Ties that bind: Royal Oak attorney helping in drive to redevelop Motor City


Patrick Howe is pictured in front of one of the projects he is working on in Corktown, in Detroit — a new restaurant under construction called “Gold Cash Gold.”

By Sheila Pursglove

Legal News       

Patrick Howe’s family put down roots in Detroit in the early 1900s. His great-grandfather, Leo Howe Sr., opened Howe Martz Glass Company in 1915 on Monroe Street in Detroit, where I-375 now sits. Specializing in manufacturing stained glass windows for many of Detroit’s churches, the company evolved into a full-service commercial glass contractor and worked on many of the major commercial projects in metro Detroit until closing its doors in 1992.

“Participating in the Detroit building and development process has been in our family for many years, and I’m proud to continue participating in this process as a lawyer,” says Howe, an attorney with Howard & Howard in Royal Oak, specializing in real estate and hospitality law.

“The most rewarding thing for me is seeing a client take a dilapidated old building and turn it into a vibrant facility,” he says. “I’ve developed a niche client base of hospitality clients that have opened many of the iconic bars, restaurants, hotels, and breweries in the City of Detroit – most, if not all of which were opened in abandoned commercial buildings. There are a host of real estate, zoning, and licensing issues associated with these projects, and it’s fun to join a client’s development team to see these projects through from a simple concept plan to ribbon cutting.” Development in Detroit is challenging, Howe notes.

“The zoning ordinance is not in line with current development trends, and market demand,” he explains. “I commonly come across instances where all of the stakeholders are on board with a project, but because
of the zoning ordinance, a number of approvals and hearings are required.  I enjoy attempting to balance the interests of my client, with the interest of the city and neighbors.”

The first lawyer in his family, Howe got a feel for this career as an undergrad at the University of Michigan, where he served as president of a 140-member fraternity.

“I was constantly dealing with lease issues, property management issues, risk management issues, and had to balance the interest of members, neighbors, the University, alumni and guests – in many respects, performing many of the same roles a lawyer would perform for a client,” he says.

He earned his juris doctor from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, following in the footsteps of his grandfather Thomas Elliott and great uncle Kenneth Elliott, who moved to Detroit from Connecticut to attend UDM (then the University of Detroit), and play varsity football.

“It’s rewarding to share UDM as an alma mater with them, and it would be very rewarding to work to bring college football back to the university one day,” he says.

As a Catholic, Howe enjoyed the Jesuit tradition of UDM, where he served as Executive Editor of the University of Detroit Mercy Law Review, and also garnered numerous academic awards. He has also served as an adjunct professor at UDM, teaching administrative law.

He particularly appreciated the university’s location, in the heart of downtown Detroit. Living downtown for part of law school, he took the “People Mover” rail system to class every day.

“This was in 2002, long before much of the redevelopment that has taken place since then,” he says. “Looking back, I was looking for an urban experience in an urban setting that wasn’t quite ready for the urban young professional. If I needed dinner, I recall having to make sure I went somewhere before 5 o’clock – otherwise I would likely be out of luck. These days, there are countless options for dining and entertainment 24/7 in downtown Detroit, and it amazes me how far the city has come since I lived there.”

After realizing early in his legal career that municipal planners have a significant role in the development process, and that he worked with them as much as he worked with municipal lawyers, Howe spent an additional three years in night school to obtain his master of urban planning while working full time.

“I thought this endeavor would not only benefit my developer clients, but that I would be exposed to many other professionals in the development community that are working to redevelop the City of Detroit,” he says. “This was a very rewarding experience, which made me a better lawyer.”

Howe cautions that obtaining another degree or certification will not in itself make a lawyer more competitive or marketable.

“What will distinguish a lawyer, is having a genuine interest in your client’s field,” he explains. “My interest in real estate and the hospitality industry provides additional value to my clients – I’m able to provide counsel beyond simple legal services, by introducing clients to other professionals in the industry, or other development partners they may be able to work with.”

Named among dbusiness “Top Lawyers” and Michigan Rising Stars, Howe would encourage young attorneys to pursue work in a field that interests them, and not only become a legal expert in that area, but get involved beyond the legal components.

“Learn the industry, learn the trends, and meet as many people in as many different disciplines in that field as you possibly can,” he says.

Co-chair of the Hospitality Practice Group and Real Estate Practice Group at Howard & Howard, Howe also serves on the Executive Committee of the Michigan District Council of the Urban Land Institute (ULI); as co-chair of the ULI Young Leaders Group; as chair of the Hospitality & Alcoholic Beverage Committee of the State Bar of Michigan Administrative Law Section Council; and as a member of the Zoning and Land Use Committee of the State Bar of Michigan Real Property Law Section.      

The Grosse Pointe native now lives in Bloomfield Hills, and enjoys spending time with his wife Kara, children Catherine, 4, and 6-month-old Teddy.  Howe also enjoys renovating his home, boating, and hunting for his own investment properties and real estate opportunities.