Promises, promises: Papa Joe’s location in downtown Detroit in question

March 3, 2014
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Rendering of Papa Joe's in the First National Building (Courtesy of Quicken Loans)

Rendering of Papa Joe’s in the First National Building (Courtesy of Quicken Loans)

Metro Times has learned a planned location in the First National Building in downtown Detroit for suburban upscale grocery store Papa Joe’s is up in the air, potentially for good.

In an email to Metro Times, Anthony Curtis, co-owner of Papa Joe’s Gourmet Market & Catering, says the company’s planned location in the First National Building is “on hold because … after the plans were completed, the preliminary projected cost was coming in about $4,000,000 over budget.”

Quicken Loans Founder and Chairman Dan Gilbert Gilbert purchased the First National Building at the corner of Woodward Avenue and Cadillac Square in August 2011.

An official with Bedrock Real Estate Services, Quicken’s real estate arm, tells Metro Times this afternoon that after long discussions with Papa Joe’s, it became clear “the agreement was not going to be reached” due to the financial terms of the deal, but the door was still open to the company.

“Bedrock Real Estate Services announced last spring that it was ‘finalizing plans’ with Papa Joe’s for a store to be located on the ground floor of the First National Building in downtown Detroit,” Jim Ketai, managing partner of Bedrock, said in an emailed statement. “After long and protracted discussions and negotiations over the past eleven months, it became clear that agreement was not going to reached on the economic terms associated with the build-out and long-term lease of the originally contemplated store. Bedrock is actively engaged in discussions with other highly reputable and experienced operators for a similar and gourmet market for the same space and has also not closed the door to the possibility of reaching terms with Papa Joe’s.”

Gilbert announced the Papa Joe’s move in March 2013 when he rolled out his vision to revamp downtown Detroit. It seems the excitement of the moment got the best of everyone, as Quicken pushed a press release the following day under the headline, “Papa Joe’s Gourmet Market Coming to Downtown Detroit.” At the time, the development was cast as a major highlight of Gilbert’s plan — as Huffington Post Detroit put it, “one … bound to capture residents’ attention.”

Last summer, Curtis told Crain’s Detroit Business he expected the location to be operating by April 2014. Based on Curtis’ remarks in the email to Metro Times, it appears a planned second location inside the Renaissance Center is still on track, though it’s unclear when the company plans to move forward with construction

As Crain’s reports, the tri-level grocery store would have filled 22,000 square feet of the First National Building. Initial estimates pegged construction costs at about $6 million.  The store would’ve included a mix of general grocery items and table service for gourmet pizza, pasta, Thai food and sushi, according to a press release.

Metro Times followed up with calls and emails to Curtis regarding what led to the spike in projected costs, and the status of the planned second location inside the Renaissance Center, but received no immediate reply. Crain’s says the 9,000-square-foot RenCen locale would cater to employees inside the building.

  • rick

    Ren Cen is a bad call. Downtown residents need a location they can walk to. The Ren Cen was a poor attempt at placemaking…the building is hard to get to as well as to enter. You think the employees housed in the ren cen will be enough to sustain a grocery store? If downtown residents need to jump in a car to get to a grocery store, they will instead head to Whole Foods. Hence, the location needs to be 100% walkable and convenient.

    Once again, a poorly planned business decision will fail, and everyone will say, “See! Detroit is not on a comeback!” How about putting the grocery store somewhere close to Campus Martius… If this Bedrock deal failed find another location that is central… Honestly, a small grocery store is all that is needed. Something the size of Ye Old Butcher Shop would work downtown. Actually, Ye Old Butcher Shop would’ve survived if it was downtown instead of the dead-zone between midtown and downtown. I should be a consultant…

  • Rick

    rick, the purpose for a Ren Cen location would be to capture the business of the thousands of people who are there every day. Don’t think it’s a replacement for another downtown location. If it doesn’t work with Papa Joe’s they can go find another vendor. A variety will be better than multiples of the same concept, anyways.