Detroit resident Grady Cole talks about changes in the Cass Corridor neighborhood and how the new Little Caesars Arena could spark more change. Cole spoke outside Paul’s Place, a party store in the shadow of the arena that just sold for $3.2. million Louis Aguilar, The Detroit News
A party store in the shadow of Little Caesars Arena has sold for $3.2 million — one of two stores on Cass Corridor stores recently purchased by an entity linked to the CEO of Wireless Giant, a Madison Heights-based retailer of mobile phones.
The two stores — one has been closed for months — are less than a block apart and just a few hundreds yards from the new $862.9 million arena under construction. The party stores are separate, unrelated businesses.
Both store owners had rejected earlier offers from Olympia Development of Michigan, the real estate arm of the billionaire Ilitch family. Neither Olympia Development nor the store owners revealed the the amount offered for the small businesses.
The Ilitches are the driving force behind the new sports and entertainment complex and the development plan, called District Detroit, that aims to transform 50 blocks surrounding the arena. Little Caesars Arena includes a 20,000-seat venue encircled by a pedestrian atrium and other buildings that will house offices and retail space. Large public spaces are also part of the complex.
To accumulate the land needed to build the arena and create thriving neighborhoods around it, the Ilitch organization spent nearly $50 million and years secretly buying at least 56 properties from dozens of private owners, public records show.
The party stores and a nearby fire-damaged rental home were the last holdouts in an eight-block area described as “the soul” of District Detroit, which is expected to be created over the next few years.
Paul’s Place, the party store at the northeast corner of Cass and Henry, sold for $3.2 million last month, according to county property records. The store has been owned by Salem and Ayser Toma, who purchased the building for $200,000 in 1999, public records shows. The Tomas wouldn’t comment on the sale.
On Friday afternoon, Paul’s Place was busy with a steady stream of construction workers from the Little Caesars Arena site and neighborhood residents.
“It’s one of the last party stores still open around here,” said Grady Cole, a longtime Detroiter and cab driver, as he came out of the store. “This area — I stayed away for a long time — but they really cleaned it up. What’s going to happen when that arena opens — who knows?
The other store, the former Stadium Liquor, is on the northeast corner of Cass and West Fisher Service Drive. The sales price has not been recorded yet, but records show the property was transferred to the new owner last fall. It has been closed for months. In 2003, the property was taken over by a Sterling Heights-based entity run by Nancy Zieah from someone with the same last name, Muna Zieah. Nancy Zieah couldn’t be reached for comment.
The two stores were bought by a limited liability company that lists Isaac Hanna as director, according to public records. Hanna is president and CEO of Wireless Giant. Hanna was out of town and unavailable for comment, a company representative said. Public records show Hanna has had some stake in Stadium Liquor since 2010.
Hanna is founder, CEO and chairman of GNC Communications Inc., and its affiliated companies. He also developed the Wireless Giant retail stores. Wireless Giant operates wireless phone stores in multiple states and is a national distributor of phone accessories, according to its website.
The other holdout property owner in the area is a home on Cass near Clifford, whose owners told The Detroit News three years ago that the Ilitch organization made an offer for $350,000 in the early 2000s. The home is on the market for $4.9 million.