Hey everyone,

Does it seem like a new sinkhole develops in Detroit every day? Well, that’s because it pretty much does. 

Most of the time, sinkholes are a more natural phenomenon caused by soft bedrock. But in Detroit, it’s due to aging water infrastructure. This week, read all about why sinkholes are such a problem in Detroit, how they’re fixed and what you can do if you spot one. 

There was even more water and bedrock news this week: Experts question the number of jobs created by Dan Gilbert’s development firm Bedrock Detroit, and the fountain at Hart Plaza might flow again by next spring. 

As always, thanks for reading.

The Dirt

>>Shifting job numbers: In the past year alone, Bedrock said it created more than 10,000 construction jobs and over 500 permanent jobs as part of a required report to the state for the $618 million Transformational Brownfield program. But the report lacks details. It’s not clear what it means to create a construction job or who employs those with permanent jobs. The surge in jobs in less than a year has drawn the attention of development experts, with one saying that if Bedrock is just shuffling around employees to demonstrate job creation, “there’s just no way for that development to be ‘transformational’ for the broader community.” (Detroit Free Press)

>>Spring forth: Hart Plaza is set to undergo about $9 million in renovations that will have water flowing regularly at the Dodge Fountain for the first time in years. Arguably the centerpiece of the park, the fountain has hundreds of lights and water jets that can spray in dozens of patterns, but neither have worked properly in many years. Organizers currently pay at least $50,000 to get the fountain operational during events, with Detroit’s Chief Operating Officer Brad Dick saying it works with “duct tape and prayers.” After renovations, events renting the plaza would no longer have to pay to have the fountain running. Renovation work, which includes fixing the leaky amphitheater, is being funded with federal pandemic relief dollars. It will start in the fall and wrap up spring 2024. Though Dick admits the funds are not enough to fix everything in the park. (Detroit News)

>>Park your concerns: Wayne State University students — about 85% of whom are commuters — say they will struggle to afford campus parking after a recently approved cost increase at university-owned lots and garages. Students’ semester rates will increase to at least $230, while daily rates will increase to at least $4.25. The parking department said it lost a $1 million subsidy from the university that allowed it to keep rates lower the past four years. Meanwhile, students also complain that the daily parking rate for students, which is discounted, is not well advertised. (The South End)

>>Development news quick-hitters: Former NBA star Chris Webber is scaling back plans for a $175 million marijuana complex near Southwest Detroit amidst plummeting prices. He said he still expects to develop the site but hasn’t revealed details yet… The Godfrey Hotel is now accepting reservations for when it opens on Aug. 24 in Corktown… A little further east on Michigan Avenue, the Spaulding Building is set for rehab, with a rendering from McIntosh Poris Associates also showing construction of an adjacent apartment building. Property records show the building and land are owned by Lofts on Broadway developer Roger Basmajian. (Crain’s Detroit Business, DBusiness, McIntosh Poris Associates on Facebook, Freep)

Young boy on swing at playground
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation has several initiatives to support the health and well-being of Detroit children. Photo credit: Nick Hagen for W.K. Kellogg Foundation

Five impactful ways W.K. Kellogg Foundation shows its love for the kids of Detroit

The upcoming school year is fast approaching to the delight of parents everywhere. And while most organizations focus attention on kids during the month of September, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation — the largest nonprofit in the state of Michigan — has been showing its love for the kids of Detroit for decades.

From the opening of Detroit’s only freestanding birthing center, to educating the city’s teen mothers, to providing resources in Detroit’s neighborhood food deserts, here are 5 of the ways the W.K. Kellogg Foundation has been helping Detroit children thrive. ➡️ Keep reading

Content produced in partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. #ad

The Spin

Suing strategy success?

The City of Detroit has issued a number of lawsuits in recent months to try to get owners of vacant commercial buildings to fix up their properties. There have been some signs that the strategy is putting real pressure on developers, but we’ll still need time to see if what they’ve agreed to on paper actually materializes.

In June, Detroit dismissed its suit against Perfecting Church and Marvin Winans after the parties reached a deal to resume construction on its long-delayed megachurch at Woodward Avenue and 7 Mile Road. The church needed to fix up blight violations, submit proof of financing by July and begin construction no later than a month after. 

Just this week, developers of the abandoned Mammoth Building announced a plan to revitalize the former department store on Grand River Avenue in northwest Detroit after the city filed a lawsuit against the property owners in May. A news release claims a group of investors will turn the long-vacant complex into “GrandRiverTown” with 100 apartments, 80,000 square feet of retail and a facility for entertainment and education. A news conference is scheduled for Thursday to formally announce the project. 

One other speculator in the city’s crosshairs? Dennis Kefallinos, who was hit with four lawsuits in April.

We asked the city for an update yesterday on the status of the legal proceedings against these three owners, but it didn’t respond in time for publication.

Dig This

Let that sink in

Two people in bright green vests shoveling dirt from the edge of a large hole in the street. The hole is partially filled with water by an exposed pipe. Heavy construction equipment sits in the background.
Broken water pipes, especially common in Detroit, can wash away dirt and cause street surfaces to cave in. Photo credit: Alex Schultz-Spradlin

Sinkholes are an everyday occurrence in Detroit. City officials said they were currently investigating more than 300 sinkholes, or cave-ins, as of late July.

In most places, sinkholes are caused by acidic rain eating into soft bedrock. But in Detroit, it’s usually the result of our aging infrastructure. Much of our water and sewer lines are over a century old and some are giving out, resulting in water main breaks that erode the soil underneath.

Coming Down

More schools on the demo list

Brick building behind an empty and cracked parking lot. The building has boarded up windows. Crockett Technical High School is spelled out in bold, white letters on the facade to the right.
Crockett Technical High School has been abandoned since 2012. Photo credit: Detroit Street View/City of Detroit, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

The City of Detroit has targeted 11 vacant school buildings for demolition by the end of year. Most of the buildings were included in a 2020 report on the condition of vacant schools, and at the time, some were thought to be repairable. The city considers these 11 school buildings as the least salvageable, though, and said it has received interest from developers for a few of them.

The largest building on the list is the former Crockett school near the Flex-N-Gate facility on the east side. It’s also the only high school among the buildings targeted for demolition this year. The building was designed by notable local architecture firm Malcomson and Higginbotham and opened in 1925, according to Detroiturbex. The school closed in 2012.

Aaron (he/him) believes in telling true stories about real people. He doesn’t think there’s anything better than a crisp fall afternoon at the Detroit Jazz Fest.