Hey everyone,

Detroit’s housing market has undoubtedly gotten stronger in meaningful ways in the last few years. This week, we’ll be looking closely at two recent reports that document these changes but also show how our housing market still has a long way to go to recover from the depths of the foreclosure crisis.

Demolitions have also made their way back into the news leading us to wonder… Is Detroit’s demolition timeline too aggressive? 

As always, thanks for reading.

The Dirt

>>Demo disputes: Property owners are complaining Mayor Mike Duggan’s blight-busting initiative is too aggressive and harming well intentioned but slow-to-renovate property owners. The city has until the end of 2024 to spend down ARPA money it’s putting towards demolition and lawsuits against negligent property owners. Some folks who have been working on their property have gotten swept up in the initiative and claim they’ve been wrongfully targeted by litigation or demolition. The city is downplaying complaints by saying mistakes “almost never” happen and that it needs to make sure this one-time source of funding gets used. (Detroit News)

>>Off target: The bank financing construction of a multi-building project in Midtown including a Target store has backed out of the deal. Developer Jonathan Holtzman will now have to seek a new lender for the project, but was emphatic that he would finish it. “There isn’t a chance that we’re not building Midtown,” he told Crain’s. The development has been in the works since at least 2016, and a future Target was added to the deal in 2021. At the time, the project was expected to cost $103 million and include 344 apartments. (Crain’s Detroit Business, Detroit Free Press)

>>Development news quick-hitters: Another stalled development in Midtown called “The Mid” may get a three-year extension or lose more than $8.9 million in brownfield tax credits. The project was first announced in 2019 but construction on the $377 million project has yet to begin… Sanford Nelson, owner of multiple buildings in Eastern Market, has put the Atlas Building on Gratiot Avenue on the market for $5 million. He announced plans to renovate the building in 2020 and evicted or relocated all the tenants by the following year, but work never started… The 227-room, $75 million Godfrey Hotel in Corktown is expected to open in August…  The city unveiled a $4 million renovation of Clark Park that the city has touted as more accessible. (Crain’s Detroit Business, Detroit News, WXYZ)

>>No new drive-thru: More U.S. cities are banning construction of new fast-food drive-thrus, which American drivers use an estimated 6 billion times annually. Planners say the feature is antithetical to a functioning city by causing congestion and deterring walking, use of public transit and spending at nearby businesses. The latest city to consider this kind of policy is Atlanta, where lawmakers will vote this summer on whether to ban new drive-thrus near the popular BeltLine. (CNN)

Dig This

Don’t call it a comeback

Detroit skyline at dusk with residential buildings in foreground and downtown skyscrapers in background.
Detroit’s housing market has rebounded from the housing crash. But how much? Photo credit: Stephanie Kenner/iStock

Detroit’s housing market has come a long way from the early 2010s when tens of thousands of homeowners lost their homes to tax foreclosure. 

Two new reports from Detroit Future City compare the housing market from 2012 to that of 2021 and show there is still room for improvement. Cheap home sales with deeds that don’t actually guarantee ownership are still common across the vast majority of the city.

Dig Deeper

Contamination culprit

Last week, the City of Detroit announced it was taking action to remediate contaminated dirt at dozens of sites where Den-Man Contractors Inc. demolished homes and backfilled those sites with dirt from unknown sources. The city says it tested 147 of these sites and found 87 contained high levels of arsenic, lead or other potentially harmful substances. 

Den-Man is under investigation by the city’s Office of Inspector General, and a company employee has been charged by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel for fraudulently securing this backfill dirt. 

A representative of the Detroit Land Bank Authority (DLBA) said in a press release that the corrective action will “put to rest any concerns about the quality of the fill at these locations.” 

Problems from when the DLBA ran the demolition program persist. The city took control away from the DLBA and created the Demolition Department to ostensibly provide greater oversight. Almost exactly a year ago, however, Outlier learned that the city was still relying on demolition contractors to source and assess backfill dirt that could from contaminated sources, as city officials relied only on a “desktop review” and on-site observer to determine the safety of the dirt. The vast majority of backfill dirt still never gets tested.

One Good Building

Save this building before it’s too late

Abandoned four-story building made of brick, with a facade featuring ornate masonry, balconies, narrow windows and an asymmetrical design.
The Laredo Apartments in 2019. Photo credit: Detroit Street View/City of Detroit, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

I’m regularly reminded of the astonishing architecture in this city from 100 years ago. Photographer Mr. P. Explores shot the Laredo Apartments in the Dexter-Linwood neighborhood, a building that comes across my feed every once in a while and never ceases to amaze me. 

The Art Deco/Moorish Revival apartment building was built in the late 1920s and designed by the firm Wiedmaier & Gay. It has a wildly varied facade with bays, balconies, recessed brickwork, swirling masonry and arches above the front door and several windows.

Check out this post from 2020 on the Historical Detroit Area Architecture group for more photos of the exterior and interior. The cost to renovate this building would obviously be astronomical, but we’re imploring someone to take it on!

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.