GM gears up for sale of downtown Millender Center

Posted on December 18, 2018

Photo: Costar

General Motors Co. has started legal steps that would allow it to sell the downtown Millender Center to potentially more than one buyer.

The building at 333 E. Jefferson is across the street from the automaker’s Renaissance Center headquarters. Besides a 250-room Courtyard by Marriott Hotel, the Millender has 30,000 square feet of retail space, 100,000 square feet of office space and a 1,850-space parking deck, according to CoStar, a commercial real estate information service.

“With the ongoing development of downtown, especially in the hotel and restaurant markets, GM has put this property on the market,” said Jennifer Korail, GM spokeswoman. The GM subsidiary Riverfront Holdings Inc. bought the Millender for $38 million in 2010, according to public records.

Last week, several small retailers in the building received letters from Riverfront Holdings that it plans to convert the property into  “building condominiums.” That refers to a unit within any condominium project that may be used for other than residential or recreational purposes, according to the Michigan Condominium Act.

That move allows GM to possibly sell off pieces of the building, according to two real estate attorneys not connected to the deal. The Courtyard by Marriott, for example, could potentially buy the current hotel, or, the space could become a mixed-use development in which some part becomes office or residential and another remains a hotel, they said.

“It gives GM a certain latitude” that enables GM to sell to multiple buyers, said Robert Meisner, a principal founder of the Meisner Law Group in Bingham Farms. “They may be able sell the hotel as one condominium unit,” Meisner said.

The motivation is straightforward: GM could make more money, said Kevin Hirzel, managing member of Hirzel Law in  Farmington. “You will be able to sell smaller parcels for more than you can as a whole.”

Representatives for the Marriott hotel chain didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Larry Mongo said he has operated Gents by D’Mongo’s salon in the Millender since the downtown property opened in the 1980s. The Millender Center also originally included apartments located on Brush Street. But that apartment complex, now called Renaissance City Club, is not owned by the GM subsidiary.

Mongo said he was told by Riverfront Holdings officials his salon and other retailers could stay.  Two other small business owners said they were told the same.  “At least for now,” Mongo said. “Who knows what happens when there’s a sale?”

Any potential sale could mean change for the small businesses, attorney Hirzel said. “After their leases end, it could mean the potential sale of that space.”