Black Developers in Detroit Hope to Make Affordable Assisted Living a Reality Soon

Two developers are slated to bring an affordable assisted living facility to Detroit’s Russell Woods/Nardin Park neighborhood and provide senior residents access to a full suite of supportive services at their future abode.

Miami-based Fabiola Fleuranvil, one of the developers on the project, and native Detroiter Gregory Jackson, automotive mogul and project co-developer, have teamed up to redevelop a dilapidated 138-unit former senior housing facility at 11421 Dexter Ave. into an affordable assisted living facility. This will help fill in the city’s shortage in senior housing, Fleuranvil said. The developers say that the Russell Woods/Nardin Park neighborhood presents “great momentum to activate this underinvested neighborhood with new developments and amenities.”

Fabiola Fleuranvil

Jackson, who grew up in that neighborhood, is excited to be bringing some new development to his old stomping grounds.


“I’m excited to be back in the neighborhood that I grew up in and to share in the vision for its revitalization,” Jackson said. “I remember when the building was first built in 1974. I know what the Russell Woods/Nardin Park neighborhood was like back in its heyday and I believe in what it could be moving forward. So, we’re excited to make this commitment to be part of this community’s rebirth.”


“We’re excited to be among one of the first major residential developments coming to the Nardin Park neighborhood, and we have been meeting with the City’s Housing & Revitalization and Planning & Development departments to align this project with the larger needs in the community,” Fleuranvil said. “America’s population is aging and in Detroit, more than 15 percent of its residents are age 60 and older. Without this and future developments in the city’s senior housing infrastructure, Detroit will not be prepared to meet the growing needs of senior residents.”


The $20 million project is projected to be completed in an 18 to 21 months with on-site amenities in the 138-unit building to include:


  • Adult day care
  • Commercial kitchen and dining room with three meals daily
  • Fitness center
  • Transportation
  • Computer room and broadband access in the apartments
  • Beauty salon, community room and social activities
  • Housekeeping and assistance with Activities of Daily Living


The developers are in the process of pursuing financing from various sources, including the city, Community Development Financing Institutions (CDFIs) and tax credits from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.


“It is an extensive financing and construction process and a long-term vision that we have for the community,” she said


The project’s affordability will be at or below 60 percent of area median income for the city and will primarily rely on a capital stack that includes Low Income Housing Tax Credits, tax exempt bond financing, HOME Funds, and other subsidies and debt to remain 100% affordable for the residents, Fleuranvil confirmed. With a rough estimate of 40% of the city’s Section 8 voucher carriers being seniors, the facility will combine the vouchers with Medicaid waivers to pay for the services and support the cost to residents, she added.


Fleuranvil said that she and Jackson are not the first to be developing an affordable assisted living facility in the city but are “among the first” as there is a shortage and a need for more inventory.


She added that assisted living is not typically an affordable product and is largely self-pay for seniors who can afford it. Most assisted living facilities do not accept Medicaid or Section 8 vouchers, and for some builders, it is sometimes “much easier” to not have to deal with Medicaid, income limitations or other aspects when operating assisted living facilities.


“There is a large segment of seniors that cannot afford to live in assisted living as the cost can be upwards of $4,000 to $7,000 out-of-pocket per month,” she said, adding that affordability has left a huge gap to fill. “Pensions are running out a lot quicker; you can’t pay $4,000 out-of-pocket and be on a fixed income. That affordability is a critical need, and that’s what our project will provide – affordable living based on your income in addition to the amenities and supportive services for seniors that are finding it much more difficult to live alone or without help.”


Fleuranvil said that her and Jackson make good partners.


“He’s been in business well before I have been in business,” Fleuranvil said. “He takes risks; he’s entrepreneurial and was not afraid to go into unchartered territory. That is important to me, and I am excited to have this collaboration.”


The millennial developer added that the two met when she came to Detroit to explore development opportunities. She was seeking out an emerging market to expand to and with a lower barrier to entry, and Detroit fit the bill. Fleuranvil says that the developer community invited her in and connected her with Jackson.


“As a young Black female developer, equitable development is very important to me, and I appreciated that Detroit had a built-in ecosystem of successful Black developers,” she said. “For me as a developer, and as I continue to grow my business, I was looking for a market, a community, where I could plant some seeds and grow,” she said adding that the “comeback city” has something in store for those looking for growth opportunities and that could be good for talent attraction. “As the outsider, Detroit has embraced me, and everyone has been very excited to see this project come to fruition.”


The developers state that their vision for the Russell Woods/Nardin Park neighborhood is far greater than this initial project. The city is currently in the midst of a $3 million streetscape project, and the neighborhood also aligns with the City’s Strategic Neighborhood Fund. The developers say that they are discussing with the city ways to address the blight in the neighborhood and reactivate its commercial corridors with other development projects.

Jackson said that he saw the best of the community growing up and he saw the deterioration of the community in the last 30 years or so.

“I have relatives, friends that still live there; I know of the great need for housing because so much of the housing in that area has deteriorated, been torn down, needs renovation — but no one has come into that area and did any kind of housing,” he said, adding that this project provides that opportunity for seniors.

Jackson added that by late 2022 or early 2023 they want to have a “shovel in the ground” in terms of redevelopment.


“There is great need in the communities of Detroit outside of downtown,” Jackson said. “I think it is sort of the new frontier of development within the city and I hope that this would be a project that would signal to other African Americans and other developers to get involved and let’s rebuild the neighborhoods of Detroit.”


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