Lofts set to spark downtown development

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Photo by James Mitchell
Equipment and materials arrived on site last week for the anticipated April 1 ground-breaking of the Lincoln Park Theater loft project. Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency manager John Carmody said the $11 million project is ready to go after a final construction meeting next week

By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers

LINCOLN PARK — It was a quiet beginning, but one that city officials hope provides the needed spark to revitalize Fort Street and downtown business prospects with construction and rehabilitation of the old Lincoln Park Theatre. Building department director Dennis Chegash said that crews began work last week for a project expected to move quickly.

“They’ve broken ground,” Chegash said.

While no specific timetable has been given, Chegash said that crews under the direction of Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency, the supervising office for the $11 million project, have pulled the necessary permits and are ready to begin. All told, the two-building project will include 36 rental units and 1,200 feet of retail space.

The fate of the theater has long been a matter of controversy and speculation. The one-time movie palace spent more than 20 years as an adult theater, its final years featured a dispute with the Larry Flynt Hustler Club, reached a settlement that required selling the building to a nonprofit group.

In July 2012 city officials confirmed the investment by Wayne County, which pooled resources from the Michign State Housing Development Authority, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Corporation for Supportive Housing, Key Bank, Michigan Department of Human Services, National Equity Fund and Lincoln Park’s Downtown Development Authority.

The project is for two buildings. The renovated theater will be rebuilt to house commercial space at the ground level and a dozen rental units including second-floor lofts. Chegash said the building’s facade will be restored, not replaced.

“The marquee is supposed to stay,” Chegash said. “That was the whole idea. They’re supposed to maintain the appearance.”

A second building for 24 rental units will be constructed behind the theater and neighboring Auto Zone. Chegash said foundations were staked out for that project last week.

Terms of the investment include having the rental units leased by the end of 2013, and Chegash said that last week’s ground-breaking should pave the way to accelerated progress.

“We hope to see that soon,” Chegash said. “It’s been sitting there idle for a long time.”