Architect Plans Custom-Built Homes In Detroit’s North Corktown Neighborhood

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Detroit’s North Corktown neighborhood will see its first new homes built in years starting next spring by an architect who says the neighborhood offers the right mix of vacant, land bank-owned lots and solid home appraisals.

Grosse Pointe Park-based Christian Hurttienne Architects said Tuesday it plans to construct two custom-designed single-family homes, valued around $200,000 each, using traditional bank financing.

The firm, which built several affordable-housing units in the neighborhood about a decade ago, worked closely with a neighborhood group to solicit comment and notify neighbors of the plan. Principal Brian Hurttienne said the firm worked for a year to secure necessary approvals from the Detroit Planning Department and the Detroit Land Bank Authority.

“It was because of the appraisal rates that were happening there with sold, single-family homes,” Hurttienne said. “All of this would have to happen with financial capacity and bank lending. We tested it with the two houses and the couples that are doing it now.”

Hurttienne said he is working with interested buyers to design and price out homes and take that information to a bank to request financing. He then takes the bank’s offer to finance the home to the Land Bank, which would then approve a sale.

“This is a sale of Land Bank-owned land to the homeowner,” Hurttienne added. “And then with all of the design and the costs lined up, it makes sense for the Land Bank to sell to the landowner to stabilize the neighborhood and get rid of some of their land.”

Hurttienne said the Land Bank is selling the first two properties for around $10,000 apiece, depending on square footage.

PrintThe two homes, on Ash and Sycamore Streets, could be the first of several to be built by the firm in North Corktown, which is generally defined as the neighborhood bordered by Martin Luther King Boulevard, the Lodge Freeway, I-96 and I-75.

They’ll range from 1,200 to 1,500 square feet, one and two stories, with two bedrooms and two bathrooms, depending on the homebuyers’ preferences.

Detroit Land Bank Authority spokesman Craig Fahle cautioned that the agency wasn’t negotiating with Christian Hurttienne Architects on a large-scale project to remake the neighborhood.

“This isn’t like a bigger project,” he said. “Could it replicate elsewhere? Sure, as long as (the proposal) doesn’t run afoul of other things.”

He added: “Anybody who wants to do infill housing we’re going to be in favor of it, obviously.”

The new homes, Hurttienne said, would be a more modern take on the neighborhood’s traditional look of homes with gabled ends, siding, front porch and double-hung windows. He’d like to build five homes in the neighborhood in the first round.

One key to North Corktown is the fact it’s not a historic district, Hurttienne said. So there are no rigid design or size requirements that would drive building costs above what banks would be willing to lend. “The value isn’t there yet,” he said.

Christian Hurttienne has been involved in many notable projects around the city, including the Carlton Lofts in Brush Park, the Kales Building downtown and restaurants including Wright & Co. and The Peterboro.

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