People, Products & Properties to Watch in ’08


The Inn on The Commons

A $20 million renovation project of two century-old cottages and connecting dining hall at The Village at Grand Traverse Commons will bring an 84-room boutique hotel, full-service restaurant, and a banquet hall for groups of up to 500 people. Work should get underway this spring on Buildings 28 and 40, and the inn is scheduled to open the spring of 2009.

John Weeman, a long-time northern Michigan summer resident and head of Dallas-based Partners In Development, is heading the project.

"Our intention is to embrace the village as a place," said Weeman, "selling the whole village experience."

The two buildings and connecting cafeteria were once residential halls for male patients at the former Traverse City State Hospital.

Old Town parking

Will this be the year Traverse City residents get another parking deck? To get that answer, Rob Bacigalupi, deputy director of the Downtown Development Authority (DDA), says, "You might have to call Las Vegas."

Last year city voters said "no" to a public parking deck on West Front Street. Now the DDA is trying again for a different deck in a different location. The three-story parking deck would be in the Old Town area. It would have 410 parking spots and front both Lake and 8th.

The Economic Development Corporation (EDC) estimates the cost of the deck at approximately $9 million. It would apply for state grants and seek around $6 million from tax increment financing funds (TIFFs).

One of the top players and supporters of the new deck is Hagerty Insurance, which has nearly 400 employees and plans to add as many as 150 new positions.

While the DDA does have a proposed location, there are a lot of details that need to be settled before this deck becomes a reality. The first step is to talk to the three property owners of the proposed site-Hagerty Insurance, Addiction Treatment Services, and an association of smaller businesses. Would they be willing to sell their land and for how much? If all parties do agree on a sale, officials must then get the zoning ordinance changed. Right now the location does not allow for a parking deck.

Bacigalupi says there is a good chance that voters could see the proposal for this parking deck on the ballot.

West Front St.

In June, crews tore down the old car dealership at West Front Street to make room for a three-story building owned by Federated Properties. But construction has since stalled. The DDA's Rob Bacigalupi says his understanding is that Federated wants to pre-lease a majority of the building before starting construction. However, Federated Properties did not return calls from the TCBN to confirm. Once construction does resume, it's expected to take approximately a year to complete.

At that point, J&S Hamburg can move into its new home in the Federated building at 124 W. Front Street. Along with doubling the size of J&S, owner Cindy Warner plans on opening Zaccaro's Market and a wine bar, Assaggio.

The Whiting

Will The Whiting be magically transformed into an upscale boutique hotel this year? Not likely. This year, plans call for it to continue to operate as an affordable housing option on a month-to-month basis.

Cherry Republic's Bob Sutherland, who leases the building's first floor for his retail store, does not plan to exercise an option to purchase it from owner Mike Anton until early 2009, with renovations to start shortly thereafter.

Sutherland said when the building's major tenant, Goodwill, decided to terminate its lease early, it set back purchase plans. He was counting on that income from the second and third floor occupant while establishing his new retail location.

Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel

We're betting when this seven-story hotel and casino opens in Williamsburg in June, you won't find a whole lot of empty parking spaces in the 1,000-car parking lot.

The hotel and casino will cover 350,000 square feet-54,000 of which will be dedicated to gaming. Besides the 137 guest rooms, the resort will feature VIP underground parking (with car wash), a buffet restaurant, casual dining room, nightclub, three full-service lounges, a ballroom and a fitness center.

The Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians owns and operates the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa and the Leelanau Sands Casino & Lodge in Peshawbestown.

Sugar Loaf

A man with ties to Leelanau County thinks he can take a mountain of controversy and turn it into a mountain residents can once again enjoy.

Brad Lutz purchased the Loaf from Kate Wickstrom last fall. Just last January, things seemed to be looking up for Wickstrom-Cleveland Township was finishing zoning changes to clear the way for Sugar Loaf's redevelopment, and Sugar Loaf had reached a tentative agreement with the Sugar Loaf Service Co. to resolve the wastewater dispute.

Whether Lutz can bring movement back to the mountain is one for the Magic Eight Ball…but he has a lot of support behind him.


An IMAX theater, restaurants, retail shops, a hotel and convention center and housing are all still possibilities for a development just down the road from Weurfel Park, home of the Traverse City Beach Bums.

Keith Nielson, Generations Management's chief operating officer, said the company is currently meeting with contractors to get input and establish rough pricing for the 334-acre project, dubbed "Lakeside," at U.S. 31 and Rennie School Road.

The company will initially focus its efforts on attracting smaller national brand stores and local shops.

"Our 10,000 square-foot project's design is still being tweaked," said Nielson. "We're looking into what kind of green building techniques we can incorporate. We have several parties looking at different parts of the project, but nothing too serious at this point."

Wilderness Crossing and ZeroedIN

One project that is shaping up nicely in the Chum's Corner area is Wilderness Crossing, located off U.S. 31 in between Curtis and West Silver Lake Road. The center will cater to families with a 16-lane bowling alley, indoor miniature golf, laser tag, billiards, pool tables, a restaurant, bar and corporate meeting room. Kerry Smith and Leslie Lake plan to open in February.

Attached to the center will be a 14,000 square-foot indoor gun and archery range with a classroom staffed by National Rifle Association-certified instructors. ZeroedIN will be owned and operated by Richard Rieck, owner of Fieldstone Market & Deli on North Long Lake Road, and Joe Peters. They're targeting an April opening.


LochenHeath Land Co. has made dramatic improvements to the former cherry orchard on the shores of Grand Traverse Bay during the past 30 months. The facelift has been fruitful-last fall, Links Magazine voted the 644-acre private golf club and residential development one of "America's 100 Premier Golf Properties."

Last summer, developers were busy building two lakes, moving two holes to increase par, and breaking ground on The Residences at Letty Green, a collection of 43 golf cottages priced from $600,000 to $750,000, which includes a full membership to the club. LochenHeath lots range from $200,000 to $2.2 million.

When completed in the next two years, the permanent clubhouse will house casual and formal dining rooms, banquet and special event facilities and a golf shop.

LochenHeath Land Co. is a joint venture between Deepwater LLC, a Michigan-based company, and Pinnacle Development Group, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based company that has developed two of the Southwest's most renowned private residential and golf communities


Green apparel

Clothing made of alternative, organic, sustainable fibers-think organic cotton, bamboo, hemp, wool, soy fibers-is easy to love for its eco-friendly roots. And that love is translating to rising demand as consumers are expected to spend more of their own "green" in '08 on clothing that is produced with the health of the environment and you in mind. Sales for organic cotton alone are expected to hit $2.6 billion this year, according to industry sources.

These "friendly" fibers can be found locally at such places as Green Island, Green Canopy and Rooted to Nature. According to shop owners, bamboo was very popular in 2007.

Said Rooted to Nature's Cathy Montgomery, "People love the environment here and they are starting to make the connection between spending and the environment."


It all started with shrunken sweaters. Rather than throw them out, baabaaZuzu founder and Leland resident Sue Burns used them to make jackets for her two daughters. "Soon after, friends started asking me for the jackets, bells rang and I started baabaaZuzu," Burns says on her web site, Business is booming at baabaaZuzu, which is named for the wool used and Burns' nickname, "Zuzu."

Sales just about doubled in the past year and the company even has a distributor who sends its children's clothing, jackets, vests, scarves, hats and mittens to a retail chain in Japan.

No longer is Burns operating the business out of her living room and basement; today, baabaaZuzu is a Lake Leelanau storefront. BaabaaZuzu is committed to using 100 percent recycled material, most of it from local second-hand shops that have too much stock. We can't wait to see the business' next knitted move.

Salamander rapidTAG

Traverse City company Salamander Technologies is known nationwide for solutions that help take some of the chaos out of a mass incident or disaster by tracking emergency responders, volunteers and victims.

But in 2007, the company exceeded even its own sales expectations for its rapidTAG technology product, said President/CEO Russ Miller. The application allows emergency management and public health agencies to create instant identification badges for all people involved in an emergency by grabbing data off people's driver's licenses.

In the months ahead, look for Salamander Technologies to move into the federal scene, creating incident-specific credentials for federal response groups, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Defense.

Yotta Bar

Helping people sneak veggies into their diets is the goal of Yotta Bar creators Timothy and Melissa Ewing. And thanks to a recent deal with Whole Foods Market-the world's largest retailer of natural and organic foods will introduce the bars in its 260 stores this month-the Maple City couple is reaching more consumers than ever. Their "healthier granola bar alternative" (in Apple Cinnamon, Cherry and Orange) appeals to the tastes of even the most "vegetabaly-challenged."

Operating as the Undercover Vegetable Company, the Ewings say their Yotta Bar is all-natural, contains the nutrition of vegetables, includes no refined sugars, meets evolving state nutrition standards for products allowed to be sold in schools, and "has ingredients that everyone can pronounce." With mentions on QVC and in major consumer magazines-the product was featured at most recently-we're sure that we'll be seeing a whole lotta Yotta Bars.

Moomers milk

Got milk? This spring Moomers will. Along with serving its famous homemade ice cream, the owners will also be selling milk. The hormone-free, non-homogenized milk will come from dairy cows on the Plummer's 80-acre farm on North Long Lake Road, adjacent to Moomers Homemade Ice Cream.

Moomers Farm Creamery hopes to be up and running by spring. The creamery will bottle all types of milk, including skim, fat-free, 2%, and seasonal specials such as eggnog. Down the road it may venture into other dairy products like butter, whipping cream, and coffee creamers. Moomers Farm Creamery's initial goal is to sell 100 gallons of milk a day.

Along with selling the bottled milk at smaller grocery stores, such as Long Lake Grocery, the milk will also be used in Moomers ice cream. The Plummers said they wanted to think of a way of keeping the small family farm without having to sell it as a subdivision.

"It just made economic sense," said co-owner Jon Plummer. "We already had the farm; we had the 20 cows, so why pay a middle man when we can process the milk ourselves?"

Check out the company's full range of offerings at

Oryana Soyworks

National interest in soy foods and soy protein has continued to grow as people connect soy proteins to cardiovascular health.

Oryana Natural Foods Market in Traverse City recently launched its own line of organic soy food products-Oryana Soyworks. The line is manufactured on-site at Oryana.

Oryana first began manufacturing its own soy products in 1983. Since that time, employees and volunteers have consistently produced weekly batches of tofu and tempeh using traditional Japanese methods. In order to give the products more visibility and to respond to new interest in soy foods, Oryana managers decided to launch Oryana Soyworks this year. The brand is currently available only through Oryana's location at Lake Street, though area restaurants and Michigan retailers have used Oryana tofu for years in their own prepared foods.

The Oryana Soyworks line contains smoked and curried tofu, dairy-free spreads and salads, and a very popular line of hand-rolled vegetarian sushi.


Barbara Budros, Jim Carruthers

November's City Commission election was one of the most contentious in recent history. Newcomers Jim Carruthers, Barbara Budros and Michael Estes (see below) banded together and ran on a joint platform that promised voters a change from politics as usual. Having won the community's support- and most importantly, its votes-the newly-elected Commissioners are now getting down to the hard business of leading Traverse City in its promised "new direction." Can the reconfigured Commission set aside differences among its members to maintain productive agendas-and will the newcomers keep their word to "listen to voters" first and foremost? Regardless of how the chips fall, it's sure to be an interesting year down at City Hall.

Michael Estes

He took down incumbent Linda Smyka with 65 percent of the votes on Nov. 6. Compared with what lies ahead, that may have been the easy part. As Mayor Michael Estes advocates a controversial split from the County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority to start a separate City Authority, all eyes are on him to see whether he can manage the negotiations with enough diplomacy to retain a successful working relationship between the City and County-or if the move will end up jeopardizing the City's bargaining power in requesting Brownfield funds. It's a perilous decision to make so early in office, and one that could potentially set the tone-for better or worse-for the remainder of his mayoral term.

Kimberly R. Pontius

Kimberly Pontius is rounding out his first few months as the Traverse Area Association of Realtors's new executive vice president, replacing Judith Lindenau, who retired after 30 years.

His resume is as long as his list of TAAR goals for 2008: Launch a PR campaign to emphasize the positive side of our local real estate market (yes, there is one, he says); work with TAAR members and affiliate members to launch a one-day homebuyers and sellers learning expo; increase engagement activities with the TC Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Corporation and Workforce Development and Education; boost education and professional development offerings for members, and find more opportunities for TAAR's engagement in affordable housing initiatives.

Edwin Ness

Ed Ness has had his finger on the pulse of Munson Medical Center and its 3,000 employees since becoming executive vice president and chief operating officer in 1999, and president in 2004.

Now, he has a hand in directing the region's future as the incoming chairman of the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce Board. Ness' three major goals include legislative activities and governmental relations, economic development, and leadership development.

Ness has served on the Traverse Bay Economic Development Corporation board, has been a member of the Chamber's Health Care Task Force Committee, and has served in other committee roles since joining the Chamber in 2000.

Mary Carroll

Last September, Mary Carroll took the helm as captain of the Benzie County Chamber of Commerce and Benzie Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. No stranger to the tourism industry, Carroll was formerly executive director for the Mt. Pleasant Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

After the Benzie Chamber's previous director, Carol Davidson, retired in May, a search committee took five months to replace her, whittling down a list of 45 formal applicants.

Described by her staff as "innovative, enthusiastic and realistic," we see Caroll tacking gracefully into the winds of change.