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Detroit Future City lays out framework for dealing with city's abandoned manufacturing sites

The next great challenge the city of Detroit might face? What to do with all its abandoned manufacturing sites. 
 
According to an article in the Detroit Free Press, that's what the Detroit Future City (DFC) Implementation Office will focus on in a new report. 
 
"The numbers alone can stagger," writes John Gallagher. "Detroit contains nearly 900 vacant and mostly abandoned manufacturing sites. They include behemoths such as the old Packard Plant, now in line for a multi-year, multi-million-dollar remake. But more than two-thirds of the vacant factory sites measure less than 10,000 square feet—small tool-and-die shops mostly scattered through the city's neighborhoods."
 
The report, released June 2, notes that, "Many of these buildings abut residential neighborhoods in some of the city's most disadvantaged areas. Without a strategic approach to repurposing these properties, they will remain fallow for years to come, posing threats to public health and safety, and undermining Detroit's recovery."
 
While many challenges remain, the report also notes many successes in repurposing industrial buildings, both local and international. "One example of a recent success was the groundbreaking for automotive parts manufacturer Flex-N-Gate’s 350,000-square-foot, $95-million-dollar plant on 30-acres of vacant land on Detroit’s east side. The new facility will generate up to 750 new jobs, 51 percent of which are guaranteed to go to city residents."
 
Read the Detroit Free Press article here. Read the DFC Implementation Office report here

Developers buy four New Center buildings for $3.1M

Optima Aegidius Group, a German-based development group, just purchased four buildings in New Center near TechTown Detroit for $3.1 million, according to a Crain's Detroit Business article.

The four buildings, writes Kirk Pinho, "total just more than 71,000 square feet. The company anticipates building additional space on top, totaling 21,000 square feet to accommodate the planned 60 units. As planned, the project would also have 29,000 square feet of retail space. Construction is expected to begin next year after financing and city approvals are received."

The group has contracted local developer Scott Lowell to carry out the project.

Read the full Crain's article here.

185-unit apartment complex set to open soon in Lafayette Park

Lafayette Park, the east-side neighborhood containing the acclaimed Mies van der Rohe townhouses, has had little new construction for decades. Until now.

DuCharme Place, a $45 million, 185-unit development comprising four apartment buildings, is set to open soon. It will be the first "new lifestyle community in 40 years," according to a Multifamily Executive article. 

The design, writes Jennifer Goodman, was inspired by Lafayette Park's own van der Rohe.

"The contemporary and energy-efficient design will feature a terraced live green roof complete with lawn, garden, fitness center, and swimming pool. Exteriors will include insulated glazing and be clad in a rain screen fiber-cement reinforced panel system with aluminum-framed windows, featuring railings of laser-cut painted metal."

Read the full Multifamily Executive article here.

Future Grandmont-Rosedale food hall could be huge boon for neighborhood

The residents of Grandmont-Rosedale have very few dining options. According to a recent Next City article, that's caused approximately $107 million of economic leakage as those residents travel to the suburbs or downtown Detroit for meals.
 
"To that end, Grandmont-Rosedale Development Corporation and FoodLab Detroit recently joined forces and won a grant from the state to begin planning for a food hall that could foster a more robust restaurant scene and be a boon for the local economy overall," writes Oscar Perry Abello.
 
The hope is that it will be a food hub for the neighborhood, possibly containing restaurants and a market, "while also creating a shared sit-down space for FoodLab."
 
There are not yet any details about when the hall will be completed.
 
To view the complete article, click here.

Bedrock gives sneak peak of units in their micro-apartment building

Curbed Detroit recently released photos and details of Bedrock's micro-apartment building, 28 Grand, currently under construction in Capitol Park.
 
The apartments are quite small—a dormitory-sized 260 square feet on average. But they do come fully furnished, with a kitchen and free Rocket Fiber internet connection included in rent.
 
Another cool feature of the building, according to Curbed Detroit editor Robin Runyan: "There will be 218 micro-apartments total, with 133 market-rate units and 85 apartments for those who qualify for low-income housing tax credits."
 
Click here to see more photos of the construction and some of the finished units.

Fitzgerald community meeting brings community, city together

City officials and community members met on October 24th at the University of Detroit Mercy's School of Architecture to continue discussions about the forthcoming Fitzgerald Revitalization Project, a city-led initiative to rehab over 350 plots of vacant land and houses in the Fitzgerald neighborhood of Detroit's northwest side.
 
This meeting was added after an October 4th meeting, where developers presented their proposed plans for Fitzgerald to community members. Questions and concerns that arose out of that meeting were part of the reason why the city wanted to give another opportunity for people to give feedback. Those at the October 24th meeting had the opportunity to vote on community priority areas for developers, which included issues like security, side lots, and affordable rentals.
 
Local hiring and workforce development was also a hot topic. This issue is particularly relevant in light of contractors for the Little Caesar's Arena being fined roughly $500,000 for their inability to hire the requisite 51 percent of Detroiters for the project.
 
"I want to make sure that the people who live there are well served by the project," said Frank Rashid, a University District resident. He expressed concern about the project fulfilling its intended purposes. "I want to make sure that the people who live there aren't priced out of their homes. I want to make sure whatever is done we're employing the people in the neighborhood."
 
On hand to field questions and feedback like those from Mr. Rashid were a number of city officials, including Alexa Bush, a senior planner with the City of Detroit, as well as Kim Tandy, the District Manager for District 2, which houses the Fitzgerald community.
 
Ms. Bush sees the Fitzgerald Revitalization Project as an opportunity for residents to take part in the future of their neighborhood and gain access to local jobs. "[W]e think that through the rehab of homes, through the transformation of some of these lots, that there's a real opportunity to find some of these jobs," Bush said. These possibilities, as a result, would benefit people living directly in the Fitzgerald neighborhood.
 
She also wants people to stay connected as the process continues to move forward. "I would encourage people who have concerns to come plug in with us, come out to a meeting, call us, check the website. Part of why we wanted to start so many months ago was to give time to get the word out," she said.
 
Community members like Stephanie Harbin are looking forward to what is ahead. Harbin has been a Fitzgerald resident since 1969 and is heavily involved in local community groups, including the San Juan Block Club and the Fitzgerald Community Council. "We are at the point where we need some new life in this area," Harbin said.

BizGrid Live! event to increase connection between entrepreneurs and service providers

If you're a Detroit entrepreneur in search of financial, consulting, or other business services (and what business isn't), you're probably familiar with the BizGrid. The resource, which comprehensively catalogues the organizations that constitute Detroit's business ecosystem, will supplement their directory with a resource fair that's "more like speed dating for business support."
 
Dubbed BizGrid Live!, the event will take place on November 2 from 1:00 to 6:00 p.m. at Eastern Market and feature networking, a happy hour, and the opportunity for service providers and entrepreneurs to connect.
 
"You can look forward to meeting face-to-face with service providers to help grow your business, networking among community stakeholders and entrepreneurs alike, educational small biz panel discussions, and a pitch session," according to a press release.
 
The BizGrid is a collaborative project between many organizations in the Detroit Business Support Network, including the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, Bizdom, TechTown Detroit, New Economy Initiative, and more. It's regularly updated and available in both directory and infographic form. 

BizGrid Live! will take place on November 2 from 1:00 to 6:00 p.m. at Eastern Market. You can RSVP here.

City of Detroit to develop two large, vacant Midtown sites; will include low-income housing

Demand for residential housing in midtown and downtown Detroit has increased so much in recent years that the city is seeing new building construction for the first time in a while.

Now, the City of Detroit is getting in on the action with two large parcels it owns in midtown. But these won't be typical developments—both will be upwards of 60 units, 20 percent of which will be dedicated to low-income housing. The city is seeking proposals to develop the property.

The larger of the two will be at the site of the former Wigle recreation center at 901 Selden Street, now "the largest publicly-held, contiguous development site in midtown."

According to a press release, "Competitive bids will include a well-designed, walkable, environmentally sustainable, mixed-income neighborhood of between 150-200 units, with open space that connects seamlessly to the Midtown neighborhood."

The city is accepting proposals for the second, approximately one-acre site just south of East Forest Avenue past Woodward, which will have ground-floor retail and 60 mixed-income residential units.

"The City expects to select developers based on the strength of their proposals by mid-December," according to the press release. "[The City's Director of Housing & Revitalization] Arthur Jemison said there will be a community engagement process that will allow residents of these areas to have a voice in the selection of the developers."

New pilot program could rewrite zoning codes for the better

Detroit's outdated zoning codes slow development and prevent businesses from opening in locations they're best suited for. Fortunately, according to the Detroit News, a new "pink zone" pilot program, meant to ease zoning restrictions, could be on the way next summer.

Through a grant from the Knight Foundation, "three multidisciplinary teams will put together visions for walkable, mixed-use activity in three commercial sites in Detroit," writes Christine Ferretti. "Later, the concepts will be tested against the city’s zoning ordinance and building code to identify roadblocks and work with city departments and others to identify strategies for reforms."

Detroit planning director Maurice Cox is fully on board with the plan, and described Detroit's present zoning system as "crazy" and inhibiting development.

This, and other recent reforms, have "earned Detroit a nod in the Wall Street Journal this spring as one of five cities 'leading the way in urban innovation.'"

National business leaders bullish on Detroit, Kresge report indicates

The Kresge Foundation, a national nonprofit that supports America's cities and offers numerous Detroit-specific grants, recently released its "Detroit Reinvestment Index," which gathered data on what national business leaders think about Detroit and how the city compares to perceptions of cities generally.

Overall the document offers some hopeful conclusions. Perhaps the most encouraging is that 84 percent of those surveyed—senior leaders at global companies of over 250 employees—believe that Detroit "can become a great city again."

In a letter about the index, Kresge Foundation president Rip Rapson writes, "With caveats, I think it's fair to say that Business is very bullish on Detroit."

Other "key findings" include...
  • Business leaders believe Detroit has a number of assets, like "its racial, ethnic and cultural diversity, rich cultural history, effective local government, low cost of living and low taxes as key reasons."
  • Surprisingly, "Only 16% of business leaders are aware that Detroit is out of bankruptcy."
There's a lot more to digest in the 43 page report, which is available for download on the foundation's website.

Small businesses multiply, crime declines along Jefferson Avenue corridor

A recent article in Crain's Detroit Business details the rapid growth of five neighborhoods extending along Jefferson Avenue, stretching all the way to the Grosse Pointe border.

A number of new businesses have opened up along the Jefferson Avenue corridor recently. "Beautiful Bridal, along with a new Caribbean restaurant, a Christian yoga center, women's clothing boutiques, a casual branded clothing store, a used record store, and a coffee shop and bakery, are a few of the more recent businesses that have planted roots along the eight miles between downtown Detroit and Grosse Pointe Park," writes Marti Benedetti.

Some significant numbers accompany these developments. The most salient is the approximately $1 billion in new investment since 2009.

Also notable, writes Benedetti, "Since 2014, crime along the Jefferson corridor declined more than 31 percent. In 2015, there was a 38 percent drop in auto theft and a 22 percent reduction in robberies, according to JEI's 'Safe Jefferson' program."

In addition to new businesses, several apartment and housing developments are finished or underway. Lakewood Century Apartments, for example, is a $7 million, 35-unit project at Lakewood and Jefferson—no opening date was mentioned.

There's also the Jefferson streetscaping, which will include the first protected bike lanes in the city.

Josh Elling, Executive director of the economic development organization Jefferson East, Inc., credits economic development in Detroit's greater downtown area, as well as "business-supporting" institutions, for the economic spillover taking place in the Jefferson corridor.

Next High Growth Happy Hour focuses on real estate

Detroit's rapidly fluctuating real estate market has no shortage of entrepreneurs breaking into it. There's an opportunity to hear from two fast growing local startups at the next High Growth Happy Hour, August 3rd from 6 to 8 p.m., in Detroit’s North End neighborhood.

The speakers will be David Alade of Century Partners, a real estate development company with a holistic revitalization and innovative funding approach, and Max Nussenbaum, CEO & co-founder of property management startup Castle (read Model D's profile on Castle and their rapid growth). David and Max will share insights into Detroit's real estate market, including how they have broken in and created a new model for their businesses.

Agenda

6:00 - 6:30: Networking & Drinks

6:30 - 7:30: Casual chat and Q&A with attendees

7:30 - 8:00: Networking

RSVP here to attend. Space is limited for this free special event. Drinks and light appetizers will be served, and you’ll also get to be the first to see a brand new space Century Partners is redeveloping into a restaurant at 9425 John R Rd., Detroit.

Learn more about the High Growth Happy Hour series, which connects entrepreneurs and inspires them to scale in Metro Detroit.

Subscribe to our sister publication Southeast Michigan Startup to follow more companies scaling in Detroit.

Final year of NEI's challenge to grant local businesses a total of $500K

On April 20, the New Economy Initiative (NEI) kicked-off the third and final year of the NEIdeas challenge, "a two-tiered challenge awarding $500,000 to existing small businesses in Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park for their ideas to grow," as described in a press release.

The half-a-million dollar sum is divided into two grant tiers. For businesses that gross under $750,000 annually, NEI will award 30 grants worth $10,000. And for businesses that gross between $750,000 and $5 million annually, NEI will award two grants worth $100,000. Applying is as simple as explaining, in 500 words, an idea to expand your business that requires investment and is "impactful, courageous, interesting, achievable, and understandable." The application deadline ends June 1.

A key component of the NEIdeas challenge is that these grants are for existing small businesses -- those three years or older. So much reporting and grant-giving is devoted to new businesses that it's refreshing when a challenge like this rewards established businesses that haven't benefited as much from renewed interest in Detroit entrepreneurship. 

"This is a really special challenge that has had an incredible impact on local businesses and communities," says NEI communications officer Matthew Lewis by email. "In fact, we think NEIdeas is the only philanthropic challenge in the country that directly awards small businesses for their contributions to neighborhoods."

Past winners include Goodwells Natural Foods Market, which invested their reward in growing their inventory and marketing services for new bulk herbal apothecary offerings; The Hub of Detroit, which made improvements to the appearance of its storefront; and many, many more. They also released a fun hype video featuring some of those past winners

NEI will hold a series of informational events throughout May to help applicants. The next one takes place on May 4 at the Matrix Center in Osborne on Detroit's Northeast side. Click here for a complete list of those events.

NEI is a philanthropic effort that supports small businesses and entrepreneurs. It's funded by a host of foundations and institutions, and, since 2009, has awarded over $96 million in grants.

Disclosure: Matthew Lewis is a former managing editor of Model D. 

Foreign billionaires are on a Detroit real estate buying spree

 
Dan Gilbert, local billionaire and downtown's most prominent investor, famously cited a "skyscraper sale" as motivation to begin adding downtown Detroit properties his portfolio in 2007. Gilbert founded Bedrock Real Estate in 2011, and that company now owns over 70 properties accounting for over 11 million square feet of space in the city's central business district. Adding to that portfolio may not be as cheap as it once was, however, as foreign investors take interest in Detroit real estate.
 
In 2013, Fernando Palazuelo, a Peruvian billionaire of Spanish extraction, made some of the biggest headlines in Detroit real estate when he purchased the Packard Plant, an infamous, 3.5-million-square-foot industrial ruin on the city's east side that has been abandoned for half a century. He revealed some of his grand plans for the site in a February 28 feature in Crain's Detroit Business.
 
Now Crain's is reporting that one of the richest men in Mexico, Carlos Slim Helú (net worth approx. $77 billion) has purchased the Marquette Building, a 115-year-old, 164,000-square-foot vacant office building in downtown Detroit.
 
Crain's Kirk Pinho writes, "Nico Gatzaros, managing partner of Detroit-based 400 Monroe Associates LLC and son of the late Greektown Casino-Hotel developer Ted Gatzaros, whose estate sold the building to Helú, said offers from 'all over the world' were made on the building."
 
On April 7, Pinho once again broke a story of large-scale foreign investment in Detroit real estate when he tied the purchases of 31 Detroit properties to Jimmy Lai, a Hong Kong tycoon.

For more breaking news on foreign investment in Detroit real estate, follow Pinho's writing for Crain's Detroit Business.

 

Is the development craze in Midtown spreading to nearby Milwaukee Junction?


In a longform piece for Bridge Magazine, veteran Detroit journalist Bill McGraw takes a deep look at Milwaukee Junction, an old industrial district that is quickly attracting the interest of local real estate developers.
 
Home to Ford Motor Co.'s original factory, The Ford Piquette Area Plant, Milwaukee Junction was one of the city's most productive industrial areas in the first half of the 20th century. "At its peak in the 1940s, some 33,000 people worked in Milwaukee Junction, and there were 33 heavy manufacturing plants," write McGraw.
 
Though its former glory as an industrial hub of Detroit has mostly faded (it's still home to a handful of industrial businesses), McGraw describes a growing interest in the neighborhood by real estate developers. Currently, the area only has a small amount of housing, but McGraw sites its proximity to other quickly gentrifying Detroit neighborhoods like Midtown and New Center, as well as its closeness to the under-construction M-1 Rail line, as reasons for its imminent development.
 
Think Milwaukee Junction is Detroit's next hot neighborhood?
 
Read more in Bridge Magazine.
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