The University District is a signature Detroit neighborhood known for its ornate single family homes and strong community. Like all neighborhoods in the country, the UD suffered from depressed home values and foreclosures during the housing crisis. In 2010, I briefly considered buying a house and I fell in love with a listing in the neighborhood but even at a bargain price I couldn’t afford to buy a house on a single income. Now that property values are steadily rising, I still can’t afford the neighborhood. Lucky for me I have friends who can and will live vicariously through their house hunt. Since it’s football season Danny had to stay home and watch the Lions lose but prospective homebuyers Chris and Emily joined me on the University District Community Association’s biannual Home and Garden Tour. It was a beautiful day to walk the neighborhood and I was left with some serious house envy.
I find the character of older homes irresistible and the University District is overflowing with it. Rounded door entry-ways with brick details and stained glass windows are commonplace. Every house we visited had several lead windows and most of them had far more than that. It might not be great in the winter but it sure is breathtaking to admire.
Notice anything unusual about this house? No front door! The corner lot has a side entrance that is bound to leave many delivery trucks confused. This beautiful home was not always so lovely. A few years ago it was bank owned and in disrepair. Fortunately, it was purchased buy a family who took on the challenge of restoring it to its former glory. The Detroit News did a story about it last week so it’s the only home you can actually see interior pictures for. If you look through the gallery you’ll notice that the neighbors share a patio they call the “Bistro”.
During our walk through the neighborhood we met Rod Murphy. He was repairing the front of his house after a tree fell on it during a recent storm. He bought his home eight years ago and it’s one of the first houses built in the neighborhood. The home’s style is unique because the design wasn’t popular with prospective buyers at the time and the developers decided to change the neighborhood designs to Tudor styled homes. Rod was very friendly and open about his experience in the University District so I couldn’t resist asking a couple questions.
Why did you buy a house in the University District?
I only lived about a mile from here. My previous home was by Marygrove
so I knew this area pretty well. When I was younger – if you lived on the westside – this is the area everyone wanted to move to. When you are younger you couldn’t afford it. When I could afford it, I bought a house over here. We looked at about eight houses and most of them are Tudors but we liked this one because it was different.
What do you like about the neighborhood?
Do you see this neighborhood? [laughs] It’s quiet. How you see it right now is pretty much how it is all the time. The neighbors are good. They’re all homeowners. You don’t have a lot of people renting so the neighborhood doesn’t change very much. It’s a stable neighborhood.
My sister-in-law owns a store. She owns Lola’s
. I’m a photographer and there are a couple stores up there I do photography for.
What would you like to see Detroit look like in five years?
I’d like to see the neighborhoods go back to being neighborhoods and not abandoned houses. I’d like to see all the shopping districts full and not abandoned. Nothing new, I’d just like it to go back to almost where it was.