The heavy machinery rolled away—bulldozers and trucks and loaders—and all that was left of a former funeral parlor was an empty lot of hard-packed dirt. But, this wasn’t an ending; it was a beginning, one new project of many happening throughout Birmingham, Michigan. Jana Ecker, the city’s planning director, told Crain’s Detroit Business that she hasn’t seen this much development happening in her area since before the recession, and Beztak Properties is one of the developers making it happen.
“Birmingham is one of the premier areas in Metro Detroit,” Beztak CEO Sam Beznos says. “It has always been appealing for residential and commercial uses and has always carried a premium because of its energy, lifestyle, and very quaint and attractive downtown.”
Birmingham’s active community, complete with restaurants, a theater, a library, and vibrant culture, drew Beznos and his company to the area. Beznos wanted to build a high-end senior-living community, All Seasons of Birmingham. He had previously developed an All Seasons senior-living facility in West Bloomfield, Michigan, so he had a good idea of what he wanted in Birmingham. The site of the former funeral parlor, where Beznos plans to build, is located just two blocks from downtown—close enough to be within walking distance but far enough away to have a peaceful, residential setting.
Beznos has several developments in the Detroit area, as well as additional projects in Tucson and Phoenix, Arizona; Naples and Miami, Florida; and Washington, DC. The Motor City filed for bankruptcy in 2013, and though its finances and markets have seen a small upswing in recent months, it has been suffering serious urban blight since before the recession. But this environment hasn’t deterred Beznos; if anything, it has brought the counties around the metro area into his focus.
“The fall of Detroit has had a lot of national impact in this market and has helped keep the national players out of this area, which has, frankly, helped us,” Beznos says. “Now that Detroit, and the state in general, are improving, we are seeing more and more new companies come to Michigan.”
Birmingham and West Bloomfield, both affluent areas, were somewhat isolated from the economic slump experienced by the rest of their state during the recession. And now, as their nearest major city gets back on its feet, Beztak has positioned itself to become one of the area’s major real estate developers.
The big picture hasn’t distracted Beznos from his more focused vision of what All Seasons will bring to Birmingham, though. He hopes that the high-end senior-living facility, which will include many different styles of units, will allow seniors to remain active and participate in Birmingham’s vivid culture. The All Seasons will feature a common room oasis with a seamless glass wall, a rooftop terrace and sky lounge overlooking downtown Birmingham, a theater, a full gym, a lecture hall, a bistro bar, a full-service hair salon, and a dining hall managed by a chef. There will be 131 housing units available (88 of which have already been reserved), and eight of them will be live-work apartments with street-level access so that residents can operate small businesses from their homes.
Beznos sees many untapped opportunities in the senior-housing market, and he has prepped Beztak to make a significant break into the industry. Many companies ignore what seniors are looking for, he says, leaving the market underserved. Rather than creating an institutional space with the antiseptic feel of a hospital, All Seasons is designed like a five-star hotel.