Duggan and Sheffield help open The Freelon at Sugar Hill, adding 68 units to Midtown, including housing for vets


Duggan and Sheffield help open The Freelon at Sugar Hill, adding 68 units to Midtown, including housing for vets

  • $38M project from Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH) and Develop Detroit includes housing for Detroit residents and deeply affordable units for veterans, as well as commercial space for entrepreneurs.
  • 20 of 68 apartments are reserved for residents earning between 30% and 80% of the area median income.

DETROIT – Mayor Mike Duggan joined City Council President Mary Sheffield, developers, and community members today to officially open The Freelon at Sugar Hill, a new mixed-use and mixed-income development in Midtown Detroit’s Sugar Hill Arts District.

The $38 million development by the Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH) and Develop Detroit replaced a vacant lot at 81-119 Garfield at John R streets with 68 apartments, 11,900 square feet of retail space and a 160-space parking garage. Fourteen of the apartments have been set aside as deeply affordable housing at 30 to 60 percent of the area median income (AMI) for veterans who have experienced homelessness.

The site is across from the John D. Dingell VA Medical Center, and 14 of the 20 affordable units were created for veterans served by the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development’s HUD-VASH (VA Supportive Housing) voucher program through the Dingell VA Medical Center. All veterans apartments come fully furnished and decorated thanks to an innovative partnership with the Interior Designers Coalition for Change, an all-volunteer organization of design professionals that completed the work using best practices in trauma-informed design. None of the veterans will pay more than 30 percent of their adjusted income.

“We are creating a city where all Detroiters, no matter their income, no matter their background, have access to quality affordable housing,” Mayor Duggan said. “I would like to thank Sonya Mays and Develop Detroit and POAH for their commitment to creating a beautiful building that will help those who served our country call the heart of Midtown home and provide convenient access to the Dingell VA hospital right across the street.”

In addition to the 14 apartments reserved for veterans, there are six other affordable apartments for those earning up to 80 percent area median income (AMI). All residents can take advantage of the community lounge, workout room stocked with exercise equipment and other amenities, including outdoor greenspace, attached parking and new businesses, including a coffee shop.

For more information on how to apply to The Freelon at Sugar Hill, residents can visit the City’s affordable housing website, Detroit Home Connect. The property listing can be found at https://tinyurl.com/sugarhilldetroit. The veterans units are available to HUD-VASH recipients through referral by the VA.

The building is named in honor of Phil Freelon, one of the most celebrated Black architects in U.S. history. The building was one of the last developments that he worked on before his death in 2019. Freelon's other works include the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington and Atlanta's National Center for Civil and Human Rights. Freelon’s widow, Grammy-nominated jazz singer Nnenna Freelon, attended today’s ribbon-cutting ceremony.

In addition to bringing much-needed quality affordable housing, the project is also significant because it extends the thriving green alleyway that has become a major destination in the popular Midtown entertainment and restaurant district. An outdoor space adjacent to the building, developed in coordination with Midtown Detroit Inc., connects to the existing green alley and will be enjoyed by the building’s tenants, community residents and visitors. The Freelon also adds a garage with 160 parking spaces for use by residents and the public.

POAH is a national nonprofit developer of affordable and mixed-income communities with offices in Boston, Chicago and Washington, D.C. Since 2003, it has owned and managed two senior properties in Detroit and Troy, with 577 total apartments.

“POAH is honored to help bring more quality, sustainable housing and access to opportunity to Detroiters,” said Aaron Gornstein, president and CEO of POAH. “We couldn’t be more excited about this project in the heart of Midtown and to have partnered with Develop Detroit to make the Freelon at Sugar Hill a reality.”

Develop Detroit is a mission-focused real estate development company leveraging the power of real estate to strengthen neighborhoods and overcome housing inequity.

“At Develop Detroit, we believe in high quality housing for all,” said Sonya Mays, president and CEO of Develop Detroit. “This development not only will become home to Detroiters of all walks of life, but is also one that reflects the needs and desires of our neighbors in the community. We are also proud to be serving our city’s veterans and to be adding affordable housing to Midtown.”

The project exemplified public-private partnerships and brought together many partners to achieve the complex financing structure, including:

  • From the City of Detroit: $2 million in HOME, $2.4 million in community development block grants, and $6.7 million from a Section 108 loan for the parking structure.
  • From the Michigan Economic Development Corporation/Michigan Strategic Fund: $4 million in funding from the Community Revitalization Program (CRP) and $2.4 million in Michigan Brownfield Tax Credits
  • $9.8 million in New Market Tax Credit (NMTC) equity from PNC Bank, raised through NMTC allocations from Building America CDE, Michigan Community Capital, Cinnaire and PNC Bank.
  • A $4 million first mortgage from PNC Bank and $5 million in financing through Prudential Financial and POAH.
  • $1 million in sponsor equity from POAH and Develop Detroit, plus POAH Capital Magnet Funds.
  • $500,000 from the McGregor Fund to support Develop Detroit and its expansion of permanent supportive housing development in Detroit.
  • $250,000 from the Home Depot Foundation to assist with housing for veterans.
  • $300,000 in social impact financing from the Rocket Community Fund.

Sugar Hill was a thriving entertainment/nightlife district in the 1940s-60s, with many African-American-owned establishments. The Sugar Hill Arts District was designated a national and local historic district in 2002, based on its history as a center of Detroit jazz and entertainment venues serving diverse audiences. Today, Sugar Hill features a combination of residential, mixed-use, and arts-related businesses, and is home to cultural anchors such as the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) and the N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art.

“This project brings much-needed housing, not only for the growing number of Midtown residents, but also for our veterans,” said Julie Schneider, director of HRD. “HRD is committed to ensuring our city provides high quality, affordable housing for Detroiters of all means and walks of life. We are proud to partner with Develop Detroit and POAH on this project.”

About POAH

Preservation of Affordable Housing, a nonprofit organization with offices in Boston, Chicago and Washington, D.C., owns and operates more than 13,000 affordable rental homes at 130 properties in 11 states and the District of Columbia. POAH has rescued and restored some of America’s most “at risk’’ rental housing and is known nationally for its ability to develop innovative financing structures and to close complex deals which preserve long-term housing affordability for seniors, individuals with disabilities and families priced out of the housing market. For more information, go to www.poah.org.

About Develop Detroit

Launched in 2015, Develop Detroit (DDI) is a mission-focused real estate development company. Our mission is to use the power of real estate to strengthen neighborhoods and to overcome housing inequity. Our team does this by imagining, designing and building beautiful affordable rental housing, mixed-income communities, single-family homes and community amenities – for the full range of Detroiters. To learn more, go to www.developdetroit.org.