Cinnaire Solutions and Southwest Detroit Business Association Break Ground on $24.5 Million Affordable Housing Development in Southwest Detroit

Chris Laurent at podium of La Joya groundbreaking
See Cinnaire Solutions’ President Chris Laurent describe the teamwork involved in launching the La Joya project

The nearly $24 million development will offer 53 residential homes, including 42 affordable and 11 market rate apartments; and more than 6,000 sq. ft. of retail space when completed in 2024. The project is part of Detroit’s Strategic Neighborhood Fund.

Cinnaire Solutions and the Southwest Detroit Business Association (SDBA) held a groundbreaking ceremony along with the City of Detroit, Invest Detroit, MSHDA and other partner organizations of La Joya Gardens — a mixed-use, mixed-income residential and commercial building that will be located at 4000 W. Vernor Hwy. in Southwest Detroit. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Councilmember Gabriela Santiago-Romero and key development partners joined the community in celebrating the start of construction.

La Joya Gardens is the latest project supported by the Strategic Neighborhood Fund (SNF), a partnership between the City of Detroit, Invest Detroit, neighborhood residents and corporate donors. SNF funds community-driven projects, each of which begins by soliciting input from residents. SNF, with assistance from PNC Bank, funded the community engagement process for the project, and provided $1.6 million in gap funding, which supports the deep affordability of the units.

“In neighborhoods across Detroit, the Strategic Neighborhood Fund is helping us build new affordable housing and bringing new life to our historic commercial corridors like West Vernor,” Mayor Duggan said. “For years, this key corner has been an empty lot, but thanks to SDBA, Cinnaire Solutions and the SNF, it will once again be thriving and a beautiful place for Detroiters and small businesses to call home.”

“We believe there is no higher purpose than serving others,” said Chris Laurent, president of Cinnaire Solutions. “Through our service, we hope to further enhance the lives of residents in the community.”

La Joya Gardens is a $24 million development that will offer 47 one-bedroom and six two-bedroom apartments, with 42 reserved as affordable for those earning 30% to 80% of the area median income. That translates to rents as low as about $500 a month for a one-bedroom. When it opens next summer, the development will also offer some 6,000 square feet of retail space and 1,500 square feet of flexible community space on the ground floor with indoor and outdoor seating that will be a welcoming space for social gatherings and special events. As part of this vibrant development in the Hubbard Farms Historic District, a lush, landscaped plaza will be adjacent to four street-fronting retail spaces, as well as a 500-square-foot café that will be available for rent by Southwest Detroit-based businesses and entrepreneurs.

“My six policy priorities include housing and equitable development, so I am thrilled to be here today to celebrate the groundbreaking of La Joya Gardens. Projects like these are what transform our neighborhoods,” said Council Member Gabriela Santiago-Romero. “When we leverage funding to invest in real estate that becomes an affordable home to residents and provides opportunities for small business owners to realize their dreams of a brick-and-mortar location, we all win.”

La Joya, which means “jewel” in Spanish, was a name chosen by residents during the project’s extensive community engagement process. In 2018, the development team kicked of the project with a six-month “participatory design” phase in which more than 200 local stakeholders met with the architects in a series of meetings and focus groups. Residents and local businesses voiced their suggestions and voted on the building’s design elements, types of businesses, and community services they wanted to see, and participated in a contest to name the new community.

“This groundbreaking marks a pivotal moment for La Joya Gardens, an exciting development project that will not only add high-quality, affordable housing and community space for local residents to enjoy, but also prime retail space along one of the city’s most vibrant commercial corridors,” said Laura Chavez-Wazeerud-Din, SDBA’s Vice President of Programs & Compliance. “We are immensely grateful to all of the development partners who helped bring our community’s vision to fruition.”

Designed by SITIO Architecture + Urbanism, the mixed-use development brings urban vitality to an entire city block along West Vernor Highway that has stood vacant for more than a decade.

Since 2018, SNF has invested $118.5 million in 72 unique projects in all 10 SNF neighborhoods. This includes parks, streetscape overhauls, single-family housing stabilization and commercial corridor revitalization. The fund also works hand-in-hand with other City initiatives such as Motor City Match to amplify its impact on communities across the city of Detroit.

“SNF is creating real momentum in Detroit’s neighborhoods” said Keona Cowan, Executive Vice President, Lending for Invest Detroit. “Residents are excited about this project. It will spur more investment in the area, and Invest Detroit and SNF are excited about opportunities to fund more projects along West Vernor, the main street of Southwest Detroit.”

The City of Detroit’s Housing & Revitalization Department (HRD) invested $2.36 million in La Joya Gardens through HOME and the Affordable Housing Development and Preservation Fund.

“Projects like La Joya Gardens are so important because they not only create new affordable housing, but revitalize our commercial corridors and make our neighborhoods more engaging places to call home,” said Julie Schneider, director of HRD. “The deep affordability La Joya will bring is also essential in our efforts to build back neighborhoods everyone can afford to call home.”

Additional funding for La Joya Gardens also includes a $12.4 million 4% and 9% Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) investment from Cinnaire; a $3.2 million loan and a $588,647  HOME/House Trust award from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA); a $500,000 Affordable Housing Program (AHP) Award from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Indianapolis; $1.6 million investment from Invest Detroit through the Strategic Neighborhood Fund; and a $500,000 investment from the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation. La Joya Gardens is one of the first 4%/9% combo LIHTC projects to address pricing and supply chain challenges.

“This development ticks a lot of boxes for MSHDA. It’s going to bring a mixed-use, mixed-income residential and commercial development to a historic neighborhood, where I’m confident it will become a catalyst for revitalization,” said MSHDA Executive Director Amy Hovey. “With a majority of apartments set aside for residents with low incomes, this project will help fulfill our mission of ensuring every Detroiter who needs it has affordable housing as a foundation to reach their full potential.”

Other partners helping SDBA and Cinnaire Solutions in making La Joya Gardens a reality include 511 Design, the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, Detroit Housing Commission, O’Brien Construction, and Flagstar Bank.

La Joya Gardens was recently featured in Model D’s Resilient Neighborhoods, a series examining how Detroit residents and community development organizations are working together to strengthen local neighborhoods. Click here to read the feature. 

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