Downtown Development Authority Stabilizing Historic Metropolitan Building Façade


The Detroit Downtown Development Authority (DDA) has reached an agreement with a potential developer of the historic Metropolitan Building at 33 John R to complete a significant project to stabilize the historic, but deteriorating building façade.

Metropolitan Development Partners has deployed a 165-ton crane to reach the top of the 15-story structure so workers can remove loose pieces of the decorative terra cotta facade.

The crews will also install rubber flashing around sections of the roof to reduce water infiltration and build additional scaffolding and fencing around the structure to protect pedestrians. The cost for the protective steps is expected to total about $300,000 and be completed by July 27.

The staff for the Downtown Development Authority has been working diligently to preserve this historic structure and find a suitable developer to bring it back as an attractive and vital part of Downtown. Although there is still a great deal of work to be done, this is a great step towards both goals. At the same time it protects the ever increasing pedestrian traffic in the area.

Eric Means, CEO of Means Group said, “We have a project team with strong experience in historic restoration and urban redevelopment, so we are very confident we can restore this building.”

“We don’t take safety lightly,” he added. “We are making a substantial investment to protect the public while we take the necessary steps to close a deal.”

The Metropolitan Building was built in 1925 and for many years was the location of jewelry businesses. Its highly decorative façade is comprised of terra cotta, granite and brick, which has been deteriorating since the building was vacated in 1977. Metropolitan Development Partners plan to create 61 high-end apartments in the building, along with commercial space and retail on the lower floors.

Brian Holdwick

Executive Vice President, Business Development 

CEO Spotlight: Mort Crim Communications, Inc. (MCCI) – Terry Oprea, President and CEO


Mort Crim Communications, Inc., (MCCI) is an award-winning integrated marketing agency that specializes in public and media relations, social media, video, web and digital and marketing and advertising. MCCI’s clients represent various industry sectors from automotive to nonprofit. President and CEO Terry Oprea recently relocated the agency’s headquarters to Detroit.


What are some of your notable clients?

We’ve worked with scores of organizations nationwide, with extraordinary strength in the manufacturing, financial services, economic development, and association membership segments. But all clients are “notable” – and all of them have urgent needs for messaging that is resonant in order to punch through the huge amount of clutter in the communication space. Today, that often requires visualization, digital and social media expertise, and strategic know-how. We’ve got a lot of talent in our organization that supports those needs.


What made you decide to move your headquarters in Detroit?

First, our team really wanted to work in a walkable community – with easy access to coffee, food, collaborative relationships and creative peers. Second, the folks at DEGC really worked overtime to show us the possibilities downtown, the huge opportunities here, and the value proposition in making the move. Third, the Gatzaros family, who own the building, genuinely wanted a cornerstone creative communication client in their space, along with another major on-site creative cornerstone organization, Avanti Press – maker of those hilarious animal-centered greeting cards you can find across the nation. Fourth, Rick Ruffner, president of Avanti, spent time with me to encourage us to join him inside the building. Finally, we wanted to be in a historic building. The Murphy-Telegraph building was home to Western Union about a century ago. So we liked the communication history in the space.


How do you want to impact Detroit in the future?

Detroit is full of endless innovation, growth, imagination and possibilities. All eyes are on Detroit right now, in a good way. People see Detroit as an emerging market and city. We don’t quite see it that way, since we already have ongoing business relationships with GM, Ally Bank, DTE, the Skillman Foundation, a host of nonprofit organizations and others. So we know that Detroit’s been an active market and city for quite some time. That being said, we want to continue to expand our reach in Detroit, while helping to communicate economic development progress here. We’re looking forward to working with more Detroit companies, and telling their stories.


What is your company culture?

MCCI is a family. We’re an extremely creative, cohesive and collaborative team. We’re sort of the anti-agency agency. Interpersonal civility, respect and transparency are at the center of living productive lives – and we require it in our own culture. We also have a lot of interesting high-knowledge characters in the office covering our five business channels: Public and Media Relations, Social Media, Video, Web and Digital and Marketing and Advertising. We’re dedicated to providing custom solutions for our clients, because “one size fits all” never works. So our culture supports that “can do” attitude – just like the City of Detroit.


Mark Denson

Business Attraction Manager

Contractor Spotlight: Caasti Contracting Services, Inc. – Candice Taylor, Vice President


Caasti Contracting Services, Inc., is a Detroit- based construction company that specializes in everything from new construction to renovation, from exterior concrete to interior finishes. Caasti is a minority- and woman- owned business with a family touch. The company was co-founded in 1998 by President Jo Ann Taylor and Vice President and daughter Candice Taylor. Two other daughters work for the company, one in HR and the other in IT.

What are some of your notable projects?

We really got our start working with the Detroit Public Schools (DPS). We were involved in all the playground structure instillations at those schools. I really love doing parks because they give so much to the community. And, we developed the first speech and hearing clinic for DPS.

We also developed the freight truck investigation station on the Ambassador Bridge for the General Services Administration (GSA) and we assisted in the re-launch of Detroit Historical Museum. One other great project of ours was the first phase of the Harmonie Park construction.

What are some of the current projects you are working on in Detroit?

Currently we are doing a complete renovation of the GSA parking lot at the Rosa Parks Federal Building. We’re also renovating Detroit’s Coalition On Temporary Shelter (COTS): redoing their lobby, replacing the boiler, constructing a new parking lot and creating a canopy for their back porch.

Why did you select Detroit as your headquarters?

Detroit has been my family’s home all our lives, so it only made sense to make Detroit our headquarters. This city is kind to small businesses and we’ve always felt very welcomed in our community.

It’s so exciting to see “before and after” on the projects we do. We love being a part of bringing the city “back to life”. We’re huge advocates of revitalization and we’re happy to contribute to the city.

How do you want your company to impact Detroit in the long term?

As a woman- owned business in an industry that is typically male-dominated, we want to keep encouraging women to enter into construction. We also want to continue to give back to our city because it’s such a wonderful place.

Describe the Caasti Contracting Services culture.

We have ten full time employees and a varying amount of contractors. Our culture includes weekly meetings to keep everyone in the loop. We like to know what’s going on, how projects are progressing and how the owners are feeling. We’re very transparent, and are dedicated to maintaining great communication with the owners of our projects. My mom and I regularly go out in the field and work; in fact, I’ve even built a playground. Our culture as a company is that no one person is greater than the other.

Tiffini D. Smith
Communications Director

Detroit City Council approves DBRA plans


The Detroit City Council recently approved four Detroit Brownfield Redevelopment Authority (DBRA) brownfield tax increment incentive plans for renovation projects in Midtown and Downtown Detroit. The renovations include mixed use buildings, parking structures, apartments and a distribution/warehouse and office building.

  • C&C McGraw Rd., LLC, is the developer of the Comprehensive Logistics Redevelopment Plan at 9400 McGraw Street, which entails completing construction of an approximately 365,040-square-foot distribution/warehouse and office building. The estimated total investment is about $19 million and the DBRA approved a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) plan that will allow recovery of about $1 million for eligible activities.
  • Du Charme Place, LLC, is the developer of Du Charme Place at 1544 East Lafayette Street. The project entails three, four-story buildings with a total of 185 one- and two-bedroom units and 267 parking spaces. The estimated total investment is approximately $30 million. The DBRA approved a TIF plan that will allow recovery of nearly $5 million for eligible activities.
  • Midtown Properties LLC is the developer of the 3800 Woodward Redevelopment Project, the new Wayne State University (WSU) Physician Group Medical Office Building including retail, office and medical facilities. This project entails a newly constructed, four-story, 195,000-square-foot, mixed-use building and a 624-car parking deck in Midtown. The estimated total investment is about $73 million. The DBRA approved a TIF plan that will allow the developer to recover up to about $8 million for eligible activities
  • Queen Lillian II, LLC, is the developer of the Queen Lillian Project which entails a mixed-use development at 3455 Woodward Avenue and 13 Stimson Street in Midtown. The project will include about 25,000-square-foot of retail and 68 one- and two-bedroom apartments with a 230-car parking deck. The estimated total investment will exceed $33 million. The DBRA approved a TIF plan that will allow recovery of up to about $5 million for eligible activities.

Under the brownfield redevelopment financing act, tax increment financing (TIF) can be used to redevelop properties that qualify as contaminated, blighted, functionally obsolete, or as a historic resource. TIF is a very powerful urban redevelopment tool as these properties illustrate.

Art Papapanos

Vice president, Board Administration


Grants Available to Improve Grocery Store Façades


The Detroit Green Grocer Project (GGP) recently launched a new façade improvement program to upgrade the exteriors of Detroit’s neighborhood grocery stores and at least one store owner is encouraging fellow owners to take advantage of it.

“Do it.  It will make your store look that much nicer and help keep customers in Detroit,” said Ray Watha, co-owner of 7 Mile Foods. Watha worked with DEGC to replace old brick and make other improvements to his store’s exterior, as well as increase the size of its parking lot and the lighting in it. The success Watha had with his enhancements was one of the reasons we decided to create a special program for façade improvements.

Detroit’s grocers have been freshening up the interiors of their stores and bringing in fresh new products, and now their priority is to put a fresh new look on their facades.

Façade improvements may include:

  • Attractive exterior materials
  • Seasonal landscaping
  • Inviting signage and awnings
  • Interesting windows and displays

We are also supporting façade improvements such as improved lighting, welcoming and safe entrances, and open parking spaces that can enhance a store’s security.

The new façade improvement program is accepting applications from grocers for 50/50 matching grants up to $50,000 to transform the street look of their stores. Complete information and a grant application can be found at  Potential applicants may direct questions to or call (313) 237-6092.  The fax number is (313) 963-8839.

Mimi Pledl

Program manager, Green Grocer Project