Neighborhood Service Organization
(NSO) is a non-profit organization that does a lot of work in the city and suburbs around mental health, homelessness, and developmental disabilities. They offer community programs, a suicide hotline and also the Tumaini Center at Second Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., which is a walk-in center serving the chronically homeless in Detroit that has been open since 1975. They see about 3,000 people annually at the center, in a city with a homeless population of around 20,000.
Joe Heaphy, NSO's Vice President of Real Estate Development, says, "About seven years ago NSO decided it wanted to move away from simply managing and helping homeless folks, but get them housed." They were looking to provide permanent housing for the chronically homeless, not just temporary housing or a traditional shelter. This led to the purchase of the former Michigan Bell building in Highland Park, which had been sitting vacant for 20 years. A $52 million renovation converted the building into 155 housing units, which began leasing last August. Units were filled by November. Residents pay 30 percent of their income, whatever that may be, in rent, while the rest of the $650/month rent is covered by Section 8. NSO also provides on-site resources and support services.
But at 255,000 square feet, the 1929 building itself is so massive it is not fully occupied by apartment units. Starting this August, the NSO Bell Building will also be home to NSO's new headquarters, moving 200 administrative staff into the commercial portion of the building.
This renovation and adaptive reuse project is being honored with a Governor's Award this Wednesday, May 1, for outstanding achievement in historic preservation. The building also serves as a model for public-private funding collaboration and investment, utilizing funds as far-ranging as brownfield redevelopment tax credits, foundation funding from the McGregor Fund and Kresge Foundation, and tax credit investment from Morgan Stanley.
Source: Joe Heaphy, NSO's Vice President of Real Estate Development
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg
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