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Development continues the move into the neighborhoods, with the city announcing yesterday, Sept. 21,  a plan and developer for the vacant Transfiguration School in the Banglatown neighborhood.

The old Catholic school, vacant since 2005, will see new life as a 23-unit apartment building featuring one and two-bedroom units, where 100 percent of the apartments will be provided as affordable housing at 60 percent of the area median income. The building will feature spaces that will reflect the needs and wishes of the residents in and around the building. The $6.4 million project from Ethos Development Partners and Building Blocks Nonprofit Housing Corporation includes the renovation of the historic building, constructed in 1925, and proposed construction of a brand new third floor. Ethos and Building Blocks will acquire the building from the Archdiocese later this year.

The project also includes a neighborhood stabilization plan, focusing on the most blighted parts of the neighborhood. 18 of the most blighted vacant homes near the school will be demolished to provide needed relief for the health and safety concerns of current residents and to open up space for future residential development. Later, Ethos and Building Blocks will organize resource fairs to inform and link community members to programs and services like the city’s 0% Interest Home Repair Loan program and the Detroit Land Bank Authority’s Side Lot Program.

Since taking office, it has been a goal of Mayor Mike Duggan to bring back density and other amenities to neighborhoods across the City. Similarly, the Detroit Archdiocese has been looking for ways to strengthen its parish communities. In this context, the City and Archdiocese began informal discussions in 2014 on ways they could work together. The Transfiguration School project is a result of that dialogue.

“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,” said Arthur Jemison, Director of Housing and Revitalization. “Working collaboratively to redevelop a building like this makes a lot of sense.”

Ethos Development Partners, a Detroit-based developer known for their work in affordable housing and community development, will lead the project. Principals from the group are best known for the $50 million rehabilitation of the Bell Building on Oakman Boulevard. The Bell Building now provides 155 units of Permanent Supportive Housing for formerly homeless individuals and is the new corporate headquarters for the Neighborhood Service Organization (NSO), while acting as a kick starter for additional community development in that neighborhood.

Building Blocks Non-Profit Housing Corporation, a Michigan nonprofit corporation and 501(c)(3), was founded in 1994 with a mission to foster and sponsor development that supports the economic wellbeing of low income individuals, families and communities by providing affordable housing and transformative development. Building Blocks most recently completed the $26 million historic rehabilitation of the River Crest Apartments to provide 161 units of affordable housing on Detroit’s lower east side. The transformation of this property removed a center of crime and replaced it with safe, quality housing for families.

“This is just another great example of some serious development in one of our most diverse neighborhoods,” said Mayor Mike Duggan. “Banglatown is a vibrant, growing community and I am so excited that we are starting to build and increase density in this area with a partner that has made a strong commitment to the entire neighborhood.

The project is part of the city’s plan to strengthen neighborhoods and active nearby commercial corridors through strategic investment in developments like this. A larger planning study will begin in Banglatown early next year to coordinate with existing community groups and identify innovative yet realistic solutions that the city can implement. The goal is to replicate projects like the Transfiguration School renovation throughout the entire neighborhood.

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 area is the home of Detroit’s only cricket pitch, which opened earlier this year and is a popular sport among Bangladeshi-Americans. 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 the Transfiguration School development will now provide modern, affordable housing options for the community.

The project will be funded through HOME funds, historic tax credits and low income tax credits. Construction is expected to begin by fall 2018, with a projected completion in late 2019.


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