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Friedman-led JV Grabs 430 KSF at Arboretum Office Park

13 Feb 2014, 3:58 pm

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

Arboretum Office Park – Farmington Hills, MI

Arboretum Office Park, a 600,000-square-foot business complex located at 34405-34605 W. Twelve Mile Road in Farmington Hills, was almost fully sold to a private partnership called Arboretum Acquisitions LLC.

As reported by Crain’s Detroit Business, the joint venture between Farmington Hills-based Friedman Integrated Real Estate Solutions and Kojaian Management Corp. of Bloomfield Hills (which was described as a “silent partner” with no leasing, management or construction role in the deal) recently purchased almost three quarters of the business complex in a $10 million transaction that was brokered by Jones Lang LaSalle on behalf of the owner. According to the news source, the asset was previously owned by Burton-Katzman LLC of Bingham Farms.

The Friedman/Kojaian partnership now owns four office buildings—Arboretum I (115,000 square feet), Arboretum II (129,000 square feet), Arboretum III (163,000 square feet) and Arboretum R (20,000 square feet)­—totaling around 430,000 square feet of space along the Twelve Mile Corridor in Farmington Hills, just 30 minutes from Downtown Detroit. The four buildings are interconnected by enclosed walkways, allowing for convenient transit throughout the complex. The office spaces available for lease range from 1,000 to 350,000 square feet, including a corporate headquarters facility with visibility from I-696 and Twelve Mile Road. According to an official statement, Friedman plans new landscaping, as well as renovating the buildings’ exteriors and remodeling lobbies with high-end modern finishes.

Arboretum IV, the 114,000-square-foot building that wasn’t included in the sale and is still owned by Burton-Katzman LLC, is 69 percent leased and continues to be managed by Signature Associates Inc. of Southfield, MI.


Image via Friedman Integrated Real Estate Solutions

New Emergency Department Opens at DMC Sinai-Grace Hospital

7 Feb 2014, 3:20 pm

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

DMC Sinai-Grace Hospital – New Emergency Department

Detroit Medical Center (DMC) Sinai-Grace Hospital recently unveiled its brand new Emergency Department facility in northwest Detroit—a long overdue hospital addition that took two years to complete.

Expected to serve 100,000 to 125,000 patients visiting the hospital every year, the new emergency department is the largest construction project in northwest Detroit in more than ten years. It occupies 59,000 square feet of space at 6071 W. Outer Drive—more than double the size of the old ER—and features 42 large, hard-walled patient exam rooms that ensure privacy and increased comfort for patients that receive care, as well as new trauma rooms equipped with state-of-the-art lifesaving technology for major accidents or disasters that require maximum medical care.

“This is an exciting time for our beloved community in northwest Detroit, who this hospital has served for more than 100 years,” said in a public statement Sinai-Grace President Reginald Eadie, M.D. “With this new Emergency Department, our patients will have a more comfortable, aesthetically pleasing facility with state-of-the art equipment and the privacy they so deserve when receiving care from our incredible physicians and staff,” he added.

DMC Sinai-Grace Hospital’s new Emergency Department facility is part of a $77 million renovation and expansion project, designed by SmithGroupJJR of Ann Arbor, that will continue until 2015. Upon completion DMC Sinai-Grace Hospital will have an expanded Intensive Care Unit fitted with the latest medical equipment, a larger front lobby, an expanded Radiology Department with renovated CT, X-Ray and ultrasound areas located close to the ER for quick service.

Rendering courtesy of  SmithGroupJJR

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

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 


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