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Ground broken on $36.3M mixed-income development in Midtown Detroit

August 25, 2020

Building rendering

​DETROIT – The City of Detroit’s Housing and Revitalization Department (HRD) announced today that Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH) and Develop Detroit have broken ground on a new mixed-use and mixed-income development in Midtown Detroit’s Sugar Hill Arts District.

The $36.3 million project will open late next year on what is currently a vacant lot on the northwest corner of John R and Garfield streets. The project will have 68 apartments, 11,900 square feet of retail, and 164 parking spaces for use by residents and the public in the popular Midtown entertainment and restaurant district. Fourteen of the apartments will be set aside as affordable housing at 30 percent to 60 percent of the average median income (AMI).

The site is across from the John D. Dingell VA Medical Center, and many of its affordable apartments will be targeted to formerly homeless veterans served by the HUD-VASH voucher program.

An outdoor green space adjacent to the building will be developed in coordination with Midtown Detroit Inc., to connect with other “green alleys” located in Midtown and serve the building’s tenants, community residents and visitors.

In addition to bringing much-needed quality affordable housing, the project is also significant because it is one of the last projects by Phil Freelon, one of the most celebrated Black architects in U.S. history. Freelon – whose works include the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington and Atlanta's National Center for Civil and Human Rights – passed away in 2019.

HRD released an RFP for the property in September 2016, seeking bids for a project that would include not only housing for Detroiters of all income levels, but also ground-floor retail and a parking structure for area residents and customers of nearby businesses. A development team led by POAH and Develop Detroit, and including Perkins & Will and McIntosh Poris as architects, was selected in May 2017. Whiting-Turner is the general contractor, and VM3 Consulting Corp. is providing services to engage minority- and women-owned firms and Detroit-based workers and companies.

POAH is a national developer of affordable and mixed-income communities with offices in Boston and Chicago. It has owned and managed two senior properties in Detroit and Troy, with 577 total apartments, since 2003.

“POAH is honored to help bring more quality, sustainable housing and access to opportunity,” said Rodger Brown, managing director of real estate development at POAH. “We couldn’t be more excited about this project in the heart of Midtown and to be partnering with Develop Detroit.”

Develop Detroit is a Detroit-based, minority-owned developer of mixed-income communities and single-family homes across the city and for the full range of Detroiters.

“At Develop Detroit, we believe in high quality housing for all,” said Sonya Mays, president and CEO of Develop Detroit. “This development not only will become home to Detroiters of all walks of life, but is also one that reflects the needs and desires of our neighbors in the community.”

The project exemplifies public-private partnerships and brought together many partners to achieve the complex financing structure, including:

  • From the City of Detroit: $2 million in HOME, $1.71 million in community development block grants, $6.7 million from a Section 108 loan for the parking structure.
  • From the Michigan Economic Development Corporation/Michigan Strategic Fund: $4 million in funding from the Community Revitalization Program (CRP) and $2.25 million in Michigan Brownfield Tax Credits
  • $9.8 million in New Market Tax Credit (NMTC) equity from PNC Bank, raised through NMTC allocations from Building America CDE Inc., Michigan Community Capital, Cinnaire and PNC Bank.
  • A $4 million first mortgage from PNC Bank and $5 million in financing through Prudential Financial.Rendering place in aerial view of neighborhood
  • $250,000 from the Home Depot Foundation to assist with housing for veterans.
  • $300,000 in social impact financing from the Quicken Loans Community Fund.

Sugar Hill was a thriving entertainment/nightlife district in the 1940s-1960s, with many African-American-owned establishments. The Sugar Hill Arts District was designated a national and local historic district in 2002, based on its history as a center of Detroit jazz and entertainment venues serving diverse audiences. Today, Sugar Hill features a combination of residential, mixed-use, and arts-related businesses, and is home to cultural anchors such as the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) and the N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art.

“This project will help kick off an exciting new era for Sugar Hill and add an inclusive development to the neighborhood that will bring much-needed housing, not only for the growing number of Midtown residents, but also for our veterans,” said Donald Rencher, director of HRD. “HRD is committed to ensuring that Detroit’s renaissance includes a place for everybody, and we are proud to partner with Develop Detroit and POAH on this important project.”