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Five years in the making, the Elizabeth Theatre takes a bow

When Jerry Belanger opened the Park Bar in December 2006, he didn’t even want to open a bar. As a theatre major and a passionate supporter of the performing arts, Belanger really wanted to open a theatre and performing arts space.
 
"It’s really why I bought the building," he says. "This is the fulfillment of a long-term dream."
 
The bar had to come before the theatre out of financial necessity. "I had to do everything that was income-oriented first, and a theatre isn’t income-oriented. It’s all expense-oriented."
 
Over the last six years, the Elizabeth Theatre, located upstairs from the Park Bar and Bucharest Grill, has been a slow work in progress.
 
"We started the renovation up there five years ago and slowly did concerts and shows," Belanger says. Since then they’ve built a stage as well as a full bar in the space, getting it in "good enough shape" to open. "It went from a really raw space (to a fully finished theatre)."
 
In addition to the bar and stage, they’ve now got theatre seat risers that seat 80, professional lighting, a sound booth, a lighting booth, and have just completed all of the major finishing touches to make the Elizabeth Theatre complete, though the labor of love isn’t quite yet complete. "Over the next year we will be doing a lot of detail work."
 
The Park Bar was also closed for a few days last week for some minor renovations of its own, which included refinishing the floor and reupholstering the furniture.
 
The Elizabeth Theatre is open every Friday and Saturday and hosts a variety of events, from concerts to stand-up comedy to film screenings. "We reserve the space for local performing arts. We don’t book anything that tours. These are all Detroit-centric performing events."
 
Last year, the inaugural Detroit Shakespeare Festival debuted at the Elizabeth, and this year they’re bringing it back starting March 14 and running through the end of April with Measure for Measure.
 
Source: Jerry Belanger, owner of the Park Bar and Elizabeth Theatre
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

Got a Development News story to share? Email Nicole here.

Grand River Station Castle Lofts will be mixed use commercial and residential space

The Grand River Station in Woodbriidge, built in 1901 and formerly used as a police station, boys' home and bomb squad headquarters at different points in time, will now be the home of the Castle Lofts, a new mixed-use commercial and residential property operated by the Detroit Legacy Group.
 
According to Brittany Washington, co-founder of the Detroit Legacy Group, renovations have more or less ongoing for the past 20 years. They are now putting on the finishing touches and readying the property for future residents.
 
The first floor will be dedicated to commercial space for small "virtual" corporations and start-up companies. The companies will share common areas including a conference area, office center (with copy and fax machines), restrooms, a common entrance, and a reception area that services them all.
 
The remaining floors will be the Castle Lofts, which range from one to four bedrooms and can be one, two, or three levels (multi-level units feature spiral staircases).
 
"There are 15 units and all are different models with no set floorplan," says Washington. Units feature a variety of features including Jacuzzi tubs (in some), hardwood floors, exposed brick walls, stainless steel GE appliances, recessed lighting, and a heated parking garage (for an additional cost).
 
Renovations on the rental units are almost complete and tours to prospective renters start this week. They hope to start moving people in by mid-March.
 
The Detroit Legacy Group, a youth-oriented development group, took control of the property in January and hope to use this property to serve their mission to "provide luxury housing, entertainment (options), and business (opportunities) in the heart of the Creative Corridor" in the Midtown and Woodbridge neighborhoods.
 
Source: Brittany Washington, Co-Founder of Detroit Legacy Group
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

Got a Development News story to share? Email Nicole here.

Avalon's new production bakery set to open, will relocate flagship location this summer

The Avalon International Breads long-awaited expansion -- which has been in the works at various stages since 2008 -- is finally coming to fruition.
 
The nearly 50,000-square-foot Avalon City Ovens production bake house located in an old warehouse at 4731 Bellevue on Detroit’s East Side is celebrating its grand opening this Friday, Feb. 22 with an opening party with food, music, and tours of the facility. This event is free and open to the public.
 
This production facility will enable the popular bakery to expand its wholesale business so it can offer more products to more markets. In particular, Avalon owners will be expanding their offerings at Plum Market, which itself is expanding into Chicago, as well as at the national retailer Whole Foods, which is (as you may have heard) expanding into Midtown.
 
The expansion efforts go beyond the new wholesale production facility. Avalon International Breads will be vacating its longtime location at 422 West Willis and will open a much larger retail store with its own full bakery in-house at 441 West Canfield in Midtown. The new retail location will have 45 seats (compared to the current location's 15) and will feature an expanded list of menu offerings (including homemade soups) with extended hours and, eventually, a drive-through.
 
"Hopefully, we’ll be known as the place for breakfast in Midtown," says Ann Perrault, co-owner of Avalon. She also acknowledges the current location’s reputation as the number one place in Midtown to get a parking ticket and the overall difficulty of finding a parking space nearby, and of finding a place to sit inside once you finally park. "We’re hoping all of that will be easier (at the new location)."
 
This will enable them to also expand menu offerings at the café inside of the Henry Ford Hospital.
 
The bake house will be fully operational in March and they hope to be fully moved into the new Canfield retail location by the end of summer.
 
Source: Ann Perrault, co-owner of Avalon International Breads
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

Got a Development News story to share? Email Nicole here.

Historic steel water tower finds new home at the El Moore thanks to Green Garage

Did you happen to see that massive steel water tower tooling down Cass Avenue with police escorts last Thursday?
 
The water tower came from the top of the Dalgleish Cadillac building (built in 1927), which is part of a $93 million construction project for Wayne State University, the largest single investment in a project in WSU’s history (the building is part of a 200,000-square-foot biomedical research center).
 
Plans for the research center did not include the water tower, though several groups had interest and made serious efforts at trying to save it. "There are groups that want to think outside the box and think more sustainably about moving forward," says Green Garage representative Jason Peet. "Projects like this show that that can be done even with an institution as large as (WSU)."
 
Interested groups included U-Haul International (who are currently renovating the Nabisco building in New Center), Midtown Detroit Inc., and Wayne State University. Initially the desire was to keep this iconic piece of the neighborhood in Tech Town, but as all other attempts fell through, Midtown’s Green Garage was contacted in the last three weeks as a last shot for the old tower.
 
They had to partially disassemble the 25,000-pound solid steel structure to take it down and move it to the site of the El Moore, a four-story apartment building in Midtown constructed in 1898 and owned by Tom and Peggy Brennan of the Green Garage. Though they do plan on renovating the building, which will be a sort of "residential version of the Green Garage" where "sustainability will be highly important," formal plans and an official timeline are not yet known.
 
The old water tower now anchors a corner that was formerly an empty field and will be an architectural part of a planned greenspace that ties in with the Green Garage’s efforts of repurposing materials that would otherwise end up in a landfill and preserving pieces of the neighborhood and the history behind them.
 
Source: Jason Peet, Green Garage Detroit
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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David Whitney Building secures final $8.5 million in funding, will begin construction immediately

A recent $8.5 million investment by the State of Michigan in the David Whitney Building has made headlines recently. This money finally enables the Whitney Partners, LLC to move forward with construction.
 
The Whitney Partners are the Roxbury Group, the Detroit-based real estate development and consulting firm that is heading up this renovation project and most recently completed the Auburn, a new construction project in Midtown, and Troy-based investment firm Trans Inn Management Inc.
 
"The $8.5 million is coming as a loan being lent to us through the Michigan Community Revitalization Program," says David Di Rita, owner of the Roxbury Group. "It is enormously important. It closed the remaining funding gap between all of the other credits and incentives."
 
So far the project has received $9.8 million in a state brownfield redevelopment tax credit and $12.4 million in state historic tax credits. "We still had about $8.5 million to bring to the deal to get financing closed and that’s what this will do. It was the final piece."
 
At press time the Whitney Partners were working to close on overall financing for the project. Construction will start immediately once the funding is in place.
 
"We won’t be announcing when we close the financing deal," Di Rita says. "We will just start construction and that’s how people will know."

So keep an eye out for those construction cranes.
 
The David Whitney Building has sat empty since 2000. The Roxbury Group bought the building in 2011 for $3.3 million. The renovation will create 105 residential apartments, a 136-room Aloft Hotel (a Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide property), a new and improved People Mover station, and ground floor retail.
 
"We’re very proud of the fact of being able to (secure funding) within 24 months of getting the building," says Di Rita.
 
They are targeting early 2014 for full completion of the project, which is expected to cost $82.5 million and create 75 jobs.
 
Source: David Di Rita, Owner, The Roxbury Group
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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Village Park Apartments in West Village receive $6 million renovation

West Village continues its development winning streak with the renovation of the Village Park Apartments at Van Dyke and Agnes.
 
MHT Housing, one of the largest nonprofit affordable housing companies in the State of Michigan, recently renovated the vintage 1927 building.
 
The $6 million renovation took approximately one full year to complete. In that time every single unit was renovated, working with pre-existing residents to ensure no one was displaced, and preserving the affordable component while also increasing the market rate.
 
Village Park was previously a state-owned asset in foreclosure. There are 56 one- and two-bedroom family units in two adjoining buildings that haven’t seen a substantial renovation in 35 years. The rental units are mixed income, offering both Section 8 and market rate housing.
 
MHT Housing received state and federal historic tax credits to renovate both buildings and update them from their outdated facilities.
 
"We provided the latest technology in heating and cooling with a lot of green components for utilities and appliances," says MHT Housing President T. Van Fox. Work was also done on the roof, windows, and elevators, and MHT also introduced a new high-security lock-and-key system. They also received brownfield tax credits for some environmental remediation of old fuel tanks.
 
"Today, this is a state-of-the-art facility with a preservation of the historical and a new component of modern living," Fox says.
 
The buildings are now at full occupancy.
 
Source: T. Van Fox, President of MHT Housing
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

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Dept of Alternatives headlines latest downtown renovation

When the Department of Alternatives holds its first open house on Thursday it won't just be showing off downtown Detroit's newest co-working space, but the latest renovation at a big building in the Motor City's Central Business District.

The Department of Alternatives is occupying the second floor of 1514 Washington Blvd., at the corner of Clifford in the shadow of the David Whitney Building. The founders behind LOVELAND Technologies, The Detroit Bus Co, Dandelion Detroit and Evidence-Based Literacy Instruction (four up-and-coming companies) came together to form the core of the Department of Alternatives by moving their headquarters to 1514 Washington. The idea was to form a cluster of entrepreneurs tackling social change and civic innovation.

"There is power in bringing people within a close proximity to each other," says Jordan Wolfe, a partner with Evidence-Based Literacy Instruction and one of the founding members of the Department of Alternatives. "We saw the need for people to come together and work on civic and social issues."

Those four founding companies are now occupying about 3,500 square feet of the 10,000 square feet available at the Department of Alternatives. They hope to attract some more similar-minded companies and organizations (they are looking for established firms and nonprofits as opposed to brand-new startups) at the open house on Thursday. The companies occupying the co-working space will collectively help pay for the overhead, however, Wolfe says the formula for paying for those costs is still being refined. Wolfe expects the cluster of innovating, socially aware organizations and the events it holds will emerge as a strong voice in the public conversation about Detroit's future.

"A big piece of what we're going to roll out over time is to create conversations about important issues," Wolfe says.

The 7-story structure, also known as the Claridge House Apartments, was in the news last year as a potential acquisition target for Quicken Loans Chaiman Dan Gilbert's downtown buying spree. Wolfe says he and some partners have acquired the building and that it is not part of Gilbert's property portfolio.

Wolfe and his partners are also working on renovating the entire structure. Work is being done on the 45 apartments in the third floor and above. Wolfe describes the layout of those apartments as some of the best he has seen downtown.

The building also has four ground-floor retail spaces that are in the process of filling up. Two existing business (a book importer and a hair salon) will remain. A new fitness studio, Come Play Detroit, is also opening in one of the spaces. Wolfe and his partners are also eyeing another new business, like a dry cleaner, for the last space. They expect the mixed-use nature of the building and its proximity to things like the newly renovated Broderick Tower and M@dison Building will make it an attractive place for years to come.

"It's kind of perfectly located between the Whitney, Broderick and Capitol Park so it will be easy to create walkability," Wolfe says.

The Department of Alternatives open house will be held 7-10 p.m. Thursday at 1514 Washington, Suite 200. For information, click here.

Source: Jordan Wolfe, founding member of Department of Alternatives
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Charlotte Apartments to be rehabbed for veteran housing

Midtown’s latest housing development project is not targeted at Wayne State students or young urban pioneers. Detroit Central City Community Mental Health, Inc. (DCC) will be renovating the vacant Charlotte Apartments at 644 Charlotte in Midtown, which will serve as housing for veterans, homeless, and people with disabilities.
 
DCC is a nonprofit agency that has been in Midtown for over 40 years providing outpatient psychiatric services and more to the homeless, special needs, and mentally ill.

"Really we’re in the old Cass Corridor where a lot of people are still homeless," says Henrietta Warren, Vice President of DCC. "Over the years we have been increasing our housing abilities. Because of the large number of consumers we see who are also vets, we really have an interest in providing safe and affordable housing for them." Warren says that of the 4,000 people DCC serves annually, approximately 40 percent are homeless.

The $6.1 million project will create 27 one-bedroom units in the historic Charlotte Apartments. The building itself was built in 1920, but has sat vacant for at least the last 10 years. The project is being funded by City of Detroit HOME Funds, MSHDA low-income housing tax credits, and Brownfield Tax Credits, plus $300,000 from the Home Depot Foundation, which earmarks a portion of the foundation’s annual gift money specifically for vet housing. Joe Early of Early Construction, who originally purchased the building from Wayne County, is a partner in the development.

The complex will have a community room, computer lab, library, meeting rooms, and a common laundry room. The units will serve veterans, homeless, and those with "severe and persistent mental illness," which will enable DCC "to provide easy access to mental health services as well as affordable housing." Veterans will be given the first opportunity to obtain housing.

Construction is slated to begin in May and will take about a year to complete. 

Source: Henrietta Warren, Vice President of Detroit Central City Community Mental Health, Inc.
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

Have a Development News story to share? Send Nicole an email here.

Maccabees at Midtown opens quietly in Midtown, gains buzz fast

There aren’t many new restaurants in the Midtown/Corktown/Downtown neighborhoods that open nowadays without a whole lot of fanfare, often months in advance starting from the day the concept is announced. But Maccabees at Midtown, which officially opened on Dec. 30, opened like a phantom; without any major announcements or media coverage it sprang forth into existence and started serving what the locals already seem to agree is some pretty phenomenal food.
 
Maccabees owner Petar Berishaj is not new to the restaurant game, or to Detroit. He owns the local franchise Gateway Deli, which operates dine-in and catering locations at 333 W. Fort St., another at Ford Field, and two more in Southfield and Troy.
 
"Bottom line is, I love Detroit," says Berishaj, "since I was a little kid working at Lafayette Coney Island when I was 15 years old. I want to be part of the renovation."
 
Maccabees was going to be another Gateway outpost, but Berishaj saw a much larger potential with this particular spot and the liquor license that was available.
 
Located inside of what was formerly known as the Maccabees Building, which the restaurant’s name honors, Berishaj particularly liked the location for its close proximity to all of the cultural institutions and hospitals in Midtown (and all of the hungry workers at both), as well as the building itself, which has built-in clientele with Wayne State University’s administrative offices.
 
Berishaj says the design of the space, which sat empty for some time and was only a vacant shell when construction started, echoes the colors and theme of the Maccabees Building, replicating everything down to the chandeliers (which were designed and fabricated by Speedcult).
 
Maccabees now has its liquor license and is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch. They serve "new American cuisine," including some deli favorites.
 
Source: Petar Berishaj, owner of Maccabees at Midtown
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

Have a Development News story to share? Send Nicole an email here.

U-Haul installs new sign, lighting in its New Center home

Perhaps you have seen the new sign atop the building U-Haul is renovating into its latest full-service location? Or a few of the upper floors lit up at night showing off doors painted in bright orange while driving by on the Lodge Freeway? If so you have seen the most recent progress of one of the greater downtown Detroit area's largest redevelopment projects.

The moving company bought the former Nabisco Building in New Center (899 W Baltimore St.) last summer and has been slowly but surely rehabbing the 250,000-square-foot structure into its first full-service center in Detroit. The new location, set to open this spring, will feature everything from truck and trailer rentals to storage space.

"One year from now we will have a gorgeous truck, trailer and storage business going there," says Stuart Shoen, executive vice president of U-Haul. "I am just very optimistic for the area."

For now, Detroiters are going to have to settle for the encouraging new visual cues on the building's crown and updates from the company's blog about the work. Workers (three U-Haul employees and about 20 construction workers) are currently focusing on finishing the renovation of the showroom and getting the basics of the rest of the building to come on.

"It's finally starting to look like a retail space," Shoen says. "The building needed a lot of fundamental improvement. It took us longer to get the water and the electricity on than we thought. The windows weren't level in the showroom. This building needed a lot of work in every facet."

National Biscuit Co (or Nabisco today) built the structure in the 1920s as a bakery. It has been vacant for several years before U-Haul purchased it to service Detroit's growing population.

"In a few years, we will be contemplating building more," Shoen says. "That's our hope and expectation."

Source: Stuart Shoen, executive vice president of U-Haul
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

M-1 Rail is going to happen this summer, bet on it

The journey of bringing a streetcar line back to Woodward Avenue in Detroit bears more resemblance to a roller coaster than a tram in recent years. But feel free to breathe a sigh of relief, Detroit. The train is about to pull into the station. Bet on it.

Friday's press conference announcing the final piece of funding needed for the M-1 Rail project, connecting Jefferson Avenue to Grand Boulevard, offered a lot of optimism and back slapping.

The U.S. Secretary of Transportation is giving $25 million in federal funds for the M-1 Rail and another $6 million to get the newly created regional transit authority off the ground. However, a few other key people in the audience of Friday's press conference were equally confident about the project.

M-1 Rail calls for creating a 3.4-mile-long streetcar line mostly along the outer lanes of Woodward Avenue. It will have 11 stops: at Congress Street, the northern tip of Campus Martius, the southern tip of Grand Circus Park, the Fox Theatre, Sibley Street, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Canfield Street, Warren Avenue, Ferry Street, the Amtrak train station in New Center and Grand Boulevard. More than $100 million for the project has been raised from private, philanthropic and government sources.

Matt Cullen, CEO of M-1 Rail, says the creation of the regional transit authority was the last major hurdle for giving the green light to the project. He expects the final engineering work and construction bidding to be done in the first half of this year. Construction will begin late this summer and take two years to complete.

Megan Owens, executive director of the transit-advocate non-profit Transportation Riders United, echoes Cullen's words and optimism. She adds that drills for the project will go into the ground before shovels. "They're going to start boring to find out of there is anything in the way in the ground," Owens says.

She adds that the $25 million is the last foreseeable major hurdle for the project. M-1 Rail has funding for both construction and operation for the next several years. It won't be impacted by the regional transit authority's efforts to establish a funding source. That means that even though M-1 Rail and the regional transit authority were joined at the hip to land the federal funding, they will independently establish themselves in the next few years. The plan is to bring the two back together when they become established.

"The hope is in 7-10 years the RTA (regional transit authority) will take over," Owens says.

Source: Matt Cullen, CEO of M-1 Rail and Megan Owens, executive director of Transportation Riders United
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Downtown Hamtramck makes National Register of Historic Places

Downtown Hamtramck is now a part of the National Register of Historic Places, a designation that should help the commercial district leverage more redevelopment dollars and maintain its classic character.

The historic district runs the length of Jos Campau Street between the GM Poletown plant to the south and close to Carpenter Street on the north end. "The historic district is a couple of streets short of that," says Jason Friedmann, director of community and economic development for the city of Hamtramck. "This is the area with the oldest buildings with the most character are located."

The Jos Campau Historic District encompasses about 200 buildings that are about 100 years old. Most of the them were constructed after the old Dodge Main Plant was built in the early 1900s. It joins the historic district around St. Florian Catholic Church near the intersection of Jos Campau and Holbrook streets.

The Jos Campau Historic District is only a national historic district. That designation allows it to leverage national historic tax credits for redevelopment but doesn't come with the strict restrictions and oversights commonplace in local historic districts.

Source: Jason Friedmann, director of community and economic development for the city of Hamtramck
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Broder and Sachse Real Estate Services get into the Detroit real estate game

Detroit has a new player in the real estate services investment game, and its name is Broder & Sachse Real Estate Services, Inc.
 
The full-service commercial, residential and industrial services company announced last week that they completed the purchase of 440 East Congress, an 80,000-square-foot office building and parking structure in the central business district.
 
The 90-year-old five-story building currently has seven tenants, which include the law firm Keller Thoma and Neighborhood Legal Services Michigan. The current tenants will all remain and Friedman Integrated Real Estate Solutions will be leasing space, leaving an additional 15,000-square-feet of space available to lease in any configuration.
 
This is not the Birmingham-based company’s first foray into investment in the City of Detroit. They also own an apartment building in Midtown at the corner of Third and Canfield, known unofficially as "Nine on Third." Richard Broder, CEO of Broder & Sachse, says they are keeping the property fully rented and are "very happy with that investment," with further plans to pursue additional investment opportunities in downtown and Midtown.
 
"We’re in the office building business," says Broder. "It’s not unnatural for us to extend our investment in the category. Many different places including our friends at Bedrock and Quicken are encouraging people to stick their toes in the water."
 
The building on Congress was last renovated in the 1980s. Contractor firm (and Broder affiliate) Sachse Construction, along with Neumann/Smith Architecture, will oversee renovation work on the exterior of the building and in the garage, lobby, bathrooms, and other common areas.
 
Sachse Construction has also been integral part of the Rock Ventures redevelopments, though the two companies are not affiliated.
 
Source: Richard Broder, CEO of Broder & Sachse Real Estate Services, Inc.
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

Have a Development News story to share? Email nicole@modeldmedia.com.

New three-story glass atrium at Cobo Center debuts at the Auto Show

The new Corvette Stingray isn’t the only thing that will be making its public debut at the 2013 North American International Auto Show.
 
The Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority is busy at work on a $300 million renovation project at Cobo Center. The extensive plans include a three-story atrium with a skylight and an 80-foot glass wall on the structure's southern exposure overlooking the Detroit River.
 
"What was formerly a confined dark space is now flooded with bright light," says Patrick Bero, CEO of the Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority. Cobo Center first opened in 1960, long before the Riverwalk was built, and was originally designed with no direct link to the River itself. "There was no direct link to the region’s most vital asset. The biggest function of the atrium is that it is our connection to the river."
 
The atrium offers 16,000-square-feet of space that will accommodate 600 people for dinner, 1,000 people in theatre-style seating, or 1,200 standing. The space is intended for high-profile VIP events and other special occasions. The glamor of this new event space is enhanced by 30,000 square feet of porcelain tile from Italy, 315 tons of marble from Portugal, and 19,000 square feet of glass from Michigan-based Guardian Industries. "The biggest thing is the striking view the atrium gives us of the Detroit River," says Bero. "It also gives us another point of entry into the facility." The atrium can be accessed from the Riverwalk by crossing Atwater St.
 
The atrium will temporarily open for the Auto Show, which opens to the public on Jan. 19. It will then close again in order to complete construction.
 
In addition to the atrium, the former Cobo Arena is being renovated into a grand ballroom and several meeting rooms. The grand ballroom will feature 40,000 square feet of space with 40-foot ceilings, dinner seating for up to 2,500, two industrial lift elevators in the floor (for auto "reveals"), and an outdoor plaza extending around the perimeter. Upgraded garages on Congress St. and Washington with additional parking spaces, a new all-natural concessions venue on the main concourse, an expanded kitchen with private tasting room, and a new food court round out the extensive list of renovations.
 
The full renovation is expected to be completed in June. 
 
Source: Patrick Bero, CEO of the Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

Have a Development News story to share? Email nicole@modeldmedia.com.

Shelborne begins transformation of New Center apt district

Shelborne Development is in the midst of rehabbing two significant historic apartment buildings in New Center and is set to transform the block of Seward Street between Woodward and Second avenues with renovations.

The renovations promise to turn some of the biggest, blighted structures in New Center into vibrant buildings filled with new residents. When it's all said and done, the rehabs will bring well in excess of 100 new rental units to the northern tip of the greater downtown area.

"I have always loved that block of Seward," says Kathy Makino-Leipsitz, co-owner of Shelborne Development. "It is one of the prettiest blocks of multi-units in the city. Hopefully, we will be able to turn that block into what it used to be."

The Indian Village-based development firm is the driving force behind the renovation spree taking place in Palmer Park. Its rehabs have expertly leveraged tax credits and other incentives to turn the Art Deco beauties into high-quality rentals that include energy-efficient systems and appliances, insulation, stainless-steel appliances and granite countertops, among other amenities. These rehabs go the extra mile to preserve the historical character of the buildings, which are often chosen in large part because of the architectural beauty.

Makino-Leipsitz plans to do the same thing with at least half a dozen of the apartment buildings in New Center, most of which are vacant and have fallen into disrepair. The first two, which are currently under renovation, are 112 Seward and 628 Delaware.

The apartment building at 112 Seward is called the Birchmont Apartments. It stands as a 3.5-story building with a blond-brick facade and is just east of the 120 Seward condo building. It will house 31 units that include 1-, 2-, and 3-bedroom apartments. 628 Delaware is a tudor-style structure that stands four stories overlooking New Center Commons Park just west of Second Avenue.

"That Delaware apartment building is a beautiful building," Makino-Leipsitz says. "It will be 18 units when we're done."

Both buildings, each about 100 years old, are set to come online in August and fully occupied by the end of the year. They will bring 49 units of workforce housing to the rental market. The buildings previously housed 54 units. The developers redesigned the units to offer bigger spaces with more rooms.

Shelborne Development also owns 59, 69, 90, 93, and 100 Seward, which are all high-density apartment buildings on the first block of Seward west of Woodward. The firm has already renovated 93 Seward and plans to renovate 90 and 100 Seward as market-rate rentals next. It recently acquired 59 and 69 Seward, which have long been problem buildings with out-of-town ownership, and plans to renovate those, too, within the next few years.

Source: Kathy Makino-Leipsitz, co-owner of Shelborne Development
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.
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