Detroiter Pamela Harris and her daughter
Detroiter Pamela Harris and her daughter stood on their porch to watch two long-vacant houses get demolished Tuesday. Harris believes this is a sign of progress in her neighborhood. (BridgeDetroit photo by Bryce Huffman)

The City of Detroit tore down two houses on Caldwell Street near East McNichols in the East Davison Village neighborhood Tuesday morning. Both houses had been vacant for years, according to Pamela Harris, who lives across the street. The neighborhood has struggled through the years with vacancy, blight and the devastation of tax foreclosure, but was also identified by the Duggan administration as an area that should benefit from targeted investments. 

Harris, who has lived on Caldwell Street for 38 years, said she is happy to see the empty houses torn down because they posed a safety risk to children in the area.

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“There’s kids who walk back and forth past these homes on their way to school every day, and having empty homes like these could lead to all sorts of bad things happening,” Harris said. 

City officials have led an effort to help revitalize District 3 and say that, since May 2021, the City has removed or stabilized 332 vacant properties in that district using funds from Proposal N, which Detroiters voted to adopt in November 2020. 

The City bonded $250 million from private investors for Proposal N to demolish or renovate about 16,000 vacant homes across Detroit, according to the mayor’s spokesperson, John Roach. The city has plans to demolish another 419 vacant homes in District 3 and stabilize 320 vacant homes for future renovation. 

Two long-vacant houses were torn down Tuesday morning in the East Davison Village neighborhood. These are the first of several vacant properties in the area the City is tearing down using Proposal N funds, which became available for city use in 2021. (BridgeDetroit photo by Bryce Huffman)

Since Proposal N went into effect last year, there have been 1,315 vacant properties demolished and 268 properties stabilized, according to the city’s Proposal N Dashboard.

These two houses on Caldwell Street are the first demolitions in the East Davison Village neighborhood using funds from Proposal N. As they were being torn down, Harris and a few of her neighbors audibly cheered. Now that the houses are gone, Harris wants to make use of the land. 

East Davison Village is located in District 3, an area slated for several strategic investments by the City and home to a growing Yemeni and Bangladeshi community. (City of Detroit map)

“We could go on and build on it and also use it for the kids and for the community,” she said. 

Her son Johnnie Harris lives next door to the homes that were demolished. He said he would love to see this vacant land used to create community gardens or a playscape for children. 

“I’ve got lots of ideas for what these lots can be, but I’m just happy and relieved that it’s no longer blighted houses,” he said. “Now the neighborhood will look a lot cleaner, and it’ll be safer.”

Ryan Foster, press secretary for the city’s Demolition Department, said she’s happy to see the blight removal process moving forward.

“Now (the City is) able to get into these target areas and neighborhoods that have been waiting to see these vacant houses torn down for a long time,” said Foster. 

Foster said the East Davison Village residents deserve to see the vacant properties torn down so something new can take shape. Last month, Mayor Mike Duggan announced the expansion of affordable housing options in nearby Banglatown after the former Transfiguration School was redeveloped to include 19 low-income housing units. The Campau/Banglatown area is part of the Strategic Neighborhood Fund, which focuses private and public investment dollars into targeted neighborhoods. 

“This is a community with great people,” she said. “Why shouldn’t they be taken care of like any other neighborhood?”

Miriam Smith, president of the East Davison Village Community Group, said she wishes the City put more emphasis on building up communities instead of tearing down old structures. 

The City of Detroit is continuing its blight removal efforts with Proposal N funds and moving into neighborhoods it hadn’t yet reached, according to the Detroit Demolition Department. The City currently has another 419 demolitions scheduled in District 3. (BridgeDetroit photo by Bryce Huffman)

“Nobody likes to see blight, but at a certain point, it just seems like (the City) could use more resources to help people stay in their homes, so we wouldn’t have so many vacant houses in the first place,” Smith said.

Smith describes the East Davison Village neighborhood as a place where people “know how to stick together,” even though it has changed a lot over the years.  

Smith said her neighborhood was hit hard by the tax foreclosure crisis and Detroiters being overtaxed by about $600 million between 2010 and 2016. Many poorer residents lost homes because the City didn’t notify residents of poverty tax exemptions. She recalls seeing the neighborhood change rapidly. 

“There were so many families that were here one day that were suddenly just gone,” she said. “And it hurts to see so many people go, especially when you realize they never should have been charged that much in the first place.”

Both homes that were torn down on Caldwell Street Tuesday morning were foreclosed on in 2010 and 2013, respectively. In 2013 alone, District 3 had more than 4,400 tax foreclosures, according to Data Driven Detroit

Smith said City investments have cleaned up the neighborhood’s alleys, and speed humps have helped slow speeding drivers, but she wants the City to do more to help longtime residents who stayed through hard times. 

“People who have been here should get more home repair grants and should be the first in line to get (Detroit Land Bank Authority) homes,” she said. 

Bryce Huffman is a reporter for BridgeDetroit. He was formerly a reporter for Michigan Radio, and host of the podcast, Same Same Different.

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  1. Thanks Bridge Detroit and great job Bryce Huffman. District 3 is my old neighborhood and as a small developer, I plan to bring a phase of my 7 Phase PBPC SON(TM) mixed used development project to neighborhood including my affordable housing project. Planned for the “Campau / Banglatown” Neighborhood.

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