Detroit home project targets Fitzgerald neighborhood

Candice Williams
The Detroit News
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Detroit — A two-story house on Lilac Street was once filled with debris from the basement up.

Century Partners co-founder David Alade, center, discusses work during an open house press conference Wednesday.

It’s now been gutted and is undergoing a complete renovation as part of a $4 million project the city announced last year in an effort to makeover a portion of one Detroit neighborhood.

The developers, known as the Fitz Forward team, are working to improve the Fitzgerald neighborhood on the city’s northwest side.

The group, which consists of Century Partners and the Platform, showed off the house on Lilac Wednesday while announcing it had recently purchased from the Detroit Land Bank Authority an additional 119 parcels for the development, bringing the total to 128.

“This house was in really, really rough condition,” said David Alade, co-founder of Century Partners, as he stood on new wood flooring in the living room. “A low- to moderate-income household will be able to purchase what is really a whole new house.”

Carpenter Dave Brandt of Westwind Construction Co. works in a bedroom of a house on Lilac in the Fitzgerald neighborhood of Detroit.

The house was stripped down to the studs and given new mechanicals, flooring, drywall and light fixtures.

“It’s a real full gut rehab,” he said. “It’s really great for a first-time homebuyer or a young family.”

The group hopes to replicate that work throughout a quarter-square-mile area bounded by Puritan, McNichols, Livernois and Greenlawn.

Development work includes rehabbing 102 vacant homes, installing green infrastructure, such as paths and parks, and demolishing homes beyond repair. All of the rehabs are expected to be complete by 2020.

The first three homes under renovation are expected to be complete in August, Alade said.

The effort is a partnership between the Fitz Forward team and the city, which has contributed $1.7 million toward affordable-housing units.

The city is also paying for the demolition of 26 single-family homes that could not be saved. Those demolitions will cost an average of $15,000 each, said Donald Rencher, director of the city’s Housing and Revitalization Department.

Rencher said the city is pleased with the Fitz Forward team and its work.

“It’s a mammoth type of project for any developer to do, but they have been very good partners and have been sticking with us and been at the table with us throughout the time,” he said.

The cost to renovate each home starts at about $60,000, Alade said. As for what the homes could sell for, comparable sales in nearby Bagley are about $80,000, he said.

Work will begin in September on three more affordable houses and within 30 days work will begin on six houses to be sold at market rate or higher, Rencher said. City officials hope the project will be inclusive for those seeking to live in the neighborhood.

“This is our first step in this administration to do a very large, single family, scattered site project in a neighborhood,” Rencher said. “The community is involved, the city is involved and ensure that we’re actually building a neighborhood and revitalize and transform a neighborhood.

The project is about selling the community, said Henry Bright, whose company, Detroit Expediting and Development Group, is a contractor for the homes under renovation. He said he grew up nearby.

“I’ve seen this neighborhood, and I know what this neighborhood was,” he said. “The plan that they have in place is going to take it to something I know the neighborhood is going to enjoy. They’ve never had the green space, the parks. ... To bring the businesses back ... that’s what you want to see.”

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