Midtown renovation to keep current residents to combat gentrification

Developers are buying up buildings in Detroit left and right and there's fear the people who've lived in those high-rises for decades will be priced out of their community. But a big renovation in Midtown promises to be a different story.

"There was a large number of African American men who lived here. And then there was this large number of young white men who lived here also, who had a wonderful relationship," Claudia Sanford said.

There are stories of racially and socially diverse tenants living together inside the halls of an apartment complex in Detroit at MLK and Davenport, formerly named the Milner Arms Apartments. Now it's being renovated, renamed and soon to be reopened. 

The Hamilton, as it will be called, will forcefully push back any semblance of gentrification in Detroit. Claudia Sanford is proud.  As organizer of the United Community Housing Coalition, she's an advocate for Detroiters who want a fair shake. 

"If we're not there then a lot of people fall through the cracks. This kind of project would be more difficult and the stress for tenants would be much greater than it already is," she said.

The stress she's talking about is about dozens of low income residents who were told their building was being renovated and they'd have to move out, for now.  But instead of throwing out tenants who were here before, and hiking up the price, the development team from Broder and Sachse hired the United Community Housing Coalition to put the residents into temporary housing until the renovations are over.

Tenants like Patrick are grateful to see the promise kept. Ultimately, he'll be allowed back in old home and the rent will only be a few dollars more than before. 

"I look forward to coming back when it is The Hamilton it's going to be exciting. It's a good location. As long as everybody who was here previously can come back at a reasonable price," he said.

The reasonable price for the smaller one bedrooms will go from $600 a month to a few dollars more. There are about a hundred units and when renovations are finished, close to 40 of the former residents who are low income can come back with a 5 percent increase in rent the first year, followed by 1 percent each year following. 

Arthur Jemison with the City of Detroit says Duggan's team and the city council decided to pass ordinances allowing for this arrangement. 

"We spend time back in the office trying to create an environment in the city where there's a place for everybody - both low income people and people who are wealthy," he said.

Jemison says as buildings come up for renovation projects like this one, the city is committed to making at least 20 percent of renovated developments available to low income residents who lived there before.

They're making sure Detroit looks like Detroit and the people who were here through tough times and good times.