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Allan

Dilapidated buildings standing tall in Detroit

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Allan    0

DEMOLITION SLOWDOWN: Dilapidated buildings standing tall in Detroit

Mayor's goal unmet; cash gift is withheld

June 3, 2004

demolition.jpg

Three abandoned homes sit on Jane Street on Detroit's east side. Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick said he plans to announce a program in the fall designed to help people buy abandoned property for restoration.

BY M.L. ELRICK

FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER

Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who once boasted that he would knock down 5,000 abandoned buildings in eight months, last year set a 20-year low for razing dilapidated structures in the city.

And, in another blow to the city's effort to rid itself of blight, a philanthropist who pledged $10 million last year to remove 1,400 decrepit buildings was so discouraged by cuts in Detroit's demolition budget that he has not sent the city a dime.

The problem, Kilpatrick administration officials said recently, is environmental regulators' concerns that their aggressive program would release asbestos from decades-old buildings into neighborhoods.

Kilpatrick also conceded recently that he spoke hastily when he announced his demolition goal shortly after taking office in 2002.

"If I could take back anything from that initial speech, it would be to know more about this process and say, 'Hey, we don't need to demolish that many houses. We need to figure out a plan about what we're going to do with them,' " the mayor said.

Kilpatrick said he plans to announce a program in the fall designed to help people buy abandoned property for restoration.

But it was a cut in the city's demolition budget last year that prompted Plymouth philanthropist Robert Thompson to withhold his $10-million gift. Kilpatrick requested $12.4 million last year, but the Detroit City Council approved only $8.9 million.

"It was never Mr. Thompson's intention that the gift from the foundation simply replace budgetary funds," Eugene Driker, an attorney for Thompson's foundation, said recently. "It was always the notion that this be a contribution over and above budgeted funds to accelerate the process."

Instead, Detroit's demolition numbers are dropping.

City records show that 2,250 buildings were torn down in fiscal year 2001-02. Detroit's fiscal year runs from June 30 to July 1.

In fiscal 2002-03, Kilpatrick's first full year in office, demolitions dropped to 783.

As of May 7, 680 buildings had been razed.

Ironically, Kilpatrick's bold pronouncement on Jan. 30, 2002, that the city would demolish 5,000 homes by September may be a major factor in the city's inability to meet his goal.

Environmental regulators who read the mayor's comments in newspaper accounts told city officials they must abide by National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP), Michigan Department of Environmental Quality spokeswoman Patricia Spitzley said recently.

The regulations, designed to prevent the spread of potentially cancer-causing asbestos fibers, require the city to inspect for asbestos and remove it before demolition. They do not apply to an individual renovating or demolishing a home.

By August 2002, the federal Environmental Protection Agency had filed the first of two complaints against the city for allegedly failing to abide by NESHAP regulations. Regulators sought to impose $84,700 in fines.

The city negotiated a $7,000 settlement in return for agreeing to spend at least $33,000 removing asbestos from six sites, but Kilpatrick said trying to comply with environmental concerns derailed his agenda.

"That's probably the biggest issue," Kilpatrick said recently. "We were doing it wrong for a long time . . . They hit us hard."

Mayoral spokesman Howard Hughey added: "We want to knock down houses. . . . But if doing so becomes a matter of concern for the EPA, we have to stop and correct it. And that's where we're going now."

Spitzley said environmental officials are not to blame for any slowdown in demolitions.

"We have, and we continue to work with them and counsel them on what is required under the federal regulation," she said. "It shouldn't be a great delay in the demolition of a home."

The neighborhood

Pheasants crow as they emerge from a grassy lot next to a shabby gray house with no door, windows or roof at 13375 Jane.

"Tear it down," Avis Tumpkin, who lives across from the hovel, said recently. "On a nice day like today, I don't even want to open my door because that's all that I see.

"It's sitting there just to make me angry."

Her neighbor, Arthur Davis, said the abandoned homes on their block attract squatters and drug dealers. He said he fears for his grandchildren's safety.

Tumpkin said she sees the city knocking down eyesore homes, but not fast enough.

"It's happening," she said, "but it's happening like a drizzle."

Realistic goal

Mike Fisher, head of the east side's Detroit Community Initiative, said abandoned houses are an impediment to redevelopment.

"As we're trying to bring in these new houses . . . we need the city to come in and bring down these ones that are very, very dangerous," he said.

Hughey said the city is razing buildings while it works to satisfy environmental regulators.

But it appears unlikely Kilpatrick will knock down 5,000 abandoned buildings before his term expires at the end of next year.

Since Kilpatrick took office on Jan. 1, 2002, city officials say they have knocked down 2,866 structures. Although the mayor's budget proposal for fiscal 2004-05 sets a demolition target of 2,500 buildings, Buildings and Safety Engineering Department Director Amru Meah said recently that 1,000 buildings is more realistic.

Driker said Thompson still wants to give Detroit $10 million but is waiting to see what the city budgets for demolition next year.

Kilpatrick said the council has agreed to spend $10.5 million. Driker said Thompson doesn't have a figure in mind.

Hughey said city officials are confident Thompson will make good on his pledge.

But Driker said they'll have to make their case soon.

"It should be obvious that Mr. Thompson and his foundation are inundated with requests for funding from very many worthy causes, so the foundation would really like to bring this matter to closure," he said.

Contact M.L. ELRICK at 313-223-3327 or [email protected]

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Allan    0

jacksonville struggled with this before! They have successfully repaired all the buildings though.

Yeah, I'm pretty sure Jacksonville didn't have quite so many abandoned buildings though. It has been estimated that there are some 30,000 abandoned buildings in the city of Detroit. But that's what happens when a city looses more than half of its population. The current population of Detroit is at 906,000.

I'm glad to hear that Kwame is announcing a plan to help people buy structures to restore. The city has been too demolition happy for far too long. There are some great old buildings in the city, and it's unfortunate that some have been razed to make way for some boxes with vinyl siding and attached garages :angry:

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bobliocatt    0

No Jax didn't have the vast amount of abandoned buildings that Detroit had or still has today. Consolidating with the county in 1968, also allowed the city to have extra money for inner city abandonment before it got out of hand. Unfortunately, having the cash, also ended up with the city tearing down a large amount of historic treasures and losing a lot of character and density in the process. Whole inner city neighborhoods like LaVilla, East Jacksonville & Brooklyn, the Ashley Street entertainment corridor (pre-60's black nightlife hub), riverfront warehouse districts and Millionare's Row (Riverside Avenue) were destroyed in the name of "progress".

I fear under the current mindset of Detroit's city council, this same thing could happen to many buildings in downtown Detroit. Jax has learned from its past mistakes, hopefully Detroit will value what it has a little more, before its too late.

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Allan    0

The age of the dinosaur buildings downtown is ending. Within five years they will all be demolished (or hopefully redeveloped). Here's my guesses:

Demolished:

United Artists

Detroit Building

Statler Hotel

Madison Lenox

Fine Arts Bldg

Wurlitzer Bldg

Renovated:

Free Press Bldg

Lafayette Bldg

600 Woodward (Vinton Bldg)

National Theater

Could Go Either Way:

Book-Cadillac Hotel

Will sit and Rot:

Michigan Central Station

I think I have all the major abandoned downtown buildings....

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Allan    0

Of course I did miss some....

Renovated:

David Whitney Bldg

Demolished:

Farwell Bldg

Broderick Tower

Will Sit & Rot:

Pick-Fort Shelby

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Ivory Tower    0

A large part of the problem stems back to renters.

As a resident of this city for most of my life, I've seen waay too often what tenents do.

They break windows, throw stuff in toilets, dirty the places up till carpets, tiles or what not is damaged.

Then shortchange land lords untill evicted.

When this happens, they trash the place.

Sometimes they even take the landlords to court :huh:

When the property isn't worth the hassle and taxes, they try to sell.

They will either lose money in the sale or can't find a buyer.

In the latter case, they just abondone the property or burn it for the insurance money.

Yes, you do have a fair share of slumlords, but this situation came afterwards.

Many that would care a little more, but have become bitter over the years.

My cousin owned a flat for example.

He had tennents throwing diapers in the toilet, and just destroying his house.

They have fights and break windows,rip doors off of hinges and messed him over on rent really bad.

When he finnally got them evicted, they stole his screen doors and gutters.

Scrap metal from such things can bring a few bucks down at the scrap and recycling yard.

Don't blame it on being poor, that holds no water with me.

I've been poor as dirt before and have always maneged my rent AND kept a place clean.

I've even swung deals with landlords to get some repairs done.

It all depends on what is your first prioritys.

Booze, drugs, gold chains and tennie shoes or a clean place to live and paying rent to have that.

They in return cause too many landlords to become cynical and start to cut corners.

You really have to understand what causes the affects.

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baldy    0

I really hope the free press building and especially the national theater get renovated. They are just kind of unique and I'm not sure what tenants they'll be able to get. It's seams the current trend is to turn everything in to lofts and you can't really do that with these 2. The problem I have with the loft trend is you still need to develop some infastructure. I say turn the free press building in to a school. I know its a fine balancing act they have to play with getting people into downtown, but a good schools are a must.

As for the national theater, I think it is one of Detroit's lost gems, but with the Fox, the State, and the Opera house near by, can downtown really support another theater venue?

Ivory Tower, I completely agree with your statement. One of the biggest problems the city of Detroit needs to over come is its people. I'm not trying to stero type, because there are many fine people in the city, but little things like the shooting at the fireworks do a lot of damage to the image of the city and the migration of people into the city. In addition, people have to have some pride. I think this has to start one neighborhood at a time, which right now, it's downtown and new center.

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Allan    0

It is my understanding that the people who own the National Theater plan to re-open it as an African American theater, and then build lofts above it. I heard that the timeline for completion is 2006. Recently they painted some trim on the exterior, but nothing more has happened in the way of activity at the building. The National definately needs to be saved.

The Free Press Building is another must-save. It is still in good shape, and I cannot see it coming down. It is owned by the Farbman Group, and was supposed to be the home of Paper Place Lofts. No further details have been released since the original announcement shortly after the Free Press left the building. I have been planning to email Farbman about the status of the project for a long time, so I will do that today and let you all know what I find out.

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Chow    0

I agree with a lot of your choices but Broderick demolished?!? I think this one will stand. The location is way too difficult for demolition and the site is too small to warrent a surfice lot or another building. It's wedged in between a construction site, main street, and the people mover.

And, damn, that location is too good.

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Allan    0

I agree with a lot of your choices but Broderick demolished?!? I think this one will stand. The location is way too difficult for demolition and the site is too small to warrent a surfice lot or another building. It's wedged in between a construction site, main street, and the people mover.

And, damn, that location is too good.

I was being pessimistic when I made the list. I wanted to recreate the absolute worst possible senario so I can see what the city might be like in a few years.

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Ivory Tower    0

Ivory Tower, I completely agree with your statement. One of the biggest problems the city of Detroit needs to over come is its people. I'm not trying to stero type, because there are many fine people in the city, but little things like the shooting at the fireworks do a lot of damage to the image of the city and the migration of people into the city. In addition, people have to have some pride. I think this has to start one neighborhood at a time, which right now, it's downtown and new center.

What used to fustrate me was the times fellow tennents would litter the backyard after I would clean it up, or throw diapers on my stairway that lead up to MY entrence.

People would throw beer and wine bottles in my backyard on one block I lived, when they would cut through the vacent lot.

My wife would come home after midnight from second shift, and that's when the neighbor would start blasting his stereo.

My cousins wife got called snootie by one of her neighbors because they did some repairs on their house and she planted flowers <_<

We had one neighbor snip the heads off of my wifes sunflowers that ran along side the fence :angry:

One time the girl downstairs let her kids draw all over my wifes car and then on a later date, stole our mail.

In one apartment we lived in, the neighboe across the hallway would sell dope all night and at times drunken assholes would get confused and try to enter our apartment.

One night the smoke from their weed was so thick, I woke up coughing with it as thick as crap in our apartment.

Not to mention the radio blaring all night and my wife had to put up with it after coming home from second shift.

I said something to this woman about it once, and she started hollering and harrasing us through the wall and even threatened my kid once.

One day we over heard her trying to pay a neighborhood kid to trash our car.

This one rowhouse we lived in had paper thin walls, well after coming home tired from work, I didn't feel like listening to the neighbors daughters stereo.

So I finnally ask her mom if her daughter could turn it down a bit.

Instead she said she can't do anything because it's her daughters stereo and then started quoting the law that it's not 10 pm yet. <_<

Another place we lived had crackheads that lived in the back, and they chose to hang on our steps with their wino friends all night and make noise.

One of thier kids was setting of fire crackers on my window ledge one day, when I ask him politely not to do it, this 7-8 year old kid got smart with me.

After that I was threatened with my life and my wifes car got stole and vandelized the next night.

I hate to say it, but it can be hard to make money as a landlord in Detroit, and they rent to who ever can come up with some money.

So when you complain about it to the landlord, they really don't want to do anything sometimes because they can't afford to lose another tennent.

We were such good tennents, that one landlord sold his house when we moved, rather than going back to renting to garbage again.

Too many Detroiters just don't give a flying fudge about thier community or each other.

It's a crying shame.

Not saying that all Detroiters are bad, but too much scum in a community can and are ruining it for everyone else.

I tried to stick it out, but after our second child, I decided we needed a change of scenery.

We did get an oppertunity to live just inside Dearborn the last year in a half, but I still felt our children needed better.

I still figure Detroit WILL turn back around, but that will take at least untill the next generation or two.

So I figured it was just best to go.

Besides, I had an oppertunity to own my own place in Alabama, and I was just tired of a constent uphill battle with what seemed to be no end in site.

I wish Detroit the best of luck, but as of right now, I am getting on with my life. :)

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