Few of us welcome traffic delays, but Melinda Clemons, Senior
Loan Officer at Capital Impact Partners in Detroit, has a different
perspective. "Getting stuck in traffic on Woodward Avenue is great,"
she says. "There's construction all over the place, everywhere you look
there’s a crane and it’s down to one lane."
While it may take a bit longer to get where she's
going, Clemons – a Detroit native – sees it as a
happy indication that the tide has turned in her
hometown. "I went to high school downtown so
I'm very familiar with this area," says Clemons.
"Back then, it was riddled with crime and drugs.
So seeing what's going on now brings a totally
different feeling of pride."
And Clemons can take pride in knowing she's
played a role in making it happen.
One of the construction projects under way
is The Scott at Brush Park, a $61 million
development for which Capital Impact – as
well as Invest Detroit – provided financing.
The Scott is being built from the ground up on
formerly vacant land and, when completed in
December 2016, will have 199 rental units plus
retail space. It is located in the historic Brush
Park area that links Midtown to Downtown, a
key area targeted by the city for development
because it will promote increased density and
economic activity along the Woodward Corridor.
With a rooftop pool, spa and other amenities,
The Scott is geared toward young professionals –
though 11 units will be preserved as affordable
– and the apartments already are being snapped
up. "Even five years ago, if you had told anyone
there would be a high-rise, market-rate project
coming on the market for $2 a square foot in
Midtown, you would have been laughed out of
the city," notes Clemons. "But it’s happening."
According to Clemons, being able to develop
market-rate units in that location – where a
large portion of the census track is below the
poverty line – is significant. Capital Impact’s
approach is aimed at creating mixed-income
communities, where the diversified population
drives a greater range of retail and other
services and higher-income residents increase
the tax base. An added benefit of The Scott
project: Building on long-vacant land means
bringing in new residents without the risk of
displacing any existing ones.
"At least a few times a week, I get calls from out-of-state investors who want to know how they can be a part of what's going on in Detroit. You can feel the pull and the excitement. It's a vibe you get. Things have turned around, and this is the next hot place to be."
Melinda Clemons, Senior Loan Officer, Capital Impact Partners
Like most complex community development
projects, the deal to build The Scott was a long
time in the making – and it nearly fell apart at
the last minute. Capital Impact, through the
Detroit Neighborhoods Fund, provided critical
capital at the 11th hour that put it over the
finish line. Clemons points to JPMorgan Chase’s
quick decision making and openness to finding
a solution as the factors that saved the deal. "I
love the Detroit Neighborhoods Fund because it
is one of the most flexible financing programs
we have," says Clemons. "Chase gets it."
Another project in the works, thanks also to
financing from the Detroit Neighborhoods Fund,
is the renovation of the iconic Hammer and
Nail building in Midtown. Previously slated for
demolition, the rehabilitated building, to be
renamed The Plaza, will instead include
72 apartments plus retail space.
"I cannot stress enough how transformational
The Scott and The Plaza projects are for the
Midtown area," says Clemons.
While Capital Impact is making a mark in
Midtown, its focus and horizons extend beyond
the urban core – and its project portfolio includes
not only large-scale developments like The Scott
and The Plaza but also smaller-scale ones.
Through the Detroit Neighborhoods Fund, the
nonprofit has multifamily and mixed-use projects
under way in neighborhoods such as West Village
and Woodbridge – with more in the pipeline. In
all its work, Capital Impact encourages equitable
participation by the community, as well as
support for local developers.
"At least a few times a week,
I get calls from out-of-state
investors who want to know
how they can be a part of
what’s going on in Detroit,"
"You can feel the pull and the excitement.
It’s a vibe you get. Things have turned around,
and this is the next hot place to be."