Hey everyone,

It’s been more than a year since we wrote about how hard it was for buyers of Detroit Land Bank Authority homes to pay for repairing water lines the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) cut before the homes were purchased. These buyers were frustrated by misleading information and lack of support from DWSD. Since we published that article, we’ve continued to get calls from people in similar situations. 

This week, we report on homebuyers stuck spending thousands on water line repairs. If they don’t make those repairs, they can’t get the deed to the home — and that means they can’t sell the home to somebody else who can afford to make repairs.  

Elsewhere, the Morouns surprised everyone me by signing a community benefits agreement with Southwest Detroit residents; details emerged about tax break requests for Henry Ford Health’s expansion; and the City of Detroit released a report about the state of homelessness in the city.

As always, thanks for reading.

The Dirt

>>A CBA with the Morouns 🤯: The owners of the Ambassador Bridge have signed a community benefits agreement with a Hubbard Richard neighborhood group as part of a proposal to expand the bridge and construct a new plaza. The bridge company agreed to give the group 10 properties and $20,000 per property for redevelopment; demolish the Greyhound bus station and give part of that land to the neighborhood; construct a buffer from heavy industry; and contribute to the expansion of a local recreation center. The agreement also says the company would not expand farther into the neighborhood. The proposed deal is a surprising turn for a company and family with a history of alienating residents and acting without their input. The proposal still needs approval from the City Council and other government entities outside the city. (Detroit News, Curbed Detroit)

>>Billionaire seeks millions: Developers of the $3 billion Henry Ford Health expansion in New Center said at a community benefits meeting last week they will ask for $273 million in subsidies. The subsidies would take the form of three local property tax breaks and a “transformational brownfield” tax capture valued at $220 million to build three apartment buildings being developed by Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores and a new medical research center to be developed by Henry Ford Health and Michigan State University. Twenty percent of the 662 housing units will be set aside for tenants making 50% or less of the area median income; those rents would be set at about $888 per month for a one-bedroom unit and $1,066 for a two-bedroom unit. The hospital expansion is not seeking incentives because Henry Ford Health is a nonprofit and doesn’t pay property taxes. (Detroit Free Press)

>>Ending homelessness: The City of Detroit received $46 million in pandemic aid to address homelessness and commissioned a report to help determine the best way to spend those funds. Some of the big takeaways from the report: around 75% of unhoused people in the city became that way for the first time over the last two years, shelters have been overcrowded and are difficult for disabled people to access, more affordable housing is needed to transition people out of homelessness. (City of Detroit, BridgeDetroit)

>>Polluters (possibly) pay: Democratic Michigan legislators have introduced a package of 14 bills aimed at addressing pollution caused by corporations. The “polluter pay legislation” would require a high-risk business to prove it has finances to clean up future contamination, make it easier for state regulators to identify new pollution threats, add more transparency around cleanups, and make it easier to sue polluters. Michigan has about 24,000 contaminated sites, and only 3,000 have been cleaned up since 1990. An investigative series from Bridge Michigan found that the burden of paying for cleanup almost always falls on taxpayers. (Planet Detroit, Bridge Michigan)

>>Development news quick-hitters: City Council has delayed approving a rezoning request from Develop Detroit on its Eastern Market Gateway project. The project has stalled in recent years and buildings at the site have started to collapse… Sister Pie is planning an expansion of its bakery in the West Village and will seek Historic District Commission approval at its next meeting Nov. 8… City Council approved nearly $14 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds toward an inflatable athletic dome in Chandler Park… Another 105 families have become homeowners through the latest round of the Make It Home program. The collaboration between Rocket Community Fund, the City of Detroit, and the United Community Housing Coalition has enabled more than 1,500 occupants of tax-foreclosed homes to become homeowners since 2017. (BridgeDetroit, Outlier Media, Crain’s, Freep, City of Detroit)

closeup of building at dusk showing a large sign reading Detroit People's Food Co-Op
The Detroit People’s Food Co-Op will be on the first floor of the building. Photo credit: Nick Hagen

Detroit’s only Black-owned food co-op is set to open in 2024
By Darlene A. White

The Detroit Food Commons (DFC) is set to become a transformative force in the city, offering not only access to fresh and affordable fruits and vegetables but also access to community empowerment and economic growth.

Located in Detroit’s Historic North End neighborhood at 8324 Woodward Ave., DFC is a two-story, mixed-use complex in the final stages of construction that features a full-service grocery store. Scheduled to open its doors to the public in February 2024, the building is a beacon for like-minded community members interested in the health of our residents.

➡️ Keep reading

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

Dig This

The water department’s bill of goods

Man in a white t-shirt holding a coffee mug stands in front of a house with weathered wood siding. A plastic sheet surrounds the base of the house with the words “Tyvek” repeating on it.
Joe Belanger stands in front of the house he bought from the Detroit Land Bank Authority in 2020. Photo credit: Aaron Mondry

Joe Belanger is a licensed contractor with decades of experience as a builder. These skills could make him an ideal candidate to buy one of the dilapidated homes the Land Bank regularly sells. 

But it’s been three years since he bought his house, and Belanger is out of money because both the water department and the Land Bank haven’t paid for their mistakes. He’s hardly alone.

Coming Down?

Uncertain future for Belle Isle Boat Club

Spanish-style building with white peeling paint, on the coast at dusk.
The Detroit Boat Club building has seen better days. Photo credit: Helmut Ziewers / HistoricDetroit.org Credit: Photo credit: Helmut Ziewers / HistoricDetroit.org

These could be the last days for the Detroit Boat Club building on Belle Isle. Historic preservationists, though, have vowed not to give up without a fight.

The building is unfortunately in shambles. There has been little investment since the boat club left the building in 1996, and last year, water damage caused a ceiling to collapse. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which manages Belle Isle, estimates a full renovation would cost roughly $54 million. At a Belle Isle Park Advisory Committee meeting on Oct. 19, both the DNR and preservationists agreed the price tag was too high. It’s unclear whether the building can be saved by spending less, but the DNR said it’s considered multiple options. 

Preservationists are keen to save the Boat Club because it is unique. The Venetian-style building opened in 1902 and is the most noteworthy structure designed by Detroit architect Alpheus Chittenden. It has verandas on all three floors and arches wrapping around the exterior. The interior features lots of woodwork, a cupola and nautical decorations. 

Read more about the Boat Club’s history in this incredibly thorough post on HistoricDetroit.org.

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.