On a stretch of McNichols in between the University of Detroit and Marygrove College campuses lies an inconspicuous property on a quiet residential street corner.
7303 W. McNichols is currently an abandoned building but may soon become one of Detroit's most exciting new residential and commercial developments in years.
The project will catalyze the economic activity coming to the Bagley/Fitzgerald neighborhood by adding housing units and commercial offerings, and led, in part, by one of Detroit’s foremost art collectors, galleries George N’Namdi, the property will be a work of art as well as a showplace for it.
The project is led by N’Namdi, Urge Development Group, and Hosey Development.
Richard Hosey has overseen the development, consulting, financing, and asset management of more than 75 projects totaling over $2.5 billion in development costs.
He serves on several boards around the state, including Detroit Historic District Commission, Downtown Development Authority, Downtown Detroit Partnership Business Improvement Zone, Detroit Land Bank, and Detroit Housing Commission.
7303 W. McNichols
He is joined by Roderick Hardamon is the CEO of URGE— a real estate development and business innovation firm based in Detroit.
Founded with a focus on systemic change in urban communities through creative place keeping and placemaking. Hardamon leverages his twenty years of Wall Street experience in strategy, business innovation, mergers and acquisitions, real estate, and operational transformation to enhance and accelerate the developments and business he engages, more than 20, according to his bio.
Dr. N’Namdi and The G. R. N’Namdi Gallery were catalysts for transforming a formerly derelict area off E. Forest and Woodward into a thriving arts center and historically designated area called the Sugar Hill Arts District.
In a partnership, Hosey, Hardamon, and N’Namdi have “continually talked about the opportunity, and the benefits of turning McNichols into a more walkable community, more of a commercial corridor.”
“And while the initial focus was on activating it purely as a commercial corridor to create commercial and neighbor walkability,” Hardamon said. “We thought what better way to jumpstart the activation of that commercial corridor than to add additional housing and density as well.”
That led to 38 affordable residential units and approximately 6,000 gross sq ft of commercial space.
Dr. George N’Namdi and Roderick Hardamon in front of 7303 W. McNichols
“The entire building will launch at 60 to 80% AMI,” Hardamon says. “100% of the building will be at 60 to 80% AMI for the project when we launch it.”
He added that making that commitment to affordable housing is an investment that required a lot of resources. But added that “It's another way of kind of being committed to the area.”
Dr. N’Namdi’s vision for the development, which sits in both Bagley and Fitzgerald districts, is for a more walkable area that will prompt home improvement and real estate sales.
“I do think there'll be a lot more commercial activity. And also, I think with that (will) come more and more people will be wanting to move to that area.” He adds that he believes homes in Bagley that need renovation will find buyers willing to do that. “Whereas on the Fitzgerald, they have an ongoing program to really work on the housing and beautify that area. But I do think it'd be one of those walkable streets.”
One of the most exciting elements of the 7303 W. McNichols development is its focus on art.
As the owner of one of Detroit’s finest art galleries, Dr. N’Namdi says that the building will be a work of art and that art will be central to the development's interior.
From left, From left, Dylan Hengy, Benecia Cousin, George, and Izegbe N’Namdi, and Roderick Hardamon.
“We have a philosophy that we're doing affordable housing, but we do not want to look like we're doing affordable housing. And one way to accomplish that is to have an artistic component to it,” he says. “We will incorporate art in the design, but we will also have murals, art in the corridors or lobby so that the community will feel comfortable in seeing that in the building.”
“Another part we choose to do, we want our properties to have a wow factor,” he adds. “We want you to drive down McNichols and when you come upon the building and say, ‘Wow.’” It means we are making the community proud, and it also attracts other businesses and other people who may want to move in that community.”
N’Namdi added that University of Detroit-Mercy students would also be direct beneficiaries of the commercial and housing development. “As opposed to just being isolated (on their campus). Through the development taking place in the Livernois-McNichols Corridor, “now they have a place, they have a coffee shop, a pizza bar, other restaurants, and other activities that they can do.”
The group got that feedback because they have been active in community engagement in the communities, attending meetings and incorporating feedback from residents and stakeholders led by Dr. N’Namdi’s daughter, Izegbe, the Community Curator project.
The familial tie sets the project apart from many others in the city. It is another example of how Black Detroit developers are building generational wealth through real estate development in serving others as family businesses.
Hardamon and Hosey are also related—cousins.
“We are about creating opportunities, and that generational wealth component is one of our philosophies,” Hardamon adds about the familial relationships within the development group. He adds that he hopes their collective can empower other individuals and families who are “keen to invest in their communities.”
“We actually spent a lot of time in building our team for folks (that they know) who are interested and giving them opportunities to be a part of the development process, lead development projects. So we're really about that pipeline development to make sure that the future developers in the city are committed as we are to improve the neighborhoods.”
Bagley and Fitzgerald are neighborhoods that are often described as “on the bubble.” The middle-class area was once home to two colleges; after Marygrove College’s closure, it has pivoted to a conservancy focused on community improvement. The City of Detroit has been quietly working to address physical, social, and economic challenges in the neighborhoods since 2017.
The trio of developers hopes to only add to the progress.
“What we do is not place-making exclusively. We also do place keeping,” Hardamon says. “We honor the historical legacy and community which we're going into because it's not either-or, just because.”
“It can be authentic and organic for the (current residents of the) neighborhood and still be inviting for folks who want to come and support because those who come and support provide economic opportunities for those who live there as well. So we try not to think of it as a zero-sum game,” Hardamon says it’s the philosophy that a rising tide raises all ships, “but it starts with being organic and committed to the communities.”
This piece is part of the Block by Block series supported by FHLBank Indianapolis that follows minority-driven development in Detroit.