Crain’s Detroit Business
Sept. 7, 2022
Parks in downtown Detroit will get a makeover as a result of $13.74 million the Downtown Detroit Partnership was awarded Wednesday.
That grant is one of 22 approved by the Michigan Strategic Fund board totaling $83.8 million for municipalities, organizations, and developers to fund real estate rehabilitation and place-based infrastructure projects.
In metro Detroit, the awardees are the DDP, the city of Ecorse ($1 million), the Wyandotte Downtown Development Authority ($1 million), the city of Mount Clemens ($813,282), and the East Dearborn Downtown Development Authority ($787,718).
In addition, a pair of real estate developers — Dan Gilbert’s Bedrock LLC and Lansing-based Karp and Associates, run by Richard Karp — will get assistance from the DDP’s pot of money with redevelopment of Gilbert’s Harvard Square Center building on Broadway and the former United Savings Bank of Detroit building at 1133 Griswold St. designed by Albert Kahn in Capitol Park.
Others that are part of what’s known as the Downtown Detroit Stakeholders are the Greektown Neighborhood Partnership and Paradise Valley Conservancy.
In all, eight projects are part of the funding, the DDP said in a Wednesday news release:
- Placemaking enhancements to Cadillac Square next to Campus Martius Park
- A pair of placemaking investments in the Paradise Valley Cultural and Entertainment District improving the central park and enhancing the entryway into the district
- Grand Circus Park placemaking enhancements
- Randolph Plaza improvements at the entryway into the Greektown neighborhood with permanent outdoor gathering space
- Social district infrastructure in Capitol Park
- Bedrock’s redevelopment of the Harvard Square Center building
- Karp and Associates’ redevelopment of the 1133 Griswold building
The release says that downtown is at just 40 percent of its pre-COVID-19 pandemic office population and the funding is going to the “interrelated projects to help continue to transition downtown from an office-dominated business district to a more diverse, mixed-use district with extended public spaces and additional living options.”
“The DDP shares this award with the entire city of Detroit, as we continue to create public spaces that are safe, welcoming, and inclusive for all,” DDP CEO Eric Larson said in the release. “We look forward to working with our partners and the community to help bring this mission forward.”
The grants come from the Revitalization and Placemaking Program, which is funded with $100 million the state received in American Rescue Plan Act money.
Under terms of the program, it can provide up to five million for gap financing for real estate development and redevelopment projects, up to one million for public space improvements and up to $20 million to local or regional groups.
“A safe, diverse, and active downtown has become even more important in this new hybrid work environment. Visitors to downtown expect dynamic, entertaining, and active spaces and places to foster repeat visits and workers see Downtown as an extension of their workplace to collaborate and cooperate with their colleagues,” Bedrock CEO Kofi Bonner said in the release.
Karp said in a statement to Crain’s that in the early 1970s the 1133 Griswold building was stripped of its historic facade and therefore rendered the building as a non-contributing resource to the Capitol Park Historic District, meaning it wasn’t eligible for state or federal historic tax credits. The Revitalization and Placemaking Program grant and tax abatements are making the redevelopment feasible, Karp said.
“After waiting nearly 10 years, our firm finally got possession of the building and look forward to converting this former office building into the housing and retail that Detroit still desperately needs,” he said. “We couldn’t be more delighted with this award and have much gratitude for our subgrant partners in DDP, Bedrock, the Greektown Neighborhood Partnership, and the Paradise Valley Conservancy.”
An email was sent to a Bedrock spokesperson seeking additional details on the Harvard Square Center redevelopment.
The Michigan Economic Development Corp., which administers the Revitalization and Placemaking Program, says on its website that it received 185 applications for about $500 million in grant funding by the time the application period ended at the beginning of June.
Ecorse’s grant is for riverfront public space improvements, while the Wyandotte DDA’s is for public alley enhancements. Mount Clemens plans to use its grant for walkability and connectivity improvements, while the East Dearborn DDA will use its for outdoor gathering space, according to the memo.
Others receiving funding are:
- The city of Flint: $10 million
- The city of Grand Rapids: $9.4 million
- Southwest Michigan First: $7.9 million
- The city of Lansing: $6.7 million
- The city of Muskegon: $6 million
- Target Alpena Development Corp: $4.5 million
- Garden Building of Grand Blanc LLC: $4.95 million
- Ore Dock Real Estate (Marquette): $3.9 million
- The Right Place: $3.6 million
- Berrien County: $2.6 million
- The city of Houghton: $1 million
- The city of East Lansing: $1 million
- The city of Grand Ledge: $1 million
- The Traverse City Downtown Development Authority: $1 million
- Ideal Theater Clare LLC: $988,045
- The city of Negaunee: $885,261
- The Moore Public Library (Lexington): $572,366