Gilbert unveils $100M+ “Monroe Blocks” project that includes two high-rises

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To say the folks over in Gilbertland are busy as of late is an understatement. Greater Downtown’s development is starting to move at breakneck pace, and they’re driving a large part of it.

The latest project from Bedrock that was revealed to be in the planning stages is called “Monroe Blocks,” consisting of a pair of high-rise buildings and other developments on two mostly vacant parcels of land near Monroe street and bordering Campus Martius.

During a press event for a development in Brush Park yesterday for $100 million plus in new residential construction, Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert said he was going to “go vertical,” and he wasted no time making progress on that promise.

The final size and scope of the project is dependent on a lot of factors, including the amount of incentives available as well as getting ahold of land currently owned by the city of Detroit or the Downtown Development Authority, but the idea is that it will cost more than $100 million to put Monroe Blocks together.

The project would feature the following at a minimum:

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The first phase would be a 600,000 square foot, 20-story office tower that would have 35,000 square feet of retail.

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It would be located along Monroe and Cadillac Square near Campus Martius. Phase two (below) would be the next block over down Monroe, bordering Randolph street.

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The second phase, a residential tower, would be smaller at 225,000 square feet. It would have 25,000 square feet of retail.

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Many buildings that we would consider historic today were demolished years ago to make way for parking.

The only building left from Detroit’s first theatre district is the National Theatre, and currently the plan would what is basically a facade-ectemy where the facade of the old theatre is kept but the inside demolished.

16-30 Monroe, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
16-30 Monroe, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The above photo is approximately 16-30 Monroe Street in 1933. All of the buildings in the foreground were demolished years ago. For more history on the National theatre, check out Historic Detroit. They have the whole thing including pictures of the interior.

On Wednesday afternoon, Detroit Downtown Development Authority (DDA) officials approved the plan. It’s the first step in a series of many needed to make this a reality.

The deal DDA approved is as such. Gilbert, et all would pay:

  • $1 for the big surface lot next to Campus Martius.
  • $1.5 million for the plot of land that is basically the Monroe block
  • $1.2 million minus costs for the facade for the National Theatre. It’s expected the facade preservation will be $900,000, so net ~ $300,000.

There’s also part of this project resting on a current incentive debate up in Lansing with the state legislature. In short, they’re looking at rolling back the “no incentive” policy of the Snyder administration and bringing back more tools to attract companies and investment, including recapturing a portion of the new use and sales taxes generated to help offset development costs.

These kinds of incentive programs, in one form or another, have become very common across the country as states and cities vie for projects. Multiple developers have said there is a gap between what people are willing to pay (even at the rates seen as of late) and the high cost of new construction in Detroit.

It’s key to note than almost every large development in the city has received tax incentives of some kind, so Gilbert isn’t alone in this.

The aim right now on the Monroe Blocks project is for construction to begin in 2018.

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