City Living

Usually, people want to escape from the city, but some like to escape to an urban environment, citing their second home’s proximity to cultural and sports venues, terrific views, and relative affordability


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Talk about a reverse commute. Rather than joining the Friday freeway exodus to Michigan’s cabin country, some choose a road less taken, one toward a city pied-à-terre, where culture, dining, and sport replace beach and woodlands.

“I just adore a penthouse view,” buyers of so-called urban cottages might sing (echoing the Green Acres theme song). “Dah-ling I love you, but give me Park Avenue.”
Following are a few real-estate options for a metropolitan getaway.


On the Water

Riverfront Towers

100 Riverfront Dr., downtown Detroit                                                                                                                     

Three modern high-rises set on a gated, resort-style riverfront property are neighbors to Joe Louis Arena. The towers, which were built between 1982-1992, range in height from 26 to 29 floors.

They’re angled to provide panoramic river views, which is the big-draw asset, along with the 24-hour manned security, fitness center, pool, on-site market, restaurant, parking garage, and tennis court.

A recent snapshot of available condos in the complex showed prices ranging from $70,000 (700 square feet with one bedroom and one bath) to $350,000 (2,148 square feet with bamboo floors, three bedrooms, and three baths).

The market has become more appealing for second-home shoppers “because prices have dropped so much that it’s less of a stretch,” says Ryan Cooley, owner of O’Connor Real Estate and Development in Detroit.

“For an urban cottage, Riverfront is one of the best,” he says. “It has views of the water and it’s secluded, yet downtown. The People Mover is actually connected to the building.” Typical downtown and Midtown house hunters continue to be primarily younger, partly because they often have jobs downtown. However, Cooley adds, “People are liking the idea of an affordable place as an easy way to downsize.”



In a Warehouse

55 West Canfield

55 W. Canfield, Midtown Detroit; 313-744-5638,                                                                                                                                                                                   

This Midtown Detroit residential development in the 90-year-old former Graybar Electric Co. warehouse is in the process of converting from leased units to for-purchase residences.

Cathy Doig, the owners’ representative in charge of marketing and sales, says 17 loft residences will be made available for sale over the course of the first release. Units range in price from $104,900 to $149,900, and in size from 718 to 1,025 square feet.

Doig says west-facing lofts have balconies, and three live-work residencies are available on the first floor. A green alley is being developed, and a yoga studio is planned for the street level. Amenities include secured parking. The neighborhood includes boutique shopping, restaurants, the Detroit Medical Center, and Wayne State University. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Cass Farm (multiple-property submission).



Near Art

The Park Shelton

15 E. Kirby (at Woodward in Midtown/Cultural Center); 313-872-7275,

The former Wardell Hotel, where visiting Hollywood celebrities once stayed, is a popular residential building just north of the Detroit Institute of Arts and across Woodward from the Detroit Historical Museum and the Main Detroit Public Library.

One-bedroom unit prices start in the low $100,000s; two-bedroom condos start in the $160,000s.  

“We can do combined units, which can go for $320,000 and higher, says Mike Martorelli, sales and leasing manager.
Amenities include 24-hour security personnel on-duty, a new parking garage with secured access, a rooftop solarium for exclusive resident entertaining, a sun deck with skyline views, an exercise room and sauna, and street-level retail including the Peacock Room (apparel, accessories, and gifts), Wasabi Korean & Japanese Cuisine, Fourteen East Café, and Leopold’s Books.



With History

Book Cadillac Residences

1114 Washington Blvd., downtown Detroit; 313-658-6400 (The Loft Warehouse),

The high-profile restoration of the Book-Cadillac Hotel brought restaurants, event space, and New York-style living to the corner of Washington Boulevard and Michigan downtown. Atop the new Westin Book Cadillac are 44 condominiums for sale (12 currently vacant, others leased but available for purchase). Occupants include professionals and downtown fans who frequent city restaurants and sports venues, says Jerome Huez, president of The Loft Warehouse.

Prices range from $189,900 (one bedroom) to $1.2 million  (the penthouse). Square footage goes from 946 to 4,470.

Hotel-style amenities available to owners/occupants include dry-cleaning pickup and drop-off, access to Westin catering, fitness area, indoor pool, private residential lobby, attached covered parking garage, reserved owners’ parking, and private elevators.



In an Auto Garage

Willys Overland Lofts

444 W. Willis, Midtown Detroit; 313-832-2000,                                                                                                                                                                                   

This residential-reuse building has an automotive history and an enviable location just down the block from one of Detroit’s most popular bakeries.

Amenities include a common rooftop space, many individual balconies and terraces, secured parking for residents and guests, and a street-level art gallery. There’s also flexibility. Units may be combined while available space allows.

“Most residents came here from metro Detroit suburbs,” says real-estate agent Austin Black II, president of City Living Detroit. Other owners include people who have relocated to Detroit and natives returning to their home state.

Of the 74 total units, 16 have been sold, eight are under reservation, and three are under purchase agreement at press time. Prices range from $142,900 to $644,900, square footage: 940 to about 2,800.

The 1917 building was constructed as a sales-and-service facility for the Willys Overland Motor Co. Later, classic Willys models were sold out of the first floor and serviced on the upper levels. In the late 1940s, Davidson Brothers Dry Goods Co. briefly used the site as a warehouse. The Detroit Public Schools bought the building in about 1950 for use as a warehouse space and shop facility.

Today, the six-story Willys (two floors were added to the original structure) is attractive for its proximity to Wayne State, the Medical Center, cultural institutions, and downtown.



In The ‘Circus’

Broderick Tower

10 Witherell St. (at Woodward); 313-596-6000;                                                                                                                                                                                

The newly renovated 34-story building at Grand Circus Park near the stadiums, theaters, and other entertainment venues was built in 1928. Architect Louis Kamper created the structure in a neoclassical, Chicago School and Beaux-Arts design. David Broderick, who owned the building for 13 years, was an insurance broker. Today, it’s owned by Motown Construction Partners.

At press time, rentals were $865 to $1,865 with about 37 remaining of the 125 total available apartments. The majority of renters are young professionals, says Chris Lillevand, head leasing agent. As of April, about 75 percent were moving to the Broderick from the suburbs, Lillevand says.


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