Retailing to return to iconic downtown building

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

Detroit — Nearly a hundred years after the opening of the Metropolitan Building in downtown Detroit, retail is coming back to the historic site.

The Forbes Company announced Wednesday that it will bring Somerset Collection’s retailers and concierge services to the building, which reopened late last year after major renovation.

The retail concept, called Somerset Collection Studio, will fill 1,400 square feet on the first floor of 33 John R. It could open as early as November, officials said.

The Somerset Collection Studio will be a permanent fixture downtown with rotating retail offerings and a personal stylist.

“We really are trying to work with our stores to extend the brand to provide access and accessibility to the resident, the worker and the visitor to the city of Detroit,” said Nathan Forbes, managing partner of the Forbes Company, which co-owns luxury mall Somerset Collection in Troy. “Because it’s not always easy to carve out two or three hours a trip … to go up to Somerset. In a way, it’s an extension of the brand to provide the city access to those brands we have up at Somerset.”

The Somerset Collection Studio will be a permanent fixture downtown with rotating retail offerings and a personal stylist. The space also will include a locker system, where customers can order from Somerset Collection’s more than 180 retailers and have their purchases delivered to a locker that they can access 24/7 via a text code.

“They can pick up their iPad, they can pick up an iPhone, they can pick up earbuds, a white shirt, whatever it might be,” Forbes said.

Another feature of the space is a designer vending machine with a variety of popular items including phone gadgets, fragrances and jewelry, the company said.

During the first year, the space is expected to change retail offerings about 10 times. The Forbes Company declined to say which retailers will kick off the concept. However, they said it could be something related to jewelry in a nod to the Metropolitan Building’s history.

The Metropolitan Building was built in 1925 as a destination for jewelers and other shopping. The 14-story Neo-Gothic building closed in 1979. Metropolitan Hotel Partners, the joint venture between Roxbury Group and the Means Group, invested $33 million to restore the skyscraper. It reopened in December 2018, and the Element Detroit Hotel opened in the building earlier this year.

The Somerset Collection first made an appearance in downtown Detroit in 2010 with the CityLoft retail pop-up. The seasonal retail concept moved from various spaces over the years.

Discussions began in 2013 about opening a permanent space downtown. The space inside the Metropolitan Building puts it in what Forbes calls a hospitality triangle — the Element Detroit, Siren and Shinola hotels.

“The redevelopment of this building and everything Roxbury has done with the Element Hotel and their socialized spaces here and the roof deck and restaurant and everything else, it felt like a good place to be,” he said.

Stacy Fox, principal of the Roxbury Group, said they were pleased Forbes chose to open the store space in the Metropolitan Building.

“Apart from the remarkable offerings that the Somerset Collection Studio will bring our visitors and guests, we are thrilled to see a shopping experience of this caliber return to a building so strongly associated with fine retailing by generations of Detroiters,” Fox said.

Twitter: @CWilliams_DN