Development plan in Detroit's Islandview neighborhood hits snag
Detroit — A developer with plans to rehabilitate a multi-unit building in the Islandview neighborhood hit a delay Tuesday after residents said rents would be so unaffordable that they’d rather the property remain empty.
The Detroit City Council voted Tuesday to postpone until next week the vote for a brownfield plan for the 2119 Field Street Redevelopment Project, a proposed eight-unit townhome complex at Field and Kercheval. The plan would reimburse property taxes to the developer K8 Development LLC for up to 30 years.
Some residents say the developer has been dismissive of their concerns; City Council President Pro Tem Mary Sheffield said the developer has yet to reach out to her office to discuss the matter.
“The problem is the standards, the rubric that people use to determine what’s good and what’s bad doesn’t consider what the community needs or wants,” said Tristan Taylor, a volunteer organizer for the Charlevoix Village Association. “When (Councilman James Tate) asked if you’d rather have it vacant or something in it, our thing is what’s the difference if we can’t afford to be there?”
Developer Adam Schloff with K8 Partners LLC, said his team has reached out to the community, meeting with the Villages Community Development Corp. and attending a Five Alive meeting at the Church of the Messiah to present the project.
"As an outcome of our engagement with Church of the Messiah, our construction manager has hired members of Messiah programs on site to work on the construction of the building, and we continue to have a constructive dialogue with the pastors regarding other initiatives in which we may be able to participate," he said in an email Tuesday.
Still, some residents have said they have felt left out of the discussion.
The town homes at 2119 Field Street have sat empty for about 10 years and were once opened the elements. In the fall, the developer began preconstruction work on the project with the expectation to complete construction in late summer 2020.
Schloff said approval of the brownfield plan, valued at $279,000, is needed.
"The brownfield plan is an important part of the financial package that we have put together to make the project feasible, and to correct and abate the brownfield conditions of the site," he said.
Residents said they have concerns about rental rates ranging from $1,300 to $1,900, but Schloff did not confirm the potential rates on Tuesday. Through an agreement with the city, the developer will set aside at least 20% of the units — in this project, two of the eight units — as affordable based on the area median income.
According to Detroit Economic Growth Corp. documents, the 2119 Field Street Redevelopment Project would include eight, three-bedroom units with modern floor plans, private entry, including covered porches and private parking.
The nearly $2.5 million development is below the threshold to trigger the city’s community benefits ordinance that would require the developer to work out a benefits package for the community. Residents, however, said they would like to see the developer address their concerns in a memorandum of understanding.
Allison Laskey has worked with the Charlevoix Village Association for the last three years and helped spearhead a petition signed by about 200 residents, addressing alleged false promises made by the developer.
“Without a written agreement between the community and developer, this kind of behavior is incentivized,” Laskey said. “Council has the power to change that relationship between the community and the developer.”
“What value is this to the community when this development will be inaccessible to them?” she added.
Tate, who chairs the council’s Planning and Economic Development Committee, said Tuesday he did not want the issue to return to his committee, where it sat for three weeks.
“Keep in mind, we’ve seen deals that are far worse than this one,” he said. “This one is not egregious, in my opinion, at all. But we should adhere to the will of the folks in the neighborhood.”
Sheffield said she is disappointed in the lack of outreach. She said her office has made it clear to the administration they would like to have a meeting with the developer.
“He has been very dismissive with the community,” she said. “I think we need to switch the tone in which we’re operating here. He is requesting public dollars, so there needs to be some engagement with the community and I think it would be appropriate to reach out to my office as district council member to make sure that I have my issues addressed as well too and that has not happened.”
Staff Writer Christine Ferretti contributed.