Eco Homes add single-family homes in Detroit's Midtown

Jun 29

10:54 AM

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Tagged: North Cass

By John Gallagher, Detroit Free Press

These days, big projects like Ford’s Michigan Central Station and the Hudson's skyscraper hog most of the publicity. But sometimes the more modest projects in Detroit offer compelling stories, too.

Today let's look at what are informally known as Eco Homes, a development of single-family houses now under construction at 4th and Alexandrine on the western edge of Detroit's Midtown district. 

The modest project — about 20 houses will be built — is notable for several reasons.

The site is the only one in Midtown zoned for single-family houses. Each house is designed for maximum energy efficiency, with solar panels on the roof, deep insulation on the walls and ceiling, and the most tech-savvy appliances.

The architecture is less cookie-cutter than one might expect, thanks to the pro-bono involvement of the SmithGroup, Detroit’s oldest architecture firm better known for large projects like the new Mike Ilitch School of Business near Little Caesars Arena.

Prices for the Eco Homes will range from a low of $436,000 to a bit over $500,000 — pricey, yes, but in line with the rapidly developing Midtown district.

The story of Eco Homes began when Sue Mosey, longtime head of the nonprofit civic group Midtown Detroit Inc., arranged for her group to buy a couple of blocks of vacant land from the City of Detroit. In a district where more and more mid-rise to high-rise projects are getting built, Mosey decided to keep this one small scale in line with the existing urban fabric along Fourth.


“We really wanted to make sure that this nestled into that neighborhood, that we didn’t come over there and disrupt what’s already there,” Mosey said. “It always was this working area for the smaller houses.

“We met with all the neighborhood people over there and they were like, ‘We don’t want to see some big old building stuck here in our little oasis.’”

Mosey happened to meet Paul Urbanek, design director at SmithGroup, at an awards ceremony where Urbanek was picking up an honor for a house he designed for himself. Mosey urged him to have SmithGroup design her single-family project.

Urbanek demurred, since SmithGroup doesn’t do small projects like single-family houses. (The last single-family house the firm did was for the Dodge estate at Meadow Brook in Oakland County nearly a century ago.) But Mosey persisted for months, and eventually SmithGroup held an internal design competition for its younger architects to come up with ideas for small houses.

Those ideas translated into a series of prototype designs for the Eco Homes. They look like an updated version of a traditional Detroit residential street, with narrow lots, shaded front porches, peaked roofs, alleys in back, and lots of trees.

To keep the neighborhood affordable, Mosey said Midtown Detroit will hold back two of the homes for renting at affordable rates. And a few of second-phase houses will be built for moderate income buyers.

Eight houses have already sold despite Midtown doing almost no marketing of the project.

“So far we have a mix of folks that are from the neighborhood that are stepping up from a small condo,” Mosey said. “We have people from other cities that are moving to Detroit, some empty-nesters from ’burbs. It’s a mix.”

There was a time when even a modest project like this one would have generated big headlines in Detroit. But so much is happening now that we overlook the smaller projects.

And there are a lot of them. Mosey keeps a map showing all the projects done, under construction or in planning in Midtown. That map now shows 101 projects. Drive, walk or bike through the neighborhood and you can see construction work underway throughout the district, often on small-scale projects that fill in the urban fabric.

So it’s not just the huge deals like Little Caesars Arena or the Hudson’s site that offer compelling stories in Detroit today. At least in the greater downtown, all sorts of interesting work is underway.

Contact John Gallagher: 313-222-5173 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @jgallagherfreep.


View the original Free Press article HERE


For more information on the Eco Homes please contact Abbey Mackool with Alexander Real Estate

Phone: 313.310.0115

Email: [email protected]