The fire that destroyed the roof and caused interior damage to the Forest Arms apartment building on Second and Canfield in Midtown happened in February 2008. After that, local developer Scott Lowell and his wife Carolyn Howard purchased the building with plans to renovate and reopen it. Nearly six years later, the renovation is finally about to get underway.
Lowell and Howard own several buildings in the area, including the Beethoven and Blackstone apartment buildings and the restaurant Traffic Jam & Snug. Despite their strong track record of redevelopment, it still took more than five years to get the Forest Arms project off the ground. First they had to convince the city that the building was worth saving instead of demolishing and that they were the people to do it – which, Lowell says, was the easy part. They then had to weather the housing market collapse, banks reluctant to lend money in its aftermath, and the elimination of the state historic tax credits (a boon to recent local developments).
"Losing the state tax credits was horrible," Lowell says. Luckily for them, with the help of Midtown Detroit Inc.'s Sue Mosey and the Michigan Historic Preservation Network, theirs was one of the last projects to be awarded under the state historic tax credit program. "It has been an arduous process just to get to this point, but it's finally here."
Forest Arms will celebrate a "groundbreaking" this Thursday. Previous work they have done since acquiring the building has included adding a new roof to make it weather-tight and ensuring the structure remains sound. The renovation will include all-new plumbing, drainage, electrical, and HVAC systems. The design will also utilize environmentally sustainable technologies like solar energy for hot water and reclaimed water from the roof to flush the toilets. They will also add a new fire suppression system, Lowell says, in deference to what happened there. "I want to sleep comfortably at night and I want our residents to sleep comfortably at night," he says.
Once completed, the new Forest Arms will consist of 70 architecturally diverse units with five top-floor penthouses, two ground floor commercial spaces, and a totally soundproof room in the basement for bands to hold band practice – a nice nod to the building's history as a hub for local musicians, from People's Records
formerly located on its ground floor to the allegorical Arms Forest
album recorded by local rockers the Hard Lessons
after the fire.
The construction schedule is planned at 18 months. Lowell hopes to have it completed by fall 2015.
Source: Scott Lowell, owner and developer of Forest Arms
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg
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