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Developers dig 27 geothermal wells to heat, cool Midtown's historic Forest Arms building

Scott Lowell

Forest Arms Apt. Building


Forest Arms, a prominent apartment building near Wayne State University, was nearly lost in 2008 after a fire ravaged the building, displacing its residents and leaving the interior a charred mess. Local developers and husband and wife Scott Lowell and Carolyn Howard purchased the building a year later. They are now deep in a major rehab of the building, one that includes heavily investing in sustainable energy.

The pair have hired Strategic Energy Solutions of Berkley to dig 27 geothermal wells. Dug at a rate of two a day, the 375 foot-deep wells will heat and cool the Forest Arms' 70 one- and two-bedroom units. Built in 1905, the building was previously heated by a single pipe-radiator system.

"With the courtyard, it's a great opportunity to put these wells in," says Lowell. "Wells wouldn't make sense for a single-family residence, but with the overall heating costs for a place this big, we might save twenty percent off heating costs."

A 20,000 gallon cistern that will collect rain water from the roof is also planned. The water will then be utilized for non-potable purposes like flushing toilets and watering the lawn.

Workers are making progress within the building's interior, as well. While digging up the basement to work on the plumbing, Lowell and company have decided to keep digging, lowering the basement floor by a couple of feet to give more space to the eventual renters of the five garden units planned. Two commercial spaces will also go in that level.

Five penthouse units will be built on the roof. Tax credits Lowell is using to help fund the redevelopment demand that the penthouses be mostly hidden from streetview so as not to tarnish the building's historic charm. Lowell says that details like windows, doors, and trim will also have to meet historic accuracy standards. Other details, like cabinetry and fixtures, will be more modern.

Lowell is aiming for a Dec. 2015 opening.

Source: Scott Lowell, owner/operator of Forest Arms
Writer: MJ Galbraith

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Read more articles by MJ Galbraith.

MJ Galbraith is Model D's development news editor. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.
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