By Charles Sercombe
Hamtramck’s comeback is on a roll.
Several weeks ago a developer announced a major project that will transform empty lots on Caniff into a combination of offices and lofts.
And now, Dr. Sami Bilani is rolling out his plan to build five townhouses on a parking lot attached to his dental office on Brombach near Florian.
He recently presented his project to the Zoning Board of Appeals, which was asked to waive several building requirements.
At the meeting, Bilani, who is a native of Lebanon who graduated from New York University as a dentist, gave a background on why he wants to build in Hamtramck.
You can thank his two sons.
Bilani, who has been practicing in Hamtramck for 25 years, told the ZBA that his sons convinced him to move from Birmingham to Hamtramck, where he now lives, because of the Detroit revival.
“They said no one wants to live in the suburbs,” Bilani said.
So, he converted the upstairs of the building that houses his dental office, a former funeral home, and renovated it into his new living quarters and moved in.
Next to the building is a parking lot that was once needed when the funeral home was in operation but now sits unused. It’s an odd pie-shaped configuration, which was one of the reasons he needed the ZBA to allow this non-conforming space to be converted into townhouses.
While the ZBA signed off on most of the requests, the project’s final design – the look of the townhouses – has to next be approved by the Plan Commission.
Bilani was thinking of a design that incorporated a California-Spanish influence, but that is something that is still being worked on. It’s likely a more traditional design will win out.
Each unit will be 1,000 square feet, and will be for lease only. The estimated monthly lease would be $1,000. Parking for the units will be behind the development.
Bilani declined to say how much the project is going to cost, but he did say that if this project goes through, he has investors ready to expand in the area.
“This is nothing,” he said of how this development will compare to his bigger plans for the area.
Councilmember Ian Perrotta was on hand at the ZBA meeting to give his thumbs up.
“It’s a pretty good use of space,” Perrotta said. “There is a need for this.”
Indeed, there is a housing shortage in Hamtramck as a number or people are being out-priced in Detroit’s midtown region. With Hamtramck just a 10-minute ride from downtown, the city has become a magnet for professionals and young adults looking for affordable housing.
Published November 17, 2017