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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

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

15 homes for sale in Grandmont Rosedale to be featured in tour

Prospective home buyers who want another option beyond the city's new auction website can look forward to the Grandmont Rosedale Neighborhood Open House. Up to 15 houses will be for sale and open for viewing during the event taking place on Sunday, May 4, from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. 

Visitors to the event will have the option of taking a tour of the neighborhood by foot, bicycle, or bus. Guests are encouraged to register at the North Rosedale Park Community House, 18445 Scarsdale, before touring the neighborhood. From there, visitors can go from home to home on their own or join a short bus tour narrated by their potential future neighbors.

A bike tour is also available. Wheelhouse Detroit will be leading a group of cyclists from downtown to the neighborhood. A group of Grandmont Rosedale residents will then lead guests on a tour of the area.

The 15 houses that will be featured vary in style, size, and price. Each home is eligible for $7,500 in down payment assistance from First Merit Bank. A number of the homes have been rehabilitated by the Grandmont Rosedale Development Corporation through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program. These GRDC houses are eligible for another $10,000 through the Detroit Development Fund, a total of $17,500 in incentives. New buyers may also qualify for a 15-year tax abatement.

The Detroit Future City plan has identified Grandmont Rosedale as a neighborhood ideal for stabilization and investment. Over a million dollars have been invested in the neighborhood these past few years from groups that include foundations, the Detroit Land Bank Authority, and the city of Detroit.

The Public Lighting Authority has chosen Grandmont Rosedale as a site for demonstrating its public lighting improvements.

Source: Grandmont Rosedale Neighborhood Open House press release
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

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

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

Local design and architecture firms collaborate on a new vision for Palmer Park

An impressive list of Detroit-area architecture and design firms have come together to help shape Palmer Park's future. Led by Gibbs Planning Group and sponsored by the Michigan chapters of the American Society of Landscape Architects and the Congress for the New Urbanism, seven teams made up of 11 firms recently presented various plans for the historic park to the People for Palmer Park, an advocacy group. A consensus master plan will be created from this work and presented to the city by Memorial Day.

Participating firms included LivingLAB Detroit, McIntosh-Poris Architects, ASTI Environmental, dPOP!, Archive DS, department 01, Conservation Design Forum, Ken Weikal Landscape Architecture, Mark Johnson Architects, Hamilton-Anderson Associates, Downtown Solutions, Inc., Campbell Architeture and Planning, and Gibbs Planning Group.

The plans address a wide range of issues facing the park, from stormwater management to transit and parking questions.

Other plans focus on the park's design elements. Dave Mangum, urban planning associate for Gibbs Planning, says the park has been disconnected from itself and the community it serves. He singled out a high fence running along Woodward Ave. that limits access to the park.

People for Palmer Park is engaging community members to identify what they like and dislike about each of the seven presentations. Gibbs Planning will then work with them and the other firms to form a consensus master plan. Though not binding, the parties involved hope that the city will use the master plan when considering changes to the park. It also provides the People for Palmer Park with an effective fundraising tool for their own advocacy efforts.

"There hasn't been a cohesive vision for Palmer Park in quite a while," says Mangum.

Palmer Park is a 300-acre park designed by the 'father of landscape architecture,' Frederick Law Olmsted, the man who designed such famous parks as Detroit's Belle Isle and New York's Central Park.

Source: Dave Mangum, urban planning associate for Gibbs Planning Group
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Man fights to bring his one-of-a-kind horseless horse carriage to Detroit streets

Dave Ducharme is committed to bringing his horseless horse carriages to the city of Detroit. He's nearly there, too, with the first two of his three 'old world'-style carriages approved to begin providing tours downtown as Andre's Carriage Tours. He hopes a third carriage will be approved by the Department of Natural Resources to tour Belle Isle State Park.

After dreaming up the idea for a horseless horse carriage, Ducharme partnered with Quality Time Recreation in Kimball, Michigan to make it a reality. The carriages utilize electric golf cart motors as a means of propulsion. Every driver will either wear white tuxedos with high hats and canes or French Renaissance costume attire, complete with puffy shirts and hats with ostrich feathers.

Ducharme came up with the idea for a horseless horse carriage -- the only of its kind, he says -- over three years ago. Since then, he's been pursuing officials in city and state government to allow him to make it happen. Originally hoping to provide tours along the RiverWalk, Ducharme was told the carriages were too wide and would get in the way of pedestrians. He then shifted his focus downtown, where he was eventually given permission to operate.

"I'm back. I'm licensed. I'm approved," says Ducharme. "Let's entertain people and show off those jewels downtown."

Andre's Carriage Tours are currently based out of the Miller Parking structure across from the Renaissance Center. Though not yet operating on a regular basis, Andre's Carriage Tours will begin as soon as the weather warms up. Once you don't need a blanket covering you during the ride, he says, the tours will be running from sun up to sun down.

Ducharme plans on offering sports-, theater-, and architecture-themed tours with an emphasis on the city's history.

Source: Dave Ducharme, proprietor of Andre's Carriage Tours
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

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

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

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

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

Detroit Yacht Club offers tours of its historic clubhouse

As Belle Isle transitions from city park to state park, people afraid of changing traditions can rest easy on one front as the Detroit Yacht Club keeps humming along. In fact, the Detroit Yacht Club Foundation has recently announced its 2014 schedule for guided tours of the historic clubhouse.

The first tour of the year is coming up, occurring April 1 at 6:30 p.m. Tours scheduled for the rest of the year will take place on May 6, June 3, July 1, Sept. 3, and Oct. 7. The tours are free and open to the public. History and architecture groups may schedule private tours as well.

The focus of the tour is the clubhouse, one of the largest yacht clubhouses in the country at 93,000 square feet. Built in 1922, the clubhouse was designed by George D. Mason, one of the city's most notable architects. Mason is responsible for many of Detroit's famous buildings, including the Masonic Temple and Gem Theater. He's also responsible for the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.

The building falls into the Mediterranean Revival category and features a one-of-a-kind Pewabic Pottery fountain. Other highlights of the tour include the clubhouse's famous fireplace, ballroom, and grand stairways. The clubhouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The yacht club itself predates the building, having been founded in 1868. A Belle Isle institution, the Detroit Yacht Club is a private club that offers a harbor with 380 slips spread across seven docks. Food and dining is a focus for the club and it hosts weddings and events too.

The Detroit Yacht Club Foundation asks that those interested in taking a tour of the historic facilities contact the group no later than two days before the tour date.

Source: Detroit Yacht Club Foundation press release
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

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

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

Architecture firm Hamilton Anderson celebrates 20 years with new developments, hires

Detroit-based architecture firm Hamilton Anderson is ramping up for a busy year with seven new hires and a search for several more. The firm, which is celebrating its 20th year, has an immediate need for two architects, a designer, and one or two project managers. The firm is involved in a number of projects that will alter the landscape of downtown, the riverfront, and Midtown. A recent conversation with principal, president, co-founder, and CEO Rainy Hamilton reveals updates on some of their more high profile projects.

The firm is working on Orleans Landing, the five block development along the east riverfront. Hamilton Anderson is applying more industrial design influences to the previously released illustrations. Townhomes are planned for the blocks facing the Dequindre Cut. The rest of the development will consist of mid-rise lofts featuring mixed-use and residential units.

Hamilton and co-founder Kent Anderson spent the early part of their careers in an office in Rivertown, making their involvement in the Orleans Landing development extra special to them. "For us to be involved in the first new development in the east riverfront, it's really quite an honor and a thrill," says Hamilton.

Hamilton Anderson has been selected by New York-based SHoP Architects as the local architects to collaborate with on the Hudson's site building. Hamilton says a concept has been presented to Bedrock Real Estate Services and was well-received.

The firm is the design architect and architect of record for the adaptive re-use of the old Strathmore Hotel in Midtown. Hamilton says that an original light well is going to be preserved and that developers are hoping that a new parking structure will be built nearby.

It's looking like Radio One, a national broadcasting company, will move into the Queen Lillian Woodward Office Building at Stimson and Woodward Ave. once completed, says Hamilton.

Source: Rainy Hamilton, president, co-founder, and CEO of Hamilton Anderson
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

State money clears the way for Detroit apartment developments

Two Detroit developments have been named recipients of nearly $5 million in state-awarded money. The Ashley and Strathmore apartment buildings have received approval from the Michigan Strategic Fund for Michigan Community Revitalization Program Incentives. According to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the residential developments are expected to create tens of millions of dollars in total capital investment and nearly 30 full-time jobs.

Ashley Owner, LLC is transforming the old Milner Hotel into an apartment building. The flatiron-shaped building is located at 1526 Centre St. in downtown Detroit. Built in 1913 as the Henry Clay Hotel, the currently vacant hotel rooms will be turned into apartments for the first time.

Princeton Domino Investments, LLC and Lamont Street Partners make up Ashley Owner, LLC. The new owners plan 61 apartment units, 5,200 square feet of office space, and two storefronts. The renovation is receiving a Michigan Community Revitalization Program performance-based grant of $1 million and a state school tax capture valued at $482,075 from the City of Detroit Brownfield Redevelopment Authority.

The Ashley renovation is expected to create 25 full-time jobs and $8.2 million in total capital investment.

Another historic hotel, the Strathmore in Midtown, is also experiencing a transformation into apartments. The building at 70 W. Alexandrine is being developed by St. Louis-based McCormack Baron Salazar and designed by Detroit architects Hamilton Anderson. The developers expect construction to begin this spring.

The long-vacant, long-blighted building will be historically renovated to feature 129 apartments and 2,000 square feet of first-floor retail. Strathmore Apartments Limited Dividend Housing Association, LLC is receiving $3.5 million in a performance-based equity contribution from the Michigan Community Revitalization Program.

The Strathmore renovation is expected to created three jobs and $28.4 million in total capital investment.

Source: Michigan Economic Development Corporation press release
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

Practice Space works to develop two new businesses

Detroit small business hub Practice Space has accepted two new projects into its Incubator program. One, a retro arcade bar, is searching for the perfect location while the second, a West Village property owner, is searching for the perfect tenant. Practice Space is helping each find what they're looking for.

Practice Space is assisting Donald Behm in opening Offworld Arcade, a retro-themed video game bar. In the four month-long Incubator program, the people at Practice Space are helping Behm articulate his concept and craft his business plan. They're also helping him find a building to purchase. A successful pop-up "barcade" was recently held in Hamtramck.

"One thing we've noticed is we want to work with people who want to collaborate," says Austin Kronig, cultural development director for Practice Space. "Donald realized he did everything he could on his own and now he needs support. He's an accidental entrepreneur. He doesn't have a business plan or a space but he knows the business and is an expert in classic arcade games."

In the second project, Detroit Institute of Bagels co-owner Alex Howbert approached Practice Space about identifying the right use for 1417 Van Dyke in West Village. The late-Victorian house is from the 1880s and features a storefront on the first floor of the building. It's near West Village hangouts like Craft Work, Detroit Vegan Soul, and the seasonal Tashmoo Biergarten pop-up. Practice Space is working with Howbert on architectural and concept designs, identifying the scope and breadth of the project. Kronig says that Howbert is open-minded about tenants as long as they don't need a full commercial kitchen.

This is the second term of Practice Space Incubator programming. Practice Space previously worked with Eleni Zaharopoulos and Jenile Brooks on their North End Store-House project.

Source: Austin Kronig, cultural development director of Practice Space
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

The Z opens downtown, artwork a highlight

The Z, a retail and parking development in downtown Detroit, opened last week. The building provides downtown an additional 1,300 parking spots and 33,000 square feet of retail space. The ten story structure is the first ground-up development downtown for Bedrock Real Estate Services, local billionaire Dan Gilbert's real estate division. No word yet on possible tenants for the retail space.

The parking structure is unique in its shape, occupying two corners opposite each other. Reaching from Library and Gratiot to Broadway and E. Grand River, the building is a sort of 'Z' shape, hence the name. It also features a stylized facade highlighted with LED lighting.

In a partnership with the Library Street Collective, Bedrock invited 27 artists from around the world to paint murals throughout the building. Adorning buildings with 'street art' is a trend that more and more Detroit businesses are embracing. Artists featured in the Z include Tristan Eaton, Revok, Dabs and Myla, Saner, and Interesni Kazki.

Bedrock and Library Street Collective released an online video featuring the artists and their work. In the video, Australian artist Myla extolls the virtue of the project, saying, "What they're doing is changing people's perceptions on the city. A project that is about beautifying a parking garage will become something that people will buy a flight for to visit the city to spend, like, half a day looking at all the murals."

While form is a big part of the structure's story, its function is what will matter to many of the city's commuters. The Z is a parking garage for the 21st century. It features a ticketless and cashless pay system with parkers swiping their credit cards as they enter and leave the facility. Once retail does happen, shoppers will be able to validate parking through smart phones and QR codes. Charging stations are available for electric cars.

Source: Bedrock Real Estate Services press release
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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

January development news round-up

Good stuff has been happening in Detroit development to start the new year. Here are several projects that got our attention this month:

• Detroit issued a request for proposals to redevelop nearly nine acres of city-owned property in the historic Brush Park district. The land is split into three available parcels. Parcels A and C contain five historic structures which must be tabbed for "adaptive reuse" in the redevelopment plans. Parcel A is the largest at approximately 7.5 acres. 

• Brush Park is known as much for its Gilded Age mansions as it is for the blight and vacant land that characterize much of the historic district today. The area seems ripe for redevelopment, however, as it is located immediately north of downtown and east of the proposed Detroit Red Wings hockey arena. One of the planned stops of the M-1 Rail streetcar line is at Sibley and Woodward. According to the city's RFPQ Package, Detroit has invested more than $39 million in infrastructure, demolition, acquisition, and historic rehabilitation in Brush Park since 2001. The neighborhood dates back to the 1860s. 

• A new restaurant, Craft Work, has opened in the Parkstone Apartments building on Agnes Street in the West Village neighborhood. Hubert Yaro, he of Royal Oak's Ronin sushi lounge and Birmingham's Commonwealth coffee shop, is the proprietor. Craft Work is open Monday through Saturday from 4 p.m. to midnight. A Sunday brunch is planned come March 2.

• At a public hearing earlier this month, M-1 Rail officials announced that streetcar service is expected to begin in the late summer months of 2016. The light-rail system is projected to carry almost 5,000 riders per day.

• Demand for rentals in the downtown, Midtown, and Corktown neighborhoods is far exceeding supply, driving up rent by $200 to $400 a month in many buildings, says a recent article in the Detroit Free Press. Will demand spur new residential development projects and stabilize rent prices?

Writer: MJ Galbraith

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