A trio of development groups have submitted proposals to redevelop a site near Belle Isle that Detroit-based The Platform LLC had targeted for more than two years.
The developers range from well-known names in Detroit commercial real estate circles to lesser-known groups, with plans that include either wiping the site of its existing buildings or repurposing them.
All of them include new housing for the site at East Jefferson Avenue and East Grand Boulevard.
The following groups submitted plans to the Detroit Land Bank Authority, according to records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act:
- Cecil Rochelle’s Southfield-based Stoss Real Estate LLC; Emmett Moten’s Detroit-based The Moten Group; and Ronald Jackson’s Detroit-based Executive Construction Management Co. plan a new 58-unit apartment building that would require razing the existing buildings. Project cost: Not revealed. Purchase price: $400,000.
- A development group that includes Paul Robertson’s Bloomfield Hills-based Robertson Bros.; Carlo Liburdi’s Detroit-based TerraNovus Development; and Derric Scott’s Detroit-based East Jefferson Development Corp., a subsidiary of Jefferson East Inc., which plans 27 for-sale townhomes on vacant land and 10 for-sale condos within the existing Frederick Chambe Mansion as an adaptive reuse. Project cost: $8.5 million. Purchase price: $250,000.
- A development group that includes Glenn Wilson’s Flint-based Communities First Inc. and Rev. Barry Randolph’s and Richard Cannon Jr.’s Detroit-based Church of the Messiah Housing Corp. wants to do a 60-unit development with five four-plex buildings. Project cost: $18.1 million. Purchase price: $650,000.
It’s the second bite at the apple for Jefferson East, which worked with Peter Cummings’ The Platform on its original plan, which Scott said faced hurdles from the city’s planning department during Maurice Cox’s tenure there.
Scott said the department wanted higher density on the roughly 1.2 acre site than was financially viable.
“A higher level of density unfortunately caused a lot of challenges with financing the deal and we were unable to secure the support we needed to fill that financial gap,” Scott said.
I emailed the city seeking comment.
He also said that community members want both ownership and rental units available at an affordable rate, which is built into the plan.
“That’s how we ended up teaming up with Robertson,” Scott said. “They bought into the vision that the community had for some for-sale housing that was consistent with the character of the ommunity and also provided affordable for-sale units. We worked closely on a partnership that is allowing us to subsidize affordable for-sale units as low as 80 percent AMI (Area Median Income) for residents in the Islandview neighborhood, specifically targeting community members at risk of displacement and seniors who have a strong desire to stay in the neighborhood but may be downsizing.”
Wilson said the Church of the Messiah, a community fixture for more than a century at East Grand Boulevard and East Lafayette, is an equity partner in the plan.
“We want to make sure as an organization that we work with the communities,” Wilson said. “If we work on a development, we want to work with the people who have been there. There hasn’t been a lot of equitable development where people have engaged community members in the process early.”
I left a message for Moten this morning to talk about his group’s plans.
Marketing materials for the property owned by the Detroit Land Bank Authority say the site is 1.28 acres with four buildings, including the 19,000-square-foot 1898 Frederick Chambe Mansion/nursing home designed by architect Louis Kamper.
Gustaf Andreasen, project manager of disposition for the land bank, said he anticipates the organization to select its chosen developer in the next two to four weeks.
And Jano Hanna, the land bank’s director of disposition, said The Platform had the property formally under contract starting in January 2019 but previously had what are known as hold and maintain agreements — HMAs in Land Bank Lingo — with the company that required it to maintain the property and the land bank not offer it to anyone else.
“The plan that The Platform and Jefferson East had, it kept changing and we kind of got to a point where we had been under contract for so long and we needed to move along,” Hanna said. “They were invited and welcome to apply again if they were inclined, but they did not.”
The January 2019 development agreement said a joint venture between The Platform and East Jefferson Development would purchase the property from the land bank for $250,000 and build a 44-unit development on the site costing $14 million, with half of the units available to those making between 30 percent and 80 percent of AMI.
The AMI includes suburban Detroit, and is $62,800 for a family of two and $78,500 for a four-person household, according to the state. That means that 30 percent of AMI is $18,840 and 23,550 for a two-person and four-person household, respectively, and 80 percent is $50,240 and $62,800. The use of AMI for determining what housing is affordable has been criticized because the suburban household incomes skew upward the city’s household income.
“The Platform was approached by the Detroit Land Bank Authority about re-marketing a property in the Islandview neighborhood we had a previous agreement to purchase,” Peter Cummings, executive chairman and CEO of The Platform, said in an emailed statement last month. “Our company believes strongly in working with the city to support positive development and revitalization and agreed that the parcels should be relisted for sale. Our commitment to strengthening Detroit’s neighborhoods remains unwavering, and we continue to invest in developments across the city.”
James Bufalino, the owner of Detroit-based Premier Property Services LLC, is marketing the site with an $815,000 price tag. It was relisted for sale on June 1 with offers due by Aug. 1.