Southfield's cityscape expands


This year is slated to be a big one for development in Southfield.

Just as 2013 came to a close, City Council voted on one of the biggest redevelopment projects to come across the table in a long time: the former St. Bede church site at 12 Mile and Southfield roads, which sparked a community debate about whether Wal-Mart was the right suitor when it came to potential buyers and builders.

The answer, ultimately, was no, and during the Dec. 16 meeting, council determined the property’s fate would be A.F. Jonna Development Co.’s vision of a mixed-use B-2 rezoning for a restaurant, living space and retail.

“The city of Southfield is open for business,” Mayor Brenda Lawrence said about the decision, which came nearly five years after the church first closed. “I am so pleased to have these exciting new developments coming to this very important corner of our city. (This) project is another great example of our continuing efforts to attract more retail and restaurants to Southfield.”

The new development will be known as Southfield Village, and it will feature 114 luxury residential units in three-story buildings, as well as a freestanding, 5,430-square-foot Applebee’s restaurant and two multitenant retail buildings totaling 32,324 square feet.

“Southfield has experienced a great deal of development and redevelopment projects throughout the city in recent months,” said Donald Fracassi, council president pro tem. “This project will be a vibrant mixed-use redevelopment that will offer residents and visitors alike yet even more great retail, restaurant and residential options here in the city of Southfield.”

To get to the point of slating construction, council first approved that the 4.74 acres of land be rezoned for multifamily use in the form of a medium-rise building, and to business use for the restaurant and retail space. According to City Planner Terry Croad, that corner of land calls for commercial development in the city’s master plan, which council found to be better fitted with smaller stores and an eatery, rather than the previously proposed 130,124-square foot supercenter.

Joe Kohn, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Detroit, said they are grateful to be moving forward by finally selling the property.

“A lot of important events took place on that piece of property for the people of St. Bede Parish,” he said via email. “Naturally, we’re happy that we were able to sell the property when the need arose, and we hope the property remains an asset to the city and community well into the future.”

At the same Dec. 16 meeting, council also unanimously approved the third phase of the Arbor Loft development.

The proposed two-story, 43,000-square-foot mixed-use development is slated to be constructed on the northern portion of property located at 20300 Civic Center Drive, on the northwest corner of Civic Center Drive and Central Park Boulevard. The land is just under 1.5 acres.

Developers Pamela and Eugene Applebaum, Rushmore Group LLC and  Arbor Investments Group converted the former 114,000-square-foot, four-story Civic  Plaza office building into the new Arbor Lofts in 2013. The top three floors were converted into loft apartments with a total of 171 rooms, with the first residents moving in during August.

As of December, the lofts had around 82 percent occupancy, most of which spurs from the leasing agreement Lawrence Technological has with the lofts, allowing 100 units for students.

The first floor has been converted into mixed-use space, including a common gym and lounge area, Koala Co-work — a collaborative technology business incubator — and Meridian Visiting Physician’s corporate office.

According to city officials, future businesses are expected to include a yoga studio and Cross Fitness Studio. A 10,000-square-foot multiuse accessory retail building was also approved in 2013 for future construction at the corner of Civic Center and Central Park Boulevard.

Lawrence, among many others, sees the success of Arbor Lofts as a “unique and progressive approach to redevelopment,” she said.

Croad added that the redesign of an antiquated building into new and trendy “urban living” demonstrates the city moving forward as an attractive site for developers, all while advancing the goal to be a more vibrant, pedestrian-friendly community.

Though it’s not happening within city limits, excitement is also building for one of Lawrence Technological University’s newest developments: its Detroit Center for Design + Technology, which will house existing programs in Detroit run by LTU’s College of Architecture and Design.

To achieve this, LTU will be the main tenant in the 30,000-square foot, three-story commercial Midtown Detroit Inc. building at the corner of Woodward Avenue and West Willis Street. 

“Having all LTU’s Detroit projects and academic programming under one roof will provide synergies that will position existing programs to have a greater social and community impact,” Amy Green Deines, associate dean of the College of Architecture and Design, said in a statement. “Our partnership with Midtown Detroit and this new prominent location on Woodward Avenue will lead to more opportunities to engage organizations and groups that are working to rebuild and rejuvenate the city.”

A groundbreaking was held Dec. 18, when LTU officials joined other partners in the new development project, including Invest Detroit, Kresge Foundation and the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan.

The Kresge Foundation provided a $300,000 grant to support the creation of LTU’s new Detroit center, and LTU plans to move additional programming to Detroit after the new center opens in fall 2014, according to spokesman Eric Pope.

The new LTU center will be the new home of three of the university’s existing programs:

• Detroit Studio, which has moved to temporary facilities after being located in the New Center area for many years, and has been providing design support for neighborhood and community-based projects in and around Detroit since it was established in 1999 by Associate Professor Joongsub Kim.

• detroitSHOP, an urban design studio in the offices of Rossetti Associates in the former Federal Reserve Building. Working in cooperation with Quicken Loans and Bedrock Ventures, LTU students have prepared design studies in the central business district and along the M-1 transit corridor.

• Studio Couture, a storefront exhibit space on Woodward Avenue that exhibits the work of LTU design students and professional artists. It hosts lectures and panel discussions on architecture, design and urban issues.

The first phase of the Detroit Center for Design + Technology will provide approximately 8,000 square feet for these and other programs, research activity and a K-12 educational outreach program.

The second phase will add approximately 6,000 square feet for other LTU programming, such as the makeLab, which provides digital fabrication services for a wide range of design projects.

“There is nothing better for a student designer than to be part of what they are studying. They walk around the neighborhood and see how people interact with their surroundings,” Deines added. “Our new center will put our students right in the middle of the dynamic changes that are gaining momentum along the Woodward corridor.”

For more information on development projects specifically in Southfield, or about growing a business in the city, call Southfield Business Development at (248) 796-4160.