Woodbridge Investing Guide

This is Model D's guide to investing in Woodbridge. Also check out our guides to visiting and moving to the near-West Side neighborhood.

If you are considering an investment in Detroit’s historic Woodbridge neighborhood — a triangular slice of the city’s near-West Side that includes choice residential and industrial opportunities — consider the investors who came before you.

Woodbridge was once the home of James E. Scripps and George G. Booth, two publishing giants who were related by marriage. Scripps owned an estate on Trumbull at Brainard St., while his son-in-law Booth lived across the street, in a house that stood on the grounds of what is now Scripps Park. David Stott, whose name is fixed to one of downtown’s great pre-Depression skyscrapers, owned a flour mill at Grand River and Warren.

Former Michigan Gov. G. Mennen (Soapy) Williams — who had designs on running for president in 1960 until his friend John F. Kennedy entered the race — grew up in a house on Commonwealth and Hancock. Detroit Tigers Hall of Famer Ty Cobb, a social rascal who loved the nightlife has much as he did slapping singles and stealing bases at old Navin Field, owned a house on Commonwealth near Grand River.

Trailblazing, colorful and accomplished characters, people who helped shape the history of the region, populate Woodbridge history.

That history is also marked by community spirit and collective effort, like when the neighborhood came together in the 1960s to prevent a planned clearance of the entire area to make way for an expansion of the university district west of Wayne State.

“It’s been the people who have made Woodbridge such an interesting place,” says Ed Potas of the Woodbridge Neighborhood Development Corp. “It was community resistance to a bad idea that helped change history and preserve the neighborhood. That same independent spirit remains in Woodbridge today.”

Past meets present

The neighborhood’s history — it is named for William Woodbridge, a 19th century territorial governor who owned a farm in the area — is part of what’s driving development now.

The beautiful, historic Victorian-era homes make This Old House fans salivate; plus Woodbridge is home to some of the city’s coolest galleries and attracts artists, musicians and university-types as residents. Plus, its location (mere minutes from downtown, Wayne State and the Cultural Center, Corktown’s nightlife and with easy access to the freeways) makes Woodbridge a convenient place to live.

The history, art, culture and convenience have led to a boom in residential development in Woodbridge, and even a B&B.

The character of old Detroit can be seen at Scripps Park, which is earmarked for restoration, and up the street at the Woodbridge Star Bed & Breakfast, a nationally registered historic site. Built in 1891 by the Northwood brewing family, this three-story Victorian house at the corner of Trumbull and Alexandrine St. combines the traditional with the modern — it has fireplaces and private baths, a Jacuzzi and computer hook-ups. Rates for rooms are $125-175, though extended stays will bring those numbers down.

Past Woodbridge rehab projects have expanded options for loft or condo living in the area. At the 5000 block of Commonwealth St. at Merrick St., a former apartment building was converted into modern living spaces. A 1,300-square foot-loft with one-bedroom, one-and-a-half baths and garage sold for $147,000. The unit contains a fireplace, a new kitchen, central air, solid hardwood floors, textured glass and laundry in the unit.

Potas of the WNDC says that the rehabilitation of the building on the north end of Woodbridge has helped stabilize the entire neighborhood.

“By beginning those projects it has given incentive for other investors to jump into Woodbridge,” Potas says. “We need to continue to work on all parts of the neighborhood, even further from the center of the neighborhood.”

Pride and joy

On the southeast side of the neighborhood, on grounds that once contained the Jeffries Public Housing Projects — a massive residential community once consisting of 13 high rise towers and three dozen three-story apartment buildings — a mixed-income development has brought new life back to the city.

Woodbridge Estates is a $100 million residential village with over 100 single-family houses, 245 apartments and a senior community with nearly 300 units. Streets in the estates are named for Motown stars like the Contours, Marvin Gaye and the Miracles.

Sixteen townhouse models were added to the mix, which included homes with two- or three-bedrooms with 1,485- and 1,946-square-foot floor plans, respectively. The units include two-car attached garage, a balcony and nine-foot ceilings on the first floor, and are finished with brick exteriors.

The Woodbridge Estates properties start in the $180,000 range. Apartments in the Estates range from $750 to around $1,150 per month.

Quilted space

Woodbridge is also home to a unique residential development project custom made for the neighborhood. It is a collaborative effort between the University of Detroit Mercy’s School of Architecture and the Architectural Salvage Company of Detroit, based in Woodbridge.

Students are designing a house with deconstructed materials provided by ASWD. Called Quilted Space: 4429 Avery, the house will be built using glass windows, hardwood doors and porcelain fixtures reclaimed from an historic mansion demolished near Chicago. The Woodbridge Neighborhood Development Corp. donated the site and is the project’s developer. Detroit’s Focus: HOPE is providing warehousing space for the construction materials.

The house will offer ecologically-friendly features — like a rainwater collection unit that could eventually be used as part of a solar water heating system — and will be landscaped with low-maintenance vegetation native to the region. It will have a second-floor balcony that can be enclosed to create an additional bedroom, increasing the size of the interior from 1,640 to 1,715 square feet.

At a recent project review held at UDM, Greg Donnelly of the WNDC said that the design is intended to be “reproducible … We want to do this 20 times, not just once.”

In fact, a master plan calls for 24 vacant lots in Woodbridge to be prepped for housing as part of the Quilted Space project. Another partner in the project is the Detroit Collaborative Design Center, headed by UDM’s School of Architecture professor Daniel Pitera.

Pitera said he is excited about the project because it takes “the design work done by students in the studio and converts it into the real experience” of seeing houses get built.

Carolyn Mosher, president and founder of www.ASWDetroit.org, said she was “deeply impressed by the enthusiasm and vision of the architecture students. This is a perfect example of the mission of the Architectural Salvage Warehouse: saving trees, preserving historic elements so they continue to live in the community and reducing demolition waste.”

Stephen Vogel, the dean of the UDM’s School of Architecture, called the design of the house “fabulous.”

The future

With so much residential development complete, under way and in the pipeline, and so much interest in living in Woodbridge, there’s also room for other types of businesses — like restaurants, bars, shops, and other services to cater to residents.

Woodbridge is also home to galleries — like 555, 4731 and CAID — so coffee shops, bars - such as the soon-coming Woodbrige Pub on the ocrner of Trumbull and Merrick - or boutiques that could cater to the art crowd would also be a good fit.

And, neighbors say more rooftops are always welcome.

Potas of the community development corporation says that Woodbridge has room for 200 more new houses.

“We think this is just the beginning,” Potas says. “People think of residential Woodbridge has just Avery and Commonwealth, but we are thinking much bigger. We’ve got some momentum now, and we want to keep it rolling.”

Directions to Woodbridge

From the East:
Take I-94 West and take Exit 214 toward Grand River Ave/Linwood Ave. Stay straight to go onto Edsel Ford Fwy West, and then turn left onto Linwood St. Turn slight left onto Grand River Ave and arrive in Woodbridge.

From the North:
Take I-75 South and merge onto I-94 West via Exit 53B toward Chicago. Take Exit 214 toward Grand River Ave/Linwood Ave. Stay straight to go onto Edsel Ford Fwy West, and then turn left onto Linwood St. Turn slight left onto Grand River Ave and arrive in Woodbridge.

From the West:
Take I-96 East and take Exit 190B toward Warren Ave. Stay straight to go onto West Jefferies Fwy. Turn left onto Warren Ave to Grand River Ave. Arrive in Woodbridge.

From the South:
Take I-94 East toward Detroit. Take Exit 214A toward Grand River Ave and stay straight to go onto Edsel Ford Fwy West. Turn right onto Grand River Ave and arrive in Woodbridge.

Take I-75 North toward Detroit. Merge onto I-96 West via Exit 48 on the left toward Lansing. Take Exit 190B toward Warren Ave. and stay straight to go onto W Jefferies Fwy. Turn right onto Warren Ave and arrive in Woodbridge.


Woodbridge Estates Homes

Woodbridge Star Bed and Breakfast Sitting Room Looking towards the Greenhouse

Woodbridge Star Bed and Breakfast

Bonnie Bridge Villa

4731 Gallery and Artist Lofts

All Photographs Copyright Dave Krieger

Read more articles by Walter Wasacz.

Walter Wasacz is a writer and the former managing editor of Model D. You can find more of his writings here.