Cinnaire Provides Financing to Revitalize Historic School for the Blind Campus
LIHTC Investment Revitalizes Historic School for the Blind Campus in Lansing, Michigan
The Michigan School for the Blind first opened its doors in 1880 to serve blind youth and adults. Over the years’ the campus grew to include a high school, administrative building, superintendent’s house, a library, eight cottages, an elementary school with gymnasium, and an auditorium. The campus was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and counts Motown legend Stevie Wonder as an alumnus. The school closed in 1996, as public and private schools evolved to better accommodate and meet the needs of blind students. The 20-acre campus had served as a hub of activity for the surrounding Lansing neighborhood and its closing was followed by economic distress and an increase in crime to the city’s north side neighborhood.
Transforming Communities, Preserving History
Cinnaire, in partnership with the Ingham County Land Bank, committed to redeveloping the campus and returning it to a vibrant facility supporting healthy communities. In 2012, Cinnaire saved the iconic Lansing landmark from foreclosure by resolving outstanding loans and committed to securing and maintaining the property. In 2016, Cinnaire teamed up with TWG Development to fund and revitalize the campus, which includes the high schools, Abigail administrative building and the Auditorium. After receiving a Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) allocation in 2017, the former Auditorium building was taken down to make room for Walnut Park Apartments. Cinnaire provided a $9.6 million LIHTC investment, a $370,000 predevelopment loan, and a $2.3 million permanent loan to support the development. Additionally, Cinnaire Title provided the title work for the project.
Walnut Park Apartments, the first development to be completed in Phase I, features 64 units of affordable housing and 8 units of market rate housing. Two additional buildings – the 68,373 square foot historic Abigail administrative building and the 30,660-square-foot High School building – are being redeveloped into 60 units of affordable senior housing opening in 2020 (phase 2). The developer plans to honor the legacy of the School by partnering with the Blind Childcare’s Fund and alumni to commemorate the School’s history in the main entrance area of Walnut Park Apartments.
Total Development Cost
Cinnaire Predevelopment Loan (through CMF Award)
Projected jobs created or retained
Projected residents served annually
Family & Senior
TWG Management, LLC
“I watched Walnut Park being built and I dreamed of living here. This place is my sanctuary. I’ve lived in really bad housing and I’ve been homeless, in transitional housing and in shelters. This is the first place I really want to be. Everything is brand new and so clean. I am proud to call Walnut Park home. Who doesn’t want that?” – Kyle, Resident
Walnut Park Apartments, a four-story family living complex, is located near several bus stops in a very walkable neighborhood. The green, LEED-certified building provides affordable utility costs. Amenities include a tot lot, community room, fitness center, lounge space, business center and a bike share program. All units feature ample natural light and wood floors in the living room and kitchen. An on-site police substation has substantially decreased crime rates in the community.
“I lost my husband, became a widow and lost my housing. I was searching for housing that I could afford and was suitable to my needs. I had to move to a shelter. It was a very stressful time. I was so grateful to get into Walnut Park. The apartments are beautiful! I love all of the natural light, the wood floors and modern floor plan. This place is everything I’ve ever dreamed of. Coming home to Walnut Park was a beautiful reward after the long journey I’ve been on.” – Stephanie, Resident
Many residents were previously homeless or residing in shelters. Cinnaire’s commitment to revitalizing the School for the Blind Campus has brought new energy to the neighborhood while connecting individuals in need with safe, affordable housing.
The Walnut Park development team includes TWG Development, Management, and Construction. In addition to Cinnaire, Wespath Benefits and Investments and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) provided LIHTC or other funding to support Walnut Park.
Back view of former Michigan School for the Blind Campus, the Abigail administrative building prior to renovations.
“I moved to Lansing in the early ’80s. I went to Lansing Community College and I lived in this end of town. It was all homeowners and the School for the Blind was still active at that time. When the school went down, a whole area of energy and activity disappeared with it.” – Trish, Walnut Park Property Manager