Happy Saturday! This week in the Saturday Extra: the race to land GM’s battery plant business, the demolition of the AMC Building and a little local model home history you may not have heard.
I always love your feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a great weekend.The big story: Battery-poweredCrain’s senior editor Chad Livengood contributed to this week’s big story:
There was a lot of commotion under the Capitol dome this week, much of it tied to a rumored battery plant that General Motors Co. wants to build in Lansing, as we reported on Friday. GM and its battery partner LG Energy Solution are planning a nearly 2 million-square-foot battery plant on a 700-acre tract of land next to the automaker’s Lansing Delta Township Assembly plant that GM already owns, a source familiar with the plans told Crain’s.
These developments have the state Legislature poised to get Michigan back in the big tax incentives business next week as Michigan Economic Development Corp. vies for the battery plant — and any number of other large-scale industrial developments.
This week, the House and Senate passed identical bills that would put new tools in the MEDC’s proverbial toolbox. In essence, lawmakers have created new funds dedicated to preparing mega-sites to be shovel-ready and sealing job-creation deals with cold hard cash from the state treasury. Lawmakers are expected to tap the state’s $2.4 billion tax revenue surplus or the $8 billion mountain of unspent federal stimulus money it’s still sitting on.
With three days left on their work calendar for the year, the question that looms in Lansing is how much money the Republican-controlled Legislature will give the MEDC to compete with other states for subsidizing job creation.
Ford Motor Co.’s decision earlier this year to take its massive battery plant and EV manufacturing facility to Tennessee still stings, and lawmakers and government leaders want to do everything they can to keep GM’s plant in Michigan. But when lawmakers start signing nondisclosure agreements to get it done? Things could get dicey. “Urgency may be warranted as Michigan lawmakers scramble to approve publicly funded incentives to lure some looming development projects to the state,” we wrote in an editorial this week. “Secrecy is not.”
Maybe it’s a good time to think about how we can improve Michigan government more generally? It’s the timely topic of our latest Crain’s Forum, with ideas from government leaders and experts on making government more efficient, responsive and transparent.Need to know: On ice
The city of Detroit and Kansas City, Mo.-based NorthPoint Development LLC announced a $66 million redevelopment on the site of the former AMC Building on Plymouth Road in Detroit this week. Officials did not disclose a specific tenant for the project but said the site could employ 300 people. The building is a fascinating piece of Detroit’s sprawling industrial heritage: before the American Motor Company was created through a massive merger in 1954 (the largest in U.S. history, at the time), it was home to the Kelvinator Corporation, a manufacturer of electric home refrigerators and air conditioning systems that at one point in the 1920s sold 80 percent of the home refrigerators on the market. Detroit, Cold City? Who knew? The factory was also part of the Arsenal of Democracy and reportedly had a tiny airfield out back for the military helicopters it made during World War II. See this week’s historical footnote for another byway of Kelvinator Corp. history.
District Detroit 2.0: Two major news stories of the past few years — the University of Michigan’s long-awaited Detroit Center for Innovation and the Ilitch organization years-unfolding development plans for The District Detroit — come together Monday with an official announcement Monday morning. Billionaire real estate developer Stephen Ross and the Ilitch organization will announce the location of UM’s satellite campus in Detroit in the Ilitch family’s District Detroit. You may remember the news earlier this year that plans between Ross and Dan Gilbert to build the Detroit Center for Innovation on the former “fail jail” site fell apart. We’ve known since pretty much then that the DCI was headed for the District, but soon we’ll know exactly where, and what else is coming with it.
On our own: More people are hospitalized in Michigan now than at any point in the pandemic, and three teams of 22 physicians and nurses from the U.S. Department of Defense are deployed at Beaumont Hospital-Dearborn, Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids and Covenant Healthcare in Saginaw. No more federal help is coming, Elizabeth Hertel, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said Friday: “We do not have an unlimited number of health care providers in this state and this country. There are no additional federal resources available.” The demoralizing news came the day after the state’s first case of the omicron variant was reported.
Three more stories, in brief: because it was a busy week! Read about the 100-year-old Flint jazz club that is the sole survivor of a historic Black neighborhood; UM’s planned $40 million renovation of the Rackham Building in Midtown Detroit; and farewell to TCF Center, hello to Huntington Place.Historical footnote: The forgotten model homes of Detroit
A clip from the 1936 “Guide to Better Homes,” published by American Builder and available on the Internet Archive.
There’s a single Kelvin Home in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and it’s on the state’s register of cultural landmarks. A Kelvin Home in the Cleveland Heights neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio is the topic of a thorough history on the neighborhood’s website.
But the metro Detroit area may be home to dozens of them. They were born here, after all: developed by the Detroit-based Kelvinator Corporation, a Kelvin Home was designed to demonstrate that “an air-conditioned home with automatic heat, automatic refrigerator and electric cooking range can be built on the owner’s lot for less than $7,000,” reported the Detroit Free Press in 1936 — and that included the builder’s profits and the real estate agent’s commissions.
The first Kelvin Homes in the Detroit area were built in 1936 in the neighborhood around the Kelvinator plant, better known today as the AMC Building, which Crain’s reported this week will be demolished as part of a $66 million industrial redevelopment on the site. A quick tour of Google Street View shows that many of these model homes still exist, like this one on Strathmoor:
There are also a handful of Kelvin Homes in Livonia’s Rosedale Gardens historic district. Some of those homes were sold furnished by the J.L. Hudson company, to further show off stylish living on a budget. If you spend any time in the Historical Detroit Area Architecture Facebook group, you may have seen other examples of Kelvin Homes designed by architect J. Ivan Dise in Royal Oak, Birmingham and the Grosse Pointes.
Kelvinator never intended to get into the home building business, but to prepare and sell its designs and specifications to other builders and architects (with Kelvinator-made AC systems and appliance baked in, one assumes). Still, the experiment faded away after the 1930s, due to lukewarm demand for them in the housing market.Most-read stories: Dec. 5-101. Former American Motors Corp. headquarters in Detroit set for $66 million redevelopment
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