Rain showers and cloudy, overcast skies to begin the day don’t make for the best photo opportunities at a groundbreaking ceremony. Still, developer Roderick Hardamon, CEO of URGE Development Group, found Thursday’s weather befitting, “Today proves that even through the clouds and the storms, the light can shine and change can come.”
Thursday, leaders and city officials broke ground on Detroit’s latest change, The West End Gallery District. It is designed to be a multipurpose space shining a light on galleries, retail, and creative businesses with nearby residential neighborhoods. The first project underway in the district is the Osi Art Apartments, a 30,000 square foot building located along Grand River.
“This is what we need…Grand River is starting to come back in a very positive way. This is now another major step,” said Mayor Duggan of the 30 new residential units the apartment complex will provide. “Half of them are permanently set aside for people with 80 percent of the area income. We believe people of all incomes should live in all neighborhoods.”
Mayor Duggan added creating affordable housing in Detroit is no small feat.
“Affordable housing doesn’t build itself. City government has to be very proactive and then you need a whole group of bankers and private partners. It was quite a group that pulled this off.”
The group, the mayor, is referencing is led by George N’Namdi (N’Namdi Holdings) and co-developer Roderick Hardamon (URGE). N’Namdi, who established one of Detroit’s cultural gems in the N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art, says he doesn’t envision Osi Art Apartments being just another structure within Detroit’s landscape.
“So many buildings in the city have been designed with brick and mortar, and someone would put a design on it or tag it with graffiti. Here we want to be conscious of what we are putting on the building, said N’Namdi. “When we finish this building, and you’re driving down Grand River if you don’t say ‘wow,’ we haven’t done our job.”
Elevating what you see is just the prelude. By establishing the West End Gallery District, N’Namdi is seeking to enrich family lifestyles.
“Part of our mission is assisting all Detroiters, particularly the ones that are disenfranchised, in terms of raising their living standard.”
Co-developer Rod Hardamon said the launch of Osi Art Apartments and the West End Gallery District is a significant win for the community.
“This is a special project. We’re really focused on making sure we not only provide opportunities for affordable housing, but provide opportunities to show new and young developers all this is possible…to do it in an area of town that hasn’t seen new construction, new activity in decades it means a lot. It’s important to focus on not only the economic growth of the city but focus on inclusive, equitable economic growth and we hope to be a model of that.”
As for the West End Gallery District’s plans, N’Namdi and Hardamon are working towards setting up three intersecting junctions for community gathering, neighborhood retail, and the arts.
Hardamon aspires to inspire more change agents within the city, especially those that look like him.
“The Detroit development community is inclusive, diverse, and has a lot to bring to bare. We hope people continue to support that activity in the city.”
Osi Art Apartments is scheduled to be complete in 2022. The first project to access the $48 million Detroit Housing for the Future Fund just introduced last month, receiving a $470,000 investment for the apartments.