DETROIT (WWJ) – The final phase of demolition has begun for an iconic vacant Detroit housing project that once was home to champion boxer Joe Louis and Motown artist Diana Ross.

After years of decay and abandonment, the Brewster-Douglass projects will soon be gone —with the last of four remaining 15-story high rises along I-75 to be torn down over the next two months.

Former resident Colbert Prince. (credit: Jon Hewett/WWJ)

Former resident Colbert Prince. (credit: Jon Hewett/WWJ)

“As the first federally funded low-income housing development for African Americans,  built in 1933, these homes represented opportunity for thousands of black residents in Detroit — people who worked hard to get their piece of the American dream,” said Sandra Henriquez, Assistant Secretary with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) which is funding the $6.5 million demolition effort.

“Today is about hope,” Henriquez said, “finding hope and transition and remembering Brewster-Douglass’ rich and celebrated past and the role this demolition will play in helping the city  get back on its feet.”

The hope is, said Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, to provide new housing and business opportunities in the area.

“We needed to take action and, for many people, these towers have become nothing but a symbol of the blight and decay of the city of Detroit,” said Duggan. “We are not demolishing for the sake of demolishing. We are demolishing for the purpose of rebuilding.”

Several former project residents stopped by to say goodbye to their onetime home.

“I wish could actually go back in a time capsule and capture some of the moments back in the day,” said 64-year-old Colbert Prince. “Everybody was friendly neighbors. You could go next door, borrow sugar, coffee, meats or whatever. We never had a problem. Everybody was like one big community.”

“Bye-bye Brewster! We love you!” he said.


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