German developer buys historic New Center apartment complex for $2.6 million

Posted on December 6, 2018

A German real estate investor and developer has purchased the Seward Plaza Apartments in New Center for $2.6 million and plans “significant” improvements.

Optima Seward LLC, a subsidiary of Munich-based Optima Aegidius Group, made the deal late last month for the historic 34-unit complex at 127 Seward St., said James Tumey, vice president at Farmington Hills-based Friedman Real Estate, which brokered the deal.

The seller was Doug Hixson, who owns several other residential properties in the city, according to Midtown Detroit Inc.’s website, which lists the buildings’ rental information.

Tumey said the new owner plans to make extensive improvements to the four-story building’s façade, as well as its lobby and each of its units. Built in 1922, the 26,600-square-foot property features a marble lobby, Pewabic-tiled fountain and “ice closets” on every floor, harkening back to the days of old. It was designed by prominent architect Charles Agree, who also did the Belcrest Apartments in Detroit, Oakland Mall and several other buildings in metro Detroit.

“This is a perfect example of Detroit architecture,” Tumey said.

As Detroit’s resurgence rolls along downtown and in Midtown, more investors are seeing opportunity further up Woodward Avenue. The Platform LLC, which co-owns the Fisher Building, is widening its stamp in the neighborhood with several projects in the works. Real estate investor Manoj Manwani in November snagged a pair of apartment buildings a few blocks from 127 Seward.

Tumey said he expects the investment to continue there as property values creep up in tandem with refilled storefronts and a more walkable landscape. The strip on Woodward between Baltimore Avenue and East Grand Boulevard is one to watch in the coming months.

“New Center has taken on its own little identity,” he said.

Seward Plaza Apartments is fully occupied with rental units priced between $645 to $745, according to the Midtown Detroit website. Tumey said nobody will be kicked out following the deal, and improvements will be made in the next couple years as tenants move out. He said he did not know how rental rates would be affected. After a large-scale investment, such as the one to purchase and renovate this complex, rents often increase.

The sale comes with an adjoining parking lot of 15-20 spaces for tenants. Optima also owns four other buildings near TechTown Detroit, just south of New Center. It paid $3.1 million with big plans for mixed-use developments that have not yet gotten off the ground. Tumey said the company is still planning to move forward with the plans.