Transfiguration school building to be transformed into mixed-income housing

The Transfiguration Academy school building, built in 1925, will be rehabilitated to be a mixed-income residential building in Detroit’s Banglatown neighborhood. (Dan Meloy | The Michigan Catholic)

Redevelopment possible through City of Detroit, archdiocesan partnership

DETROIT — From locker rooms to living rooms, changes are coming to the building that once housed Transfiguration Academy.

In a first-of-its-kind redevelopment project between the City of Detroit and the Archdiocese of Detroit, the city is looking to transform the now-vacant Transfiguration School building, located at 13300 Syracuse, which sits on the grounds of St. John Paul II Parish on Simon Street in Detroit.

Arthur Jemison, director of the Housing and Revitalization Department for the City of Detroit, stood with Lory McGlinnen, director of Parish Life for the Archdiocese of Detroit, discussing the project moving forward and what it will bring the “Banglatown” neighborhood.

“Today we’re in the Transfiguration School, part of the St. John Paul II complex, to announce a partnership with the Archdiocese of Detroit, part of a joint marketing effort with this building to turn it into a multi-family housing facility,” Jemison said.

The estimated $5 million project will turn the 20,000-square-foot property into a mixed-income apartment building that will have an estimated 15 to 25 residential units, with 20 percent of the units being designated for affordable housing.

“The archdiocese and the city meet from time to time to talk about developing and planning efforts they would like to engage in,” Jemison said. “The archdiocese came to the city recently, saying they had properties that could potentially be reused.”

Jemison said the school building, built in 1925 to serve families of Transfiguration Parish, the boundaries of which straddled the Detroit-Hamtramck border, is ideal for redevelopment into affordable housing, working in line with Mayor Mike Duggan’s State of the City address in February, in which he stressed the need for more affordable housing projects in Detroit’s neighborhoods.

Established in 1925, Transfiguration School served Catholics living in northeast Detroit until it closed in 2005. The 21,500-square-foot building sits on the corner of Luce and Syracuse streets. (Dan Meloy | The Michigan Catholic)

The property was listed on the city’s website Wednesday for developers to place bids. Specific details of a development project are still unknown, but Jemison said a probable outcome would be for the archdiocese to sell the school building to the developer or have the developer sign a long-term lease.

“We would like this redevelopment to be a model for future projects,” Jemison said. “The city owns a number of buildings like this. This one belongs to the archdiocese, and it’s in good condition. Other cities enjoy that relationship with their respective archdioceses, and we’re seeking to form one with the Archdiocese of Detroit for projects like this. If it makes sense for the archdiocese, then it’s a good way to dispose of properties that may not be in use and would be good for community redevelopment.”

Jemison said the city is looking forward to working with the St. John Paul II Parish community on what current uses the parish has for the building, and with residents of the Banglatown neighborhood on their needs for the revitalization.

Transfiguration School opened in 1925 and closed in 2005, with the parish loaning the building to a charter school for a number of years before the charter school moved out two years ago.

“We’re pleased to work with the City of Detroit in repurposing our unused properties in ways that support the health of the Archdiocese of Detroit and will stabilize the broader community,” wrote Michael McInerney, archdiocesan director of properties, in a release. “We’re optimistic that other like opportunities will present themselves in the future.”

Jemison said the city is now taking bids on the property and hopes to have residents moving into the former school building as early as 2018.

The affordable housing units are available for households that make 80 percent or less of the area median income calculation for the Detroit, Warren and Livonia area.

According to Jemison, a family of four that makes $53,000 in household income would qualify for affordable housing, as would a family of two that makes $42,000 or a single person who makes $37,000.

Jemison estimated that 50 to 60 percent of Detroit residents would be able to qualify for the affordable housing units, with the rest being set at market rate.

“We’re hoping with more development in the neighborhoods, it will lead to ‘naturally occurring affordable housing,’” Jemison said. “So if you’re a parishioner or former parishioner interested in moving back to the city, looking for a nice area, we’re hoping a place like this can create more supply, more places where people can afford to live and build up a strong neighborhood community.”