Vacant Holcomb Elementary School in Detroit is being turned into senior apartments

$6 million renovation project planned for vacant school building

A rendering of the renovated Holcomb Elementary School building in Detroit. (Detroit Mayor's Office)
A rendering of the renovated Holcomb Elementary School building in Detroit. (Detroit Mayor's Office)

DETROIT – A 32-unit senior cooperative housing community, St. Matthew Cooperative, is coming to the Old Redford neighborhood in a $6 million project that will renovate and restore the vacant Holcomb Elementary School, according to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan's office.

The mayor's office said the building has been abandoned and empty for nearly 10 years. The renovation will include walking paths and parks in the 5.5-acre space. 

Here's the full news release from Duggan's office: 

A development team comprised of DDC Group & Anchor Team was selected by the City of Detroit to redevelop the school and adjoining vacant land after requesting proposals late last year. After a community engagement process to choose a proposal, the city went with the DDC Group and Anchor Team. Holcomb is the first of the 77 vacant Detroit Public Schools buildings to be put back to use since the city acquired them from DPSCD in 2015.

“The redevelopment plan for the old Holcomb Elementary School is exactly the type of development that we encourage as our neighborhoods grow,” said Donald Rencher, director of Housing and Revitalization. “This school has been an eyesore to everyone living in this neighborhood for nearly a decade. Now it will see new life, provide affordable housing for our senior citizens, and build new public spaces for the entire community.”

The school is located at 18100 Bentler Street, in the middle of the Grand River Northwest planning area and within walking distance of the vibrant commercial core of Old Redford near the intersection of Grand River Avenue and Lahser Road. Businesses like Motor City Java House, Sweet Potato Sensations and more line the streets bordering the neighborhood. The neighborhood is also within walking distance of the new Meijer grocery store along Grand River.

Affordable housing for seniors, community space for neighbors

The development team plans to renovate the school into 32 cooperative units for senior citizens aged 62 and older, with 29 one-bedroom units and 3 two-bedroom units. All 32 units will be affordable for seniors making 80 percent of the area median income. The area median income at 80 percent, set by federal housing rules, is about $39,760 a year for a single person household.

Cooperatives have existed since the 19th century as a form of affordable housing while also providing an alternative form of homeownership. The development of cooperatives peaked in the 60s and 70s but unfortunately for more than four decades this affordable and optional form of homeownership has disappeared from the housing production strategy across the country and in the Metropolitan Detroit Area.  

St. Matthew Cooperative will serve to reintroduce this form of homeownership and acquaint the public with the unique advantages that cooperative housing offers. The development team of St. Matthew Cooperative are pleased to launch this new beginning of cooperative production in the city of Detroit and in the Old Redford Community. 

The redevelopment of the school will also include a community room, salon, fitness center, community kitchen, two courtyards, indoor reading alcoves, a café lounge and outdoor patio for the members of this unique cooperative facility.  The redevelopment of the school will also provide community access in the school’s former auditorium with access to the community kitchen.

A map showing the layout of planned renovations at the Holcomb Elementary School building in Detroit. (Detroit Mayor's Office)

On the nearly 4 acres of vacant land surrounding the school, the developers plan to build a new park and open space for the neighborhood, including recreational space, a walking and biking trail and other park amenities. The open space and parking areas will also include improved storm water management infrastructure, which will reduce flooding in the area. The walking and biking trails will eventually connect to the planned Arts Loop Neighborhood Greenway, which will begin design this fall. The three-mile trail will feature public art along the way and connect homes to the nearby Artist Village area as well as to the City’s planned open space amenities at the former Rogell golf course.

“The development team considers the renovation of the Holcomb School as the center piece of a focused effort to reintroduce cooperative housing as an alternative homeowner model in this Old Redford Community,” said Armeace Williams, vice president of Anchor Team. “In the coming weeks the development team will submit plans to the appropriate city departments that proposes an additional phase of cooperative housing situated on both the school campus as well as contiguous blocks adjacent to the campus and community park. This cooperative phase will introduce both townhouse and ranch style units for families”

Planning for those who stayed

Throughout the proposal process, the city’s Planning, Housing and Neighborhoods Departments worked with members of the community to address their needs and concerns and choose the right plan and development team for the community. A proposal evaluation committee was created and included city officials and a community representative who was actively engaged in the planning efforts since the start. The community engagement process started in summer 2017, with 10 community meetings held over a 12-month period before the development team was selected.

“The community engagement process for the Holcomb School Development has not just yielded robust conversation between the city and neighborhood but also contributed to the reinvigoration of inactive community groups and block cubs,” said Tommie Obioha, community representative on the proposal selection committee. “It has helped foster a renewed spirit of collaboration in the neighborhood. It means that the community can play an active role in deciding the course of its future.”

The development, located in the Old Redford neighborhood, is part of the larger Grand River Northwest planning area, where the city is implementing a plan that includes strategies for small business, streetscapes & public space, housing, and parks. The plan, under the $130 million Strategic Neighborhood Fund effort, was developed in an intensive year-long engagement process in the Grand River Northwest area, in which residents worked with city officials to develop these strategies.  


Before construction can begin, DDC Group and Anchor Team will continue the community engagement process to settle on a final design for the renovation of the school and the surrounding land. Once complete, the developers expect to break ground on the $6 million project as soon as summer 2019. Construction is expected to take about a year, with the building opening in summer 2020. 

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