The Obama Building opens its doors in historic Old Redford

The painting of former President Barack and Michele Obama hung at the corner of Grand River Avenue and Lahser Road for several years, a graceful portrait of the Obamas dancing in tuxedo and ball gown by Detroit artist Chazz Miller.

Colloquially, one might tell their friend to turn right at the Obama building when giving directions to meet at the Redford Theater or Sweet Potato Sensations just around the corner, staples of the Old Redford neighborhood. The Obama building itself, an old bank-turned-department store, had sat vacant for years.

A $3.6 million renovation of the historic bank building, originally built in 1917, brings four loft-style apartments and 8,800 square feet of retail space to Old Redford. The name of the development? The Obama Building, as selected by members of the community themselves.

A celebration was held on Thursday, Nov. 14, to commemorate the opening of The Obama.

Although the Detroit-based group The Platform served as developers of the project, The Obama development was made possible through a web of private, public, and foundation funding partners, receiving $300,000 and $750,000 grants from the city’s Strategic Neighborhood Fund and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, respectively, a $750,000 investment from the Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, and a $1.23 million loan from Horizon Bank.

The Obama Building is owned by the Peter and Julie Fisher Cummings Foundation.

“Completing the rehabilitation of the Obama Building represents a high point of our work in Detroit,” says Peter Cummings, CEO of The Platform.

“Our team is committed to making a difference in the neighborhoods — in this case, historic Old Redford. This is a classic example of the private sector partnering with foundations and government to accomplish together what none of us could have accomplished on their own. Kudos to the State of Michigan, the Fisher Foundation, Horizon Bank, and Flagstar Bank, through the Strategic Neighborhood Fund, for supporting this effort.”

A neighborhood advisory council was engaged to help shape the direction of the development, determining everything from the building’s tenants to the selection of the building’s name itself.

All four residential units are deemed affordable housing, with rent being offered at 60 to 75% of the area median income. Neighborhood stakeholders identified a need for health and wellness retail in the neighborhood; the building’s initial retail tenants will include the headquarters for the Changing Lives & Staying Sober nonprofit organization and a health and wellness retailer. Future tenants will be screened by the neighborhood advisory council.

Chazz Miller’s painting of the Obamas has been restored and preserved and will be displayed within the building.

“Having the community so engaged in every step of this process has made them a partner beyond what you usually see in development,” says Brandon Hodges, development manager on the project for The Platform.

“There would be no Obama Building without the tireless efforts of the members of the Old Redford community. This building is a reflection of this community’s love for its neighbors and the desire to bring pride to a neighborhood corner. The Platform has been fortunate to have such great community partners in this endeavor, and we look forward to the Obama Building being a place for all Detroiters to enjoy.”

The Obama Building is located at 22000 Grand River Ave. in Detroit’s Old Redford neighborhood.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

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MJ Galbraith is Model D's development news editor. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.
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