Detroit’s Milwaukee Junction draws investors

Louis Aguilar
The Detroit News

The developers behind major projects in Detroit’s New Center are now venturing into the nearby Milwaukee Junction neighborhood with the purchase of two large buildings, including one adorned by a nine-story mural that appeared to be at risk of being altered or destroyed.

The Platform Group development company has purchased two new buildings in the Milwaukee Junction area, including this one at 22937 E. Grand Blvd. in Detroit.

The development group, Detroit-based The Platform, said it was under contract to buy the building at 2937 E. Grand Blvd., commonly known for the “Illuminated Mural,” a 100 foot-by-125 foot painting on one side of the structure. The developers have agreed, in writing, not to change the rainbow-colored mural.

The mural was a center of contention last year when the artist, Katherine Craig, filed a lawsuit against the current building owners to prevent the artwork from being “mutilated or destroyed” in plans to convert the building into residences, according to the suit.

Dietrich Knoer, a co-principal of The Platform, the development group based in Detroit’s Fisher Building, said: “For us, the mural opened the door for many opportunities; the programming we have in mind” for the building, which is currently vacant.

The 76,000 square-foot building, which is about three blocks east of Woodward, is vacant, Knoer said, adding that the group has something more than residential use in mind.

“We will have a large component for makerspace and co-worker space,” Knoer said. Makerspace refers to collaborative spaces where groups tend to work on a variety of projects. Other plans for the building include some type of job training and career development for area residents.

The developers will provide more specific details in “the near future” when the purchase is finalized, Knoer said.

This building at 411 Piquette in Detroit's Milwaukee Junction area has been purchased by The Platform Group development company.

Milwaukee Junction is based around the 1-75/1-94 interchange and roughly borders Woodward on the west, East Grand Boulevard/St. Aubin on the east, Holbrook Avenue on the north and East Warren Avenue on the south. The area is mainly industrial with big pockets of blight.

“Milwaukee Junction was the Silicon Valley of its day; that day being about 100 years ago,” said Peter Cummings, the other principal of The Platform, while offering details about their purchase of the 100,000-square-foot building at 411 Piquette Ave.

That building, currently used as a record keeping facility by Henry Ford Health Systems, sits next to the historic Ford Piquette Plant. That facility is where Henry Ford began experimenting with the Model T and the assembly line.

The group didn’t release sales prices and said plans for the buildings are still being finalized, Cummings said.

Cummings and Knoer formed The Plaform about a year ago. It has investments in the Islandview, Fitzgerald neighborhoods and the Wayne State University/Techtown area. Its most significant investments have been in New Center, where the group is restoring the historic Fisher Building and the Albert Kahn Building and renovating a parking deck on Baltimore and Third.

Another project, Third and Grand, is a 231-unit mixed-use development that’s the first new major development in New Center in more than 30 years.

Twitter: @LouisAguilar_DN