Historic Detroit

Every building in Detroit has a story — we're here to share it

St. Rita Apartments

The St. Rita was built in 1916 for Robert S. Braun and designed by architect Harry C. Stevens.

It originally contained 24 suites (though today is home to 26 one-bedroom apartments). Its red tapestry brick and white terra cotta finishes give it a classic look. The entrance lobby and stairway were finished in English-Italian marble and ornamental plaster. The corridor floors had in-laid ceramic Mosaic tiles. The suites facing Owen Avenue originally featured five rooms and a bath. Those in the back had four rooms. The rooms were finished in mahogany and white enamel, and the baths featured white tile.

The six-story building managed to hang on until the 1990s, when it was damaged by fire. It sat empty and was teed up to be demolished by the City in 2008. However, possibly because of Detroit's precarious financial condition ahead of bankruptcy, the St. Rita managed to dodge the wrecking ball.

In 2014, the St. Rita was purchased for $69,000 at a Wayne County Sheriff's sale by local developer Joseph Early.

Four years later, a full, $7.2 million renovation began on the North End apartment building that saw it converted into fully furnished housing for formerly homeless people or those receiving services for mental illness. U.S. military veterans are to receive preference.

The structure was redone with hardwood floors and cherry cabinets. The remade Rita was to reopen in March 2019, and Mayor Mike Duggan attended a celebration for the project on Feb. 27, 2019.

The redevelopment was done by a joint venture of Early and the nonprofit Central City Integrated Health.

Ryan Lepper, president and CEO of Central City, told the Detroit Free Press ahead of its reopening that his organization received hundreds of applications for the 26 units. To qualify for an appartment, an applicant's income cannot exceed more than 30 percent of the area median income -- no more than $14,000 a year.

"To see the look on someone's face when they have had nothing and they walk into a fully furnished unit — it could be the first bed that they've had in a decade — that is a humbling experience," Lepper told the Free Press.

The redevelopment was funded through tax credits, federal housing funds and charity:

Low-Income Housing Tax Credit and Historic Tax Credit Equity: $5.5 million City of Detroit HOME Investment Partnership Program funds: $1.5 million Detroit Central City Integrated Health funds: $176,638. The Home Depot Foundation grants: $250,000

Land records show that the then-abandoned apartment building was purchased by Early in 2014 sale. Early is now a 49 percent owner of the property with Central City owning the other 51 percent, Lepper said.