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Destroying Detroit (in Order to Save It

"It took over 300 years to build this city. It'll take about four to knock it down. Howie Kahn rides shotgun with the men who are demolishing the abandoned, godforsaken homes of Detroit—all 70,000 of them—and paving the way for one last shot at the future.…"
Photos by Tim Hetherington -- May 2011
Someone said there was a news story on TV last week about tearing down Detroit's abandoned homes. This was the most recent thing I could find. Look at these great little houses!


Anonymous said...

That mayor is smart. This totally needs to be done. What the future holds for Detroit, I don't know. I do know it's one scary city to travel around. I graduated high school near there in 1971 - it was bad then, and it's far worse now.

Donna Conover said...

Too bad there isn't an urban homestead act.......especially for people without homes. Like, here's a house, you have five years to make improvements, and then it's yours. Hmmmm.

Anonymous said...

I believe the photographer was killed in Libya earlier this year while documenting the Arab spring. R.I.P. Tim and thank you.

As for block after block of abandoned buildings in Detroit...reminds me of a beetle-savaged forest susceptible to fire. Mother Nature is on her way...

On the other hand...I've been diggin' the stories of creative renaissance in this most-downtrodden of American cities. Go Detroit!

Ryan said...

I just wish they would recycle the stuff instead of throwing all that still good material away... Or better yet, like the above comment said, institute a homesteading act. Instead they want to destroy these homes in order to manufacture scarcity. We need a new sustainable economic model if we're going to make it, not this "growth at all cost" crap that got us here in the first place. End Rant.

Anonymous said...

I didn't like the snide, ignorant reference to the Heidelberg Project. Tyree Guyton has done more to bind the wounds of his city than all the mayors combined. Also, there's a lot more to this story than just "the auto industry changed and so no one wanted to live there anymore." Municipal and state-level corruption, systemic racism, landlord-sponsored arson -- it wasn't some huge act of God that destroyed Detroit (and Flint), it was the calculated, political decisions of a lot of powerful people that allowed Detroit and its people to be sacrificed.

A.J. said...

I also wish they would salvage it all. Detroit is a mine full of excellent and ornate wood, metal, glass, and stone. Instead of creating tens of thousands of jobs and homes by saving and reselling and reusing it all (easily more than $1 billion in material), the taxpayers of Michigan are paying a few hundred laborers big bucks to send it all to dumps and incinerators. Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and other rust belt cities undergoing demolition blitzes make me equally insane with grief at the lost opportunity. The barriers to becoming a demolition contractor are too high for me though!

Anonymous said...

this (below) seems incredibly shortsighted of the city of Detroit, to not realise/suspect that folks who got these houses for "cheap" would not be able to afford large Back Tax bills. I strongly suspect they would be struggling just to bring them up to minimal habitable levels. What a shame. A good idea to save Detroit homes, going down the drain.


Detroit’s rebirth as ‘America’s Great Comeback City’ hits roadblock as taxes kill homeowners’ dreams

Cindy Gresham paid US$6,000 cash in 2010 for her Tudor-style house on Detroit’s west side for herself and three children. Now she probably will lose the home, which came with a surprise US$8,586 unpaid tax bill that has since tripled.

The brick home is among about 52,000 Detroit properties the city may seize for unpaid taxes on March 31, including as many as a fifth of all occupied homes. Gresham was one of 5,000 homeowners at the city’s Cobo Convention Center last month trying to negotiate payment arrangements for tax balances that are eclipsing the area’s depressed property values.

“The bills keep piling up — you can never get caught up,” said Gresham, an unemployed auto worker whose 8-year-old daughter who needs surgery twice a month for a respiratory illness. “An investor can buy it, but it’s worth way more to me because I need this home for my kids.”

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