If there’s one stereotype about New Yorkers that Detroiters can generally agree on, it’s that we’re all a bunch of rich assholes. Of course, this is far from the truth. Many of us depend on $1 dumplings and stolen toilet paper more than we’d care to admit, but can you really blame them for thinking we’re a city of Monopoly men when something like this happens?
Robert Elmes, the director of Galapagos Art Space, made a mega faux pas yesterday when he went public with his very lucrative real estate flip in which he announced his plans to list one of his buildings in the Corktown area of Detroit for sale for a whopping $6.25 million, which needless to say is a pretty penny for the area. What’s more, Crain’s reported Elmes bought the 138,000 square foot building for a mere $500,000 in December 2013.
Galapagos packed up its space in Dumbo (deemed “too expensive,” and we were all like, “um, but you’re in Dumbo…”) last year and, following the advice of Prince Media, fled for the hills of Detroit. People seemed pretty stoked about Galapagos’ plans to transform nine buildings and a total of 600,000 square feet of space into a variety of art spaces including a massive gallery space, Kunsthalle Galapagos, and reincarnate their indoor lake, blowing it up to a veritable ocean at 10,000 square feet. Elmes also announced his intention to run a Detroit Biennale starting in 2016.
But with news of what seemed to be a profiteering flip, outrage quickly ignited.
— Cash4RESellers (@Cash4RESellers) January 8, 2016
Galapagos in Detroit is not awesome https://t.co/woVjNyPEMV
— Camille Dodero (@camilledodero) January 8, 2016
I know this isn’t exactly surprising, but COME ON. https://t.co/Ifr9wbYg8D
— Jillian Steinhauer (@jilnotjill) January 8, 2016
— Peter Moskowitz (@ptrmsk) January 7, 2016
Galapagos art space comes to Detroit, flips building to the tune of about 6 mil. This is why people are suspicious https://t.co/rRwdJSsHaJ
— Drew Philp (@drewphilp) January 8, 2016
Clearly, the backlash against Elmes has been pretty ferocious. So much so that the art director felt the need to answer to criticism via the Metro Times comments section (and later, in a more detailed statement to MLive). He defended his decision to sell the building as a means of raising money for renovating the remaining eight buildings he owns in Detroit, but also as a way to fund cancer treatment for his son, who Elmes said has been diagnosed with leukemia.
But Elmes’ broker stuck to the ol’ business is business excuse. He told the Detroit Free Press:
“It’s a valid number,” Weiner said of the asking price. “Believe it or not, the demand for product amongst the investor community has reached a level where the available buildings can achieve prices that are historically high.”
Stay tuned for more pissed off Detroiters, we’re sure they’ll be more in the coming months as Galapagos consolidates its art empire.