EMU's Welber mix business with education in developing Detroit
YPSILANTI - Joel Welber’s father spent his career demolishing buildings in Detroit.
Welber, a professor of law in Eastern Michigan University’s College of Business, has spent a large part of his life helping to rebuild Detroit.
They both did it the same way…one building at a time.
“I wanted to rebuild some of the buildings my dad tore down,” said Welber with a laugh.
Welber started doing that several years ago when he purchased a building near Brush and Hendrie. Since then, he has acquired a substantial portion of the same block and converted it into residences.
His most recent project, Art Center Town and Carriage Homes LLC, a joint venture of Palmer Development Group, LLC (Welber is a partner with Stephen Palmer and manages the company) and Hubbell Family LLC, recently had its grand opening where Gov. Jennifer Granholm helped cut the ribbon.
The way Welber sees it, he isn’t getting in on the ground floor of Detroit’s rebirth. “It’s more like the sub-basement,” he said with a laugh.
While he said that some of his own family laughed at him for investing in Detroit, Welber is the one laughing now. Most of the 52-unit development pre-sold without being advertised. The units range from $135,000-$235,000.
“If you have the time and the energy, you can do well,” said Welber of his investment in Detroit.
Welber said that Detroit is not in the “death throttle” that everyone seems to perceive.
“There is a lot more money being invested, but there are some institutional problems that the city has to resolve,” he said. “If you know how to work the system, there is money to be made.”
But Welber, 56, and Detroit are not the only winners from his investments. EMU students in Welber’s courses are getting some unique opportunities to learn firsthand about real estate and law.
About five years ago, Welber started taking his students to work, literally.
“This winter was great. They got to see a lot interesting things and meet developers at active sites,” said Welber. “We show them things you don’t really hear about. You don’t get a complete picture of what’s going on there unless you experience it.”
“For the students, the opportunity to spend time with a commercial banker and learn how they lend to developers shows a sense of credibility,” Welber said. “I’ve tried to make it clear that this is not beyond their capability.”
Welber said that he is thankful to EMU for the opportunities it has given him and his students in his 25 years as a teacher, and hopes that it will continue.
“They have allowed me to teach to my interests and I think the students have benefited. I hope the University will pay attention to what it means to participate in the revitalization in the region and Detroit,” said Welber.
As for the future, the Ann Arbor resident said that he will be retiring at the end of the 2005-06 school year and moving to Utah to enjoy another passion, golf.
Eastern Michigan University is a public, comprehensive university that offers programs in the arts, sciences and professions. EMU prepares students with the intellectual skills and practical experiences to succeed in their careers and lives, and to be better citizens.
Eastern Michigan University is a public, comprehensive university that offers programs in the arts, sciences and professions. EMU prepares students with the intellectual skills and practical experiences to succeed in their career and lives, and to be better citizens.
Editor's Note: Looking for an expert source for a story? Check out EMU's Eastern Experts online at www.emich.edu/univcomm/easternexperts.