Metropolitan Building to add grocery store, restaurant

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News

Plans for the redevelopment of downtown’s 14-story Metropolitan Building include a grocery store and breakfast restaurant, according to development partner David Di Rita.

Metropolitan Hotel Partners, a joint venture comprised of Detroit-based Means Group and Di Rita’s Detroit-based Roxbury Group, is proceeding with plans for an extended-stay hotel after buying the building from the Downtown Development Authority for around $250,000, the partners announced this week.

Di Rita told The Detroit News the building would have cost the firms about $500,000, but the Means Group had already put a significant amount of money into the building to stabilize and secure it, for which the city credited them.

By July 2018, the 1925 Gothic structure at 33 John R, just east of Woodward, will reopen as a 110-room extended stay hotel named Element Detroit.

Most hotels downtown will let someone stay for a couple weeks, but that doesn’t mean the long stay is comfortable. The Element rooms will feel like apartments, Di Rita said, with kitchens, multiple rooms and services to meet the needs of someone who’s going to be away from home for a while.

Di Rita said that means an in-house grocer offering more than just drinks and snacks is necessary. He said the store will sell things like pasta and salad fixings that will allow guests to cook in their rooms. There also will be a breakfast restaurant, he said. Both the amenities will be open to the public as well as hotel guests.

The 100,000-square-foot building will have 2,000 square feet of meeting space on the second-floor mezzanine level; about 7,000 square feet of retail on the ground floor and lower level; and an outdoor patio on the 11th-floor rear rooftop.

Di Rita said the retail portions of the project haven’t been filled yet, but the partners are looking for something to complement the building.

The Roxbury Group is responsible for the restoration of the historic David Whitney Building downtown, and is helming the redevelopment of the Hammer and Nail building in Midtown, which will become high-end apartments. The David Whitney currently houses the Aloft Detroit hotel.

The Metropolitan Building is “very derelict,” Di Rita said. The team has a lot of work ahead, but he hopes to reuse the space in such a way that the new hotel and retail spaces look as though they’re meant to be in the building.

“I want people to come in and if you don’t know better, you would think the building was always like this,” he said.

He expects to spend the rest of 2016 sealing up and stabilizing the exterior of the building so crews can work on the inside through the winter.

The project will revamp a building that’s been vacant and blighted since the late 1970s. Only recently was the graffiti scrubbed from the outside of the building. Once finished, the development will link two bustling avenues in downtown Detroit.

The building sits between Woodward and Broadway, which are both lined with restaurants and shops. The Metropolitan shares an alleyway with the swanky John Varvatos store on Woodward and the Wurlitzer Building, a vacant building fronting Broadway that is undergoing renovations to become a boutique hotel.

Developers said the Metropolitan project is supported by financing from Invest Detroit and Develop Michigan Inc., and will utilize new market tax credits, historic tax credits and incentive support from the State of Michigan’s Community Revitalization Program.

The Metropolitan for many years was home to jewelers, a dress shop and other retailers. The city foreclosed on the property in the late 1970s and spent tens of thousands of dollars boarding up its broken windows as well as setting up scaffolding and netting to prevent pieces of the exterior from falling onto passersby. The historic building was at risk of being demolished two years ago.

“We’re just really glad that the chorus of people who wanted to tear down these (historic) buildings didn’t get their hands on this one,” Di Rita said.

Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau