XSeed Energy to Install Solar Panels at Michigan Theater

The Ypsilanti-based Clean Energy Coalition (CEC) is the parent organization for the newly-formed XSeed Energy, "Ann Arbor's Community Power Project."  XSeed's inaugural project, approved at their August 12 meeting by the Historic District Commission, will be the installation of solar panels at the Michigan Theater at 603 East Liberty Street.

Solar panels created renewable energy in Ann ArborUsing funding from community donations and grants, XSeed Energy was created with the goal of developing renewable energy projects in Ann Arbor.  Profits will be recycled back into an ‘Energy Bank' to fund ongoing renewable energy installations. The goal - and hence, the name - is to ‘seed' community funded, and possibly community owned, power projects in Ann Arbor.

For this first project, a set of 60-foot solar panels will be placed on the south-facing wall of the Michigan Theater, then connected to the local power grid. According to Bonnie Bona, project manager for XSeed Energy and former chair of Ann Arbor's planning commission, the Michigan Theater was selected for XSeed's first project "because of the public visibility of the solar panels, the theater's willingness to participate, its community involvement, and the fact that it is already pursuing other renewable energy solutions."

Russ Collins, executive director and CEO of the Michigan Theater, notes that the roof of the theater was recently painted white, significantly reducing its carbon dioxide emissions. The theater has also switched many of its light bulbs to more efficient compact fluorescent lamp bulbs. "We will continue to pursue green improvements as we can," Collins said.

The panels themselves will be selected over the next few months, and Michigan-based products and installers will be given preference. XSeed hopes to use this project to catalyze the green jobs sector in Michigan. The installation is scheduled to take place in November.

The CEC is partnered with the City of Ann Arbor, the Michigan Energy Office, the University of Michigan, and the US Department of Energy. CEC's ongoing initiatives include Clean Cities, Biofuel Incentive Grants, Solar America Cities, Rebuild Ypsilanti, Energy Outlet, and Michigan Energy $ense.

Want to be part of the greening of Ann Arbor? Whether you are buying a new home, or selling your current residence, the Bouma Group can help you with your real estate needs in Ann Arbor, as well as keep you up to date about Washtenaw County and specific Ann Arbor neighborhoods. And check out our Condo Hotline to learn everything you want to know about the Ann Arbor condo market.

Posted Tuesday, August 31, 2010 by Martin Bouma

Here’s What’s Brewing for Ann Arbor Coffee Lovers

Ann Arbor Loves Coffee!With more than 50 individual coffee shops available to residents, it's a fact that Ann Arbor definitely loves coffee. David Myers, owner of Mighty Good Coffee Roasting Company, is making the most of that affection. As artisan roaster Mighty Good Coffee moves into its fifth year in business, they will physically move from their tiny (less than 200 square feet) storefront at 118 S. Main Street, to a 2,200 square foot combination café and roasting operation at 217 N. Main Street. The move will allow seating for 24, with ample space for special events and coffee classes.

The move will allow Mighty Good to expand their menu of edibles. Additionally, it will give customers the opportunity to watch and learn about the roasting experience, as well as to buy beans directly from the roaster. And while Mighty Good is moving just a few blocks away from their old location, Myers expects to add to his customer base because of the new spot's proximity to the Ann Arbor Farmers Marke in Kerrytown.

Here are a few fun and interesting facts about what's arguably the world's favorite beverage:

  • After oil, coffee beans are considered the most heavily traded commodity in the world.

  • Even a tiny bit of oxygen in bags with one-way air valves can cause beans to go stale, so there is no way to "lock in" the freshness unless the bags are absolutely vacuum sealed.

  • Studies have suggested that the consumption of coffee is beneficial to health in some ways. Coffee appears to reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and heart disease, among others.

Mighty Good Coffee can be found at the following retailers: Acme Mercantile, Busch's, Holiday Market – Royal Oak, Jefferson Market and Cakery, Knight's Market, Plum Market, Produce Station, Revive-Replenish, Sparrow Meat Market, Sprout House – Grosse Point, The New Chelsea Market, and Wine, Etc., in addition, of course, to the Mighty Good Coffee Café.

The Mighty Good Coffee Roasting Company provides fresh-roasted coffee to Ann Arbor residents (including via home delivery!) throughout the area - just one of the many perks of this growing local business. Martin Bouma – your Ann Arbor neighborhood expert – provides for virtually all of your Ann Arbor real estate needs. Whether you’re buying or selling a home, the Bouma Group can answer any questions you have about real estate in Ann Arbor. Interested in Washtenaw County, or a specific Ann Arbor neighborhood? Call the Bouma Group today! And don’t forget to check out our Condo Hotline – we’ve got a handle on the Ann Arbor condominium market.

Posted Friday, August 27, 2010 by Martin Bouma
Tags: ann arbor coffee shops, , ann arbor restaurants, mighty good coffee roasting company, ann arbor condos for sale, ann arbor real esate

Conventions and Trade Shows Cap Productive Summer in Ann Arbor

From July 30 through August 5, Ann Arbor played host to the National Training Institute's (NTI) annual trade show. The trade show is designed to attract vendors seeking to provide information about their services and products to the electrical industry. The University of Michigan campus was "home for a week" to over 2,000 NTI participants and, according to Mary Kerr (president/CEO of the Ann Arbor Convention & Visitors Bureau), NTI participants were expected to infuse over $5 million into Washtenaw County.



This was the second NTI convention to be held in Ann Arbor. This is in large part because of the University of Michigan's strong record of union support, which creates a conducive environment for the NTI programs and course offerings. The group also has many "training partners," companies and organizations that contribute various forms of support to ensure NTI's success. UM is already set to host the National Training Institute's 2011 meeting, as well.

Ann Arbor's great fortunes didn't end with the NTI show. On Friday, August 6, the United Association (UA), brought 600 plumbers and pipefitters to town for a series of classes at the Washtenaw Community College campus. In fact, WCC is home to the UA's Great Lakes Training Center, one of 350 training facilities nationwide which serve over 340,000 members of the association. Additionally, the UA is partnered with the National Labor College and Ferris State University to create programs specifically tailored to UA members transferring from Washtenaw Community College.

On August 2 and again on August 9, Main Street was closed for block parties; both included community members. The first party was specifically for NIT attendees, and the second was for UA participants, but citizens of Ann Arbor were cordially invited. These training conventions and parties provided terrific caps for a fiscally abundant summer in Ann Arbor, following the highly successful Ann Arbor Arts Fairs, as well as other recent conventions.

Convention goers experienced Ann Arbor the way residents do all year long - as a great place to live, work, eat, and dance in the streets
.  Want to call Ann Arbor home?  Martin Bouma - your Ann Arbor neighborhood expert - can meet virtually all of your Ann Arbor real estate needs. Whether you're buying or selling a home, the Bouma Group can answer any questions you have about real estate in Ann Arbor. Interested in Washtenaw County, Saline, or a specific Ann Arbor neighborhood? Call the Bouma Group today! And don't forget to check out our Condo Hotline - we've got a handle on the Ann Arbor condominium market.

Posted Tuesday, August 24, 2010 by Martin Bouma

Ann Arbor Market Conditions, August 2010

august sales

As we head into the tail end of summer, we are beginning to notice that the market is stalling a little and has become slow. What I mean by slow is that there are not a lot of buyers out there with a real urgency to buy. Homes are still coming to the market, but they are not being absorbed as quickly as normal.

Under $400,000, the months' supply of inventory is actually increasing - not decreasing as is normal for this time of year. Above $400,000, the inventory is decreasing or staying the same, more due to sellers giving up, versus homes selling. Above $1,000,000, there is an 11% increase in months supply. The total listing inventory for Ann Arbor is down 2.8 percent from last month, and year to date it is down 5.5%. The good news is that homes that are priced right are still selling, and homes that are overpriced are just sitting.

For sellers who aren't motivated to sell, this is not the time to test the market
. It simply isn't going to happen for you. Even if you found a buyer willing to pay your price, you still have to get the appraiser to agree. When will we see buyer activity increase? I don't know - no one knows. It depends on a number of factors, with job creation being the most important one. We also have a smaller pool of buyers due to all the foreclosures, and the tightening of lender standards which includes larger down payments.

The good news? With interest rates below 5% and below 4% for a 15 year fixed mortgage, the cost of lending is the cheapest we've ever seen. With each 1% increase in interest rates, you qualify for 10% less mortgage. Also, with prices back to where they were 10 years ago, housing is very affordable right now. You do not want to miss this opportunity to get into a home.

In the real estate market, if there is less than a 5 months supply of homes on the market, you are in a seller's market. A 5-7 month supply of homes is a balanced market. Anything over 7 months is a buyer's market. As you'll notice from the stats below, prices appear to have stabilized under 400K, however, there is still downward pressure on prices once you get above 400K.




<$100 k













Under Contract







Sales Past 12 Months







Absorption Rate:







Months Supply







Supply change from last month






























Under Contract







Sales Past 12 Months







Absorption Rate:







Months Supply







Supply change from last month







ZIP Codes: 48103, 48104, 48105, 48108

Approximate Location Boundaries: Ann Arbor School District

Location Characteristics: Ann Arbor has many distinct neighborhoods that offer a variety of home buying opportunities. The area is a cultural Mecca with many performance centers and theaters, live music, dance groups, libraries, museums, parks, & farmer's markets. It is considered the education capital of the Midwest because it is home to the University of Michigan, one of the country's top universities. The Ann Arbor area offers one of the most varied menus of restaurants in the state with Main Street as one of Michigan's best places to eat, people watch and shop. In July, Ann Arbor is host to the Ann Arbor Art Fairs, which is among the nation's top street festivals and takes up nearly all of the downtown area. Artists and shoppers travel from all over the country to attend this yearly event. Ann Arbor is a great place to live!

For More Information:

Thinking of relocating to one of America's top 50 cities?  If you live in Washtenaw County and are considering moving, let The Bouma Group help you find the perfect new home right here in Ann Arbor. Our real estate professionals are here to answer your questions, making your transition easy and painless.  An Ann Arbor condo may be the perfect choice; we've got everything you need to make an informed decision. Read what others have to say, then contact us. The Bouma Group can make your dream of living in one of America's top cities a reality!

Posted Friday, August 20, 2010 by Martin Bouma

Ann Arbor's Blackbird Theatre Finds a Permanent Nest

One of Ann Arbor's cultural icons, the Blackbird Theatre, has established its permanent nest at the SH\'aut\ Cabaret and Gallery, 325 Braun Court in Kerrytown - right across from the Farmers Market. After a year of experimenting with various locations and after seven years at the Children's Creative Center on Pauline Boulevard,  the Blackbird has roosted in its new spot. Founding artistic director Barton Bund feels confident that the company will continue to grow and thrive in its new locale.

Last Tuesday evening, Bund's celebration of the Blackbird's new home also ushered in a new era of dynamic, cutting-edge artistic endeavor for downtown Ann Arbor. In addition to  consistently offering a diverse body of original work, the Blackbird offers free educational programs, and performance opportunities for all students in Washtenaw County. The Blackbird strives to bring students together with the area's most talented and established theatre veterans.

Keith Orr and Martin Contreras, owners of the SH\'aut\ Cabaret and Gallery, have hosted many Blackbird productions over the past several years. The permanent repositioning of the theatrical company to their venue was a natural move. Bund noted, "We love the new venue, and the atmosphere and culture of Kerrytown. It's a real locals' hangout, and the new venue opens us up for a lot of new possibilities. The last few years have been the most creative in our company's history, and the new venue gives us better access to the Ann Arbor community as a whole. This is a chance to share what we do with more people, in a comfortable new location."

In anticipation of the move, Blackbird suspended its 2009-2010 season., but at Tuesday's reception and tour of the company's new digs, Bund announced the Blackbird's upcoming season:

  • "Women in Love,"  September 16 - October 16
  • "Topdog/Underdog," October 28 - November 20
  • The Raw Weekend II, December 2-4,
  • "If Only in My Dreams," December 9 - 19
  • "The Sleeping Giant," January 13 - February 6
  • "Seascape" April 21 - May 21
  • "The Tempest" June 2 - 25
  • "Much Ado About Nothing" July 7 - 31


Ann Arbor has so much to offer, and Martin Bouma - your Ann Arbor neighborhood expert - can meet virtually all of your Ann Arbor real estate needs. Whether you're buying or selling a home, the Bouma Group can answer any questions you have about real estate in Ann Arbor. Interested in Washtenaw County, Saline, or a specific Ann Arbor neighborhood? Call the Bouma Group today! And don't forget to check out our Condo Hotline - we've got a handle on the Ann Arbor condominium market.

Posted Tuesday, August 17, 2010 by Martin Bouma

Ann Arbor Downtown Library Lot Development Discussion May Regain Life Soon

As of last Thursday, there are big changes beginning near the Ann Arbor Downtown Library. Fifth Avenue from Liberty to Williams is now closed, and will remain so for at least a year. The northern section of the Library's porch is closed, and handicap access has moved to William Street (with a new incline that ends across from the automated door). Bike hoops are now near the flagpole. So why are all of these changes being made?

lot, ann arborAt present, the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) is building an underground parking deck on the Library Lot site, which is the cause of the immediate (and ongoing) disruption. However, the top of the lot has been - and remains - under discussion. Several months ago, the League of Women Voters hosted a public meeting about possible uses for the Library Lot. At that meeting five, five-minute proposals for potential development were presented, followed by an hour of questions and answers. The League's intent was to keep the city council apprised as to what kinds of development Ann Arbor residents were interested in seeing.

Part of the issue, as discussed in our previous blog Plannning for Green Space in Arbor, No Walk in the Park, is over whether the land should be used for commercial development or for greenpsace or other public purposes.

Two proposals for the development of a combination hotel/conference center at 319 South Fifth Street are still in competition, but things have come to a momentary standstill. That's because both of the companies accepted would like for the city of Ann Arbor to risk millions of dollars - before ground is broken - for development of the property.

In January, the DDA earmarked $50,000 for the hiring of an independent real estate consultant to evaluate the proposals for the Library Lot. A consultant firm had been selected, but circumstances within that firm changed, causing a re-evaluation of that choice, according to City Council Member Stephen Rapundalo (D-2nd Ward). In June, Rapundalo said that the city still hopes to hire a consultant to determine the feasibility of the project. Mayor John Hieftje and the city council all want firm assurance that any project will be financially beneficial to the city.

Want to be in on future developments in Ann Arbor? Martin Bouma - your Ann Arbor neighborhood expert - can meet all of your Ann Arbor real estate needs. Whether you're buying or selling a home, the Bouma Group can answer any questions you have about real estate in Ann Arbor. If you're interested in Washtenaw County, or a specific Ann Arbor neighborhood, call the Bouma Group today! Don't forget to check out our Condo Hotline - we've got a handle on the Ann Arbor condominium market.  

Posted Friday, August 13, 2010 by Martin Bouma

Barclay Park Condominiums - Offering the Best of City and Country Living

Barclay Park Condos

If you're an Ann Arbor homeowner, or perhaps considering a move to a condominium in the Ann Arbor area, you'll definitely want to take a look at Barclay Park Condominiums. Situated on the northeast side of town, Barclay Park offers the best possible combination of urban and rural living.

Barclay Park is located next to the 14-acre Oakwoods Nature Area, which provides ample space and opportunities for bird watching. Within the private community itself, there are several ponds, and a boardwalk which overlooks Lake Ariel. You can also enjoy the Matthaei Botanical Gardens, just a short distance away at the University of Michigan. If basking in nature sounds appealing, Barclay Park is definitely the place for you.

Despite the fact that Barclay Park offers rural ambience, you'll have no worries about access to the city of Ann Arbor for work or play. Situated on the city bus route, Barclay Park is just minutes from both the University of Michigan and downtown Ann Arbor. Enjoy all of the amenities and benefits of city life while you revel in a laid-back, rural atmosphere.

Comprised of 300 brick, New-England style townhomes, life in the Barclay Park community itself offers numerous perks. There's an exercise room in the clubhouse, a water fountain with benches from which to enjoy the view, and an entertainment area featuring a big-screen TV with ample seating for you and your neighbors. The Barclay Park Community Association oversees all physical aspects of the community, working hard to ensure a safe, comfortable, and appealing neighborhood for all residents and visitors.

Martin Bouma – your Ann Arbor neighborhood expert – knows the Ann Arbor condominium market. We offer a Condo Hotline, where you can learn more about Barclay Park and all of the condominiums available in the area. We will find Ann Arbor real estate that’s exactly right for YOU. Whether you’re buying or selling a home, the Bouma Group can answer all of your questions about real estate in Ann Arbor, whether you're interested in Washtenaw County, Saline, or a specific Ann Arbor neighborhood.

Posted Tuesday, August 10, 2010 by Martin Bouma

Downsizing, De-cluttering and Dignity

Do any of these situations describe you?


  • Your children have all gone off to college or they have all started their careers and you now have to deal with their empty rooms.
  • You would rather spend your spare time enjoying your hobbies instead of cleaning and yard maintenance.
  • Your parents are approaching the age where they are unable to maintain their large homes and would prefer to live in a maintenance-free home or retirement home.

Is it time?


If your family, or someone you know, is facing a similar situation, it may be time to considering downsizing.  It can be a difficult decision to make but, as with anything, it helps to think of the glass as half-full and not half-empty.  If your children have all gone off to college or moved out, try not to dwell on the fact that their rooms are empty.  Instead, consider that room as your new home office, or library, or hobby room.  If you downsize, remember that all the time you used to spend cleaning and maintaining your home can now be spent visiting your children in their new homes. 


If you are deciding to downsize because you just don’t have the energy or ability for all of that heavy, time-consuming work, don’t think of it as aging....simply realize that you have probably taken care of people all of your lives and now YOU deserve to be taken care of!


Allow yourselves the luxury of having time to do whatever you want.  Do you enjoy travelling?  Maybe now is the time to take that trip of a lifetime.  Maybe you should finally start that scrapbooking project, or take a photography course, or make the most out of your golf membership.  Anything is possible!


What next?


Once you have decided that you need to downsize, you need to de-clutter.  It would be difficult to fit the same amount of furniture and belongings in a smaller home, condo, or retirement dwelling.  Try these tips:


  • Ask you family if they would like any of the furniture items you won’t need once you move.
  • Ask your family and friends if they know of anyone in need of some furniture (someone starting university or college, a recently divorced parent, a women’s shelter).

It may be easier to part with your treasured items and heirlooms if you know they will be appreciated and going to a welcoming home.


Enjoy your new life!


Now, find the perfect home for the next phase of your life.  It may be a small single family home on a small lot.  Maybe it will be a quaint garden home.  Perhaps you will enjoy the downtown condo life. 


Imagine your perfect life….do your hobbies require you to have a spare room or a basement?  Is gardening a must for you?  Would you love the convenience of a pool, whirlpool and sauna right in your building?  Once your “perfect” list is complete, you will have a checklist to take with you while you are house-hunting.  Happy downsizing!


Contact the Renaud Otten Team at (613) 288-0090 for all of your real estate needs, including help finding the perfect home or condo for the next phase of your life.

Posted Monday, August 09, 2010 by Martin Bouma
Tags: ottawa condo sales, ottawa condos for sale

Battery Plants Will Reinvigorate Ann Arbor Region's Economy

batteryA few weeks ago, President Obama made a literally "groundbreaking" visit to Holland (two hours west of Ann Arbor, Michigan). The purpose of the trip was to attend the ceremony inaugurating the construction of new a battery cell manufacturing plant. The LG Chem/ Compact Power plant's construction is a strong, visible outcome of the Obama administration's commitment to the development of a thriving battery industry in America.

In 2009, the state of Michigan announced its intent to become a leader in battery cell manufacturing production. In addition to the LG Chem/Compact Power plant, six other manufacturers have announced decisions to move to Michigan - giving our state more such plants than any other in the country.

The joint venture with LG Chem is one of two major forward moves by Compact Power. They will also join forces with Ford Motor Company. That project will build batteries for the electric version of the 2011 Ford Focus. And Johnson Controls-Saft will provide jobs for 500 more workers when construction of their $220 million lithium-ion plant in Holland is completed.

Greg Main, the president of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, notes that, "This visit cements the Obama administration's commitment to building a battery industry in the United States." With the help of federal stimulus funds in the range of $1.3 billion, Michigan is able to offer attractive incentives - including credits designed to offset business tax liabilities associated with start-up costs.

Once the world leader in the automotive industry, Michigan lost that status as it first floundered, and then steadily declined for decades. That position is already changing - and is anticipated to surge solidly forward. The state of Michigan has shown it's dedication to both forward-thinking approaches to economic stimulation, and rapidly advancing the field of battery cell production.

Ann Arbor is the place to be as Michigan surges ahead with new technologies and new jobs. Whether you are buying a new home, or selling your current residence, the Bouma Group can help you with your real estate needs in Ann Arbor, as well as keep you up to date about Washtenaw County and specific Ann Arbor neighborhoods. And check out our Condo Hotline to learn everything you want to know about the Ann Arbor condo market.

Posted Friday, August 06, 2010 by Martin Bouma

What's the Price of Art in Ann Arbor?

art, muralMost people would agree that every work of art contains elements of beauty; they would also agree that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. For those of us living in Ann Arbor, the issue at hand is another classic question: what's the price of beauty - and can we, as a community, afford it?

A few weeks ago, German artist and landscape architect Herbert Dreiseitl presented a proposal for a modern artistic installation to grace the new police and courts building, currently under construction. The design was was well received, but the presentation capped a debate which has been ongoing since 2007. At that time, the city of Ann Arbor decided to earmark one percent of all funds for capital improvement projects (costing $100,000 or more) for public art. Although the fund, called Percent for Art, limits payment to Dreiseitl to $700,000, some Ann Arbor residents believe that those monies could (and should) be put to far better use.

The proposed three-part sculpture is designed to incorporate storm water from the building's roof, and to honor nature in the midst of a predominantly steel and concrete landscape. One  concern lies in Dreiseitl's stated wish to use only local materials and local artisans to construct the project; residents want assurance that he will do just that. Another regards the electricity drain to keep the sculpture functioning.

A more pressing issue, however, is that such a project is being funded at all. Percent for Art does not draw on the city's general fund, which is currently suffering from a multimillion dollar budget deficit that has created both layoffs and cutbacks in essential public services. Yet the spending, in and of itself, is seen by many as being inappropriate, given the financial straits within the general fund. Art may feed the soul,but when people are unemployed,the roads needs fixing,and the budget is out of whack, citizens question the priorities.

On the other hand, Drieseitl's proposal was met by many with enthusiasm. The Ann Arbor Film Festival's Executive Director, Donald Harrison, noted that, "Working with the open space as a way for people to engage around art is exciting. I don't see a lot of that in Ann Arbor right now, as far as places where you are going to get together and be in the same space around art," he said.

Whether you'd like to sit back and enjoy the art of Ann Arbor, or jump into the discussion of public spending with both feet, let Martin Bouma - your Ann Arbor neighborhood expert - help you find your perfect niche. Whether you're buying or selling a home, the Bouma Group can answer all of your questions about real estate in Ann Arbor. Check out our Condo Hotline for locations downtown, and throughout the Ann Arbor condominium market. If you're interested in Washtenaw County, Saline, or a specific Ann Arbor neighborhood, call the Bouma Group today!  

Posted Tuesday, August 03, 2010 by Martin Bouma