Sanford Nelson’s real estate company moving into vacant Eastern Market building

Detroit — The real estate firm connected to landlord Sanford Nelson officially is moving into Eastern Market from Troy.

FIRM Real Estate, a residential and commercial development firm owning several properties in Eastern Market, says it is investing $3 million to transform a vacant food-processing facility at 2000 Division St. into office space for itself and up to three large tenants.

FIRM President Sanford Nelson came under fire last spring when Russell Street Deli announced it was closing after the company had acquired its building. It lambasted Nelson as a “villain” who was pushing out local businesses and planned to change the makeup of the neighborhood, which Nelson denies. His father Linden, whose motion picture studio in Pontiac failed, is an investor in FIRM.

“We are making a significant investment,” Marvin Beatty, FIRM partner, said in a statement, “to preserve this inactive structure by turning it into an engine for growth.”

The property on Division Street sits just east of the Dequindre Cut Greenway between the Floyd furniture store and the Louisiana Creole Gumbo restaurant. The project will bring the 32,000-square-foot building up to code. FIRM will take over 15,000 square feet and bring a dozen jobs to Detroit.

“I think what you’re seeing with this building is an extension of Eastern Market that is heading east,” said Michael Leinweber, FIRM’s vice president of construction. “You’ve seen it on Gratiot and by the Dequindre Cut, and now you’re seeing investment in buildings and properties on the east side of the Dequindre Cut. There’s lots of opportunity and open lots.”

The project is expected to be completed in October. It is not seeking any city or state incentives. FIRM is working with Detroit-based Studio Detroit, the project architect, and ROK Construction, the construction manager, to modernize the facility, including with new mechanical, electrical and plumbing.

“We’re pretty much gutting it and redoing it,” Leinweber said. “All the systems will be new.”

The building has sat vacant for several years. Part of it was built in the 1920s, and it was later expanded in the ’50s. Most recently it served a property restoration company, though it has had various occupants in the past, including a lard factory.

FIRM began removing the tanks and equipment last fall. It will maintain the unique structural beams and columns to provide an industrial feel, Leinweber said. The building also will feature a vertical art gallery heading to the second floor to bring Eastern Market’s art and culture indoors. A mezzanine above the second floor will provide additional office space, and a large outdoor terrace also will be accessible.

The two murals on the outside walls of the buildings from artists Kashink and Slick will be maintained and fixed up.

FIRM will occupy 15,000 square feet of space. Lease inquiries are now being accepted on LoopNet.

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