The City of Detroit is hoping to transform the vacant Transfiguration School in the city’s Banglatown neighborhood into a one-of-a-kind mixed-income apartment building, thanks to a collaboration with the Archdiocese of Detroit (AOD).

The Department of Housing & Revitalization is seeking proposals from qualified developers for the purpose of developing the architectural gem into 15-25 residential units, 20 percent of which will be affordable. Under the collaboration, the city will market the building for market and affordable housing redevelopment and assist with affordable housing resources and permitting.

This collaboration is a result of the shared drive to strengthen neighborhoods between the Mayor and the Archdiocese.

The school, established in 1925, served Catholics living in northeast Detroit until it closed in 2005. The 21,500-square-foot Transfiguration School Building is located at the southeast corner of Luce Street and Syracuse Street, on the campus of what’s now called St. John Paul II Parish.

The Banglatown neighborhood, near the Detroit-Hamtramck border, is home to one of the nation’s densest clusters of Bangladeshi-Americans and the only place in America where one can get a voting ballot in Bengali. The neighborhood is also home to large numbers of African-American, Yemeni, Polish, and Bosnian residents.

Nearly two-thirds of Banglatown residents live at or below the poverty level and a mixed-income residential development will provide modern, affordable housing options for the community.

“Banglatown is such an important piece of our city’s fabric and a neighborhood that has struggled with a high rate of poverty and abandonment,” said Mayor Duggan. “Whenever we can, we are going to find ways to bring new investment into this neighborhood and others like it. This new partnership with the Archdiocese is a great first step for those efforts in Banglatown.”

“I am honored to help facilitate bringing this important development to my Bengali constituents in the 3rd District” said Councilman Scott Benson. “The Transfiguration project stands to be a catalyst project for Banglatown and furthers my goals of new, first-class housing being developed in the 3rd District.”

The Archdiocese approached the City shortly after Mayor Duggan began his term in 2014 to discuss ways to work together, said the City’s director of housing and revitalization, Arthur Jemison. As the Mayor’s strategy for strengthening neighborhoods that have active commercial corridors emerged, the AOD and City sought to work together to achieve redevelopment of AOD assets in ways that support the vision. Jemison said that partnerships like this one with the Archdiocese have proven effective in other major cities.

“Working collaboratively to redevelop a building like this makes a lot of sense,” said Jemison. “It will send a signal to developers that the city is in strong support and engaged, which we expect will encourage more quality developers to submit proposals.”

Jemison added that the City and AOD are working to make this pilot project work and if it does, hopes to take a similar joint marketing approach to other neighborhoods. “Buildings like Transfiguration were anchors in many neighborhoods and can be again, but with a different use,” he said.

Archdiocesan Director of Properties Michael McInerney said, “We are pleased to work with the City in re-purposing our unused properties in ways that support the health of the Archdiocese and will help stabilize the broader community. He added, “We’re optimistic that other like opportunities will present themselves in the future.”

Proposal requirements

Competitive bids should include a well-designed, walkable, environmentally sustainable, mixed-income neighborhood development. Project proposals also should include plans to preserve the building’s historic architecture. Many of the building’s original features such as terrazzo flooring, tin ceilings and original woodwork are in excellent condition. The City encourages the preservation and restoration of these items.

More detailed program requirements can be found in the project RFP. Questions about the RFP and submissions can be sent electronically to transfiguration@detroitmi.gov. To be considered, all proposals must be received by 5:00pm EST on May 22nd, 2017.

The release can be accessed at http://www.detroitmi.gov/how-do-i/housing-and-revitalization-rfps.

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