As you may or may not have heard, the city of Detroit just recently was approved for some Brownfield tax credits. Not for just one project, but four different projects. Surprised? You shouldn't be. Here's what these mean to the city of Detroit, and what many, including myself have been saying for awhile.
First, the biggest project, and my favorite: Capitol Park. It was just recently announced, that a Lansing developer will be taking over three buildings in Capitol Park, just west of Campus Martius. Named for the former site of the former capitol building in Detroit, which was once a transportation hub in the 1950s for city buses, is now a park surrounded by empty buildings, shells of their former-self.
Three of these buildings will be renovated by Karp and Associates of Lansing. This group worked on the Arbaugh Building in Lansing, and the former Durant Hotel in Flint. Among the buildings in Capitol Park that will be renovated are the Farwell Building (1249 Griswold), the United Way Building (1212 Griswold) and the Capitol Park Building (1145 Griswold).
The Farwell Building opened in 1915 as a mixed-use office space for dentists, attorneys and other professional businesses. It closed in 1984 after failing to hold on to tenants, with much of the businesses moving to the suburbs. The building once had a Tiffany glass chandelier and a vaulted dome Tiffany ceiling.
The United Way Building was built in 1895, and is the oldest building among the three to be renovated. It was first operated as the Chamber of Commerce Building, and then became the Detroit Savings Bank Building, before the United Way owned it from 1987-2009.
Although no history is found on the Capitol Park Building, the history of buildings being built in Detroit is usually between the 1920s-1940s, so we could easily assume it was built sometime in that time period. Something else we could assume is that it's been empty for awhile, just like many other buildings in Detroit. Regardless of when it was built and when it emptied, this building, along with the other two, will bring life to a district that once had the first capitol building in Michigan.
Plans for the district include a combined 204-loft-apartment building, and over 45,000 square feet of retail and office space. Many are betting on this area bringing a boom to the city and starting up many more renovations around downtown.
The second project that is approved for tax credits is the Globe Trading Building in the Riverfront District, just east of the Renaissance Center. We knew this news for awhile, as the Michigan Department of Natural Resources wanted to convert the building into a welcome center for the William G. Milliken State Park a few blocks away on the Detroit Riverwalk.
It was here that Henry Ford got his start as an apprentice and learned about combustion engines. History tells us the rest. The plan is to convert half of the building, demolish another part and rebuild, so it will be a renovation-and-build project to create interactive displays, office space and classrooms inside the former dry dock building.
The third project to get approvals for tax credits is also along the riverfront. The Harbortown Riverside Apartments, just slightly north of the riverfront, east of the MacArthur Bridge to Belle Isle, was approved to build a 140-apartment complex, all the way to the riverwalk. The current complex includes two high rise towers, smaller complexes and a shopping center.
Finally, the last project to get approval for tax credits is located near the Henry Ford Medical Center. Brownfield approved the building of a medical supply center near the New Center Area. Not many details were released on this project, but it is still nonetheless, important.
So, those are all the facts on the projects. But what does it all mean? Although people may see dilapidated homes in the surrounding neighborhoods, or empty buildings still downtown, these projects provide a base for what could come in the future.
Yes, Detroit needs help in the neighborhoods, and that is a story for another day, but working from downtown on outward, the city could soon have many of their empty buildings filled again. Detroit is on its way back up to the top and they are beginning where it all started, in Capitol Park.