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State Signs 30-Year Lease for Belle Isle

14 Nov 2013, 12:07 am

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

Belle Isle State Park Detroit

Detroit’s historic Belle Isle, a 982-acre island park in the Detroit River, will be taken over by the state.  The Michigan Emergency Loan Board has approved a 30-year lease with two 15-year renewals with the city in a deal that would save Detroit up to $6 million in annual maintenance costs. Belle Isle will become Michigan’s 102nd state park.

According to Detroit Free Press, the three-panel board set a 90-day transition period starting on December 1, after which the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will assume full management of the park. Belle Isle State Park will remain free-of-charge for pedestrians, cyclists and those using public transportation; but, starting February 2014, an $11 fee per vehicle—a “Recreation Passport” offering 12-month access to all Michigan state parks and recreation areas—will be charged to all motorists.

During the first three years of state management, the DNR will invest $10 million to $20 million in various improvement projects at Belle Isle, according to the lease proposal which was submitted to Gov. Rick Snyder in September.

Created in 1845 on the former estate of General Alexander Macomb Jr., Belle Isle includes three buildings designed by Albert Kahn between 1903 and 1930: the Whitcomb Conservatory, the Casino and the Livingstone Lighthouse. Renovations at the Belle Isle Maintenance Building, a 20,000-square-foot Tudor-style structure designed in 1895 by Detroit architect George Mason, started in Fall 2011 (read more here).


Satellite image via Google Maps

Eastern Market Receives $750K Grant to Build 200-Seat Outdoor Gathering Place

7 Nov 2013, 12:36 am

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

DTE Energy Plaza – Shed 5 – Eastern Market

DTE Energy Foundation, the charitable arm of DTE Energy, granted the Eastern Market Corporation $750,000 that will be used to create an outdoor social gathering area right outside the market’s sheds.

The Detroit News reports that the grant follows a $1 million donation awarded in June by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to support renovations at Shed 5, which was originally constructed in 1981. Seen as the market’s “core,” Shed 5 is the northernmost enclosed shed in the Eastern Market.

In January 2012 Urban Life Development started renovating the shed according to plans by Kraemer Design Group and with the financial help of the city of Detroit, which covered almost 50 percent of the funding needed for renovation, and further grants coming from Whole Foods, W.K. Kellogg, the Kresge Foundation, Ford and private donations (read more here). The upgraded Shed 5 is expected to open in June 2014.

The $750,000 grant will help the Eastern Market Corporation build a 200-seat outdoor plaza that will bear DTE Energy Foundation’s name and will benefit from the shed’s much anticipated Community Kitchen which will support local food entrepreneurs who market their products at lower costs.

Meanwhile, local artist Vito Valdez is working to restore a 6,500-square-foot mural at the Eastern Market. The original mural was commissioned in 1962 by city planning director Charles A. Blessing, who hired architect Alex Pollock to design a huge painted sign—a forklift pulling carts of produce—to draw attention on the market and attract shoppers. According to Curbed Detroit, the mural was painted in 1972 by Ed Lee and became a visual symbol for the Eastern Market but, as years passed, it faded and was vandalized.

Rendering of DTE Energy Foundation Plaza via Eastern Market Facebook page

Texas Doctor Wins Bid for Packard Plant—But Will She Pay?

31 Oct 2013, 2:08 pm

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

After an intense bidding war that amounted to 117 online bidders and last-minute skyrocketing amounts, the largest industrial ruin in Detroit was sold to a family practice doctor from suburban Dallas, for just above $6 million. It appears that Jill Van Horn of Ennis, Texas, who won the Wayne County tax-foreclosure auction for the abandoned Packard Plant, along with several still-to-be-identified investors from Detroit, think they could revive the century-old and crumbling plant.

Packard Plant entrance

Wayne County had set a deadline for 4:15 p.m. on Monday, October 28, but Crain’s Detroit Business reports that Van Horn failed to make the payment and finalize the deal for the 3.5-million-square-foot property. However, a rather strange statement that likened Detroit’s asset potential to hydroelectric power was released on Tuesday by Van Horn’s spokesman, Davis Marshall. Consequently, Wayne County officials extended the payment deadline for Wednesday, October 30.

Though vague and bizarre, the speech-like statement released on behalf of the winning bidder points out that “under the development plans that Jill Van Horn has co-designed for Detroit, the city will develop through a variety of financial mechanisms” provided by the joint effort of unnamed investment bankers, Hedge Fund lenders, local developers, private investors and foundations.

Designed by Albert Kahn—one of the most famous industrial architects in the country— in 1903 as the headquarters and assembly line of the former Packard Motor Car Company of Detroit, the automotive plant sits on more than 40 acres on East Grand Boulevard, in Detroit’s East Side. The factory made luxury Packard cars until 1958 when it was shut down, although various smaller businesses continued to operate within some of the 40 buildings until the late 1990s. Wayne County officials foreclosed on the decaying property earlier this year because of almost $1 million in unpaid taxes that owner Dominic Cristini had refused to pay.

Currently an edgy destination for photographers and graffiti artists, the Packard Plant could become an “economic engine” for the city. According to The Detroit News, Jill Van Horn and her partners plan to transform the property into a modular home factory where thousands of people would be employed. But it remains to be seen if Van Horn—who allegedly doesn’t have any real estate background—will indeed pay for the plant. If she fails to meet the deadline, the plant could be sold to the second top bidder, Illinois-based  Bill Hults who offered $2.2 million for the plant.

UPDATE: Detroit Free Press reports that Jill Van Horn’s bid was cancelled after the Texas doctor failed again to make a downpayment for the Packard Plant. This means that Bill Hults, the second bidder, has until 4 p.m. Thursday to deliver the cash.


Image via Google Maps

Hyatt Place Announced for Royal Oak Redevelopment Project

24 Oct 2013, 3:23 pm

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

Plans to redevelop a vacant lot that once served as the Jim Fresard Pontiac/Buick/GMC car dealership in Royal Oak are moving forward as the developer unveiled the last piece of the puzzle: an eight-story hotel under the Hyatt flagship.

Hyatt Place Royal Oak

Almost one year ago we reported on this page that, after a failed attempt to include in this mixed-use project a Hotel Indigo, developer 400 Main LLC and Hilton Hotels announced a preliminary agreement to bring a new Hilton Garden Inn to the site located on Royal Oak’s Main Street, north of 11 Mile.

Though the Downtown Development Authority approved the $40 million project in June, recent updates by Hometown Life point to Hyatt as the final decision for the hotel brand that will be included in the plans. The new, 114-room Hyatt Place hotel will break ground in spring 2014 as part of a large revitalization plan designed by Krieger Klatt Architects of Royal Oak. This will be the sixth Hyatt hotel in Michigan and the fifth in the metro Detroit area.

Tentatively named 400 Main, the project will also feature an eight-story residential building with 82 apartment units, a three-story building with office and retail space, a five-story office building with restaurant space, and a four-level parking garage.

VERSA Development from Southfield will join 400 Main LLC as a development partner, while T.H. Marsh Construction will serve as the main contractor for this project, Hometown Life reports.


Rendering courtesy of Krieger Klatt Architects 

“Magic” Johnson and Partners Get OK to Buy Michigan State Fairgrounds in $4.65 Million Deal

11 Oct 2013, 6:06 pm

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

It’s been more than a year since Lansing native and basketball legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson unveiled an ambitious plan to completely redevelop the vacant Michigan State Fairgrounds at Woodward Avenue and 8 Mile Road that will transform the 164-acre property into a mixed-use complex consisting of retail and office space, housing, recreational space and an Amtrak station. Several months later, we reported on this page that the Michigan Land Bank Fast Track Authority (MLBFTA) approved the $160 million proposal submitted by Magic Plus LLC, a joint venture between the basketball star and local investors Joel Ferguson, chairman of the Michigan State University board of trustees and owner of Ferguson Development LLC, and Marvin Beatty, chief community officer for Greektown Casino-Hotel.

According to The Times Herald, the MLBFTA board of directors recently OK’d the sale of the former site of the Michigan State Fairgrounds in northern Detroit for $4.65 million to an investment group comprised of Magic Plus LLC and REDICO, a real estate development and investment company based in Southfield, MI. The deal, which is expected to close on or before January 15, 2014, calls for a 90-day inspection period of the site and revised development plans following public input.

“The State Fairgrounds site has sat idle for four years, so it is encouraging to now have a plan approved for its redevelopment. The proposed development by Magic Johnson and his team will improve the quality of life for our citizens by providing more shopping, entertainment and housing options,” said Detroit Mayor Dave Bing in an official statement, adding that “the project will further revitalize the 8 Mile and Woodward corridor as we continue our efforts to transform Detroit.”

In total, the project will generate around 1,300 permanent jobs and more than 500,000 square feet of new construction, with 70 percent dedicated to retail space. The property, which has been vacant since 2009, currently features 20 standalone buildings. All but four of them—namely the Coliseum, Joe Dumar’s Fieldhouse, the State Fair Band shell and the Dodge pavilion—will be demolished to make room for new structures.

Image via Magic Johnson’s Facebook page

Detroit Becomes One of Google’s Seven Tech Hubs in North America

3 Oct 2013, 3:13 pm

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

Internet giant Google has launched a new network for tech start-ups that’s part of the company’s “Google for Entrepreneurs,” a two-year initiative currently operating in more than 100 countries that helps foster entrepreneurship and add new jobs in communities all over the world.

Dubbed “Google for Entrepreneurs Tech Hub Network,” the new program announced on Google’s official blog will provide financial support as well as access to Google services, platforms and mentors to seven tech hub partners located in the United States and Canada. “We believe these hubs have pioneered a new approach to launching a business, and it’s our mission to help support them,” said John Lyman, head of partnerships for Google for Entrepreneurs.

The first Tech Hub Network partners under the Google umbrella are:

-          1871 in Chicago, IL

-          American Underground in Durham, N.C.

-          Communitech in Waterloo, Canada

-          Coco in Minneapolis, MN

-          Galvanize in Denver, CO

-          Nashville Entrepreneur Center in Nashvile, TN

-          Grand Circus in Detroit, MI

Grand Circus is a technology training institute that occupies approximately 15,000 square feet at 1570 Woodward Avenue across from Detroit’s historic Grand Circus Park, in the recently renovated Broderick Tower. The tech center co-founded by Damien Rocchi and Bradley Hoos will soon house nearly 50 entrepreneurs expected to have an impact on the city’s booming tech scene.

Grand Circus occupies three floors at the Broderick Tower and it’s located next to the M@dison Building, Detroit’s first business incubator which now houses 25 technology start-ups. In fact, according to a press statement, Grand Circus recently joined “The M@dison Block,” a new partnership that also includes Detroit Venture Partners (DVP), Dan Gilbert’s Bedrock Real Estate Services, Google and start-up accelerator Bizdom.

Anchored by the M@dison Theatre Building—where Twitter opened its first Detroit office back in Spring 2012—“The M@dison Block” comprises the entire block of buildings near Grad Circus Park in Downtown Detroit and is seen as ground zero for entrepreneurship in the region.

“Google heard consistently from tech hubs that they wanted to be part of a larger network, to learn from each other and collaborate on ideas. We are happy to facilitate that,” said Lyman.


Google logo via google.com; Grand Circus Detroit logo via grandcircus.com


University of Michigan Expands with $185 Million Student Residence in Ann Arbor

26 Sep 2013, 4:47 pm

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

Backed by two historic donations coming from two prominent alumni—Charles Munger and Stephen Ross—the University of Michigan (U-M) has embarked on a veritable building spree. The university’s Board of Regents recently approved the design plans for a new apartment-style residence hall located at its Ann Arbor campus at the intersection of South Division and Packard Streets.

Built at a cost of $185 million, of which $100 million were granted earlier this year by Berkshire Hathaway Vice Chairman and philanthropist Charles Munger, the 370,000-square-foot structure will rise on a 0.4-acre site that consists of several university-owned properties awaiting demolition and a 118-space parking lot, according to MLive.com.

The eight-story facility was designed by Hartman-Cox Architects and Integrated Design Solutions and Munger himself as a LEED Silver-certifiable, state-of-the-art residential/academic concept that will exceed standard energy efficiency codes by more than 30 percent.

When opened for students from all 19 of the university’s colleges in fall 2015, the building will offer 96 seven-bedroom fully equipped apartments with approximately 1,000 square feet of common space and 632 bedrooms on the first seven floors. The graduate dorm will also include study spaces, lounges, a solarium, a commissary, a gym and a balcony that will wrap the entire eighth floor and can be used as an outdoor running track.

As reported by the news source, students could pay between $1,000 and $1,500 a month to live at the Munger residence. Though the rents are yet to be announced officially by the university, The Michigan Daily reports that students and future residents are already concerned that the costs of living within the campus will be too high and have asked the Board of Regents to find ways of making housing options more affordable.

Rendering of Munger Residence courtesy of Hartman-Cox Architects  

Hollywood-like Entertainment and Retail Complex to Replace The Met Hotel in Troy

19 Sep 2013, 3:42 pm

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

Met Hotel Partners LLC, a subsidiary of Laguna Beach, CA-based New California Hotel Corporation and owner of the former Northfield Hilton Hotel in Troy, and Park Avenue Investments LLC are planning to bring a taste of sunny California to a suburb located just a half-hour’s drive north of Detroit.

The joint venture is investing around $20 million in redeveloping the 17.4-acre property—now serving as The Met Hotel—and creating a mixed-use concept inspired by The Grove, an upscale retail and entertainment complex in downtown Los Angeles. Called LA Square, the development will be located off of the I-75 and Crooks Exit, at 5500 Crooks Road in the City of Troy.

As reported by The Macomb Daily, the developers have retained Krieger Klatt Architects Inc. of Royal Oak to design the project. Phase I has already started with the renovation and expansion of the existing hotel facility. When completed in early 2014, the new hotel will include 192 rooms, two restaurants, a café, and the largest ballroom and meeting space in Oakland County. The hotel, which will be renamed, will also house an art gallery where Detroit artists will be featured.

Phase II of the project will start in April 2014, according to an official statement from the developers. Totaling nearly 170,000 square feet of commercial, retail and office space, LA Square will feature five mid-rise buildings placed along both sides of a pedestrian walkway that will also serve as the hotel access road from Crooks Road. The five buildings, each rising three stories above ground, will include fully furnished luxury condo/hotel units on the top floor.

A new 500-seat amphitheater for performing arts named “Fire and Ice” will be built into the hotel courtyard, so that guests will be able to watch the live shows directly from their rooms. The amphitheater will be used as a concert venue in the summer and a skating rink in the winter, according to the developers.

The 10,000-square-foot site that once served as Charlie’s Crab place will be transformed into a new 5 Diamond Restaurant space that will be leased to a restaurant operator with fine dining restaurant experience in the Detroit area, notes The Macomb Daily.


Rendering of LA Square credits to Krieger Klatt Architects via Facebook 


Moceri to Break Ground on $46 Million Residential Complex in Auburn Hills

12 Sep 2013, 2:51 am

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

A 21.5-acre city-owned property that has been sitting vacant for the past ten years will be turned into a $46 million residential development. According to The Detroit News, the Auburn Hills City Council approved at the beginning of this week a local developer’s plans to replace the site located west of Adams Road, north of the Clinton River Trail and right next to the Forrester Square at Auburn Village Condominiums, into a residential complex that will serve as an eastern gateway to Downtown Auburn Hills.

Construction at the residential development proposed by The Moceri Companies, one of the leading builders in the region, is expected to start in spring 2014. The Parkways, as the project is called, will be built in five phases and will open in 2017. It will include a three-story senior care complex with 160 apartment units located along a new boulevard that, upon completion, will extend to Squirrel Road and Downtown Auburn Hills. The Parkways complex will also consist of 76 townhomes with a total market value expected to reach $75 million and 72 flats surrounded by a two-acre public park.

The development site was previously owned by the Biltmore Corp., which acquired the land in the early 2000s with plans to create more than 800 residential units marketed as the Forester Square Condominiums Complex. However, as reported by Crain’s Detroit Business, Biltmore’s plans had to be scaled down drastically to 25 percent because of the economic downturn.

Related’s Stephen Ross Pledges $200 Million to University of Michigan

4 Sep 2013, 4:20 pm

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

Stephen Ross, the founder and chairman of real estate development firm Related Companies and owner of the Miami Dolphins, made a historic $200 million donation to the Ann Arbor-based University of Michigan—the largest single gift the university has received since it was established in 1817.

The $200 million gift will be split in two between the university’s athletic department and the Business School, which was named for Ross in 2004 when the real estate tycoon donated $100 million to the school. Ross, an alumnus, has also agreed to serve as the chair of the University’s Victors for Michigan Campaign that will start on November 8.

According to a press statement, the donation is meant to improve the academic and athletic experience for the nearly 6,000 students who are enrolled at the U-M Stephen M. Ross School of Business and the university’s 900-plus student athletes.

The $100 million donation for the School of Business will be used for:

     • New spaces for students to study, collaborate and connect with each other, faculty and potential employers.

     • A state-of-the-art career services space and recruiting center that will connect students and companies.

     • New admission spaces and career services for students.

     • Practice-oriented research space for faculty staff, students and corporate partners.

     • Advanced technology and innovative design for classrooms to support and improve in-person and virtual collaboration.

     • Scholarships for Ross students.

The remaining funds going to the Stephen M. Ross Athletic Campus will be spent on:

     • Providing student-athletes on the university’s 31 teams with all the necessary resources.

     • Creating new athletic facilities that will foster community, identity and tradition for the teams.

     • Develop separate facilities to help student-athletes develop skills for success after athletics.

     • Build athletic facilities for local, state, national and international competitions.

Image courtesy of University of Michigan

Detroit Historical Museum and MOCAD Plan Exhibits Designed Evoke Detroit’s Spirit

25 Aug 2013, 6:32 pm

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

Detroit may be facing its own financial crisis but this doesn’t mean Detroiters are giving up on their city. On the contrary, local companies and cultural institutions are asking for their help and engagement in various projects that are meant to bring back Motor City’s former greatness. An upcoming museum exhibit called “Detroit Decides: Our Most Celebrated Buildings” is one such example that requires public input. Scheduled to be unveiled on February 1, 2014, the project is being created by the Detroit Historical Museum and supported by the Detroit Historical Society.

According to a recent press statement, the exhibit will feature three buildings—along with key facts and stories based on Detroiters’ memories—that best embody the spirit of Detroit. The Society is reaching out to the people living in Detroit and the Metro area and asking them to nominate any past or present building until Friday, August 30, at the Detroit Historical Museum or online at www.detroithistorical.org.

The top three nominations—which could include the historic Whitney Building, the former Nabisco Building, or even the castle-like GAR Building—will be revealed at the end of October and will be staged in the museum’s Allesee Gallery of Culture, which features the iconic people, places and moments that have been distinct for Detroit. “Determining the three buildings to be showcased will be based on the compelling cases made in the nominations,” said Tobi Voigt, chief curatorial officer of the Society.

Lisa Poszywak paints a mural by William E. Jones for MOCAD’s next exhibition The Past is Present

Meanwhile, the award-winning Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) is getting ready for its next exhibition called “The Past is Present,” which is inspired by Diego Rivera’s 27-panel mural “Detroit Industry.” Financed by the Ford family, the 80-year-old murals were commissioned from celebrated Mexican artist Rivera by the Detroit Institute of Arts to portray the fusion of man and machine. For “The Past is Present” exhibition, scheduled to open on September 6, MOCAD has invited 15 artists from around the world to create new murals based on the history of Detroit, from the riots in 1943 and the decline of the manufacturing industry to the present-day urban gardening movement and social and political change.

Photo via MOCAD’s Facebook page

Three Detroit-area Companies Receive MEDC Incentives, Expected to Invest $10.8 Million in the Region

15 Aug 2013, 7:34 pm

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

The Michigan Economic Development Company (MEDC) announced last week that it has awarded $1.06 million in Business Development and Community Revitalization program incentives to three Detroit-area companies that plan to expand in Southeast Michigan.

“These new investments will further strengthen Southeast Michigan and reinforce our reputation as America’s comeback state,” said MEDC president and CEO Michael A. Finney in a press statement. The three projects span from biotechnology investment to building renovation and, according to Finney, they will create more than 180 new jobs in the area and generate up to $10.8 million in investments.

Asterand US Acquisition Inc., a Detroit-based global provider of high-quality human tissue and researcher in biotechnology, will receive a $250,000 incentive as part of the Michigan Business Development Program. Asterand plans to invest $1.7 million to renovate and remodel its biotech research unit located in Detroit’s Tech Town and add 25 new biotech-related jobs.

Another incentive recipient, also based in the Detroit area, is Unique Tool and Manufacturing Company, Inc., a tooling design and stamping company. The firm will receive a $150,000 grant that, combined with a $4.7 million investment from its own funds, will add around 60 new jobs and expand its facility in Bedford Township.Detroit GAR Building owned by NewGAR, LLC

NewGAR LLC will receive the largest amount, or $660,000, in collateral support that will be used for renovations at the historic Castle Building, the former Grand Army of the Republic building located at 1942 W. Grand River in downtown Detroit. NewGAR is a private partnership between Mindfield Pictures principals David and Tom Carleton and Sean Emery, who own the 114-year-old building. Back in 2011, NewGAR purchased the vacant Castle Building from the city for $220,000 with plans to renovate the structure and use it as offices for Mindfield with leasable retail and restaurant space on the ground floor. The renovation project is expected to cost around $4.4 million and create nearly 100 new jobs.

Picture of GAR Building via City-Data Forum

The Pontch Reopens as New Crowne Plaza Hotel

12 Aug 2013, 5:48 pm

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

It’s been more than one year since Gabriel Ruiz, a developer and hotel investor based in Mexico, purchased Detroit’s historic Pontchartrain Hotel, affectionately referred to as “The Pontch” by Detroiters. Located at 2 Washington Boulevard on the former Fort Pontchartrain site—Detroit’s first permanent European settlement built in 1701—and across from the Cobo Center, the 25-story building designed in 1965 by King + Lewis Architects last operated as the Detroit Riverside Hotel. It had been sitting vacant since July 2009, when the hotel closed and entered receivership.

Gabriel Ruiz and Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) teamed up to breathe new life into the 371-room facility and reopen it as the Crowne Plaza Detroit Downtown Convention Center.

“We’re pleased to bring this Crowne Plaza hotel to the heart of Detroit, especially given the area’s current focus on revitalization,” said Gina LaBarre, vice president, Americas Brand Management, Upscale Brands, IHG, in a press statement. “Guests visiting the convention center next door as well as the many nearby businesses will benefit from the meetings-savvy products and services that only a Crowne Plaza hotel can provide.”

Remodeled under plans designed by Ohio-based Stephen Berry Architectural Design, the newly opened Crowne Plaza hotel is owned by Hotel Pontchartrain LLC and operated by Equity Hospitality Management. It now offers 367 guestrooms, of which more than 60 are suites, and more than 10,000 square feet of meeting space including nine conference rooms and a ballroom that can accommodate over 350 people. The hotel also includes two restaurants, a lounge and an upscale café, as well as a full executive level floor with a separate lounge, concierge and valet parking services.

The Crowne Plaza Detroit Downtown Convention Center is just one example of Detroit’s hotel industry that’s looking up despite the city’s recent filing for bankruptcy. Quoting hotel industry tracking firm STR, USA Today reported that hotel occupancy rates in the Detroit metro area reached 61.3 percent at the end of Q2 2013 as compared to 47.5 percent in 2009.

Rendering via Crowne Plaza Detroit Downtown Convention Center’s Facebook Page

McCormack Baron Salazar Plans $60M Mixed Use Project on Detroit’s East Riverfront

5 Aug 2013, 8:57 pm

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

McCormack Baron Salazar, a St. Louis-based developer specialized in urban market revitalization, plans to add almost 300 rental units and small-scale retail space on Detroit’s east riverfront, along Atwater and Franklin streets.

According to the Detroit Free Press,the residential project was tentatively approved by the Economic Development Corp. of Detroit last week. Reportedly, the $60 million venture would fill a vacant site located east of the Renaissance Center, north of Atwater Street and west of the Dequindre Cut Greenway. It would include a mix of three- to four-story town houses and apartment buildings totaling 291 units, with monthly rents between $850 and $1,700.

The project’s total size is still unknown, but the first phase should be approximately 300,000 square feet with a groundbreaking set for the first quarter of 2014, while the second phase is expected to add around 200 apartments along Atwater Street west of Riopelle Street. Reportedly, most of this vacant property is owned by the Economic Development Corp. but the site could be transferred to McCormack Baron Salazar for $1 if the project meets the other terms of the agreement.

Designed by Urban Design Associates, the still-unnamed riverfront project will be financed through a $26.7 HUD loan, Crain’s Detroit Business reports. Other funds are expected from Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group and McCormack Baron Salazar, which will provide $5.6 million in total equity capital. Invest Detroit will provide a $4.7 loan, and another $6.7 million could be granted by the Michigan Economic Development Corp. Community Revitalization Program.

Rendering courtesy of Urban Design Associates

Historic Ford Plant in Highland Park to Become Automobile Heritage Destination

25 Jul 2013, 4:07 pm

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

It finally happened: after years of fighting the massive loss of population and industrial and economic distress, Detroit filed for bankruptcy protection last week. Most voices agree that it was bound to happen, but it remains to be seen how this historic decision will help the city regain its lost glory.

While analysts predict that it will take years until Motown figures out its unprecedented $18.5 million in debt, some local entrepreneurs such as Quicken Loans’ chairman and founder Dan Gilbert, who has been on a property buying spree for the past two years, are working on plans to revive the city and (fingers crossed) make it a destination for tourists and car enthusiasts.

The historic Highland Park Ford Plant, an automotive factory complex built in 1910 under plans designed by Albert Kahn—and the spot where Henry Ford set up his famous moving assembly line—could be reinvented as a visitor attraction. According to Automotive News, a non-profit group called the Woodward Avenue Action Association (WA3) has signed a purchase agreement with National Equity Corporation, which owns the manufacturing complex, to acquire two buildings totaling 48,000 square feet and transform them into an automobile heritage welcome center. Reportedly, the group has already received $425,000 in grants from the Michigan Department of Transportation, the Michigan Economic Corporation in addition to tapping its own reserves, but it still needs to raise another $125,000 to pay for the pair of buildings located at 91 Manchester Avenue at Woodward.

According to the source, the transaction should close by October 1. WA3 estimates that the two renovated buildings will open in five years and will feature a theater with videos about Henry Ford and his work, information kiosks, and a gift and snack shop.

WA3 was organized in 1994 as an economic and community development organization working to enhance the visual, economic, functional and historic significance of 11 communities and two counties spanning 27 miles along the Woodward Avenue corridor through public, private, local and regional partnerships.

Image credits to author Andrew Jameson via Wikipedia

$5 Million Makeover Project for Riverfront Towers

18 Jul 2013, 2:12 pm

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

Almost two years have passed since the owners of a large residential community in Detroit were sued by the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) for an alleged $70 million loan debt. Back then, in October 2011, Ronald Glass of GlassRatner Management and Realty Advisors LLC was appointed as receiver to find a buyer for the Riverfront Towers, a multifamily asset located at 100 Riverfront Avenue in downtown Detroit.

According to DBusiness, in late 2012 the gated community was purchased by private investment group Riverfront Tower Holding LLC for an undisclosed amount, then The Hayman Company of Troy, MI, took over management of the property and has recently begun a $5 million construction and renovation project at the site.

The former home of famous Detroiters such as Aretha Franklin and Rosa Parks, the 24-acre property is made up of two towers—Tower 100, built in 1992, and Tower 200, completed in 1983—totaling 555 apartments with rents ranging from $798 for a 553-square-foot unit to $7,500 for a penthouse of 5,000 square feet. A third building that was also completed in 1983 includes only condominiums.

Estimated to last several months, the renovation project will include interior upgrades to all apartment units, remodeling of all hallways and lobby spaces under plans designed by Davis & Davis Interior Designs, as well as new roofing, security and landscaping upgrades.


Image via haymanapartments.com

University of Michigan-Dearborn to Open New Student Housing

12 Jul 2013, 1:49 pm

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

Beginning this fall, the students enrolled at the University of Michigan-Dearborn will have access to a new housing facility located directly across Evergreen Road from the university campus. The $30 million project called The Union at Dearborn was built by Urban Campus Communities (UCC), a private developer based in Bloomfield Hills. As reported by Detroit Free Press, construction broke ground in September 2012, shortly after UCC purchased the 12.5-acre property—a former trucking diagnostics center—from Ford Land.

The 231,791-square-foot housing complex is made up of four interconnected buildings. It will be inaugurated during a ribbon cutting ceremony on August 21 and students will begin moving in starting September 1. With rents ranging from $650 to $800 per month, The Union at Dearborn will offer around 500 fully furnished dorms in a combination of one-, two- and four-bedroom units equipped with private bathrooms and bedrooms.

Residents will also have access to a fitness center, a half-court basketball court, laundry facilities on each floor, individual mailboxes, group study rooms, a student lounge in one of the buildings and parking spaces available for all tenants.

This is the first student housing complex offered by the University of Michigan-Dearborn in the last four decades, according to the news source. It is expected to increase the number of new students by 7 percent for the 2013/2012 academic year and allow students from outside metro Detroit enroll at the university.

According to information available on the university’s website, The Union at Dearborn will be managed by Houston-based Asset Campus Housing (ACH), a third party property management firm specializing in real estate services for universities

Rendering via The Union at Dearborn Facebook page

Preliminary Plans for $650M Sports and Entertainment District Unveiled

3 Jul 2013, 7:41 pm

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

Last week the Detroit Downtown Development Authority (DDA), Olympia Development of Michigan (ODM) and Wayne County reached a multilateral agreement on a $650 million private and public financing framework that would bring a new sports and entertainment district to downtown Detroit.

According to an official statement, the new district—which is yet to be named—will generate around 8,300 jobs and an estimated economic impact of $1.8 billion per year after completion date. The district will be developed in phases over the next four to five years and will occupy a 45-block area reaching from Grand Circus Park to Charlotte Street between Woodward Avenue and Grand River Avenue.

The project’s highlight will be a $450 million multipurpose event center of roughly 650,000 square feet that will include a 18,000-seat state-of-the-art arena to house Detroit Red Wings’ hockey games and other events throughout the year. “We have outlined a deal that will do far more than build new home ice for the Red Wings. When it’s done, it will redefine Detroit’s Downtown,” said George W. Jackson, Jr., president and CEO of Detroit Economic Growth Corporation.

The agreement also includes a $200 million mixed-use component with new residential, retail and office space that will include:

  • A 140,000 sq. ft. new mixed office and retail development on Woodward Avenue at Sproat Street
  • A 25,000 sq. ft. office and retail development along Woodward Avenue
  • Parking structures and related amenities with a total of 25,000 sq. ft. of retail
  • Renovation of the Detroit Life Building at 2210 Park Ave. for 3,645 sq. ft. of retail and 35 residential units
  • Renovation of the Blenheim Building at 81 W. Columbia St. for 1,833 sq. ft. of retail and 16 residential units
  • Renovation of the building at 1922 Cass for 70,000 sq. ft. of office space
  • A new hotel-retail development with a 20,000 sq. ft. ground floor

MLive.com reports that the $650 million financing is a mix of $365.5 million in private investment and $284.5 million in public investment.

Detroit and Other Michigan Cities to Share $100 Million Demolition Grant

12 Jun 2013, 9:12 pm

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

In an effort to solve the issue of blighted and dangerous properties across the state and reduce crime in neighborhoods, Gov. Rick Snyder last week announced that the U.S. Department of the Treasury granted $100 million under a pilot program that enables states to decide locally on actions that prevent foreclosures and support the housing recovery.

Known as the Hardest Hit Fund, the program focuses on 18 states—including Michigan—that suffered the most from the foreclosure crisis.

“This will be a major expansion of an ongoing effort by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority and other state partners to aggressively address blight,” Gov. Rick Snyder said. “We will be stabilizing neighborhoods with a large-scale demolition of the abandoned properties that foster crime and push down property values. Getting rid of these properties will encourage more people to stay in their homes and be part of the effort to improve their neighborhoods.”

The funds will be used to demolish vacant properties in the cities of Detroit, Pontiac, Flint, Grand Rapids and Saginaw, but it is still unclear how the money will be distributed among the cities—most probably the amounts will be determined based on vacancy rates, property values and number of foreclosures per city.

According to estimates from the 2010 census, Detroit alone has more than 40,000 vacant residential properties, while Flint has almost 5,800 and Grand Rapids has almost 3,000. The city is already on track to demolish 10,000 vacant and abandoned residential properties by the end of Mayor Dave Bing’s first term in 2013 as part of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, with more than 7,000 structures demolished to date.

For more market data from Detroit, please click here.

Chart courtesy of www.detroitmi.gov

GM to Invest $258 Million in Second Metro Detroit Data Center

5 Jun 2013, 8:31 pm

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

Less than one year after announcing a plan to transform its global Information Technology (IT) department and just days after celebrating the grand opening of the Warren Enterprise Data Center, General Motors Co. broke ground on Friday, May 24, on its second supercomputing facility in Metro Detroit. Together, the two locations will replace a network of 23 data centers operated by GM, as well as three information technology suppliers from around the world. They will add to the company’s existing data centers in Austin, TX, Roswell, GA, and Chandler, AZ.

As reported by MLive.com, GM is investing $546 million on equipment and infrastructure for its two Metro Detroit facilities, which will oversee the company’s IT operations globally while paving the way for a smarter and faster work environment.

“Having a single nerve center for our global operations will get newer vehicle designs and technologies into our customers’ hands quicker and improve the bottom line,” said GM Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson in a press statement.

Located at the GM Milford Proving Ground, the new state-of-the-art data center is expected to open in July 2014. GM will spend $100 million in infrastructure for the Milford facility and another $158 million will be invested in IT equipment. The Detroit News reported that the Milford Township approved $3.2 million in tax exemptions for GM’s newest data center.

The Warren Data Center took over three years to complete and required a $130 million investment. With more than 700 employees already working at the site with a focus on innovation and support, the data center was inspired by tech giants such as Google and Facebook, which have developed similar supercomputing facilities. It has 48 workstations and a 955-square-foot video wall that enables workers to hook up their laptops and share their work with other employees.

The Warren facility could house up to 1,500 employees; according to a recent press release, GM plans to hire around 7,500 new information technology workers over the next five years and will stop using outsourcing this function.

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Warren Data Center image via GM

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