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Gilbert’s Bedrock, Three Other Companies Selected for $267 Million Development of Brewster-Douglass Site, Eastern Market

Dan Gilbert’s Bedrock Management Services LLC and three other companies, including two national real estate developers, are part of a joint venture that has been selected to build a  mixed-use development of primarily multifamily housing on about 25 acres of land in Eastern Market and around Brush Park on the site of the former Brewster-Douglass housing projects, the city of Detroit said Saturday.

When all is said and done, the multiple-phase project by Choice Detroit LLC is expected to include 900 to 1,000 units of housing ranging from low-income to market rate and costing approximately $267 million.

According to the city, in addition to Bedrock, the joint venture includes:

  • Columbia, Md.-based Enterprise Community Partners, a national developer with significant low-income housing experience;
  • KBK Enterprises, which has offices in Columbus, Ohio, and Pittsburgh, Pa;
  • Novi-based Ginosko Development Co.

“This is the only team that brought together a national leader in affordable housing and two African-American developers, one Detroit-based, both experienced in affordable housing,”James Arthur Jemison, the city’s director of housing and revitalization, said in a statement.

“This team will work with the city and the community to build a mixed-use development that will honor Brewster’s past and provide affordable housing for our future.”

Enterprise has since 1982 created nearly 340,000 homes and invested $18.6 billion nationwide.

The selection of the joint venture is one of the key steps in Detroit’s application for up to $30 million in federal grant financing from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development‘s Choice Housing Program. City Council must approve the city applying for the grant, applications for which are due next month.

There were six applicants in the request for qualifications process.

Approximately 30,000 square feet of retail and commercial space, as well as parking, is included, as are community health and education components.

Transformation Plan

A $500,000 grant from the Troy-based Kresge Foundation is helping the city and Detroit Housing Commission, which owns the Brewster-Douglass site, create a “Transformation Plan” that would be implemented by Choice Detroit.

Generally, the Transformation Plan area is bounded by Woodward Avenue, the Fisher Freeway, Mack Avenue, Gratiot Avenue and St. Aubin Street.

Choice Detroit would be responsible for developing the housing and completing a redevelopment master plan for the area that can be finished in multiple phases over five years, according to a request for qualifications released earlier this year for developers.

The plan is required to have at least 224 public housing units in mixed-income neighborhood settings on and off the original Brewster-Douglass site, according to the RFQ.  Unit residents must pay no more than 30 percent of their income for rent.

“The new community should include a mixture of deeply subsidized, affordable and market rate rental and/or homeownership units as determined to be viable and advantageous to the overall development effort,” the RFQ said.

City-owned sites in the Transformation Plan area are 3480 Russell St. and Shed 4 in Eastern Market.

The Shed 4 project would be financed by $1 million in grant funds and a $1 million loan and replace the open-air shed with an enclosed market hall and mixed-income apartments. Those sites total 3.4 acres, according to the RFQ.

The Brewster-Douglass site, including rights of way and easements, totals 22 acres, 18 of which are able to be developed.

The plan is expected to provide a mixed-use, mixed-income connection between Brush Park and Eastern Market.

History of Brewster-Douglass Site

Demolition work at the Brewster-Douglass site was completed in 2014. There were six 14-story high-rises, two six-story buildings and apartment row houses, with as many as 8,000 to 10,000 people living in the buildings at one time.

It is that site that qualifies the city for the HUD grant, the city says in the RFQ, and will be considered the priority site for housing replacement. It is the largest residentially zoned site in Midtown, the RFQ says.

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt presided over the 1935 groundbreaking ceremony for what was the first federally funded public housing development to open to African-Americans. It opened in 1938 with 701 units; by 1941, it had 941. During its lifetime, the complex was home to boxer Joe Louis and the Supremes before they became Motown icons.

The city has spent more than $39 million in that area since 2001 on things such as infrastructure, demolition, land acquisition and historic rehabilitation, priming it for redevelopment.

Two Years of Development

In the last two years, several major developments have begun in that neighborhood.

At Woodward Avenue and Erskine Street, The Scott at Brush Park is expected to have 199 apartments and nearly 15,000 square feet of retail space by Birmingham-based Broder & Sachse Real Estate Services Inc. and Southfield-based developer Woodborn Partners LLC. It is a $61.3 million project.

A planned $70 million development on 8.4 acres in Brush Park includes 325 to 400 housing units and up to 10,000 square feet of retail space. The development entity, Brush Park Development Partners LLC, includes Dan Gilbert’s Bedrock Real Estate Services and many others. It also includes the restoration of four mansions in the area on Alfred Street.

At the former Brewster Wheeler Recreation Center just north of the Brewster-Douglass site, a nearly $50 million redevelopment of 6.2 acres is expected to include a new restaurant and meeting space, 100 to 150 residential units and an acre of green space. Developers on that project include KC Crain, an executive of Crain Communications Inc., parent company of Crain’s Detroit Business; restaurateur Curt Catallo; Livonia-based Schostak Bros. & Co.; and John Rhea, a Detroit native and managing partner at RHEAL Capital Management LLC in New York City.