Detroit on the verge of big things? Village Green’s Holtzman thinks so

Statler City Apartments.indd

A rendering of Village Green’s Statler City Apartments planned for downtown Detroit.

by Dan Rafter

Jonathan Holtzman grew up in the city of Detroit. He took classes at the city’s public schools. He played at its public parks.

He wants, then, to see downtown Detroit thrive. And to help this process along, he and Village Green, the company he serves as chief executive officer and chairman, are investing heavily in Detroit’s multi-family market.

Farmington Hills, Mich.-based Village Green is moving along on plans to develop Statler City Apartments, the first new multi-family development in Detroit in 25 years. The project, which will sit at Washington Boulevard and Park Avenue on the site of the former Statler Hilton Hotel, will bring 235 new apartment units to downtown Detroit.

It will also bring more hope: The city of Detroit, like many Midwest cities, is benefitting from an influx of people moving to its center. These people need places to live. And they need apartment buildings that come with all the modern amenities that renters expect today.

“We look at Detroit as we look at any city in the country: Where is it at the development cycle? Today, Detroit is at the start of a major growth cycle. That makes Detroit an ideal location for this new development,” Holtzman told Midwest Real Estate News. “I grew up in Detroit, so people would always ask me if I felt bad about the city once it declared bankruptcy. I got a lot of ‘Woe is Detroit’ from people.”

Holtzman is eager to prove these naysayers wrong, to show them that Detroit’s bankruptcy filing was a necessary step for the city’s eventual rejuvenation.

“You know what’s ridiculous about all that ‘woe is Detroit’ stuff? GM went bankrupt. Chrysler went bankrupt. Now look at them. Detroit went bankrupt, yes. But the future looks very bright from my perspective,” Holtzman said.

Part of that bright future, of course, comes from new projects like Statler City Apartments. Construction on the apartments is expected to begin in the second quarter of 2016, with crews finishing their work by the late stages of 2017.

The new apartment project comes with an expected price tag of $35 million to $40 million. That cost will also bring such amenities as a restaurant and/or a market, indoor and outdoor pools, a fitness center, courtyard park, club room and a business center.

Statler City isn’t the first multi-family work that Village Green has taken on in Detroit. The company has already renovated a pair of high-rise apartment buildings, Detroit City Apartments and Renaissance City.

“We need more rentals in Detroit,” Holtzman said. “The young professionals are driving the growth of so many cities across the country right now. It’s isn’t just New York City or San Francisco. It is every city in America. We see it in downtown Cincinnati, Phoenix, Atlanta, Denver, every city. The companies that are trying to attract and retain young professionals recognize that they have to be in the cities if they want to get these people. They will not be able to hire, retain or attract these young professionals if they’re in the suburbs. The trend is the same in Detroit.”

Holtzman says that he is expecting big things in downtown Detroit, and the city as a whole, in the coming years. And that bankruptcy filing, despite the negative headlines that came with it, was necessary to spur the growth that he and others have already seen in the city.

The city of Detroit was poorly run before the bankruptcy, Holtzman says. The city government was corrupt. That hindered any progress in the market, he said.

And today? Holtzman sees a city government that is far more effective.

“The bankruptcy was all about a poorly run city that was struggling with corruption by politicians who are now in jail,” Holtzman said. “That poorly run and corrupt government has been replaced by professionalism. The new administration, the new mayor, they are professionals. And they are working closely with the business community. We are all working together to make Detroit an attractive city to live, work and play in.”

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