Farber Center Construction Update (Part 2 of a Series)

The number one question being asked these days is: “When will the Farber Center be open for business?” To help answer that question, this article will provide a rough timeline for the final construction stages of the Farber Center and tentative opening dates. If you did not get a chance to read part one of this series make sure you click here to read about the history and development the Farber Center. The Farber Center is an 18,000 square foot facility located at Walnut Lake & Drake Roads in West Bloomfield Township, Michigan that contains the Soul Café, Dresner Studio, gallery and reception hall.

Farber Center Construction Timeline

Please note that this timeline is an estimate and all dates are subject to change.

Week of January 25:

Here is what will be completed by the end of this week:
  • Pizza oven installation
  • Counter fascia in cafe
  • Soul Café kitchen equipment finishing touches
  • Soul Café lighting
  • Hall Lighting
  • Hall Painting
  • Hall sound system and audio/visual equipment

Week of February 1:

  • Soul Café Community Table Installed
  • Counter kick plates and countertops in cafe
  • Health Inspection certification
  • Hall carpet installation

Week of February 8:

  • Soul Café menu preparation, development and testing
  • Soul Café staff training and preparation
  • Soul Café pilot training program in partnership with JVS

Week of February 15:

  • Soul Café dining area tables (10) and chairs (40) arrive
  • Temporary Certificate of Occupancy application
  • Full kitchen and café trials with equipment and speed of service testing,
  • Dresner Foundation Soul Studio silk screening equipment installation (silkscreen, conveyor, and dryer)

Week of February 22:

  • Reception desk for gallery installed

Week of February 29:

  • Scheduled move-in date for studio
  • Shelving for loom and weaving supplies installed

Week of March 7:

  • Soul Café soft launch (open Sunday-Friday from 7:00am-3:00pm)
  • Dresner Soul Studios pottery installation (wheels, kiln, supplies)

Week of March 14:

  • Digital studio equipment installation (computers, camera, large format photo printer, 3D printer)

Week of March 21:

  • Furniture arrives (tables, chairs etc) for 180-person capacity in main hall

Week of March 28:

  • Woodworking equipment arrives
  • Shelving for supplies installed
  • Donor wall in gallery installed


  • Sales of artwork expected to commence

Soul Café

Views of the Soul Cafe during various stages of construction.
As of today, the Soul Café’s soft launch is planned for March 7. All are invited to join us for breakfast, lunch or coffee during the soft launch as we warm up the ovens and prepare for a full launch. The café will be open for business Sunday-Friday from 7:00am-3:00pm. Individuals with special needs will be working in the café in two shifts with six employees in each shift. Also, the outdoor space has a new fireplace installed already and the patio will be available for private party rentals, weather pending.

Dresner Foundation Soul Studio

The Dresner Studio with views of main working area and separate smaller work rooms for individuals to use with decreased distractions.
The structure for the Dresner Foundation Soul Studio is set, painting is in progress and all that is needed is the equipment to be installed! Once the studio is ready for use, pilot programs will begin to run three days each week and start with 25 artists through the summer.


The hall and prep kitchen that will host events, seminars, workshops and will be available for private rentals.
A unique setting for special events, workshops, seminars and more that will expose the community to the Farber Center and its programs. The community hall will also provide a unique setting for special events that will include workshops, seminars, corporate meetings, community events and more hosted by Friendship Circle and other organizations.


gallery construction
A view from the entrance to the gallery where artists’ work will be on display for sale to visiting patrons.
As the artists begin to produce art, they will be given several opportunities to turn their creations into a means by which they can generate income. Within the Farber Center is an art gallery (the gallery is sponsored in memory of Burt and Geri Rissman) where each artist with special needs will have the chance to proudly display their final collection to the public. Here, the artists with special needs will gain commission through the sale of their artwork.

Stay Tuned for Part III

Part three of this series on the Farber Center will focus on the current state of pilot programs (Soul Center Mini) and the fantastic programs and skills that have been developed. Stay tuned!

The History of Farber Center’s Creation and Inspiration

“People with special needs can really teach us life lessons that we cannot get from professors; they are people who are capable of doing things the same as typical, productive people of society and what they have to offer can be truly inspiring and amazing.” – Bassie Shemtov, Director Since its founding in 1994, Friendship Circle has expanded the concept of matching teenagers with volunteers in what has become a hallmark volunteer program that has spread to 88 cities around the world. In 2005, to address the demand from the volunteer initiative for programs that included individuals with special needs, we built the state-of-the-art Ferber Kaufman LifeTown facility on the Meer Family Friendship Center campus, through which we innovated programs that ended up serving thousands of people. (Note: Ferber Kaufman LifeTown refers to donors Ron Ferber and Alon Kaufman and Farber Center refers to donors William and Audrey Farber of the Farber Foundation.) This was the basis of the dream that began in 2012 to create a place where adults with special needs could call their own. A place where they could learn vocational skills through traditional, digital and the culinary arts as well as earn an income once they have mastered their craft. And also, a place where individuals with special needs that had aged out of the current Friendship Circle programs could still find inclusion and community among peers. We have been asked many questions about how the Farber Center came about and what the future holds. For this reason, we would like to provide you with a multi-part series on the past, present, and future of the Farber Center.

A New Special Need

As the years went by, Friendship Circle came to the realization that our population – an entire generation of children with special needs – had entered adulthood and along with this came an overwhelming need to address the extreme isolation they faced after finishing school and the lack of job opportunities. Former children who had participated in Friendship Circle programming since the age of five were left without a place of inclusion after aging out of the programs that Friendship Circle offered, being forced to stay at home because there was a gap in offerings to meet their needs. In 2012, the Friendship Circle directors started making plans for the future of young adults with special needs.

March 2012: Planning for the Future

Renderings of the proposed upgrade to Weinberg Village that would include a restaurant.
The Friendship Circle directors were discussing the idea to build a restaurant and commissioned plans, with the intention of re-purposing the old multi-purpose room at Ferber Kaufman LifeTown (which had been freed up after the construction of the new Elkus gym in 2010) for the purpose of offering vocational training for individuals with special needs.
william and audrey farber
Pictured: William and Audrey Farber, the generous donors and namesake of the Farber Center.

May 2013: Finding a Location

Friendship Circle began searching the area surrounding its location to find vacant spaces for the restaurant idea. A phone call from a supporter suggested they take a look at the Drake Summit strip mall at Walnut Lake and Drake roads in West Bloomfield Township, Michigan. The building was placed under contract and the renovation plans began. At this point, Friendship Circle was encouraged by the Farber Foundation to further develop the idea into something that could span more skill areas. They realized the need to have a bigger separate facility that could teach vocational skills and eventually provide jobs.
The future home of the Farber Center at the time of purchase.
The future home of the Farber Center at the time of purchase.

January-April 2014: Surveying the Field

Friendship Circle Director Bassie Shemtov started visiting several art studio locations across the country (partially inspired by discovering this New York Times article on the Creative Growth Art Center) where similar existing projects were successfully operating. These trips provided inspiration and helped gain an understanding of how Friendship Circle could best structure the Farber Center. During these visits, Bassie was able to see the possibilities available through hands-on training provided in a variety of artistic mediums, artistic development, gallery exhibition and representation, a social atmosphere among peers and the creation of meaningful lives and careers in art. Some of the different art studios that will be housed in the Dresner Foundation Soul Studio and Farber Center.

March 2014: Fundraising Drive Gets Underway

In the spring of 2014, Friendship Circle began a campaign that would turn the Farber Soul Center from a dream into reality. The William and Audrey Farber Foundation generously allowed Friendship Circle to further develop the dream by being a partner in an ongoing matching campaign to raise funds for the project helping Friendship Circle begin proceedings to purchase the building, as well as develop plans to renovate and furnish the new facility. Additionally, through a generous grant from the Dresner Foundation, we were able to include the studio and art elements to the Farber Center. We shared with the Dresner Foundation this idea to buy this building to create an art program and they provided the funding the general project, in memory of Vera and Joseph Dresner. This also gave Friendship Circle enough funds to get us within reach of making this project a reality and we went forward to develop plans and set forth the purchase of the building in December 2014. Friendship Circle then announced to the public that it would be building the Farber Center. The Farber Center would include a cafe which would employ individuals with special needs, art studios that would enable artists to harness their creativity, a community hall for special events and a gallery where thee works of art can be displayed and sold.

November 2014: Art & Soul

In November a special evening “shower” was held called “Art & Soul,” where women were given the opportunity to envision what this facility could accomplish in its mission. This shower took place in the location of the new Farber Center before construction began, and guests could get a vision of the space that would be utilized while also hosting a small fundraising event to entice excitement in the new location. Over 450 women showed up to this exciting event. The walls of the main banquet hall in the facility were decorated with 100 white frames of all sizes and each frame contained a blank sheet of paper and included an object name attached to it (such as a kiln, paintbrushes, laser cutter, paints) with a small colorful donation price tag at the bottom.

Stay Tuned for Part II

Part two of this series on the Farber Center will focus on the the ongoing construction in the Farber Center and the future of the planned programs and facilities. Stay tuned!