The former Saint Rita Apartments building stands simultaneously as an example of early 20th century architecture and 21st century urban blight. The building, at 35 Owen Ave., east of Woodward, sits within throwing distance of Northern High School.
The 26-unit apartment building was constructed in 1916. The commercially zoned property, according to information on the tax rolls, is currently valued at $84,100.
Detroit attorney William S. Lewis purchased the building about two years ago. A representative says he is attempting to raise money to renovate the property. But time is running short.
The building has been on the city’s demolition list since October 2002. In June, the city, in concert with the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, filed a nuisance abatement suit against Lewis, who has filed a motion seeking to stall demolition.
According to Lewis’ attorney, Aziz Khondker, loans are being sought to turn the building into offices and loft apartments. Khondker said the building — which features a marble-laced interior — is worth preserving.
“I’d hate to have it torn down,” says Khondker.
Parents and administrators at Northern High School think differently. Principal Sammie Harris contends that the building has provided a home to squatters and drug activity. Members of the school’s parents organization took these concerns to the Detroit City Council two years ago.
“We’ve been trying to get it torn down. It has created hazardous conditions for our children,” Harris says. The council “had assured them the building would be demolished after a year or so.” Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Joseph Rogalski said his office is working with Lewis.
“There’s going to have to be some significant renovation that’s going to have to go on. Our goal is to abate the nuisance,” Rogalski says. “There may be some more time necessary because of the work that might be necessary on the property.”
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