A lengthy renovation of seven Woodbridge townhomes is at long last nearing completion.
When we last spoke with Jon Zemke, he and his wife Kristin Lukowski had just finished work on a duplex on West Warren Avenue. The home, built in 1910, had been abandoned for at least 10 years.
But the bigger project was down the street at LaFerte Terrace. There, most of the 1,523-square-foot, three-bedroom townhomes still needed a lot of work. Two of the seven units were renting at the time for at an affordable rate of $1,000 per month.
Now, the renovations are nearly done. The first unit in this phase of construction is ready for rent and the other four should be available by the end of the year. All the townhomes in this batch will be market-rate and rent for $1,950.
Zemke and Lukowski have also built out the back courtyard with raised beds, individual decks for each townhome, and a mural on the side of a shipping container inspired by Detroit’s city flag. They’ve also planted around 100 trees on nearby streets.
This is the culmination of nearly a decade of work for the couple, who bought their first townhome at LaFerte for $500 through the tax auction in 2010. The rest they acquired through private sales over the years.
Zemke admits the project took longer and cost more than he originally anticipated. “We started this off spending $500. We’ve put easily high six-figures into it since,” he says. “We had no idea what we were getting into when we started.”
But it’s also been a deeply fulfilling process for the couple, who have hired locals to do the work, retained tenants where possible, connected with neighbors, and kept old residents up to date with the renovations. LaFerte is west of Rosa Parks Boulevard at the northern edge of Woodbridge, on a stretch of road with a fair amount of vacancy.
“When people think of Woodbridge, it’s not necessarily this area,” Zemke says. “But the people who live over here, believe in this area. Everybody knows everybody—we all have each other’s phone numbers, wave at each other, know each others cars, mow each others lawns. There’s a lot of people who are proud to be over here.”
In 2010, there were four people living in LaFerte. Zemke hopes that by the 2020 census, all 21 beds will be filled.