$108M Lafayette Park housing development gets underway in Detroit
A $108-million residential development in Detroit’s Lafayette Park with 374 planned apartments and condominiums got underway Thursday with the start of demolition of an abandoned university tower on the future building site.
The vacant eight-story tower, which dates to the early 1950s and once housed Wayne State University’s pharmacy program, could be completely razed by the end of April. Once that behemoth is down, construction can begin on the new Lafayette West project, which could open by late 2020.
The project, being developed by Novi-based Ginosko Development Co., calls for 314 for-rent apartments and 60 for-sale condos on the 5-acre site. There would be several rows of townhouses, two five-story mid-rises and one 13-story high-rise.
Twenty percent of the residences would be set aside as “affordable” units for those with incomes at 80 percent or less of the area’s median income. That level is currently $38,450 for an individual, $43,950 for a couple and $54,900 for a family of four.
The remaining non-condo residences would be mostly studio and one-bedroom market-rate apartments. Some apartments could rent for $1,000 or less. Prices for the condos have yet to be set.
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Lafayette West is just one of several market-rate housing developments that are just getting underway or been proposed for Lafayette Park in the past year.
Others include a planned 231-unit development next to the Dequindre Cut at 1920 Gratiot by The Platform development firm and a 346-unit development at 1100 St. Aubin.
Ginosko president and CEO Amin Irving, 41, led Thursday’s demolition kickoff. He and a group of neighborhood residents and civic leaders took hammer swings to tear apart a brick wall outside the derelict tower, once known as Shapero Hall.
“Our entire team is just so honored to be a part of the revitalization of the city of Detroit,” Irving said.
Detroit housing director Arthur Jemison praised the project and said he is eager to see the empty tower come down. Ginosko bought the site for $16 million this summer from real estate investor Dennis Kefallinos, who acquired it from Wayne State for $2.3 million in 2007.
“We’re about to go out and knock down one of the major eyesores in the city. I’m excited about that,” Jemison said.
The housing director also said he is glad to see Irving raising his profile as a developer in Detroit.
“This is the kind of guy we need in this town,” Jemison said. “He is talented, a person with vision, African American, and (he) represents this city well with a mix of partners from all over the region.”
Ginosko worked closely with Lafayette Park neighborhood groups during the project’s planning phase.
Neighborhood resident Matthew Morin, 41, who lives in a Mies van der Rohe townhouse near the tower, said he welcomes the demolition and Ginosko’s future development.
“It’s a hulk of a building that has for many many years not been properly secured,” Morin said of the tower. “It’s had people living in … it’s not a safe place. We’ve had a fire over there and people have had problems with personal safety. So having this change is a huge benefit.”
Lafayette West is one of the first housing developments in Detroit to make use of a new federal program known as Opportunity Zones that was part of the Republicans’ late 2017 tax overhaul legislation.
The program incentivizes investment in lower-income areas by offering investors discounts off capital gains taxes on money that they invest in projects in the designated zones.
“The opportunity zone benefit has been wonderful in the fact it provides incentives as a catalyst to make this a reality,” Irving said.