May 29, 2014 at 11:17 pm

Gilbert buys 2 more buildings in downtown Detroit

Quicken Loans Inc. founder Dan Gilbert continues his aggressive pace of accumulating downtown property with the purchase of two buildings and a vacant lot in Capitol Park, a small triangle where $100 million-plus in renovations are underway for a proposed art district.

Last month, Gilbert’s Rock Ventures LCC bought a five-story building at 45 W. Grand River at Griswold; the six-story 119 State St. building, which is on the corner of Shelby; and a 4,000-square-foot lot at Grand River and Griswold, which may become a new development, according to company spokeswoman Laura Biehl. Prices were not disclosed.

Capitol Park, site of Michigan’s first state capitol building, is a major front in the block-by-block battle to revitalize downtown. Renovations are starting in various buildings surrounding the park bounded by Shelby, Griswold and State. Three buildings are part of an $85 million redevelopment plan that’s getting taxpayer subsidies. At least three other buildings have been bought, with new owners vowing major upgrades.

“Capitol Park is envisioned to be the center of a new arts district with galleries and cafes on the ground floors and residential apartments above,” according to “A Placemaking Vision for Downtown Detroit,” which is considered the blueprint for downtown growth. The plan was unveiled last April by Gilbert and other Detroit business leaders.

In Capitol Park, the renovations of two buildings, including one owned by Gilbert, has been the target of criticism because it meant removing low-income tenants.

A group of seniors in 127 units in a notable early 20th-century building have been relocated because the new owners, who are investing millions in renovations, will charge market rate rents for the units. The seniors relied on federal assistance to help pay rent.

In another building owned by Gilbert’s Rock Ventures, 20 mainly young struggling artists were forced to leave their lofts because the city found the building too dangerous for occupancy.

Gilbert is one of the largest private landowners of downtown properties. About four years ago, he and his partners started to buy mainly historical, large buildings. The number of buildings currently owned is now close to 50.

laguilar@detroitnews.com