The Farmington Hills-based Village Green has agreed to keep the Millender name as part of Detroit's Millender Apartments, which the firm recently purchased and had planned to rename.
The new name will be announced at a future date, but the Village Green ownership and members of the Millender family reached an agreement that the name will include "at Millender Center," such as "Village Green at Millender Center."
The namesake of the 33-story apartment building across from the Renaissance Center is the late Robert Millender, who is considered a giant in recent Detroit history. He was an attorney and political strategist who played a key role in electing Detroit's first generation of black leaders at a time when virtually no African Americans held public office. He died in 1978.
The announcement by Village Green that it planned to rename the building sparked pushback among some Detroiters and city leaders who believed erasing the Millender name was insensitive, especially at a time of political turmoil in Detroit. The renaming was the subject of Deadline Detroit commentary April 9.
The Millender Apartments, the Courtyard by Marriott Hotel, a parking garage, People Mover station and a small amount of retail and dining space make up the Millender Center on E. Jefferson. Village Green is buying only the apartments.
Village Green, founded in Detroit nearly 100 years ago by Joseph Holtzman, a Russian immigrant, owns and operates luxury apartments across the country. It purchased the Trolley Plaza/Washington Square Apartments on Washington Boulevard in 2011 and renamed them Detroit City Apartments after renovation.
In a statement, Jonathan Holtzman, the current chairman and CEO, said the company, like the Millender family, is part of Detroit's past, and "we're each committed to the city of Detroit's future."
He added: "Our goal is to create a luxury apartment community with unique amenities and 24/7/365 services."
Members of the Millender family, including daughters Patricia Millender and Judge B. Pennie Millender of 36th District Court, expressed satisfaction with the agreement.
"We are very appreciative for the responsiveness of Village Green and its chief executive, Jonathan Holtzman, to the family and community concerns about maintaining the name of our father in connection with the apartments," the family said in a statement.
Among Robert Millender's clients were Coleman Young, Detroit's first black mayor; U.S. Rep. John Conyers, George Crockett Jr, the first African American to be elected to Detroit's criminal court and later a U.S. Congressman; Richard Austin, who came close to being elected Detroit's first black mayor and was later voted Michigan secretary of state; and Robert Tindal and Erma Henderson, among the first black members of the Detroit City Council.