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Detroit Announces Plan to Preserve Iconic Brewster Wheeler Rec Center and Start Rebuilding Historic Neighborhood

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 Detroit Announces Plan to Preserve Iconic Brewster Wheeler Rec Center and Start Rebuilding Historic Neighborhood

•    Project will celebrate the Rec Center’s rich heritage by honoring Joe Louis, Leon Wheeler & include new restaurant built on top of basketball court floor.
•    Redeveloped building to anchor new neighborhood that will begin with construction of up to 150 new housing units across from Rec Center.

Detroiters soon will have the chance to dine in Joe Louis’s one time training facility atop the same basketball court floor once played on by the Harlem Globetrotters, city officials announced today.

Eight months after the historic Brewster Wheeler Recreation Center was scheduled for demolition, Mayor Mike Duggan stood in front of it and next to Joe Louis, Jr., to announce that the iconic building where the “Brown Bomber” once trained will be preserved and see new life.  A team of developers will spend nearly $50 million to redevelop the building into a multi-use facility with new businesses and community programming, as well as construct up to 150 new residential units on the southern half of the property.

One of the signature features of the redeveloped Recreation Center will be a new restaurant unlike any other in Michigan – built on top of a basketball court floor still inside the building that will be restored as the floor of the dining room.  The restaurant itself will celebrate Joe Louis and his history at the Recreation Center.  It will incorporate elements of the iconic Joe Louis mural inside the building and the boxing ring in which he frequently trained.

Floor PlanMayor Duggan said that the Brewster Wheeler Recreation Center, with its new use, will be an anchor for the redevelopment of the Brewster and Brush Park neighborhoods and create new opportunities for Detroiters.

“Every opportunity we have, we are going to preserve buildings like the Brewster Wheeler Recreation Center that have a deep personal history in our city and do it in a way that provides real benefits to Detroit residents,” Mayor Duggan said. “When this redevelopment is completed, we will have a facility that honors the legacy of Joe Louis, Leon Wheeler and so many others, and re-establishes its connection to the community.”
The project also will celebrate Wheeler, who in 1919 became the city’s first African American recreation worker and managed the Brewster Wheeler Recreation Center from the time it opened in 1929 until his retirement in 1945.  The building, originally named the Central Community Center, was rededicated in 1969 to honor Wheeler.  As another way to honor his contributions, a new bar planned for another section of the building also will be named after Mr. Wheeler.  

Project to be built by Detroiters for Detroiters
The development team announced today includes well known names with extensive track records, all with deep roots in Detroit or the Detroit area:

•    K.C. Crain, who is the COO of Detroit-based Crain Communications, along with Berkley’s  Vinsetta Garage co-owner Curt Catallo and Union Joints, LLC, will lead the restoration of the 51,780 square-foot building and opening of the new restaurant and bar.   
•    Longtime Detroit area developers John Rhea and the Shostak Brothers will lead the construction of the new residential units.
•    Detroit-based Jenkins Construction, owned by life-long Detroiter Jim Jenkins, has been selected as a contractor by both development teams.

“This is a win-win for all parties involved.  I am proud to have this investment and development in heart of District 5,” said Councilmember Mary Sheffield.  “I know this site will continue to be an anchor in the community.”

New Housing to “help restore historic neighborhood”
RHEAL Capital Management and Schostak Brothers, will spend approximately $37 million to develop the land on the southern half of the property, where they will construct 100-150 new multi-family, mixed-use units.  The project will create more than 200 new permanent jobs.  RHEAL Capital Management, LLC will also construct new commercial space as part of its development.

RHEAL Capital Management, LLC has agreed to provide the following community benefits:
•    Ensure that 20% of the multi-family units will be affordable for at or below 80% of AMI.  
•    Commitment to award at least 30% of the cost of construction to Detroit based contractors
•    Hire at least 51% of Detroit residents for construction jobs
•    Set a goal of hiring at least 35% of Detroiters for fulltime jobs

New Restaurant to offer jobs for Detroiters, culinary training for at risk girls
The other developer, Union Joints, LLC (KC Crain and Curt Catallo of Vinsetta Garage) will spend $10 million to redevelop the former recreation center building into a new restaurant, kitchen incubator, culinary arts studio, catering space, and community and meeting space.   The project is expected to create 300 new jobs, 120 of which will be fulltime.

Under the terms of the agreement, Union Joints LLC has committed to make reasonable efforts to:
•    Hire Detroit contractors to perform 30% of the cost of construction
•    Hire at least 51% bona-fide Detroit resident businesses in the construction and rehab of the Restaurant Parcel.  
•    Fill at least 40% of its restaurant jobs initially with Detroiters and to increase the number to 70% within four years.
•    Provide space for the Detroit Chess Club for events and activities
•    Provide space for a new headquarters for Slow Roll, Inc., a non-profit that organizes thousands of bicyclists for tours of different areas of Detroit.

Union Joints, LLC also has committed to giving Alternatives for Girls program participants priority for opportunities with the culinary arts training program, which would put them on a track for possible employment at the restaurant.  Alternatives for Girls is a local non-profit that provides support and opportunities for young women who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

Both developers have selected Jenkins Construction, a Detroit based, African-American owned company to be the prime contractor for the project.   

Union Joints and RHEAL Capital also have agreed to pay fair market value for the property, which will take into consideration the current condition of the building, likely environmental remediation and other factors.  

Plan includes one-acre open space, reopening of Brewster Street
Another aspect of preserving the history of the site will be the re-establishing of Brewster Street between the Chrysler Service Drive and St. Antoine as a public street. The restaurant, culinary studio, catering space and community space all will be inside the building on the north side of Brewster street and the residential construction will take place on the south side.   The cost of reopening Brewster Street will be a shared cost and will be negotiated with both Developers and the City.

A one-acre open space also will be developed south of Brewster Street at a cost of approximately $3 million and will serve as a focal point for the Brewster Site development.

The plan first must be approved by Detroit City Council. Once a development agreement with the city is finalized, developers will have 12 months to begin construction.

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