Detroit Prep opens on the city’s east side after $7 million renovation

For 10 years, former Anna M. Joyce Elementary School (8411 Sylvester Street) on Detroit’s east side sat vacant. This fall, it reopened as Detroit Prep. During its first two years, Detroit Prep was operating out of a nearby church basement. The refurbished school, located near Pingree Park, provides diverse, high-quality education for the children and families in the surrounding neighborhoods.

The 43,500-square-foot, three-story building features 21 classrooms, a kitchen, a cafeteria and a gathering/performance space. The property will also have room to build a playground and outdoor learning space to support Detroit Prep’s project-based learning curriculum. Twenty-eight construction jobs for the project and 35 full-time positions in the school were created.

“We are thrilled to finally own our future school home!” said Kyle Smitley, the school’s co-founder. “This was a long road, with raising money and all the renovations that needed to be done.”

The transaction was financed through a partnership of IFF, Capital Impact Partners and JPMorgan Chase & Co. Capital Impact Partners provided Detroit Prep with $1.725 million as part of a $6.9 million New Market Tax Credit transaction to renovate the building. IFF, a Midwest-based lender and real estate consultant, provided $2.75 million along with $6 million of New Market Tax Credit allocation, while JPMorgan Chase served as the tax credit investor.

Detroit Prep received additional funding from a variety of donors, including: Madonna, who presented a $100,000 matching challenge grant; Born and Raised Detroit Foundation, which gave $10,000 when Detroit Prep reached its first 500 donors; and Grey Ghost Detroit, who teamed with the city’s top chefs to raise $75,000 at Detroit Prep’s 1st Annual Chef’s Schoolyard in April 2018, and over $100,000 at the 2nd Annual Chef’s Schoolyard in May 2019.

“Restoring such a beautiful building in our neighborhood has truly been a joy,” said Smitley. “Detroit Prep is a special place, and Pingree Park is our perfect forever home. In tackling such a huge project as a tiny school, we could not have asked for better, more supportive partners than Capital Impact, IFF and JPMorgan Chase.”

Detroit Prep is the first diverse-by design public charter school in Detroit, which intentionally seeks out children and staff of diverse backgrounds for the benefit of all. The school offers an equitable, diverse education to give all students a foundation of academic excellence and character development.

Using research that shows all students do better when a school is diverse, Detroit Prep works to maintain a socioeconomic and racial balance in the school’s kindergarten through second grade population. The school plans to expand to support kindergarten through eighth grade by 2025, adding a grade level each year.

The building the houses Detroit Prep was constructed in 1910 and named after former educator Anna M. Joyce. For years, the school housed children in kindergarten through fifth grade, and even underwent a few name changes, until finally ending on Joyce Elementary School. It stayed functional, although dated and showing signs of aging and decay, until 2010 when it was permanently closed.

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