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Dan Gilbert selling Detroit building to Lear

Louis Aguilar
The Detroit News

Dan Gilbert’s Bedrock Real Estate Services has sold its first downtown building to auto supplier Lear Corp., which is setting up a design studio in Capitol Park.

Dan Gilbert announces Bedrock Real Estate Services will sell its first downtown building to major auto supplier Lear Corp., which is setting up a design studio in Capitol Park.

The sale of the long-empty building and the promise of 150 jobs to downtown was praised by city and business leaders at the Monday morning unveiling at 119 State. The six-story structure was originally the home of Brown Brothers Tobacco Co.

The planned Lear Innovation and Design Center is a business victory for a city that sorely needs jobs, said Mayor Mike Duggan at the Monday announcement. Construction is expected to begin soon and the studio should be open in 2016.

“Detroit is returning to its roots as a leader in manufacturing innovation,” Duggan said.

The sale of the building by Gilbert’s Bedrock is a sign downtown is becoming increasingly competitive in the battle to attract businesses, officials said Monday. The Capitol Park building is among the more than 80 downtown properties bought and renovated by Bedrock since 2011.

This is the first downtown property Bedrock has sold. The sales price was undisclosed. Duggan described the sale as a “significant step.” Gilbert said it validates Bedrock’s strategy to buy many downtown properties, many of them empty, and renovate them.

“We get asked ‘Why buy them up?’,” Gilbert said. “We want to make sure we have the right tenant,” that will continue to add to the momentum of downtown’s resurgence, he said.

Lear’s design studio joins an increasingly upscale Capitol Park, a triangular area bounded by Shelby, Griswold and State streets that has attracted more than $100 million in investment since 2009.

Gilbert’s Bedrock Real Estate owns at least six buildings in Capitol Park. The area is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. After years of neglect, many of the buildings surrounding the park have changed ownership in the past few years and are undergoing extensive renovations.

The Southfield-based Lear makes vehicle seating and electrical systems worldwide. With 2014 sales of $17.7 billion, Lear ranks 174th among the Fortune 500. It has 135,000 employees in 235 locations.

“We plan to leverage the rapidly developing infrastructure (downtown) as well as the concentration of arts, sciences and technology in Capitol Park to take our ... business to the next level,” said Matt Simoncini, Lear Corp. president and CEO. The auto supplier will also collaborate with the College for Creative Studies and Wayne State University’s College of Engineering at the future design center. An art gallery for the ground floor is also planned.

Earlier this month, Lear Corp. announced its purchase of another building in downtown Detroit, the seven-story Hemmeter Building at 1465 Centre St. Lear hasn’t said what its plans are for that building.

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