Pewabic Shapes Future with Capacity-Doubling Expansion - Sachse Construction
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Pewabic Shapes Future with Capacity-Doubling Expansion

Pottery nonprofit Pewabic has finished a $1.1 million expansion to its historic Detroit building that it expects to nearly double production capacity.

The 115-year-old ceramics studio housed in a national historic landmark is most well-known for its decorative tiles. It sells ceramics for public projects, home renovations and retail.

The studio expects the added production space will help it ramp up participation in the projects that are changing Detroit’s cityscape. Last year, Pewabic provided tile designs for a mural on Little Caesars Arena and QLine streetcar stations on Woodward Avenue; now its wall tiles will appear in the soon-to-open Shinola Hotel’s beer garden.

The nonprofit started moving equipment into its new attached addition last week ahead of the high-volume holiday season. Its campus is at 10125 E. Jefferson Ave. between Hurlbut Street and Cadillac Boulevard, just east of the MacArthur Bridge to Belle Isle.

 Construction finished Wednesday, Executive Director Steve McBride said. Pewabic plans to announce a naming-rights sponsor during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday, after which it will host a public open noon-3 p.m. Saturday. Funding for expansion came from more than 250 donors.

Inform Studio out of Northville designed the 2,500-square-foot studio space with a contemporary look that complements the main Tudor-style house, McBride said. It’s the first physical expansion of production space since 1912. Detroit-based Sachse Construction managed construction.

 “We’ve been making all of our tile in this really cramped 700 square feet of space,” he said.

Pewabic fires 1,000 square feet of tile in its kilns per month and expects to ramp up to 1,800 square feet with the addition, according to McBride.

“What we’re hoping to accomplish with this is to look toward the future and meet the needs of architects and designers for some of these larger projects,” he added. “To be as much a part of the development of Detroit as we have been the last 115 years.”

Last year, half of Pewabic’s production went to commercial projects and half to individuals. But a huge project like the QLine can greatly alter that ratio, so it varies year to year.

In 2017, the nonprofit recorded $3.9 million in revenue. About two-thirds came from selling ceramic art, 25 percent from fundraising and grants and 10 percent from tuition for its classes. It expects to hire more onto its 60-employee team over the next several years.

Other recent Detroit projects include commemorative tiles for the beatification of Father Solanus Casey last year and tiling the wine cellar floor in the Charles T. Fisher Mansion.

 “It’s an exciting time to be in Detroit doing the work we do,” McBride said.
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