Avalon, Ann Arbor Housing Commission break ground on Dunbar Tower


The Ann Arbor Housing Commission and Avalon Housing broke ground on a Dunbar Tower, a six-story, 63-unit development at 121 E. Catherine Street in Ann Arbor in April 2024. The development will expand supportive, affordable housing, while recognizing the history of the area — historically known as the Old West Side — as a center of the Black community in the city.

The development’s units will be available to low-income residents, those exiting homelessness and others who need supportive services, and income-qualifying people who work in the arts industry. The building will also feature a community maker space that supports entrepreneurship for Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities.

“Everyone deserves a stable home—but for far too many in Washtenaw County, the numbers don’t add up and that dream is simply out of reach,” said Avalon Executive Director Aaron Cooper. “The Dunbar Tower development is an incredible opportunity to advance Avalon’s mission of ending homelessness while honoring Kerrytown’s unique history and culture and supporting the growth of a vibrant and diverse business community. We’re excited to get shovels into the ground.”

The West Side – stretching from what’s now known as the Kerrytown neighborhood west to Brooks St., between Miller Ave. and Sunset Rd. – was a predominantly Black neighborhood for much of the 20th century. As part of the planning process, the Ann Arbor Housing Commission and Avalon worked with the Community Leadership Council (CLC), a group of local Black residents, previous Black residents, and young Black artists, to ensure that the development honors the area’s history.

As CLC member and longtime West Side resident Rev. Christina Dennis explained at the groundbreaking ceremony, the development is named in honor of the Dunbar Center, which was located just down Fourth Street from the new building and provided the Black community with a variety of services.

“It was the place where African American families and children could participate in a whole host of recreational activities, as well as enrichment activities,” she said. “The Dunbar Center was available to us when other doors in Ann Arbor were shut.”

“Many of Kerrytown’s Black residents had been pushed out due to gentrification and systemic racism over the years,” said Jennifer Hall, executive director of the Ann Arbor Housing Commission, Avalon’s partner in developing the project. “Throughout the design of this development, we wanted to ensure that we were celebrating the achievements of Ann Arbor’s Black community. Avalon has been a great partner, and we look forward to working together to provide more supportive housing opportunities.”

As part of Avalon’s supportive housing model, residents will be eligible to receive a wide variety of one-on-one supports and to participate in our community programs. These individualized supports help tenants address challenges that may lead to eviction and a return to homelessness. These supports include case management; 24/7 crisis support; primary medical care support; medication management and transportation to critical appointments; and peer support programs.

The development is expected to be complete by the end of 2025.

error: Content is protected !!