Former Detroit nurses home transformed into energy efficient 28-unit apartment building

DETROIT (WXYZ) - A former nurses home in Detroit, saved from decay and the wrecking ball, has been transformed into energy-efficient apartments in Midtown.

The Helen Newberry Nurses Home opened in 1898 at the corner of Willis and John R.  It served as a school for nurses and residence hall into the 1960's.

"They built it in a way that the upper floors were the dorms, these tiny, little rooms, almost like a nunnery," said Diane Van Buren of Zachary and Associates.  "The main floor was like a grand entry where the families could come and visit.  The lower level was the classrooms."

Newberry was the wife of philanthropist John Newberry, one of Detroit's early entrepreneurs.  Eljiah Myers, who designed the capitol building in Lansing, was hired as architect.

After sitting vacant for years, Zachary and Associates purchased the building from the Detroit Medical Center.

The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) in 2008.

A combination of local and federal tax incentives made the cost of the renovation project manageable, according to Van Buren.

"It was in pretty bad shape so a lot of the building was lost," said Van Buren. "That was the great challenge. Did we actually have the financing and enough funding to put it back together again to make it as beautiful as it was."

The re-design of the building allowed for 28 apartments including five two-bedroom units. 

The building features a geothermal heating and cooling system.  Each unit has its own washer and dryer and uses all Energy Star appliances.

Original leaded-glass windows were saved.  Wood that came from interior walls of the building was used to rebuild all the windows. Other materials from the deconstruction of portions of the original interior will be used in other projects.

The wood floor in the renovated grand entry came from a 1912 house in Hamtramck.

Newberry Hall began welcoming tenants in January. 15 of the 28 units have already been rented, according to Van Buren.

"I live in a one-bedroom apartment," said Aja Adams, who is a pre-nursing student at Wayne State University. "Even though it's one-bedroom it's still pretty big. It's across the street from the hospital but it's not noisy at night or anything like that. Everything is just very, very much like perfect for a student. I really like it."

The units range in price depending on size.  A one-bedroom unit would be roughly $900 per month, according to Van Buren.

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