Detroit’s Lee Plaza gets new lease on life, will be renovated for senior affordable housing

A look inside to see how developers plan to restore Lee Plaza

It has long stood as an iconic symbol of Detroit's decline, the old Lee Plaza hotel on West Grand Boulevard has sat vacant for decades, but that's soon going to change.

DETROIT – It has long stood as an iconic symbol of Detroit’s decline, the old Lee Plaza Hotel on West Grand Boulevard has sat vacant for decades, but that’s soon going to change.

This is the towering Lee Plaza -- it’s been abandoned and ransacked for 25 years. Now it is getting a new lease on life.

Walking through the doors, you see one of the poshest addresses in town during the 1930s. But recently, it’s been much of an eyesore.

Inside Lee Plaza before renovations begin

“I am so geeked,” said Dan Austin, a local architectural preservationist.

Austin runs He’s been watching this building over the years and didn’t have a good feeling about it.

“This is one of those buildings that just 10 years ago we were looking at saying, ‘Nobody could ever save this,’” Austin said.

With Detroit City Council approving $7 million on Wednesday, Jan. 19, and several private development companies, the money has come together to start work on restoring this art deco em.

“Great news, man,” said David Montgomery. “It’s good for the neighborhood, you know. I know the population will go up.”

“The value of the houses is going to go up, the property, the school. People will move to the neighborhood, so it’s beautiful for Detroit,” said Darryl Hunt.

Beautiful indeed. I can’t wait to see it. They say work should begin within the year, and it will comprise of senior living on the lower levels and general occupation on the upper levels.

So good news on West Grand Boulevard as they return the Lee Plaza back into its former glory.

Mayor Mike Duggan joined developers The Roxbury Group, Ethos Development Partners, and City and State officials on Thursday, (Jan. 20), to celebrate a significant financial piece for the redevelopment of the Plaza. Lee Plaza will now see a $59 million renovation for lower-income housing for senior citizens who will pay no more than 30 percent of their monthly income in rent.

Mayor Mike Duggan speaking at the Lee Plaza renovation event in Downtown Detroit. (Copyright 2022 by WDIV ClickOnDetroit - All rights reserved.)

“Today is a great day in the city of Detroit,” Duggan said. “Not only are we announcing that we are eliminating a dangerous abandoned building in our community, but we’re creating more than 100 units of senior affordable housing and preserving a historic Detroit landmark at the same time. This announcement is a win for everyone.”

The development team of Roxbury Group and Ethos Development have a proven track record of saving Detroit landmarks that others have said cannot be saved. The Metropolitan Building, David Whitney Building downtown, and the NSO Bell Building on Oakman Boulevard at the Lodge Freeway are most notable.

Detroit City Council member Coleman A. Young, II speaking at the Lee Plaza renovation event in Downtown Detroit. (Copyright 2022 by WDIV ClickOnDetroit - All rights reserved.)

“The restoration of the Lee Plaza is not only critical to the ongoing growth of the Northwest Goldberg neighborhood, it represents a significant milestone in Detroit’s remarkable story of rebirth,” said David Di Rita, principal of The Roxbury Group. “As recently as a decade ago, Detroit had the dubious distinction of being home to dozens of long-vacant high-rises. Today, we stand at the precipice of restoring its last.”

“I am excited about the proposed redevelopment of Lee Plaza and the associated senior affordable housing planned for the site,” said Council President Mary Sheffield. “For too long, this structure has stood as an eyesore and symbol of Detroit’s historic struggles with disinvestment and urban decay. Today’s announcement and proposed redevelopment signals a new day and serves as a beacon of hope for the future of the surrounding neighborhood. Furthermore, the burden of Detroit’s housing crisis will be lessened by this project which can serve as a model for development across the City.”

About the Authors:

Brandon Carr is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with WDIV Local 4 since November 2021. Brandon is the 2015 Solomon Kinloch Humanitarian award recipient for Community Service.