North of Midtown, just below the northern border of the New Center neighborhood, you’ll find the elegant homes of the Virginia Park Historic District. Historic homes line Virginia Park Street from Woodward Avenue on the east to the Lodge Freeway service drive on the west. Virginia Park offers a quiet neighborhood, with a strong sense of community, not far from the bustling new shops and restaurants of Midtown.
Houses in the district were built between 1893 and 1915 and include a mix of architectural styles such as Bungalows, Colonial Revival, Neo-Georgian, and Tudor. In the early 1980s, General Motors, who at the time was headquartered in nearby New Center, invested heavily in supporting their surrounding neighborhoods and renovated a number of homes in and around Virginia Park. The district was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
The challenging city landscape of the 1990s and early 2000s led to issues of abandonment and disrepair in the community and as recently as five years ago, there were 15 vacant houses in this small community. However, over the last five years the neighborhood has experienced a flood of investment and a renewed commitment to preserving and restoring the area. Private investors, individual homebuyers, and the Detroit Land Bank Authority purchased homes and embarked upon massive rehabilitation projects. Several properties were turned into shared rentals, popular with young professionals, while many were sold to individual homebuyers.
Now there are only four vacant homes on the block and residents and neighbors are chipping in to help this community grow. Area non-profit organization, Midtown Inc. saved a neighborhood green space and has helped to improve and maintain its use as the neighborhood’s park. The police force at nearby Wayne State University helps to lend a hand with patrols and responds to emergency calls.
And the best part of all, the neighbors themselves have been instrumental in helping to lead to this community’s revival. A block club started just three years ago has strong participation from the community. The club has organized a neighborhood e-mail list, hosts regular meetings, and organizes an annual block party picnic. With its stately homes, active network of neighbors, new investments, and a planned stop on the new M-1 light rail just a few blocks to the south, this historic neighborhood is looking forward to a bright future.