Detroit's iconic Fisher Building on the block after $30M in upgrades

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

After six years and more than $30 million in improvements, the owners of the Fisher Building have placed the historical landmark up for sale.

The Platform, co-owners of the building, said Tuesday that it is the right time to find it a new owner. During six years of ownership, the firm said it has doubled the building’s occupancy.

The Fisher Building was built by the Fisher brothers and opened Sept. 1, 1928, at Second Avenue and Grand Boulevard. Designed by master architect Albert Kahn, the 441-foot tower is filled with  mosaics, painted ceilings, brass and bronze.

“We are proud of the work that we have performed to preserve this important piece of Detroit’s history,” Peter Cummings, executive chairman and CEO of The Platform, said in a statement Tuesday.  “We have made significant investments to reposition this property as a first-class office building and community gathering space and have overseen a substantial increase in office and retail occupancy. As such, we feel the time is right to find the Fisher’s next steward.”

There is no asking price for the 30-story building, with the owners saying they have opted to see what the market will bear. Two surface parking lots and a parking garage would be included in a sale. 

The Fisher Building's exterior.

The Platform, along with co-owners New York-based firms HFZ Capital Group and Rheal Capital Management, purchased the Fisher Building at auction in 2015. The $12.5 million transaction also included the Albert Kahn Building, a parking garage at 645 Baltimore St., and two surface lots. The Kahn Building sold for $9.5 million in 2018. 

HFZ Capital Group has 65% ownership in the building, while The Platform owns about 23% and Rheal 12%, officials said.

The landmark Art Deco structure is going on the market as HFZ faces legal and financial troubles in New York City, including unpaid construction bills and real estate debt due to the city's struggling high-end real estate market, as reported by Crain's New York Business and The Real Deal, which covers New York real estate news.

When asked if the building being listed for sale has anything to do with those issues, a spokesman for the Platform said Tuesday the company couldn’t comment on matters related to HFZ.

HFZ did not immediately respond Tuesday to a request for comment.

The Fisher Building has 505,000 square feet of office space, 68,000 square feet of retail space, and 1,900 parking spaces with an attached parking garage. Newer tenants include Strategic Staffing Solutions, United Way for Southeastern Michigan and Children’s Foundation. Retail tenants include The Peacock Room, MATURE and Promenade Artisan Foods.

The building also includes the Fisher Theatre, the administrative officers for the Detroit Public Schools Community District and studios for WJR-AM (760).

Andy Gutman, president of the Southfield-based real estate firm Farbman Group, said the Fisher Building is as iconic a structure as one will find in Michigan or anywhere else.

"The current owners have invested heavily in it and been good stewards of the building," he said. "We would not be surprised to see significant interest in purchasing the building and wish the owners success in their process."

Albert Kahn's 1929 Fisher Building towers over houses in New Center Commons.

Ellen Mahoney, broker owner of RE/MAX Commercial Connection in Ferndale, said it will take time to find the right buyer willing to complete the restoration of the building. 

"I think somebody is going to be looking for a deal," she said.

Mahoney said six years is a short time to own a building of that type.

"At least a 10-year holding period normally," she said. "It's probably cost them a lot of money between COVID and what they've had to invest in it."

The Platform says it has spent more than $30 million revitalizing the building, including new elevators, an HVAC system and restoration of the artwork on the arcade ceiling in 2017. Work began to restore the building’s brass entrance doors and exterior façade, including 325,000-square-feet of marble.

Rachel Lutz, owner of The Peacock Room, has been a tenant in the Fisher Building since 2017 and said she’s been an eyewitness to the upgrades The Platform carried out on the skyscraper.

“The Platform really did the heavy lifting with getting this building back on track to be a true beacon for the city,” she said. “I really hope whoever the next owner of this building is is passionate about New Center as a neighborhood and not just Detroit as a city or an investment opportunity.”

"Because there was local leadership on the ground here, I think they really made decisions in the best interest of the community," Lutz continued. 

The Platform remains involved in the New Center area with The Boulevard, an apartment building it opened in late 2019 at Third Avenue and West Grand Boulevard.

Twitter: @CWilliams_DN