Detroit Fire battalion chief beats COVID-19, keeps dream of housing development going

"I began with the chills and it was my wife that thought something might be wrong," he said.

Darnell Stewart a Battalion Chief with the Detroit Fire Department and a veteran of 30 years, wasn't feeling right. He got the test and it came back positive for COVID-19. 

"I had a very bad go of it," he said. "It was to the point where my symptoms made me think I wasn't going to make it."

That was the first battle, the second is making sure a development project stays on track.

Stewart owns three lots in Detroit and is looking at building 12 residential units in the first phase - and down the road, ending up with a total of 36 units.

"I currently own eight residential properties, looking to expand always been within the city of Detroit and remain and keep our roots here," Stewart said.

As you can imagine the pandemic has slowed things down a bit… but that's not stopping Stewart… who is working to improve Detroit by revitalizing it and working on the front lines as a firefighter. It's not always easy. 

"Very scary actually," he said. "Because with COVID-19 we're still learning a lot and trying to come to an understanding of how far the virus can spread."

Believe it or not, he still plans to break grounds in the summer.

"With this project I would say the biggest challenge is having to wait for a lot of other departments to be able to come back to the table," he said.

He's confident his building won't be derailed, but it may be delayed. He is also in Capital Impact's Equitable Development Initiative and is seeking funding through that program.

Once phases two and three are complete, the total project will cost between $6 to $9 million dollars. Stewart wants the homes to be 20 percent affordable housing.