Fuchsia be gone: Corktown building gets an overhaul

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News

Scot Turnbull said he’s not bringing back the fuchsia paint for the redevelopment of the 136-year-old building at 2000 Michigan Avenue in Corktown.

The 7,200 square-foot building at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Vermont Street will soon have retail and living spaces as renovations continue in Corktown. Scot Turnbull will convert the structure into retail and town home rental space. He hopes to have it filled by fall.

Work is about 70 percent finished on the historic building on the corner of Michigan and Vermont, he said. The hardest work – stabilizing the buildings – is close to complete.

“Once I can hand the building to the trades, it’s easy,” Turnbull, 44, said.

When work wraps in the fall, Turnbull and his business partners — friends from high school — will have turned the building that should have been condemned into 7,200 square feet of mixed-use space.

Turnbull said plans call two three-story, two-bathroom, three-bedroom townhouses fronting Vermont Street. They’re nestled up against about 3,600 square feet of retail space fronting Michigan. A small alleyway separates the two buildings

Though structurally sound, one of the townhouses was fire-damaged.

The retail half of the redevelopment was worse. “Pretty much everything in this building was shot structurally,” Turnbull said. “It was way worse than I expected.”

Turnbull isn’t sure how long the retail half of the project was vacant. When John Blaser built the place in 1880, he lived upstairs and filled the storefronts with a drugstore and shoe store. More recently, it housed the Lucky Clover Bar.

He and his partners bought the building for $1 million. The location, about a block east of the Gaelic League Irish American Club and two blocks east of popular restaurants Slows Bar B-Q and Gold Cash Gold, was the biggest draw, Turnbull said.

The partners only had to put $10,000 down to buy the property, Turnbull said, which freed up the money upfront to dump into the building. They got a loan to buy the rest of the property, and he estimated the project will cost another $700,000 to $900,000 to complete.

Historic aspects like arches in the windows and a brick exterior will be maintained. The exterior might have to be painted, Turnbull said, but he hasn’t heard from the Detroit Historic District Commission on that yet.

Turnbull has been working in Detroit since 1997, when he managed an apartment complex on the city’s east side. In 2007, he got into restoration by renovating houses in Indian Village. He just finished work on the Pasadena Apartments downtown, which he listed for $11.9 million in April.

For the Corktown project, he ripped the striking fuchsia facade off the front of the building, because it was “destroyed.” Joists throughout the building had failed. One side of the retail space has been gutted to a dirt floor.

Nearly 80 percent of the entire development is “brand new,” he said.

Developer Scot Turnbull tours the 7,200-square-foot building at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Vermont Street in Corktown.

He’s not sure what will fill the retail spaces. He might let a single restaurant or clothing retailer set up in the entire space, or he might partition the space into two storefronts.

Walking through the buildings Thursday, Turnbull said he’s spoken to several people who want to open a restaurant in the space. He said he thinks sushi might do well on Michigan.

The retail space also has second floor Turnbull said could be used by a single tenant for more space, or work as an option for separate store.

“I feel like I can tie it together,” Turnbull said. “And then this almost becomes like a small shopping district.”

Turnbull hopes to rent each of the 1,800-square-foot apartments for around $2,250 a month. The entire retail space is listed for $6,000 a month.

The partners hope to have the buildings filled by fall, Turnbull said.