eating choices.

It served as an opportunity for Detroit area school students to get to know their local grocery stores better, as well as their hometown favorite Detroit Lions. “Kids were engaged when Detroit Lions Chef, ‘Chef Joe’, shared his experience cooking for the football players,” Green Grocer Project Program Manager Mimi Pledl said. “The local grocers were just as engaged in showing all they have available in terms of healthy, nutritious food options.”

The Detroit Public Schools Office of School Nutrition also assisted in choosing which schools’ students would be participating at which grocery store, making sure it aligned with the school system’s standards of health education.
The Meet Up and Eat Up program started as a pilot in 2014 at a few stores. In 2015 and 2016, three locations each had the opportunity to showcase their grocery stores. Other stores, per Pledl, “are definitely interested in being a part of the program going forward.”

Pledl feels that the Green Grocer is at a great point and events like these highlight stores as community grocery stores. “We are seeing great improvements with our independent Detroit grocers with all the expansions and investments,” she said. “We’re excited for the future of the program as well as Detroit in general.”
CAPTION: Detroit Lions Chef ‘Chef Joe’ discusses his role in providing Detroit Lions athletes healthy eating choices at the Meet Up and Eat Up event.

Mimi Pledl

Green Grocer Project Program Manager