The Broderick Tower downtown is also in demand.
Developers say occupancy rates in these areas are at least 96 percent, spurred by young professionals, students and empty nesters who want an easy commute to school or work and a short walk to local cafes and bars.
“To us it feels like there’s an insatiable demand,” said Fred Beal, manager of Motown Construction Partners, which led the recent renovation of the 124-unit Broderick Tower downtown.
Built in the late 1920s, the 34-story building near Comerica Park had been vacant for decades, but is fully leased after opening in November. Penthouse units that are 2,300 square feet command $5,000 a month, Mr. Beal said, though most of the studios and one- and two-bedroom apartments rent for $2,000 or less.
To take advantage of tax credits available for renovating historic buildings, the apartments must be rented, not sold, but developers say the demographic currently testing the waters in Detroit — many young, first-time city dwellers — isn’t ready for the commitment of buying a condominium anyway.
These tax credits make it easier to renovate old buildings than build new ones, but one exception is the three-story Auburn building, which also opened in November. Located near Wayne State University in midtown, the Auburn has 58 apartments and 11 retail spaces, that are “leasing very well,” according to David Di Rita, a principal at the Roxbury Group, one of the building’s developers.
Retail tenants include a spinning studio, a bookstore, a Thai restaurant and a home goods store, Mr. Di Rita said, while the apartments — mostly one-bedrooms around 600 square feet — rent for “just south of $1,000 a month.”
The thriving apartment market in these neighborhoods is a bright spot in an otherwise grim financial picture for Detroit. Once the nation’s fourth-largest city, its population has dwindled and its finances are floundering. State officials have warned that a state-appointed emergency financial manager may be in the city’s future, so enticing former suburbanites to live and not just work or go to school in Detroit has involved some financial incentives. But a crucial factor is creating the thriving neighborhood hubs that places like San Francisco and New York have long offered.
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