Detroit’s New Center gains another tenant

Louis Aguilar
The Detroit News

A foundation started by a former owner of the Buffalo Bills is the latest group to move to Detroit’s New Center, the area north of Wayne State University that’s seeing a surge in investment.

The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation, formed in 2015, will relocate from Grosse Pointe Farms next year to a historic building at the corner of West Grand and Woodward. The location is the northernmost stop of the future Qline, the modern streetcar line that will run from downtown to New Center.

Dave Egner, president and CEO of the foundation, said the nonprofit was excited to move to an area “where our presence might help accelerate the development and momentum that’s already on the ground.”

The building is part of a larger redevelopment called Shoppes at Woodward that include 19 properties bought by the influential Midtown Detroit Inc. last year. Midtown Detroit aims to overhaul the properties, many of them empty storefronts, and fill them with 70,000 square feet of shops, offices and residential units.

The three-story structure was constructed in 1896, according to public documents. The building’s exterior will be renovated to its 1940s style.

The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation’s Center of Excellence and a restaurant will take up the first floor. The nonprofit will use the second floor as its headquarters. The third floor will have an estimated 10 residential units, with 30 percent to be offered at affordable housing rates.

The foundation has a grant-making capacity of $1.2 billion over a 20-year period through 2035. It awards grants to organizations and individuals in four areas: youth; working-class families; caregivers who help others in need; and economic development in communities.

On Wednesday, the development was awarded a $750,000 Michigan Community Revitalization Program grant by the state’s Michigan Strategic Fund, which is a unit of the Michigan Economic Development Corp.