Washington Apartments in REO Town named to National Register of Historic Places

Empty since 2019 due to safety concerns, designation could mean renovations are coming


THURSDAY, April 25 — The old Washington Apartments, a vacant six-story apartment complex at 927 S. Washington Ave. in Reo Town, was added to the National Register of Historic Places this month, meaning it could soon get a facelift and take in tenants once more.

While being on the list, which comprises more than a million and a half properties across the country, is mostly symbolic, it does offer financial incentives to the owners.

The 43,920 square-foot property built in 1922 has been unoccupied since September 2019, when the city of Lansing ordered it vacated because its ownership group, the Lakewood, New Jersey-based Washington Avenue Apartments LLC, didn’t have a valid rental certificate.

By that point, the building had already been plagued with bedbugs and other safety concerns for years, prompting the city to issue citations in 2012 and 2015. During that span, it was owned by EY 927 Washington Avenue LLC, who bought it from Ronald and Wanda Roderick for $665,000 in 2011. They sold it to the current ownership for $370,000 in 2016.

The State Historic Preservation Review Board reviewed the application in January and approved it unanimously after a presentation by Matt Wicklund, a Chicago-based consultant with the tax firm Ryan LLC and sent it to the National Register office, which is part of the National Park Service in Washington. It was officially added April 17.

The designation means that Washington Avenue Apartments LLC can apply for tax credits to be used toward renovations, said Ryan Schumaker, the state historic preservation officer.

However, Schumaker added that he was unsure of the ownership group’s motivations and couldn’t confirm whether it had submitted the application in the first place. Washington Avenue Apartments LLC did not respond to a request for comment, but Wicklund indicated in his January presentation the goal is to create up to 70 rental units.

“We don't have the information on who actually put this forth, but we usually assume it's the property owner. Typically, that’s in pursuit of federal historic tax credits,” Schumaker said.

Being listed on the National Register of Historic Places is a prerequisite for those credits, which Schumaker said can be applied for “qualified rehab expenses,” including building materials and labor.

“Anything that's going toward the physical rehabilitation of a listed building will qualify, so they can take 20% of those expenses against their federal income tax. What we typically see is a lot of window replacement and mechanical and interior work,” Schumaker said, adding that this avenue is most often reserved for larger “income-producing properties, like an apartment building.”

Before it could be listed however, the property needed to meet at least one of four criteria used to determine its significance. Schumaker said this particular site, located in Lansing’s REO Town, met two of them.

“It's one of the very few large apartment buildings that was built in Lansing before World War II, so it was important for that historic significance, but also for its architecture as well,” he said.

Dylan Rogers, REO Town Commercial Association board member and co-owner of the Robin Theatre, was surprised to learn of the building’s newfound National Register of Historic Places status.

“None of our immediate leadership knows who nominated that building,” he said. “We have done some research through public records at one point and tracked down the manager of the wealth management company that owns it, but we didn’t hear back,” he said.

Since the building was vacated in 2019, Rogers said he’s occasionally seen “somebody doing the bare minimum to maintain the grass and the exterior.”

“It's been kind of a blighted area for a long time,” he added. “It's been interesting to see some brand new, massive apartment complexes go in on that end of the neighborhood, when we already have this beautiful historic building that’s been sitting there vacant.”

“If being listed allows the current owner to rehabilitate the property and get people living in affordable housing in our neighborhood, that’s our dream for that building,” he said. “We’re really excited to hear that there might be some momentum towards making that happen.”

National Register of Historic Places, Washington Apartments, REO Town, Ryan Schumaker, MEDC, State Historical Preservation Office, Dylan Rogers


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