This post was authored by Alexis Zimberg.
You may remember the Michigan Bell Telephone building and the kerfuffle over the giant Yellow Pages sign many had hoped to see saved, which for a while was saved. Until then it wasn't. Well the brick building will have you know it is more than just some (former) sign-holder. It has made massive renovation progress in recent months on the way to becoming 155 one-bedroom apartments for the homeless. The Neighborhood Service Organization (NSO) purchased the 225,000 square foot space to launch the $50-million project that will help adults with drug dependencies, gambling addictions, and psychiatric challenges.
The first floor of the project will house NSO's new headquarters, a massive conference space, a demo kitchen for cooking tutorials, a 24 hour security desk, management offices, a community health clinic, social services for tenants, and a what seems to be a full-sized basketball court.
The 2nd through 6th floors offer 150 spacious one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartments with skyline views of Detroit and access to a rooftop deck. (Nice to know that Detroit City Apartments and Dan Gilbert are not the only ones in town wise to how great an amenity a rooftop can be).
Joe Heaphy, Vice President of Real Estate Development at the NSO, has overseen the project from its infancy and reports that residents can begin moving in in late July with the building fully occupied by October. Interested tenants must pass through a multi-layered screening processes but are not turned away for their vices. And the impressive units are, at least initially, covered by Section 8 financing (That means there are subsidies). "These potential residents are the guys living on the bridges," Heaphy noted. "Theirs are hardcore cases. Our hope is to give people housing and access to services to get them back on their feet. This is a permanent solution. This is an apartment building, not an institution." Between a new senior home across the street, Focus Hope down the block, and the planned community garden next door, Oakman Boulevard is becoming a community hub.
And, yes, we asked about the whereabouts of the iconic Michigan Bell Telephone sign. NSO explained that they tried to give the structurally unsound sign to Detroit area historical organizations and even to a national neon light museum in South Dakota, but no one bit. The square backdrop crumbled when the team brought it down, but Heaphy assured us that they still have the phone and letters in storage and plan to incorporate the pieces into their final product.
· Saved Yellow Pages Sign Once Again to be Scrapped [Curbed Detroit]
· Historic Detroit Yellow Pages Sign to Stay Put [Curbed Detroit]
· Detroit's Homeless to Displace Yellow Pages Sign [Curbed Detroit]