Detroit's Rackham Golf Course in Huntington Woods must remain a publicly owned links even if the city sells it, the Michigan Court of Appeals said in a ruling released Wednesday.

That was a relief to Huntington Woods residents and to golfers playing in Wednesday's heat, who said they feared plans by Detroit officials to sell the 120-acre course adjoining the Detroit Zoo for conversion into a housing development.

"We're extremely happy with the decision," said Huntington Woods Mayor Ron Gillham.

"We know Detroit could sell it to us or some other governmental unit. Our attorneys are going over this decision but if it's sold, it must be a public golf course," said Gillham, who has lived in Huntington Woods since 1959.

James Canning, a spokesman for Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, said city attorneys are still reviewing the court's decision and officials have not decided whether to appeal.

The appeals court said the Rackham family gift to Detroit in 1924 has "unambiguous language and the clearly stated intent" was that the land could not be used for anything but a public course. The three-judge panel added that Detroit may only sell the property "to another public entity and not to a private entity," even if the private buyer promises to keep it as a public golf course.

A private developer offered to buy the course from Detroit in 2006. At the time, the sale was envisioned as a way to shore up Detroit's 2005-06 fiscal year budget. The ensuing legal challenge by Huntington Woods and several of its residents caused Detroit financial officials to not rely on the proposed sale in projected revenue estimates in later budgets, Canning said.

Huntington Woods challengers to the deal argued, successfully it turns out, that a sale would violate the terms of the Rackhams' gift. Horace Rackham, who made a fortune in the early auto boom, donated the land and developed the course so average citizens could play at a facility rivaling the elite private clubs of the era.

Playing in their weekly Wednesday golf league at Rackham, players young and old said they were relieved.

"I like Rackham a lot. You can score well here, and they keep it in real nice shape," Cary Almas, 28, of Clawson said before starting his golf round.

The course was designed by fabled golf architect Donald Ross, who also designed the course at Oakland Hills Country Club. The clubhouse was designed by Albert Kahn, Detroit's best known architect of buildings, whose stamp is on the Fisher Building and Detroit Police headquarters.
"It's classic golf," said an admiring Wes Williams, 63, of Rochester Hills.

Because of the course's prominent designers, and its history as the first integrated public course in metro Detroit, Huntington Woods voted to make it a historic district in 2006, said Huntington Woods Zoning and Preservation Administrator Hank Berry.

"This course allowed African Americans to play from its inception. That was unheard of in the 1920s," Berry said.

Ben Davis, a black Detroiter named head golf pro at Rackham in the 1960s, "was the first African American to hold that position at an 18-hole public golf course anywhere," Berry added.
"Ben taught me. And he still plays the course. He's 96 and still hits the ball straight."

Huntington Woods City Manager Alex Allie called the court ruling "very comprehensive. ... Obviously, we're very pleased. It is a relief. It essentially upholds all our arguments."

As for the more than $6 million Huntington Woods earlier had offered to buy the course from Detroit, "It's a different ballgame now. It's a very complex sale condition," he said.

Huntington Woods is not actively pursuing buying the course as it waits to see how Detroit will respond to Wednesday's ruling, Huntington Woods officials said.

The court's decision said that any sale would have to be approved by Rackham heirs and could go only to a public body for purposes of maintaining a public golf course. Those restrictions vastly reduce the $11.25 million that developers in 2006 offered Detroit with their plan to build as many as 400 houses, according to a 2006 recommendation from the Detroit Planning and Development Department.

An attorney for the development group that would have built the houses said the court's decision seemed clear-cut. "Certainly it seems the upshot is that it remains a golf course in perpetuity," said Arthur Siegal, whose Southfield-based firm Jaffe Raitt Heuer & Weiss represented the developers' partnership, called Premium Golf LLC.

Siegal said the partners withdrew their bid in 2007 and that now, in light of the region's housing slump, they'd probably be less interested. "I'm sure the value of the property, for any purpose, has declined significantly," he said.

Ken Silver, Chairperson for Citizens to Save Rackham, said, "Huntington Woods hit a home run."
Silver, a 23-year Huntington Woods resident, and his wife live three blocks from Rackham Golf Course with their son and two daughters. Bounded on the south by I-696 and on the east by the Detroit Zoo, with its other two sides facing the homes of Huntington Woods, Rackham Golf Course is managed by American Golf Corp.

Steve Williams, a regional director for the company in Rochester Hills, said that golfers play more than 50,000 rounds a year there, but would not say how many players use the course.

Detroit Free Press
The Neighborhood
Just a 30-minute drive from downtown Detroit, Pleasant Ridge isn't exactly a suburb—it's one of Michigan's smallest incorporated cities, with 2,594 residents. Resident Kate Redmond calls it "a time capsule from the 1920s,"when upper-middle-class automobile tycoons built homes and raised families here. It's long been a draw for folks on the family track; it's not uncommon for newlyweds to buy a starter home here, trade up to a larger one when the kids arrive, then downsize as the nest empties, but never leave Pleasant Ridge.

Public schools spend almost $2,000 more per student than the national average, and class sizes average just 18 students per teacher.

The Houses
Arts & Crafts homes, English Tudors, Prairie Schools, Georgian Revivals, and Dutch Colonials are all here.

Prices range from the low $100,000s for a modest bungalow to over a million for a big Colonial Revival or Tudor.

Why Buy Now?
Pleasant Ridge is already home to two national historic districts, and plans are under way to list the city, established in the 1830s, on the National Register. This small city stands to retain its historic fabric long into the future.

This Old House

Make it work, metro Detroit, because one of your fashion designers is finally getting some love from "Project Runway."

The fifth season of the hit Bravo show starts at 9 p.m. Wednesday and features a contestant from our own backyard. Joe Faris, 41, of Troy, a veteran sportswear designer, is one of 16 contestants who'll battle to impress Heidi Klum, Tim Gunn and the rest of the "Runway" gang.

Faris, a married father of two daughters, says he's a jeans, T-shirt and leather jacket kind of guy whose style is influenced by his hometown.

He's even got a catchphrase that just may replace "fierce" (season four winner Christian Siriano's favorite word). Think "done-o-done" will sweep America?

Come back to the Free Press on Wednesday for more about Faris and the kickoff of "Runway."

Source Detroit Free Press
Woodward Corridor (Detroit, Mich.)

Cost: $728 per month

Encompassing the Ferndale, Huntington Woods and Berkeley sections of metropolitan Detroit, the dense corridor stretches 27 miles over 11 municipalities and is home to the largest number of jobs. It means something in Motor City that upwards of 12% of residents use public transport; the ridership rate in nearby Sterling Heights is below 5%. The average commute time in Berkeley, 19 minutes, is half as long as that of other downtown neighborhoods.


Maybe in the near future it will be the lowest cost per month with a new age mass transit system, hint hint....
Business sprouts for local growers: Profits grow on the appeal of hometown food

Every weekend, Kelli Lewton-Secondino and her crew of chefs pull 16-hour days, preparing meals for more than 100 customers signed up with Royal Oak-based Pure Food 2 U.

The seven-month-old food-delivery service is an extension of Lewton-Secondino's existing business, Royal Oak's 2 Unique Catering, but with a new take. The chef had long been an advocate of locally grown, organic foods, and was ready to start a business modeled on her increasing conviction that healthy eating was the way to go.

With revenue for Pure Food's first year projected at $550,000, Lewton-Secondino found a growing market of diners with a taste for fresh, healthy meals but a dearth of kitchen time.Businesses like Pure Food are at the leading edge of a national demand for locally grown foods that's spawning new businesses and increasing demand at existing operations.

It's a trend that's too new to have produced much hard data, but from grocers to farmers to state agencies, mention the increasing demand for local food and you'll get a nod of recognition.“If you go back to leaders like (national organic and gourmet grocer) Whole Foods Market, they've been talking about local and doing it for at least three or four years, but in the last year, we're seeing it kind of explode on the consciousness,” said Neil Stern, a senior partner with McMillan Doolittle L.L.P., a Chicago-based retail consulting firm.

At Southfield-based Hiller's Markets' seven area stores, local foods are marked with a mitt that represents Michigan, said Larry Krispin, grocery buyer for the chain.“I think people are trying to buy more Michigan products and support Michigan, and I think it's really taken hold just in the last year,” he said. According to Hiller's Market, during the last fiscal year local products accounted for $16 million in revenue out of the store's total 2007 revenue of $170 million. Krispin said the stores work with more than 100 Michigan companies.“We're seeing a lot more interest from a wide variety of sources,” said Dan Carmody, Eastern Market Corp. president and CEO.“We have a steady stream of groups like local colleges and health care providers trying to source more food locally, and we've had a number of initiatives we're working on with our fellow not-for-profits to improve accessibility of local food through nontraditional sources of food distribution.”

The market's wholesale operation is about 90 percent locally grown food, he said, while the Saturday market that's open to the public can be 40 to 80 percent local, depending on the time of year

.And profits are growing all the way down the food chain.Michelle Lutz, co-owner of Maple Creek Farm in Yale, west of Port Huron, said she's looking for revenue to grow from $430,000 in 2006, her best year to date, to a projected $550,000 this year. Maple Creek lost $170,000 in 2007, the victim of a severe season-long drought.

Lutz sells to high-end stores throughout the metro area like Orchard Lake-based Plum Market, to restaurants and also to individual customers through retail sales and farmers' markets like Royal Oak's.

“It's not abnormal for me to move 20 tons of produce or more a week during the (growing) season, and to a small family organic farmer that's a lot,” she said.Expenses at an organic operation such as hers typically exceed those at mainstream farms, but Lutz said she's able to compensate for the higher labor outlay to some degree because she doesn't use costly petroleum-based fertilizer or pesticides, and tries to keep costs comparable to mainstream producers.

But Lutz is selling more than produce. Part of the sticker price includes a sense of security about the product,“If I can get close to what (the average mainstream) consumer is paying, I find people don't mind giving their money to me,” she said.

Lutz said that she might earn about 30 percent of the retail price of her products at a major retailer, while at a smaller, family-owned store the split might be closer to 50-50. Restaurants are about 60-40, but she sees her greatest profits in individual, direct sales.

Most of Maple Creek's produce, she said, is sold within 80 miles of the farm with the farthest destination the Plum Market in Ann Arbor.

Smaller farms also report an increase in activity.

Robin Leonard of the Garden Patch Farm in Pinckney said she's getting about five calls a week about her eggs and produce, and Diane Franklin of Rocky Gardens CSA in Davisburg in northwest Oakland County said all 51 farm co-op shares, priced at $560 each, were sold a month after she'd opened for sales.

Franklin said her annual revenue is about $25,000, typically reinvested into the farm's infrastructure.Julie LaPorte is another entrepreneur who's capitalizing on the growing demands for local foods, providing a connection between local farmers and time-strapped consumers.

LaPorte, committed to a local diet personally, found herself making the rounds to several local farms on the weekends. When she started picking up food for friends, LaPorte realized she'd developed a business model and started Clarkston-based La Vida Local.

The fledgling home delivery service currently fills about 25 orders per week, placed online, from a database of about 100 members. Weekly revenue from her seven-month-old business hovers between $1,300 and $1,600.Cutting out the middleman allows LaPorte to sell food at a lower price than a gourmet market, though she admits her wares exceed the mainstream market price.

“Raw cheese from Whole Foods is usually around $14 a pound, but my price is about $8.50 a pound,” she said.

LaPorte said her business has been growing slowly, but that she's content to see growth that taxes neither her resources nor the capacity of the roughly 30 suppliers she works with.

Gary Kuneman, general manager of Scio Township-based Eat Local Eat Natural is hoping to fill the delivery niche on a commercial level.

Kuneman has been working on the project for about two years, building his supplier base, but started making sales calls last month.“We're chomping at the bit because we've got the suppliers,” he said.

Originally conceived as a home-delivery service, Kuneman said, his company will focus on delivering locally produced meat and dairy to restaurants throughout the area.“We want to work with the small- to medium-sized producer,” he said. “It has to be a safe product. ... Our primary objective is to make sure it's safe and raised in a sustainable manner, the farmers don't use chemicals on crops, or hormones and steroids to feed animals.”

About 40 percent of the agricultural commodities grown in Michigan are consumed in-state, said William Knudson, an agricultural economist at Michigan State University. The rest are shipped out of state or out of the country.

In a national 2006 survey of specialty food stores conducted by Chicago-based consumer, product and market research firm Mintel, 31 percent of the food items in specialty retailers were sourced within 250 miles of the store, Knudson said. Five years ago, he said, the company didn't track that statistic, a sign of the increasing prominence of local food in the marketplace.

The number of farmers' markets in the country increased by 82 percent between 1996 and 2006, with a 40 percent increase between 2002 and 2006, he said.

There's no hard and fast rule regarding in- versus out-of-state food pricing, Knudson said — factors like whether produce is in or out of season can modify the price — but for in-season produce, locally grown can be cheaper.

Monroe County-based Calder's Dairy and Farms, family-owned and -operated since 1946, is a familiar name to Southeast Michigan grocery shoppers. The dairy's brands are carried in mainstream grocery stores and are fixtures at gourmet markets.

The dairy's home-delivery service added more than 220 orders to its 1,500 home-delivery customers just in the first quarter of this year, said general manager Nicola Noble.

“Local” doesn't always mean organic, Stern said, but it offers a sense of consumer security that “outside” products may not have.

“Locally grown has so many things going for it that are perceived as positive with the consumer,” he said. “If you start with the connotation of local, it typically means it's going to be better-tasting. If you have the idealized sense of local, it's the farmers' market, which implies direct from the grower.”

Locally grown food also has a better environmental and sustainability reputation, thanks to the smaller carbon footprint required to truck foodstuffs shorter distances.

And in an age of recalls, local food may seem safer, Stern said.

“There's traceability,” he said. “If you know where food is coming from, you think it may be safer. ... That doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be safer, but the implication is, "I know where this stuff is coming from.' “Noble said that changing Calder's feed to an all-organic mix isn't financially feasible — all the farm's milk-producing cows must be fed on more costly organic feed from birth on before the dairy could qualify as organic — but said she thinks part of the appeal of the dairy is that customers are able to see the humane way cows are treated.

Ari Weinzweig, co-owner of Ann Arbor's Zingerman's Community of Businesses, has been at the head of the local, organic trend since Zingerman's Deli opened in 1982.

For Zingerman's, Weinzweig said, it's about contact.“I think our push is to know everybody we buy from, everybody we sell to, even if that's your mail-order customer,” he said.“And when we can make connections at that level it's always for the better.

Source Crain's Detroit