DETROIT (WWJ) – Just weeks ago, along St. Aubin near Gratiot on the city’s east side, there were numerous abandoned homes and opened basements. Now, this 10-block area is nearly completely vacant land.
It’s part of Mayor Dave Bing’s plan to eliminate blight throughout the city.
On Thursday Bing unveiled plans for a new nonprofit three-member Blight Authority, with day-to-day operations handled by retired U.S.
Army Lt. Colonel James Henderson.
“This is not brain surgery. We’re going to clear and do the brush. We’re not going to clear-cut it, we’re going to leave … if it’s good trees, we’re going to trim them up and make it presentable,” Henderson said.
Hendrson said they’ll work with DTE Energy and city departments to disconnect the utilities and do inspections before demolishing the homes.
William Pulte, whose family is a partner the public-private operation, said taking care of the overgrown brush is an essential part of this project.
“Not only the brush that grows along the ground, but we took every tree and cut it up at least eight feet, so you could see under it like a park. And that’s the way to cut crime — because nobody can get away with doing something out there by being seen by everybody,” Pulte said.
The cleared land will be planted with low-maintenance vegetation.
“They are recycling over 80 percent of the debris collected and re-seeding the site to prevent the growth of weeds,” Bing said in his remarks. “The elimination of blight gives … students a safer route to school. And it means a cleaner and safer neighborhood.”
Bing said the nonprofit paid for demolitions in the pilot project — which cleared structures and land on St. Aubin were cleared in just 10 days, for under $5,000 a piece. That’s about half what it would normally cost.
Bill Pulte, who will chair the project, stressed that this is not a Pulte Homes operation.
“Pulte Homes is not affiliated with this. This is our family being charitable and trying to, you know, help in a way we know well,” he said. “The expertise of our family is to land clear and make communities.”
Bing had promised to clear 10,000 blighted properties during his first term as mayor of Detroit.