WeWork to open large coworking space near TechTown

Coworking giant WeWork, which already operates two spaces in downtown Detroit, will open up a third on Cass Avenue in TechTown. The new location will more than double its footprint in the city.

Crain’s Detroit Business reports that WeWork will lease 91,000 square feet of space in the building at 6001 Cass Avenue at York Street, which is owned by developer The Platform. It will occupy part of the first floor, and all of floors two through five.

WeWork also leases four floors at 1001 Woodward Avenue and seven floors at 1449 Woodward Avenue totaling 85,000 square feet. Both downtown buildings are owned by Dan Gilbert.

WeWork declined to comment to Crain’s about the news, and it’s uncertain when the office will open. At its other Detroit locations, a basic floating desk membership plan starts at $300.

The Albert Kahn–designed building at Cass Avenue opened in 1927 as the Cadillac Sales and Service Building. It later housed WSU’s Criminal Justice department, but had been vacant for some years before being purchased by The Platform in 2016 for $2 million.

View from the intersection of the corner of a square, six-story limestone building. Two red “For Lease” signs hang on the side.
6001 Cass Avenue Google Street View
Other tenants in the approximately 130,000-square-foot building include Novi-based Tata Technologies and a Wayne State University art gallery. It’s slated to open this fall.

Before being put on hold earlier this year, The Platform had been working on a nearby, large-scale development plan called Cass & York that called for luxury condos.

WeWork made headlines in August before its initial public offering after releasing its S-1 filing which showed it was losing nearly $2 billion annually. The company operates more than 525 locations in more than 110 cities worldwide.

Detroit: A City on the Rise

By Audrey LaForest

Private investment from the state’s development community is helping to rewrite the narrative for what Detroit will look like in the future. Within the next 10 years, local real estate mavens and developers are envisioning a walkable, diverse and connected city, where residents have access to retail, cultural activities and commercial centers all within a short distance from where they live.

Developer’s Playground

In 2016, Detroit saw development deals ranging from the Detroit Pistons’ plans to move back downtown from Auburn Hills to Quicken Loans founder and chairman Dan Gilbert’s plans for a 20-story office tower and a 16-story residential tower near Campus Martius that will be known as the Monroe Block.

While major developments have had a place in Detroit since the 1990s (e.g., the city’s three casinos, Ford Field and Comerica Park, and construction of the Compuware building), development today is taking on roles both big and small.

“The difference now is that the city really isn’t relying on mega projects, but is relying on dozens and even hundreds of small, more organic projects that really have to do with creating community and creating neighborhoods,” said Peter Cummings, principal at The Platform, a development firm dedicated to rebuilding the city.

Cummings and business partner Dietrich Knoer are leading development projects throughout the city such as the mixed-use apartment complex, Third and Grand.

In March, the company broke ground on the first phase of Baltimore Station, a $7.5 million mixed-use development at the Baltimore Street stop of the QLine streetcar that includes sidewalk retail and restaurant destinations. The second phase of the project includes an additional 150 residential units and 20,000 square feet of retail. The project should be completed by 2019.


Additionally, The Platform team has invested in the redevelopment of the Fisher and Albert Kahn buildings, which the group purchased as part of a $12.2 million deal. Plans for the New Center-based historic landmark buildings include office, entertainment and retail components for the Fisher Building, and retail, office and residential spaces for the Kahn Building. Each building could see in excess of $50 million in investment for the redevelopment, Cummings said.

The Platform is also committed to the city’s neighborhoods, particularly in the Islandview, Livernois and Six Mile Road areas, and Brightmoor, where Cummings purchased five properties for just over $79,000. Rehab of the Brightmoor properties is underway.

“For the recovery that’s occurring in the city of Detroit to be sustainable, it needs to be far more inclusive than it has been,” Cummings said. “There are swaths of the population that have not been participating in the recovery, and they need to participate, and a lot of them are found in the neighborhoods.”

Welcome to Paradise

Near the heart of the city, five teams of developers are heavily vested in the Paradise Valley Cultural and Entertainment District — a $52 million investment within the area formerly known as Harmonie Park.

The projects include Hastings Place, a 60-unit loft apartment with retail and office space and a five-floor parking deck, led by Michigan Chronicle publisher Hiram Jackson and Queen Lillian Development; and Harmonie Club Hotel, a 25- to 30- room hotel in an East Grand River building currently occupied by the Carr Center, led by Patricia Cole of Cole Financial Services Inc. and developer Roger Basmajian.

Other projects for the district are the Paradise Valley Jazz Club and a 16,000 square foot expansion of architecture firm Hamilton Anderson Associates led by the firm’s president and co-owner, Rainy Hamilton; and the addition of residential space above La Casa de la Habana cigar bar led by bar owner Ismail Houmani, who purchased the building on Randolph Street for $1.17 million.

Dennis Archer Jr., president of Archer Corporate Services and chair of the Detroit Regional Chamber’s board of directors, purchased property at 1407 and 1427 Randolph Street in partnership with investors at Gotham Capital Partners. The team is planning a $2.75 million mixed use redevelopment, which will include a cocktail lounge and office space for up to six tenants. Archer said he anticipates his part of the Paradise Valley redevelopment could be completed as early as the fall.

“We want this to be a world-class destination, where there’s art, there’s culture, there’s commerce going on, there’s a creative class there, and there’s world-class hospitality — whether it’s a jazz bar, a lounge, a restaurant or a coffee shop,” Archer said.

Connecting the City

It has been just under two years since architect and urban planner Maurice Cox was appointed director of Detroit’s Planning and Development Department, but he is already unleashing strategies to get the city’s neighborhoods that lie outside of the 7.2 square miles of greater downtown involved.

“A lot of Detroit’s historic neighborhoods were structured for walkability … but over the decades, they’ve fallen into disrepair,” Cox said. “One of the initiatives that we’ve focused on is trying to make those commercial corridors walkable again.”

To get these “neighborhood-serving Main Streets” back — you can already see them popping up on streets like Kercheval and Agnes in West Village, for example — Cox envisions integrating other forms of mobility and transit infrastructure such as protected bike lanes, wider sidewalks, tree canopies, improved lighting and, most importantly, small businesses that are able to fill a void in neighborhood services.

This year, Cox and his team are deploying a set of six coordinated revitalization strategies, one of which focuses on the Fitzgerald neighborhood tucked within the Livernois-McNichols corridor. Another includes a new streetscape plan for the Livernois Avenue of Fashion.

The Fitzgerald development strategy includes rehabbing “dozens and dozens” of homes, Cox said, and turning more than 300 vacant lots into a variety of passive and active green spaces, which will include a neighborhood park at its center and a greenway for bicycles and pedestrians that will connect the University of Detroit Mercy with Marygrove College.

On the city’s eastside, Cox, the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, and the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. recently announced a framework for the east riverfront, which will include an expansion of public space, a call for proposals to renovate vacant buildings, and a riverfront promenade that will complete the connection from the Renaissance Center to the MacArthur Bridge at Belle Isle.

“(Developers) talk about the ‘missing middle’ density in Detroit — the townhouses, the row houses, the mid rise, the courtyard buildings — all of those types that are bigger than a single family, but smaller than a high rise,” Cox said. “Detroit has enormous potential to increase those options, and I think those are going to be the opportunities for development in neighborhoods in addition to restoring some of the single family housing stock to its original splendor.”

Audrey LaForest is a metro Detroit freelance writer.

Read more from this issue below: 

Dan Gilbert Taking Detroit to Overdrive

Help Wanted: Closing Michigan’s Skilled Trades Gap

The Ilitch Touch: Transforming Detroit’s Downtown

Detroit Developers: Thoughtful Inclusion Key to City’s Ongoing Transformation

Watch the full panel discussion here. 

In the midst of countless projects underway, developers must continue to make intentional decisions to include all Detroiters in the city’s revitalization.

As part of the “Inclusive Development: Impacts of a Prosperous Downtown” panel, leading developers provided insight on projects throughout downtown, Midtown and the neighborhoods, while discussing ways to bring opportunities to residents.

“We are going to the places where people who do not appear to be participating in the recovery and need the opportunity are,” explained Peter Cummings, co-founder of The Platform. “Sustaining the momentum depends on the ability of broader sectors of the population to participate. Detroit is not blighted, it’s not distressed, it’s just grossly underserved.”

Inclusive Development panel discussion at 2017 Detroit Policy ConferenceBasco of Michigan President Roger Basmajian explained that it is also important that when buying buildings, a high priority is made to ensure tenants are not being displaced.

Taking a similar approach to Basmajian, Develop Detroit’s Sonya Mays discussed how important it is for developers and businesses to interact with existing communities.

“We want to go out and engage the people that will be most affected by the developments, meaning we try to develop from the bottom up, not the top down,” she said. “It is very labor intensive, but our perspective is that’s one of the best ways to make sure the work being done is for and includes the people affected, not being done to them.”

“At Develop Detroit we use a few different lenses to talk about inclusion, we talk about income inclusion, we talk about racial inclusion … and we talk about age inclusion and our philosophy is that you do have to be intentional if you actually care about making a change,” Mays added.

The panel also touched on barriers developers face in Detroit including: access to capital, brownfield development, millage taxes and infrastructure issues. All of the panelists said the city government has been a strong advocate for development.

This panel was moderated by Ignition Media Group CEO and Detroit Regional Chamber Board Chair Dennis Archer Jr.

Read more from the 2017 Detroit Policy Conference:

Christopher Ilitch: Teamwork, Collaboration Will Guide Detroit’s Bright Future