Wayne Law alumnus helping improve Detroit, one house at a time

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While he was attending law school at night, Joshua Kushnereit also was running his insurance business, buying houses to flip and changing dirty diapers.

A 2012 graduate of Wayne State University Law School and father of two children born while he was in law school, Kushnereit also managed to serve as chancellor of Wayne Law Moot Court and an assistant editor of Wayne Law Review. And he played on the school's adult league hockey team.

"I've worked very, very hard for a lot of years," he said. "When everyone was watching 'Friends' reruns, I was working. I'm still working really hard, and I don't see myself slowing down."

A Clarkston resident, he earned his undergraduate degree in English summa cum laude from the University of Detroit Mercy even spent a summer studying Chaucer at Oxford in England. But politics long has been a passion for him.

In 2004, he served as an intern in the office of U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-St. Clair Shores, and as a White House intern in the Office of Presidential Correspondence. During his undergraduate years, he earned his Michigan insurance license, worked with some agencies and opened his own company, J.P. Kush and Associates of Troy, in 2010. The company is going strong today and takes up most of his time.

But he also "dabbles," as he puts it, in real estate. He got his real estate license right after law school graduation.

"My law background definitely helped make that test easier," Kushnereit said. "I already had the foundation. Professor John Mogk's urban planning class was really useful. I was already interested in Detroit real estate, and the paper I wrote for the class centered on downtown development gave me even more incentive to go out there and explore the neighborhoods. The law degree itself helps with credibility. It definitely puts me in a superior position when I'm negotiating deals, whether in real estate or insurance."

He also practices law. Kushnereit, working with Birmingham attorney Michael Harrison, served as second chair in the defense of Detroit police narcotics officer Lt. David Hansberry, convicted in July of extortion and acquitted of nine other charges. Sentencing in the much-publicized police corruption case is set for November.

"That's what I did all summer," Kushnereit said. "It was the first big case I worked on out of law school.

Meanwhile, he has kept up his interest in real estate. In 2015, after already flipping buying, renovating and reselling a few houses, he bought six properties in the Boston Edison neighborhood of Detroit from Wayne County tax auctions.

"I love the traditional architecture of the homes in Boston Edison, and I figured what better, safer and more beautiful area for a family looking to move or relocate within the city," Kushnereit said. "It's one of the nicest, historic districts in Detroit, and it's close to Midtown. I think you're going to see a lot of Detroit neighborhoods improve as the city's progression goes on and see prices continue to skyrocket."

Before he buys a home to fix up and sell, he visits its neighborhood and walks around, talking to neighbors. That's how he learned that the abandoned house he eventually bought at 1683 Edison St. in Detroit was once the home of famed boxer Joe Louis, the "Brown Bomber."

"When I got home, I went to the Boston Edison website, and, sure enough, it was the Joe Louis house, which I assume most other out-of-state and online bidders slept on due to their lack of really engaging with the neighborhoods they 'restore,' " Kushnereit said. "For me, it's always been about more than the coin. I honestly still get excited about the transformation that takes place, along with the breath of fresh air that the homes bring to the neighborhood."

The Joe Louis house had a badly leaking roof, water damage throughout and buckling floors. Kushnereit and his crew went to work.

When he renovates a home, he gets in there himself to swing a sledge hammer during demolition work and does some of the restoration work, but he hires contractors, some of whom are trusted friends, for much of the process. The best part of a renovation project for Kushnereit is when he sees a dilapidated house transform into a beautiful home, he said.

The 2,433-square-foot, 100-year-old Joe Louis house, listed now after five months of restoration work for $280,000, is a prime example, and it's gained Kushnereit some media attention. The four-bedroom house, newly roofed, has restored hardwood floors and new plumbing, heating system and wiring.

What's in the future for Kushnereit?

"I want to serve in the Senate once I make my millions," he said.

Published: Mon, Oct 10, 2016