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ARCHITECTURAL: Milestone Detroit Development — Corktown Perennial Apartments

Rooted in the town that put the world on wheels, CASS Sheet Metal is a key contracting player in revitalizing the city’s oldest historic neighborhood one project at a time.

Perennial Corktown Apartments is a seven-story facility that includes 188 apartments and seven townhomes.

Landmark historic redevelopment and new construction in Detroit’s emerging Corktown district near Michigan Central Station is reshaping a 1934 southside neighborhood, and Custom Architectural Sheetmetal Specialists (CASS) is on the front lines. 

After completing work on the luxury lifestyle Godfrey Hotel Detroit, the family-owned firm engaged in another monumentally significant project a quarter mile up the road on Michigan Avenue. 

Perennial Corktown Apartments was constructed jointly by The Christman Co. headquartered in Detroit and Norcon Inc. of Chicago, Ill. CASS Sheet Metal delivered on an extensive, $2.5-million metal panel exterior package amounting to 30,000 square feet of paneling. The package involved a range of products, a tight timeline coordinating with multiple trades, complex field cuts conducted on-site and a requirement for experienced journeypersons amid a shortage, prompting an opportunity for younger team members to rise to the occasion. 

“Our office is on the east side of the city, and we pride ourselves on being a ‘Detroit Original since 1990,’” says Account Manager Brian Parvin. 
President and Owner Glenn Parvin established CASS Sheet Metal and has grown a reputation as a go-to custom architectural sheet metal contractor. The company is relied upon to create some of Southeast Michigan’s stunning landmarks, including Michigan Central Station, The Book Tower and others soon on the docket. 

“This work is extremely personal to us, and it hits home to be able to contribute to these monumental jobs that highlight the resurgence of this city, how it has grown and what is to come,” Brian Parvin says. 

A Tall Order 
Ambitious deadlines are not unusual in large-scale redevelopment projects where there’s pressure from a public eye that is anticipating progress. Such was the case with Perennial Corktown Apartments. But the nature of the business is often hurry-up-and-wait. Myriad trades played a part in bringing the building alive, and this meant jockeying for position to complete required custom architectural sheet metal installation.

CASS Sheet Metal took on the Perennial Corktown Apartments project that involved $2.5 million and 30,000 square feet of metal paneling. 

The seven-story complex that includes 188 apartment units and seven townhomes is largely brick and steel. “We had glazers, brick workers, masons, waterproofing and more ahead of us,” Parvin says. 

Delays create a domino effect of more delays. 

The project broke ground in fall of 2021, and CASS Sheet Metal’s crew was scheduled to start January 2023 but didn’t reach full steam until June 2023. 

The scope included the following products: Centria Versa wall-insulated metal panels; Morin Matrix series and concealed flush metal panels; aluminum composite panels; and GreenGirt form Advanced Architectural Products. 

“On larger wall sections, we utilized a Fraco Mast Climber to increase the efficiency of installation,” Parvin says, relating that the height of metalwork requirements coupled with a need to produce in-field cuts to work around windows, doors, ledges and brickwork required expertise and time. Parvin says it was a rare incidence when the crew could deploy a full panel module.

The mast climber “allowed our crews to have all the tools necessary to measure, cut and install without multiple trips up and down in a lift,” he says. 
Effective staging of equipment and materials to expedite installation was crucial. “With the tight project schedule, we had to mobilize multiple areas of the project concurrently while running a dedicated crew of 15 outside of the building, and within the crew there were teams of two to three dedicated to different wall elevations,” Parvin explains of the logistics.

A combination of swing stages on the backside of the building above the courtyard and multiple 85-foot lifts on the exterior perimeter allowed for three to four teams to work at the same time. 

Despite meticulous scheduling on the part of CASS Sheet Metal, there are uncontrollable variables that occur on site that highlighted the importance of ensuring field communications among trades filter up to project stakeholders and are carefully documented to explain delays and due diligence to meet deadlines. 
Extra hours and overtime were required to fulfill project requirements. 


“As a company, we have a strong moral compass, so when a project presents any challenge, our first priority is to get the job done, pull through and fulfill our commitment,” Parvin says. “We had impacts to our duration and schedule, but we didn’t stop — we never stop. We have close relationships with our clients and maintaining that is our priority.” 

Building Talent 
Across the country, sheet metal contracting companies recognize talent attrition as veteran journeypersons and forepersons near retirement. CASS Sheet Metal, like others, is experiencing this firsthand. The typical crew size for CASS varies greatly based on project requirements. At Perennial, there were more than 15 sheet metal workers on site, one of its largest crew sizes to date. 

“A major opportunity to overcome was workforce,” Parvin says, emphasizing opportunity because the ultimate outcome empowered younger team members to take ownership over a key project, offered valuable skill-building and is setting CASS Sheet Metal up to successfully build the next generation of talent. 
In 2023, CASS lost five forepersons for life circumstances. Two retired, two went on extended medical leave for back and knee surgeries, and one took an opportunity out of state. 

Pipeline is the key word. 

Not only does CASS Sheet Metal have many more landmark opportunities coming down the pike, overcoming the labor obstacle/opportunity of this project is setting the company up for success with a high-morale team that is instilling expertise early on. 


“We were able to promote some of our younger team members, get them into trucks, and they learned a grew a lot — and we became much stronger as a company because of it,” Parvin says. 

There’s a tremendous source of pride when a team can stand in front of a pivotal development that is reshaping Detroit. 

As Parvin says, “This is very personal for us, and the impact is empowering for our talented team who grew even stronger on the project.”