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Blight Busting

One of the most well-known things about the city of Detroit is its abandoned homes. Well, over the past week, there have been two major changes that may improve that situation.

First, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on Thursday gave Michigan a $223 million grant to solve some of the housing issues long haunting the city. According to The Detroit Free Press, "the money will be used to acquire thousands of foreclosed, abandoned and blighted properties in targeted areas throughout Michigan, which had the eighth highest foreclosure rate in the nation last year. About 1,500 would be rehabilitated, 2,500 demolished and 4,650 placed in land banks, which erase liens on property to compile land for future development."

Then, Mayor Dave Bing and his staff said in a Detroit News article today that they're going to go after those who fail to pay the city for demolishing their empty buildings. The most expensive tear-downs belong to those with office or apartment buildings, the paper said.

According to the News, "the new system -- to start in February -- would send property owners invoices for work. If they don't pay after 90 days, collection agencies working for commissions would pursue the debt. If the debt is big enough, the law department could get involved and file a lawsuit."

"The status quo of how we've been addressing this no longer works. We need to send a message it's not OK anymore," said Karla Henderson, the city's new director of Buildings and Safety Engineering.

Granted, there are skeptics already as to whether the city will hold true to its word and actually go after the scalawags who refuse to pay their bills. But from what I can tell about Dave Bing (and especially after reading the awesome piece about him in Sports Illustrated) it seems our fine new mayor is a man of his word. Scalawags, beware.

As an aside, the city told the News there are no plans to use the Fed's money to raze the infamous Michigan Central Depot. I think we all have hopes that somehow that glorious building can live on.

Check out the map where the major demolitions are going to happen. This could be major for Detroit if all the players get it going, we recoup some of the money for older demos and then apply it to other spots. If I won a huge Lotto jackpot, I've always said I'd donate as much as I could to Detroit to tear down the blight. Maybe HUD feels the same way. Go, bulldozers, go!

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  • 1

    Karen, I'm curious who you work for. Your ability to start a pointed topic is very good.

    And the article on Dave in SI is exceptionally good. I worked for Ken and was deeply worried about Beckham and his misguided past no matter how much people wanted to slough it off. The tradition of corruption seemed to be too well ensconced. The SI article leaves me with the notion that if Charlie got out of hand Dave would turn him into dust, no matter how much he needs the understanding of the ropes.

    I do know and have the highest regard for several of Dave's appointees.

    What has long concerned me is what happened to Planning in Detroit. I worked on the Detroit Medical Center with Jerry Crane and Jerry mentioned that Charlie Blessing assigned him that project. Both Charlie and Jerry were Architect-Planners and Charlie had great vision. The fact that we have a great Medical Center, that hasn't been talked about, really is due to Charlie.

    After Charlie retired Bill Smith took over and Coleman was in power. I knew Bill from working on the Med Center and fully understand what happened. Coleman was exceptionally bright and would suffer no fools. Coleman simply ignored him. And creative Planning died in Detroit.

    Now Gerry established a City Planning school at WSU, but because there was no Architectural School to feed the Planning School as an advanced degree, Gerry accepted anyone from any background including mortuary science and built the largest planning school in the US. He then used that to move on to Ann Arbor to head up the Planning Department in the Architectural School. ‘Twas fortuitous for him.

    But, meanwhile back at the ranch, nothing was getting done except for the perfunctory stuff. There was and is no great vision no great stream of ideas and the gang of 4 that ML talked about in the Freep seemed to only think about demolition and they effected it.

    Demolition has to be used carefully and it really has not been done with great care. I was very impressed that Ken got Manny to promise that he would fix up the Michigan Central Depot. Will Dave hold Manny to that Promise? I certainly hope so.

    Before we start jumping for joy about HUD we should remember several things. Most recently HUD paid for the refurbishing of the High rises for the elderly and installed nice new windows. I'm talking about the Brewster Highrises at the corner of I75 where I375 parts to go on downtown where my wife spent her early years. Almost as soon as the nice new windows went in, last summer they were stripped back out and the new Motor Generator Sets were ravaged. How on earth could this have happened? HUD really owes us and explanation. Do they intend to demolish them independently of this new Grant?

    If they do then the Governor ought to order the State Highway Department to widen I75 at that turn because that is a huge bottleneck during rush hours.

    But back to this "Demo plans". Who came up with it? You do not indicate authorship. That is important for us to know. How carefully and thoughtfully was it done?

    As mentioned in another thread, Detroit has a lot of balloon frame housing and a very high percentage of it has come down. Some of it is due to the Devil's night devilishness. Michigan once had great forests and they were carved up to build those balloon framed houses. There actually is a lot of good lumber in them if you knew it.

    And it is absolutely right that there must be more demolition. We're not Philadelphia or Boston where the architecture would have been solid brick masonry construction. I recently talked with Bill Worden and he said that the balloon framing was easy to retrofit. I personally don't think so, not at any reasonable cost... awfully labor intensive though if that is the point then let's have at it intelligently.

    So much of it does need to come down but we should carefully select those areas. There actually are areas that should be preserved and some appear to be in the areas indicated as slated for demolition.

    Who is in charge of this? That is a very important thing. John George should know his area by now and what areas need consolidation should be identified. Each area should be carefully inspected.

    I live in the Lafayette Park Area and it is considered to be the first and still foremost Urban Renewal Area in America. The State Housing Development Authority got going under Bill Rosenberg and a number of wonderful townhouse projects were put up. Why has this stopped? It did stop under Engler but Jennifer should have gotten it going again. Instead they are mortgaging boon dock housing all over the state. This is an utter shame.

    Again, who is in charge of this? Do they know what they are looking at when they look at older structures, do they have a sense of City Planning? I really wonder. Nothing is being written about this.

    In the last years of the Coleman Young Administration I went to him since he married my wife and I and suggested that we have a great international competition to create some new housing near the downtown area. I suggested that we show the competitors the Mies designs and then say, OK, here you see the work of one of the World's 3 greatest architects of the 20th Century, the guy who invented the glass building, what would you propose? It would have generated a lot of interest around the world. And we were going to call it "New Paradigm Habitats" to push the technology now available to us. Believe me it would have been a great effort. So I went to the AIA and the effort got squelched by some dirty internal politics of that group. (Problems did not only exist within City Government).

    There is still room for such a competition. Perhaps Dave could make it happen. Architects around the world are starving, and the fact that Lafayette Park is over 55 years old now and framed with steel and glass shows that this method of construction is less expensive and really quite intelligent yet very beautiful. We get people touring the place all the time from all over the world. Contrary to current opinion, TB did not invent the place nor is he standing up to see that it is properly maintained and improved.

    Certain areas must be designated for parks and if the imagined great horde of urban farmers descends upon us like the Mongolian invasion let them go to work. And if new housing clusters are to be assembled perhaps Frank Lloyd Wright's notions of Broadacre city could be explored. Detroit has many areas of wonderful historic housing that must continue to be saved and improved. Canfield actually is of historic importance. And there are many other wonderful areas.

    So who is in charge? There are too many generalities and huge sums out there. That is dangerous and a set up for a disaster and another sad story by Chastity Pratt.

    I have to make another comment. Hudson's should never have been demolished since it could have been a wonderful automotive museum, automotive archival center, and hall of fame. The structure was perfect... infinitely better than the WTC. And this would have been a great draw for the City right Downtown. There were a great bunch of young people working on that effort and you have to give Coleman A Young, great credit. Some think that he was the cause of the demolition mantra. That is simply not so. Once he saw us in operation he abandoned all efforts to demolish the building. No question that he respected the wishes of a younger generation.

    A group spun off from that effort called Cityscape Detroit. They took it upon themselves to identify all the various districts of Detroit. They should be consulted as well.

    Intelligent demolition and adaptive reuse is a delicate art if do it correctly. Let us pray that someone who has some profound content of character steps up to do the right things on these issues on this day, the initiation of the MLK remembrance march which will grow to be a huge thing in this City. Thank you Dr. Jenkins. Robert Bobb is correct, you are great.


  • 2

    This is not enough money!!!! Detroit deserves the same amount of money that our country has wasted in 2 wars Iraq & Afghanistan...

    Our nation has a consitutional mandate to care for the "general welfare" of the people..

    I want Bing , Jennifer and others to demand more right here..right now

  • 3

    We should ignore any and all the people that Bill name drops in his as usual long winded ballon of a narrative...

    Given the track record of those who have held power over the city I am sure folks like Bill and his co-horts should be banned from any stake in the rebirth of the city..

    Again the money is not enough plus we need a new set of planners and architects..

    My firm will be happy to supply some new ideas, candidates and paradigms..

    • 3.1

      As usual you speak like you are an authority on all that is known. Then put a link to your useless blog, saying your firm should be chosen to come up with ideas?!
      I went to your blog to see what you write about.... All I read was babel. Yet very few is any comments are left from visitors to your blog. You are a very self important person, that is about the sum of you. You constantly defame or discredit others with out any follow up as to why they are wrong, you tout your "blackness" like it is a calling to be black, and when I read your words all I see is a person who may think he has good intentions yet falls short on proof or facts that are true. you write with conviction yet you have no knowledge or ideas that are innovative, they are just the dreams of your own design.

      Using big words does not make one seem smart if the argument is not logical, which most of your arguments are.

      I know you will come back at me with some BS that I'm jealous or I have been brain washed by the media or school systems or because I'm some white racist villain hell bent on the destruction of all your "Blackness" and that is fine. That is your MO so far on the Time blogs here. Your paranoia is evident and proven in what you write here as well as in your own blog that in two years has generated so little good content or followers.

      Just so you know a blog is not a "Firm"

    • 3.2


      Your blog has generated 1,100 views since September 2008! such a huge number, my Facebook get more hits then that in a month, and you list your favorite book at the Dictionary?! Are you serious.... Really? You must have mad scrabble skills.

  • 4

    @ Robert,

    Your words meand nothing to me becuase they mean nothing to you if I recall you posted on this site that you would never engaged me again yet your own posts prove you to be a,lol,lol

    My blog is just that a blog of personal insights etc..My firm and my business does not have anything to do with my blog( your business acumen leaves a lot to be desire if you cannot understand this basic business 101)

    You still have this ugly fixation and obession over my comments and post... Again is it penis envy gone wild or what???lol,lol,lol

    Why do you feel compelled to be my warden, arbiter and forum umpire in here about my posts and comments?? ..Is your white privledge pathological demeanor that strong and demanding that it compells you to betray your own promises and statements??? Do you have negrophobia??,lol,lol,

    Please get over me and my presence and my talents in forums like this one. The only people who cannot separate my posts from my hue are white posters like you and others like Bill....

    Let me just leave you with these truths:

    1. I am smarter than you it is that simple
    2. You cannot measure up to me in any venue so deal with this shortcoming of yours..Yes I am a dark skin negro with a negro and global dialect and skill set that is never going to change
    3. Please call Homeland Security on me if that makes you feel,lol,lol

  • 5

    PS....I do not do business in those Facebook neighborhoods...tee,lol,lol

  • 6

    On this side of the border we have numerous houses vacant and borded up. They are the property of the Ambassador Bridge Company and the company wants nothing more than to tear them down. The bridge, who has the support of a large number of residents in the area, is being blocked by Mayor Francis and the city council. How ironic when compared to Detroit. Eddie Francis is more inclined to litigate than negotiate.

    The bridge company has the money to tear down these houses but it is political cowardice that prevents this from happening. Oh well. Maybe in November.

  • 7


    One a liar always a liar...Get over me man....PLEASSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I hate to blush like this around my office when I am on the,lol,lol

  • 8

    First let me begin by saying that i was born and raised in the city, on the north east side, I grew up not far from where my parents both grew up 30yrs prior, and if you were to travel down those old streets today, well they definitely have not been habitable for about the last 20yrs. or so. This neighborhood in particular borders, Grosse Pointe Park between Alter rd. and Dickerson. from Jefferson ave, to E. Warren ave. I have watched the homes burn to shells, and the shells turn to rubble, to the rubble disappear, and the land turn to fields. Fields that are infested by trash, abandoned cars, or just tall uncut weeds sometimes stretching as long a the block itself. I am willing to bet many crimes have been committed and found in these deserted streets of "The ghost of Detroit's past." I would like to say I applaud the citizens that have took advantage of the opportunity the city has been offering for some time to purchase abandon lots next to home owners, and increasing there lot size, and adding some revenue to the city.

    However, the real issue is the blight, the vacant unused land. Here is a small project that might add a little more pride in the communities that have all but lost everything. How much would it cost the city to landscape these vacant blocks. I don't mean like a million dollar job, but just mow it down, put in a walking p lined with wood chip or mulch, I seen the park the city placed in the area of Alter and and Mack, a few yrs back, recently, and It was a start, but it seemed to fall by the way side, in just a short time. These neighborhoods could use simple new landscapes to go with the 2 or 3 blocks of newer developments that have moved into the area in recent yrs.

    Here is another idea, lets try improving the view along these main roads, like E. Warren, and Mack, Its obvious, these outlining neighborhoods of the city that have all but lost all tax revenue of the last 20-30 yrs. isn't going to come back on its own, and I think a change of scenery just might be the little things that might help in the long run. What else does the city have to lose? MORE RESIDENCE, MORE PEOPLE WILLING TO TAKE A STAND FOR A NEIGHBORHOOD THEY CAN BE PROUD TO LIVE IN?

  • 9

    [...] reason for optimism?  The federal government recently awarded Michigan with $233 million to purchase thousands of abandoned/run-down properties.  Some will be [...]

  • 10

    [...] since we all love our city, I want all my fellow LionsDetroit fans to check out detroit.blogs.time and tell me what you think about[...]

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