Banyan Investments LLC has been chosen as the developer to transform the vacant Stone Soap building on Detroit's east riverfront in a $27 million project.
Banyan, which is led by Aamir Farooqi and Scott Ord, plans 63 condominiums and apartments, a "European-style" market with food retailers and seating and a new home for the Shakespeare in Detroit nonprofit, Farooqi said Wednesday morning.
"I love Shakespeare, and these guys get to have a home for as long as it takes them to become financially viable," he said of the 501(c)3 organization.
The 33 apartments will be in the original historic building, and the 30 condos will be in the next construction, according to a news release. Thirteen apartments will be for those making 80 percent of the area median income.
The 13,000-square-foot market will be akin to Union Station in Denver and Ponce City Market in Atlanta, the release says.
The Shakespeare in Detroit space will be for operations and performances, according to the release.
Construction is expected to begin in the spring and take about two years to complete, Farooqi said. The existing building, which actually comprises three structures at Franklin and Riopelle streets ranging from two to four stories built between 1907 and 1929, will be preserved and receive an addition of varying heights.
"I give a lot of credit to (Detroit Planning Director) Maurice Cox, who held our feet to the fire to come up with a design that the city would be proud of," Farooqi said Wednesday morning.
"There was every risk that we would end up with something that looked like the duck-billed platypus. It was either that, or a swan, and I think you'll agree we ended up with a swan," Farooqi said later during a Wednesday event to announce the project.
Farooqi, a former executive with Cargill Inc., said Warren Staley, former CEO of the Minneapolis-based company, is an investor in the Stone Soap project and others of Banyan's.
Other speakers at the event included Mayor Mike Duggan; Cox; Moddie Turay, executive vice president of real estate and financial services for the Detroit Economic Growth Corp.; Staley; Samantha White, founding artistic and executive director of Shakespeare in Detroit; Mark Wallace, president and CEO of the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy; and Constance Bailey of the Rivertown Detroit Association.
"For the past four years, five seasons, Shakespeare in Detroit has traveled around to historical spaces and parks," White said. "The new space at the Stone Soap building will allow us to become a profitable and stable organization."
The project architect is Detroit-based VolumeOne Design Studio LLC. A general contractor has not yet been selected.
The DEGC issued a request for proposals for developers in March for the 88,000-square-foot property.
The RFP came the day after the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy unveiled its plans for the east riverfront area, which calls for the creation of two Dequindre Cut-style pathways to provide access to the Detroit River; added preservation of about 8 acres of land for public use, particularly from Atwater Street south to the river, and Stroh River Place and Rivard Plaza; an eastward expansion of the Detroit RiverWalk; and safety improvements along East Jefferson Avenue.
Banyan is also the developer behind the $10 million conversion of the St. Charles School building in the Islandview neighborhood near Belle Isle into 35 residential units ranging from 894 square feet to 1,640 square feet and costing between $275,000 and $470,000.
Two years ago, Banyan purchased a historic 1886 home on East Jefferson Avenue, the William H. Wells House, with plans to lease it to an office tenant or tenants.