Cabela’s reels in local developer to Dundee

As seen in Crains Detroit Business
By Jennette Smith

Giant outdoor outfitter Cabela’s may have put Dundee on the map as a travel destination, but a Farmington Hills developer is betting that people want to live there. Cabela’s opened its hunting, fishing and outdoor-gear store in the fall of 2000. Since then it has grown into what the store says is the most visited destination in Michigan, with more than 6 million visitors last year. The village of Dundee and the surrounding area, meanwhile, have attracted hotels, restaurants and a new DaimlerChrysler AG plant, announced in February.

Andrew Milia, president of Franklin Property Corp., plans to add to Dundee’s draw with a $150 million housing development about a mile from Cabela’s. Franklin Property, which is working through the approval process with the village, assembled the land and plans to sell lots to builders. The project is called Arbor Chase. Franklin is the lead developer, but Farmington Hills-based Noble Realty is a partner on the deal, Milia said. Milia said he has been tracking the Dundee market and acquired a former farm parcel of 300-acres late last year. Part of the land, about 65-acres, was sold for the engine plant that DaimlerChrysler began building last week. The plant is expected to provide 400 jobs and is part of a joint venture with Hyundai and Mitsubishi called Global Engine Alliance L.L.C. Plans for the rest of Franklin Property’s site call for a 750 single-family homes and condominiums priced from $150,000 to $300,000.

Pending approvals, construction would begin next year. Two national builders and four large local builders already are interested in buying lots, Milia said, although he declined to name them. The project likely would be built over five years. The biggest draw of Dundee is its geography, Milia said. Close to U.S. 23, the Monroe County location is easily accessible to Washtenaw and Wayne counties, as well as northern Ohio, he said. Jobs are also coming to Dundee with Cabela’s, the DaimlerChrysler plant and other manufacturers. Cabela’s, in particular, helped raise awareness of the area, Milia said. He said he expects the Ann Arbor area will be the strongest in terms of marketing Dundee as a place to live.

Tim Holland, director of retail for Sidney, Neb.-based Cabela’s, said it’s not unusual for its stores to start a wave of development in an area. Hotels and restaurants in Dundee can be linked more directly to the retailer. Residential growth is more indirect. “Maybe we just found it first,” Holland said. Holland said the Dundee store attracts visitors mostly from a 150-mile circle. The 225,000-square-foot store attracts shoppers with elaborate wildlife-education displays and aquariums, along with the equipment and clothing the store sells. Dundee Councilman Ed Craft said Cabela’s has been a major driver for development without interfering with the quality of life. Most residents have a positive view about the commercial and residential investment, he said.