From Old Schools to Cool Condos | Adaptive reuse in Detroit

Finding Home 313 - a Detroit-centric real estate blog with facts, stories, photos, and a list of our events. Published exclusively by Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices The Loft Warehouse, about the Detroit real estate market we specialize in and love. Since 2006, our mission is...
"Helping People Find Metro Detroit's Coolest Places to Live, Work, and Invest".
SPOTLIGHT | Historic School Building Conversions to Residential Use
Detroit has charming examples of adaptive reuse developments featuring de-commissioned one hundred year old schools, converted to lofty and elegant residential condominiums. Many of these historic brick buildings still stand, although most have been re-purposed.
In the late 1800s Detroit’s original schoolhouses became overcrowded and in the 1900s a new school district system oversaw the construction of dozens of new, modest-sized (by today’s standards) elementary schools in residential neighborhoods.
There are now two major successful developments of this category in Detroit. One of the historic school buildings is now known as the Leland Lofts, built in 1918, and originally named the Nellie Leland School. Located at 1395 Antietam, it’s at the gateway between Eastern Market and Lafayette Park. The Leland Lofts is a tribute to its imaginative and quirky developer, the late Joel Landy. This was a pioneer project, the 1st of its kind in the city. In 2005 it was launched to an untested market that luckily, fell head over heels in love with the concept. These condos come up for re-sale periodically, and their value has stayed strong.
Another example is the Saint Charles Residences, in the Islandview neighborhood. It is a stunning conversion of a 100 year old school, originally associated with the adjacent St. Charles church. The historic building contains 25 unique residential units, and multiple additional new construction phases are being built around it. The high quality, modern residences, feature tall ceilings, mezzanines, terrazzo floors, and lovely wide corridors and lounges.
What’s next for school conversions in Detroit?
There are some great options for developers thinking of a residential development, and we predict that in the not too distant future, buyers and tenants will be able to pick and choose between several quality school conversion condo projects.
The Hillger School in Pingree Park is available for sale now and ready for development. It could fulfill a need for new housing options, within reach of the first time homebuyer and with access to the attractions of Kercheval, West Village, and the Greater Villages.
St. Casimir is another school ripe for re-development, in North Corktown. St. Casimir was featured in French magazine Le Point as an illustration of the new wave of development in Detroit.
These are examples of school buildings that lay in emerging, up and coming neighborhoods. And now that the concept has been proven successful by previously completed Detroit projects, both buyers and builders can take advantage of opportunities to get in on the ground floor.
Why are historic school conversions ideal in the Post COVID-19 era?
A school has typically large floorplans created by sturdy, thick existing walls separating original classrooms and lounges from one another. Spacious residential layouts are compatible with the existing building structures. In the post COVID-19 world, buyers prefer larger spaces, to house all their various lifestyle activities under one roof and maximize privacy & distancing. A rehabbed school can also give buyers the opportunity to buy a “raw” condo, in a relatively short time frame, at the white box stage, where they can build out their custom design over time, according to their budget.
One of the most exciting features of every school to condo conversion is the uniqueness of the spaces, and features. You cannot just erase the history from these renovations. There are niches, alcoves, libraries, lockers and gymnasiums with floorplans that lend themselves to fascinating living spaces. In the 1920s, carved wood trim and solid wood doors, Pewabic-tiled fireplaces, and terrazzo floors were popular.
The school building conversion is just the perfect size for a small- to medium-sized residential project, typically on three stories, with beautiful architectural details, in some of the older Detroit neighborhoods that are well poised to make a comeback. At Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices The Loft Warehouse, we look forward to sharing our new favorites in this category, as the details emerge.
You Need to Know About Detroit Horse Power!
This month we are all excited about the non - profit organization named Detroit Horse Power. It was founded in 2015 to provide Detroit youths access to horses, and to teach them equestrian skills, up to the level of national competition.
Our agent, Angel Holbrook, is instrumental in promoting the organization. Her 11 year old son is an award winning young horseman, with dreams of becoming an Olympic equestrian champion soon.
Detour Detroit just published a great article about the success of Midtown Inc.'s new construction single family (site condo) home development in West Midtown, called EcoHomesHere's the scoop, and we are proud to have been the listing broker on this project.
Despite their high price tag, demand was high for the 14 sustainably-designed, single-family homes on 4th Street.
"If you’ve driven near the Lodge Freeway in Midtown recently, you may have noticed an intriguing sight: newly built homes with metal roofs, solar panels and geometrical forms lining both sides of 4th Street. These are the EcoHomes, an experiment in contemporary home design..."
The heart of New Center was developed in the 1920s as a business hub that would offer convenient access to both downtown resources and outlying factories. Some historians believe that New Center may be the original edge citya sub-center remote from, but related to, a main urban core. And now, it houses the Center for Creative Studies, Henry Ford Health professional offices, the renowned Fisher Theatre, New Center Park, and many shops and restaurants to enhance the lifestyle of local residents.
In 1977, General Motors began refurbishing some of the residential neighborhoods north of Grand Boulevard. The result was the New Center Commons, a collection of refurbished, historic single-family homes on Pallister, in a registered Historic Neighborhood. New Center Commons is the pedestrian-only section of Pallister where lovely historic brick homes enjoy an idyllic city setting with stately maple and oak trees shading the brick-paved promenade.
Find out what Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices The Loft Warehouse agent Angel Holbrook achieved last month, for her client at 658 Pallister.
Angel knew she had a special property on her hands when she listed 658 Pallister for her client. And sure enough, as soon as she put the interior design award -winning home on the market, there was a flurry of offers. She worked to achieve an appraisal contingency from the buyers with the strongest offer, and she navigated the ups and downs, keeping the parties calm throughout the deal. In the end, when it closed last month this sale broke a record for the neighborhood: at $585,000 it is the highest residential sale ever for New Center Commons.
Connect with Angel Holbrook directly, and discuss how to break a sales record with your property. 313-205-3242 or [email protected]
Let's talk through your questions, on Zoom or over a cup of coffee. Our agents will run the reports for you and get you fully prepared to succeed. We will take the time to fully inform you about this ever changing and unique Detroit housing market.

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