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Farmers Restaurant closes following Eastern Market property sale

Farmers Restaurant Inc., a longtime Eastern Market staple, has closed following the sale of its building to landlord Sanford Nelson.

Nelson told Crain’s on Wednesday morning that he finalized the purchase of four buildings in the city’s food district on Tuesday for an undisclosed price. He said he plans renovations of all four properties.  He said he had asked the owners of Farmers Restaurant to stay open.

“I have been dining there for a while. But they wanted to close. We tried to talk them into staying on through renovations, but they just weren’t interested. They wanted to retire,” said Nelson, son of serial entrepreneur Linden Nelson.

Jimmy Fermanis, son of owner Gavrill Fermanis, declined comment Wednesday morning.  “We have no comment. The owners have retired.”

Fermanis owned the properties totaling 35,000 square feet for more than a decade, according to public records.

The purchase brings Nelson’s Eastern Market portfolio to about 20 buildings and 250,000 square feet, including the building that houses Supino Pizzeria.

The buildings he bought on Tuesday are:

The two tenants in the buildings are Gabriel Import Co. and Eastern Market Antiques.

“Gabriel Import is staying and Eastern Market Antiques is staying for the time being,” Nelson said Wednesday morning. “The building needs a lot of work. There is no fire safety system in the building or anything like that, so we are working with the vendors in there to find new space in the market. They are going to have plenty of time.”

He said he hasn’t yet determined his overall renovation budget for the properties.

In addition to Gabriel Import and Eastern Market Antiques, Well Done Goods by Cyperoptix will be moving from about 4,000 square feet in Gratiot Avenue space that Nelson owns into 1473 Winder.

“After just over 16 years at our location on Gratiot, we are really excited for the opportunity to move into larger space that will better accommodate both our manufacturing facility and retail offerings along with cafe space for our many events,” Bethany Shorb, founder and creative director of Well Done Goods, said in a press release. “Now visitors will be able to see the quality we put into the many fantastic products we manufacture dailiy and ship internationally.”

Nelson said other tenants like Adam’s Meat LLC and Cultivation Station Inc. moved or closed last year before he purchased the properties.

Nelson is part of a new corps of landlords swooping into Eastern Market and buying property in the country’s oldest food district. Others include Detroit developers and economic development professionals Roger Basmajian and George Jackson and New York City-based developer ASH NYC, replacing the street-level business operators in Eastern Market that traditionally owned their own properties (and sometimes others).

According to Dan Carmody, president of Eastern Market Corp., some existing businesses have expressed concerns about rent increases as the new landlord crop pours money into improving the district’s older buildings. Part of that concern arises because the space has been comparatively inexpensive for decades, Carmody said in October.

“The previous landlords came up in an age where having a warm body and somebody paying any kind of rent was an advantage over having vacant space,” he said.

Deadline Detroit reported in December that some commercial and residential tenants learned of pending 150-percent rent increases last summer. That caused some to flee.

Nelson said Wednesday that rents in his new properties will be “market rate” and has previously said that he plans on carving out affordable space for artists and food users as his overall vision for his portfolio progresses.

“What I can say, is that satisfied tenants who see a future with us is critically important, and we are committed to working with tenants on a case by case basis to meet their individual needs,” he said in an email. “The majority of space in these buildings are vacant, and once renovated, the new and improved spaces will be market rate.”

The listing price for the four-building portfolio was $6.5 million, according to marketing materials by Southfield-based Farbman Group.  Southfield-based Signature Associates Inc. represented Nelson’s Detroit-based Firm Real Estate LLC in the transaction.


Posted By: Crain’s Detroit Business on March 6, 2019.  For more information, please click here to read the source article.

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