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A look inside the riverfront’s Elevator Building post-renovation

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Next Cities bought the building last year for $2.1 million

A gray-painted industrial building with a logo, painted in red and white, that says “The Elevator Building.”
The Elevator Building at 1938 Franklin Street.
Photos courtesy of Next Cities

A significant renovation just completed on a former industrial building on the east riverfront. Though aside from a new paint job, you might not have noticed.

Last year, New York City investors Jean-Michel “Mitch” Wasterlain and Meridith Hill bought the Elevator Building for $2.1 million through their real estate firm Next Cities.

The historic building that’s over 100 years old was originally a Studebaker factory. For many years after, it was the headquarters for its namesake the Detroit Elevator Company. Most recently, it was owned by the Lewarchiks family, who converted it into creative office spaces in the early 2010s.

But when Next Cities bought the 28,000-square-foot building on Franklin Street in the Rivertown Warehouse District, it was in need of some major capital improvements. The firm put around $500,000 into upgrades over the last six months, according to Wasterlain.

Large industrial windows that overlook the river.
New windows installed on a second-story studio.
New mural and a look into the conference room.

The building now has a new metal roof, insulated windows that replicated the original industrial ones, replaced rotted ceiling boards, and renovations to many of the suites, the conference room, bathrooms, and more. On the outside, the brick and a new logo were painted, and several murals added on the inside.

Many of the same businesses still occupy the same suites as when Next Cities bought the Elevator Building. Current tenants include a fashion designer, tattoo artists, urban planners, a wellness studio, and more.

All but two of the 18 studios—which range in size from 600 to 2,500 square feet—are currently leased. The smaller units go for $1,250 per month.

Several of those tenants contributed to the renovations, including murals by S-BOY and Tyler Baker & Chad Hunt, and a directory sign by Detroit Sign Factory. “We try to use tenants wherever possible and support their businesses,” Wasterlain says.

He adds that they hired local contractors for as much of the construction work as possible.

One of the newest tenants in one of the largest spaces is Anthem Hair & Health. Their large salon has a mezzanine and separate, street-level entrance for customers. “We were in a good space in Midtown, but we wanted longevity, we wanted to have a home for our salon,” says co-owner Cortney Wilson.

A two-story hair salon with benches, chairs, and sitting areas. The walls are brick.
Anthem Hair & Health’s two-story salon.
Courtesy Anthem Hair & Health

Wasterlain was drawn to the building and Detroit because the city offers a unique opportunity to make an impact.

“I love that you can create a distinct environment, which is really hard to do in a more established city like New York,” he says. “You can come to the riverfront, take buildings and transform them, and then create a community.”

Next Cities recently bought another, larger building further east on the riverfront behind the UAW-GM training site. Wasterlain says they plan on doing something similar there—creative studios and retail space.

“We’ve found there’s a huge demand for this, and not a lot of alternatives for smaller spaces that aren’t in a corporate office building,” Wasterlain says.

Next Cities is focused on Detroit and the riverfront. With Orleans Landing nearby and more work planned on the Riverwalk, it seems a smart place to foster that creative community.


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