Hey everyone,

Potentially hundreds of thousands of people in Detroit can’t get to where they need to go without a well-functioning bus service. Now we’ve found that after almost two years of bleeding drivers, the Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) has even fewer drivers than it had when we last reported on the agency — by a lot.

DDOT nonetheless wants to run buses more frequently. This week, we write about whether the department can square its persistent struggles to retain drivers while planning for a future with many more. 

Elsewhere in Detroit, the city says it’s on track to change property tax rules, a redevelopment in Woodbridge gets subsidies, and the downtown synagogue is set to reopen after a multi-million dollar development. Also, Los Angeles wonders why Detroit has so many fewer unhoused people despite being much poorer. The answer is quite simple. 

As always, thanks for reading.

The Dirt

>>Taxing timeline: The City of Detroit has been pressing ahead with its plan to shift to a split-rate that would basically move some of the burden of property taxes off buildings and onto land. Mayor Mike Duggan said he’s hoping the Michigan Legislature will pass Detroit’s proposal allowing the city to put the issue to voters on February’s primary ballot. If approved, it would be phased in from 2025 to 2028. (Detroit Free Press)

>>What other cities are doing: Midwestern cities that experienced large population declines in the 20th century are also looking for solutions to their undeveloped land. In Chicago, the Cook County Land Bank Authority has been purchasing vacant lots and clearing titles so that potential developers can buy them unencumbered. (Wall Street Journal)

>>Development news quick-hitters: The Michigan Strategic Fund approved more than $380,000 in tax subsidies, on top of more than $685,000 in brownfield funds already provided by Detroit, for redevelopment of the Danish Brotherhood Hall in Woodbridge… The Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue will open this month after a $5.4 million renovation that updated essential systems like plumbing and electrical and created space for Jewish nonprofits… Living in one of the new apartments on the former Joe Louis Arena site is gonna cost you: 586-square-foot studios will rent for $2,000-$2,475 a month when it opens in February. (State of Michigan, Crain’s Detroit Business, Axios Detroit)

>>Detroit beats L.A.: Cities on the coast have created a homelessness crisis. Los Angeles, for example, has an estimated homeless population of 46,000 individuals. People who live in Detroit have less money on average than Angelenos, but the city has an estimated 2,000 unhoused people — about one-quarter of Los Angeles when adjusted for population. Why the discrepancy? Housing costs are so much cheaper here. The local situation is far from ideal as there are still plenty of people who need more affordable housing that trade sleeping on the street for living in homes in disrepair. (Los Angeles Times)

>>Affordability cliff: A national database shows Michigan could lose more than 18,000 of affordable housing units because of tax credits expiring in the next decade. These Low Income Housing Tax Credits make financing available to developers in exchange for them keeping some units affordable for at least 15 years. Michigan gets about $250 million annually from the federal program. Democrats in Lansing say they’ll propose a suite of bills when they return from summer break to incentivize affordable housing and provide renters protections, like outlawing discrimination based on where a renters’ income comes from. (MLive)

Dig This

Detroit still can’t keep enough bus drivers on staff

Green and white 4 Woodward bus sits at a bus stop on a Detroit street.
The Detroit Department of Transportation faces a driver shortage that has gotten worse in the last two years. Photo credit: Outlier Media

DDOT’s “reimagining” of its system is said to increase the frequency of nearly every route and create six lines that would operate every 10 minutes. The department said it would need to hire “significantly” more drivers on top of the more than 130 it currently needs. 

Can DDOT overcome its hiring woes?

Dig Deeper

Updates on some city v. property owner lawsuits

A few weeks ago, we said the city’s strategy of suing negligent commercial property owners seemed to be working because two of its targets had seemingly made progress on their redevelopments. But maybe we should have pumped the brakes. We didn’t realize that some of the lawsuits are still pending and one of the redevelopments is delayed. 

The city sued the owners of the Mammoth Building on Grand River Avenue in May. An investment group then unveiled plans for the building at a press conference earlier this month. But they’ve yet to convince the city the plan will work. John Roach, the city’s director of media relations, told Outlier Media by email that the city’s lawsuit hasn’t been dropped. 

“We’re not familiar with the details of the Mammoth plans to know if the plan is viable,” he said. 

In a separate case, the city reached a deal with Perfecting Church several months ago after owner Marvin Winans agreed to resume construction for its stalled megachurch at 7 Mile and Woodward. The church needed to submit proof of financing by July, but Roach said that hasn’t happened yet. The city’s buildings department hasn’t approved the site plan. He said that will likely happen in September and then the church will have another 30 days to prove financing.

The last big city lawsuit is against notorious slumlord Dennis Kefallinos for four of his buildings. Roach said there has been “no resolution” with that case, which is still underway.

One Good building

Singing its praises

A view of a church nave looking down towards four rows of pews. The sky blue ceiling has numerous arches and stained glass windows line the opposite wall.
The interior of St. Joseph Shrine has been largely unchanged since opening in 1973.Photo credit: Helmut Ziewers/HistoricDetroit.org

One of the most astounding churches in all of Detroit has to be the St. Joseph Shrine on Jay Street near Eastern Market. The congregation was founded by German immigrants in the mid-1800s, and the Gothic Revival building church opened in 1873. 

Historic Detroit calls the largely unaltered interior “Victorian Gothic Revival at its best.” The nave is flooded with light, thanks to gorgeous and plentiful stained glass windows. Also noteworthy is the arched ceiling painted a shimmering sky blue. The church is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

Check out photos of the building which were added to Historic Detroit’s website last month.

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.