Detroit residential developments create excitement

By: Linda Shepard | C&G Newspapers | Published August 23, 2017

 The century-old former St. Charles school, on Townsend Street near Belle Isle, is currently being renovated and will hold 25 luxury residences.

The century-old former St. Charles school, on Townsend Street near Belle Isle, is currently being renovated and will hold 25 luxury residences.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


DETROIT — The city is coming back to life.

Abandoned buildings are being transformed into luxury lofts, and new construction is move-in ready in hot neighborhoods like midtown, downtown, the Riverwalk and more.  

The second annual Downtown Living Tour, hosted by Hour Detroit and Detroit Home Magazine Aug. 11, delivered a first look at six new developments. Each is currently under construction or renovation, or recently completed. 

According to tour guide Shawn Handlon, $5 billion of new construction — much tied to residential development —  is now underway in Detroit. 

“Woodward Avenue is currently teeming with activity,” Handlon said.  “Five years ago, most of the buildings here were abandoned. Now they are coming back to life.”

Handlon works as a tour guide with Detroit Experience Factory and is artistic director of the Planet Ant Theatre in Hamtramck. Handlon guided bus tour guests to the Elliott Building downtown, the Carlton Lofts in Brush Park, Franklin Lofts on the east riverfront, Willy’s Overland Lofts in midtown, Orleans Landing on the riverfront and the St. Charles in Islandview. 

The Elliott Building is located on Woodward Avenue, directly across from the new Shinola Hotel, which is slated to open in the fall of 2018, and a block from State Street. 

“At one time, Woodward and State was the busiest intersection in the world,” Handlon said. 

The Elliott Building was built in 1894 and was home to the first S. S. Kresge five-and-dime store.

Luis Ramirez, an Elliott Building investor, said the seven-story building will feature two-story units on the sixth floor. 

“All the original architectural elements will be staying in the common areas and the stairwells,” Ramirez said. 

Restoration will be complete this fall, Ramirez said, with occupancy expected in late fall or winter. 

Willy’s Overland Lofts, in midtown, features an industrial vibe with exposed brick and ductwork, polished concrete floors, and massive windows in a former turn-of-the-century automotive sales building. 

Located in the historic Brush Park District, the Carleton Plaza Hotel has been preserved and renovated into the Carlton Lofts. The hotel was built in 1923 and designed by the American architect Louis Kamper.

Orleans Landing on the riverfront offers brand-new construction in a prime location near the Riverwalk. The development offers a mix of retail and residential, along with luxurious common areas and an elegant swimming pool. 

“The Riverwalk is a destination — and is packed with all ages of people,” Handlon said. “We are seeing more and more complementary developments.” 

Franklin Lofts, on the east riverfront, offers spectacular views of downtown, and each loft has a private rooftop deck. 

The St. Charles, located in Islandview on the city’s lower east side, is an unusual redevelopment project, bringing elegant condos and penthouses to a century-old historic school building. 

Prices range from $1,390 a month for an Orleans Landing apartment to $650,000 for a St. Charles luxury condominium. 

“Right now, there are over 5,000 housing units being built or planned in our city,” Detroit Mayor Michael Duggan said in a statement. “Decades of accumulated blight are being cleared away at an unprecedented pace.

“Our focus is on creating complete streets and self-contained neighborhoods, where you can easily bike or walk to everything you need on a daily basis, from restaurants and shopping, transportation and recreation,” Duggan said. “As our city revitalizes, we are making it more pedestrian and bike friendly.

“Though there is still work to do, we’ve made tremendous progress,” he said.