The construction of The Sawyer Apartments, a $10.8 million mixed-use development located at 7303 W. McNichols in Detroit, was kicked off this week by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, URGE Development, N’Namdi Holdings, and Hosey Development.
The development will include 38 affordable housing units and 6,186 square feet of commercial space. The block-long development is the first ground-up construction of this scale to begin along the city’s recently completed McNichols streetscape running from Livernois Avenue to Greenlawn Avenue near the Marygrove campus.
“The Sawyer Art Apartments is a great example of Detroiters rebuilding Detroit in a way that is affordable for the residents who stayed in this community,” says Duggan. “This is a development team from Detroit that is truly community-focused. This new development will build on the energy and revitalization we have been witnessing along McNichols since we completed our streetscape project this fall.”
The development is part of the Strategic Neighborhood Fund (SNF) initiative, a partnership between the city of Detroit and Invest Detroit. The Sawyer Art Apartments will feature eight studio, 17 one-bedroom, and 13 two-bedroom units, all of which will be available at available rates between 60 percent and 80 percent of area median income.
This means individuals earning between $34,000 and $45,000 would be income-eligible to live there. In addition, the retail spaces will be offered at reduced rates to entrepreneurs to help bring more shops to the Live6 commercial corridor.
The three-story, 33,000-square-foot Sawyer Art Apartments is expected to create around 100 construction jobs and 25 permanent jobs. The building is expected to be completed in mid- to late 2023.
As part of the SNF, the apartments will build on the corridor’s dense, walkable community by offering coffee shops, restaurants and other activities to residents and students at University of Detroit Mercy, the Marygrove campus, and the strong shopping corridor along Livernois, one of the most heavily concentrated areas of Black entrepreneurship in the country.
“The Sawyer Art Apartments is an example of the type of catalytic projects that are needed and possible throughout the neighborhood in Detroit,” says Rod Hardamon, CEO of URGE Development Group. “These projects are challenging and need the collective support of the city, state, private financing, and foundation support. But, when done right, the impact cannot be understated.”
The McNichols corridor saw the completion of a $7 million streetscape overhaul as part of the SNF in October. Streetscapes are a central piece of the Strategic Neighborhood Fund’s plan to improve 10 neighborhoods across the city and in every council district.
“The Sawyer Art Apartments will provide an example of how art can be infused into affordable housing so, not only are we beautifying and upscaling our neighborhoods, we are also providing cultural prospective and preserving legacy,” says George N’Namdi, managing partner of N’Namdi Holding.
“Through the integration of the arts this development will highlight Live6 and the Fitzgerald/Bagley neighborhood’s rich cultural legacy of African Americans injecting new energy, resources, activity, people and enthusiasm into its local economy.”
The building is named in honor of contemporary Detroit artist Tylonn Sawyer, whose work often examines historical narratives and imagery to determine their role in what’s happening in America today.
This year, the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) Founders Junior Council selected, Sawyer’s painting “White on White: Stone Mountain” as the first work acquired for the museum’s permanent collection from their African American Art Acquisition Fund established in 2020.
Development of the apartments were enabled by funding and support from several Detroit and statewide partners. The Michigan Economic Development Corp. provided a $1.25 million subordinate loan, and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) provided a $1 million grant through the Detroit Brownfield Redevelopment Authority.
“The Sawyer Art Apartments project is transforming long-vacant, unused space into a vibrant property that will contribute to the walkability, vitality, and density of the Bagley Fitzgerald neighborhood, while also bringing affordable housing, increased economic activity in the neighborhood, and spaces for entrepreneurial growth,” says Michele Wildman, senior vice president of community development at the MEDC.
Invest Detroit, a mission-driven lender, investor, and partner, provided $3.5 million in the form of New Market Tax Credit allocation and $2.5 million through the SNF. Also supporting the project is Capital Impact Partners, a nonprofit community development financial institution, which provided $4.35 million in financing.
In addition, the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. (DEGC) provided financial underwriting and a PA 210 property tax abatement.
“This project is well aligned with Capital Impact’s goal of financially supporting experienced and emerging developers of color in Detroit who engage with their community to deliver high-impact projects,” says Ellis Carr, president and CEO of Capital Impact Partners.
“As we continue to work with partners and developers of color, we are constantly finding new ways to innovate and improve in order to help Black and Brown developers thrive.”