The City of Detroit has vacant schools all over the city and developers have begun to give them a future. The latest is a thirty-two-unit senior cooperative housing community, St. Matthew Cooperative, which will be coming to the Old Redford neighborhood in a $6 million project that will renovate and restore the vacant Holcomb Elementary School. The building, abandoned and empty for nearly 10 years, will see new life with the renovation, which will also include walking paths, parks and other public open space in the 5.5-acre footprint of the school.
A development team comprised of DDC Group & Anchor Team was selected by the City of Detroit to redevelop the school and adjoining vacant land after requesting proposals late last year. After a community engagement process to choose a proposal, the city went with the DDC Group and Anchor Team. Holcomb is the first of the 77 vacant Detroit Public Schools buildings to be put back to use since the city acquired them from DPSCD in 2015.
“The redevelopment plan for the old Holcomb Elementary School is exactly the type of development that we encourage as our neighborhoods grow,” said Donald Rencher, director of Housing and Revitalization. “This school has been an eyesore to everyone living in this neighborhood for nearly a decade. Now it will see new life, provide affordable housing for our senior citizens, and build new public spaces for the entire community.”
The school is located at 18100 Bentler Street, in the middle of the Grand River Northwest planning area and within walking distance of the vibrant commercial core of Old Redford near the intersection of Grand River Avenue and Lahser Road. Businesses like Motor City Java House, Sweet Potato Sensations and more line the streets bordering the neighborhood. The neighborhood is also within walking distance of the new Meijer grocery store along Grand River.
The development team plans to renovate the school into 32 cooperative units for senior citizens aged 62 and older, with 29 one-bedroom units and 3 two-bedroom units. All 32 units will be affordable for seniors making 80 percent of the area median income. The area median income at 80 percent, set by federal housing rules, is about $39,760 a year for a single person household. St. Matthew Cooperative will serve to reintroduce the cooperative form of homeownership and acquaint the public with the unique advantages that cooperative housing offers.
The redevelopment of the school will also include a community room, salon, fitness center, community kitchen, two courtyards, indoor reading alcoves, a café lounge, and outdoor patio for the members of this unique cooperative facility. The redevelopment of the school will also provide community access in the school’s former auditorium with access to the community kitchen.
On the nearly 4 acres of vacant land surrounding the school, the developers plan to build a new park and open space for the neighborhood, including recreational space, a walking and biking trail and other park amenities. The open space and parking areas will also include improved storm water management infrastructure, which will reduce flooding in the area. The walking and biking trails will eventually connect to the planned Arts Loop Neighborhood Greenway, which will begin design this fall. The three-mile trail will feature public art along the way and connect homes to the nearby Artist Village area as well as to the city’s planned open space amenities at the former Rogell golf course.
“The development team considers the renovation of the Holcomb School as the center piece of a focused effort to reintroduce cooperative housing as an alternative homeowner model in this Old Redford Community,” said Armeace Williams, vice president of Anchor Team. “In the coming weeks the development team will submit plans to the appropriate city departments that proposes an additional phase of cooperative housing situated on both the school campus as well as contiguous blocks adjacent to the campus and community park. This cooperative phase will introduce both townhouse and ranch style units for families.”
Before construction can begin, DDC Group and Anchor Team will continue the community engagement process to settle on a final design for the renovation of the school and the surrounding land. Once complete, the developers expect to break ground on the $6 million project as soon as summer 2019. Construction is expected to take about a year, with the building opening in summer 2020.