Rising Detroit developer Eric Means dies suddenly

Ariana Taylor
The Detroit News

Detroit — Eric Means, a real estate developer in Detroit who was known for his involvement in major development projects in Midtown, died suddenly on Monday. 

Eric Means, 48, founder of Means Group Inc. died suddenly on Monday.

Means, 48, was the founder and president of Means Group Inc., a construction management company. 

"We are saddened beyond words at the loss of our friend and leader, Eric Means,"  the company said in a statement. "He was an inspiring man of incredible heart and vision and a man who believed deeply in not only the cities of Detroit and Highland Park, but also in doing right by the people who call those communities home."

"Eric has left a lasting legacy that we will proudly continue in his memory. Our hearts go out to Tracy, Arie, Willow and Brandon, as well as all who were fortunate enough to know Eric and call him a friend."

Means is survived by his wife, Tracy; his two daughters, Arie, 2, and Willow, 7 months; and son Brandon, 24. 

"We are beyond heartbroken over the loss of my husband," said Tracy Means, who had been with him for five years. "From our first date until his passing, Eric was my partner and my companion. He was an adoring father to his son and our two daughters. To say that he will be greatly missed is an absolute understatement. But as we mourn the loss of this larger-than-life man, we also want to celebrate a life well lived by my husband."

Means, whom Mayor Mike Duggan called a "bright young star," was known for his dedication to reviving Detroit and Highland Park.

"He was just very generous, he would just help out a lot of people, and he just became a pillar in the Detroit community. He just wanted to see Detroit rebuilt," said Mia Braden Lewis, a close friend of Means for 35 years. 

Means was working on a deal that would turn blocks of vacant lots and abandoned houses in Highland Park into a "major source of jobs and community investment," according to Dan Austin, senior account executive at Van Dyke Horn Public Relations for the Means Group. 

The deal could not be executed until a woman who lived in the only house in the area of the projected development could move. Means and his company bought the woman's home and then moved her into another that he bought and was newly renovated with hardwood floors, appliances, central air and more.

When The Detroit News wrote about the woman and her new home, Means opted out of an interview, not wanting to be in the spotlight, Austin said. 

"He was a developer who always put people before projects, his friends and colleagues before himself. I begged him to let me sing praises of his greatness, but he insisted on always putting his team, and only his team, first," said Austin. 

Other developments Means was a part of include the Garden Theater, Woodward Garden Development, The Element Detroit at the Metropolitan Building and Residences at Ashton Detroit Condominiums. 

"Mr. Means ... was more than a developer, he was a supporter for the people in Detroit," said City Council president Brenda Jones. "This rising young man's star was extinguished far too soon. I will miss him dearly."

Means grew up on the west side of Detroit in the Hubbell and Fenkell Ave. area. He graduated from Benedictine High School in Detroit in 1990. He served in the U.S. Navy and received his degree in engineering from the University of Florida, according to the Means Group website. 

Means became certified as a licensed residential builder in 1996. In 1998, he founded the Means Group, which has stimulated more than half a billion dollars in transformational economic development, according to the company website.

"He just loved people, he was a jokester, he loved to laugh ... but he was also a great businessman with an awesome vision," Braden Lewis, 47, said.