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True North, a community of Quonset huts, rises off of Grand River

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Photos by Michelle & Chris Gerard

Earlier this summer, we were told that some Quonset huts were popping up near Grand River on 16th. Our initial reaction was that we would keep an open mind. Now we have a clearer idea of what they’ll look like, both inside and out, and we’ll admit, this could be one of the most exciting and unusual developments in the works for Detroit.

We walked around True North with Philip Kafka of Prince Concepts, who’s leading this development. The two initial huts are currently in use across the street, one as a residence and the other as a live/work space.

One of the big questions people had about the huts were regarding temperature control. When we visited, the temperature was about 10 degrees outside (if that) and the heater inside the hut had been off for a while, but it was still a comfortable 68 inside. Kafka says the first two huts had different ceilings - concrete in one and plywood in the other - and the huts across the street would have radiant in-floor heating.

Kafka describes the spaces inside as “voluminous,” and you can understand that once you’re inside. He likens them to loft-living, but in a different, even more minimalist way. From a design perspective, even though there were few soft materials in the hut we visited, the inside felt warm from the natural light that came in from both ends of the hut.

According to Kafka, the huts currently under construction could all be unique live/work spaces. One is currently pre-leased to a jewelry maker, and the options for the other huts are plenty. They’d be ideal spaces for a chef, yoga instructor, architect ... really anyone who’s looking for a creative space to live. Kafka suggests they’re structures and homes where residents can create their own experiences.

Eight huts are under construction (framing has started happening inside some) and they all vary in size. One is 30 feet high! Even though the huts look beautiful with the snow and the sunlight, you can imagine what they’ll look like in the summer, surrounded by community spaces, trees, gardens, and an event space. Here’s a tour around True North, with additional photos from inside one of the huts.

The Design architect is Edwin Chan and EC3, while the architect of record is Studio Detroit. The units are currently being pre-leased and should be ready to rent this spring. More information can be found at True North.