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State gives $1M grant to renovate Detroit apartments

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — The state’s economic development board on Tuesday approved a $1 million grant toward a $10 million renovation of the Casamira Apartments building in Detroit’s New Center neighborhood.

The Michigan Strategic Fund board’s approval of the grant paves the way for the Central Detroit Christian Community Development Corp. to begin renovating the 44-unit apartment building in September, said Lisa E. Johanon, executive director of the faith-based nonprofit group.

Detroit is contributing $2.5 million in federal housing development funds plus granting $1.66 million in tax breaks, according to a briefing memo from the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

The 66-year-old Casamira Apartments building at 680 Delaware is in a historic district of Detroit’s resurging New Center neighborhood and has been vacant for three years after a fire damaged part of the fourth floor, Johanon said.

The building sits in a neighborhood where demand is rising for additional apartment rental space as construction of the nearby Woodward light rail project nears completion, she said.

“It’s on a block where everything else has been redeveloped,” Johanon said.

The state board approved the grant request Tuesday morning with just a few questions about whether it would be less expensive to tear down the building and construct a new one.

“It’s a beautiful building,” Johanon said. “There’s so many buildings the city does need to tear down that are totally devastated and unattractive. But this a beautiful edifice, and I think it would be a travesty for us to tear something down like that.”

The organization is getting $1 million in historic tax credits as well as a $3.7 million construction loan to finance the renovations, Johanon said.

Central Detroit Christian typically renovates single-family housing in the Piety Hill and Boston Edison neighborhoods, but has tackled smaller apartment building renovation projects, she said.

After the owner of the building died, Johanon said, a probate court deeded it to Central Detroit Christian, which had to pay $10,000 for title work and closing costs.

“This will be the largest project we’ve taken on,” she said.

The group is planning a top-to-bottom renovation of the building, replacing all windows, heating, cooling and electrical systems.

Central Detroit Christian also is redeveloping vacant lots at 90 and 100 Delaware it purchased from Detroit Public Schools to create a secured parking lot for the future tenants.


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