Posts tagged with "blight":

Unmasking the Motor City: New mapping software by LOVELAND Technologies is helping to fight blight in Detroit

Detroit is in the midst of the single-largest tax foreclosure in American History. More than 60,000 foreclosed properties are clustered in the Motor City. The threat of eviction looms over remaining inhabitants and poses the larger long-term threat of a spike in homelessness. The root of the problem—unpaid property taxes—seems untenable when viewed alongside the resulting greater city-wide disaster. Auctions selling newly "vacated" houses—of which half are still occupied—for around $500 are becoming increasingly common. Any hope for a stab at renovating some of the vacant properties that litter the city, however, is outweighed by the uncertain outcome interested investors face at the prospect of having to devote their time and money to transforming blight-stricken zones into livable residences. Fortunately, public database LOVELAND Technologies  has taken on the challenge of brightening Detroit's future. Founded by Jerry Paffendorf, LOVELAND started out by mapping tax-foreclosed and auctioned properties. The company took off when Detroit's Blight Task, founded by President Barack Obama, grew interested in LOVELAND's mission and hired them to map every property in the Motor City. LOVELAND Technologies has since developed into a team of employees located throughout Detroit, Michigan and the San Francisco Bay Area. The company's aim is simple; to put America online, "parcel by parcel." An app called “Blexting” gives the public a medium through which to record and publish information and photos regarding abandoned properties, while the more recent "Site Control" gives people the opportunity to create their own custom maps on Loveland Technologies through personal accounts at $30 monthly and group accounts at $10,000 yearly. Allowing the public to have access to information regarding tax foreclosures and blight that is often withheld by the government opens up the playing field to authorities and investors. The power to research and gain a deeper understanding of the planning and development that may be needed for a parcel is readily available at LOVELAND online. LOVELAND promotes the belief that giving the public the tools to become more informed is key to finding a solution for Detroit's blight. As the company propels itself further into action, we're hoping they're right.

Restoration work brings new windows to long-vacant Michigan Central Station in Detroit

There are few buildings as emblematic of the urban blight in Detroit as Michigan Central Station. That changed slightly this week, when new windows appeared in some of the historic building's vacant frames. FOX 2 reporter Jason Carr spotted the new fenestration earlier this week. Michigan Central Station's neoclassical entryway and mighty Beaux-Arts towers once welcomed rail passengers to Detroit like royalty, but the building has been empty since 1988. Manuel "Matty" Moroun owns the building through his company NBIT. Last year the company got permits for $676,000 of rehabilitation work, from installing new elevators to repairing the roof. Mlive reported that NBIT had invested more than $4 million on "security, preparation and interior improvements" on the building to date. A few new windows may be little solace for those hoping to mount a full restoration, which could cost $300 million. But as FOX 2 observed, some are happy anythings being done at all:
"I love it," said another passerby. "I want good things to happen here."

Architects and artists want to turn this vacant Detroit home into a community opera house

Detroit's 90,000 vacant homes and residential lots have proven to be fertile ground for artistic exploration, giving rise to verdant floral installations and canvases for sought-after graffiti artists. Now architects and artists from The D and beyond hope to turn an abandoned property at 1620 Morrell Street into something truly surprising. Dubbed House Opera | Opera House, the project aims to turn a decrepit, 2,000-square-foot house into a public performance space “where Detroiters could tell stories through music,” according to a Mitch McEwen, the project's principal architect. She spoke to WDET for their story, “From Blight to Stage Right”:
It evolved from a small group of artists in New York to a large group of folks across the country … neighbors have started to talk about performances or people in their families who perform that might get involved. And so we've really expanded from an immediate, emergency kind of dialogue to one that's about culture and talent that's already in the neighborhood, and how it can have a stage there at the House Opera.
McEwen bought the two-story home for just $1,200 in a public auction, paid off its delinquent property taxes, and got to work raising money for its second act. So far the project has received financial support from Graham FoundationKnight FoundationTaubman College – University of Michigan, and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, as well as numerous individual benefactors including Mark Gardner, Theaster Gates and Dr. Larry Weiss.

Detroit city council asks, graffiti: art or vandalism?

Graffiti: art or vandalism? For some there's an absolute answer to that question, but for most there's room for debate. In New York City, police chief Bill Bratton calls graffiti "the first sign of urban decay," while work from Banksy (and sometimes lesser-known street artists) fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars at New York auctions. Detroit became the latest city to grapple with this question in an official capacity, with city council members previewing ordinances designed to cut back on blight that have brought a somewhat philosophical question into sharp legal focus: How do you distinguish between blight and art in a city renowned (or reviled) for both? Council member Raquel Castañeda-López told Detroit's MetroTimes she and her colleagues are considering a variety of ordinances. One would fine building owners for not promptly removing graffiti on their property, and offer tax incentives for installing deterrents like security cameras. To exempt legitimate works of art, Castañeda-López also said they're looking into creating a citywide registry for street art. That's a complex task, however, especially for a cash-strapped city like Detroit. They're trying to avoid repeating an embarrassing mistake made last year, when city officials issued more than $8,000 in fines to commissioned graffiti galleries along the city's Grand River Creative Corridor. Collectives like the Heidelberg Project and individual artists like Brian Glass, known as Sintex, continue to battle with city officials who must enforce vandalism statutes while enjoying the creative community's substantial tourist draw. Funding for the citywide registry could come from a “one percent for art” program that earmarks public development money for cultural programs. "We're deciding what makes the most sense for the city," Castañeda-López told the MetroTimes' Lee DeVito. The city will schedule public meetings later this month to continue the conversation.

10,000 sunflowers help rehab a vacant lot in St. Louis

On a long-abandoned lot in St. Louis’ near north side, 10,000 sunflowers are sucking up the heavy metals that have helped stall development there for “longer than neighbors care to remember,” reported the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The project is called Sunflower+. It's one of the winners of St. Louis' inaugural "Sustainable Land Lab" competition, which was organized by Washington University in St. Louis and city officials. Over the next two years, the design team will cultivate and harvest four rotations of summer sunflowers and winter wheat on the vacant lot, hopefully preparing it for redevelopment in the future. In a video produced for Washington University, members of the design team explained the environmental aim of this experiment in growing beauty from blight. “If we can clean up and/or enrich this soil to make its redevelopment at some point down the road easier to do, more cost efficient, more environmentally friendly,” said Richard Reilly, a project manager who works for the Missouri Botanical Garden, “then we’ll have some long-term results from our project.” Along with Don Koster of Washington University and a team of volunteers, Reilly successfully grew one crop rotation last year, and it's already bearing fruit: Alderman Lyda Krewson has already enlisted the team to replicate their project further down Delmar Boulevard.

Letter to the Editor> Motor City Mouthful

[Editor's Note: The following comment was left on archpaper.com in response to the editorial “Motoring Toward Destruction?” (AN 08_06.05.2014), which parsed the wisdom of Detroit’s blight removal program.Opinions expressed in letters to the editor do not necessarily reflect the opinions or sentiments of the newspaper. AN welcomes reader letters, which could appear in our regional print editions. To share your opinion, please email editor@archpaper.com. ] I’m failing to find a thesis in here, other than wholesale demolition = bad, which is something we’re well aware of. Other considerations that weren’t even mentioned in this are aspects of public safety (arson and the use of dilapidated structures in which to commit crimes, peddle drugs, etc.) and the question of revenue (clearing blighted structures for redevelopment). The article even mentions that of the 80,000 blighted structures, we’re attempting to save more than half. I further take issue with some of the language in here. “In its panic to save itself…” There are issues here, the scope and depth of which are truly terrible. I’d love to have the author come to Detroit so we could show him some of what, as he puts it, we’re so panicked about. Mac Farr Data and Financial Manager City of Detroit

How Successful is Philanthropy-Based Urban Redevelopment?

Chicago Magazine’s Elly Fishman has an interesting story on Lands' End founder Gary Comer's efforts to save his old neighborhood. Pocket Town, a portion of Greater Grand Crossing on the Far South Side, suffered a 25 percent unemployment rate and longstanding poverty when septuagenarian Gary Comer popped into his alma mater Paul Revere Elementary School. Shortly after he began writing checks to the principal for improvements to the aging red brick building. That philanthropy snowballed into millions of dollars each year for Revere and the neighborhood. In 2010, Gary Comer College Prep moved into a John Ronan-designed school that has garnered praise from the design community. To combat high turnover and low attendance at Revere, Comer invested in affordable housing. Improvements to the neighborhood so far include the haven from violence that the youth center provides, and an uptick in healthcare availability — the health clinic bearing his name vaccinates hundreds of children each year. But it has proven difficult to turn around the neighborhood’s ailing housing and schools. In 2012 Revere landed back on probation. Less than 25 percent of its students met the national student performance average. Comer Prep, however, is among the highest-achieving public schools in Chicago. Housing results have been similarly mixed. New homes have cleared out blight, but few have been purchased by actual residents of Pocket Town. “It’s really hard to change people and communities,” Harvard sociologist Robert  Sampson says in Fishman’s piece. “We need to be realistic…The social forces that permeate the South Side don’t stop at the Pocket Town boundaries.”

Video> Exhibition Recalls NY′s Lost Garden of Eden

As he watched his Manhattan neighborhood crumble and burn around him in the urban decay of the 1970s, Adam Purple decided to build a garden. For roughly a decade from the 1970s until 1985, Purple's Garden of Eden earthwork expanded with concentric circles as more and more buildings were torn down. Photographer Harvey Wang is marking the 25th anniversary of the garden's destruction with an exhibition at the Fusion Arts gallery running through February 20. Adam Purple built the his Garden of Eden by hand and invited the community in to find comfort and grow food. Jeremiah's Vanishing New York points out that the plot eventually grew to over 15,000 square feet covered with rose bushes, fruit and nut trees, edible crops, and other greenery. The city bulldozed the site in 1986 to make way for a housing project despite proposals from architects to build around the garden. Be sure to check out Jeremiah's interview with photographer Harvey Wang and check out the exhibition before it ends. Here's a short video on the Garden of Eden from the exhibition's KickStarter page: