Developers in Detroit, and city officials, unveiled a plan to turn Fisher Body plant no. 21 into more than 400 apartments plus retail space under a redevelopment plan unveiled Monday.
Called Fisher 21 Lofts, The $134 million project will go for site approvals later this spring. The massive project could get underway late next year for a 2025 completion date.
The plan is one of the most ambitious recent redevelopments of an abandoned Detroit building. Mainly because of the changeover from industrial to residential use.
A black-led development team of Gregory Jackson of Jackson Asset Management and Richard Hosey of Hosey Development, who will work in partnership with Lewand Development, will spearhead the project.
Since 1993, The six-story, 600,000-square-foot former factory at 6051 Hastings St., near Interstate 75 and Interstate 94, has been empty. Since 2000 the city has owned the building.
“It’s basically been abandoned for 30 years,” Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said at a news conference Monday inside Detroit police headquarters. “People in the city know it as the place where when you go to the 94 and 75 interchanges, it’s the big white building with the graffiti all over it.”
Opened in 1919 as the Fisher brothers’ 21st production plant, the building was designed by the old Detroit architectural firm Smith, Hinchman & Grylls.
Initially, The site made auto bodies for Cadillacs and Buicks and later was used by General Motors until 1984.
According to background information on the property by the Environmental Protection Agency, the building went on to be owned and operated by Cameo Color Coat, which, in 1990, transferred ownership to Carter Color Coat for its industrial paint operations. In 1993, Carter Color Coat declared bankruptcy and abandoned the building.
Developers will take the large factory floorplates and cut three atriums, each the width and length of a city side street, through floors three through six, to make the change into Fisher 21 Lofts.
The project would create 433 for-rent apartments. 20% of the units will be set aside at below-market rents for income-qualified residents.
28,000 square feet of commercial and retail space and 15,000 square feet of co-working space would be available. Future residents would park on adjacent lots at 991 and 666 Harper.
The mayor failed to find much interest in auto suppliers or other potential industrial users in the abandoned plant. He said he was leaning towards demolishing the building before Jackson stepped forward with the plan for the apartment’s transformation.
“He said, ‘You’re looking at this all wrong,’ “Duggan recalled. “Nobody would build a plant with multiple levels anymore. (Being) this close to downtown, Midtown and New Center — this is housing.”
“If it had been anybody else, I would have gone forward with the demolition,” the mayor added. “But Greg Jackson’s credibility as a business person, in running the Lafayette Towers apartments, in knowing real estate (is) the reason we did not demolish this building three years ago.”
The project still has to go through multiple approvals, including selling the city-owned land to the developers.
If not for the proposed redevelopment, the city would have otherwise needed to spend $5 million to $10 million to demolish the building, it is estimated. Duggan said the proposed sale price is under $1 million.
Due to the extensive cleanup work, the project’s financial success depends on getting approvals for several local- and state-level redevelopment incentives, including a tax freeze, historic tax credits, and long-term brownfield tax-increment financing.
According to Kevin Lewand of Lewand development, there already have been significant environmental reviews and structural testing to confirm that the building is sound and safe for future habitation.
The developers were praised for their vision by Detroit City Council President Mary Sheffield.
“The plan to redevelop a 25-year-old symbol of decay, of systemic disinvestment and of blight quite frankly, to now be a symbol of hope, of opportunity, of progress, really signals where we are as a city and the momentum that is taking place,” Sheffield said.
In a suspected October 2014 arson fire, parts of the Fisher Body Plant were damaged.