Apartments, retail planned for long-vacant Lee Plaza

Candice Williams
The Detroit News
180 residential units and retail are planned for the long-vacant Lee Plaza tower near New Center
Detroit. The vacant building is seen here on Thursday, February 14, 2019.

Detroit — The city of Detroit plans to sell the long-vacant Lee Plaza to a joint venture that will redevelop the historic building into 180 residential units and retail.

The city announced Thursday that it has asked the Detroit City Council to approve the sale of the 1.7-acre site at 2240 W. Grand Boulevard for $350,000 to development partnership Roxbury Group and Ethos Development Partners. Council discussion on the purchase is expected to take place this month.

The Lee Plaza building at 2240 W. Grand Blvd. in Detroit is seen in this Dec. 11, 2017 file photo.
180 residential units and retail are planned for the long-vacant Lee Plaza tower near New Center
Detroit. The vacant building is seen here on Thursday, February 14, 2019.
Missing portions of the roof can be seen on the Lee Plaza building in this file photo from Dec. 11, 2017.

Lee Plaza, located in the Northwest Goldberg neighborhood near New Center, has been vacant since 1997 and has fallen into disrepair. When it was built in 1928, the architecturally significant building housed one of the city’s luxury apartment hotels featuring concierge and room service.  It is one of two historic buildings for which the city requested redevelopment proposals in December; the other is the Woodland Apartments on Woodland Street.

“An entire generation of young Detroiters has known Lee Plaza only as that vacant eyesore next to Northwestern High School,” Mayor Mike Duggan said in a statement Thursday. “While this building has deteriorated significantly over the last two decades, we have tapped a development team that has saved many buildings others said were too far gone to be brought back to life.”

The vacant 15-story Lee Plaza Apartments, at 2240 West Grand Boulevard, were shuttered in 1997.

The development is expected to reserve at least 50 percent of its units for residents earning below the area median income level, which is between $40,000 and $24,000 annually or lower.

Construction is expected to start as early as 2021.

Developers have estimated that the restoration of the building will cost at least $50 million. Developers are expected to seek funding through the city’s $250 million Affordable Housing Leverage Fund as well as low income housing and federal historic tax credits.

The redevelopment plan comes after a $1.7 million transaction last year with the Detroit Housing Commission that included the transfer of the apartment buildings to the Detroit Building Authority.

Pending the sale, city officials say work continues to secure and clear the building, including roof repairs removal of debris and other materials in the building.

The Lee Plaza Apartments were opened Monday, May 15, 2017, during a news conference when the city of Detroit proposed to buy the building from the Detroit Housing Commission and transfer it to the Detroit Building Authority for redevelopment.

Among Roxbury Group’s renovation projects are the David Whitney Building and the Metropolitan Building. Ethos Development Partners has worked on more than 500 affordable housing units and is working on the redevelopment of the vacant Transfiguration School into mixed-income apartments.

“The redevelopment of the Lee Plaza presents not only a chance to preserve another of Detroit’s architectural gems, but also to preserve affordable housing options in our city,” said Joe Heaphy, president of Ethos Development Partners.

Twitter: @CWilliams_DN