When Ariel Millan received a message at 5:40 a.m. Monday that his sous chef Mateo Burns was having a baby, he said okay and went back to sleep.
Several minutes later, the executive chef of Detroit's newest Italian restaurant woke up with a start and an expletive, sent a congratulatory text and headed into Ottava Via, to spend the next day and night cooking up a storm. The eatery is set to open imminently as owners await final permits from the city. As the Ottavia Via team works out the kinks ahead of a forthcoming grand opening, they tested out a pared-down, but no less delicious, menu of thin crust pizzas, entrees and salads.
Mixing old world charm and classic dishes with a price point fit for a quick bite before a Tigers game, the restaurant inhabits the Dime Savings Bank branch building on Michigan and 8th Street (the inspiration for its name) and was more recently Louie's Place, a pawnbroker.
While it's a unique addition for the strip of restaurants and bars in Corktown, home to the famous Slows Bar BQ, the location is nothing new to owners David Steinke and Tim Springstead, who have been working on the space for about two years. Steinke is part owner of Mercury Burger Bar, which opened last year, and Springstead's family has owned Nemo's for decades, a saloon just across the street.
The two men have been planning to go into business together for a long time and spent years searching for the right spot, Springstead said, but it wasn't until one day taking out the trash at Nemo's that he set his sights on what would become Ottava Via's home.
"We've been looking for 20 years and it's 30 feet away," he laughed. Bits of history crop up in conversation, and in the restaurant -- one of the tables previously served customers at Nemo's.
Cost was one of the owners' considerations, so a couple could come in for a Neapolitan pizza (make it the Salsiccia, perfectly crispy, with sausage, peppers and a kick) and drinks for under $25. But that doesn't mean Olive Garden-esque all-you-can-eat portions. Instead, for Steinke, it's all about quality.
"My philosophy is spend twice as much and eat half as much," he said.
Millan, who does double duty as Mercury's chef, takes that to heart as well.
One of the centerfold dishes is the porchetta, which is cooked in the sous-vide method (submerged in a water bath) for 24 hours with the skin off for a moist and tender pork dish. It's plated with cracklings and served alongside a fennel and arugula salad.
"I'm from Puerto Rico, and Puerto Ricans take their pork seriously," the 25-year-old said.
One of his inspirations is his uncle, who owns an Italian restaurant on the island, and many of his recipes come from his grandmother and mother, though he's added his own tweaks. Small twists to traditional show up on Ottava Via's menu, like hanger steak served with an Italian take on chimichurri and chicken served with zucchini noodles.
With understated televisions, a charming patio, plans for a bocce court in back, a long bar, red leather benches lining the walls for convivial dining and affordable wine (bottles start at $24), Ottava Via has all the makings for a new Motor City hangout spot.
Ottava Via is located at 1480 Michigan Ave. Keep tabs on the restaurant and look for its grand opening on Facebook.
Meijer Grocery Stores/Gateway Shopping Center
The Meijer grocery chain is opening a 190,000-square-foot supercenter in summer 2013 at 8 Mile and Woodward in Detroit by the site of the former Michigan State Fairgrounds It will be an anchor for the <a href="http://www.gatewaymarketplace.net/" target="_blank">Gateway shopping center</a>, now being completed by the Southfield-based real estate development firm Redico. Gateway will offer 325,000 square feet of retail. The developers are billing it as the largest shopping center in the city. Other tenants will include Marshall's, K&G Fashion, Dots, McDonald’s and PNC Bank. The project, designed by Rogvoy Architects, has been a work in progress for over a decade. The Michigan Economic Growth Authority approved <a href="http://www.mlive.com/news/detroit/index.ssf/2011/12/gateway_marketplace_is_a_go_st.html" target="_blank">$6,134,068 in brownfield tax credits</a> for the marketplace. It <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/17/gateway-marketplace-detroit-breaks-ground-meijer-marshalls-_n_1524258.html" target="_blank">broke ground</a> in May 2012 and is expected to be ready for shoppers in summer 2013. Another Meijer store is also expected to be built on the grounds of a former city school, Redford High, at <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/16/detroit-meijer_n_1097409.html" target="_blank">Grand River and McNichols</a>. Lormax Stern Detroit Development LLC, is developing the property for Meijer as a proposed 200,000-square-foot facility that's expected to sport a retail, grocery and garden center and gas station. It's been approved for a brownfield tax credit of $3.3 million that's being used to raze the old school, clean the soil and install new utilities on the roughly 25-acre site. The total tax incentives for the project were valued at $11 million in 2011.
Movable adaptable workstations called collaboration cubes, fire pits, a projection screen, an exercise circuit and a climbing wall are all proposed elements of a new TechTown district plan. It's being put together by the Detroit business incubator TechTown with the assistance of <a href="http://midtowndetroitinc.org/" target="_blank">Midtown Inc.</a>, landscape architecture and urban design firm <a href="http://www.sasaki.com/" target="_blank">Sasaki Associates</a> and advisory services firm <a href="http://u3ventures.com/" target="_blank">U3 Ventures</a>. The project covers 149 acres of land in the vicinity of Wayne State University and is supported by a variety of local anchor organizations, like Wayne State, Henry Ford Health System, Next Energy and the College for Creative Studies. The first part of implementing the district plan will "focus on the <a href="http://detroit.curbed.com/archives/2013/05/the-official-techtown-district-plan-looks-absolutely-absurd.php" target="_blank">plaza at Cass and Burroughs</a>, the underpasses connecting New Center and Tech Town, a parking utilization study, and a concept plan for a shared parking deck," according to a Sasaki statement. Sasaki's plan, the winning entry in a contest held to re-imagine the area, is designed to "<a href="http://www.sasaki.com/project/279/midtown-detroit-techtown-district/" target="_blank">create a vibrant neighborhood</a>, facilitate collaboration, generate excitement, encourage experimentation, enhance connectivity with anchor institutions, and encourage regional support," according to the firm's website. While a definitive time-frame for the project is still tentative, a first-floor renovation is currently underway on TechTown's building at 440 Burroughs. The 28,000 square-foot area is being transformed into a collaborative space that will include a conference center, communal kitchen and pop-up host space, videoconferencing area, business acceleration suite and the TechTown administrative headquarters. They hope to encourage creativity and the sharing of ideas by those using the space. The architect handling the building's renovation is Centric Design Studio, a resident of the TechTown building. Engineer is <a href="http://www.ghafari.com/content.cfm/firm" target="_blank"> the Dearborn-based Ghafari</a>. The project is expected to wrap up by Nov. 2013.
Woodward Garden Block Development
The Garden Theater, a Midtown Detroit landmark, is getting an overhaul and a new name, the Woodward Theater. Originally opened in 1912, the venue was once one of the Detroit's largest theaters outside of the city's theater district. It also served for a time as an adult filmhouse, known as the Sassy Cat. The 32,505 square foot structure is being transformed into a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/11/garden-theater-detroit_n_1874380.html" target="_blank">performance, retail and conference center</a>, part of a renovation of an entire block of buildings along Woodward Ave. between Warren and Mack, and will revitalize one of the last derelict stretches of Woodward in Midtown. Real estate developer George Stewart and partners Michael Byrd and William Mosely <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/11/garden-theater-detroit_n_1874380.html" target="_blank">began the renovation of the theater</a> in June 2012. The architect firms <a href="http://www.quinnevans.com/about-us" target="_blank">Quinn Evans</a> (architect of record) and <a href="http://www.mcintoshporis.com/" target="_blank">McIntosh Poris Associates</a> (design architect) are handling the renovation. $1 million in <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/19/woodward-theater-detroit-garden-theater_n_1437854.html" target="_blank">state and city loans</a> are helping to finance the effort. The theater is expected to open <a href="http://www.modeldmedia.com/devnews/woodwardgardensblockdetroit120412.aspx" target="_blank">in fall 2013</a>. The block's redevelopment project also involves the construction of a new building adjacent to the theater, on the site of the former Zakoor novelty store. McIntosh Poris is handling the building's design. The Zakoor Residential project will feature 11,000-square-feet of commercial space and 61 residential apartments. The Woodward Theater project is expected to reach completion in summer 2013, and the Zakoor Residential project in the fall.
New International Trade Crossing
One of Detroit's most buzzed-about developments is a second international toll bridge connecting the city's Delray neighborhood with Windsor, Canada. The New International Trade Crossing (NITC), a <a href="http://www.tollroadsnews.com/node/6509" target="_blank">six-lane suspension bridge</a>, will link I-75 with Canada's Highway 401. The American and Canadian federal governments and Gov. Rick Snyder say NITC is a way to reduce congestion and boost economies on both sides of the river. Currently, the privately-held Ambassador bridge between Detroit and Windsor is North America's busiest international trade crossing. <a href="http://www.deloitte.com/view/en_US/us/index.htm" target="_blank">Deloitte</a>, a professional services firm is <a href="http://top100projects.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Top100_2013_LOWRES.pdf" target="_blank">managing the project</a>, using the engineering companies of Morrison Hershfield, Delcan and Davis Langdon. The cost of the total project will run about <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/12/new-international-trade-crossing-bridge-detroit-michigan-canada_n_1590759.html" target="_blank">$2.1 billion</a> -- with roughly a billion going towards the bridge structure and the remaining amount budgeted for customs plazas and road connections. Canada has pledged to pay around <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/12/new-international-trade-crossing-bridge-detroit-michigan-canada_n_1590759.html" target="_blank">$550 million of the State of Michigan's bill</a> for the project, which it will later earn back through toll revenue. Cyclists will be happy to know that MDOT has approved a plan for a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/18/nitc-bike-bridge-detroit-canada-crossing-windsor_n_2901671.html" target="_blank">bike crossing</a> on the structure, which also has the backing of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. In April 2013 the NITC received a presidential permit from the U.S. government, needed for the project to proceed. Ambassador Bridge owner <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/08/matty-moroun-lawsuit-sue-nitc_n_2092898.html" target="_blank">Manuel "Matty" Moroun</a>, a competitor, has attempted to halt the new bridge with a failed referendum attempt and legal challenges. The bridge isn't expected to be <a href="http://www.tollroadsnews.com/node/6509" target="_blank">up and running</a> until 2020-2021, according toTollRoadsNews.
Rivertown Neighborhood Senior Housing
Two nonprofits are now at work on the second phase of a senior housing project they call Rivertown Neighborhood. They're hoping to create an integrated affordable senior community near the Detroit River. Presbyterian Villages of Michigan (PVM) and United Methodist Retirement Communities (UMRC) completed the first phase of their project, an assisted living center, in April 2013. They expect to have 80 occupants by the end of that year. The building, located on McDougall Avenue, was once owned by the Parke-Davis pharmaceutical company. The complex is located within walking distance to stores and restaurants in the Rivertown District. The second phase, which has already broken ground, involves a nearly $7 million, 43,000-square-foot structure that will feature 50 independent living apartments. It will be located just east of the other project and is expected to open in spring 2014. The third component of the project will be a licensed nursing home with a garden and a cafe. In 2012 the nonprofits received a $6.9 million grant from U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to work on the project. The apartments are being subsidized by the agency.
Whole Foods Market
The highly anticipated Midtown Detroit Whole Foods Market is slated to open in June at Mack and John R. The 20,000-square-foot store, which <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/14/whole-foods-detroit-groundbreaking-meijer_n_1514704.html" target="_blank">broke ground</a> in May 2012, replaces a former bank. Several Detroit-specific elements are planned for the store, including cafe tables made from <a href="http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20130424/BLOG006/130429937/an-exclusive-look-inside-midtowns-whole-foods" target="_blank">old car hoods</a> and cash register numbers fabricated from old Motown records, according to Crain's Detroit Business. Walter Robb, co-CEO of Whole Foods, has said the company hopes to challenge <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/30/walter-robb-detroit-whole-foods_n_3185204.html" target="_blank">elitism and racism</a> with the project and wants to make the store affordable and accessible to patrons. $4.2 million in tax credits and incentives have been awarded to help bring the new market to Detroit.
David Whitney Building
Detroit's historic David Whitney building, which dates back to 1915, is currently in the midst of an $82 million renovation. Vacant since 2000, the structure was designed by the firm of Daniel Burnham, the architect behind New York City's famous Flatiron Building. The 19-floor building is located at 1553 Woodward in Grand Circus Park. Whitney Partners LLC, a partnership of the <a href="http://roxburygroup.com/" target="_blank">Roxbury Group</a> and <a href="http://www.transinns.com/" target="_blank">Trans Inns Management</a>, is overseeing the project with <a href="http://www.thekraemeredge.com/" target="_blank">Kraemer Design Group</a> as their current architect. Detroit-based firm Walbridge Aldinger is handling the construction. Plans call for opening an Aloft boutique hotel with 136 rooms, banquet facilities, bar, restaurant and meeting space with views of the Whitney's beautiful atrium. The structure will also house <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/28/david-whitney-building-renovation-hotel-detroit_n_2970968.html" target="_blank">105 apartments</a>, a second eating establishment and link to the People Mover. The building's classic exterior, modernized in 1959, will also be restored. Developers expect to finish the project by July 2014.
Midtown Professional Building
It might be a vacant lot now, but the corner of Woodward and Stimson in Midtown Detroit is slated to become a five-story medical building. The 75,000-square-foot Midtown Professional Building will offer Class A office space on the upper levels and 8,000-square-foot retail area on the ground floor. It will also feature a two-story lobby and access to Wi-Fi and a 285-car garage. The $30 million project is being helmed by development firm Queen Lillian with Hamilton Anderson as the architect. Jenkins Construction is handling the nuts-and-bolts of the operation. Developer Chris Jackson of Queen Lillian told Mlive that his firm was <a href="http://www.mlive.com/business/detroit/index.ssf/2013/04/30_million_midtown_professiona.html" target="_blank">flooded with calls</a> from interested tenants after completing another Midtown medical complex in early 2013 and decided to capitalize on the eager market. Construction is expected to begin in August 2013 and <a href="http://www.mlive.com/business/detroit/index.ssf/2013/04/30_million_midtown_professiona.html" target="_blank">finish in the fall</a> of the following year.
Michigan State Fairgrounds
An investment group led by former NBA star Earvin "Magic" Johnson <a href="http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20130502/NEWS/130509978/fire-sale-state-returning-memorial-bricks-from-giant-stove-at" target="_blank">is finalizing negotiations</a> with the state to redevelop the site of the old Michigan State Fairgrounds, which <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/09/michigan-state-fairgrounds-detroit_n_1412418.html" target="_blank">hasn't been used since 2009</a>. The Michigan Land Bank Fast Track Authority voted to accept the Magic Plus group's bid in February, but a development agreement still needs to hammered out. Their proposal was the only one that met the state's financial requirements. <a href="http://www.michigan.gov/documents/landbank/colormedium_412318_7.pdf" target="_blank">Magic Plus' plan</a> calls for a 500,000-square-foot development on the 157-acre-site. The $120 million proposal would offer a mix of retail, residential and mixed-use structures, including a movie theater, parks and restaurants. <a href="http://www.hobbs-black.com/" target="_blank">Hobbs + Black</a> is the architect firm involved with the project. The developers believe their proposal would revitalize the neighborhood and draw patrons from both Detroit and surrounding suburbs. The transfer of the land to the investors has been opposed by a group called the <a href="http://growtown.org/files/METAEXPO-fullPresentation.pdf" target="_blank">State Fairgrounds Development Coalition</a> that had pitched a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/10/michigan-regional-transit-authority-board-southeast_n_3057121.html" target="_blank">more transit-oriented proposal</a> for the property.
New Detroit Stadium District
A Detroit development group owned by sports team owner and pizza magnate Mike Illitch is intent on building a new mixed-use district in a blighted area between Midtown and downtown Detroit. Olympia Development said the new $650 million development project would contain residential, retail and office facilities anchored by "a new state-of-the-art, multi-purpose events center." The entertainment complex would eventually serve as the new home for the Detroit Red Wings, who now play at the city-owned Joe Louis Arena. The development company estimates the venture would create 8,300 jobs and generate nearly $2 billion for the state's economy. In May 2012, the Red Wings selected the architect firms HKS and Chan Krieger NBBJ <a href="http://www.sportsbusinessdaily.com/Journal/Issues/2012/05/21/Facilities/Red-Wings.aspx" target="_hplink">to build a new stadium</a> to replace Joe Louis, which opened in 1979. Details are scarce as to when and where the new district will be built. Olympia has said it will be located in an <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/04/mike-ilitch-detroit-downtown-district-center_n_2239352.html" target="_blank">"underutilized" part of Detroit’s downtown</a> core and will create a "a continuous, walkable environment" that will link together existing districts. Last year, state lawmakers passed a bill redirecting about <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/14/red-wings-arena-hockey-detroit-mike-ilitch_n_2300659.html" target="_blank">$12.8 million in annual Downtown Development Authority</a> tax revenues from schools to the new development project.
Globe Trading building
Detroit's historic Globe Trading Company building is being transformed into a discovery and recreation center by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Located at Orleans and Atwater on the Detroit River, the site previously served as a dry dock and ship-manufacturing facility, as well as a multi-purpose complex for Globe Trading, a machinery and mill supplies company. The 42,000-square-foot Outdoor Adventure and Discovery Center will be a collaboration between the Michigan DNR, City of Detroit and <a href="detroit economic growth corporation" target="_blank">DEGC</a>. Plans call for a rock climbing wall, zip line, classrooms, and outdoor activities. “The goal of everyone involved in this venture is to create a downtown destination where people living in or visiting an urban area can experience the adventure and excitement of Michigan’s great outdoors, gain confidence in participating in outdoor recreation activities, and understand more about protecting our state’s unique natural resources,” DNR Director Keith Creagh said in a release. The $12.8 million project is being developed by the Roxbury Group, a firm that's also involved in renovating downtown's David Whitney building. The firm of Hobbs + Black is the architect. Work began in October 2012 and is expected to wrap up by fall 2013.
M-1 Rail Streetcar Project
It's been a bumpy ride, but plans are now progressing for a new 3.3-mile streetcar system along Woodward Avenue. The project is being spearheaded by the nonprofit <a href="http://www.m-1rail.com/" target="_blank">M-1 Rail</a> organization, which is currently overseeing the design, construction and future operations of the circulating streetcar system. The effort also received strong backing from a trio of prominent businessmen, Dan Gilbert of Quicken Loans, Roger Penske of Penske Corp. and Peter Karmanos, the founder of Compuware. The streetcar project will stretch from the city's downtown to the New Center district, north of Grand Boulevard. M-1 Rail estimates the system will bring $500 million worth of economic development to the Woodward corridor and says it helped bring about Southeast Michigan's new Regional Transit Authority. The public-private venture is being partially funded by a $25 million federal TIGER grant. The project received <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/22/m-1-rail-clearance-cfo-detroit_n_3133955.html" target="_blank">Federal Transit Administration clearance</a> in April, allowing it to move forward with selecting contractors to design and build the system. Construction will begin in the summer of 2013 and the line is expected to be operational by 2015. Image: This artist rendering from the M-1 Rail shows a section of the proposed line along Woodward Ave. (AP Photo/M-1 Rail)
Crowne Plaza Ponchartrain Hotel
The former Hotel Riverside, closed since 2009, is opening its doors again this summer as the Crowne Plaza Pontchartrain Hotel. The 25-story building was purchased last year by Mexican hotel developer Gabriel Ruiz. Located at Washington Boulevard and Jefferson Avenue, the structure stands on the site of the city's first French settlement, Fort Ponchartrain. The 367-room lodging returns with eye-catching green-tinted glass windows and a lobby adorned with gold and silver leaf. Inside will be an upscale restaurant, the Jefferson House, that's attached to a roomy bar. The Pontch comeback will be also be marked with new carpets, revamped elevators, and a new heating and cooling system. The new look is the work of the Stephen Berry Architectural Design firm. Bill Bohde, senior vice president of the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau, told the Detroit Free Press the hotel's proximity to Cobo Center could help draw more convention-goers to the Motor City. “You’re going to be able to put speakers, VIPs, right across the street from the <a href="http://www.freep.com/article/20120403/NEWS01/120403042/Detroit-s-Pontchartrain-Hotel" target="_blank">convention center</a>, which is very attractive to planners," he said. Future plans call for reopening the building's Top of the Pontch restaurant and a sky tunnel to Cobo. A grand opening is slated for July 2013, though the hotel will be taking reservations <a href="http://detroit.curbed.com/places/pontchartrain-hotel" target="_blank">beginning June 15.</a>
Shipping Crate Hotel
Shel Kimen, a New York transplant to Detroit, intends to create a boutique hotel made out of shipping containers in the city in 2014. She's already set up a prototype for the project, which is called <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/16/shipping-container-hotel-detroit-shel-kimen_n_3093286.html" target="_blank">Collision Works</a>, in Detroit's Eastern Market district with the help of crowdfunders. The full plan, however, calls for building a 35-room, 16,000-square-foot hotel on a vacant lot by the Dequindre Cut near the market. It will feature a 3,000-square-foot event venue, an exterior courtyard, and a communal work area. Kimen envisions Collision Works as a gathering place with workshops, story-telling sessions and live events to connect travelers and locals. She has a team of advisors helping her with the effort, including George Cooper of KOOP AM, who will be the project's architect of record. Kimen hopes the project will be completed by spring of 2014, but a <a href="http://www.modeldmedia.com/devnews/detroitcollisionworksfirstcontainerdebut.aspx" target="_blank">land use hearing</a> needs to be held before she can purchase and build on the land.
Detroit could eventually be home to a bike share program that would help pedestrians and tourists navigate the city without a car. Wayne State is partnering with a number of different local businesses and institutions to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/23/detroit-bike-share-study-wayne-state_n_2534946.html" target="_blank">study the feasibility</a> of such a program. The neighborhoods of Corktown, Downtown, Eastern Market, Lafayette Park, Mexicantown, Midtown, New Center, North End and Woodbridge are all under consideration for possible bike rental sites. Partners involved with the the study include Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Cobo Center, College for Creative Studies, Compuware, Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, Detroit Medical Center, Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, Detroit Wayne Joint Building Authority, Downtown Detroit Partnership, DTE Energy, Eastern Market Corporation, Health Alliance Plan, Henry Ford Health System, Illitch Holdings, Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance, Midtown Detroit Inc., Next Energy, Quicken Loans, Tech Town, Wayne State University and Wheelhouse Detroit. For more information, visit the <a href="http://www.detroitbicycleshare.com/" target="_blank">Detroit bicycle share website</a>. Photo: Bikes are parked at a bike sharing station on September 16, 2011 in the French northern city of Lille.
Forest Arms Renovation
A fire ravaged the Forest Arms apartments in 2008, forcing the venerable structure to close its doors nearly a century after first opening them. But plans are now afoot to see the four-story complex at Forest and Second in Detroit's Cass Corridor restored to its former grandeur. A development partnership comprised of Bronx Bar owner Scott Lowell and Midtown Detroit Inc., is pursuing a deal to finance the $17 million dollar reconstruction of the 75-room apartment building. In addition to bank financing, the development team is seeking brownfield and historic preservation tax credits to help pay for the project. Sue Mosey of Midtown Detroit told The Huffington Post in mid-May that she believed funding would be secured within the next month or two. She estimates construction would take about 18 months to complete. Both Mosey and Lowell have said they are motivated by a desire to preserve the historic winged structure for the sake of the neighborhood. The Woodbridge-based McCleer Architetto architecture firm has been selected to oversee the redesign. Along with restoration aspect of the project, Lowell told Model D he's also interested making some improvements -- like installing a <a href="http://www.modeldmedia.com/features/forestarms19009.aspx" target="_blank">solar powered radiant heat system</a> and possibly adding a fifth level.
Midtown Detroit's <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/03/auburn-building-detroit-midtown_n_1935603.html" target="_blank">56,000-square-foot Auburn building</a> is one of the neighborhood's flagship development projects. Located at the corner of Cass and Canfield, the structure boasts 58 rental units and first-floor retail space. The complex was developed by the <a href="http://roxburygroup.com/" target="_blank">Roxbury Group</a> with the architect firm <a href="http://www.thekraemeredge.com/" target="_blank">Kraemer Design Group</a>. Its name comes from an automobile brand that was once sold at a car dealership located on-site. It began leasing in fall 2012. Backers have said the Auburn provides much-needed living space in the city's Midtown district, and it has<a href="http://detroit.curbed.com/archives/2012/10/half-of-the-auburn-apartments-are-already-leased.php" target="_blank"> filled up</a> with residents rather quickly. But<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/03/auburn-building-detroit-midtown_n_1935603.html" target="_blank"> keeping retail tenants</a> has been a little trickier. The ice cream shop Treat Dreams backed out of the building in 2013, although a Ferndale art gallery called <a href="http://detroit.curbed.com/archives/2013/04/the-auburn-gains-a-gallery-loses-an-ice-cream-shop.php" target="_blank">The Butcher's Daughter</a> quickly stepped up to take its place. As of mid-May, four of eight retail spots were occupied with four more expected to be filled in late spring of 2013, according to Sue Mosey of Midtown Detroit Inc. Other tenants include Source Booksellers, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/23/global-detroit-human-clothing-store-auburn-midtown-_n_3138727.html" target="_blank">Global Detroit Human</a>, the Patrick Thompson Design studio, and <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/13/go-sy-thai-detroit-restaurant-midtown-auburn_n_2674909.htm" target="_blank">Go Sy Thai!</a>
Dan Gilbert's Downtown Ventures
Referring to downtown Detroit as Gilbertville might be going a little too far, but Quicken Loans founder and chairman Dan Gilbert has been acquiring an awful lot of buildings in the area lately. Rock Ventures, the real estate division of his company, has scooped up<a href="http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20130504/BIZ/305040331" target="_blank"> 22 properties</a> in the district over the last three years, including <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/26/dan-gilbert-vinton-building-detroit_n_2957620.html" target="_blank">1001 Woodward and the Vinton building</a>. His organization is also in the process of building a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/01/dan-gilbert-detroit-z-development_n_2059562.html" target="_blank">Z-shaped 535,000-square-foot parking and retail structure </a> that will stretch from Broadway and East Grand River to Library and Gratiot. It will feature 33,000-square-feet of ground floor retail space and a garage with parking for 1,300 vehicles. The new structure will ideally ease downtown's parking shortage and bring in new retail and dining options for those living in the area. It's being constructed over the site of an existing parking lot. Design is being handled by Neumann/Smith Architecture and parking consultants Rich and Associates. Construction, which began in fall 2012, should be complete by December. Gilbert is also working to promote commerce in the district by backing initiatives like the M-1 Rail streetcar line, tech startups in the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/04/twitter-opens-detroit-office-madison-building_n_1402644.html" target="_blank">M@dison building</a> and investment by companies like the upscale <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/28/papa-joes-detroit_n_2973682.html?utm_hp_ref=detroit-development" target="_blank">Papa Joe's Market</a>.
Cass Corridor Apartments
Development may be speeding along in Detroit's Midtown/Cass Corridor area, but that isn't always good news for long-time residents. In April, Peter Mercier, the owner of three apartment buildings on the 400 block of Henry, gave his tenants a letter telling them they had 30 days to pack their bags. It said they were being evicted so the buildings could be sold to an unnamed buyer. Mercier later <a href="http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20130501/BIZ/305010427/Cass-Corridor-apartment-dwellers-get-more-time-move?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE" target="_blank">extended</a> this period through the end of June. The apartments are located in an area has been a hot spot for real estate investment in recent years. Their sale could be tied to sports team owner Mike Ilitch's <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/04/mike-ilitch-detroit-downtown-district-center_n_2239352.html" target="_blank">proposed new arena and entertainment district</a>.
Link Detroit is a project that will surely interest Motown bicyclists. It's a federally-supported effort to improve non-motorized transportation infrastructure in Detroit. As the name suggests, the $25 million project will link up several <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/12/detroit-bike-lanes-greenways_n_1418760.html" target="_blank">bike and pedestrian routes</a> to major local attractions. When completed, it will connect the Dequindre Cut, the Hamtramck and the Midtown Loop greenways, enhance the Eastern Market streetscape and reconstruct bridges at Wilkins, Adelaide and Division streets. The City of Detroit is coordinating the project in collaboration with the MDOT and three local nonprofits: Midtown Inc., Eastern Market Corporation and the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan. The greenway is funded by a $10 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant from the Department of Transportation, which complements public and private investment from the partner organizations. Construction began in 2013 and is expected to wrap up in 2014.
RecoveryPark is a multi-million dollar community redevelopment project being planned for Detroit's east side. The <a href="http://recoverypark.org/" target="_blank">RecoveryPark</a> nonprofit organization seeks to create jobs for people recovering from addictions, returning prisoners and other groups facing barriers to employment through urban farming and other food-related developments. In doing so, they hope to help revitalize Detroit's economy. The organization is now working with the city of Detroit to set up a series of indoor farms over a roughly four-square-mile area (2,475 acres) near the city's Eastern Market district. The zone is located between the Dequindre Cut, Van Dyke Avenue, the I-94 freeway and a southern border that runs along Jefferson and Vernor. RecoveryPark also has access to about 500 acres of city-owned infrastructure like sidewalks and roads in the area. The proposed indoor farming structures, known as high tunnels, will be set up on municipally-owned areas interspersed between about 1,000 acres of privately-owned property. RecoveryPark has been granted site control over city-owned property in the zone and is currently verifying ownership of that land. The first 30-acre farm is expected to be ready by 2014. Over the next 15-20 years, the organization hopes to set up indoor farms and orchards on about 1,000 acres of the land. The establishment of an equestrian stable in the former Chene-Ferry Market is also being explored. RecoveryPark is planning two other big Detroit ventures in addition to the farm zone. It's in the process of acquiring a 77,000-square-foot former meat packing facility to use for a processing center at East Grand Boulevard and I-75. At first, the center will package leafy greens and herbs grown on the farms, but the organization expects to handle tomatoes and other produce there in the future. These products would then be sold for commercial distribution. Negotiations are also underway with the <a href="http://www.degc.org/" target="_blank">Detroit Economic Growth Corporation</a> to secure land in the city's I-94 Industrial Park for a tilapia fish farm. If the deal works out, the fish will be raised in a 100,000-square-foot building that will be built on the site. The <a href="http://www.dcdc-udm.org/" target="_blank">Detroit Collaborative Design Center</a>, Coq Studios and <a href="http://archiveds.wordpress.com/" target="_blank">Archive DS</a> are working with RecoveryPark on the design of these three projects. The group has hired Mannik and Smith as program manager to oversee all contracts and bidding. RecoveryPark's priority is to get the farm set up and in active production by the end of 2013, but it hopes to have all three developments under contract by that time.
Willys Overland Lofts
Willys Overland Lofts, a Midtown Detroit complex known for its residential apartments, is quickly becoming home to a series of commercial ventures. Several retail outlets are in the final phases of setting up shop along Canfield Avenue between Cass and Second. <a href="http://www.run-detroit.com/" target="_blank">RUNdetroit</a>, a sporting goods store, quietly opened its doors at a <a href="http://www.deadlinedetroit.com/articles/5044/new_midtown_retailer_rundetroit_opens_this_weekend#.UairvWQ6VqZ" target="_blank">1,400-square-foot space</a> there in May 2013 -- and plans to hold a grand opening on June 1. <a href="http://www.shinola.com/" target="_blank">Shinola</a> is also expected to launch its new flagship store at the location this summer. The much-talked-about bicycle and watch maker is setting up in a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/16/shinola-store-detroit-midtown_n_3091712.html" target="_blank">5,000-square-foot space,</a> half of which will be an open area used to make bikes within easy view of customers. <a href="http://www.avalonbreads.net/welcome/" target="_blank">Avalon International Breads</a> will also soon be relocating to a new site at Willys, a 4,800 square-foot-space that will be able to <a href="http://www.modeldmedia.com/devnews/avaloncityovensopening0213.aspx" target="_blank">seat 45 customers</a>. Eventually, it also wants to offer drive-through service. The bakery hopes to finish their long-anticipated move into the new retail store by the end of summer 2013. Built in 1917, the complex originally housed an auto dealership for the Willys Overland Motor Company. The<a href="http://www.demattia.com/" target="_blank"> DeMattia Group</a>, an integrated design and development firm, now owns the facilities. The developer has long been interested in setting up retail space at the complex, but waited to get its residential offerings in place before pursuing that option. DeMattia is currently in talks with a number of restaurants that are also interested in opening up establishments in their Midtown digs.
Stone Pool And Park Development
Kids used to swim and play at the Louis Stone Pool and Playground, but the Cass Corridor play space will soon be a place new residents will call home. After being shut down for nearly 10 years, plans are now in the works to convert the <a href="http://detroit.curbed.com/archives/2013/04/new-122unit-apartment-building-on-top-of-stone-pool-park.php" target="_blank">1.94-acre property</a>, located at Forest off of the Lodge freeway service drive, into a six-story apartment complex. A proposal for an <a href="http://www.mlive.com/news/detroit/index.ssf/2013/04/detroit_park_being_sold_to_dev.html" target="_blank">88,000-square-foot structure</a> on the site features 103 rooms, ground floor retail space and a new play area for kids. A Bingham Farms developer named <a href="http://www.deadlinedetroit.com/articles/4676/stone_park_draft#.UaU-OWQ6VqY" target="_blank">Hughes Properties</a> bought the land from the City of Detroit in 2013 for about $350,000 after it was declared surplus property, according to Deadline Detroit. It's interested in tapping into the neighborhood's high demand for residential space. Ronald Hughes, the company's CEO, told the online publication in April 2012 that no official plans had been drawn up and construction wasn't expected to begin for a year.
Capitol Park Development
Change is coming to Capitol Park, a plaza that was once home to Michigan's first capitol building and until recently served as a downtown transit hub. A <a href="http://opportunitydetroit.com/wp-content/themes/opportunitydetroit/assets/PlacemakingBook-PDFSm.pdf" target="_blank">plan</a> backed by a group that includes the <a href="http://www.degc.org/" target="_blank">DEGC</a>, the Downtown Detroit Partnership and Rock Ventures, envisions the park as the "center of a new arts district with galleries and cafés on the ground floors and residential apartments above." Development is now underway on several of the buildings surrounding the park, ringed by Shelby, Griswold and State streets. 1214 Griswold is the only of these structures that is currently inhabited. The 12-story 127-unit apartment complex provides Section 8 housing for seniors. It was recently bought by 1214 Griswold Apartments LLC, a company associated with the Birmingham-based developer Broder and Sachse. The new management plans to convert their <a href="http://www.deadlinedetroit.com/articles/4721/meet_the_downtown_residents_who_say_they_are_being_pushed_aside_for_the_new_detroit#.UaVC5GQ6VqY" target="_blank">homes into "market rate" living quarters</a>. Renovations are now taking place at three other buildings on the street, the Capitol Park Building at 1145 Griswold, The Farwell Building at 1249 Griswold and the former United Way Building at 1212 Griswold. The structures are owned by a consortium of government and non-profit groups, including the DEGC. In spring 2012, they selected Karp and Associates as the developers of a roughly $85-million mixed-use project to revamp the properties. Plans call for <a href="http://www.modeldmedia.com/developmentprojects/unitedwaybuilding0712.aspx" target="_blank">204 loft-style units</a> and 45,000 square-feet of retail and office space. In May 2013, the State of Michigan awarded a $6 million loan to help with the rebuilding of the United Way building. The <a href="http://www.freep.com/article/20130430/NEWS05/304300149/Catholic-Church-Archdiocese-of-Detroit-Chancery-Building-Gabriel-Richard" target="_blank">Archdiocese of Detroit</a> plans to relocate its headquarters there in mid-2014. Work on 1145 Griswold is expected to begin summer 2013.
Henry Ford Health System Development
The Henry Ford Health System (HFHS) announced plans in May 2012 for a $500 million, 300-acre, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/30/henry-ford-health-system-300-acre-detroit-development-cardinal-health-_n_1556870.html" target="_blank">mixed-use development</a> that would be located on the edge of Detroit's Midtown and New Center districts. Although progress has been slower than anticipated, the project is still moving forward, according to Dr. John Popovich, President and CEO of Henry Ford Hospital. He told The Huffington Post the hospital has been working with the city and the community on the project, which can be a lengthy process. Dr. Popovich added that a <a href="http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20130522/NEWS/130529950/health-care-execs-no-surprise-henry-ford-beaumont-merger-was-called" target="_blank">now-scuttled merger </a>with the Beaumont Health System may have taken some of the focus off the development. The purpose of the effort, however, remains the enhancement and revitalization of the neighborhood around Henry Ford Hospital. A distribution center established through an agreement between the Cardinal Health medical supply company, HFHS, and the Detroit Medical Center is the furthest along of the development ventures. The 23,750-square-foot building, which will be built on Marquette between 12th Street and Commonwealth, will help Cardinal Health provide medical items to the two health systems. Right now, the land houses several derelict homes and old manufacturing buildings. The project's backers hope to get a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) grant to help fund soil remediation on the 15-acre site. KIRCO has been selected as the developer for that project. Construction is expected to begin before the end of 2013. Also in the works are plans to renovate and extend an apartment building at <a href="http://www.freep.com/article/20120531/BUSINESS06/205310476/Health-systems-Midtown-revitalization-plan-takes-shape" target="_blank">Sterling and Ferry Park</a>, a joint venture with Wayne State University to improve the streetscape along Trumbull Avenue and efforts to remove abandoned structures in the neighborhood.
Milner Hotel Conversion
The Milner Hotel began a new chapter in its long life in late 2012. The 72-room lodging at 538 Centre Street in downtown Detroit <a href="http://www.milner-hotels.com/detroit/" target="_blank">opened in 1917</a> and had operated under the Milner name since the 1930s. It shut down in October and was purchased by Matt Lester, president of Princeton Enterprises, a Bloomfield Hills-based real estate firm. A spokesperson for the businessman told Crain's Detroit Business that he's "interested in seeing the city <a href="http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20121217/NEWS/121219884/new-milner-hotel-owner-plans-conversion-to-high-end-apartments" target="_blank">come back to life</a>." The developer plans to convert the the<a href="http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20121217/NEWS/121219884/new-milner-hotel-owner-plans-conversion-to-high-end-apartments#" target="_blank"> ten-story structure</a> into 50 high-end apartments, consisting of a variety of options including one- and two-bedroom units, penthouses and studios. It's expected to reopen as The Ashley in fall 2013.
New Center Residential Renovations
Shelborne Development is overseeing the renovation of several apartment buildings in Detroit's New Center district. The Indian Village-based development company is starting with the Birchmont Apartments and 628 Delaware, a four-story building near New Center Commons Park. The three-and-a-half story Birchmont apartments at 112 Seward will feature 31 units, ranging from one- to three-bedroom apartments. 628 Delaware is slated to have 18 units. The developer is also planning to <a href="http://www.modeldmedia.com/devnews/newcenterapartmentrehab011513.aspx" target="_blank">rehab about six other buildings</a> in the neighborhood, according to Model D. Curbed Detroit <a href="http://detroit.curbed.com/archives/2013/01/six-buildings-on-seward-street-to-see-major-rehab-work.php" target="_blank">lists them as owning</a> Saxer Apartments at 100 Seward, Saxer Annex at 90 Seward, Midtown Square Apartments at 93 Seward, Bonita Apartments and Wellington Place at 59 Seward.
Claridge House Apartments
The seven-story Claridge House Apartments is getting an interior overhaul as the result of a change in ownership. The building at 1514 Washington in downtown Detroit first opened in 1906 as the <a href="http://detroit.curbed.com/archives/2013/05/clarifying-the-claridge-odd-building-has-beauty-on-the-inside.php" target="_blank">Michigan State Telephone Building</a>. It was later transformed into a residential structure. Now the building's 45 apartments are being renovated. Curbed Detroit reports that the refurbished units, some of which are ready for tenants, have <a href="http://detroit.curbed.com/archives/2013/03/claridge-house-shows-off-some-refurbished-apartments.php" target="_blank">granite surfaces and hardwood floors</a>. The building also sports six ground-floor retail spaces that are beckoning new tenants. Michele Dreer, a spokesperson for Princeton Enterprises, a Bloomfield Hills-based real estate company, told Crain's Detroit Business in December 2012 that the firm's president, <a href="http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20121217/NEWS/121219884/new-milner-hotel-owner-plans-conversion-to-high-end-apartments" target="_blank">Matt Lester</a>, bought the building in 2012, as part of an effort to revitalize downtown Detroit. Model D reported in February 2013 that businessman <a href="http://www.modeldmedia.com/devnews/deptofalternatives1514washington020513.aspx" target="_blank">Jordan Wolfe</a> purchased it with several partners. He's a partner with <a href="http://www.ebli.com/about" target="_blank">Evidence-Based Literacy Instruction</a> and a member of the <a href="http://deptofalternatives.com/" target="_blank">Department of Alternatives</a>, a group of entrepreneurs interested in social change that's set up shop in the Claridge. The organization is reportedly looking to bring like-minded businesses and nonprofits to the building.