Developer gets second chance to restore ‘cool’ building in downtown Mount Clemens – Macomb Daily
Twenty-five years after builder Joe Nahas missed the chance to buy what is called the John Van Camp building in downtown Mount Clemens, he has another chance.
Nahas once considered buying the two-story, 9,000-square-foot structure, known for its awnings and grass-green exterior, in the mid-1990s, but local businessman John Van Camp went for it. first.
Looking to retire, Van Camp recently listed the property for sale on the northeast corner of North Walnut Street and Macomb Place. This time he succeeded in buying the building.
“I can’t wait to get my hands on it,” Nahas said earlier this week as he sat inside Black Cat Coffee on Macomb Place.
Plans call for a restaurant development that could include a restaurant, lofts and retail spaces in a city whose downtown real estate scene appears to be booming.
Nahas said: “My team, which includes my son, my son-in-law and a few partners, we are looking to bring this building back to some kind of new glory if you wish.”
The purchase price was not disclosed, but it had been put on the market with an asking price of $495,000, according to a listing by Anton, Sowerby & Associates.
Over the years, the Van Camp building has housed a number of businesses, including Salad Garden, Buscemi’s, and a Baskin Robbins ice cream shop. It was built in phases, starting in the late 1800s.
For about ten years, however, the ground floor has been vacant.
The new owner plans to do a complete cleaning and renovation of the structure. On the top floor, there will be around half a dozen lofts and studios, while the first level will include a few shops and a restaurant.
Bahas, 60, envisions a restaurant or cafe with a garage door and more windows to let in sunlight. He hopes the building will be completed by mid-2023.
The team has already attracted many interested parties looking to rent space in the building, including a restaurant and individual entrepreneurs who want to come in and start a business.
With a background in construction and real estate, Nahas says he has “a finger on the pulse of what’s going on” in the Macomb County market.
“We hope our demographic will be young professionals, who work in the city, who are looking for a place to live and can walk to work, walk to cool restaurants,” he said.
With an expected budget of just under $1 million, Nahas and his development team applied for a grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. Although he has to deal with state bureaucracy, which could add months to the project, Nahas said MEDC officials he spoke with seemed to think the concept “ticks all the boxes.”
Joseph Sowerby, Chairman of Anton, Sowerby & Associates, said he was delighted to see the “nose to toe” renovation that Nahas is undertaking.
“Combining this with a total refurbishment of the brand new The Grand directly across the street at 49 Macomb Place as well as the impending sale and redevelopment of 27 Main, which is on the corner of Main and Macomb Place, there seems to be a ripple of redevelopment that is quickly becoming a wave that (Nahas) is happy to be a part of,” Sowerby said in an email.
The restoration project comes at a time when downtown Mount Clemens is experiencing a resurgence of new development.
New businesses that have opened in the past year include Clementine’s Pastries, Black Cat Coffee, Cellar 104 Wine Boutique and CakeXperience, while more are in the works, including an escape room. Others, like Little Lorraine’s Bar, a longtime favorite watering hole known for its pizza, have plans for expansion, and the seafood restaurant in Gumbo unveiled a new bar on Friday.
Investors are paying attention. City officials said a major development is expected to be announced later this spring.
Michelle Weiss, marketing coordinator for the Downtown Development Authority, said downtown is almost completely full. She and others say the return of downtown Detroit has sent rents skyrocketing, so businesses are looking to invest in the suburbs, especially historic downtowns such as Mount Clemens.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Weiss said. “We are on fire. We have six more companies on board by April.
Weiss – who previously operated her own outlet in Mount Clemens and whose late husband previously ran Mount Clemens Rose Gardens, which closed in 1999 – says the pandemic could play a role in the equation.
“During COVID, a lot of people quit their jobs, saved money and decided ‘I want to give myself a new future,'” she said. “People got tired of watching other people make money and decided to invest and make money for themselves.”
For Nahas, restoring the Van Camp building amounts to “closing the loop” in the city where it was born.
The Clinton Township resident is a Mount Clemens native who grew up in the town, met his wife and proposed here, then moved on to other businesses.
His first job was at the Bavarian Village Ski Shop on South Gratiot Avenue. Later, while working at former President Tuxedo’s across from the Macomb County Circuit Court building, he met his now wife, Janet. He proposed to her in the former Gents III restaurant, which has since become Your Mothers.
He points to the city’s strengths, which include a “beautiful downtown, lots of cool restaurants, historic buildings and a riverfront.”
“People are realizing everything this city has to offer,” Bahas said. “It’s cool to be in a historic city center.
“Mount Clemens is getting cool now.”