Detroit’s historic, contaminated Studebaker automobile factory site is about to be cleaned & revitalized as much-needed housing

On February 21, 2023, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) approved a financing plan for environmental cleanup and management costs at the site of the former Studebaker factory in Detroit.

When finished, the derelict site will be revitalized as much-needed housing: 161 new studio and one-bedroom apartments.

The site at 411 Piquette Ave. was used by Studebaker, Cadillac, Kaltz Excavation and 3M over the years.

It will be across the street from the Piquette Square redevelopment project, which was turned into housing for chronically homeless veterans with help from EGLE, the Michigan State Housing Development Authority and U.S Environmental Protection Agency.

Both projects are part of Detroit’s Piquette Avenue Industrial Historic District.

The Studebaker Corporation purchased the Piquette Avenue Plant from Ford Motor Company in 1911, and built the Studebaker Detroit Service Building alongside it in 1920.

The complex manufactured vehicles until 1933. Other owners of 411 Piquette have included Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company (3M), The Cadillac Overall Company, The Heritage Investment Company, and General Linen & Uniform Service. The Platform acquired the property in March 2017.

The site is presently contaminated with metals and various chemical and organic compounds.

Although there has been remediation work at this site in the past, the contamination levels still exceed the threshold for direct contact and for potential vapor migration into the building.

EGLE has now approved reimbursement to the developer for a Baseline Environmental Assessment, pre-demolition work, removing and disposing of contaminated soil, as well as installing and maintaining a vapor-mitigation system and surface cover at the site.

The reimbursement of up to $714,943 will come from Tax Increment Financing (TIF).

As documented in the 2020 book, RECONOMICS: The Path To Resilient Prosperity, TIF enable communities to borrow from the value of future revitalization to finance the activities that are needed to make that revitalization happen.

It allows the increase in property tax revenue on the finished project to be used to reimburse the redeveloper until it has recouped the cost of eligible environmental activities.

The Michigan Strategic Fund approved additional TIF reimbursement of up to $1,356,355. The land currently has a taxable value of $388,662. That’s estimated to go up to $4 million when the project is finished.

The redeveloper plans to renovate the four-story building at 411 Piquette Ave. into 71 studio and 90 one-bedroom units.

Overall, in 2022 EGLE provided $20.7 million in brownfield funding to 67 projects statewide.

More than half of EGLE’s budget each year flows into Michigan communities through grants, loans and other spending that supports local projects, protects public health and the environment, ultimately creating economic growth and jobs for Michigan workers.

Redevelopment of brownfields – vacant or abandoned properties with known or suspected contamination – increases property values both on the revitalized site and on other nearby properties.

EGLE’s Remediation and Redevelopment Division provides financial and technical assistance including grants, loans, tax increment financing and free site assessments to facilitate the redevelopment of brownfield properties.

Renderings courtesy of The Platform.

See The Platform website.

See EGLE website.

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