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Kraemer Design Group

1420 Broadway
Detroit, MI 48207

Bob Kraemer on where downtown Detroit development is headed

Few people can speak with as much authority about the rebirth of downtown Detroit as Bob Kraemer. The principal of Kraemer Design Group has been in on the ground floor of the work to breathe new life into the Motor City’s Central Business District since the late 1990s, designing a number of the marquee projects along the way.

Kraemer Design Group got its start in Kraemer’s basement in 1996 but moved to downtown Detroit six months later. Since then it has become a go-to architecture firm for projects in the Motor City, designing the renovations of the Broderick Tower, The Lofts of Merchants Row, and the David Whitney Building. One of the company’s first adaptive reuse projects was designing the Intermezzo restaurant next to the firm’s first office in Harmonie Park.

"Harmonie Park was sort of the hot thing in town (in the late 1990s)," Kraemer says.

He describes that time in downtown Detroit as its first foray into adaptive reuse. Building lofts out of old commercial spaces and utilizing historic tax credits were new phenomenons. And Kraemer Design Group rode the waves of redevelopment and optimism/scandal in the city in the years following. Kraemer credits people like Dave Bing (whom he describes as well-intentioned but hamstrung by city finances) and Dan Gilbert, along with the city’s bankruptcy for making downtown what it is today.

"Now that we're seeing sustained change here we are well positioned for it," Kraemer says. Kraemer Design Group has hired six people over the last year, expanding its staff to 28 people. It is also looking to hire another four people.

Downtown is also starting to look like a truly dense area now, a trend Kraemer believes will impact the areas surround it.

"It's starting to get full," Kraemer says. "Everything in the Capitol Park area (and Midtown) is hot right now. But the bowl will fill and it will spill out into the other areas."

Corktown will be the first place it goes. Woodbridge won't be far behind. Places like Lafayette Park and Eastern Market will see development but those neighborhoods are much more built-out already, and development in Midtown has already taken off. Corktown and Woodbridge have a lot of space to infill and adaptive reuse to do, and land prices are low compared to other areas in the greater downtown Detroit neighborhoods.

"They are still viable from the neighborhood standpoint," Kraemer says. "That is an important piece."

With that said, don't expect high-rises popping up along Trumbull. Kraemer expects those areas to fill out with dense, mid-sized, mixed-use buildings.

"You will see a lot of 2-3 story buildings fill out that area," Kraemer says.

- Written by Jon Zemke

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