Eastern Market fertile ground for building sales

Louis Aguilar
The Detroit News
The interior of Signal-Return in Detroit's Eastern Market.

Two other Eastern Market buildings, including one that houses Signal-Return letterpress shop, are part of a $20 million sale that also includes the building that's home to the popular Supino Pizzeria and Russell Street Deli. 

The buyer is the same father-and-son team that also bought Bert's Market Place, the long-time jazz club, soul food restaurant and theater that sold for $1.6 million in April. Bert's is on Russell Street, the main strip of the neighborhood named after the historic farmer's market. Bert Dearing has operated out of the spot for more than three decades. 

The businesses have been told there are no immediate plans to remove the shops.

Bert's was apparently just the warm up for the $20 million purchase of at least three buildings in late June by entities linked to Linden and Sanford Nelson, real estate investors based in Metro Detroit. The Nelsons couldn't be reached for comment. 

The June sale of the buildings are beginning to show up in public records. The documents are for a $20 million mortgage, recorded on the same date, to limited liability corporations set up by the Nelsons for each of the buildings. That means more buildings could be part of the same $20 million sale but have yet to become public. Further, the Nelsons bought the three buildings from entities linked to the Russo family, which own multiple Eastern Market properties. Dominic Russo declined to comment on the sales.

Part of the $20 million sale includes the Russell Street building that holds five independent businesses: Russell Street Deli, Supino, Zeff's Coney Island, Mootown Ice Cream Shoppe and Detroit Kung Fu Academy. The two-story, 18,000-square foot building at the corner of Russell Street and the Fisher Service Drive has residences on the second floor, according to CoStar, a commercial real estate database.

James Lucas, manager of Mootown Ice Cream Shoppe, said of the sale Monday, “I don’t think it has very much bearing at all. Unless they raise or lower rent.”  Lucas said the business reached out to the new owners about some needed water-damage repairs and received a prompt response.

Now public records show that two adjacent buildings on the 1300 block of Division Street between Russell and Rivard streets were also part of the $20 million deal. One building is three stories with a total of 18,600 square feet, according to CoStar. The other building is also three stories with 10,500 square feet. The letterpress printmaking shop Signal-Return is located in one of the Division Street buildings sold. 

The sales of the buildings come months after five other Eastern Market buildings were purchased by the New York developers who revamped the long-empty Wurlitzer building downtown into the Siren Hotel. The development group ASH NYC bought two buildings on Riopelle, four on Adelaide Street and one Orleans Street earlier this year. The group hasn't announced plans for the buildings yet.