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More Palmer Park apts set to come online in Feb, April

Renovation work on a handful of apartment buildings in Palmer Park is set to wrap up in the next few months.

The first in line for completion is the Sarasota Apartments, 325 Merton, in February. The four-story building exemplifies the Art Deco architecture for which Palmer Park's apartments are famous. It had been vacant for years, falling into disrepair before renovations began last spring.

Next in line are the Seville Apartments and Palmer Lodge. Both are set to come online in April. "I really can't wait," says Kathy Makino-Leipsitz, co-owner of Shelborne Development which is heading up the development of the apartment buildings in Palmer Park.

Palmer Lodge
is one of the marquee apartment buildings in the Palmer Park historic district. The jumbo-sized Tudor-Revival structure stands sentinel at the corner of Woodward Avenue and Covington Drive. The four-story apartment building was designed by Weidmaier and Gay and built in 1925. It's being redeveloped into 54 apartments and space for two businesses (think cafe or martini bar) in its basement. The Seville Apartments is at 750 Whitmore St. The four-story structure at the corner of Third Avenue and Whitmore Street will feature 16 apartments. One hundred and two units will come onto the market when construction is finished at all three, which were vacant and in serious disrepair before renovation work began early last year.

Shelborne Development is renovating these buildings and a handful of others in Palmer Park. The Indian Village-based firm leveraged historic tax credits, federal stimulus funding and other government incentives to renovate these buildings to maintain their historic integrity and upgrade them with modern conveniences such as new Energy Star appliances, high-efficiency furnaces, insulation and granite countertops. It previously renovated the La Vogue apartments last summer.

Makino-Leipsitz says she is still pursuing the idea of bringing mounted security patrols to the neighborhood by utilizing the Detroit Police Department's mounted division, which is housed nearby. She also wants to bring Christmas lights to the trees of the neighborhood to help inject some vibrancy to the area.

"I want to light up the trees in Palmer Park like they do at La Dolce Vita (a nearby restaurant)," Makino-Leipsitz says. "It gives the area such a great feel."

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

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

Slows expanding, adding more seats and offerings

Detroit’s most famous restaurant is currently going through a much-needed expansion.
 
Slows BAR BQ, which has been covered in national media from the New York Times to Food & Wine and was a 2012 finalist in Adam Richman’s Best Sandwich in America on the Travel Channel, is largely credited with kick-starting the rebirth of Corktown, attracting several new independent businesses on its block of Michigan Avenue and leading to what is now a total lack of available rental units according to Ryan Cooley, co-owner of Slows and owner of O’Connor Realty.
 
The original Slows space, which seats about 80 indoors (not including the seasonal outdoor patio), was ill-equipped to handle large parties, and long wait times inside the enormously popular restaurant inevitably led to a lot of bottle-necking at the front door by the bar.
 
"We're adding on the new space but it will serve as more a beer bar, private dining room and waiting area," Cooley says. "With bigger parties this is really going to help with efficiencies."
 
The new 1,200-square-foot space, which is overtaking the former office of O’Connor Realty (which has since relocated down the block), will be connected by a door to the original location but will in effect be its own separate space ideal for private parties and grabbing a drink while waiting for a table.
 
The new bar will feature 36 tap handles, many of which will be duplicate selections from the bar in the main restaurant for efficiency’s sake. The beer cooler will be expanding and moved into the basement, freeing up additional space upstairs.
 
Behind the scenes, the kitchen will also be expanding into the new space and will be fully updated. "We opened on such a shoestring budget the first time through we had to buy used equipment. This will allow things to be more streamlined," Cooley says.
 
This is good news for serious barbecue enthusiasts, as this will enable Slows to slow down their smoke times and make a good product even better. Chef and co-owner Brian Perrone will also be able to host more beer dinners and run additional specials, allowing him more creativity in the kitchen.
 
Cooley says that by the time the kitchen is expanded and bathrooms added, the new space will add about 20 new seats. "We didn’t want to add to ton of space, really. We didn’t want a huge open-feeling space. We kind of wanted to keep it small and intimate."
 
At press time the main restaurant is on track to re-open on their target date of Jan. 9, while the new space may be delayed just a day or two.
 
Source: Ryan Cooley, co-owner of Slows
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

Detroit Institute of Bagels breaks ground on new production facility

Back in 2010, Ben Newman had a dream of better bagels for Detroit. He and his brother Dan launched Detroit Institute of Bagels out of their flat in Corktown, selling unique bagel flavors like bacon cheddar and rosemary-olive oil-sea salt made to order. The bagel buzz built quickly; a Kickstarter campaign raised about $10,000 towards their own bagel shop and they were top ten semi-finalists in the first-ever Hatch Detroit competition in 2011. When they purchased a building on Michigan Avenue in Corktown roughly one year ago, it seemed that Detroit’s days as a bagel desert were coming to an end.
 
But as anyone who has tried to renovate a historic and long-vacant building can tell you, these things take time.
 
"Anything going from idea to reality takes two years, (that’s) what everyone told me," says Ben Newman, co-founder and bagelsmith of DIB who also has a Masters in Urban Planning from the University of Michigan.
 
Since Model D reported on the purchase of the building at 1236 Michigan Ave., the Newmans have received Rehabilitation Tax Credits, but weren’t allowed to do any sort of renovation work on the building during the approval process. The building itself has, at their best estimate, sat vacant for roughly 40 years before they acquired it, and when they began to look at the basement as the bagel production facility they quickly realized it wasn’t going to be practical and a new production facility would have to be added on.
 
"(We were told) we might never be able to fully waterproof the basement and end up tens of thousands of dollars into trying and still be forced to build a new space," Newman explains. "For the employees, for myself, for the experience and overall efficiency it will be better to have all production happen on the same floor as the retail."
 
DIB broke ground Jan. 3 on its new bagel production facility, which will be located in the space between the current building and PJ's Lager House (sharing walls with both). The 1,800-square-foot new building will be set back about 30 feet from Michigan Avenue. The rest of the street-facing lot will be a green space with outdoor seating. Inside there will be windows between the café and the production facility which will allow customers to watch the process of bagels being made.
 
Renovation on the original building hasn't yet started, though now that ground has broken on the new facility all of the construction will move forward simultaneously.
 
"That was part of the year-long process," Newman says. The structural plans and mechanical drawings for both buildings had to first be completed, submitted and approved before any significant work could be done.
 
While their initial hopes of opening in 2012 were perhaps a bit too ambitious, Newman remains undaunted and continues to move forward. "I am really happy that people are excited about our opening. I realize that it's a very good thing to have a following before we open," he says. “We’re not just opening a bagel shop (in) a white box space; we’re redeveloping a whole property. For me that’s what I’m passionate about."
 
Source: Ben Newman, co-founder of the Detroit Institute of Bagels
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

Gilbert's downtown footprint expands with new purchases

The Dan Gilbert game of downtown Detroit Monopoly is not showing any signs of slowing down these days. The chairman of Quicken Loans acquired five more buildings just before the end of last year and now there is a report from Crain's Detroit Business that he has his sights set on more.

What we know is that Gilbert's real-estate company, Rock Ventures, recently acquired five buildings on Woodward Avenue and Broadway Street. These largely vacant buildings include the addresss 1201, 1217 and 1412 Woodward, along with 1301 and 1521 Broadway.

"We didn't want to see these buildings just sit there and have no activity in them," says Jim Ketai,  managing partner of Bedrock Management, Gilbert's real-estate management firm. "We want to bring some more activity to them."

Gilbert now owns 15 buildings with 2.6 million square feet of commercial space and another three parking garages with 3,500 spaces. His firms are also building a new parking garage/retail space on Broadway and are leasing space in the Compuware Building.

The latest additions include a former Kresge department store at Woodward Avenue and State Street and the building that houses Small Plates next to the Detroit Beer Company. All of the buildings will be renovated to accommodate ground floor retail space and either residential or office space above.

"It will take a lot of time," Ketai says. "They have had a lot of neglect."

Source: Jim Ketai,  managing partner of Bedrock Management
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Top development news of 2012 spread across Motor City

There was no no shortage of big announcements in Detroit's built environment in 2012, so Model D has expanded its Top 5 Development News Stories to its Top 5 Development News Subjects. This year's list includes:

The Gilbert Effect
Quicken Loans Chairman Dan Gilbert became the biggest power player in downtown Detroit this year. His team's accomplishments include acquiring buildings left and right, filling them with tech businesses, pushing for a retail rebirth in the Central Business District and spearheading the M-1 Rail plans for light rail up Woodward which now seems quite likely with the passage of a regional transit authority bill in the state legislature.

Palmer Park Rebirth
The Palmer Park area - ahem, Uptown - is enjoying a large amount investment these days as the quality of life improves with more community involvement. Shelborne Development is spearheading the renovation of a number of Palmer Park's Art Deco apartment buildings, including La Vogue and Palmer Lodge, and working to establish mounted security patrols. Local residents are improving the area by planting sunflowers along Woodward Avenue, planting orchards in Palmer Park, building trails through the park and rebranding the area Uptown.

Downtown/Midtown Apt Blitz
Developers can't build new living options in Detroit's downtown or Midtown neighborhoods fast enough these days to keep up with skyrocketing demand. Some big projects came online in 2012, including the Broderick Tower, The Auburn and Newberry Hall. More are coming. Construction is in progress for the Sherbrooke Apts and Woodward Garden Block Apts and work is set to begin on the Whitney Building in a few weeks.

Momentum in The Villages
The people working to improve the The Villages scored some big wins in 2012. Those wins include developing plans for more greenways, sparking the pop-up retial store boom, Tashmoo Beirgarten's return, and landing a number of new businesses to take those spots in West Village. Look for The Villages to keep the momentum going in 2013.

Wayne County Tax Foreclosure Auction
This year set the record for the Wayne County Tax Foreclosure Auction. This fall's auction featured more than 20,000 properties and sold more than 12,000. Local officials are working to turn these empty houses into new homes. What happens next to the thousands of unsold properties is becoming a bigger question that needs to be dealt with. Oh, and next year's auction is set to break all of those records again.

Honorable-mention projects include, Avalon's expansion plans, Buffalo Wild Wings moving downtown, the groundbreaking of WholeFoods, Reclaim Detroit's deconstruction efforts and the GAR Building rehab.

Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Two James Spirits to bring a distillery to Corktown in 2013

David Landrum and Peter Bailey see history repeating itself in micro-brewing and micro-distilling worlds. Where craft brewing beer has exploded as a slow-food-style business in recent decades the co-owners of Detroit's first distillery see the same thing happening with craft distilling of liquor.

"That's what's happening with spirits right now," says Landrum, co-founder & president of Two James Spirits, which is an homage to the names of the co-founders' fathers who were also entrepreneurs. "There is going to be a boom with small spirits makers because the product is superior."

Two James Spirits plans to open at 2445 Michigan Ave. in Corktown, a small commercial building adjacent to Roosevelt Park and within a stones throw of Slows. The micro distillery will have a tasting room and will serve vodka, gin and whiskey. The co-founders plan to serve vodka and gin first because it can be made in a matter of days while they let their whiskey age. Landrum plans to age the whiskey in barrels and expects the process to take between 16-24 months. David Pickerell, one of the foremost experts on whiskey distilling, is also working with Landrum and Bailey on Two James Spirits' brand of whiskey.

Two James Spirits is set to open in the first quarter of next year. In the meantime, the company's co-founders are recruiting for its Corktown 500 club, an exclusive club that will be able to make its own whiskey and have other unique privileges at the distillery.

Source: David Landrum, president & co-founder of Two James Spirits
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

U of D Mercy Law School turns old fire station into law clinic

The University of Detroit Mercy has finished work on the new home for its law school clinics, turning a century-old fire dept building into a top-of-the-line office space.

The university's School of Law purchased the two-story building at the corner of Larned and St. Antoine streets in 2011 and has spent most of this year renovating the 7,000-square-foot structure.

"It's incredible," says Michael Bryce, director of programs for University of Detroit Mercy School of Law. "It's beyond my expectations. It's really a great mix of old and the new. We were able to save the glazed brick and the red spiral staircases. We weren't able to save the polls. Everybody asks about that."

The new space will house the law school's law clinics, which juris doctorate students are required to take at least one of before they graduate. Those clinics will be attended by 30 students on average and administered by seven faculty members and another five staffers.

Among the 10 law clinics in the new building are the university's Mortgage Foreclosure Defense Clinic. It is working to help prevent 70 foreclosures on homeowners in Wayne County, saving their houses from eviction.

Source: Michael Bryce, director of programs for University of Detroit-Mercy School of Law
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

DTE acquires, begins prelim work on old Salvation Army building

DTE Energy has acquired 601 Bagley in downtown Detroit, formerly the Salvation Army Bagley Service Center.

Work crews are currently cleaning out the art deco structure next to DTE Energy's downtown campus. The work includes some asbestos abatement and other preservation work to make sure the building can be utilized at a later date. DTE Energy hasn't decided what's next for the architectural gem but it will have a future.

"Once we decide what we're going to do with it it will be ready for whatever that is," says John Austerberry, spokesman for DTE Energy.

The former Salvation Army Bagley Service Center was built in 1938. It stands at three stories tall on the west side of downtown, not far from the Lodge Freeway. It has been vacant for several years.

Source: John Austerberry, spokesman for DTE Energy
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Hamtramck partners with Reclaim Detroit on home deconstruction

Hamtramck is taking a lead role on Metro Detroit's fledgling home deconstruction industry. The inner-city suburb commissioned one of the first deconstructions last year from Reclaim Detroit and now has six more in the offing. The city is also applying to have another 40 homes deconstructed through the Michigan Land Bank.

Home deconstruction is an alternative to demolition for buildings beyond repair and renovation. When a building is razed, it only takes the efforts of a handful of unskilled workers and all of the byproducts goes to a landfill. Deconstructing a building creates more jobs (about 10-12 for a single-family home) and ensures that a vast majority of the building's materials are recycled.

"That's something we have been pursuing for a while," says Jason Friedmann, community & economic development director for the city of Hamtramck. "It helps keep the valuable materials out of a landfill. Some of these materials can't be found anymore, no matter what the price, like the old-growth lumber."

A house on Carpenter Street was one of the first to be deconstructed by Reclaim Detroit. That project created 18 jobs and the materials from it generated $40,000. Some of those materials ended up in places like the Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Co cafe in Midtown.

The 40 homes in line for deconstruction next year are a combination of leftovers from last fall's Wayne County Tax Foreclosure Auction, city-owned houses beyond repair and privately owned homes that are either condemned or fire-damaged and have no insurance. Friedmann hopes to leverage the current six deconstructions set to happen this winter and 40 next year to help create more jobs in the city.

"A lot of skills that can be used to take apart a building can be used to put one back together," Friedmann says.

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

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

Upscale-bar Rodin set to open in Park Shelton

Rodin, an upscale bar overlooking the Detroit Institute of Arts, is set to open Wednesday.

Rodin is a reference to famed-artist Augeste Rodin's The Thinker, the statue that sits vigil at the entrance of the DIA a stones throw away. The night spot features high-end drinks, gourmet food and dancing in a casual atmosphere in the Park Shelton's ground-floor commercial space at Woodward Avenue and Kirby Street. The business' tagline: "Eat, Drink, Dance."

"People will be very impressed with the food," says Torya Blanchard, describing the food as the French-version of small plates fare. "Chef Kate (Williams) is amazing. It's fun. It's different. It's whimsical. It's fresh. It's something people in Detroit haven't seen."

Blanchard also owns Good Girls Go To Paris Crepes a few doors down in the Park Shelton's Woodward frontage. She has been working to bring Rodin to life for two years and does so with a staff of 25 people. Blanchard plans to host a New Year's Eve Party as Rodin's first big event.

Blanchard describes Rodin as a fun and sexy place that will take its cues from French culture, art and jazz/Motown/northern soul music. It will have both DJs and live bands.

Source: Torya Blanchard, owner of Rodin
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

City leaps to help in auction-house-demo disaster

Kristine Diven got the shock of her life last week when she went to check on the house of her dreams and found a pile of rubble.

Diven is a 36-year-old photographer who co-owns an art gallery called District VII in Detroit's rivertown district with her partner, Micho Detronik. She moved to Detroit from New York City four years ago and she and her partner planned to put down roots in the Motor City this fall. (Full disclosure, Diven contacted this writer for advice about buying a tax foreclosure house last summer because of this writer's experience buying and rehabbing such buildings.)

The couple bought a vacant duplex and the lot next to it on Beaconsfield Street near Mack Avenue in East English Village at the Wayne County Tax Foreclosure Auction for the auction's minimum bid of $500. Coincidentally, Detronik had done work on the house in recent years for a previous owner.

"We were blown away that we could get a home like that," Diven says. "It had a new roof. The basement had no cracks in the foundation. There was no water damage. All it needed was new electric and two new tubs. We estimated it would be take $8,000 to get it up in working order."

The house was open to the elements. Diven and Detronik were afraid the sale would be canceled if they did any work on the house before they had the deed, so they periodically drove past it and waited, but held off closing it up. When Diven went by on Thursday she found a pile of rubble where her house once stood. She still has yet to receive the deeds to the house or the vacant lot.

Later that day she posted a "Thanks Detroit" missive about what happened on her Facebook page (a similar note on WhyDontWeOwnThis can be found here) and the news spread quickly across social media. Within a few hours, she had dozens of comments on her original post and a helping hand extended by Karla Henderson, group executive for planning & facilities for the city of Detroit and one of Mayor Dave Bing's top lieutenants.

"Of course Kristine and her family are the kind of citizens we want to live in the city," Henderson posted on Facebook on Friday. "After speaking with her this morning and hearing all the wonderful things she is involved in, it would be our loss if she left. Please know that the City will work with her to find a comparable house. Although the City was not responsible for the demo, we feel it is the right thing to do."

Henderson explained that the demolition was executed by the Michigan Land Bank after getting the green light from the Wayne County Treasurer's Office. The demolition is part of Gov. Rick Snyder's initiative to demolish abandoned and dangerous homes within a half mile of specifically targeted schools in Southwest Detroit, the Bagley neighborhood on the city's West Side and in the Morningside/East English Village neighborhoods on the city's East Side. Diven's house was within a half mile of J.E. Clark Preparatory Academy, one of the schools used as a radius for the half-mile-dangerous-building demolition circle.

Kim Homan, executive director of the Michigan Land Bank, explains that her agency received the green light from the Wayne County Treasurer's Office last summer to demolish Diven's house on Beaconsfield, along with several others in the area. The house and several others were also on the auction list for this fall's Wayne County Tax Foreclosure Auction. Homan says Detroit firefighters had identified it as open, dangerous and irredeemable, and that her office executed the demolition as a way to help protect students walking to school.

"Our primary concern was the safety of the kids," Homan says.

Eric Sabree, deputy treasurer for land management at the Wayne County Treasurer's Office, confirmed those details, adding his office gave the Michigan Land Bank the greenlight to raze any dangerous buildings within a half-mile radius that were left over from the 2011 auction.

When those were done and the Michigan Land Bank requested more demolition candidates the treasurer's office gave the go ahead to begin the demolition process for properties that were coming up in this year's auction. Sabree says his records show the deed was recorded for Diven's property on Nov. 28 and the demolition was finished Nov 27.

"The decision to do this with the state land bank was made late in the process," Sabree says. "We knew it was risky."

He adds the sales for properties where buildings were demolished will be canceled; and next year if an auction property is on the demolition list it will be listed on the bidding website. In the meantime, Diven and her partner will not be held responsible for demolition costs and will be reimbursed their purchase price.

"They will get a refund, no doubt about it," Sabree says. "If there is property that no one bought (at the last auction) we will offer that to them."

Henderson's office at the City of Detroit is allowing Diven to go through its backlog of available homes in hopes of finding something at a comparable quality and price. Homan says the Michigan Land Bank is prepared to do the same and says the entire episode is regrettable.

"A thing like this is really unfortunate," Homan says. She adds her office routinely works to cross check her lists with those at the city, county and other local agencies. "We have a lot of trouble reconciling data with other agencies," Homan says.

Both Henderson and Homan say they are working to not only find a house-replacement solution that works for Diven but also to help prevent this sort of thing from happening again.

"We want residents with that spirit here," Henderson says. "Anything we can do to soften that blow we stand ready to do."

Source: Kristin Diven; Kim Homan, executive director of the Michigan Land Bank; Karla Henderson, group executive for planning & facilities for the city of Detroit; Eric Sabree, deputy treasurer for land management at the Wayne County Treasurer's Office
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Detroit Yacht Club Foundation aims to preserve DYC building

The Detroit Yacht Club has created a namesake foundation to help preserve its historic structure on Belle Isle.

The Detroit Yacht Club is a private sailing club founded in 1868 and its current Mediterranean-villa-style clubhouse was designed by George Mason (who also designed Mackinac Island's Grand Hotel and Detroit's Masonic Temple) and opened in 1923. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places last year.

The Detroit Yacht Club Foundation is a nonprofit that will focus on fundraising and coordinating the preservation of the yacht club's nearly 100-year-old clubhouse. Although the building itself is still sound, the foundation will focus on securing and preserving its envelope features, such as its roof, walls, doors and windows.

"All of these areas are 89 years old," says Mark Lifter, president of the Detroit Yacht Club Foundation. "With Michigan's freeze-and-thaw cycles, water always finds a way."

The Detroit Yacht Cub Foundation's first order of business is to conduct an engineering study of the building before moving forward with any improvements. In the meantime the foundation is working on raising money and resources from members and people with a connection to the yacht club.

"Over time, there are probably millions of people with a connection or an affinity for the Detroit Yacht Club," Lifter says.

Source: Mark Lifter, president of the Detroit Yacht Club Foundation
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Locals work to open Detroit Dog Park in shadow of MCS

A group of Detroiters are working to create a dog park next to the iconic Michigan Central Station in Corktown.

The Detroit Dog Park is a off-leash dog park that would be built on the Macomb Playlot at the corner of 16th and Rose streets, adjacent to the Roosevelt Park. The organizers have reached an agreement with the city of Detroit to build the lot and are currently fundraising for the effort. It hopes to open next summer.

"There are a lot of people who live in an urban setting with dogs and don't have backyards," says Carly Mys, chair of the Detroit Dog Park. "There is a need for a place to let them run off leash, a place for them to socialize with other dogs and people."

The Detroit Dog Park is currently in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign to raise $15,000 for the dog park's construction. It has raised nearly $12,000 as of Monday. The money will go toward buying construction materials and services. Mys says the project will have a heavy emphasis on green construction, employing things like rain barrels.

"We want to be sustainable, using things like recycled materials is high on our list," Mys says.

Source: Carly Mys, chair of the Detroit Dog Park
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Gilbert buys 10th building downtown, One Woodward

Rock Ventures purchased it's 10th building in downtown Detroit yesterday, picking up the iconic One Woodward at the corner Woodward and Jefferson avenues.

World famous architect Minoru Yamasaki designed the 26-story office building, which was built in 1962. Yamasaki's work includes the former World Trade Center towers in New York City. One Woodward is considered an early version of the World Trade Center, which was built in the early 1970s.

Rock Ventures is the real-estate arm of the Quicken Loans family of companies, which are controlled by Quicken Loans Founder and Chairman Dan Gilbert. The billionaire-owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers has bought and refurbished nine other buildings in downtown Detroit over the last few years, moving thousands of his employees into these office towers and helping spearhead the Central Business District's rebirth.

"The office space downtown is not abundant anymore," says Jim Ketai, managing partner of Bedrock Real Estate Services, the real-estate management company of the Quicken Loans family of companies that is overseeing the renovation of One Woodward. "We need more space."

One Woodward is 60 percent occupied with existing tenants. Ketai expects that number to hit the 90 percentile within the coming months as Bedrock Real Estate Services renovates the building and recruits new companies to fill it. Work began earlier this week and the first new tenants are expected to begin moving in within four weeks.

One Woodward is also an expansion of the footprint of Gilbert's cluster of downtown office towers. Gilbert has purchased buildings in the Lower Woodward corridor between Grand Circus Park and Campus Martius as part of an effort to turn that area into a hotbed for tech firms being branded as WebWard. That footprint now stretches south of Campus Martius to Jefferson, and more acquisitions are possible in the near future if the right opportunity presents itself.

Ketai says his team is looking for ways to better connect Gilbert's cluster of buildings with the nearby Riverwalk and Renaissance Center. "We would love to figure out how to bring everything together," Ketai says.

Source: Jim Ketai, managing partner of Bedrock Real Estate Services
Writer: Jon Zemke

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

Woodward Garden Apts sprints toward opening next fall

Construction is moving forward in earnest to complete the rest of the Woodward Garden Block between West Alexandrine and Selden streets in Midtown.

Workers are working on rehabbing the long-shuttered Woodward Garden Theater in the middle of the block and building the Woodward Garden Apartments at the corner of Woodward and Selden. The theater is set to open in May 2013 and the apartment building the following September.

"It is basically on schedule," says George Stewart, managing member of the development team for Woodward Garden Block. "We hope to have it all enclosed before the bad weather comes."

The Woodward Garden Block project has been a long time coming. A large section of office space in the middle of the block was renovated two years ago, along with the construction of a parking garage behind it. The old Blue Moon building at the corner of Woodward and West Alexandrine was gutted and opened as the new home for the Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Co's signature cafe.

The Woodward Garden Theater will reopen as a 32,000-square-foot entertainment venue that can seat as many as 1,300 people. It was originally designed by C. Howard Crane (architect that designed the Fox Theatre) and has been derelict for many years.

A small one-story commercial building at the corner of Selden and Woodward was recently razed to make room for the 5-story Woodward Garden Apartments. The mixed-use building will feature room for ground floor commercial space and 61 apartments on the upper floors. The apartments will be a combination of market-rate one- and two-bedroom spaces. Workers have poured the concrete for the basement of the new building and are currently working on erecting its steel skeleton.

Source: George Stewart, managing member of the development team for Woodward Garden Block
Writer: Jon Zemke

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