By Jeanie Matlow
For those who want to be in the heart of all that’s happening, Detroit’s rental market is better than ever as the selection of new and newly renovated apartments continues to expand. Form concept to completion, including properties in development, under construction or readily available to rent, there’s definitely something for everyone.
On the Horizon
When it comes to smaller options, Brian Rebain, architectural director for Kraemer Design Group in Detroit has done consulting work for a number of conceptual projects, “I’ve done a lot of reading and research for micro units as housing options,” he says.
This idea appeals to a wide range of people, like young adults who typically start out in apartments. “They are by nature itinerant, testing different markets, different jobs, bouncing around, trying new places,” Rebain says.
Micro units also might be a good fit for those trying out Detroit for the first time. “If they rent and it doesn’t work out, there’s no risk,” he says.
Though he says there’s no hard and fast rule, micro units are typically between 400 and 500 square feet, with some coming in under 200 square feet. They often have a desk and a bed on one wall and a kitchen on the other.
“Work/life balance is all melding together,” Rebain says, “They’re really not spending a lot of time there. They’re interested in this type of living because they expect to be out and about at work or at play,” he says.
The other draw is the low cost of entry into the market since smaller spaces become affordable for many. He’s seen everything from pets to couples in micro units that tend to attract different ages, including empty nesters, who want a small space downtown. In other cities, some become corporate apartments and extended stays for theater professionals to use when in town for a performance.
What has changes is that there is a greater sense of communal living. “A lot of micro housing has communal space within the building for everyone to interact in a communal kitchen for family-style dinners or a dance studio that can be used for yoga. The definition of the new micro housing is a sense of shared community,” he says. “What’s really interesting is that the trends include people trying out different apartments in the same building. Every few months they’ll move to the top floor instead of the second floor or they’ll try out different neighborhoods. The sense of transience has increased in the current age.”
It’s only a matter of time before we see micro units in Detroit. “It’s a different market now. This could be a viable alternative,” Rebain says. “There’s a certain pride in renting a small carbon footprint. There’s definitely a desire to live this way.”
There are several reasons people are moving to Detroit, says Richard Broder, CEO of Broder & Sachse in Birmingham, which owns the Albert in Capital Park, in what was formerly the Griswold Building, originally designed by Albert Kahn. They want to be part of the rebirth of the city, part of something interesting and unique,” he says. “There’s a national trend that’s also true in Detroit. People want the urban lifestyle, walkability to restaurants and stores. There’s real proof of that at The Albert and competitive properties. A lot of people live downtown and about a third of them work in the suburbs. It’s not just a convenient lifestyle choice; they want to live and play in Detroit.”
The Albert is known for offering an exceptional experience, luxury units and numerous perks. They pride themselves on quality service and staff, including a concierge and a lifestyle coordinator who handles activities for residents on and off the property. In the building, they might have a Tuesday night wine tasting, while offsite excursions could include a trip to Wright & Co. or Two James Spirits for a whiskey tasting. “They create a community within the building, so people who live together get to do things together,” Broder says.
Other conveniences include everything from a pet grooming station to bike storage and a state-of-the-art fitness center. In addition, they offer a mix of well-curated restaurants and retail shops. We’re bringing something to Capital Park that hasn’t existed in years,” he says.
Next up for them is The Scott at Brush Park. “There’s a lot of demand for rental products in general in downtown and Midtown. We want to be part of the experience,” Broder says.
Slated to start opening later this year, Orleans Landing in the East Riverfront District is not planning to be a small fish in a big pond.
As project manager Doug Atkinson with architectural firm Hamilton Anderson Associates explains, the apartment community will fill five blocks. “It’s not just a building, it’s 20 buildings. It’s like its own neighborhood, yet tied in with everything else,” he says.
At this point, they’re planning for 278 units that will vary in style, some will have balconies, and there will be other amenities, such as a common building featuring a fitness center, outdoor pool and fire pit. “It’s a place for people to hang out and enjoy,” Atkinson says. Some of the units face the riverfront, and there will be a small amount of retail, too. Onsite parking will be available for residents and street parking for visitors. There will also be some townhouse-style units that include a garage.
“It’s appealing to people who work here or want to be in the city again and not necessarily buy something at this time in their lives,” he says. “We’ll have a mix of traditional and contemporary units with a community feel. Every Building will be a little bit different, like a mixed development. It’s unique.
A Whole New World
Even out-of-towners have a newfound appreciation for the renewal of the Motor City. April Sedillos, executive vice president for Triton Investment Co. in Denver, Colo., which owns several properties in Detroit including Town Apartments and Water’s Edge, is among them.
“From the perspective of an outsider, downtown Detroit and the suburban area around it are highly unique. Coming from Colorado, we don’t have the historic feel as you do in Detroit. Part of the appeal is the nature of the buildings and how the city is laid out is very attractive,” she says. “Detroit has changed so much in vibrancy, with people walking the streets and riding bikes, you can feel such energy. There are always activities going on, people feel they want to be part of that.”
Until recently, their specialty bringing historical buildings back to life, like they did with Alden Towers. That changed with Water’s Edge in Harbortown, which Sedillos says is one of the first new construction apartment developments in the area in the last 25 years.
“We’re not going to be the only one doing something other than rehabbing. The demand has been very strong for new residents to Detroit who have new positions or are relocating from the suburbs,” says Sedillos, noting the three-bedroom units that face the water were the first to go. “Some individuals might be doing a residency with one of the local hospitals; others are taking a second home to have a place downtown. It’s interesting to see the variety.”
When they didn’t find the right opportunities in their own region, they started looking at other markets and Detroit was on the list. They began with Alden Towers, which received a major renovation. “What we like to do is renovate it, make it rentable again and put good management in a viable building,” she says.
“It’s exciting to see what’s going on, not just what we’re doing, but whate others are doing. There’s an overall difference in the feel of downtown. IT feels like a different place, seeing more people biking and walking and jogging in the last five years. It just feels good when you’re downtown, and it’s only getting better.”
About Kraemer Design Group
Detroit-based Kraemer Design Group, PLC (KDG) is a leading, high-end architecture, interior design, and creative firm celebrating 20 years of experience in historic renovation and comprehensive architectural consulting. Serving the commercial, multi-family residential, hospitality and retail industries, KDG is the industry leader in outovation; combining highly technical industry experience with unparalleled creativity to create exclusive design solutions. For more information visit www.thekraemeredge.com.
This article originally appeared in Ambassador Magazine