Detroit’s Paradise Valley could rise within a few years

Louis Aguilar
The Detroit News

Plans were unveiled Wednesday for a multimillion development in Detroit that would highlight African-American arts and businesses.

The plan, known as the Paradise Valley Cultural and Entertainment District, involves the simultaneous redevelopment of five buildings and three parking lots clustered around a small triangular public space often called Harmonie Park. The area is bordered by East Grand River, Centre and Randolph.

The vision is grand: a boutique hotel in what’s now the Carr Center; a jazz club; an expanded restaurant, the Detroit Seafood Market; another restaurant possibly affiliated with the nearby Central Kitchen + Bar; luxury and affordable housing; a new 190,000-square-foot building and 150-space parking garage.

If things go as planned, the redevelopments should be finished in three years.

On top of that, a new conservancy will be created to promote arts and cultural programming for the tiny district.

In all, $52.4 million in private investment is planned from a group of five developers, who will become owners of the various properties and take on separate pieces of the overall plan. Most, but not all, of the developers are African-American. Several of the developers, including Rainy Hamilton Jr., Ismail Houmani and Hiram Jackson, already have existing businesses in the district.

Paradise Valley refers to a historic Detroit African-American  neighborhood that was destroyed in the 1960s to make way for the Chrysler Freeway. Paradise Valley’s “history and tradition lives on in the hearts of Detroit,” Mayor Mike Duggan said during a Wednesday news conference.

The development plan has been nearly a decade in the making. That’s when the city began to buy the properties, Duggan said, as the area struggled with crime and blight. The city ended up spending $10.5 million, mostly from its casino funds.

The plan faced earlier criticism when it become known the Carr Center, a nonprofit arts group focusing on African-American culture, was told to leave its city-owned building to make way for a boutique hotel at 311 E. Grand River. The group had struggled with paying the rent for months.

On Wednesday, the city’s Downtown Development Authority, which controls the properties, approved the development plan to move forward.

These are the properties involved in the development:

Harmonie Club Hotel: A development group, led by Patricia Cole and Roger Basmajian, plans to renovate the 36,000-square-foot building at 311 E. Grand River as the Harmonie Club Hotel. A 25- to 30-room boutique hotel will be on the first and second floors. The third floor will function as a theater and banquet hall. Total expected investment: $13.6 million, including a purchase price of $1.6 million.

Hastings Place: Paradise Valley Real Estate Holdings II, led by Hiram Jackson, plans to build a new 189,660-square-foot building on what are now three parking lots at 1468, 1480 and 1496 Randolph. The building will include 60 apartments on top floors, a five-story parking deck and first-floor retail. Total expected investment: $27 million, including a purchase price of $1 million.

Randolph Centre Building: Hamilton Development Corp., led by Rainy Hamilton Jr., plans to renovate the 36,000-square-foot building at 1435 Randolph where his firm, Hamilton Anderson Associates, has called home. It includes the Detroit Seafood Market, which may expand. The plan includes a 16,000-square-foot office addition in the parking lot next door at 1455 Centre. Total expected investment: $7.5 million, including a purchase price of $2.3 million.

La Casa Cigars and Lounge: Ismail Houmani, current owner of the cigar bar, plans to refurbish the 7,500-square-foot building at 1502 Randolph. A cigar lounge and retail store will remain on first floor; a VIP lounge will remain on second floor; and existing apartments will be reconfigured on the upper two floors. Total expected investment: $1.47 million, including a purchase price of $1.17 million.

Harmonie Pointe: Gotham Capital Partners, led by Dennis Archer Jr., plans to renovate the buildings at 1407 and 1427 Randolph with a jazz club and restaurant on the first floor, and offices in the two upper floors. Archer, an owner of Central Kitchen + Bar at Campus Martius, said he hoped the restaurant would have a “presence” in Paradise Valley. Total investment: $2.7 million, including a purchase price of $976,000.

“We expect Paradise Valley to be an international destination,” Archer said.

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