Plans in the works for this prime downtown Detroit building

Oh what a difference three years makes.

Amid a strengthening downtown real estate market, Wayne County reached a tentative agreement to sell a downtown Detroit office building near Campus Martius for $4.65 million to the Elia Group, according to a joint press release on Sunday.

The deal for the four-story, 29,968-square foot building along Woodward Avenue in the shadow of the towering 40-story Guardian Building still needs approval by the Wayne County Commission. But if it comes together, the sale’s price would be more than double the amount tentatively agreed to in 2015 with a different prospective buyer.

The 511 Woodward building deal could also give a prominent new address to the Downtown Detroit Partnership, the civic group which had been searching for street-level space.

“This deal will activate a prime space between Campus Martius Park and Hart Plaza that has sat vacant for years,” Wayne County Executive Warren C. Evans said in a statement Sunday. “This is the type of public-private partnership we’re committed to, and is another step in our Recovery Plan.”

Completed in 1972, the glass-covered former bank building is at the southern-most stop on the QLINE. Plans for the building include two first-floor tenants: an unidentified restaurant and a joint downtown Detroit-Wayne County welcome center. Above that would be three floors of office space, including for the Downtown Detroit Partnership. 

When Robert Ficano was county executive, Wayne County was close to selling the building for $1.8 million. The Detroit-based Roxbury Group had signed a letter of intent to purchase the property in June 2014, according to a previous Free Press account.

But the Warren Evans administration shut down the tentative sale after coming to power in early 2015 in order to explore other options.

“This sale represents a forward-thinking vision for Wayne County by embarking on a plan for integrated development between the private, nonprofit, and public sectors,” Zaid Elia, president and CEO of the Elia Group, said in a statement Sunday. 


The Elia Group Complete has been acquiring, managing, and developing commercial properties throughout southeast Michigan since 2008. It owns and operates The Ford Building, Parc Restaurant, The Fountain Detroit, Anchor Bar, 220 Merrill, Rose Room at 220, and DoubleTree by Hilton Bloomfield Hills Detroit, Zalmans, and The Duke.

The proposed sale shows off how downtown real estate sales have diversified beyond the once-ubiquitous role of Detroit businessman Dan Gilbert.

Gilbert moved his Quicken Loans headquarters from the suburbs to downtown Detroit in 2010 and quickly went on a buying spree of downtown properties. Today, he owns or controls through master leases somewhere in the range of 100 properties, including many of downtown’s iconic skyscrapers — the First National, One Woodward, 1001 Woodward, and more.

County spokesman James Martinez declined on Sunday to comment on whether Gilbert’s businesses had sought to buy 511 Woodward.