Motor City Makeover

Black developer transforms Detroit waterfront

What was once an uninspiring view of several concrete silos will soon be a picturesque community on Detroit’s East River waterfront thanks to developer Dwight Belyue, 47, owner of Belmar Development Group. His project, @water Lofts, is a $300 million redevelopment project that will link the outdoor plaza and promenade of GM’s Renaissance Center with the Tri-Centennial State Park and Harbor.

Belyue has partnered with Skanska, one of the world’s leading construction services group, and Tooles Contracting Group, a Detroit-based minority contractor. Construction of @water Lofts will be completed in three phases, each with an average price tag of $100 million. “We anticipate on a national average to make a 20% profit with revenues of $120 million,” says Belyue. Belmar will break ground on Phase I in August 2007. It will consist of 225 residential units averaging $400,000 each, including 16 penthouses starting at $1.3 million. The structure will also contain 15,000 square feet of retail space and a 378-car parking structure.
“None of this would have taken place if Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick had not made a popular and monumental decision to end the development of riverfront casinos [proposed by the city's previous administration],” says George Jackson, president of the Detroit Economic Growth Corp., a quasi-public arm of the city.

A $9.7 million Brownfield SBT credit and state and local tax capture valued at more than $1 million will reimburse Belmar for environmental cleanup and certain infrastructure costs as the developer transforms the three-acre former industrial site into a residential, retail, and recreational complex.

“Belmar’s major challenge was the competition and proving they could get the financing,” says Jackson. Belyue’s Seattle-based partner, Michael Dunne, provided $10 million to $15 million in equity financing, while Belyue demonstrated knowledge of Detroit’s unique market history–both assets made them more attractive than national developers. Now Belmar is working to secure a construction loan for $75 million and discussing options for equity and/or mezzanine financing with Canyon-Johnson Urban Fund, one of former NBA star-cum-entrepreneur Magic Johnson’s real estate financing vehicles.

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