The vacant Holcomb Elementary school and the surrounding area in Old Redford are getting a new lease on life with a $6 million investment
The school, which has been empty for nearly 10 years, will become a 32-unit senior cooperative housing community called the St. Matthew Cooperative. The renovation will also include walking paths, parks and other public open space in the 5.5-acre footprint of the school.
A development group, DDC Group & Anchor Team, was selected by the City of Detroit to redevelop the school and adjoining vacant land after requesting proposals late last year. The decision was reached after a community engagement process to choose a proposal. The process started in summer 2017 with 10 community meetings held over a 12-month period before the development team was selected.
“The community engagement process for the Holcomb School Development has not just yielded robust conversation between the city and neighborhood but also contributed to the reinvigoration of inactive community groups and block cubs,” says Tommie Obioha, community representative on the proposal selection committee. “It has helped foster a renewed spirit of collaboration in the neighborhood. It means that the community can play an active role in deciding the course of its future.”
DDC Group and Anchor Team will continue the community engagement process to settle on final designs for the renovation of the school and the surrounding land before construction begins. Once complete, the developers expect to break ground as soon as summer 2019. Construction is expected to take about a year, with the building opening in summer 2020.
Holcomb is the first of the 77 vacant Detroit Public Schools buildings to be put back to use since the city acquired them from the Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) in 2015.
“The redevelopment plan for the old Holcomb Elementary School is exactly the type of development that we encourage as our neighborhoods grow,” says Donald Rencher, director of Housing and Revitalization. “This school has been an eyesore to everyone living in this neighborhood for nearly a decade. Now it will see new life, provide affordable housing for our senior citizens, and build new public spaces for the entire community.”
The school, located at 18100 Bentler St., is in the middle of the Grand River Northwest planning area. It is within walking distance of the vibrant commercial core of Old Redford near the intersection of Grand River Avenue and Lahser Road. Businesses like Motor City Java House, Sweet Potato Sensations and more line the streets bordering the neighborhood. The neighborhood is also within walking distance of the new Meijer grocery store along Grand River.
The school will be renovated into 32 cooperative units for senior citizens aged 62 and older, with 29 one-bedroom units and three two-bedroom units. All 32 units will be affordable for seniors making 80 percent of the area median income. The area median income at 80 percent, set by federal housing rules, is about $39,760 a year for a single person household.
The redevelopment will also include a community room, salon, fitness center, community kitchen, two courtyards, indoor reading alcoves, a café lounge and outdoor patio for the members of this unique cooperative facility. The community will be able to use the school’s former auditorium and have access to the community kitchen.
There are also plans for a new park and open space, including recreational space, a walking and biking trail and other park amenities, on the nearly four acres of vacant land surrounding the school. The walking and biking trails will eventually connect to the planned Arts Loop Neighborhood Greenway, which will begin design this fall. The three-mile trail will feature public art along the way and connect homes to the nearby Artist Village area as well as to the City’s planned open space amenities at the former Rogell golf course.
The open space and parking areas will include improved storm water management infrastructure, which will reduce flooding in the area.
“The development team considers the renovation of the Holcomb School as the center piece of a focused effort to reintroduce cooperative housing as an alternative homeowner model in this Old Redford Community,” says Armeace Williams, vice president of Anchor Team. “In the coming weeks the development team will submit plans to the appropriate city departments that proposes an additional phase of cooperative housing situated on both the school campus as well as contiguous blocks adjacent to the campus and community park. This cooperative phase will introduce both townhouse and ranch style units for families”
The development, located in the Old Redford neighborhood, is part of the larger Grand River Northwest planning area, where the city is implementing a plan that includes strategies for small business, streetscapes and public space, housing, and parks. The plan, under the $130 million Strategic Neighborhood Fund effort, was developed in an intensive year-long engagement process in the Grand River Northwest area, in which residents worked with city officials to develop these strategies.