Coronavirus variants are still surging across the state and nation, although in contrast to the early months of the pandemic nearly two years ago, construction activity in Detroit is not at a full stop and multiple projects are moving forward.
Below are 10 new developments and redevelopment projects in Detroit that are underway and on pace to either finish in 2022 or make significant progress.
The projects aren’t exclusive to just one segment of the economy, and range from new housing and office space to a downtown hotel and a new center for LGBTQ young people. Most of them, yet not all, were started before COVID-19 arrived in Michigan in early 2020.
The upscale Cambria Detroit hotel, 600 W. Lafayette Blvd. near the edge of downtown, is expected to open in late 2022. The development is a mix of new construction and redevelopment of the old Walker-Roehrig Building, once home to WWJ-AM (950) radio.
The project was originally conceived in 2016 as luxury condos, but developers pivoted to building a hotel amid rising construction costs and a pre-COVID boom for Detroit hotels. Construction work began in 2019 and has continued — even with a pandemic-induced plunge in business at many downtown hotels because of less business and convention travel.
In addition to 158 hotel rooms, Cambria Detroit is to feature the fine-dining Italian restaurant Cibo Detroit, a fast-casual restaurant called Detroit Taco, a lobby bar, a rooftop bar and 18,000 square feet of event and ballroom space.
Since 2017, Dan Gilbert’s Bedrock real estate firm has been renovating the 38-story Book Tower and the adjacent 13-story Book Building in downtown at 1265 Washington Blvd. By late next year, the ambitious restoration is expected to be done.
The redone Book buildings will reportedly contain 229 apartments, two new restaurants and an 188-unit ROOST Apartment Hotel that will spread across four floors of the tower.
The Book buildings were mostly empty when Bedrock bought them in 2015 and proceeded to power-wash their then-grimy exteriors.
Construction crews are making steady upward progress on the new 20-story Huntington Tower office building, 2047 Woodward, and anticipate finishing it next summer.
The tower will house the commercial banking headquarters for Huntington Bank, which merged this year with TCF Bank, and also some ground-floor retail space. It will be the first all-new building in downtown Detroit since the nearby nine-story Little Caesars World Headquarters opened in 2019.
The Exchange, a new upscale 16-story residential tower in downtown’s Greektown district, had an official groundbreaking in September and is forecast to see major construction progress next year en route to its planned spring 2023 opening.
The tower at 338 Gratiot will have 153 apartments and 12 for-sale condos, with 20% of rental units offered at below-market rates for income-qualified tenants.
The project is making use of a unique, top-down LIFTbuild construction method that can potentially save 20% or more off ordinary construction time by assembling the floors on the ground, then hoisting them into place up structural spines known as cores.
The former and historic Jefferson School, 938 Selden St. in Midtown, is getting an overhaul and is to reopen by end of summer 2022 as a $32-million-plus shared office space concept known as INDUSTRY Detroit.
The redeveloped school building would have about 120,000 square feet to house long-term office tenants, artist studios and “makers” spaces, plus a portion of the space will be offered at reduced rents to local and minority-owned businesses and organizations.
The former Detroit Public Schools building dates to 1923. The school was originally named Jefferson Intermediate School after Thomas Jefferson, and later became Jefferson Junior High School. It was vacant and simply known as Jefferson School in 1997, the year it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
The school was last occupied by a charter school. In early 2019, it hosted a House of Vans’ pop-up party.
INDUSTRY Detroit is a joint project involving out-of-state development company Q Factor and local organizations Midtown Detroit Inc. and Invest Detroit.
Q Factor cofounder Jason Winkler said his company operates three similar INDUSTRY buildings in Denver and Salt Lake City that held onto their tenants and weathered the pandemic well. Winkler said he was first approached by Midtown Detroit Inc. about the possibility of opening a Detroit location.
The rehab project is to make use of a commercial tax abatement as well as a $4.7 million Brownfield capture of future local and state taxes, according to city documents.
“We plan to have a lot of traditional office users and we anticipate having some artist spaces and some makers spaces, and some really cool social impact spaces,” Winkler said.
Brush Watson is the latest big all-new housing development taking shape in Detroit’s once-desolate but now trendy Brush Park neighborhood.
The project broke ground this year and its developer, American Community Developers, anticipates completing the new four-story and five-story buildings by the end of 2022, and the 10-story building by summer 2023.
There will be about 300 apartments, with about half of them set aside at below-market rents starting around $400 a month.
While a nearby church isn’t part of Brush Watson, the developer is also busy renovating it for future commercial use.
A new 68-unit apartment and retail building in Midtown known as the Sugar Hill Development is expected to open in the first quarter of next year.
The market-rate units in the building, 119 Garfield St., will generally range from $1,100 to $1,600 per month for one-bedrooms and $1,300 to $2,100 for two-bedrooms. There will be lower rents for those with qualified incomes or who are formerly homeless veterans.
The project broke ground in August 2020 and is being developed by national nonprofit group Preservation of Affordable Housing along with Develop Detroit, a Detroit-based real estate firm.
Ruth Ellis Center apartments
The Ruth Ellis Center, a nonprofit aimed at helping LGBTQ youth and young adults, anticipates opening in June its new 43-unit apartment building at 61 Clairmount St., between New Center and Highland Park.
Along with the apartments, the newly constructed building will have a ground-floor Henry Ford Health System clinic that will be open to the broader community as well as the building’s residents, and also potentially a pharmacy that makes neighborhood deliveries.
Of the 43 apartments, 34 will be classified as permanent supportive housing and offered at deeply affordable rates to those with a documented history of homelessness. The building is specifically aimed at housing LGBTQ young people ages 18 to 25, although under fair housing laws, others are welcome to live there, too.
All of the units will rent to those earning no more than 30% of the area median income, or $16,800 a year. Rent costs will be about $420 to $450 per month.
“A group we hope to help are LGBTQ young people who are aging out of foster care and would otherwise be homeless. This would be a great project to help them,” Jerry Peterson, executive director of the Ruth Ellis Center, said.
Woodward West, a new five-story and 204-unit apartment building at 3439 Woodward in Midtown, begins pre-leasing in January and is expected to welcome its first residents next summer.
The asking rents have yet to be set, although 20% of the apartments will be set aside at reduced rates for those with below-median incomes.
The project broke ground in November 2020 and is being codeveloped by local companies Queen Lillian Development and The Platform. There will be 114 studio units, 78 one-bedrooms and 12 two-bedrooms as well as 25,000 square feet of street-level retail.
Wayne State University anticipates opening by late next year its new Hilberry Gateway, 4743 Cass, which is a 71,300-square-foot addition to the neighboring Hilberry Theatre that will provide more space for music, dance, theater and other arts-related activities and performances.
The $69.5 million project got underway in spring 2019, when work crews began to slowly and carefully moving on rollers the 1890s house that belonged to the late David Mackenzie, the university’s first president, to the corner of Second and Forest.
“Not having moved many houses, I think it went fine. It was a little slower than what we expected,” said Fran Ahearn, WSU’s senior director of design and construction services.
Construction of the new addition began in March 2020 — days before all construction projects in Michigan were brought to a halt by the pandemic.
The project includes renovation of the existing Hilberry Theatre, which is to become the university’s new jazz center in 2023.