You’ve probably seen the Bell Building while driving past on the Lodge. It stands tall in Detroit’s north end, with a fluorescent Yellow Pages sign on its tower. The Bell has been through various incarnations in its time, but in the next year, the Neighborhood Service Organization will rehabilitate the currently vacant building.
The space will be transformed into 155 single room apartments for formerly homeless people. But Sheilah Clay, president and CEO of NSO insists that a place to stay is just the beginning of rehabilitation for the homeless.
There will be on-site counseling for mental illness and substance abuse, as well as entrepreneurial training and opportunities for residents. “It will be like a whole village,” Ray Johnson, NSO Board President, insists.
This village will includes its own library, art and music studios, a fitness center, a chapel, and rooftop gardens. The Bell will also house NSO offices and a number of other supportive programs, including gambling treatment, emergency telephone and suicide prevention center, and older adult services.
Mayor Dave Bing gives his support to the project, asserting the NSO and new Bell Building “will become a beacon to the city of Detroit… with the dreams and support of people like the NSO leadership, this city will turn around.”
It’s not just the mayor’s support, either. When Sheilah Clay first pitched her idea, the response was lack luster. Some went as far as to say ‘a cold day in Hell…’ But with perseverance and two years’ time, the 5 million dollar project is now backed by the city, Wayne County, National Trust Community Investment, the McGregor Fund, MSHDA, and more.
“I just kept imagining the ribbon cutting ceremony,” she recalls, tearing up.
Hearing her speak, you can understand this change in heart on an investor’s part. “This NSO Bell Building project is more than a bricks and mortar investment. It’s one in people, which always pays off,” Burney Johnson, deputy director of MSHDA, explains further.
The ground breaking ceremony was held last Tuesday, and construction is scheduled through the next coming months. The Bell Building is expected to be finished a year from now. Until then? “Keep your eyes on Oakland Blvd.” says William Jones, CEO of neighboring organization Focus: Hope.
For more information on the Neighborhood Service Organization’s Michigan presence, visit their website at http://www.nso-mi.org/index.php, and if you’d like to see more photos of the event, visit our flickr.
Photo credit: Karpov the Wrecked Train