Motor City Cribs
Scott Lowell and Carolyn Howard redevelop historic Forest Arms
by Metro Time's Doug Coombe
Traffic Jam & Snug restaurant owners and Bronx Bar co-owners Scott Lowell and wife Carolyn Howard are a veritable midtown redevelopment army. In addition to running three great midtown dining/hang-out destinations, Lowell and Howard have taken to rehabbing run-down apartment buildings in the neighborhood.
The couple has already turned around the Blackstone and the Aronda apartment buildings, and this month they're reopening the Beethoven on Third and Prentis, complete with a rooftop deck amid solar panels. All this while overseeing the restaurant, brewery and cheese-making facilities at Traffic Jam & Snug.
Now Lowell and Howard are taking on perhaps their most ambitious task — bringing the century-old Forest Arms apartments on Forest and Second back to life. You'll recall how a February 2008 fire took the life of one tenant, destroyed the entire roof and left others, including People's Records, temporarily homeless. After being open to the elements for two Michigan winters, it seemed a forgone conclusion that the 1905 building would be consigned to the dust heap of Detroit history like so many others.
In February 2009, Lowell and Howard purchased the Forest Arms.
"No one else was stepping up, it seemed important to me to bring the building back to life," Lowell says. Though there was no roof, extensive fire damage on the top floor and extensive water damage on the bottom floors, the building's shell was still sound. Lowell has already begun to gut parts of the building, attach a new roof and, with the help of volunteers from Team Detroit, installed a hanging garden in the windows while renovation is completed.
There are still a couple years of work ahead and financing to be completed, but Lowell envisions penthouses on the roof and patios on the lower level for retail and/or restaurant space.
"Detroit wrote the book on industrialization," Lowell says, standing on the new roof of the Forest Arms and gazing out at the amazing view of downtown. "Now we get to write the book on redevelopment."