DETROIT (WWJ) – The Woodbridge neighborhood in Detroit isn’t a bad neighborhood. But it has its trouble spots. Dotted amid the stately Victorian brick homes is the occasional vacant house that has been left to rot through neglect.
When developer Alex Pereira found one of the homes at a tax auction in 2012, he decided to buy it and turn it into apartments. Pereira said some investors thought he was crazy. The former boarding house was in such bad shape that all he could salvage were the four walls, the carved wood banister and some leaded windows.
Pereira said the house was slated for demolition and one property owner wanted it torn down to make room for a parking lot. He did not. “No, heck no,” said Pereira. “We wanted to come in and create something beautiful for the neighborhood.”
After he began construction, Pereira said, “Out of the blue, we had just finished watching “The Lorax.” And I said, ‘I’m going to put a Lorax in front of my building.'” Pereira said his wife thought he was crazy, but that was nothing new. She went along with the idea.
Pereira hired chainsaw artist Scott Kuefler to carve a wood statue of the Lorax. It sits in the front yard along with a brightly painted mural that reads, “Unless someone like you cares a whole lot, nothing’s going to get better. It’s not.” The mural was painted by Matt Hebert.
Pereira said that he identifies with the Lorax theme of the fight against complacency, especially when it comes to Detroit’s blight. “People are just accepting that this is the way it is and it’s always been. Sometimes we’re our own worst enemies and it doesn’t have to be.”
Neighbor Derrick Brown appreciates his effort. “It was a burned out house. It had drug dealers sitting on the porch selling dope and people hanging out all day. It was bad,” Brown said. “They came and did some magic.”
When the house is complete, it will feature five apartments.