2015 Powered by Women

With women-owned businesses in Michigan continuing to increase in number, we asked our readers to nominate female business leaders in the region who are driving profits, adding employees, and opening new opportunities.



Published:

(page 5 of 8)

Kathy Makino-Leipsitz

Managing Partner | Shelborne Development Co., Detroit

Employees: 14 | Project total: $18M

 Kathy Makino-Leipsitz isn’t afraid to venture into stormy weather. Rather than watch historic apartment buildings decay, the developer worked with city lenders, acquired more than 20 structures, and set out to renovate and rent 2,000 residences.

“For an area like Palmer Park to come back, you often start with affordable housing, as well as senior housing, before going to market-rate housing,” says Makino-Leipsitz, managing partner of Shelborne Development Co. in Detroit. “You can’t go into a depressed area with
market-rate housing right away. The banks won’t support it, and the neighborhood isn’t ready for it.”

While some developers will attempt to pack as many apartments in a building as possible, Makino-Leipsitz prefers to
offer larger units that families can grow into. Larger residential spaces also attract a wider mix of tenants. In the case of Palmer Park, Shelborne’s tenants include city employees, nurses, professionals, and service personnel at restaurants and casinos.

Once an area begins to approach a healthy tenant mix — what developers refer to as critical mass — Makino-Leipsitz focuses on adding retail amenities including coffee shops, eateries, stores, and service operations. In addition to Palmer Park, the developer has acquired properties in New Center, along East Jefferson, and, most recently, in southwest Detroit.

After completing several renovation projects in the Jefferson-Chalmers area, Makino-Leipsitz is working to convert the vacant River Plaza
apartment complex into 120 apartments along with 20,000 square feet of commercial space, primarily stores and restaurants. The project is set to open in 2017.

“My goal is to have some of the stores and restaurants near the Detroit River, with a boardwalk that would connect the apartments to the (existing) RiverWalk,” she says. “It would be an urban beach theme, which I’ve seen done well in Toronto. Hopefully, it would tie in with a redevelopment of the (neighboring and vacant) Whittier Hotel, which is owned by Mel Washington.”

In New Center, Makino-Leipsitz has worked her magic on several apartment buildings, and will soon start work on several more on Seward, a few blocks north of West Grand Boulevard. In every project, she restores plaster walls and ceilings, along with hardwood floors, and adds granite countertops and stainless steel appliances in the kitchens, and ceramic tiles and new fixtures in the bathrooms.

By offering large, desirable floor plans, the company has had little trouble renting out units. In fact, every project has a waiting list of tenants prior to completion. While she does minimal advertising, the developer recently hired a full-time marketing director from North Carolina.

Growing up in a working-class family in Wayne, Makino-Leipsitz began babysitting for a neighboring family and quickly saw the success of the husband’s rental housing enterprise. “It didn’t take me long to decide that real estate was something I should get into,” she recalls. She acquired her first property, a duplex, in 1979. From there, she steadily grew her portfolio.

“To see an empty structure and see it transformed into a sustainable, energy-efficient apartment community is what really drives me,” she says. “It’s almost like restoring a work of art. I’ve always started in the fringe areas, where other developers have shied away, and when they eventually did come in (to an area), I took it as a sign of confidence.”  — R.J. King

Edit Module
Edit Module Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Articles

2017 ACG M&A All Stars

The Association for Corporate Growth Detroit Chapter and DBusiness magazine honor the 10th annual winners.

Pension Scam

In a saga that never seems to end, the Detroit Police and Fire Retirement System is now on its fourth receiver, as it seeks to recover $10 million from a failed real estate investment. At the same time, one of the receivers deposited recovery funds into his own business account.

Real Estate Rebound

A once “catastrophic” market for office, industrial, retail, and hospitality space in metro Detroit is now outpacing other cities in the Midwest — and, soon, is expected to do the same nationwide in average occupancy and rental rates.

Build to Suit

The Moceri family arrived in Detroit from Sicily in the 1890s and started a produce business. Since transitioning to the housing market, Moceri Cos. in Auburn Hills has built 55,000 homes — with more to come.

The Scan Man

Local businessman is a pioneer when it comes to 3-D scanning.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. Detroit to Convert Conrail Railroad Property into Greenway
    The City of Detroit and Conrail have reached an agreement in principle for the sale of Conrail...
  2. Nino Salvaggio to Open Bloomfield Township Store
    Nino Salvaggio International Marketplace and the Bloomfield Plaza Shopping Center today announced...
  3. 2017 Champions of the New Economy
    For the eighth straight year, DBusiness selected five regional executives who are driving growth...
  4. Olga Stella Wins 2017 Balthazar Korab Award
    The American Institute of Architects (AIA) Michigan today announced Olga Stella will be awarded...
  5. Van Elslander Capital Will Build Headquarters in Birmingham
    Art Van Elslander, chairman and founder for Van Elslander Capital, today announced the investment...
  6. DTE Energy to Open Detroit’s Beacon Park on July 20
    DTE Energy today announced Beacon Park, a 1.5-acre public outdoor space located at the corner of...