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Orion Construction, 616 Development Move Forward with Residential Projects in West Michigan

30 Jan 2014, 2:57 am

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

Grand Villages student housing in Allendale Township

Orion Construction, a real estate development and management company based in Grand Rapids, is working on a student housing complex in Allendale Township.

Detroit Free Press reports that the $20 million project will occupy an empty 20-acre site located at 5050 Pierce Street near the Grand Valley State University campus and owned since 2013 by Grand Villages—a joint venture of Orion partners Gary Postma and John Wheeler along with Alan Hoffman as majority investor.

Phase I of the project, which broke ground on January 23, is estimated to cost $7.5 million. When completed in August this year, it will provide one fraternity house and five sorority houses ranging in size from 9,800 square feet to 12,000 square feet. Each house will feature 14 to 17 bedrooms, according to the news source. The second phase of the Grand Villages student housing project is set to begin as soon as the initial phase is completed.

820 Monroe Avenue – Grand Rapids

In further West Michigan residential news, MLive.com reports that the former Sackner Products Co. building will be converted into a residential structure in a $21.8 million venture by Lofts on 820 LLC—a limited liability company associated with 616 Development, a boutique urban development company focused on revitalizing underutilized historic buildings in Grand Rapids and beyond.

Built in 1920 with multiple additions over the following three decades, the four-story structure served as a manufacturing site for the Sackner Products Company. Since the 1980s the 156,600-square-foot building has been used for office and retail; in October 2013 it was acquired by Lofts on 820.

The refurbished building located at 820 Monroe Avenue will have only 120,000 square feet of usable space and will include 86 market-rate apartments, as well as new retail and office spaces totaling 27,000 square feet.

Rendering of Grand Villages credits to Orion Construction; 820 Monroe Avenue image via Google Maps

Non-Profit Continues Blight Fight in Brightmoor

24 Jan 2014, 6:42 pm

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

The Detroit Blight Authority, a public-private initiative funded in 2013 and led by Bill Pulte, managing partner of private equity fund Pulte Capital Partners LLC, is moving forward with its plan to eradicate blight in Detroit.

As recently reported by Crain’s Detroit Business, the nonprofit wants to demolish an additional 21-block area in Brightmoor, one of the neighborhoods that suffered the most from the economic and demographic decline that hit Motor City in recent years.

Estimated to cost between $700,000 and $900,000, the blight removal project is funded by private donations coming from a number of Detroit-based organizations, companies and entrepreneurs such as the DTE Energy Foundation, the Skillman Foundation, the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, Quicken Loans founder and chairman Dan Gilbert, and the Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation.

According to Crain’s, last year the Detroit Blight Authority managed to remove trash and debris from a 14-block area bounded by West Outer Drive and Lyndon and Trinity Streets; the structural blight removal—which targets 67 abandoned buildings—is expected to be complete by the end of May. The second phase of this blight removal project targets the 21-block area bounded by West Outer Drive, Trinity Street and Schoolcraft Road which includes more than 50 blighted buildings. The Detroit Blight Authority is seeking approval from the city Buildings, Safety Engineering and Environmental Department before starting tearing down any structures, Crain’s said.

The non-profit’s efforts to remove abandoned and dangerous properties in Detroit’s neighborhoods add to the “Hardest Hit Fund,” a government-funded program that focuses on fighting foreclosures and supporting housing recovery in 18 states—including Michigan—that suffered the most from the foreclosure crisis.

Revamped Cobo Center Shines Bright at Detroit Auto Show

16 Jan 2014, 8:30 pm

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

Detroit Auto Show 2014

With the 2014 Auto Show in full swing, Detroit’s painful financial decline which reached a climax last summer with the historic filing for bankruptcy seems like it never really happened. Nearly 1 million visitors from around the world are expected this year at the 25th North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) which will offer an impressive array of over 700 vehicles and 50 or more new model introductions from the world’s biggest automakers. It’s a financial boost for the Motor City as experts estimate the auto show will generate nearly $400 million for the area’s economy and billions in terms of profit for its three car makers: Ford, General Motors and Chrysler.

But the auto show’s economic impact doesn’t stop here. According to the Associated Press, business is booming for the hotels in Detroit and the surrounding area as occupancy rates reached 85 percent a week before the grand opening of the show which is scheduled to take place between January 13 and 26 at the (almost) newly renovated Cobo Center, one of the largest convention centers in the country offering over 700,000 square feet of prime exhibit space.

Cobo Center Detroit

In fact, the 50-year-old Detroit convention center itself is one of the attractions at this year’s auto show. Located in the heart of Detroit along Jefferson and Washington Avenues and named for Albert E. Cobo, who was Mayor from 1950 to 1957, the convention center opened in 1960 under plans designed by architect Gino Rossetti.

In 2009 the Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority selected Albert Kahn Associates of Detroit to design the $279 million renovation and expansion plans meant to improve Cobo Center’s customer experience and drive economy to Metro Detroit. Scheduled to be completed by January 2015, the redesign process is currently in its third and most expensive phase at $229 million. Apart from significant upgrades to the exterior of the building and the creation of new meeting spaces and a food court, during this phase the development team completed a new 30,000-square-foot Atrium facing the Detroit River and converted the former Cobo Arena into a 40,000-square-foot Grand Ballroom that features two hydraulic platforms that rise from below the floor to form an instant stage—the perfect display place for Ford’s new F-150 truck. The first two phases of the renovation process covered improvements of the convention center’s electrical infrastructure, the creation of 400 new parking spaces, reroofing and the addition of 25,000 square feet of exhibit space.xAccording to MLive.com, at the end of Fiscal Year 2013 the Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority announced a surprising profit of almost $290 million generated by high parking revenues and low operating costs.

Images via Cobo Center

TechTown Opens Junction440 as Shared Work Space for Entrepreneurs

10 Jan 2014, 5:14 pm

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor


Junction440 – co-working space in Detroit

With so many startup companies choosing to operate from Midwest-based offices and leaving behind already established technology centers such as Silicon Valley, the demand for affordable office space in Detroit is stronger than ever.

TechTown Detroit, a non-profit business incubator and accelerator based in Midtown within the Woodward Technology Corridor SmartZone, seized this opportunity and recently opened a new co-working space designed for entrepreneurs seeking an affordable, flexible and active work environment.

Named Junction440 (four-forty), the 20,000-square-foot co-working center occupies the entire first floor at 440 Burroughs Street, a concrete structure designed by famed architect Albert Kahn and built in 1927. The rest of the building houses TechTown’s public event facilities, office and administrative space, and lease commercial space from floors two through five. The Michigan Chronicle reports that the historic 440 Burroughs, which served as the Chevrolet Creative Services building, recently completed a $1.5 million renovation funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Junction440 – co-working space in Detroit

Besides shared or dedicated desk and office spaces for entrepreneurs, amenities at Junction440 include: free Wi-fi access, free parking spots on the northwest corner of Cass & Amsterdam Streets), bike racks, day lockers, and kitchen access with refrigerator space.

To have access to the shared working spaces, entrepreneurs can choose from a variety of membership options: day passes for $20, monthly passes for $250 or $375 with a dedicated desk, or 10-pass punch cards for $150.


Images via Junction440

DevMar, Burton-Katzman to Bring Luxury Multifamily Complex to Plymouth

3 Jan 2014, 2:55 pm

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

DevMar Development LLC and Burton-Katzman LLC are on track to build the first multifamily community in Plymouth in almost ten years as the city Planning Commission unanimously approved a new luxury development along Plymouth Road near North Holbrook in the historic Old Village area.

Starkweather Station – Plymouth, MI

Dubbed Starkweather Station to honor William and Keziah Starkweather, the first settlers of Plymouth, the 93-unit residential complex will sit on a 5.8-acre site. According to Patch.com, the property is currently occupied by a 25,000-square-foot building that used to house the regional offices of Columbian Mutual Insurance.

Work on this upscale project is set to begin by spring 2014, after the existing building is razed, and completed after 12 months. Reportedly, the $18.5 million development will consist of two mid-rise residential buildings with balconies and patios that will be connected to Plymouth’s Old Village through a lush open green space with large trees, a walking path and a pavilion. The project also features two single-family houses on Holbrook.

Designed by Farmington Hills -based Fusco, Shaffer & Pappas, Inc. (FSPArchitects) for empty nesters and young professionals, Starkweather Station will include 62 two-bedroom apartments and 31 one-bedroom apartments ranging in size from 800 to 1,330 square feet and featuring 10-foot high ceilings, high-end amenities such as wood flooring, granite countertops, stainless steel appliances and in-unit washer and dryer. As reported by Hometownlife.com, the project will also have 186 parking spaces.


Rendering of Starkweather Station courtesy of DevMar Development LLC

Midtown Detroit Breaks Ground on LTU Center for Design and Technology

20 Dec 2013, 4:58 pm

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

A vacant lot at the corner of Woodward Avenue and Willis Street in Detroit will be replaced by a 30,000-square-foot commercial building that will house Lawrence Technological University (LTU) as the anchor tenant.

LTU College of Architecture and Design – Detroit Center for Design and Technology

The $7 million building is being constructed by Midtown Detroit, Inc., a nonprofit planning and development organization that supports the physical maintenance and revitalization of the Midtown Detroit area. According to LTU’s news page, the three-story structure was designed by Ann Arbor-based Quinn Evans Architects, Inc., which is set to open a satellite office in Detroit and lease space in the building. The project was funded by Midtown Detroit partners including Michigan Economic Foundation, Kresge Foundation—which awarded the Southfield-based University a $300,000 donation back in July to help its College of Architecture and Design consolidate the existing Detroit-based programs—NCB Capital Impact, JPMorgan Chase Foundation, private developer Peter Cummings, Detroit Development Fund, Knight Foundation, Invest Detroit—which will also relocate to the new building—and Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan.

“Having all LTU’s Detroit projects and academic programming under one roof will provide synergies that will position existing programs to have a greater social and community impact,” said Amy Green Deines, associate dean of LTU’s College of Architecture and Design.

Reportedly, LTU’s new “Detroit Center for Design and Technology” will occupy the entire second floor and a 1,200-square-foot storefront gallery on the ground floor. The design center will house three existing programs:

-          Detroit Studio, which was established in 1999 to provide design support for community and neighborhood-based projects in Detroit;

-          detroitSHOP, an urban design studio that is currently located in the Old Federal Reserve Building;

-          Studio Couture, a storefront exhibit space on Woodward Avenue where LTU design students and professional artists exhibit their work.

According to Crain’s Detroit Business, LTU’s design center will occupy 14,000 square feet of space in the new building, while the remaining 16,000 square feet will be shared between Quinn Evans, Invest Detroit and an unnamed restaurant. LTU is expected to move in by fall 2014.

Rendering courtesy of Lawrence Technological University

REDICO/American House Break Ground on 84-Unit Senior Living Center

13 Dec 2013, 4:26 pm

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor


American House Grosse Pointe – senior living center

Real Estate Development and Investment Co. (REDICO) of Southfield, MI, and its affiliate American House Senior Living Communities are creating a senior living community in Grosse Pointe Farms, a suburban town located roughly 13 miles from Detroit.

Crain’s Detroit Business reports that the new senior living center will occupy the second and third floors at Henry Ford Medical Center-Cottage, a brick-clad building located near the Hill “business district” which includes offices, stores, restaurants and the main branch of the Grosse Pointe Farms public library.

Henry Ford Medical Center, the town’s largest employer, shut down the inpatient operations at the Cottage medical building in 2010 and since then has been on the first floor as an outpatient center. Henry Ford reportedly sold the two floors totaling 92,000-square-foot space to the American House/REDICO joint venture for an undisclosed amount.

When completed in fall 2014, the “American House Grosse Pointe” located at 159 Kercheval Avenue will offer 84 one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartment units for seniors. There will be 40 apartments designed for senior who can live independently, 30 licensed assisted living units and 14 memory care units for residents suffering from Alzheimer’s or similar memory-related conditions.

The new Grosse Pointe Farms senior living community will be the first project of this kind built within a medical campus and the 34th community that American House operates in Michigan.


Image by Google Maps via PropertyShark.com

Wayne State University’s Student Center Set for $18 Million Renovation

9 Dec 2013, 4:00 pm

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

Wayne State University Student Center – Renovation Rendering

As the number of students who choose to live on campus grows larger, the Wayne State University Board of Governors approved a much-needed $18 million renovation for the existing Student Center.

According to the university’s student newspaper The South End, the 50-year-old structure at 221 Gullen Mall in Midtown Detroit will get a complete facelift by August 2015 but the building will not be closed during the process. Following a Request for Proposals issued in August 2012, the university tapped Neumann Smith + WTW Architects to design this project.

Reportedly, the building’s first three floors will have a very open layout, while the remaining floors will get more windows to maximize natural light and create a space where students can study, relax and eat. Plans call for a new 3,000-square-foot U-Club and a 4,100-square-foot gaming lounge on the lower floor, as well as an expanded dining area, a dance room and renovated office space. The next floor will have new student lounge spaces and dining areas totaling 9,000 square feet and a new convenience store that the university has yet to name. More student lounges, meeting areas and a new ballroom will occupy the entire second floor, while the third floor will include recreation and logging areas along with office space.

Crain’s Detroit Business says that the $18 million Student Center renovation is part of Wayne State University’s $170 million plan to add around 115,000 square feet of new construction in Detroit and Warren by the end of the 2015-2016 academic year. Meanwhile, the university has tapped Broder & Sachse Real Estate Services to develop a nine story residential and retail building on a 1.5-acre site in Midtown. With a completion date set for 2016, the project is expected to help combat the lack of residential inventory in this part of the city.


Rendering by Neumann Smith/WTW Architects via The South End

$60 Million Residential and Retail Building Coming to Midtown Detroit

2 Dec 2013, 7:14 pm

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

A 1.5-acre site in Detroit is set to be replaced by a much-needed $60 million mixed-use complex as part of Wayne State University’s “2020 Master Plan” that aims to revitalize the South University Village neighborhood.

The underutilized parking lot is located at the intersection of Cass Avenue and Canfield Street in the surging Midtown Detroit neighborhoods, one of the most populous areas in the city.

Wayne State University’s $60 million mixed-use development planned for Midtown Detroit

According to a news release, the project development will enhance the connection between WSU’s main campus and its medical campus while promoting Midtown as a walkable and bicycle-friendly neighborhood. Developed by Broder & Sachse Real Estate Services, the project will break ground by late fall 2014 and is expected to be complete in 2016.

The nine-story building will add 248 market-rate apartments to Midtown, where occupancy rates are exceeding 95 percent. The project designed by local architecture firm Kraemer Design Group also includes space for a hotel—probably a mid-level national brand with 120 guest rooms, Detroit Free Press notes—and a conference center for up to 300 people. The building will incorporate 19,000 square feet of ground floor retail space.

“The demand and rapid growth in Midtown and Downtown Detroit makes the timing for this development optimal. We know this will be a great asset for the university and the community,” said Todd Sachse, a spokesperson for Broder & Sachse Real Estate, in a press statement.

Rendering by Broder & Sachse Real Estate Services courtesy of Wayne State University

Online Tech Adds New Data Center in Michigan

20 Nov 2013, 3:18 pm

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

Online Tech Wayne County New Data Center

Online Tech, a multi-tenant data center operator headquartered in Ann Arbor, recently announced it will expand its presence in the Detroit Metro area by building a new, enterprise cloud hosting facility in Westland in Wayne County.

The 34,000-square-foot building will be the company’s fourth data center in Michigan; Online Tech already has a 32,500-square-foot data hosting center in Flint and two centers in Ann Arbor totaling 30,000 square feet of space. With the new addition, Online Tech’s data center footprint will reach 100,000 square feet.

“Metro Detroit is a perfect location for expansion with a healthy enterprise market of Fortune 500 companies and a fast-growing community of startups in the healthcare, financial and retail industries,” said Online Tech Co-CEO Mike Klein in a press statement.

Online Tech will invest $10 million in this project which is expected to create 15 new jobs that will provide IT infrastructure and services to the growing Michigan companies. The company has tapped data center design and construction firm Carlson to manage the renovation and expansion of the mission critical network switching facility that was formerly occupied by Sprint-Nextel, a telecommunications holding company and global internet provider.

Data Center Statistics Michigan by Data Center Map

According to information from Data Center Map, currently there are 1199 data centers in 48 states across the country. To no one’s surprise California tops the chart with 161 cloud data hosting facilities, while Michigan ranks 12th with 34 data centers.


Image via Online Tech; chart courtesy of Data Center Map

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