A Broderick Tower penthouse features multiple balconies, three floors and a circular staircase.

A Broderick Tower penthouse features multiple balconies, three floors and a circular staircase.

Photo by Sean Work


Historical buildings turning into luxury apartments

By: Linda Shepard | C&G Newspapers | Published December 19, 2017

 The Broderick Tower sits on the corner of Witherell Street and Woodward Avenue in Detroit. The historical building was constructed in 1928.

The Broderick Tower sits on the corner of Witherell Street and Woodward Avenue in Detroit. The historical building was constructed in 1928.

Photo by Sean Work

 Penthouse views include an eagle-eye look at Comerica Park.

Penthouse views include an eagle-eye look at Comerica Park.

Photo by Sean Work

 A three-bedroom Broderick Tower apartment features window views in three directions.

A three-bedroom Broderick Tower apartment features window views in three directions.

Photo by Sean Work

DETROIT — When Michael Higgins purchased the Broderick Tower building on Witherell Street at Woodward Avenue in 1976, the area was in deep decline. 

“There was no Comerica Park, the Fox Theatre was closed — it was not a good neighborhood,” Higgins said. The 34-story Broderick Tower had been abandoned, a state it remained in for 30 years. 

“It was one of the tallest buildings in the world that was vacant for that long,” he said. 

Then came the turnaround. A $55 million renovation was completed in 2012, and the historical building became the site of luxurious apartments featuring open floor plans, granite counters and stainless steel appliances, along with amazing views.

Higgins said that today there are just a handful of vacancies in the 124-unit tower that was first built in 1928, and was then known as the Eton Tower. The Beaux Arts building was designed by renowned architects Louis and Paul Kamper. 

Luis Ramirez, Higgins’ chief engineer and partner, remembers the day Higgins brought him to the abandoned building. 

“Everyone thought he was crazy,” Ramirez said. “This building sat here for 30 years. It was hard to get people on board, but we got it done. We persevered for all those years.”

Today, a three-bedroom apartment on an upper floor features 11 windows that look directly into Comerica Park and wrap around the living area for views of the Detroit River. The apartment rents for $4,300 a month. A three-level penthouse, owned by Higgins, has multiple balconies and elegant circular staircases.

Ramirez said Higgins’ group plans to continue historical renovation for residential living in Detroit. The Elliott Building, on Woodward at Grand River and directly across the street from the under-construction Shinola Hotel, will open to tenants in January. 

The building, home to the first Kresge Five and Dime, was built in 1894.

“That was a $13 million project,” Ramirez said about the renovation of the building that holds 23 residential units. “It is very upscale, with luxury units. We are putting in the best finishes we can afford.” 

A one-bedroom apartment starts at $1,560 per month.

The Leland Hotel is next on the Higgins group’s radar. The former hotel, built in 1927, will feature 339 apartments in its location at 400 Bagley St. The Leland is the oldest continuously operating hotel in downtown Detroit, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

Linda Chayka, of Rochester Hills, said the Leland Hotel holds a place in her family’s history. 

“My grandparents, Yolanda and Giovanni Pavan, worked there for years and years,” she said. “He worked as a steward, ordering hotel supplies, and she was the vegetable cook. My grandparents were from Italy, and my grandmother was a wonderful cook. One of my relatives still has some china from the hotel.”

The two-year, $124 million renovation project aims for a 2018 construction season. 

“The Leland will have smaller units, but all will be very upscale,” Ramirez said. 

Upcoming historical renovation plans include the Van Dyke Place mansion and a nightclub on Jefferson and Van Dyke avenues once known as The Nile. 

“We just acquired this,” Ramirez said. 

Interest in historical-building residences is high, he said. 

“We have people coming from Chicago and New York. They tell me, ‘This is exactly what we were looking for.’”