Most people who live in buildings owned by the Detroit Housing Commission (DHC) have to consider price above a host of other practical and aesthetic considerations. The highly subsidized rent at DHC properties is often the only way these tenants can afford to live in the city.
That’s true even when their apartment or home is in “grave disrepair,” a phrase the DHC used to describe one of its own buildings to its board of directors. Hundreds of Detroiters live in properties that have failed inspections and can have severe problems that make living there uncomfortable at best, unbearable at worst — flooding, roaches, faulty plumbing, no hot water.
This week, we bring the results of DHC property inspections to light for the first time and try to determine how committed the DHC and the city are to fixing them. Need to catch up on the basics about the DHC? We’ve got you covered in our explainer from last week.
As always, thanks for reading.
»Cracking down: The City of Detroit is suing yet another property owner it said is adding to blight through neglect. This time, it’s developer Herb Strather and his partners at the long-vacant Mammoth building, an old department store at Grand River Avenue and Greenfield Road built in 1949. The structure has been closed since 2000 and has steadily deteriorated. The city is asking the court to require Strather to correct all violations or demolish the 135,000-square-foot building. Strather actually attended the press conference announcing the lawsuit last week and argued with city officials and councilmembers. The city’s Corporation Counsel Conrad Mallett said this is one of 22 lawsuits the city is filing against negligent property owners. (Detroit News, Crain’s Detroit Business, Detroit Free Press, Outlier Media)
»Unified after Uniroyal: The former Uniroyal Tire Co. site on the Detroit River has been vacant since 1985 with development proposals floated since 2005. Progress is finally being made at the property with the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy nearing completion of the last $11 million leg of the RiverWalk. Expected to be finished in October, the greenway will stretch from downtown to the Douglas MacArthur Bridge (aka the Belle Isle Bridge). What will happen to the rest of the 42-acre property is still in question. Much of the contamination from the heavy manufacturing has been cleaned up. The property is owned by a development team that includes former NFL star and native Detroiter Jerome Bettis. The Detroit Economic Growth Corp. told Crain’s Detroit Business the developers are finalizing programming for part of the site, and that the entire property could include three mixed-use developments totalling $400 million. (Detroit RiverFront Conservancy, Crain’s Detroit Business)
»Secret deals: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration has increasingly resorted to funding development deals with taxpayer dollars in a process that receives almost no public scrutiny from Michigan residents or even members of the state Legislature. Many of the incentives are crafted through the Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve fund, established by Whitmer in 2021, that gave broad discretion for state economic development officials to craft deals. The money is largely tied to job creation. But the Michigan Economic Development Corp., which puts together many of these deals that total hundreds of millions of dollars, did not explain how the incentive amounts are determined. The incentives still have to be approved by the Legislature, but representatives say they feel pressure to approve them because development announcements often have already been publicized in the news. Michigan legislators are proposing changes to the law that would require more transparency and outreach before these packages are approved. (Detroit Free Press, Michigan Legislature)
»Development quick-hitters: Construction has begun on a $31.6 million transit center at the historic dairy cattle barn on the old State Fairgrounds; it’s expected to finish in spring 2024… The city has begun implementing some of its proposals as part of the Gratiot/7 Mile Neighborhood Framework Plan it released in 2021… Wayne County’s new Criminal Justice Center is delayed yet again, as the latest May 30 deadline won’t be met by developer Rock Ventures LLC… The city continues to spend millions of dollars on alley cleanup and expects to clear another 1,000 by July 2024. (Detroit Free Press, Axios Detroit, City of Detroit, BridgeDetroit)
Failing conditions at Detroit Housing Commission’s properties
In each of the last three years, the Diggs Homes, a 201-unit townhome development owned by the Detroit Housing Commission, has failed its inspections. Its most recent score: 16 out of 100 points.
Hundreds of problems are listed on that 82-page inspection report, including 47 instances of clogged or malfunctioning plumbing; 18 showers with no hot water or missing knobs; 17 water heater problems; 125 missing or out-of-order smoke detectors; and 76 windows that were broken, missing screens or didn’t open. Pests — including roaches, bed bugs and mice — appeared in the inspection report 11 times.
The Diggs is hardly the only DHC development in trouble, and yet, its board of directors said it has “complete faith” in the leadership of the commission.
Show your spirit
Programming has begun for Spirit Plaza this year with a series of events planned over the next two months. The free, accessible gathering space downtown on Woodward Avenue became a permanent park in 2019.
Upcoming events include a Mother’s Day brunch on May 14 featuring food trucks and live performances, and a Pride celebration on June 10 with a fire breather and body painting.
One Good Home
The largest listing in Detroit’s history
A mansion in Palmer Woods smashed the record for the most expensive home listing in Detroit’s history. The 32,519-square-foot Bishop Mansion on Lucerne Drive, the biggest home in Detroit, hit the market for just under $9 million last week. The previous record was set by the Fisher Mansion, also in Palmer Woods, which sold for $4.9 million last year.
The Fisher brothers built the Bishop Mansion, a 68-room Tudor Revival in the mid-1920s for Bishop Michael Gallagher, head of the Catholic diocese in Detroit. The fine architectural details are astounding — stained glass windows, wood carvings, marble pillars and one of the largest Pewabic tile collections in Michigan, according to the mansion’s listing agent.
The mansion once owned by former Detroit Piston John Salley is “undergoing significant interior construction,” according to Crain’s Detroit Business.