Article by By Daniel Duggan – Found on

Though the city of Detroit is known for the sheer volume of vacant space around town, it’s also become a place where developers and investors have practically patented the art of creative reuse for commercial real estate.

Many projects involve creating residential lofts in old commercial buildings, but that’s certainly not the end of the list. Bank space used for a nonprofit, an automotive building used for a design school, a printing building used as a music school and a bookstore as a fruit stand are just a few.

Some of the current developments and recently completed projects:

71 Garfield71 Garfield

  • Was: A largely vacant apartment building.
  • Is: Under construction as combined housing and studio space for artists. The $8.3 million project, with 20 residential units and 20 studios, will finish construction by the end of the year. It is part of the Sugar Hill Arts District.
  • Developers: University Cultural Center Association, Zachary Associates and The Jonna Co.

Argonaut BuildingArgonaut Building

  • Was: A vacant 760,000-square-foot building at 485 W. Milwaukee Ave., once a GM design facility in Detroit’s New Center area. Also was a planned residential development.
  • Is: Renamed the A. Alfred Taubman Center for Design Education. Soon to open as a $145 million expansion campus for the College for Creative Studies.
  • Developers: Jones Lang LaSalle, Larson Realty Group, GM Land, Preservation Development Co.

Doubletree Fort ShelbyDoubletree Fort Shelby

  • Was: A vacant downtown hotel, 525 W. Lafayette.
  • Is: A $90 million hotel geared to business travelers.
  • Developer: MCP Development L.L.C.

Eastern Market in the CBD

  • Was: A Borders Inc. bookstore, 1012 Woodward Ave., in Detroit’s Campus Martius.
  • Is: Planned as a fresh food market organized by the Eastern Market Corp. as a farm stand, selling fruits and vegetables in the Central Business District.
  • Developer: Eastern Market Corp.

Iodent Lofts

  • Was: An eight-story 1920s art deco toothpaste factory, 2233 Park Ave.
  • Is: A luxury apartment development with eight of the 11 units now leased.
  • Developer: Harrington Inc.

MidMed PlazaMidMed Plaza

  • Was: A vacant building at 4265 John R St., developed as a residential loft building.
  • Is: Developers repositioned the building in response to slow residential sales, making the project a commercial office building. It is now 58 percent occupied, with Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute as a tenant.
  • Owner/developer: MidMed Lofts L.L.C. (John Peabody)
  • Broker: Third Coast Associates

MSU Community Music Center

  • Was: A printing press plant, 3408-3414 Woodward Ave., later owned by the American Red Cross and vacant for 25 years.
  • Is: Soon to open as an extension building for Michigan State University’s music education college. The initial redevelopment cost is $2 million.
  • Developer: Professional Property Management

Studio OneStudio Oner

  • Was: A Vernors plant, 4501 Woodward Ave.
  • Is: A mixed-use, $145 million development with 155 apartment units and 30,000 square feet of retail space.
  • Developer: Prime Development Co.

The Shops in the KresgeThe Shops in the Kresge

  • Was: A Kresge retail store and corporate offices for the company, 1201 Woodward Ave.
  • Is: Developed by Detroit real estate investor Dennis Kefallinos for small retailers, with 120 small retail spaces.
  • Developer: Boydell Development.

First National Bank buildingUnited Way

  • Was: Office space in the First National Bank building (right), 660 Woodward Ave.
  • Is: Soon to open as a 46,000-square-foot, two-floor space for the United Way for Southeastern Michigan.
  • Broker: Roxbury Group

Westin Book Cadillac

  • Was: A mothballed downtown hotel, 1114 Washington Blvd.
  • Is: The go-to space for high-end events in Detroit. The developer of the $180 million project has restarted marketing for residential units above the hotel.
  • Developer: The Ferchill Group

Willys Overland Lofts

  • Was: A vacant Willys-Overland Motors car dealership, 417 Cass Ave.
  • Is: Starting occupancy for the residential lofts built into the old space.
  • Developers: DeMattia Group, Midtown Development Group

Wonderstruck Studios (planned)

  • Was: The temporary casino for MGM Grand Detroit. Was an IRS building before that.
  • Is: The site of a $86 million digital effects and animation studio announced in February. The venture is run by Michele Richards and her Wonderstruck Studios L.L.C.
  • Developer: Not yet announced.