When developers first told the residents of an old apartment building on Davenport that they had plans to renovate it, move them back in and keep rents affordable, they were met with skepticism.
“It was actually really exciting for us because we knew we were going to,” said Todd Sachse of Broder & Sachse Real Estate.
On Thursday, more than two dozen returning tenants were invited to celebrate Broder & Sachse’s $12 million redevelopment of the Hamilton Midtown, a historic apartment building at 40 Davenport, just west of Woodward. The firm purchased the building, formerly known as the Milner Arms Apartments, in March 2016, and the residents moved out in summer 2017.
“They stood by what they said,” said tenant Dennis Williams while standing in the restored ballroom with bright lights, high ceilings and large windows. It now serves as a main-floor lounge.
“They did a great job,” Williams said. “I can’t wait to move back.”
Tenants like Williams were temporarily moved to other buildings while renovations were underway. Updates to the 105-year-old structure include adding common spaces that weren’t previously available in the building, such as a fitness and wellness center, dog washing station and bike repair station.
The building has 97 units with a mix of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units. Twenty-eight will remain affordable with those units currently occupied by returning tenants.
Market-rate apartments start at $722 per month for a studio unit. Rates start at $1,410 for a one-bedroom and $1,802 for a two-bedroom.
The cost-controlled units averaged about $600 per month before renovations. Their new pricing will be based on the developer’s promise not to increase rent beyond 5 percent upon the residents’ return. And rent will not increase by more than 1 percent annually for those residents, Sachse said.
Previously the Milner Arms Apartments, the building is now named after the project’s architect, Rainy Hamilton Jr. of Hamilton Anderson Associates.
Arthur Jemison, Detroit’s chief of services and infrastructure, said the project is an example of how to renovate an apartment building without displacing residents.
“Those guys took the risk of doing that; we came up with something, and it attracted a lot of the right kind of attention,” Jemison said.
The developer worked with Detroit’s Department of Housing and Revitalization, Midtown Detroit Inc. and the United Community Housing Coalition. The city supported tax abatements and funding to supplement the rents of tenants who lived elsewhere during the renovation.
Williams said he was paying $600 for a studio apartment, but he will return to a $650 one-bedroom unit.
“As long as that person chooses to live here, they can live here,” he said.