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New Midtown Detroit development will "push the limits on design"

An early sketch of the proposed $32M development in Midtown Detroit's Sugar Hill historic district.
City of Detroit
An early sketch of the proposed $32M development in Midtown Detroit's Sugar Hill historic district.

Detroit’s already-booming Midtown area is getting another development boost.

This time, it’s in the form of a projected $32 million mixed-commercial residential development, designed by renowned architect Philip Freelon.

Freelon has designed several prominent buildings, including the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Freelon says this design is still very much in development stages. He wants input from the community before it’s finalized.

Freelon also thinks it’s important for the building to reflect Detroit, and the surrounding neighborhood’s rich arts and music legacy.

“How and why I don’t know yet, but I think it’s important for buildings of this type to be of the community,” Freelon said, “and not just a beautiful building that happens to be in Detroit on a certain corner.”

The proposal includes 84 new apartments, with 25% of those units earmarked as affordable housing.

In this neighborhood, that might range from around $700-900 a month in rent, based on the area’s current average median income.

Sonya Mays of Develop Detroit--one of the project’s co-developers with the group Develop Detroit, along with the national group Preservation of Affordable Housing, Inc.--says many details of the financing still need to be lined up, including the final land purchase. The goal is to break ground in the fall of 2018.

Mays said the ultimate deal will likely look like a number of similar recent downtown/Midtown Detroit development deals—a mix of private and public financing, including tax credits, federal funds through the city-administered affordable housing component.

“As a hometown girl, I’m just really, really excited,” Mays said.

“Now we’re getting to do stuff like really push the limits on design, and not just getting a building up because we can...it’s getting a well-designed building up. So I’m excited just to be part of that.”

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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