The list of a dozen points that's under development would address the "core values of the market," such as carving out 25 percent "affordable" space for small businesses, and could determine whether or not Eastern Market supports a developer's project, said Dan Carmody, president of the nonprofit.
Eastern Market Corp. manages the district's public markets and works to support food access in the city. It also aims to preserve the character and inclusivity of the historic neighborhood northeast of downtown in a time when many fear it's besieged by change. A building-buying bonanza that started nearly two years ago with Sanford Nelson and others shows no signs of slowing down. Planned investments by Nelson and others are likely to mean rent hikes in an area previously known for housing artists and businesses at low rates.
There's been a "fundamental shift" in property values that "creates a lot of anxiety and stress around what that's going to do around rental rates initially," Carmody said. "It's a long-term process. We gotta work our way through it."
Carmody declined to elaborate on the specific items it would include in its protocol, but spoke about them in the context of rent affordability and how a project "respects the core values of the market."
Eastern Market Corp. doesn't have the "ability to tell people how to run their business," he said, but it could use this protocol to score a building project in the market and decide whether or not the nonprofit will give support to the project in the course of city of Detroit approvals.
As part of the same efforts, Eastern Market Corp. has a goal to preserve 25 percent of small-scale commercial space at rents below market rate, Carmody said.
He didn't put a time stamp on it, but said it would apply to properties leasing out commercial spaces smaller than 5,000 square feet in the "historic core" of the market — the area bounded by Gratiot Avenue, I-75, Mack Avenue and St. Aubin Street.
Eastern Market Corp. has no way of enforcing this with property owners, but it could include it as part of the protocol and request that developers abide by it.
"We would look for every opportunity, from suggesting that landlords old and new set aside part of their space for below-market tenants, as well as looking for creative ways to finance space we own or control or partnering with others who own or control space," he said.
Preserving lower rents
Nelson and several real estate brokers estimated market rate retail storefront rents in the center of Eastern Market in the mid-$20s per square foot. Renovated commercial space rates across the market currently range from $15-$20, according to Carmody.
Eastern Market Corp. expects work to start next week on 15,000 square feet of food accelerator space where it plans to house eight businesses for $7-$11 per square foot. It's leasing space along Adelaide Street from developer ASH NYC.
The nonprofit aims to start out offering leases of less than 50 percent of market rate, but those could vary over time to 50 percent-25 percent of market rate, Carmody said.
With the pricey renovations required for some of the older Eastern Market buildings, it can be difficult for developers to finance affordable space, some contend.