Like Gilbert, Apostolopoulos is keenly interested in renewing the city’s compact and necklace-like downtown, stocked with a multitude of gracious 1920s era skyscrapers, many underperforming or long abandoned.
“We would probably be right after Dan (Gilbert),” he said. “I know we’re the largest Canadian holding company in Detroit.”
Apostolopoulos, whose firm also owns eight million square feet of property in Toronto, is now as much a booster of Motown as any American businessman.
“There’s a great opportunity in Detroit, there’s great people in Detroit, lots of opportunities here as we feel it’s a great place to invest money right now,” he said.
Triple Group entered the metro Detroit market in 2009 when it bought the former home of the NFL’s Detroit Lions, the suburban Pontiac Silverdome, for $583,000.
“We purchased the Silverdome, so we had our feet planted there and being real estate investors we ended up going around and looking at other opportunities and saw that there was huge potential for a lot of different developments,” Apostolopoulos said.
“And with the nucleus going on in downtown Detroit we figured this is a really good place to be.”
Apostolopoulos had sought to bring a Major League Soccer (MLS) team to the 80,000 seat stadium but now is concentrating on building a new 25,000 seat stadium downtown that would be part of a gateway development along Gratiot Ave. leading to the city centre.
“The Silverdome is going to be renovated into a multipurpose facility,” he said, adding he can’t release details quite yet but that it will “be a big project and a good one.”
Triple Group started investing downtown last year when it purchased the iconic 1905, 47-storey Penobscot Building for $5 million, Detroit’s most prominent skyscraper until the 1970s-era five tower Renaissance Center, now home to General Motors headquarters, was constructed.
It also has purchased an array of buildings and parking lots, which could be redeveloped, Apostolopoulos said.
Triple Group’s latest proposal, unveiled this week – would have the soccer stadium built amidst three office and condo towers and a 300,000 sq. ft. retail base – and would anchor downtown’s northeast side, near the city’s storied Eastern (farmers) Market and the thriving Greektown restaurant and entertainment district.
At $1 billion Apostolopoulos believes it would be the biggest current investment in the core.
“It’s a perfect opportunity, the timing is right,” he said.
The developer is unfazed by the city’s recent bankruptcy filing, expressing confidence in Detroit.
“Absolutely,” he said. “It’s a great city and if you look at the auto manufacturers they’ve all restructured and we’re in Chapter 11 and they did some really good work and now they’re thriving, so I believe Detroit will thrive just the same as the autos did.”