Historic Fisher Body 21 in Detroit to be Redeveloped into Affordable Housing for $134M

The city of Detroit, Detroit’s Jackson Asset Management, and Hosey Development announced at a press conference today the revival of the historic Fisher Body 21 factory into affordable and market rate housing, as well as a new destination retail district.
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The historic Fisher 21 factory in Detroit will undergo a $134 million redevelopment to transform it into affordable and market rate housing and retail space. // Courtesy of McIntosh Poris Associates
The historic Fisher 21 factory in Detroit will undergo a $134 million redevelopment to transform it into affordable and market rate housing and retail space. // Courtesy of McIntosh Poris Associates

The city of Detroit, Detroit’s Jackson Asset Management, and Hosey Development announced at a press conference today the revival of the historic Fisher Body 21 factory into affordable and market rate housing, as well as a new destination retail district.

The building currently sits blighted near the northwest intersection of Interstate 94 and 75, one of Detroit’s most heavily travelled areas. The location is in Detroit’s Milwaukee Junction, a mobility innovation district that was developed more than a century ago.

Jackson and Hosey plan to team with Birmingham’s Lewand Development to rehabilitate the 600,000 square-foot building into the Fisher 21 Lofts.

At $134 million, the project is believed to be the largest African American-led development deal in Detroit’s history. The project team is all Detroit-based and dedicated to hiring city workers and contractors, meaning the Fisher Lofts will not only bring quality market rate and affordable housing to the city, but jobs.

“This project is being done by Detroiters and for Detroiters,” says Gregory Jackson, who with Anika Jackson Odegbo, is part of the father-daughter team behind Jackson Asset Management. “This project is proof of the potential of Detroit, its spirit, and its people. We are honored to become stewards of this forgotten piece of the city’s storied past and turn it into a key piece of its future, bringing catalytic investment, quality housing, and destination retail to this proud neighborhood.”

The project includes the primary building at 6051 Hastings St. in Detroit’s Medbury Park neighborhood, as well as two adjacent lots at 991 and 666 Harper, to provide parking for residents.

The building will be rehabilitated into 433 market rate and affordable apartments, 28,000 square-feet of commercial and retail space, and 15,000 square-feet of co-working space. At least 20 percent of the units (at least 87) will be at or below 80 percent area median income (AMI), and will represent a mix of studios, one-, and two-bedroom apartments.

“For almost 30 years, Fisher Body 21 has loomed over the I-94 and I-75 interchange as an international poster child for blight and abandonment in our city,” says Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. “For much of that time, demolition seemed like the likely outcome because the idea of finding a developer willing to renovate and reuse it seemed impossible.

“But it’s a new day in Detroit, and we have a team of outstanding developers led by two Detroiters — Greg Jackson and Richard Hosey — who are going to transform this vacant eyesore from a source of blight to a source of beauty and opportunity, bringing new housing for Detroiters of all income levels.”

The successful adaptive rehabilitation of the building will remove the primary barrier to development of the area to match the level of activity that has been experienced all around the area for the last 10 years, while also creating quality affordable and market rate housing and major retail and shopping hub for residents in the heart of the city.

“Just as it is hard to overstate the effect of this highly visible Detroit challenge being unmet, it is also hard to overstate the effect the successful redevelopment will have on Detroit’s momentum,” says Richard Hosey of Hosey Development. “This transformative project will become a road map for repurposing industrial buildings around the city.”

The redevelopment plan, designed by Birmingham architectural firm McIntosh Poris Associates, calls for cutting three atriums, each the width and length of a city side street, through floors three through six, turning the large floor plates from being too large to the perfect size for double-loaded corridors with optimal interior and exterior views.

The building’s 2-acre roof will provide views of the city, a quarter-mile walking track, indoor lounge, fitness center, dog areas, and relaxing space available to all residents. The ground floor will provide more than 130 enclosed parking spaces, with a total of more than 700 spaces to accommodate residents, guests, and shoppers. Ample bicycle parking also will be available around the building.

With the project subject to the city’s Community Benefits Ordinance, the City’s Planning and Development Department will begin meetings with residents next month. Residents in the project area will be notified of those community meetings, and a Neighborhood Advisory Council will be formed to represent their interests as the development moves forward.

Pending City Council approval of the sale, initial work is expected to begin in the next month, with the financial closing and start of construction slated for late next year. The project is expected to be complete in 2025. Equity is secured within the development team, which has committed $15 million in internal equity to the project, and is being financed through Bernard Financial, one of Michigan’s largest mortgage banking firm.

“This is a historic day in the city of Detroit. This is a game-changing development that will turn a symbol of decline into one of our city rising,” says Kevin Johnson, president and CEO of Detroit Economic Growth Corp. “Beyond the jobs, housing, and economic impact, it is also a symbol of development excellence and an incredible testament to what is possible when we all work together toward a common goal.”

The factory, designed by the Detroit firm Smith, Hinchman and Grylls, was built as the Fisher brothers(of Fisher Body fame) were increasing their operations to meet the ever-growing auto industry. As its name implies, Fisher Body 21 was their 21st plant.

The factory initially produced auto bodies for Cadillac and Buick, and in 1926, the seven Fisher brothers were bought out by General Motors.

After 65 years of operation, the facility was closed in 1984. Six years later, it was acquired by Carter Color Coat Co., which did industrial paint operations in the building. Carter went out of business in 1993, and the facility was abandoned.

The city of Detroit took title of the property in 2000, and extensive environmental remediation work was conducted, including soil replacement and removal of storage tanks to prime the site for potential redevelopment.

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