Construction starts on Greektown's first new housing in decades

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

Officials gathered Monday to celebrate the start of construction on a $64.6 million mixed-use project in Greektown that will bring new housing to the area for the first time in several decades.

Construction is underway for the Exchange on Gratiot at Brush, a 16-story, 166,000-square-foot building on the half-acre site of a former parking lot. The developer is Southfield-based Exchange Detroit LLC.

Construction crews work on a new 16-story residential tower in Detroit's Greektown district on Monday, September 13, 2021.

When complete in 2023, it will have 165 units with 153 apartments, including studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units, as well as 12 for-sale condominiums with one, two or three bedrooms. There will also be retail and hospitality space on the ground level.

The project will meet the city’s need for more residential buildings downtown, Mayor Mike Duggan said as officials gathered for a ceremonial groundbreaking in front of the construction site. 

“We have got to shift downtown from a place where you drive in to work in the morning and drive home at night,” he said. “We need to blend residential and entertainment. We need more residential down here. There’s demand for it.”

Rendering for The Exchange, a new 16-story residential tower in Detroit's Greektown district.

The Exchange project comes nearly two years after the Greektown Neighborhood Partnership unveiled a framework that called for residential units and retail as well as public parks and increased walkability.

“Our framework vision identified this very site for a residential development so we’re very happy that that vision has come to fruition,” said Melanie Markowicz, executive director of the Greektown Neighborhood Partnership. “It’s the first residential development in decades. It’s going to introduce new residents in creating a vibrant public realm that will connect this area of downtown to the core.”

Markowicz said the project will complement a nearby plaza at Gratiot and Randolph under design phase that she expects will be complete in November. The plaza should open around the same time as the Exchange, she said.

The project will be constructed through LIFTbuild construction technology, being assembled on the ground and then raised into place in a structure from the top down. Crews worked Monday on one of two structural core towers that will support the floors.

The method saves time, said Ryan Maibach, president and CEO of Barton Malow, whose LIFTbuild firm falls under its family of companies. It also lends itself to better views, he said.

“Architecturally, one of the advantages to this approach is that you end up with a much cleaner and a more open floor plan,” he said. “There’s ultimately more flexibility in how we’re able to use each of the different floors. Aesthetically, the occupants have better sight lines.”

Twenty percent of the housing units will be set aside as affordable for those earning up to 80% of the average median income.

VIPs (From left) Melanie Markowicz, executive director of the Greektown Neighborhood Partnership, Ryan Maibach, president and CEO of Barton Malow, Michelle Wildman, senior Vice President for community development at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Norm Pappas, president and CEO of Pappas Financial, and Mark Bennett, managing director of MJBennett, participate in a groundbreaking ceremony for a new 16-story residential tower in Detroit's Greektown district, September 13, 2021.

The project was financed in part by Greenworks Lending and Lean and Green Michigan, and at $13 million, is the largest commercial property-assessed clean energy deal in the state, officials said.

The Michigan Strategic Fund Board also approved the project last year for $2.5 million in brownfield tax increment financing and the Detroit City Council granted it a Neighborhood Enterprise Zone abatement for 15 years, valued at $12.5 million.

Twitter: @CWilliams_DN