The Brush Street Historic District was once known as “Little Paris.” While some of homes in the neighborhood have been lovely restored and still support the nickname, in other sections once beautiful homes have been abandoned or are in disrepair.
That’s changing. Developments are springing up. The most recent is a $1.8 million project by Detroit-based Method Development, which will breathe new life into one of Brush Park’s historic mansions.
It has broken ground on the project to renovate and restore the 8,000-square-foot house at 304 Erskine St., which dates back to 1911, to its original character and create eight unique apartments with parking spaces for each unit.
“We were really drawn to the idea of restoring a historic mansion in Brush Park. It’s a great location because of the walkability of the neighborhood and new dining and retail amenities opening up just blocks away,” says Amelia Patt Zamir, who co-founded Method in 2014 with Rakesh (Rocky) Lala.
“This is a passion project for us. We worked hard during the design process to maximize every square inch of space and to build something truly special while maintaining the home’s historic characteristics,” she says.
The redevelopment project – which includes energy efficient lighting and storm water management systems – will create:
- Two studio apartments, approximately 630-730 square feet
- Four one-bedroom apartments, approximately 640-710 square feet
- Two two-bedroom apartments, approximately 970-1,130 square feet
Six apartments will be available at market rate rent (ranging from $1,400-$2,300 a month). Two of the apartments will be affordable units at rental rates set in accordance with MSHDA income and rent limits for Wayne County.
“Tucked within many of the Motor City’s historic neighborhoods are numerous architectural gems that sit vacant and long forgotten,” says Lala. “We are truly honored and excited to have the opportunity to restore one of them.”
Method plans to preserve as much of the historic exterior as possible rather than tearing the home down and building new.
“We value and respect the importance of maintaining the character of this local historic district and salvaging its original homes,” says Patt Zamir. “We’ve really maximized any historic features we were able to salvage. We believe this aspect of our design sets our development apart.”
The following historic features will be preserved:
- All exterior brick walls will remain intact and will be reinforced or tuck-pointed in areas that need repair. Some of the apartments will feature exposed original brick on the interior walls.
- Corbels from the roof have been salvaged and will be restored to adorn a new roof addition that will replace a fire-damaged portion of the roof.
- The exterior porches, which collapsed sometime between 2001 and 2007, will be reconstructed to replicate the original design.
- The house features three existing chimneys which will remain.
- Tile from the fireplaces has been salvaged and will be repaired where possible and replicated in other areas. Each unit will have its own private entry and several will feature original tile work.
The mansion was originally a two family home, according to city zoning records. The property was occupied up until 1976. Sometime later, it was abandoned and damaged by fire. At one point, the house was slated for demolition according to the Brush Park Preservation Society.
Established in 1860, Brush Park is one of Detroit’s oldest neighborhoods. It encompasses 24 blocks, bounded by Mack Avenue to the north, Woodward Avenue to the west, Beaubien Street to the east and the Fisher Freeway to the south.
Method obtained construction financing through Opportunity Zone legislation created under the 2017 federal tax laws. Special tax deferments are available to investors who reinvest capital gains income into developments planned for designated low-income communities across the country. The mansion renovation is one of the first projects in Detroit to take advantage of this development designation. Method Development also secured a predevelopment loan from the Michigan Historic Preservation Network, which provides financial support for projects rehabilitating historic buildings in Michigan.
Method Development is currently working on two other projects in Detroit. One is a $20-million, mixed-use redevelopment project in Detroit’s historic Milwaukee Junction neighborhood. The second is a ground-up, 24-unit, multifamily development in Jefferson Chalmers.
In March it announced the acquisition of five properties in Milwaukee Junction and plans to reactivate an entire city block with retail and office space, residential units and activity-based entertainment as well as Method’s new headquarters.
The five properties total more than 101,000 square feet and are bounded by East Grand Boulevard, Oakland Street, East Milwaukee Avenue and Saint Antoine Street. The 1.76-acre site is located four blocks from Woodward Avenue in an area that’s home to artisans, makers, musicians, and hip hangouts like techno record shop, Submerge, and The Tangent Gallery.
The five buildings include:
- The Rusas Printing Building: 6540 St. Antoine, a four-story, 56,000-square-foot light manufacturing property built in 1929, which features distinctive “martini glass” columns, original hardwood floors and a spiral package shoot. The first floor is a two-story space with a mezzanine level. The top two floors are in raw condition.
- The Maurice Fox Building: 2863 E. Grand Blvd., a three-story, 24,700-square-foot former Ford sales and service station. The property has high ceilings, “martini-glass” columns and a freight elevator shaft. The building is currently vacant.
- 2857 E. Grand Blvd.: A single-story 5,700-square-foot building located at the corner of East Grand Boulevard and Oakland Avenue, adjoining the Maurice Fox Building. The building is currently vacant.
- 2871 E. Grand Blvd.: A single-story 5,000-square-foot building adjoining the Maurice Fox building to the west was a former used auto shop and sales yard.
- 2881 E. Grand Blvd.: A single-story, 9,900-square-foot structure that once housed a gasoline service station.
Groundbreaking for phase one of construction is expected to take place in early 2020. Plans include ground-floor event space in the Rusas building with creative office space on the upper floors. Method Development will locate its headquarters in the building.
The Maurice Fox Building will be transformed into 20 industrial-style lofts with ground-floor retail. New mechanical systems, windows, a new roof and interior finishes will be installed in the now vacant building. Next door, 2857 E. Grand Blvd. will be upgraded with a new roof, exterior improvements, a new glass storefront, new building systems and restaurant-grade construction for a future restaurant, possibly with a rooftop deck.
The additional buildings on East Grand Boulevard (2871-2881) will be part of phase two and are slated for new construction with a mix of residential units and ground-floor retail space.
Lala and Patt Zamir, the company’s founders, were both born and raised in metro Detroit. They first met at Columbia University while earning master’s degrees in architecture and real estate development.