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Detroit City Council Approves Bedrock, Woodborn 900-Unit Mixed-Income Residential Development at Douglass Site

July 31, 2018

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Detroit City Council Approves Bedrock, Woodborn 900-Unit Mixed-Income Residential Development at Douglass Site

  • 25% of rental units to be affordable housing
  • Sale to support renovations, capital improvements, preservation of public affordable housing across the City

July 31, 2018 (DETROIT) — Today the Detroit City Council approved a Development Agreement that will pave the way for significant affordable housing investment across Detroit. Bedrock, in partnership with local developer Woodborn Partners, proposed a mixed-income neighborhood on one of Detroit’s largest vacant properties; the 22-acre former Frederick Douglass public housing site (“Douglass Site”) bringing another major investment in affordable housing to the city.

With the proceeds from the $23 million sale, the Detroit Housing Commission (DHC) will invest in existing public housing, preservation and renovation of other affordable housing units throughout the entire city, as well as construction job training initiatives for Detroit residents.

“This deal is a win for the entire City of Detroit. First, a long-vacant site adjacent to downtown will finally see redevelopment that will bring quality housing with significant affordable options and more amenities to the neighborhood,” said Mayor Mike Duggan. “Second, the proceeds from this sale will transform public housing in Detroit by accelerating the preservation and renovation of affordable units across the city, allowing us to keep people in their homes and provide a higher-quality of housing.”

The site has been vacant since the former Frederick Douglass public housing structures were demolished in 2014. The site provides a unique opportunity to build a bridge between the Brush Park and Eastern Market neighborhoods, given its location and size, creating a thriving corridor of new housing and public markets. Bedrock and its partners’ proposed master plan is designed to connect this site to surrounding areas while creating a wide range of housing options in the heart of the city.

“The Douglass Site gives us the unique opportunity to create a development that will offer something for everyone and bring a sense of community back to a space with such a rich historic legacy for so many Detroiters,” said Dan Gilbert, Chairman of Bedrock. “Parks, courtyards, retail, affordable housing and for-sale units are all in the mix on this project and we look forward to working with our partners to create a thriving and diverse community with opportunity for all Detroiters to enjoy.”

Bedrock has engaged Jonathan Rose Companies, a nationally respected affordable housing developer, to advise on the development of the affordable housing component of the project, with Rose potentially taking on the affordable housing development role.

“We are so pleased to have been selected by the Bedrock/Woodborn team to help transform this site into a vibrant mixed income community and for Mayor Duggan, the Detroit City Council and HRD’s commitment of resources to make the affordable housing component of the site viable,” said Jonathan Rose, President of Jonathan Rose Companies. “With the Douglass site’s proximity to employment, healthcare and education, and its planned community gardens, we see a chance to create a community that enhances the opportunity potential of the families that will live here.”

Building a neighborhood for everyone

The proposed master plan would represent another major opportunity for Bedrock to deliver more than 150 units to the market designated as affordable, or 25 percent of total rental units on the site (whichever is greater). Those units would remain affordable for at least 30 years, pursuant to Bedrock’s Affordable Housing Agreement with the City of Detroit and approved by City Council in July 2017.

“This project enables the city and the Housing Commission to impact communities throughout Detroit and positions our team to make this site one of the most dynamic and transformative neighborhoods nationally, said Cliff Brown, Managing Partner of Woodborn Partners. “We are excited to be a part of a project and partnership that is taking a thoughtful approach to creating housing, entertainment and employment opportunities for all.”

The proposed neighborhood would consist of more than 900 housing units  offered for-rent and for-sale, spread across six residential styles designed to suit all Detroiters: townhomes, carriage homes, duplettes, flats, walk ups and apartments.

The Douglass Master Plan also proposes amenities including more than 3.2 acres of open space (parks, courtyards, etc.), 18,000 square feet of retail space, more than 1,100 parking spaces, an early childhood education center and a small hotel.

Over the next several years, Bedrock plans to develop up to 3,500 residential rental units in the City. The Developer’s Affordable Housing Agreement with the City of Detroit provides that one out of every five, or 20 percent, of those units will be affordable housing for households whose income is 80 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) or less. The affordable units, both new construction and preservation of existing affordable housing, will be primarily located in the greater downtown area, where affordable housing options are needed to ensure downtown and midtown remain accessible for people of all incomes.

A win for residents across the city

While the Bedrock development will build an inclusive neighborhood with significant affordable options adjacent to downtown, the sale proceeds ($23 million) will help the Detroit Housing Commission improve existing public housing units and preserve more affordable housing in neighborhoods across the city. The proceeds of the sale will go towards a number of significant improvements to Detroit’s public housing, including:

  • Capital improvements to developments, including additional security, beautification and improvements to infrastructure systems like HVAC systems
  • Preservation of naturally occurring affordable housing developments through mixed-finance redevelopment that avoids the use of highly competitive federal funds like HOME and CDBG
  • Support for construction job training initiatives for residents of existing public housing developments to build pipeline of construction and building rehab talent
  • Profits from development will go back to the DHC to fund additional capital needs and new development

The DHC’s annual capital allocation is approximately $8 million and proceeds of the sale more than double that annual amount, allowing the DHC to accelerate and expand these improvements in public housing.

The agreement also includes an offset against the purchase price of up to $4M for remediation of environmental issues.

“The Detroit Housing Commission is very pleased that by working with the City, all of the goals for the Douglas site will be met.  Meeting our capital raising goals to expand our mission’s reach will be impactful for DHC, it’s residents and the City,” said Richard Hosey, Chairman of the Board of Commissioners, Detroit Housing Commission. “The City facilitating a method to do so while achieving substantial affordable housing on the Douglas site is truly our ideal outcome.”

Housing and Revitalization Department (HRD) Proposal

On July 17, the Housing & Revitalization Department (HRD) submitted a proposal to Detroit City Council requesting approval to allocate HOME Investment Partnerships Program funds (HOME), Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) and Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) funding for the redevelopment of the Frederick Douglass site. The total of $10.2M in funds will support affordable housing and infrastructure to be delivered by a development partnership consisting of Bedrock Real Estate Services, local development partner Woodborn Partners, and national affordable housing developer Jonathan Rose Companies.

A breakdown of the $10.2 million:

  • $6 million: Federal HOME Investment Partnerships Program funding
  • $3 million: Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program funding
  • $1.2 million from Detroit Water and Sewerage Department

HRD recognizes that the Douglass Site will require the following to become a viable project for the city:  

  • Environmental cleanup
  • Utility infrastructure
  • Significant public road improvements and creation of new public roads
  • Site prep work
  • Housing and park construction

Honoring history at Brewster-Douglass

Located just east of Brush Park, the Frederick Douglass site represents the southern portion of what was once the Brewster-Douglass public housing development. The Frederick Douglass towers were vacated in 2008 and demolished in 2014, and the site has sat vacant since that time. At its peak capacity, the combined Brewster-Douglass development housed between 8,000 and 10,000 residents. Prior to its operation as public housing, the Frederick Douglass Site was location in Detroit historically known as Black Bottom and retains a rich historic legacy for generations of Detroit residents.

The redevelopment of this site represents an opportunity to honor that historical legacy through a design and build approach that is inclusive, involving extensive community engagement, and with an excellent design that enriches and is compatible with the surrounding Brush Park neighborhood.

About Bedrock

Detroit-based Bedrock is a full-service real estate firm specializing in acquiring, developing, leasing, financing, and managing commercial and residential buildings. Since its founding in 2011, Bedrock and its affiliates have invested and committed more than $5.6 billion to acquiring and developing more than 100 properties, including new construction of ground up developments in downtown Detroit and Cleveland totaling more than 18 million square feet.

Bedrock’s real estate portfolio consists of more than 330 office and retail tenants in Detroit’s technology-centric downtown. Additionally, Bedrock is dedicated to creating jobs and investing in job training. Over the last year, the company has invested in both the Randolph Technical Center and the Breithaupt Career and Technical Center in Detroit to build a pipeline of talent for Detroit’s growing economy. For more information, visit bedrockdetroit.com or engage with us on Twitter @BedrockDetroit and Facebook.

About Jonathan Rose Companies

Jonathan Rose Companies is a national development, owner’s representative and investment management firm. The company’s mission is to strengthen communities of opportunity by developing innovative real estate solutions that build value, enhance resilience, and cultivate wellbeing.

The work of Jonathan Rose Companies touches many aspects of community health. They work with cities and not-for-profits to build green, affordable and mixed-income housing, along with cultural, health and educational infrastructure. They also advocate that neighborhoods be enriched with parks and nature, mass transit, jobs, healthful food and places of contemplation.

Since its founding in 1989, the firm has completed over $2 billion of work. The company is widely recognized as a leader for design excellence, walkability and economic, social and ecological responsibility, creating successful models that also enhance the ability of their residents, communities and cities to thrive.

The firm’s innovative work has modeled widely duplicated solutions, and won awards from a wide range of notable organizations, including the Urban Land Institute, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the American Planning Association, the American Institute of Architects and many others.

About Woodborn Partners

Established in 2009, Woodborn Partners was founded by two lifelong friends who wanted to change people’s lives and build better communities through Real Estate Development and believed there was a way to monetize building stronger communities that were more than buildings. Chris and Cliff Brown believe that if you can build lives and focus on the development of communities while remaining disciplined and understanding the core fundamentals of the business; wealth will come.

Their corporate commitment, “Building Lives, Communities and Wealth”, reflects this goal.

The name Woodborn was chosen as a reflection on the neighborhood our dreams were born in- the Historic Old West End in Toledo, Ohio. A beautiful neighborhood in which some homes were classic mansions and others were barely livable. The lives of the people who lived there reflected this diversity. Chris and Cliff grew up with a passion to understand and change this. The streets of the Old West End included Scottwood, Robinwood, Parkwood, Collingwood…etc. “Woodborn”, is a constant reminder of where they come from and what they are striving to accomplish.