Could the beleaguered Penobscot Building be turning a corner? That's the central question of a Crain's Detroit column cataloguing a number of improvements at the skyscraper while contextualizing them against a code-violation crackdown and historically low demand for downtown office space.
The building's owners, the Canadian Apostolopoulos family's Triple Properties, are reportedly marketing the 1/3-full property for lease after spending between $5.5 million and $6 million on upgrades. Pre-pandemic, a litany of bad headlines drew attention to what tenants called "deplorable" conditions, including mold and poo-clogged toilets.
Nine of the property's 26 elevators have been "modernized," (said Matt Schiffman, the new CEO/managing member of P.A. Commercial, who has the listing along with a colleague, Mike Gunn), with new safety controls and new cabling and other infrastructure. Sump pumps have been upgraded to prevent flooding, as was a problem in the past. New systems are in place to deal with toilet issues. Heat and air conditioning, Schiffman says, are improved with things like upgrades to steam systems, new valves and pressure controls.
The city says Triple Properties has paid $48,515 in blight ticket fees to date with an outstanding balance of $4,475, and that Triple has "complied with" addressing the issues. A certificate of compliance can be issued once the outstanding balance is paid.
On the flip side, however, Crain's notes that the lack of demand for downtown office space hardly incentivizes further efforts to overcome the bad image.
And while Triple may have hired a professional brokerage team to lure new users to the building, it has not hired an outside management firm to run it. That's not lost on some brokers I spoke with.