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DETROIT-The Downtown Campus Martius park will be the testing ground for French-inspired Au Bon Pain’s push into Michigan, company officials say. The casual dining chain expects to open its first Michigan location in the park in November, with other cafes expected to open soon around the region, officials say.

Au Bon Pain will franchise the café through a Dearborn-based restaurant operator, George Darany, who also owns several Big Boy restaurants in southeastern Michigan, company officials report. The restaurant offers a menu of fresh-baked goods and salads similar to Panera Bread, another sandwich-and-baked-goods chain that once owned Au Bon Pain.

The Campus Martius café will seat about 40 people inside, but additional seating will be available outside and around the park. In addition to the main park’s café, several mobile kiosks will offer a smaller menu of sandwiches, pastries and beverages will be located through the park.

Campus Martius is a two-acre park being built at Woodward and Monroe as an offshoot of the city’s 300th anniversary celebrations in 2001. It will feature a skating rink in the winter and concerts year-round. The park was originally scheduled to open this summer, but construction delays pushed the opening to mid-November.

A second Detroit Au Bon Pan location is already in the works for the Detroit Schools Center building at 5057 Woodward in the Cultural Center.

Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick said the selection of Au Bon Pain adds to the attractiveness of the park and to other nearby recent additions like the Hard Rock Cafe in the Compuware headquarters building. Several other operators were also considered.

“The Campus Martius park café adds to our long list of high-profile Downtown locations,” says Frank Guidara, president and chief executive officer of the Boston-based company. “You will also see Au Bon Pain in the Empire State Building, Boston’s Prudential Center and Union Station in Washington, DC. We are really looking forward to bringing our expertise in great bread and hospitality to serve customers in Detroit.”

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