Midtown Inc. pushes back on plan for affordable senior housing complex

Feb 23, 2015 at 12:06 pm
If the city wants to continue attracting retail and restaurants to Midtown, it needs mixed-income housing developments, according to Sue Mosey, president of Midtown Inc. What it doesn't need, as Mosey put it in an interesting Crain's Detroit Business story this week, is more 100 percent affordable housing projects.

A senior housing complex that would consist entirely of units offered at affordable rates — 60 percent of the area's median income — is planned along Seward Street, Crain's reports. But, if you ask Mosey, that would inhibit the growth of Detroit's Midtown neighborhood. "If you want to attract retail and commercial, you have to have mixed income," Mosey told the newspaper.

That's the conundrum of this saga: Can a housing development that consists entirely of lower rents co-exist with the high-profile projects in Midtown? The building in question on Seward is owned by Kathy Makino Leipsitz, who we profiled last year and has redeveloped much of Palmer Park in recent years. 

As Crain's Sherri Welch reports, Makino Leipsitz plans to develop three other buildings on the street into 100 housing units with — believe it or not — mixed-incomes. Mayor Mike Duggan earlier this year said new developments should devote at least 20 percent of its housing units at affordable rates, if the projects use public money. 

So what's going on here?

Last month, Detroit's local Fox affiliate highlighted an ongoing spat between a nearby block club, which contends Makino Leipsitz misled it about her plans for 59 Seward

She bought her 59 Seward in 2011. The block club says it could not get a meeting with her for two years and when it finally did, members say they were told something different.

"We were misled," [block club president Jeff] Cowin said. "We were told this building here, 59 Seward, was going to be a boutique hotel and market rate apartments."

"The next day she submitted a high percentage low income housing for 59 Seward," said Paul Mack, block club president.

And their tax dollars are helping foot the bill.

The Michigan State Housing Development Authority is providing $2 million dollars for the project, despite the fact the block club has been voicing their concerns for two years.

Midtown's housing stock has been nearly at capacity for the past few years. A bevy of new developments are set to open over the next few years.