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Detroit’s First Major Residential Development in Decades Blends Historic Preservation and New Construction in Brush Park

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Detroit’s First Major Residential Development in Decades Blends Historic Preservation and New Construction in Brush Park

Preservation meets new construction in an 8.4-acre, 47-parcel new residential development in Detroit’s historic Brush Park neighborhood as a four-block area of Brush Park  will be completely transformed under a new development agreement between the City of Detroit and Brush Park Development Partners, LLC, Mayor Mike Duggan announced today.

The redevelopment plan calls for hundreds of units of new residential, along with new neighborhood-focused retail and green public space within walking distance of the M-1 RAIL streetcar line just east of Woodward Avenue between downtown and Midtown Detroit. The majority of the four-block area, which is generally bounded by Edmund Street to the north, John R to the west, Brush to the east and Alfred to the south, will be new residential construction designed to complement the existing neighborhood architecture. At least 20 percent of the residential will be affordable housing units. This new mixed-income development includes residential concepts such as apartments, townhomes and flats among the multi-family housing options. Both for-sale and for-rent options will be available.

Brush ParkA centerpiece of the new development is the restoration of four historic Brush Park mansions, including the Ransom Gillis home at 205 Alfred Street, which was built between 1876 and 1878 for the wholesale dry goods merchant. The property, which was sold by Gillis in 1880, passed though the hands of four upper-income families between 1876 and 1919. The main structure was eventually converted into a rooming house, along with most of the other structures on the street.

Since its creation in the 1860s, Brush Park was defined by economic prosperity. At its height, it contained more than 400 buildings, including 70 Victorian mansions. These were homes to Detroit’s elite including David Whitney, JL Hudson, and Albert Kahn, among others. It began to decline over the past several decades, but new development began in the late 1990s and early 2000s and it is being reinvigorated again today. The other Brush Park mansions to be restored and renovated include:
•    261 Alfred Street, Campbell House
•    287 Alfred Street, Mansard Twin I
•    295 Alfred Street, Chandler House (Mansard Twin II)

“Each of these homes has its own incredible story and plays an important role in our city’s history,” said Mayor Duggan. “As we rebuild our city, we are going to continue to preserve as much of our history as possible.”  

Sustainability and ability to carefully consider the long-term viability of the Brush Park neighborhood were key aspects of the winning proposal.

Among the partners of Brush Park Development Partners, LLC are: Marvin Beatty, Darrell Burks, Freman Hendrix, Pamela Rodgers, Sam Thomas and Bedrock Development. This well-respected group of Detroit investors has been highly-involved in the community for decades and brings a diverse expertise to Brush Park. Each has represented various stakeholder interests across all sectors of the city, including development, civic involvement, finance and security.

Brush ParkThe announcement is the second major development for the Brush Park area. Last month, Mayor Duggan announced a development agreement for the historic Brewster Wheeler Recreation Center, which will include new restaurants, community programs, up to 150 new residential units and a one-acre public green space. Duggan also said that this project, like Brewster Wheeler, will have significant local and minority participation.

Mayor Duggan also said that the Brush Park project will serve as a template for how the city will engage community groups in the development planning process.  Mona Ross, a long time Brush Park resident and member of the Brush Park CDC, participated in the developer selection process for this project, and had a voice in the planning of the Brewster Wheeler Recreation Center project.

The city received nine development proposals in response to its competitive request for proposals, four of which were deemed to be potential candidates. The winning proposal, submitted by Brush Park Development Partners, LLC, significantly exceeded its competitors in terms of design quality, capability and successful record of development in Detroit and local and minority participation. The proposal also included the following commitment to Detroit resident involvement as follows:
•    51 percent Detroiters hired for construction
•    31 percent of construction cost to Detroit-based contractors
“We are thrilled to be part of one of the most significant residential projects in Detroit in decades,” said Steve Rosenthal, principal, Brush Park Development Partners, LLC and Bedrock Development. “Working closely with our experienced Detroit-based partners and advisors, we’re confident that our proposal will be a catalyst for revitalizing Brush Park and connecting it to Midtown and Downtown and most importantly, providing jobs and a wide range of new residential and retail options for thousands of Detroiters.”

Brush Park Development Partners’ internal project team includes development, finance, architectural and real estate professionals from Bedrock Development. Externally, the Brush Park Development Partners team is working with Hamilton Anderson Associates and Giffels Webster. Project advisors include Henry Ford Health System and The Skillman Foundation.

Restoration on the historic houses is expected to begin this summer, and work on the new residential construction also is expected to begin by the end of 2015. Completion of the project is expected to be in 2017.

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