Detroit apartment buyers vow to keep seniors as tenants

Louis Aguilar
The Detroit News
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In a rare move in a downtown Detroit that’s going upscale, two historic buildings have been purchased, and the new owners are vowing to keep their low-income seniors as tenants.

The Washington buildings — which comprise the Industrial-Stevens apartments — represent two of the four remaining downtown apartments that serve low-income seniors who rely on federal assistance, known as Section 8, to pay monthly rent. Two years ago, another downtown building with Section 8 residents was bought, renovated and renamed The Albert. The residents were given financial assistance and one year to move. The Albert now charges some of the highest residential rents in the city.

The residents of the 165 units at the Industrial-Stevens buildings will not face that fate, the new owners said.

“We believe in the mission (of Section 8). It adds to the diversity of the neighborhood,” said Stacy Fox, a principal of The Roxbury Group, the Detroit developers that partnered with Invest Detroit Foundation to buy the buildings at the corner of Washington and Grand River. The sales price wasn’t disclosed.

The Industrial building at 1410 Washington and the Stevens at 1258 Washington are notable structures.

The taller of the two, the Industrial, is named after its original tenant, the Industrial State Bank. The 22-story structure was designed by famed Detroit architect Louis Kamper, who also drafted such landmarks as the Book Cadillac, Book Tower and Broderick Tower. The team plans to rename this building the “Louis Kamper.”

The Stevens is the older of the two properties, and once housed the downtown branch of Manufacturers National Bank.

The buildings were converted to senior housing under the Section 8 program in the early 1980s, according to the developers.

Washington is the location of the other two apartment buildings that still serve Section 8 residents downtown. One is the Washington Boulevard Building, which was almost part of the sale of the Industrial and Stevens structures, according to Roxbury Group. The other Section 8 apartments are in the Himelhoch Building.

The Section 8 apartments are located amid many historic buildings that have seen hundreds of millions of dollars in investments, with many being sold and undergoing major renovations. Among those projects are the David Whitney Building, which is now a boutique hotel and rental apartments. Other long-neglected buildings such as Detroit Saving Bank, Griswold Capitol Park and Capitol Park Lofts are being thoroughly upgraded and slated to add more than 400 new units and roughly 25,000 square feet of neighborhood retail space.

Roxbury Group is involved in several high-end development projects downtown. But David Di Rita, another Roxbury principal, said the firm was always committed to keeping the Industrial-Stevens apartments for Section 8 seniors. “A vibrant, mixed income neighborhood has always been the goal of Washington Boulevard,” he said.

Neither property has seen significant renovation in decades, the developers said. The developers hope to upgrade all major building systems (heating, cooling and electrical), residential units and appliances, the lobbies and common areas. In addition, the team plans to fill the empty first-floor retail spaces in both properties.

Roxbury and Invest Detroit are pursuing tax credit support for the redevelopment of the properties through the state-sponsored Federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program.

Twitter: LouisAguilar_DN

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