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Old Fire Station in Downtown Detroit to Become The Foundation Hotel

9 Jul 2014, 9:24 pm

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

Former Detroit Fire Department HQ building

Former Detroit Fire Department HQ building

The former Detroit Fire Department headquarters building located across from Cobo Center will no longer be an eyesore for the city thanks to a Chicago-based hotel group who wants to revive the historic fire station.

Aparium Hotel Group recently announced plans to renovate and convert the old fire station located at 250 W. Larned into an upscale independent hotel that will be integrated with the immediately adjacent building that housed the famous Pontchartrain Wine Cellars restaurant that closed in 1991. Aparium has partnered with local developer Walter Cohen of Arco Construction to embark on the extensive $28 million renovation project.

Built in 1929 and designed by Hans Gehrke—who also created the architectural plans for several fire stations in Detroit during the booming 1920s and 1930s—the five-story facility served as the administrative headquarters of the Detroit Fire Department until 2013, when it was sold to the co-developers for $1.25 million, Crain’s Detroit Business reported at the time.

According to a news release from Aparium, the roughly 62,000-square-foot hotel will be called The Foundation Hotel and will offer 100 guest rooms. When fully operational in late 2015, the hotel will employ mostly Detroit-based personnel. The former fire engine hall on the ground floor of the building will be replaced by a Detroit-themed restaurant that will be operated by the hotel. Aparium’s plans also include street-level retail space that “will showcase Detroit through the collaboration with Detroit- and Michigan-based manufacturers and designers.”

The conversion of the old fire station in downtown Detroit marks Aparium’s fourth hotel project. The hospitality development group has already developed three similar rehab projects in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (The Iron Horse Hotel), Covington, Kentucky (The Hotel Covington) and La Crosse, Wisconsin (The Charmant Hotel).

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Image via Wikimedia Commons (author Andrew Jameson)

Meijer Officially Breaks Ground on Second Store in Detroit

2 Jul 2014, 8:18 pm

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

The site of the former Redford High School located at the corner of Grand River Avenue and McNichols Road is being redeveloped into a “supercenter” grocery store by Meijer Inc.

The Grand Rapids-based retailer celebrated the official start of construction at its second store in the city of Detroit exactly one year after the grand opening of the first Meijer location at the historical Michigan State Fairgrounds on 8 Mile Road and Woodward Avenue.

Opened in 1921, Redford High School served the sub-communities of Old Redford, Grandmont, Rosedale Park and Brightmoor, which has become one of the most distressed neighborhoods in Detroit. Due to a decline in enrollment, Redford High School was shut down in 2007 along with 51 other public schools in the Detroit area. The school complex included six separate buildings, but each structure was built at unusual angles, isolating parts of the school. However, according to Detroiturbex.com, the 25-acre property was considered prime real estate thanks to the high median income and the densely populated area. The property was sold in fall 2011 for around $2 million to Lormax Stern Detroit Development LLC which committed to develop the site for Meijer.

Shortly after the deal was closed, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) approved brownfield tax credits worth $3.3 million that allowed Meijer to start cleaning up the property and prepare the site for construction. The abandoned high school at 21431 W Grand River was demolished one year later.

Meijer’s new, 190,000-square-foot store will cost around $30 million to build. When completed in fall 2015, the big-format “supercenter” will include a retail store, grocery space with locally sourced produce, a garden center,  a full-service pharmacy and a gas station. Meijer is expected to employ up to 500 positions at the new location in northwest Detroit, but the hiring process will begin in spring 2015.


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Developers Break Ground on 65,000 Sq. Ft. Retail and Restaurant Component at Northville Park Place

26 Jun 2014, 2:07 pm

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

A groundbreaking ceremony held on June 25 at the corner of Haggerty and Seven Mile roads in Northville Township marked the beginning of construction of the second phase of a large retail, restaurant and mixed-use complex that’s taking shape on the site of the former State of Michigan Regional Psychiatric Hospital.

Northville Park Place 7 Mile rendering

Northville Park Place 7 Mile rendering

As previously reported by Detroit Free Press, the hospital closed in May 2003 and its 400-acre campus was sold by the state three years later. In 2009 Northville Township acquired part of a 350-acre parcel that included the hospital’s remaining 15 structures. After completing a brownfield cleanup at the site, in 2012 the township announced plans to redevelop the former hospital site into a large recreational park with trails, walking paths, ponds and gardens.

REIS-Northville, a joint venture between Livonia-based Schostak Brothers & Company and REI Investment Group, Inc. of Bloomfield Hills, are moving forward with the 82-acre development called Northville Park Place that will comprise 500,000 square feet of commercial space. According to the development team, in the following weeks the University of Michigan Northville Health Center is set to move in a $39 million, 100,000-square-foot facility built at the site during Phase I by contractor George W. Auch Company.

The second phase of the Northville Park Place project encompasses 22 acres and will be built by Sachse Construction, a commercial construction company based in Detroit. It will include 65,000 square feet of retail and restaurants scheduled for completion in mid-January 2015, with interior tenant build-outs occurring through the first quarter of 2015. The developers have also announced the names of the businesses that have already leased space at the site: Granite City Food & Brewery, Rusty Bucket, Sherwin Williams, Chipotle Mexican Grill, BurgerFi (which opened its first Michigan location in Ann Arbor last year), and Jimmy John’s. The list of retail and restaurant tenants is expected to be complete by mid-2015.

Designed by Wah Yee Associates of Farmington Hills, Northville Park Place promises to be a standout from an aesthetic and experiential standpoint. The complex will include three individual ponds, each of them having its own floating fountain, and a unique elevated waterfall feature in the pond closest to the 7 Mile and Haggerty corner. Close to the ponds area, the complex will feature a paved plaza that will offer visitors an abundance of benches, outdoor seating and comfortable places to relax and socialize.

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Rendering via Schostak Brothers & Company

Bank of Ann Arbor is Approved for $4.2 Million Expansion

19 Jun 2014, 1:53 pm

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor


Bank of Ann Arbor - Google Street View

Bank of Ann Arbor – Google Street View

The Ann Arbor city council unanimously approved a $4.2 million expansion project of the Bank of Ann Arbor Headquarters and Branch Office located at the northeast corner of South Fifth Avenue and East Washington Street.

Under the plan designed by local architecture firm Bowers and Associates, the existing two-story facility at 125 S. Fifth Avenue will be completely remodeled and expanded to become a visual presence and dominant architectural feature in downtown Ann Arbor.

According to MLive.com, the bank’s current and only entrance on Fifth Avenue will be replaced with windows, while the existing yellow brick façade will be almost entirely replaced by brown and red-colored bricks and limestone-colored stone. Two new, separate entrances will be built on Fifth Avenue and Washington Street respectively, creating node at the corner street and offering a lively pedestrian experience.

Bank of Ann Arbor

Bank of Ann Arbor

The construction team spearheaded by developer First Martin Corporation will add a third story on top of the eastern part of the building. According to the source, the 9,440-square-foot addition will include office space, an executive suite and new boardroom.

Work on the façade remodeling is expected to start next month, with construction of the third floor set to begin in September. The project will take around 18 months to complete.

With the third floor addition, the Bank of Ann Arbor headquarters will expand to more than 32,500 square feet of space. According to The Ann Arbor Chronicle, the two-story office building was built in 1965 and then expanded in 1999—four years after First Martin Corporation acquired the structure for the Bank of Ann Arbor, which has a long term lease.


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Rendering via Bowers and Associates

A Wave of Shopping Centers Coming to Suburban Detroit in 2016

12 Jun 2014, 12:30 am

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

New England Development, a real estate developer based in Newton, MA, is set to create an open-air retail center in Romulus, a small-sized suburban city located 23 miles from Detroit and roughly half an hour from the Canadian border.

Outlets of Michigan - Romulus MI

Outlets of Michigan – Romulus MI

The 325,000-square-foot outlet center will be called Outlets of Michigan and will be located right across Detroit Metro Airport, which is transited by around 32 million passengers annually, and at the intersection of Interstate 94 and Vining Road. Scheduled to open in 2016, Outlets of Michigan is expected to become the most convenient outlet destination in the region, serving the shopping needs of Ann Arbor, Southeast Michigan and Northwest Ohio.

According to a news release from the developer, the outlet center’s architectural style will reflect the unique character of Detroit, while the shaded pedestrian walkways are designed to enhance the visitor’s shopping experience. Though the developer hasn’t announced any store names yet, the 75 retailers that will lease space at the center will target more than 3.5 million people living within 30 miles of the proposed development site.

But Outlets of Michigan is not the only new retail project announced in the region. According to Crain’s Detroit Business, two other shopping centers are coming to suburban Detroit. A joint venture between Center Management Services Inc. of Birmingham and Jeffrey R. Anderson Real Estate Inc. of Cincinnati is currently building the Outlets of Southeast Michigan, a 330,000-square-foot outlet mall in the township of Chesterfield. Also located off Interstate 94, the shopping center will be completed in spring 2016 and will include more than 80 retailers. Meanwhile in Canton Township, Baltimore-based Paragon Outlet Partners will break ground next spring on a high-end outlet mall at the southeast corner of Interstate 275 and Ford Road. Spanning 375,000 square feet of space and aiming for a grand opening in the summer of 2016, Canton Outlets will feature as many as 100 stores.

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Rendering courtesy of New England Development

Bedrock, Riverfront Holdings Grab More Real Estate in Downtown Detroit

6 Jun 2014, 1:52 pm

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

Riverfront Holdings Inc., a subsidiary of General Motors, grabbed four properties near the Detroit riverfront area and east of the Renaissance Center. As first reported by Crain’s Detroit Business, the acquisition encompasses three vacant buildings totaling nearly 31,000 square feet and a 0.8-acre surface parking lot. While the financial terms haven’t been disclosed, Crain’s said that the buyer was represented in the transaction by the Detroit office of CBRE Inc.

The largest and oldest asset in this bulk acquisition is the 12,700-square-foot structure sitting at 260 Schweizers Place that used to house the night club called Vondie’s on the River. The two-story building was constructed in 1885 and was previously owned by Handy Parking Inc.

The second building is located at 673 Franklin Street and has 9,600 square feet. According to Crain’s the 36-year-old building was previously owned by R.D. Franklin LLC and housed the Club Waterfall nightclub, McNarney’s Public House and a restaurant called Currents.

The third building that Riverfront Holdings purchased last month is an 8,400-square-foot  office structure located at 672 Woodbridge Street, while the surface parking lot is located at 689 Franklin Street between St. Antoine and Schweizers Place.

Another deal that recently made headlines involves Bedrock Real Estate Services, which reportedly acquired two mid-sized office buildings and a vacant lot in Detroit’s Capitol Park, adding more than 50,000 square feet to Dan Gilbert’s 8.2 million-square-foot real estate empire.

According to MLive.com, two of the properties—a six-story, 35,000-square-foot facility at 119 State Street and a five-story, 11,500-square-foot facility located at 45 W. Grand River Avenue—are in bad shape and will probably be redeveloped into retail buildings with apartments on the upper levels. The empty lot at 28 W. Grand River Avenue will be replaced by a new mixed-use building that will include apartments and ground floor retail space.


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Detroit Marriott Enters Last Chapter of Year-Long, $30 Million Renovation Process

28 May 2014, 4:22 pm

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

The $30 million renovation project that kicked off earlier this year at the 1,329-room Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center is moving forward with a complex makeover of the hotel’s meeting space. This is the last phase of the year-long remodeling process and will encompass 100,000 square feet of space spanning three floors and 34 separate meeting rooms.

Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center

Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center

“We’re very excited to begin this next big step of a $30 million renovation that is an investment in the City of Detroit, as well as an investment in this Michigan landmark hotel,” said Shonda Johnson, area general manager of the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center. “Our modernized, beautiful and more flexible meeting space will help draw more visitors and milestone events to our amazing city,” she added.

Estimated to be completed in December, this chapter in Marriott RenCen’s renovation will also be done in phases, enabling group functions to continue without disruption, and will focus on enhancing the conference spaces’ functionality and aesthetics, the hotel’s officials announced. Also included in this phase is the two-level concierge lounge located on the 56th and 57th floors which will be refurbished and reconfigured to resemble an automobile showroom.

Nicknamed Marriott RenCen, the 71-story hotel in Downtown Detroit is the tallest building in the city and the tallest all-hotel skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere. The landmark hotel was completed in 1977 and stands as the central tower in a group of seven interconnected skyscrapers known as The Renaissance Center. The Class A office complex was built for the Henry Ford Motor Company by New York-based Tishman Construction under plans designed by John Portman & Associates.

In 1996 the 5.5 million-square-foot mega-property was purchased by General Motors to serve as the company’s global headquarters. The 14-acre, Class A office center is one of the largest commercial complexes in the world. A veritable “city within a city,” it includes a shopping center, restaurants, banks, private clubs and a movie theater and even has its own zip code, 48243—housing more than 5,000 GM workers and 4,000 center tenant employees.


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Image via Marriott

Quicken Loans Starts Construction on 66,000 Sq. Ft. Technology/Data Center Outside Detroit’s CBD

22 May 2014, 1:52 pm

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

Quicken Loans Technology Center - Corktown, Detroit

Quicken Loans Technology Center – Corktown, Detroit

The site of a former industrial building sitting at the corner of Rosa Parks Boulevard and Porter Street in the Corktown neighborhood of Detroit is being redeveloped into a new technology center by online mortgage lender Quicken Loans Inc. and its affiliate Bedrock Real Estate Services LLC.

According to Crain’s Detroit Business, in November 2013 the 38,000-square-foot industrial warehouse located at 1401 Rosa Parks was acquired for $625,000 by Dan Gilbert, the founder and chairman of Quicken Loans who owns around 8 million square feet of real estate space in Detroit, ­through his real estate investment arm Rock ventures LLC. Reportedly, the single-story property was occupied by two tenants at the moment of sale—the Great American Truck Driving School and Concrete Cutting Co. —but the companies left the building shortly after the deal was closed.

The 66,000-square-foot Quicken Loans Technology Center is scheduled to open in January 2015 and will serve as a data center and office complex. Set to become Dan Gilbert’s first development project located outside Detroit’s Central Business District, the state-of-the-art technology center also marks Bedrock’s second ground-up development in the city after the Z Garage facility.

The concrete and glass structure was designed by Integrated Design Solutions of Troy with Turner Construction Co. in charge of construction, according to Crain’s. The technology center will include 10,000 square feet of server rooms featuring next-generation air conditioning systems to cool the servers, as well as training, office and support space. A news release by Quicken Loans states that half of the data center will be occupied by the company’s technology staff, while the remaining 33,000 square feet in the building will be available for lease when the center opens next January.

“Developing real estate that meets the needs of our family of companies and our tenants in the city of Detroit is our top priority at Bedrock,” said Jim Ketai, Bedrock Real Estate Services CEO and managing partner. “This is also a great opportunity for another top technology company to secure prime server and training space in Detroit,” he added.

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Rendering via Quicken Loans

Opus Group Breaks Ground on 13-Story Luxury Housing Building in Ann Arbor

14 May 2014, 4:22 pm

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

Minnesota-based Opus Group and private investor Dennis Tice, who owns the Pizza House in Ann Arbor’s South University District, have teamed up to develop a new student housing high-rise near the University of Michigan campus.

ArborBLU - luxury student housing

ArborBLU – luxury student housing

Construction at ArborBLU is scheduled to break ground on May 15, roughly five months after the Ann Arbor Planning Commission and City Council approved the partnership’s plans to build a 13-story apartment structure atop the two-story restaurant which is located at 618 Church Street. As reported by MLive.com, two adjacent low-rise buildings—located at 624 Church Street and 1117 Willard Street, respectively—will be demolished to make room for the 83,807-square-foot residential tower.

Marketed as “University of Michigan’s newest luxury student housing” building, ArborBLU will be ready for occupancy in August 2015, just in time for the fall semester. According to Opus, the project was designed by J. Bradley Moore & Associates with Opus AE Group, LLC serving as the architect of record.

Estimated to cost around $17 million and projected to achieve LEED Silver certification, the luxury tower will have 123 urban loft-style apartments totaling 232 beds, offering a combination of one-, two- and three-bedroom units. Amenities at ArborBLU will include a fitness studio on the second floor, study space, a rooftop lounge, bike storage, Wi-Fi access, in-house tanning  and free 24-hour delivery from Pizza House.

MLive.com also reveals that Opus and the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority negotiated a parking agreement that will allow tenants and a number of Pizza House employees to use nearly 50 spaces from the parking garage on nearby Forest Avenue which is jointly owned by the city and the University of Michigan. According to Ann Arbor’s policies, the developer is allowed to lease parking spaces in the public garage for an initial period of 15 years followed by three five-year extension options.

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Rendering of ArborBLU courtesy of The Opus Group

GM Breaks Ground on New Race Development Center in Pontiac

7 May 2014, 8:16 pm

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

GM Performance and Racing Center - Pontiac MI

GM Performance and Racing Center – Pontiac MI

More than one year after announcing a $200 million investment to build a new 138,000-square-foot test wing in suburban Detroit, General Motors broke ground on a race engine design and development facility at its world powertrain headquarters in Pontiac, MI, the company announced recently.

The GM Performance and Racing Center (GMPRC) will also include an electric motor laboratory and gear center. The state-of-the-art facility is expected to continue to develop the most successful race engines for Chevrolet and Cadillac, while connecting its race engineers with GM’s global powertrain engineering teams to come up with more efficient and durable powertrains.

According to information from the motor company, the 85,000-square-foot GMPRC will become operational in mid-2015, when around 100 engineers and technicians from GM’s race engineering center in Wixom, MI, are expected to relocate to the new facility. At full build-out in early 2016, the new performance and racing center will employ 400 people coming from GM’s soon-to-be-closed facilities in Michigan (Warren), Indiana (Castleton) and California (Torrance)

“The GM Performance and Racing Center will serve as a resource to help our race teams and drivers continue to win races and championships,” said Jim Campbell, U.S. vice president, Performance Vehicles and Motorsports, in a press statement. “It will also help advance technical sharing between racing and production engine programs,” he added.

Located at 777 Joslyn Avenue in Pontiac, the 450,000-square-foot GM Powertrain World Headquarters is one of the largest and most technically advanced powertrain development centers in the world. The center brings together more than 3,500 employees working on the design and development of engines, transmissions, hybrid and electric powertrains, and fuel cell technologies.

Meanwhile, GM is currently working on its second supercomputing facility in Metro Detroit which is expected to open officially in about two months. Construction at the GM Milford Proving Ground data center began in May 2013, shortly after the first facility opened in Warren. Totaling $546 million in equipment and infrastructure investment, the two data centers will oversee the company’s IT operations globally while ensuring a smarter and faster work environment.

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Rendering courtesy of General Motors

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