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25 and still going strong, Greening of Detroit keeps humming along

In their 25th year, the Greening of Detroit is as busy as ever. The non-profit group is in the midst of another season of planting trees, urban gardening, and much, much more. A variety of programming dominates the Greening of Detroit's year, from planting roughly 5,000 trees throughout the city to conducting workforce training for citizens with challenges to employment.

Greening of Detroit is beginning the transition from tree-planting season to gardening season. The group typically plants 5,000 trees a year over the course of two periods, from March to June and from mid-September to just before Thanksgiving. The Greening recently finished a massive tree-planting project in Rouge Park, a 1,184-acre west side park where it has planted 1,703 trees since the fall of 2013.

As the weather warms, much of the group's focus shifts to its three farm gardens: Romanowski Farm Park, Lafayette Greens, and Detroit Market Garden. The Greening uses the gardens for educational programming, urban farming, and produce markets. On May 20, they'll be offering a class on how to grow wild edibles in your garden. On May 29, they'll be offering a class on backyard aquaponics. Each demonstration will be held at the Detroit Market Garden, located behind Shed 5 of Eastern Market.

In collaboration with the Lower Eastside Action Plan (LEAP), the Greening is devising ways to clear and re-green blighted lots. Trish Hubbell, marketing director for Greening of Detroit, says that the group engages the communities they work with as much as possible.

"We like to work with the communities and get their input because ultimately they're the ones who take over and run things," says Hubbell.

Adult workforce training, children's educational programming, and the popular Build-A-Garden program are also planned for the summer.

Since its formation in 1989, the Greening of Detroit has planted nearly 82,000 trees throughout the city.

Source: Trish Hubbell, marketing director for Greening of Detroit
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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City's first dog park opens in Corktown

On Thursday, May 1, another pop-up turned permanent in the city, though this pop-up, the Detroit Dog Park, has nothing to sell. The roughly 3/4 acre site is located on the former Macomb Playlot, an abandoned playground at 17th and Rose adjacent to Roosevelt Park. Michigan Central Station looms largely nearby.

Pop-up success stories have become commonplace in Detroit. They've proven efficient and effective in introducing businesses to the public without all of the initial costs that can eat up startup funding. They also serve as a means for community building, as was the case with Detroit Dog Park.

The nonprofit group first organized in the summer of 2011. By 2012, it became part of a larger group that was holding a pop-up dog park every third Saturday on Navin Field (the site of old Tiger Stadium). This month's meet-up will take place on the second Saturday instead, coinciding with the new park's official grand opening at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 10.

Detroit Dog Park came to occupy the property by way of the city's Adopt-a-Park program. Volunteers mowed the grass and cleared out brush and debris from the neglected park. PetSmart, the national pet supplies store, helped the group establish the site. The company sent a mobile dog park kit -- a shipping container with the basic components required for setting up a dog park, including the perimeter fence.

Succeeding in establishing the city's only permanent dog park, the group now shifts its focus to maintaining it. Instituting additional dog parks in other parts of the city is also a goal.

"The idea is that we'll build one, learn from it, and turn around and try to make it happen again," says Megha Satyanarayana, a board member of Detroit Dog Park.

Detroit Dog Park is free and open to the public.

Source: Megha Satyanarayana, board member of Detroit Dog Park
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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New Nigerian BBQ restaurant concept to debut in Southwest Detroit

Fresh off the rollout of a second -- and controversial -- restaurant concept, Goldfinch American, Tunde Wey is preparing to launch a third. The restaurant, Lagos, draws inspiration from Wey's native country, Nigeria. Wey is also co-founder of Hamtramck's (revolver).

Lagos will begin as a series of weekly dinners. The first, May 17, will feature suya, a Nigerian barbecued beef dry rubbed in ginger, pepper, and other spices. The dinners are located at the old restaurant inside the Mexicantown Fiesta Center on Vernor Hwy. Wey hopes to sign a long-term lease at the location.

When pressed to characterize Nigerian barbecue, Wey says that so many of the dishes throughout all of Africa tend to possess bolder flavors than American fare. The meat is more tender, something you take your time with.

"It's food that you eat with your hands and then you lick your fingers," says Wey. "It's an engaging meal."

Also on the menu is jollof rice, dodo, egusi (rice pilaf), fried plantains, and steamed vegetables. A pescetarian option is part of the menu.

The city of Lagos, with a population of over 17 million people, can seem chaotic, says Wey, but there's a definite rhythm to it. He hopes for something similar for the restaurant, an informal and friendly communal dining experience defined by a boisterous energy. Music will play a big role in setting that tone, featuring contemporary and traditional Nigerian music as well as hip hop and reggae.

Where Wey's first two restaurants put much of the focus on the creativity and direction of a head chef, Lagos allows for a team of cooks working on the dishes together. 

Source: Tunde Wey, owner of Lagos
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Community group purchases historic Ford Highland Park Plant building with intent to redevelop

The Woodward Avenue Action Association (WA3) has purchased the Administration Building and Executive Garage at the historic Ford Highland Park Plant. The economic and community development organization raised over half a million dollars to acquire the property. WA3 purchased the buildings with three acres along Woodward for $550,000.

A second round of fundraising begins as the organization has determined that the buildings require $7.5 million in renovations. Debbie Schutt, executive director of WA3, says that fundraising should be much easier with the property now in their possession.

WA3 plans on building an Automotive Heritage Welcome Center at the site. The center will serve as a gateway to the grounds of the Highland Park complex, similar in spirit to a national park welcome center. The center will provide information about local tours and house interpretive displays and a theater. Rather than focusing solely on the history of the Ford Motor Company, the center will instead focus on the culture of creativity and innovation fostered by the local automotive industry.

"So much more has come out of the industry than cars. We need to tell our own story to ourselves and then tell it to others," says Schutt. "There's a reason Detroit has a patent office."

In addition to the historical and informative plans for the site, WA3 is going to use the site for training purposes. They have partnered with Wayne County's Economic Development Growth Engine (EDGE) to build a high tech learning lab for the modern assembly line. The building used to house one of Henry Ford's original trade schools, says Schutt, making it an appropriate place for a modern training facility.

The lab will be designed to serve both the citizens of Highland Park and the region as a whole.

Source: Debbie Schutt, executive director of Woodward Avenue Action Association
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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April Development News Round-up

April was another busy month for development news in the city. Let's catch up on six stories from the past four weeks.

Come November, downtown will add 150 jobs and 24,000 square feet of dining, drinking, and gaming -- and all under one roof. Dan Gilbert's Bedrock Real Estate Services announced that the Denver-based Punch Bowl Social will be opening a location in the recently-opened Z Garage.

There's a new name in the downtown development scene. Roger Basmajian has recently purchased three office buildings in the central business district, acquiring 104,000 square feet of office space in nine months. Basmajian expects to spend at least $7 million in renovations, says Crain's.

Midtown Detroit, Inc. announced two beautification projects in its district: a second green alley and a dog park. The green alley will run behind Avalon Bakery, from Willis to Canfield. The dog park is planned for the empty lot at Canfield and Cass. Midtown Detroit, Inc. signed a three-year lease on the lot with a two-year extension possible.

There's a new restaurant in New Center. The Zenith, a Mexican-Southern fusion restaurant, opened in the Fisher Building this month. The pictures at Eater Detroit reveal a colorful and eclectic interior, one that draws from 1940s and 1950s kitsch.

Another grocery store has opened on the city's east side. Parkway Foods joins Parker Street Market in debuting this month, providing residents with more food options. While Parker Street Market is a smaller, specialized neighborhood grocer, Parkway Foods is more of a traditional super market, not unlike the Farmer Jack that used to be in the same location.

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Cousins to open 'tipless' restaurant with simple, fresh cuisine and picnic basket service

Two cousins are cleaning up an old diner on E. Jefferson with hopes of being ready for a May opening. Lucy Carnaghi and Molly Mitchell will be launching Rose's Fine Food, named in tribute to their grandmother, at 10551 E. Jefferson. The building, built in 1960, was previously home to Elmo's Fine Food and, later, Kolonja Fine Food.

The duo have a combined 30 years of experience in the restaurant business, but starting their own restaurant marks a pretty incredible evolution for the two of them, says Carnaghi. Mitchell recently returned to Detroit from San Fransico, where she worked as baker at the James Beard Award-winning Tartine Bakery.

Carnaghi and Mitchell plan on offering a diverse menu of made-from-scratch, locally sourced food with new American, rustic Mexican, southern French, and American South influences. They'll also be baking their own bread, making their own French pastries, and starting their own garden in back of the restaurant.

Unlike typical diners, Rose's Fine Food will operate as a "tipless" restaurant. Customers will not be expected to tip their servers. The front of the house will be making the same as the back of the house, a living wage of $10.10 an hour, says Carnaghi.

"I want to keep the people that I hire and I want them to be proud of where they work," she says. "It seems to be the responsible thing to do as an employer."

Near enough to Belle Isle, the restaurant will offer a picnic basket service. Customers will be able to rent baskets complete with a meal, blanket, and real dishes and cutlery.

Source: Lucy Carnaghi, co-owner of Rose's Fine Food
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Detroit debuts new property auction website

Building Detroit, a website designed to auction off city-owned houses, has launched. It features a number of safeguards that are designed to keep speculators from bidding on the properties. The idea is to ensure that houses go to people and companies who will fix, maintain, and populate the homes.

Houses will be available at a rate of one per day starting Monday, May 5. Bidding starts at 8 a.m. and runs through 5 p.m. There are currently 12 houses listed on the Building Detroit website. Bidding for the first house, 4184 Bishop, starts at $1,000. Registration has opened for potential bidders.

The city is employing what it calls a "rigorous process" to vet winning bidders. Winners must pay 10% of the price within 72 hours of winning the auction. If purchased for $20,000 or less, winners must make the full payment within 60 days of the auction. Winners have 90 days to make a full payment if a property is purchased for more than $20,000.

The Detroit Land Bank Authority requires winners to demonstrate executed construction contracts for home rehabs within 30 days of closing. If the winner is rehabbing the home themselves, they are required to provide corresponding receipts.

Buyers have six months to be granted a certificate of occupancy and have the home occupied. Failure to meet all of these requirements results in losing both property and purchase price. Such rules should prevent speculators from buying properties only to sit on them, leaving them unoccupied and at-risk for scrapping and squatting, something for which the Wayne County Tax Auction has been criticized.

On April 27, the East English Village Association, heavily involved in the auction's first round, will be hosting open houses for the buildings available in its neighborhood.

Source: Building Detroit press release
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Art Deco gem re-branded as the Block at Cass Park

100,000 square feet of office space has opened up in one of Albert Kahn's Art Deco masterpieces, the former S.S. Kresge World Headquarters at 2727 Second Ave. The building was most recently known as the Metropolitan Center for High Technology before being re-branded as the Block at Cass Park.

Under its new configuration, the 250,000 square foot building is putting an emphasis on office space and openness. The building is owned by Wayne State University and a partnership of private owners. Wayne State manages the space.

When Matteo Passalacqua was being interviewed for the leasing officer position he now holds, he suggested changing the name of the building. Ian Studders, WSU associate director of leasing and retail services, took him one further and suggested a complete re-branding. As WSU moved departments from the building at Cass Park to spaces closer to campus, Passalacqua and Studders had an opportunity to change the entire identity of 2727 Second. The Block at Cass Park is the result of that transformation.

Location plays a big part in the building's appeal. Situated across from Cass Park, the area is near the new hockey arena that will soon be built. Becoming more inclusive in that changing neighborhood is a focus, says Studders, as they plan on offering event space and conference rooms to community members.

"The focus is to not be an island," says Passalacqua. "We'll be helping with the park, landscaping, removing tagging, and picking up trash."

Detroit-based Patrick Thompson Design won the competitive bidding process to re-design the public components of the first floor in an attempt to make the space more inviting. The pricing is competitive too. Passalacqua says that rent is currently available below market rates.

The Block at Cass Park is also home to the co-working space An Office in Detroit.

Source: Matteo Passalacqua, leasing officer for the Block at Cass Park
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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The Lorax comes to a historic Woodbridge home

At what is sure to become known as The Lorax House, developer Alex Pereira of Secure Realty, LLC has commissioned two artists to liven up Trumbull Street as it runs through the Woodbridge neighborhood. A mural and a sculpture inspired by the Dr. Seuss book The Lorax are being placed in the front lot of 4759 Trumbull. The sculpture installation is planned for today.

A mural painted by artist Matt Hebert will serve as the backdrop for Scott Kuefler's Lorax sculpture. The sculpture, made from wood, was carved by chainsaw. The mural is being painted on a retaining wall and features the famous line from the book, "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not."

Pereira feels that the quote reflects what is happening in Detroit right now. He's currently rehabbing the building at 4759 Trumbull with hopes of having it ready for renters by May. Pre-leasing has already begun for the five-unit building built in 1900.

"I think art is an important component in the revitalization of Detroit," says Pereira. "It's taking something that's not the prettiest and, with minimal work, you add value."

The redevelopment of 4759 Trumbull marks a shift in focus for Pereira and Secure Realty, one from suburbs to city. Pereira plans on purchasing and rehabbing more properties in the city. Detroit's structures, he says, are invaluable character pieces that can't be recreated today.

Pereira purchased 4759 Trumbull in the 2012 Wayne County tax auction. 15 years vacant with a roof ravaged by the elements, the owner of the neighboring building thought 4759 Trumbull was too far gone and planned on purchasing it in order to demolish it and turn it into a parking lot.

In May of 2013, Pereira began construction on a building that was nearly demolished.

Source: Alex Pereira, developer at Secure Realty
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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March development news round-up

March was another busy month for development news in the city. Let's catch up on five stories from the past four weeks.


Writer: MJ Galbraith

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here.

City puts out call to re-develop sprawling Herman Kiefer Health Complex

The City of Detroit is looking to redevelop the old Herman Kiefer Health Complex, having recently issued a Request for Proposals. The former home to the city's health department, the complex now sits vacant. Eight buildings are for sale.

The stately brick buildings are spread out across 17.9 acres of land. Visible from the Lodge expressway, the area for sale is bounded by Taylor to the north, US-10 to the east, Blaine to the south, and Byron to the west. 525,937 square feet of floor space is available.

The building most associated with the Herman Kiefer Health Complex is a neo-classic building that dates back to 1909. It was designed by one of Detroit's most famous architects, Albert Kahn, who also designed such notable buildings as Cadillac Place, the Free Press Building, and the Fisher Building. Kahn designed other buildings available on the site. Another distinguished Detroit architect, George D. Mason, also designed a number of the buildings available.

The complex is a designated historic district. As such, it cannot be changed or demolished before submitting to a public hearing and gaining the approval of the Historic District Commission. The RFP suggests that the complex could be transitioned into a mixed use development or even a high density residential district.

According to the RFP, the surrounding neighborhood falls into the Moderate Vacancy 2 category of the Detroit Future City report. The Moderate Vacancy 2 category is for neighborhoods on the edge of losing their residential character.

Proposals are to be submitted by April 18, 2014. A site walk-through is scheduled for Tuesday, March 25 at 9:30 a.m.

The Detroit Department of Health and Wellness Promotion is now located in Suite 200 at 1600 Lafayette.

Source: Herman Kiefer Health Complex RFP
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Photographer-turned-mechanic opens up shop in Rivertown

There's a new automotive repair shop on Detroit's east riverfront. Chris Lee opened the Straits Garage, located at 217 Joseph Campau St. The garage, in a historic warehouse built in 1880, offers a range of services, from simple oil changes to drivetrain and transmission work.

Though Lee didn't originally plan on locating his garage in Rivertown, he's glad he did. The shop has been busy since opening in late January, revealing an obvious need for the surrounding area. The building's proximity to downtown and a provided shuttle allows commuters to drop off their cars before work and pick them up on the way home.

A photography instructor at Oakland University, Lee has been working on cars since he was a teenager. The idea for a garage hit him about a year or two ago, he says. The Detroit native started to notice that the new residents of downtown and Midtown didn't know where to take their cars in for repairs. Realizing that there just weren't that many options in those immediate neighborhoods, Lee became certified as a mechanic and began the search for his own garage. He was stymied, however, by the landlords in downtown and Midtown.

"I spent the last year trying to find a good space in those neighborhoods," says Lee. "A lot of landlords in Midtown don't want an un-hip mechanic shop. They're looking for bars, cafes."

Lee stumbled on a building in Rivertown that had been a repair shop for decades previous, making for an easy move-in. He was excited, too, by the building's history and character--not to mention it being just blocks from the riverfront. The building offers Lee the ability to expand operations, should he need it.

Source: Chris Lee, owner of the Straits Garage
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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(revolver) co-founder to open new restaurant in Southwest

Goldfinch American, the new restaurant concept from Tunde Wey, will have its first pop-up dinner Monday March 24 at a yet-to-be disclosed location. Wey, who has contributed to Model D in the past, is also the co-owner of the Hamtramck restaurant (revolver).

As he searches for Goldfinch American's permanent home in southwest Detroit, Wey will hold a series of Monday night dinners. Wey says that he has been talking to a number of restaurants in Southwest about hosting his weekly dinner. Goldfinch American will transition from pop-up to permanent once an ideal space for the bar and restaurant is found.

Like (revolver), much of the emphasis of Goldfinch American is placed on the chef. Unlike (revolver), Goldfinch American will feature the work of just one person, James Hayes. Wey says that the new restaurant will be completely chef-driven, giving Hayes the leeway to do whatever he wants with the menu. The two met after Hayes requested to create a course for (revolver).

"I had this faith in his ability and it was validated when I tried his food. It was good," says Wey. "It wasn't just good. It was amazing. He made some bacon dust. He makes bacon and puts it in a coffee grinder, grinds it, and sprinkles it on wedges of apples. Beet gnocchi. Tiny little pieces of--I don't even know how he did it. It melted in my mouth. It was amazing."

While a permanent location has yet to be identified, Wey is certain he wants Goldfinch American to be located in Southwest. He's excited by the juxtaposition of placing a fine dining restaurant in a somewhat rugged neighborhood that is culturally vibrant and diverse.

In the meantime, it will be pop-up city for Wey and Hayes, something that has worked for many a small business owner lately.

Source: Tunde Wey, owner of Goldfinch American
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Five homes to be rehabilitated, sold, and rented in West Village

The Villages Community Development Corporation has purchased five homes to rehabilitate and put back on the market. The five buildings are located on Seyburn and Van Dyke streets in the West Village neighborhood. The CDC expects the homes to be available within six months.

This is the first time the Villages organization has purchased homes to rehabilitate, an idea they've seen work for other CDCs like the Grandmont Rosedale Development Corporation, says Villages executive director Brian Hurttienne. In emulating the success of the GRDC, the group hopes to spur economic development.

Three single-family homes and two duplexes make up the five structures purchased. Once rehabilitated, the single-family homes will be sold. The CDC will retain ownership of the duplexes and rent the units out.

Construction will soon begin and jobs will first be available to qualified area residents. The buildings, vacant for anywhere between one to eight years, remain in good shape. Hurttienne credits the quality of home construction in the Villages as a key component of the area's stability.

"I'm going to reach out to the neighbors of these properties so they know what's going on with each individual property," says Hurttienne. "We want to make sure the Villages is a stable community."

Though slowed down by the city's bankruptcy uncertainties, a process that began in 2012 was completed in December 2013, ensured by cooperation among community stakeholders and federal and city departments. The Villages identified a number of homes for potential rehabilitation, the Detroit Land Bank Authority purchased and cleared the titles of the homes, and then the Villages bought the buildings from the land bank.

Neighboring residents experienced in the construction trades should contact the Detroit Employment Solutions Corporation for potential employment.

Source: Brian Hurttienne, executive director of the Villages CDC
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Small business contest begins in West Village

Budding entrepreneurs in search of a storefront are invited to submit their business proposals for a contest that began Monday, March 3. Called Activate: 1417 Van Dyke, the contest is a collaboration between Practice Space, Revolve Detroit, the Villages Community Development Corporation, and the building's owner, Alex Howbert, a contractor and co-owner of the Detroit Institute of Bagels. Submissions are being accepted through March 21.

The building itself is in the West Village neighborhood, a Victorian-style house built in 1895. With a storefront on the first floor and two apartment units above, the commercial space boasts approximately 900 square feet with an additional 220 square feet of deck space in the back yard. Though currently vacant, the storefront served as a market for the majority of its history.

Howbert, who purchased the property last year, joined the Practice Space Incubator program with hopes of finding a suitable tenant for the storefront. Rather than pursue any traditional means of finding tenants, a contest was devised to raise awareness of the property and broaden the pool of applicants. Except for those requiring a commercial kitchen, all other types of businesses are encouraged to apply.

"I'm open to anything," says Howbert. "We all have ideas of what would be cool but I know someone else does too. I don't want the space to be pigeonholed and then miss out on an idea."

Howbert is searching for a permanent business for the commercial space and is reserving the apartments for the winner of the contest, should they want a live/work situation. Rent is negotiable and will depend on how much work will be required to outfit the space for the winning business. Two open houses are planned to view the space, March 9 and 10.

Finalists for 1417 Van Dyke will be announced April 11.

Source: Alex Howbert, 1417 Van Dyke owner
Writer: MJ Galbraith

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here.
413 Redevelopment Articles | Page: | Show All
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