New Center housing development banking on QLine

Louis Aguilar
The Detroit News

Detroit — Investors behind a $53 million apartment complex planned for Detroit’s New Center area are banking on the future QLine streetcar to make the housing development a solid bet.

“This is the beginning of a new era in New Center and I’m honored to be part of it,” said Peter Cummings, principal of the Platform development group. The Platform aims to create hundreds of new housing units near the 3.3-mile M-1 Rail, recently renamed the QLine.

Cummings said the QLine was just one of the factors behind the Platform development group. The other is simply the Motor City’s rising popularity as a place to live, he said.

One of the Platform’s projects will begin construction work this week.

Third and Grand, a six-story, 231-unit apartment complex, will be located at the northwest corner of Third and West Grand. It’s three blocks from the QLine’s future Grand Station. The modern street car will travel on Woodward from Congress downtown to West Grand just past New Center. The streetcar line is expected to open sometime next year.

While critics predict the QLine will end up being a costly mistake, boosters say it will be a game-changer that will produce dense, walkable districts.

New Center, the neighborhood north of Wayne State University, has been struggling to find its niche ever since General Motors moved its headquarters downtown two decades ago.

Lately, investors have been rushing to buy empty storefronts, half-used skyscrapers and run-down apartment buildings in the neighborhood. Many believe the area will see new life as housing demand outgrows Midtown, downtown and Corktown and moves north along Woodward.

Last year, the influential Midtown Detroit Inc. bought 11 properties, mainly empty storefronts, near the corner of Woodward and West Grand. The nonprofit development agency is among those aiming to spend millions in New Center.

The QLine is the other factor driving investors. Within 10 years, its supporters contend, the QLine will drive $3 billion in development and 10,000 housing units, filling the yawning gaps of dead buildings and empty lots along Woodward, Detroit’s most storied street.

“We’ve seen a lot of buildings being built and rehabbed downtown but now Detroit’s comeback is spreading into more neighborhoods,” Mayor Mike Duggan said in a written statement provided before Wednesday afternoon’s ceremonial groundbreaking.

Third and Grand, a 356,000-square-foot development, is expected to open in spring 2018. Seventy-three percent of the 231 apartments will be studio or one-bedroom residences. The rest will be two-bedroom units. The facility will set aside 20 percent of the units at affordable housing rates. The development will also feature a 330-space parking garage and 21,000 square feet of commercial space.

The location, now a parking lot, once housed a Howard Johnson Motor Lodge.

Third and Grand is near the massive Henry Ford Hospital. Officials from Henry Ford Health System said at the groundbreaking that surveys of its 9,0000 employees found a majority of workers looking for a new residence are now willing to consider living in Detroit. That’s a dramatic change from years past, officials said.

The Third and Grand development is also one block from another major development by The Platform: the iconic Fisher Buiding. Cummings and fellow Platform prinicipal Dietrich Knoer bought the Fisher along the Albert Kahn building in a public auction last year. Housing is planned for the Kahn building and Cummings said Wednesday details about the Fisher Building will be release soon.

“It will be a beacon,” Cummings said.

Twitter: @LouisAguilar