Detroit Legend Joe Landy’s Properties in Probate

When the well-known Detroit real estate developer and landlord Joel Landy died, many who were familiar with the real estate developer questioned what would happen with his portfolio of properties. So it was no surprise that the answer to that question would be decided by a probate judge.

According to the Free Press, a probate court judge Wednesday approved the long-awaited sale of about 55 properties in mostly Midtown Detroit belonging to the late developer and landlord Joel Landy.

Wayne County Probate Court Judge Judy Hartsfield agreed to allow a pending sale of the “Landy Portfolio” to a trio of local real estate developers and financiers. The final sale price wasn’t disclosed, although court documents previously put the sum at over $17 million.

The would-be buyer is “Landy Land LLC,” an entity 50% owned by Detroit-based real estate development firm Civic Companies (belonging to Adam Kessler and George Roberts) and 50% by Kevin Kovachevich, founder of commercial real estate financing firm District Capital, court documents say.

A mural of the late Joel Landy can be seen on the side of the old Burton school building and is one of many buildings in the Landy portfolio properties seen on Friday, July 2022 in Detroit.
The portfolio encompasses several blocks of houses, storefronts and occupied apartment buildings, as well as former schools and vacant lots. Court documents say the rental properties bring in about $100,000 a month.

In a phone interview Wednesday afternoon, Roberts said that after the sale has closed, they intend to spruce up and renovate some of the properties and “activate” storefronts that are vacant.

His and Kessler’s Civic Companies already owns various office, multifamily and town house developments in Detroit’s Corktown, Woodbridge and North End neighborhoods, he said.

“We are just excited about all the possibilities,” Roberts said.

“Joel was a visionary and a trailblazer,” he continued. “He cared about preserving and energizing historic buildings before it was cool and collaborating with artists and artisans and small businesses, and cultivating a great community experience for residents of the neighborhood. We want to do our best, humbly, to carry on in Joel’s footsteps.”

Most of the sale proceeds will go to the Joel Landy Foundation, whose mission is supporting automotive education and historic preservation in Detroit, causes that were dear to Landy’s heart.

The foundation is controlled by a three-member board whose members are Huntington Bank executive Gary Torgow, his adult son Elie Torgow, who is chief executive officer of Detroit-based real estate developer the Sterling Group, and Landy’s longtime friend and former personal attorney Bob Baldori.

The former Delta Preparatory High School at 3550 John C. Lodge Freeway is one of many of the late Joel Landy portfolio properties on Friday, July 2022 in Detroit.
A $4.7 million portion of the sale proceeds are being set aside to resolve various unsettled business and debt for Landy’s estate, an attorney in the case said.

That money is to be put in escrow pending the resolution of a power struggle in probate court over Landy’s trust that emerged last year between the foundation’s members and the trust’s trustee, attorney Joseph Kopietz, that has been marked by a series of charges and countercharges of improper behavior.