Several abandoned homes. A large street flood. Trash covering the ground. Overgrown grass and weeds. An almost completely deserted neighborhood.
This is what Detroit contractor Alonzo Ramon, who goes by his rapper stage name King Yadee, saw when he returned to see the neighborhood where he grew up.
The area, located off Seven Mile Road at Archdale and Vassar, was a disaster. Yadee immediately wanted to fix it.
So he put his music career aside to begin doing what seemed like the impossible: buy up his entire childhood neighborhood and bring it back to life. His brother encouraged him to go to school to learn how to accomplish it all.
“He was like, ‘Go back to school and get your license,’ ” said Yadee. ” ‘If you want to buy the hood, let’s buy the hood. That was 2018.’ ”
And so far, it’s working. The company, called Th3 Block Development, has been able to purchase three abandoned homes on Archdale with two more homes on the block owned by investors. It has been working to renovate them for about a year.
When Yadee first entered the abandoned homes, the homes were completely trashed and had been vacant since 2010. He and his team began knocking down the walls to see what the structures looked like and immediately started the renovation.
King Yadee, 35, of Detroit is the creator of Th3 Block Development. Th3 Block Development is a construction company that purchases abandoned houses in Detroit and renovates them with the goal of “buy back the hood.” Crew members train young people on how to fix homes and about homeownership. He owns three homes between Archdale Street and Vassar Drive that are currently being renovated. (Photo: Rodney Coleman-Robinson, Detroit Free Press)
The well-connected team calls each other brother and sister, with two being Yadee’s actual siblings. Each person was brought on to the crew because of their passion for fixing the neighborhood, where almost all of them grew up. Yadee has invested his own money to pay and train his crew. He also receives a surplus of volunteers.
“We don’t clock in,” Yadee said. “We don’t clock out. We don’t ask people for nothing. We don’t ask for no handouts and we definitely don’t wait for nobody to do nothing for us. I’m building my community, my school and my culture.”
This passion for fixing started when Yadee was young. He and his siblings lost both of their parents when they were very young. His aunt and uncle took the kids in and bought their Archdale Street home. After a while, they decided to leave the area.
Then the 2008 financial crisis hit Detroit, and that’s when Yadee says the neighborhood started to go downhill. He says that contractors and the city of Detroit hadn’t come to fix the neighborhood, so he felt it was up to the people to create a change.
“Through my music and street career, I have influence over like 50 people,” said Yadee. “So I was like, ‘come help me do this.’ “
And people did come to help. About 30 people helped with the first house, which is near completion and will be used as a contractor training school. A rotating crew of about 10 people come on a regular basis, including his brother, Aaron Stallworth, who quit his professional chef career in Colorado to come work on homes full time.
Yadee went back to school to learn building code. He took four months to prepare for the Michigan Residential Builders Exam, which he passed.
He put his rap career to the side, and Th3 Block Development started bidding on the Archdale Street homes to purchase from the Detroit Land Bank Authority.
What’s special about his team is that there are young people involved. With Yadee and his team being positive influences in the area, the neighborhood kids started to see them as parental figures. The kids now volunteer with Th3 Block Development and they are trained to do renovations.
Th3 Block Development is a construction company that purchases abandoned houses in Detroit and renovates them with the goal of “buy back the hood.” Crew members train young people on how to fix homes and about homeownership. King Yadee and his company own three homes between Archdale Street and Vassar Drive that are currently being renovated. (Photo: Rodney Coleman-Robinson, Detroit Free Press)
Jacques Stafford of Th3 Block Development grew up in the neighborhood and now helps to mentor the youths. He says that it’s their responsibility to teach them what they didn’t know when they were young. He has plans to buy a house, as well.
Yadee also wanted to involve women in his home renovation company. There are now three working for Th3 Block Development, including Lisa Johnson, who wanted to contribute to helping the young.
“I got into it because I thought it was hard before,” said Johnson. “It started off with painting. Once I got on board with Yadee, he showed me how to tile floors and drywall. It’s not as hard as it seems at all, especially when you have a team. You benefit from it.”
The company has no loans or grants. Yadee and his employees put their money together to begin purchasing the block.
Yadee also has a production and clothing company called Stash House, which encourages kids to not sell drugs, join gangs or do negative things in the community. This company also contributes to Th3 Block Development’s funding.
“These houses are going to be full of families, life and hope,” Yadee said. “We’re going to have gardens and play areas. We’re going to have a school. Every block I go to is going to have a school and a office where people can contact us and come out here and learn with us.”
Th3 Block Development is currently filming its own home renovation TV show, which will be available through two streaming platforms. It also plans to pitch its ideas to DIY, HGTV or Revolt TV.
“My TV show is going to be more of the fight of the lack of knowledge, the lack of trade and the lack of resources that we have,” Yadee said.
To contribute to buying back Archdale Street, Th3 Block Development accepts donations to its Cash App and PayPal accounts.
Read or Share this story: https://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/detroit/2020/08/24/king-yadee-renovate-th-3-block-developement/3338381001/