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Gilbert’s Bedrock buys Grinnell, Sanders buildings

Louis Aguilar
The Detroit News

Dan Gilbert’s Bedrock Detroit has added to its extensive downtown Woodward collection with the acquisition of two mid-size buildings designed by the famed Albert Kahn.

Bedrock officials confirmed Monday the purchase of adjoining Woodward buildings — the six-story Grinnell Building at 1515 and 1521 Woodward, and the eight-story Sanders Building at 1525 and 1529 Woodward.

Sale prices were not disclosed, nor were plans for the buildings.

One building formerly housed the Grinnell Brothers Music House, and the other was the location of the legendary Sanders chocolate and candy store. Both businesses left the buildings decades ago. The Grinnell is fully occupied and the Sanders is 86 percent leased, according to CoStar, a firm that tracks commercial real estate information. The Grinnell has a Henry Ford Health System clinic as its main tenant.

Entities related to the billionaire Gilbert and Bedrock control more then 30 properties, ranging from skyscrapers to parking garages along Woodward from Jefferson to Grand Circus Park.

The latest two purchases are two blocks north of the site formerly occupied by the J.L. Hudson department store. Last month, the billionaire Gilbert reached an agreement with the city of Detroit to build a modernistic high-rise retail and apartment complex on the Hudson’s site.

The deal estimates the Hudson’s site project will start construction by April, and be substantially finished by the spring of 2020. The agreement will soon be submitted for City Council approval

“It’s been a painful thing to watch that site with no activity for 33 years,” Mayor Mike Duggan said after the Hudson’s agreement. “We’ll have drawings by the end of the year; break ground one year from now on a high-rise apartment building with a minimum of 250 residential units, 225,000 square feet of commercial space.”

Part of the Hudson’s deal includes allowing the Gilbert-affiliated entity Rosko Development to buy a 900-space parking garage underneath the site for $15 million.

The cost of the overall Hudson’s project is still unknown. And what kind of retail and offices will end up there has not been revealed and neither have the details of “civic programming” that’s part of the deal.

That “civic programming” — whether it’s an amphitheater, a downtown university campus or other public space — is one reason the deal has been delayed.