See inside $10M Forest Arms renovation in Detroit, targeting May 1 move-in

Come May, people will be living inside of the historic Forest Arms apartment building in Detroit’s Midtown neighborhood for the first time since 2008.

It’s been a long road, building owner Scott Lowell said. Just working out the financing on the million-dollar project took about six years before construction even began in 2013.

It’s a historic restoration project, and Lowell and his team are working with pinpoint accuracy to ensure the 111-year-old building is restored to as much of its 1905 glory inside and out.

“You get this opportunity once in 100 years,” Lowell said, standing in the courtyard littered with construction equipment and full of heavy machinery in mid-April. He pointed out the windows, which are replicas from those originally in the building.

Lowell is also rebuilding two of three entryways, which feature ornate masonry work on the wings of the building, which sits on the corner of SecondĀ and W Forest Avenue in Midtown.

The 56,000-square-foot building will house 70 apartments: 65 in the main building, and five penthouse units on an addition built on the roof.

On Tuesday, Lowell had 21 apartments left, all one-bedrooms. The units are filling up much faster than he anticipated.

But, with Midtown apartments hovering at around a 98 percent occupancy, it’s no surprise that the Forest Arms units are renting quick.

Keeping with a trend seen further downtown, there will be a 24-hour concierge inside as well as an “a la carte” maid service for tenants who need help sprucing up their place.

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In the basement, there’s going to be a band practice area, Lowell said, because he knows some of his future tenants will likely be at least amateur musicians.

Each unit is different, Lowell said. There’s nothing of the boxy, cookie-cutter designs seen in new buildings or some renovations throughout the city.

“(We tried to put) something in every room, at least something in every apartment, that people will find unique,” he said, pointing to tile work and an archway in the hall of the two-bedroom model unit on the first floor of the apartments.

Many of the units, which range from 500- to around 950-square-feet have decorative fireplaces somewhere in the apartments, which are based off of those left from the building’s original 22-unit design.

There’s dark, rich wood paneling and trim throughout building. Each of the apartments have hard wood floors, granite counter tops, custom tile work in the bathrooms and solid wood doors. The building has geothermal heat, rain water collection and a solar component to the water heaters.

Each floor has its own laundry room.

Rents range from $1000 to $1300.

Lowell has been involved in restorations in Detroit and the Midtown area for a long time, he said. He owns the Traffic Jam and Snug restaurant with his wife.

The project has a slew of contributors, including state historic tax credits, Sue Mosey and Midtown Detroit, Inc., Flagstar Bank, Ford Foundation, Invest Detroit, Kresge Foundation, NCB Capital Impact, as well as Lowell.

The Feb. 2008 fire in the building collapsed the roof onto the fourth floor, which then crumbled into the third. A large portion had to be rebuilt in the project, which was a big undertaking.

Lowell is passionate about the building, though.

“To have a part in keeping the building standing, it’s, you know, it’s very rewarding,” he said.

Information onĀ leasing at the Forest Arms can be found on their Facebook page.

Ian Thibodeau is the business and development reporter for MLive Media Group in Detroit. He can be reached at, or follow him on Twitter.

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