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A new program teaches Detroiters how to invest in property to profit from city's real estate boom

Wealthy developers are snapping up properties left and right in Detroit, leaving many residents to wonder if they'll be left with just the scraps. But, according to a City Lab article titled, "Can Detroiters Finally Get a Stake in the City's Real-Estate Boom?", a new real estate program looks to give Detroiters the information they need to invest in property.
 
The article details "Better Buildings, Better Blocks," "a neighborhood-based real-estate class that provides education and resources to residents of Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park," writes Andrea Penman-Lomeli.

"It was recently selected as one of the 33 winners of the 2017 Knight Cities Challenge, which will provide three years of funding for the class. Individuals who take the course learn firsthand how to invest in properties, focusing on acquisition, financing, and project management for small-scale projects. The goal of the program is to create a network that ensures that communities can sustainably rehabilitate residential and commercial spaces and that Detroiters can finally articulate how their city is remade."
 
The program is run by Chase Cantrell, of Building Community Value, who was featured in a Model D article about combating income inequality where he talked about the course, which he was in the process of designing.
 
"Part of the model is to create a fund that'll serve a singular purpose to invest in projects that come through the cohorts," said Cantrell in November 2016. "Once you go through the program, if you have a promising project, you can get a loan or equity investment from the fund."
 
According to the City Lab article, much of those original goals are still in place. Sessions will be taught by local developers, based on a curriculum designed by University of Michigan professor Peter Allen. 

Learn more about the "Better Buildings, Better Blocks" course here.

Details of Free Press Building redevelopment emerge

Among the numerous downtown redevelopments taking place in Detroit, perhaps none is more exciting than the old Detroit Free Press Building. 
 
The architecture and interior design firm Kraemer Design Group (KDG), in a newsletter, released some of the details of its renovation. There will be "structural updates, complete masonry restoration, new energy-efficient windows and a fresh interior design." The final result, which seeks to preserve the historic elements of the building, will be a mixed-use retail, office, and residential. 

Bedrock owns the building, which is expected to reopen in 2020 at a cost of nearly $70 million. According to a Crain's Detroit Business article, "Asbestos and lead abatement, demolition and hazardous material removal will earn Bedrock about $7 million in brownfield tax abatements."
 
The Free Press Building is one of the more iconic structures in downtown Detroit. Designed by Albert Kahn, it has some impressive limestone carvings, statues, and reliefs done by Ulysses Ricci. It was constructed in 1925 and has been abandoned since 1998. (Source: Historic Detroit)

Local media outlet to explore impact of neighborhood redevelopments

The city of Detroit, foundations, and major developers have been increasingly active in neighborhoods outside the city's urban core. The impact of all this new investment on residents hasn't come close to being grasped. Some organizations and media outlets are trying.

Last month, TheHUB Detroit, a magazine that focuses on Detroit's neighborhoods, launched a "year-long in-depth report on neighborhood-specific investments." In an article outlining the aims of its investigation, editor Jackie Berg writes, "We'll take an in-depth look at the size and scope of neighborhood redevelopment efforts and examine commitments being made by developers to build or preserve affordable housing for low-income families and seniors, explore whether gentrification without displacement is a threat or boon to Detroit, and we'll examine the impact of minority contractor awards associated with related construction efforts."

The series, called "Living In and Loving Detroit," will begin with District 5, which covers wide swaths of midtown, downtown, and the east riverfront. "We discovered half a billion dollars in neighborhood investments underway in District 5 alone. These include residential developments and mixed-use projects that combine housing and retail or office spaces, renovations of historic industrial spaces to a modern healthcare facility."

While few specifics were laid out in how the investigation will proceed, or how deep it will go, Model D will certainly be paying attention. 

Massive Herman Kiefer development progressing

Just because no shovels have hit the dirt, that doesn't mean there hasn't been progress at the vacant Herman Kiefer Hospital complex development near Detroit's Boston Edison neighborhood. 

According to a Detroit News article, head developer Ron Castellano is set to take over the site this spring as part of a $143 million, "multi-year development agreement to rehabilitate and reuse the seven medical complex buildings and 462,605-square-foot main hospital, the former Hutchins and Crosman schools, as well as the JTPA nursing school."

The deal was approved in 2015, but because of the complicated funding package and phased development plan, it took time to transfer the properties. "Castellano explained each piece of the project should raise enough money to support itself and also help fund another piece of the development," writes Christine Ferretti. 

An important piece of the total funds will come from potential brownfield development reimbursements totalling $47.7 million to clean up waste from prior developments. 

Also noteworthy, the project may be the first in the city to operate under Detroit’s new community benefits ordinance. "The law, approved in November, lays out a process for engaging the community to negotiate job guarantees and other factors for projects worth at least $75 million. The multiphase project is expected to produce at least 1,067 jobs."

Read the full article here.

City of Detroit puts out RFP for affordable housing redevelopment in Banglatown

We at Model D are big advocates for strategic use of affordable housing (check out our piece from January on the topic). That's why we're excited about another affordable housing project, this one taking place in Banglatown, near the Detroit-Hamtramck border.

Curbed Detroit reports that the city of Detroit put out an RFP for a vacant Catholic school in the neighborhood. The Archdiocese of Detroit currently owns the building and will be collaborating on the project. 

21,500-square-foot Transfiguration School Building, writes Robin Runyan for Curbed, "could be converted into 15-25 residential units, 20 percent of which will be affordable housing. Many of the building’s original features such as terrazzo flooring, tin ceilings, and original woodwork are in excellent condition."

Check out the RFP here

Major improvements coming to East Riverfront

In just the last few years, a lot of development has taken place in the East Riverfront area adjacent to downtown Detroit, such as Harbortown Apartments and Outdoor Adventure Center. Even more is still to come.

This week, the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy, City of Detroit Planning & Development Department and the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (DEGC) released a strategic framework plan for the East Riverfront.

The plan establishes an expanded riverfront "parkland" that will be "free from development forever." There will also be two additional "Dequindre Cut-style greenways" and streetscape improvements to increase connectivity to the riverfront. 

"The riverfront belongs to all Detroiters," said Maurice D. Cox, director of the City of Detroit Planning & Development Department, in a press release. "Thanks to the involvement of hundreds of residents, we have principles that frame an international riverfront that can be accessed and enjoyed by all."

The DEGC also announced an RFP for the Stone Soap building at 1490 Franklin. According to the press release: "The RFP will envision an adaptive reuse of the historic structure with a mixed-use development that will increase density along the riverfront."

Read more about the plans for the East Riverfront here


Downtown synagogue hires rabbi, plans major renovations

For the first time in 16 years, Detroit's only synagogue will have a new rabbi.

Arianna Silverman was named the rabbi of Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue last year, according to an article in the Detroit News. Previously, the synagogue was lay-led, meaning members of the congregation would lead services.

Silverman, a "a 39-year-old Manhattan transplant," said a major reason she took the post was because of the youth-led Jewish revival in the city. "They are a big reason I'm here," Silverman said in the article. "We have plenty of people who attend our services who are in their 20s and 30s. Many are involved in nonprofit work, community gardens, social justice, cultural issues."

In related news, "The synagogue is preparing to launch a multimillion-dollar campaign to restore the building," writes Louis Aguilar. "They want to convert the top two floors into more office space, add an alternative chapel, as well as community meeting and rental facilities."

Plans in the works for revitalization of Fort Wayne

Fort Wayne, the historic star-shaped fortification located in Detroit's Delray neighborhood, is an underused landmark in the city. Aside from weekend visitors and the occasional event, the fort sits largely unused. But in the coming years, Fort Wayne may get considerably more use, perhaps even tenants.

The Kresge Foundation recently awarded a $265,000 grant for a two-year project of renovation and strategic planning.

The grant will help fund a project director, National Park Service urban fellow David Goldstein, to guide the planning process. "The consultant will also be charged with creating a leasing program for the City of Detroit, which will allow for the renovation and use of the more than 30 military buildings in the fort complex," according to the press release. "An RFP is expected to be released by spring 2018 to seek proposals from prospective tenants, including community and cultural organizations, to renovate and lease buildings on the fort grounds."

"For nearly 175 years, Historic Fort Wayne has stood as a cultural and historical landmark, today attracting some 150,000 visitors a year, from neighborhood soccer leagues to Civil War re-enactments," said George Jacobsen, senior program officer in Kresge’s Detroit Program, in a press release. "As we think about its place in the fabric of Detroit now and in the future, Historic Fort Wayne holds great promise as an active and connected point for the Southwest Detroit and broader communities to recreate, as a space to celebrate contributions of multiple cultures, and as a potential location to support the development of small and creative-sector businesses."

The project is a partnership between the City of Detroit, the National Park Foundation (NPF) and the National Park Service (NPS) Midwest Region.

Photographer lists Detroit buildings that should be saved

Detroit has a mixed record of historic building preservation. Thanks to recent economic developments, many of it's building are not only being preserved, but restored.

[Check out this Model D article looking back at the last decade of historic preservation in Detroit]
 
But that doesn't mean there aren't buildings at risk of demolition. And one young photographer put together an excellent list titled, "Buildings in Detroit That Need to Be Saved in 2017."
 
Eric Hergenreder included seven buildings (many of which he photographed as well) in his list, such as the Belle Isle Zoo and Free Press Building.
 
Hergenreder also includes nice write-ups of each building, like this one for the United Artists Theater: "The United Artists Theater, which is currently owned by the Ilitch family, is in desperate need of a miracle. The Tigers Tycoon has threatened it with demolition a handful of times, but at this point, it still stands. The building has been secured (for the most part, my shattered heel says otherwise) and it sits empty on the corner of Bagley and Clifford."
 
Check out the full list here.

Bedrock Real Estate to spend an estimated $400 million on restoration of Book Tower

In one of the more surprising stories about redevelopment in a city full of them, the Book Tower and Book Building will get an estimated $400 million worth of restoration, according to a recent Crain's Detroit Business article.

It's all part of Bedrock Real Estate's massive investments along Washington Boulevard and downtown generally. "The projects range from new apartments, to retail, to renovated housing for low-income seniors in what developers predict is going to build upon the brothers' original vision," writes Kirk Pinho for Crain's.

The price tag is so high for the Book Tower, vacant since 2009, because of the numerous features in need of repair, from the windows to the comically-long fire escape to its mansard roof.

Here's a great description of the building from Historic Detroit: "No skyscraper in Detroit, let alone the Midwest, looks quite like the Book Tower on Washington Boulevard. It's a rather awkward-looking building, whether you look at its unusual maze of an external fire escape or the intricate, over-the-top details on its crown that are tough to appreciate without a pair of binoculars. It's an undeniably unique piece of the city's skyline and a rare breed of classical Renaissance-style architecture and skyscraper."

In surprising turn, classic Detroit venue may reopen

John Gallagher of the Detroit Free Press opens his article on the potential reopening of the Vanity Ballroom with these hopeful words: "Whenever I get discouraged about Detroit's redevelopment efforts I think about all the projects we once thought utterly impossible that eventually opened and thrived."

The glorious venue on the far east side of Detroit, whose facade is adorned with Aztec-influenced tiles, hosted many seminal musicians throughout the years before closing in 1988. Today however, it's "in rough shape," according to Gallagher. "Scrappers have been working, the ceiling is open to the sky, debris litters the floor everywhere. But it's still possible to glimpse the former glory."

Jefferson East Inc., the economic development organization supporting neighborhoods in and around East Jefferson Avenue, is putting together redevelopment designs and a funding packaging for the ballroom.

The plan is to have mixed retail on the ground level with the whole project as the centerpiece for much bigger development efforts along 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.

Article explores overlooked beauty of east riverfront housing

Former Model D managing editor Matthew Lewis wrote an article for Hour Detroit about the attractive, and relatively overlooked housing on the Detroit River. Titled "Strait Outta Downtown," the article profiles apartments and houses in The Jeffersonian, "a 30-story, 410-unit midcentury masterpiece," and the Joseph Berry Subdivision, "a small neighborhood consisting of just four streets and fewer than 90 homes."

"But the beauty of its residences—and the influence of its residents—are outsized," writes Lewis.

The article notes that the East Riverfront is a potential growth spot given the skyrocketing real-estate values in downtown and midtown, and its location along Detroit's most distinctive natural feature.

The Jeffersonian, Lewis writes, "features views of cityscapes that are uniquely Detroit—the downtown skyline, blocks of the near east side that are lush with greenery and sparse of houses, Chrysler's sprawling Jefferson North assembly plant, Waterworks Park, and the tidy Berry sub immediately below."

The article then profiles the 5,200 square foot Georgian Colonial located in the Joseph Berry Subdivision and owned by the Linn family since 1983. The houses in the subdivision Lewis writes, "rarely go on the market. A non-waterfront, 5,200-square-foot Tudor described as a 'renovation opportunity' sold last year for $220,000. The Linns' newest neighbor, Kid Rock, moved in two years ago to a house on the west end of Dwight Street."

The article also lists other housing options along the riverfront and is accompanied by attractive photographs of housing, owners, and views of the river and city. 

Community space hosts small scale development "walk and talk" in downtown Hamtramck

Those interested in local, brick and mortar development should attend a walk and talk this Monday in Hamtramck. The event will take place around 4:30 pm at Bank Suey, a community space on Joseph Campau that's undergone a number of transformations since its construction nearly a century ago (it was once a former bank branch, then bar, then Chinese take-out). 

Minneapolis-based IncDev's executive director Jim Kumon will begin the proceedings with a talk about small scale development. Then attendees will continue the dialogue with a walk along Hamtramck's main commercial thoroughfare, Joseph Campau. The tour will end its journey at Bumbo's for drinks and pizza. 

This walk and talk is an example of the kinds of events Bank Suey plans to host in the future (the space is active, but still being renovated). Their website states: "We want to explore new ways to fill main street spaces...We want to create a space that supports community ideas and needs, focusing on the value of local economy and building community wealth."

The event is donation-based, and you can reserve tickets here

Disclaimer: The publisher of Model D, Alissa Shelton, is the owner of Bank Suey and an enthusiastic supporter of development in Hamtramck. 

Fort Street drawbridge over Rouge River reopens


In May 2013, the Fort Street drawbridge that spans the Rouge River in southwest Detroit closed for repairs. Built in 1922 by the Bethlehem Steel Corporation, the bridge serves as an important connection point between Detroit's Oakwood and Delray neighborhoods, as well as between the Downriver region and southwest Detroit. Yet its closure might have proven only a minor inconvenience to area motorists and pedestrians had the West Jefferson Avenue bridge two-thirds of a mile to the south not closed in the same month. That bridge was damaged when its operator, who was suspected of being intoxicated, lowered the span on top a passing ship.

Since then, people in the area have had their options for crossing the Rouge cut in half: they could either take the Dix Avenue Bridge in Dearborn or the I-75 bridge in Detroit, making their journeys more circuitous.

That changed, however, on Thursday, Dec. 31, when the bridge finally reopened after 31 months of repairs that cost the Michigan Department of Transporation $46 million. The Detroit News reports that the repairs were completed nearly a year behind schedule because of the complexity of the job and interference by river traffic. Currently one lane of traffic is open in each direction, but MDOT told the News that it expects to open the bridge's three other lanes by the end of January.

The West Jefferson Avenue drawbridge is expected to reopen in August.

Check out this time-lapse GIF of the reconstructed Fort Street Bridge in action:



Read about locals' reactions to the reopening of the Fort Street Bridge: Inside Southwest Detroit.

Read more: Detroit News
 
239 Redevelopment Articles | Page: | Show All
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