Fisher Body was an automobile coachbuilder founded in 1908. Its 21st plant, a six-story 600,000-sf factory in Detroit that produced car chassis, was said to be one of Motor City’s first poured-concrete buildings. General Motors purchased the plant in 1926 and made Cadillacs and Buicks there through 1984. The plant then went from being occupied by paint manufacturers for nearly a decade, to abandonment until the city of Detroit took ownership of the graffiti-strewn structure in 2000.
The building seemed destined for demolition—especially after a fire in 2014 damaged part of the plant—until two local developers Greg Jackson and Richard Hosey, and the architecture, interiors, and planning firm McIntosh Poris Associates, came up with a mixed-use design alternative that will reuse the plant for housing.
Fisher 21 Lofts, as the repurposed site is called, will have 433 apartments, one-fifth of which designated as affordable. McIntosh Poris’ design features three skylight-capped atria with courtyards, 28,000 sf of restaurants and retail, and 15,000 sf of coworking office space on the ground and second floor levels. The ground floor will also offer an outdoor pool terrace on the building’s south side.
The building’s façade will receive a full historic preservation, with all window openings being retained as originally designed and the windows themselves being replaced. Existing masonry will be cleaned and restored. The building’s signature water tower with be retained, and its existing penthouse transformed into a clubhouse and fitness center.
Fisher 21 Lofts’ amenities include a two-acre roof with a lounge, dog park and spa, and a quarter-mile walking track with views of Detroit’s skyline.
The lofts’ construction is expected to start later this year, and should be ready for occupancy by 2025. The project’s building team includes Lewand Building Companies (CM), Kidorf Preservation Consulting (historic tax-credit consultant), Mannik Smith Group (CE, landscape architect), Applied Environmental (environmental engineer), ETS Engineering (EE), Sellinger Associates (M/P engineer), IMEG (SE), Capture It (3D scanning), and Amy Baker Architect (spec writing).
This $134 million adaptive reuse is believed to be the largest minority-led development in Detroit’s history, teaming Jackson Asset Management, Hosey Development, and Lewand Development. The Detroit Free Press reported that the developers acquired the building for less than $1 million, and that it would have cost the city between $5 million and $10 million to tear down the building.