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DETROIT-Loft condominiums are catching on in Detroit, said a developer who specializes in renovating former vacant buildings into attached living spaces. Dennis Ammerman of LoftWorks, based in Detroit, said his company is developing lofts in the city in several different locations, such as the 45-unit Grand River Lofts project in a warehouse at Grand River and I-94, another building near the Detroit Opera House.

Ammerman is hoping to achieve tax relief from the city for the Grand River project, through a proposed Neighborhood Enterprise Zone. He said he has loft deals going on in about 25 buildings in the city. His company, he told GlobeSt.com, is leasing about 15 new loft units a month, and selling four to five lofts per month.

“We still haven’t reached critical mass,” Ammerman said. “However, we now are starting to attract empty-nesters to the market, making the market more diverse and stable.” He said he’s had a lot of interest by people wanting to move back into Detroit, infamous for its high crime rate and problems with city services such as street lights and garbage pickup.

“A lot of my customers want to move into the city, into something with character. Houses these days are constructed all the same, these old buildings all possess great detail and character,” Ammerman said.

The Grand River building was built more than 110-years ago, and was once a pickle factory. Ammerman said he’s already sold a dozen of the 45 loft units at the building. Another second phase of 20 more units is planned for another nearby building. Also, tax relief will be a great incentive to buyers.”We’re waiting to get City Council approval for the Enterprise Zone,” Ammerman said. “Without it, someone who buys one of these lofts may pay $3,000 to $4,000 a year in taxes. If the zone passes, they’ll pay about $100.”

The loft project near the Opera House is also on the table to credits, Ammerman said. This project will be mostly commercial. There will be a brewpub on the first two floors, a few more floors of office lofts and a large, $1 million residential loft on the top floor, Ammerman said.

He declined to reveal how much his company spends to renovate a loft. The units typically sell from $120,000 to $217,000.

Ammerman said he’s glad that other larger developers have not saturated the market yet. “Like in Atlanta, where Trammell Crow and other developers overbuilt the loft market. There was so many done that there wasn’t enough demand, and those lofts are now reverting back to rental apartments,” Ammerman said.

Once there’s enough people living downtown, Ammerman said, the city will move more toward like Chicago and other large urban areas, with retail moving back in to serve the residents.

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