River Crest Apartments is the transformation of one of Detroit’s most-troubled apartment communities.

Built in 1924, the Colony and Fisher Arms apartments were infamous for its violence, drug activity, and state of disrepair. Undeterred by the enormous challenges, Building Blocks Non-Profit Housing Corp. and Chesapeake Community Advisors agreed to buy the property, committing to a multimillion rehabilitation beginning in 2013.

The developers stayed with the project even after a massive police raid with more than 150 officers descended on the apartment complex as they were working behind the scenes on their purchase. Once they acquired the property, they began tackling the turnaround from all angles.

“We’re on the ground,” says Dennis Quinn, senior vice president at Cinnaire. “We’re there. We’re a hands-on developer, which you need in any kind of a property, especially one like this.” Quinn worked closely on the deal through Building Blocks, the development affiliate of Cinnaire.

New management was brought in, and all tenants were evaluated for occupancy eligibility, which introduced criminal background checks and a review of tenant history. Security also was upgraded to increase safety and reduce crime.

The 161-unit development, which had undergone only moderate rehabilitation once in the early 1980s, also needed significant work. The team rehabbed the apartments, added major structural supports throughout the buildings, and installed an energy-efficient air exchange system to provide each unit and common areas with air conditioning. Heating and cooling costs will be greatly reduced as a result.

In addition, case managers are on-site to provide social services to residents.

Financing the $24.4 million project involved multiple sources of funding, including historic and low-income housing tax credits syndicated by Cinnaire. The developers took the project through the federal Mark-to-Market program for mortgage restructuring to accompany a new 20-year Sec. 8 contract.

Looking toward a new future, the property has been renamed River Crest.