Detroiters were upset to learn recently about the announced closure of Russell Street Deli, a beloved restaurant and staple of Eastern Market for 30 years. The closure of Russell Street has gotten the most attention, but it’s far from the first.
Ever since Sanford Nelson and his real estate company, Firm Real Estate LLC, began rapidly buying property in Eastern Market in 2017, there has been a steady stream of business closures. Last summer, some businesses reported rent increases of over 150 percent within 30 days. Others, like Signal Return and Bert’s Marketplace, have not closed but been informed about tentative development plans that affect the future of their business.
The 30-year-old developer is the largest landlord in the market, and has accumulated at least 20 buildings accounting for 250,000-square-feet of space. Though it should be noted he’s far from the only new property owner in the district.
From the start, Nelson assured anyone who asked that his goal was to maintain the character of the market—one of the most recognizable places in the city. Eastern Market has a thematically consistent set of businesses centered around its Saturday market, a kind of weekly festival celebrating local food. Murals in the Market has become an institution as well, providing the district with a vibrancy and character unlike anywhere else.
But longtime tenants, artists, and business owners were wary from the start, and it appears they had good reason to be.
The Eastern Market Partnership (EMP) has been taking steps to maintain the character of the district. The nonprofit that oversees the district released its Eastern Market Development Protocol, which will establish guidelines for future developers to adhere to if they hope to get support from the nonprofit. Though the principles haven’t been set yet, Dan Carmody, president of EMDC, told Crain’s Detroit Business they’d be based around the “core values of the market.”
And just this week, the process has begun to potentially designate Eastern Market as a historic district, which would make it much more difficult to demolish buildings.
How much this negative media attention will affect Nelson’s management of his properties remains to be seen. So far, these businesses in his buildings have closed or relocated.
Adam’s Meat(closed prior to Nelson’s purchase)
- Cultivation Station
- Eastern Market Wellness Center (relocated outside the market)
Motorless City Bike Shop(property owned by Fortus Partners LLC)
- Farmers Restaurant
- Detroit Kung Fu Academy (relocated)
- Mootown Ice Cream and Dessert Shoppe
- Russell Street Deli
- Mike Coney Island
We’ll continue to update this list if new closures are announced.