When three students in a 2013 Real Estate Essentials class at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business were assigned to create their own potential real-estate development deal for a final project, they crafted a realistic idea, with hopes that one day their project would come to life.
Four years later, the project that began as a simple idea in a University classroom is taking shape, as development on their proposed site is set to begin this month.
University alumni Dang Duong, Myles Hamby and Clarke Lewis dubbed their project Baltimore Station, with an initial goal of re-developing abandoned, city-owned buildings in Detroit located near the historic Fisher Building.
That original group of three students is now adding one more partner to its team: Peter Allen, owner of an Ann Arbor-based real-estate firm Peter Allen + Associates, and the same professor who taught them in the Real Estate Essentials class in 2013.
Allen noted the Baltimore Station project was realistic and affordable, making the idea especially promising for a student process.
“The new kid on the block for cities is Detroit,” he said in a Business School press release. “It has replaced Chicago as the favorite city to go to, in my mind, especially if you’re in real estate.”
The idea for the project came from the team’s general interest in urban planning and lifestyle. Though each alum specializes in different areas — Duong studied business and law, Hamby received a master’s in urban planning and Lewis studied architecture — they all were committed to a project that would be effective and relevant.
“I want to treat this as more than an academic exercise,” Hamby said about the project. “I want to do this as a real deal.”
To get its project off the ground, the team initially struggled finding adequate funding. Duong recalls the team made approximately 100 pitches to investors, with none agreeing to invest.
“They all loved the story,” Duong said in the same Ross article. “But at the end of the day they never invested.”
Finally, Peter Cummings of The Platform, a real-estate development company that strives to create strong communities in an urban landscape, picked up the idea. Initially, Cummings just offered guidance for the team. Last May, he decided to invest in the project.
Plans for construction are underway, and will take about nine months to complete. A barbecue restaurant called Woodpile BBQ Shack, is the first tenant, and the team is looking out for other possible businesses.
In the meantime, the group members are excited about the future of the project and their lives in Detroit.
“This is my passion,” Duong said the release. “I’m in the exact place I want to be. I’m committed to living in Detroit for the long run. The city is getting better and better every day. You can see it and you can feel it.”
Allen, who is involved in many professional development projects, said he is excited about the prospect of working with students who are passionate about their ideas.
“I’m having the time of my life,” Allen said. “I’ve done development professionally, and now I want to continue what’s happening with these students. I love this subject, and Detroit has put it right under our noses. And Ann Arbor has been a great laboratory, too. You couldn’t pick two better cities.”