Pharrell is partnering with an acclaimed New York architect on a potential major housing development in Detroit. Residents in North Corktown say a swath of city-owned empty land is the possible location. The project is being described as a working plan that has not yet secured the necessary land or city permission to make the project reality.
Williams and the Detroit project were mentioned in the December edition of Architectural Digest magazine. It’s part of a brief profile of Alexander Gorlin, whom the publication recognized as among the top 100 architects and designers working today. Here is what Gorlin said about his current projects: “Teaming with musician Pharrell Williams on prefab housing in Detroit.”
The term “prefab” is short for prefabricated housing, a broad term referring to any home that has sections of the structure built in a factory and then assembled on site. Telephone calls and emails to Gorlin’s Manhattan office and Williams’ publicist on Friday were not returned. Some in North Corktown have seen the plans and it involves a big swath of empty city-owned properties west of Burton International School at 2001 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. It would include dozens of housing units.
“I’ve seen some plans that fill up a lot of empty space, with different types of housing, including single unit housing that look like the stuff in Lafayette Park,” said Paul Emery, chairman of the North Corktown Neighborhood Association. Emery said he was referring to the famed Mies van der Rohe townhouses. Emery said representatives for the architect Gorlin have visited North Corktown in the past year to explore the potential project. Williams is a major investor, Emery has been told. He didn’t know the name of the developer involved in the project.
There is no deal in place regarding any city-owned land in North Corktown or any other part of the city, said John Roach, a spokesman for Mayor Mike Duggan’s office. “The city talks to developers all the time,” Roach wrote in an email Friday. “As a rule we do not comment on potential development projects unless there is an agreement in place.” City officials told the North Corktown neighborhood group last month that city is exploring three or four potential major development projects for the neighborhood.
Gorlin is founder of Alexander Gorlin Architects. His projects include high-end residential work, apartment buildings, schools, religious buildings, master planning and affordable housing. “He is noted for his inventive use of space, light and natural materials,” according to his website. Williams is a singer, songwriter, rapper, record producer and fashion designer. In addition to his multiple Grammy Awards, he is a growing entrepreneur. One of his ventures involves helping build a $35 million after-school center in his hometown, Virginia Beach.