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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.

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.
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