Big Plans: Five Detroit developments to watch in 2022

The last year has been nothing short of a roller coaster for many in the city, marked by an almost constant flow of development ups and downs. From the reopening of restaurants and nightlife to the closure of an array of local businesses and the ongoing pandemic still looming in the background, Detroit saw its share of challenges in 2021.

Still, as we embark on a new year, there are plenty of reasons for Detroiters to be hopeful in 2022. From the revitalization of long-abandoned historic landmarks to affordable housing developments, safer streetscapes, and urban forests, exciting new projects across the city prove there are a lot of great things for Detroiters to look forward to in the next twelve months.

Circle Forest

Situated on 12 formerly vacant and neglected city lots in Detroit’s East Poletown neighborhood, the Circle Forest project is working to create a small forest and park in the city to help Detroiters establish stronger connections to nature.

A collaboration between Arboretum Detroit, Detroit Audubon, Singing Tree, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Fungi Freights, and community volunteers, the development places an emphasis on native restoration with plans to plant 200 native trees and a native meadow on 1.3 acres of land on Palmer between Elmwood and Moran. 

Acknowledging that the small city forest will reside on land originally stewarded by indigenous peoples including the Niswi Ishkodewan Anishinaabeg: The Three Fires Confederacy (comprised of the Ojibwe, the Odawa, and the Potawatomi) and the Seneca, Delaware, Shawnee, and Wyandot nations, the project is committed to promoting healing and reconnection with the land.

“We are honored and grateful to have the space and support to help more Detroiters make friends with the forest,” says Arboretum Detroit executive director Birch Kemp. "We all know that we are supposed to care about forests and trees in an abstract way. Yes, it is essential that we allow ancient forests to thrive and that we steward new ones. However, for the average city-dweller, this may be Greek."

"We have an opportunity here in Detroit to make trees and forests very personal and accessible for all of us. I hope the small forests that we are helping along here can be an entrance into a deeper relationship with forests up north and around the world."

The project, which broke ground in June 2021 and will continue development through this year, is expected to be complete in March 2023. Those interested in helping with the project can sign up for updates about volunteer opportunities at the Arboretum Detroit website.

12th Street/Rosa Parks Streetscape

The city is rolling up its sleeves to make streets safer and more attractive for local residents, pedestrians, and drivers this year. Part of the Streetscape Program, an $80 million bond-funded development investment from the City of Detroit, the 12th Street/Rosa Parks Streetscape project is expected to get started later this year.

The refreshed streetscape, which will run between Clairmont and West Grand Blvd., is estimated to cost around $9.5 million and will include safety enhancements like sidewalk improvements, road resurfacing, lighting, and new landscaping.

Other streetscapes that have been included in the program since 2019 have included Livernois, Bagley, Joseph Campau, Riopelle, Grand River, Gratiot-Randolph Plaza, Conant, Grand Parklet, Kercheval, McNichols, East Warren, West Warren, and 15th Street.

Over the last year, the planning process for the upcoming 12th Street/Rosa Parks Streetscape has gathered input from neighborhood residents to set and prioritize the project’s goals in a series of community meetings open to the public. The final meeting on Dec. 16 included a vote on the final layout of the street determined by members of the local community. Once new renderings for the project are complete later this year, plans will be sent to the city council for approval before construction begins.

Located at 7303 W. McNichols Rd., the Sawyer Art Apartments has 38 residential units and 6,186 square feet of retail.

Sawyer Art Apartments

Property along W. McNichols today, and a rendering of what the development will look like from the same perspective.Spanning a full block between Monica and Prairie in the Live6 neighborhood, the Sawyer Art Apartments at 7303 W. McNichols will provide a combination of 6,186 square feet of reduced-rate commercial retail space for entrepreneurs and 38 affordable housing units including eight studios, 17 one-bedrooms, and 13 two-bedroom units for tenants earning between 60% and 80% area median income.

Funded through a combination of state, city, and other investments, the $10.8 million, 33,000-square-foot development, which broke ground in December, is expected to create an estimated 100 construction jobs this year and next, as well as 25 permanent jobs after opening in the second half of 2023.

Part of the Strategic Neighborhood Fund initiative, a partnership between the City of Detroit and Invest Detroit, the Black-led project’s partners, and developers also include URGE Development Group, N’Namdi Holdings, LLC, and Hosey Development.

Beyond the benefits of affordable housing and commercial space, the new development will also contribute to the creative history and culture Detroit is renowned for.

“The Sawyer Art Apartments will provide an example of how art can be infused into affordable housing so, not only are we beautifying and upscaling our neighborhoods, we are also providing cultural perspective and preserving legacy. Through the integration of the arts, this development will highlight Live6 and the Fitzgerald/Bagley neighborhood’s rich cultural legacy of African Americans injecting new energy, resources, activity, people and enthusiasm into its local economy,” Dr. George R. N’Namdi, managing partner of N’Namdi Holding, LLC and president of the N'Namdi Center for Contemporary Art in Midtown, said in a press release.

Plans for the Godfrey Hotel. Courtesy of Elkus Manfredi Architects

Godfrey Hotel

After breaking ground last fall at 1401 Michigan Ave. between Trumbull and Eighth Street, construction on the upcoming Godfrey Hotel in Corktown is scheduled to continue throughout the remainder of this year before opening its doors to the public in 2023.

Developed by Oxford Capital Group and Hunter Pasteur, the Godfrey Hotel will be managed by Oxford Hotels & Resorts and boast a “soft brand affiliation” with Hilton’s Curio Collection. The 227-room, seven-story boutique hotel will offer high-end amenities and a rooftop lounge with views of the city, in addition to a 5,500 square foot ballroom, fitness center, lobby bar, and a chef-driven restaurant on the ground floor. 

More than just a pretty face, the Godfrey Hotel is expected to create an estimated 200 to 300 construction jobs in the coming year. After opening next year, developers expect the hotel to create an additional 160 to 200 part- and full-time jobs paying a minimum of $17 per hour (full-time positions will also offer health insurance). According to the developer, at least 25% of those jobs will go to Detroit residents through a partnership with the city’s Detroit at Work program.

“Since my student days at The University of Michigan, I have been watching Detroit closely and have been impressed by the remarkable transformation that has occurred downtown,” John W. Rutledge, founder, chairman, and CEO of Oxford Hotels & Resorts, LLC and Oxford Capital Group, LLC, a national hospitality-focused investment, development, and management firm based in Chicago, said in a release.

“We look forward to adding to this momentum and delivering a stunning physical product, as well as Oxford's unique brand of hospitality to this beautiful and dynamic city as Detroit and the country continue their post-pandemic recovery over the next several years.”

Michigan Central Station. Courtesy of Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU) / Ford

Michigan Central Station and the Book Depository

Courtesy of Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU) / FordFirst announced in 2018, the Ford Mobility Innovation District (also in Corktown) is a multi-year, multi-project development aimed at transforming the city’s oldest neighborhood into a 30-acre walkable community. While the entire development is slated for completion in 2023, construction on several key projects is expected to wrap up this year.

The first of those projects is the Albert Kahn-designed Book Depository, expected to be complete in the first quarter of 2022. The building, freshly reimagined by design and architecture firm Gensler, will launch as a mixed-use maker space combining co-working, labs, and innovation studios with an exterior plaza, cafe, and rooftop offering stunning views of the city and riverfront. The Bagley Parking Hub, which will create 1,250 parking spots for Michigan Central workers, should also be complete in the first quarter of 2022.

Restoration of the long-vacant Michigan Central Station is also expected to be completed in the final months of 2022. The former train station will serve as a new home to commercial retail shops, restaurants, and provide office space for Ford employees and innovation partners.

According to plans detailed on the project's website, Michigan Central Station will also be home to a collection of public art as part of a collaboration between Ford Motor Co. and local artists. Art curation will be managed by Vancouver-based art advisory firm Farmboy Fine Arts.

The building’s new tenants are expected to move in during the first half of 2023. We’ll be sure to keep an eye on which businesses are opening there — and how the development is serving residents and the local community once it opens to the public.

Courtesy of Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU) / Ford
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Read more articles by Erin Marie Miller.

Erin Marie Miller is a freelance writer and photographer based in Metro Detroit whose work focuses on people and small business. Inspired by the genre of New Journalism, she is passionate about connecting people to their communities through meaningful storytelling.