A project to redevelop one of Detroit's last vacant high-rises, the 17-story Lee Plaza on West Grand Boulevard, is moving forward and construction work could start next summer.
The initial phase of the roughly $60 million project would rehab nine floors of the historic and long-empty building and create 117 apartments for income-eligible seniors on housing vouchers.
A later phase would redo seven more floors for additional housing, with the specific type of housing still to be determined.
The redevelopment is a joint effort by Detroit-based Roxbury Group and Ethos Development Partners and received a key approval this week for $1.5 million in Low-Income Housing Tax Credits from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority. The credits have a $15 million value to the project over 10 years.
David Di Rita, principal of The Roxbury Group, said in an interview Tuesday that those tax credits, as well as additional housing and historic tax credits still subject to approval, are critical for the project's financial feasibility.
Lee Plaza is at 2240 W. Grand Blvd., about a mile west of New Center and the Motown Museum and in a part of Detroit that hasn't seen many new developments.
It opened in 1927 as a luxury residential hotel and has been vacant since the 1990s, when it last operated as low-income senior housing. The tower is on the National Register of Historic Places.
"This is one of the last, if you will, lost high-rises of the late 20th century in Detroit," Di Rita said. "It’s stood vacant now for over 20 years. But we are very encouraged with the support we just received from the state that we’re going to be able to get moving on this project.”
If the project continues to receive the needed approvals, construction work could get underway by the middle of next year, Di Rita said.
The co-developers signed a $350,000 purchase agreement with the city for the building in 2019.
A 2016 redevelopment proposal for Lee Plaza by Detroit native Craig Sasser that would have transformed the entire building into market-rate housing never came to fruition.
Di Rita said that their project aimed to restore a significant amount of historic detail to the once-grand building, including to the ground floor.
"This is a very complicated project," he said. "The building is in an advanced state of decay, but we have spent a good deal of time evaluating the structure and we’re confident it can be restored.”
The redevelopment "will not only save an irreplaceable piece of Detroit’s history, but create 117 high quality affordable residences for seniors and an important anchor for the area of Grand River Ave. and Grand Boulevard," he said.
Under current plans, the 117 senior residences would be on floors 2 through 10, and floors 11 through 17 would contain a subsequent phase of housing.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Redevelopment of Detroit's long-vacant Lee Plaza moving forward