Historic Saint Rita apartment building in Detroit’s North end transformed into new affordable housing

The Saint Rita, an old apartment building in Detroit’s North End neighborhood that sat vacant and uninhabitable for years, is getting turned into affordable housing. The building on is set to provide permanent housing to homeless Detroiters.

On Wednesday, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Central City Integrated Health Inc., a Midtown group that provides primary health care in efforts to improve health disparities, marked the reopening of the 103-year-old, six-story red brick apartment building at 35 Owen Street across from old Northern High School on Woodward Avenue.

The St. Rita has undergone a $7.2 million top-to-bottom overhaul, including new hardwood floors, bay windows and cherry cabinets in its 26 one-bedroom apartments — all now fully furnished. There is even imported Greek marble in the hallways and main entryway.

To be eligible, applicants’ income could not exceed more than 30 percent of the area median income, which would mean no more than $14,000 a year. Tenants’ monthly rents will generally be a percentage of their income, such as $0 for those with zero income to $211 for those making $771 a month. It was built in 1916 and sat vacant since 2005. The building was damaged by fire and was lined up for demolition by the city in 2008, dodging the wrecking ball as Detroit fell into a financial crisis.

“At first, we thought we were going to have to knock it down,” said Duggan. “But then we got inside and saw it was structurally sound. We said this would be an ideal location for our next permanent supportive housing site.”  The apartment building will consist of 26 one-bedroom units which are each 750 square feet in size. There will also be on-site help for the residents to help them get back on their feet. For 32 hours a week, a Central City staffer will be on site to create community in the Saint Rita residence and connect residents with continuing educational, career, medical and counseling resources as needed.

Central City plans to continue its efforts to provide affordable housing, CEO Ryan Lepper said. It is looking to make further investments in the North End neighborhood, and Lepper announced its next project is an approximately $5 million redevelopment of the 70-unit Peterboro Place at 8 Peterboro St. about three blocks from Little Caesars Arena in Midtown. “It’s where developers are buying and building high-end property and people are being shifted out,” Lepper said. “We’re going to re-do those 70 units, but we’re not going to tell them to leave. We’re going to invite them back into their units.”

The Saint Rita redevelopment received $5.5 million in low-income housing and historic tax credits from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority. The city of Detroit’s home funds contributed $1.5 million and the Home Depot Foundation gave $250,000. Central City contributed $176,638.

The Rev. Jim Holly of nearby Little Rock Baptist Church brought the building to Duggan’s attention, concerned about safety for children walking by. An assessor found the building to be structurally sound, and the idea for it become the next permanent supportive housing project was raised.



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