Exclusive: Blight Authority Shifts Operations to Detroit

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Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, in tandem with the City Council, will announce a major initiative today to rid blight from Detroit’s neighborhoods. The first step of a “comprehensive neighborhood rebuilding plan” will be kicked off in an area around Marygrove College, at McNichols and Wyoming on the city’s west side.

At the same time, The Blight Authority, a nonprofit organization with offices in the Chrysler House in downtown Detroit that worked to remove dozens of homes and vacant buildings along with cleaning up trash and other debris, is transitioning most of its local operations to the city. The Blight Authority, chaired by Bill Pulte, will continue to work with the city, as needed, and has started to offer its expertise to communities in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Maryland.

“I think it’s great what Mayor Duggan is doing, and yes, he did ask us to phase all management of our (local) operations” to Detroit, says Pulte, CEO of Pulte Capital Partners in Bloomfield Hills. “He thought everything could be better coordinated within the city, so we were happy to do it. That doesn’t mean The Blight Authority is going away.”

Pulte says the authority has started working with officials from South Bend, Ind., to remove blight. “We’ll continue to work on non-structural blight removal in Detroit,” he says. “But not on the structural side. When we started we raised a lot of money from the state of Michigan, (Quicken Loans founder and chairman) Dan Gilbert, and a number of different people, and we really showed what an organization can do to attack and eradicate blight in a given area.”

Under the new plan to be announced today, the Detroit Press Office says “the program will begin with the city posting legal notices on every vacant home in the Marygrove neighborhood as a prelude to filing suit against the owners. The initiative is the first phase of a multi-faceted approach to eradicating blight in the city of Detroit neighborhood by neighborhood.”

In addition to Mayor Duggan, City Council President Brenda Jones, Erica Gersen, chair of the Detroit Land Bank, and Gary Torgow, president of Talmer Bank in Troy, will attend the press conference.

For years, city mismanagement, a lack of code enforcement, and diminishing public services has contributed to falling property values. In addition, the city is still struggling to deal with scores of polluted and deteriorating properties from a rapid run-up of armament production during World War II and the Korean War, as well as the local consolidation and globalization of the automotive industry.

The city’s failure to effectively deal with the steep drop in war production left many neighborhoods with industrial eyesores, the result of building factories near homes due to a lack of a comprehensive transportation system. Given the need to support the troops overseas, factories large and small sprouted up all over the city — hence its standing as the Arsenal of Democracy.

But once war production dropped off the cliff following the end of the Korean War in 1953, city residents began moving to the suburbs in droves, ostensibly to keep from living next to, or near, vacant and underutilized industrial buildings. The 1967 riots served to accelerate the exodus.

According to various studies, there are 78,000 vacant structures in the city. On an annual basis, 60 percent of the fires in Detroit stem from vacant and abandoned structures.

In related news, the Detroit Police Department has scheduled a press conference this afternoon to announce: 

  • The remainder of the Detroit Police Department Scout Cars donated by Penske Corp., Quicken Loans, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Chrysler Group, Ford Motor Co., and General Motors will be delivered.
  • Pilot program concerning the Taser Axon Flex Body-Worn Cameras, which are a body-worn camera designed to capture video and audio evidence by officers. The camera will be affixed to an officer and will record all resident interaction throughout their day.
  • An Ordinance sponsored by Councilman Andre L. Spivey which will require all self-service gas stations within the city to install and maintain digital video surveillance equipment and take additional public security measures to ensure the safety of its customers.

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