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In the shadows of the Herman Keifer renovation, West Philadelphia St. home rehab is showing progress

Posted at 6:29 PM, Dec 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-14 18:29:45-05

DETROIT (WXYZ) — It’s a huge project for anyone to tackle!

Developer and Architect Ron Castellano and his investment partners have plans to transform the former Kiefer hospital complex in Detroit– and attract tenants to fill the dozen buildings on the 38-acre campus.

But that’s only part of the challenge.

RELATED: Developer shares vision of the historic Herman Kiefer Hospital and surrounding neighborhood

“This one we kept the siding, this one we put new vinyl siding on, this one we repaired the stucco,” said Architect Ron Castellano.

As part of his agreement with the city, Castellano is rehabbing dozens of houses in the neighborhood surrounding the campus. We recently returned to West Philadelphia Street to check on the progress since our first visit back in April.

The before and after of this house is striking. And it’s repeated up and down the block.

“Some of these houses have been vacant since ’86. It’s amazing,” said Castellano. “I think every house had holes in the roofs, some holes through floors, all the way to the basement.”

Castellano’s team has been finishing up exterior work.

He also took us inside several of the 15 houses he owns on the block that have been cleaned up, fixed up, and now are ready for interior finishes.

“So, we tried to save as many of the wood floors as we could,” said Castellano.

“So, this was original?” asked WXYZ’s Dave LewAllen.

“Yup,” said Castellano. “One hundred years old. It’s amazing how it comes back, right?”

“All of the systems in the houses are 100% upgraded, plumbing, electric, HVAC,” added Castellano.

It has taken Castellano longer than expected to complete this first phase of the homes he controls. The delays have angered some in the community who remain critics of the agreement the city brokered.

“I think the misconception is that it’s so easy and it’s just not, it’s just not,” said Castellano. “I mean, this is probably the hardest project I’ve ever done in my life, to get this done in the amount of time we did it.”

“It took a long time to get here, but this is why we said, please, let’s not demo these houses. These would not be here,” Castellano added.

Mary Grant has lived on West Philadelphia since 1969 and she’s thrilled with the change.

“Some want end results yesterday but you gotta wait till the end of it, you can’t put the cart before the horse,” said resident Mary Grant.

“I was here when it was good, I was here when it was bad and now I’ll be here when it gets good again, that’s all I can do,” said Grant.