gordon square residential developer taps into less-is-more movement

When we last checked in with real estate developer Howard Grandon, he was kicking off renovations of a 9,000-square-foot Detroit Shoreway building into four apartments and five retail spaces. The structure, which had housed an illicit nightclub called "Cheerios," sat vacant for seven-plus years before he bought it.

That was then, this is now. Although it's taken him longer than he anticipated, two and a half years later the results are plain. Grandon's building offers some of the most creatively-designed small apartments in Cleveland, a trend that's catching on in major cities.

"Because we were working with green, repurposed materials, we had to fabricate everything. It was more expensive than we anticipated," he says. "That happens in real estate."

It was worth the wait. Grandon himself moved into the building, occupying one of the light-filled apartments overlooking the Gordon Square streetscape. His suite includes a clever nook for his bed, spacious walk-in closet, huge kitchen with a countertop built for entertaining, and exposed spiral ductwork that hugs the ceiling. He has a bathroom straight out of Dwell magazine, including a European-style toilet with hidden plumbing and a glass-walled shower with subway tile.

The apartments, which are all similarly designed, rent for about $850 per month. The rates are about 25 percent cheaper than downtown, and two of the four are occupied. Grandon has completed a third, and the fourth will be ready this year.

Grandon's project also features many green, sustainable features. The wood floors in the units are built from an old parquet floor reclaimed from a gym. Come spring, he'll create unique planters out of old chemistry lab sinks he bought on Lorain Ave.

Grandon says that he's tapping into a small-is-beautiful movement that's popular in our post-recession world. "People are interested in having less possessions and living more efficiently," he says, pointing to huge kitchen counters that make dining room tables redundant and murphy beds that drop from the walls.

Perhaps the most radical feature of Grandon's units is that there are no walls except for the closets and bathrooms. It makes 800 square feet feel entirely liveable.

Grandon's next step is to begin renovating the storefronts. To do that, however, he needs to find willing entrepreneurs who are also bankable. Stay tuned for the next installment in our series covering this creative entrepreneur's endeavors.

Source: Howard Grandon
Writer: Lee Chilcote