CityLoft gives shoppers taste of Somerset in Detroit

Posted on July 28, 2011

Somerset Collection, Michigan’s foremost upscale retail center, is opening its Detroit outpost at 10 a.m. today, creating the first downtown presence for a major department store since Hudson’s closed its flagship store 28 years ago.

The farmers market-style collection of boutiques from retailers including Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Henri Bendel will operate the last Thursday, Friday and Saturday of the month through at least September.

As the first major retail project of its kind in Detroit, Somerset Collection CityLoft will “increase awareness of what retail can become in Detroit” while serving as “a 3-D billboard for Somerset,” said Nathan Forbes, managing partner of the Forbes Co., which owns and manages Troy-based Somerset.

The mall owner didn’t indicate whether Somerset plans a longer-term presence.

Once a retail hub, Detroit saw stores such as the now-defunct Winkelman’s and Saks migrate beyond city limits. But city boosters have argued there are still shoppers here with disposable income.

The 4,000-square-foot collection of pop-up shops on the ground level of the Lofts at Merchants Row development was inspired by the success of Somerset Collection’s Detroit Shoppe, a store and showplace for the Motor City’s historic brands.

The 41 kiosks in Detroit represent about just under a quarter of Somerset’s 180 retailers and restaurants, including Michael Kors, the Gap, Coach, Lego, Lululemon Athletica, the Sweet Factory and a Häagen-Dazs ice cream cart. Each retailer will give a gift with purchase, such as an oversize chocolate bar from Henri Bendel or a journal from Montblanc.

For every $100 spent, shoppers will receive a $10 gift card to be used at Somerset’s Troy or Detroit locations.

Though CityLoft could be open for just nine days through September, the $500,000 investment in creating the space and bringing the retailers downtown is justified, Forbes said.

“You can’t take something like this and look at the dollar and cents sign of the equation,” Forbes said.

“A stronger downtown is a stronger Detroit is a stronger region is a stronger Michigan.”

Project funding came from Somerset and sponsors Quicken Loans Inc., Cadillac and Bank of America. Quicken Loans, founded by Detroit entrepreneur and developer Dan Gilbert, is paying the rent for CityLoft.

The project will draw city residents and workers as well as shoppers from the suburbs who might not otherwise come downtown, said Jim Bieri, principal at Stokas Bieri Real Estate in Detroit.

“The name Somerset is magic in this town,” he said.

By Jaclyn Trop, The Detroit News