Detroit developer breaks ground on $8.3M project

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

Detroit — Officials broke ground Thursday on an $8.3 million mixed-use development they hope will become a retail anchor and spark further development along Detroit’s Avenue of Fashion.

Called 7.Liv, the project at 19031 Livernois Avenue will feature 20,500 square feet of commercial storefront space, 10 apartments and 29 underground parking spaces. The project is expected to be complete by mid-2019.

“I hope we will see more of this kind of development,” said Mayor Mike Duggan, who joined local property developer Matthew Hessler for the groundbreaking along with organizations providing funding for the project.

“We’ve given a lot of thought to this. I’ve said all along the development is going to spread from downtown and Midtown to the neighborhoods. This is the real evidence of that.”

Part of the development will be housed in a former B. Siegel department store, which was built in 1949. The store sold fine women’s apparel.

“When they built this store on Seven Mile, it cemented the reputation of the Avenue of Fashion,” Duggan said. “It was the anchor for a very vibrant business district. It meant a lot to Detroiters.”

After Siegel went out of business in the 1980s, the building’s occupancy turned over, and it at one point, housed a dollar store, Duggan said.

Hessler, the developer and an area resident, said he is committed to adding businesses to the area that will improve the lives of people in the community by providing options to spend money in the neighborhood rather than leave.

“I felt since moving into the neighborhood that this parcel was one of the most important missing pieces to the ongoing revitalization of the corridor,” Hessler said. “I had hoped in 2016 that activating this corner would serve as a catalyst creating walking traffic on the avenue and adding amenities for residents of the area. Two years later, I feel very confident this will be the case.”

For several years, the stretch of Livernois between Seven Mile and Eight Mile has seen a resurgence through the opening of several businesses. The business district sits amid the historical residential neighborhoods of Sherwood Forest, University District and Palmer Woods.

There’s already been some retail interest in the 7.Liv project, Hessler said.

Brix Detroit, a wine bar in West Village, has signed a letter of intent expressing interest in occupying retail space. Also, Fresh 101, a fresh juice cafe in Midtown, is interested in opening a location, Hessler said.

The residential space in the project will include 10 apartments: three studios, a one-bedroom unit and six two-bedroom units ranging from 650 square feet to almost 1,400 square feet. Three of the units will be affordable at 80 percent of the area median income.

In the next couple of months, the building on the corner of Seven Mile and Livernois will be demolished and eventually replaced. The interior of the former B. Siegel store will be gutted.

Financing for the project includes: Capital Impact Partners and JPMorgan Chase’s $30 million Detroit Neighborhoods Fund, the Michigan Strategic Fund, Invest Detroit, Detroit Economic Growth Corp. and Hessler.

The 7.Liv is one of the last investments from the Detroit Neighborhood Fund, said Ellis Carr, president and CEO of Capital Impact Partners. Other projects include the Auburn, a mixed-use property on Cass in Midtown.

Carr said there was a need for investment in the Avenue of Fashion area.

“It has a lot of prominence in terms of the historic neighborhoods here,” Carr said. “We feel this will be catalytic in terms of the creation of more economic activity.”

Twitter: @CWilliams_DN