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Second big Corktown project emerges

Louis Aguilar
The Detroit News
Detroit-based filed plans this month to build four buildings with a total of 89 residential units behind the Checker Cab building at 2128 Trumbull.

A Metro Detroit billionaire’s plan to build a new blocks-long residential development near old Tiger Stadium site has taken the first steps to gain city permission to begin construction.

It’s one of two major developments planned near the corner of Michigan and Trumbull, which could bring at least 220 new residential units to the neighborhood in the next few years.

Detroit-based Soave Enterprises, founded by Anthony Soave, filed plans this month to build four new buildings with a total of 89 residential units, behind the Checker Cab building at 2128 Trumbull. The cab dispatch center, owned by a Soave entity, is across the street from the old stadium.


Another development, called The Corner, aims to build 105 apartments, 35 townhouses and 35,000 square feet of retail space on the grounds that once housed Tiger Stadium. The developer of that $35 million project, Larson Realty, is awaiting approval of a $15 million tax credit to begin construction early next year. The Larson and Soave projects are separate, unrelated deals.

The two projects are testimony to the popularity of Corktown, Detroit’s oldest neighborhood. Located on the southwest edge of downtown, Corktown, always a stable working-class community, has been a magnet for millennials and budding entrepreneurs for more than a decade. Michigan Avenue, Corktown’s main business strip, has evolved into a dense area of restaurants, bars and small independent retailers.

“It’s going to be a boon — that’s what people are expecting,” P. J. Ryder, owner of nearby PJ’s Lager House, said of Soave’s plans.

Only the broad outline of Soave’s development is known. A spokeswoman for Soave declined comment for this story.

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Soave’s Trident-Checker LLC owns the huge Checker Cab building on Trumbull, one block north of Michigan Avenue. Behind Checker Cab, heading east toward downtown, Trident-Checker owns a big slice of the next two blocks bordered by Plum, Elizabeth and Brooklyn. Soave also owns a property on Elizabeth between Eighth and Brooklyn, which borders his bigger swath of land. A total of 17 properties are in his control, and much of the land is empty. It’s enough to build something substantial.

In early August, the city’s board of zoning appeals began to review a request by Soave to build “four new mixed-use buildings” on its’ Corktown land. Each of the buildings would have commercial uses on the ground floor with residential units on top. Plans are for one building to have 45 units, another to have 40 units and two other buildings to have five units, according to city documents.

Another building is involved in the project, but the documents didn’t indicate whether it’s a new or existing structure. Plans for that building, identified only as “Building B,” weren’t detailed.

The application went to the board of zoning appeals because the Soave project needs a variance from zoning regarding the size of the development and issues related to how much parking will be needed. The board didn’t make a ruling because it is awaiting a decision from another city agency, the Building Safety Engineering & Environmental Dept., on “Building B.”

Several blocks near Michigan Avenue and Trumbull that Anthony Soave owns may be developed into retail and residential units.

Within the past year, representatives of Soave have shown various Corktown business owners tentative plans for the development. Those plans include converting the 37,000-square-foot Checker Cab building into residential lofts, according to several people who have seen the designs.

“If you look at his track record, clearly he only makes big plans,” said Tim Springstead, one of the owners of Nemo’s, a longtime sports bar on Michigan Avenue in Corktown. Springstead spoke to The News for an earlier story about the Soave plans. “That’s why many people are excited about whatever he’s going to do, because he’s been here in Corktown a long time. He knows a great opportunity.”

Soave Enterprises generates $2.6 billion in revenue annually in a wide range of holdings that include auto dealerships, beverage distribution, luxury transportation service and hydroponic tomatoes.

Soave profited from the demolition of Tiger Stadium. His Ferrous Processing & Trading Co. recycled the aluminum, copper and other metals from the former home of the Detroit Tigers, which moved to Comerica Park downtown.

Soave also invests in luxury real estate. Soave Real Estate Group is behind several waterfront condominium developments in Florida, a major condo development in Phoenix’s art district and a 2,000-acre planned community in Loudoun County, Virginia, near Washington.

The Corktown project would be Soave’s first residential development in Detroit.

Twitter: @LouisAguilar_DN