Just a couple weeks ago, the city had all of us media-types in a fuss over what the heck was happening with Mayor Bing's Secret Project over by Eastern Market. The answer appeared as the most exciting part of last night's State of the City speech, and it goes something like this: Bill Pulte, grandson to the founder of Bloomfield Hills-based Pulte Homes — the king of low-density, sprawling, cheaply-made subdivisions — has arranged a task force of businesses to tear down entire blocks of blighted homes, for free! The Mystery on the East Side? Just the pilot project. There's one catch: we must refer to Pulte's crew as the Detroit Blight Authority, which is fitting since private money is the only effective authority in Detroit anyhow. The Detroit Blight Authority is apparently not with Pulte Homes, the Fortune 500 residential development corporation, but why might this crew suddenly feel charitable towards clearing some prime acreage close to Eastern Market and downtown Detroit?
The Detroit Blight Authority is officially a non-profit, there's more to it than just Bill Pulte. Big money names like the Kresge Foundation and DTE Energy are also authoritatin' blight through private funds. Freep is saying that someone else is saying Pulte's demo process is way cheaper than the city's, which Mayor Bing usually pins at around $10K per structure.
That's refreshingly efficient compared with the city's usual method, which often involves bickering over how best to spend gigantic federal grants before sloppily demoing a few hundred homes just before funding expires. Bing tells us that the Blight Authority will clear lots block by block rather than picking individual homes throughout the city, which he believes will have a greater positive impact.
Pulte is pulling out all the stops on this one, claiming 80% of the demo refuse is to be recycled. Once the dust settles, the freshly cleared lots will be seeded so that our post-industrial prairie isn't ruined by Dandelions. And that's really all we know, as the initial press release was rather scant on the details. But we're headed to the 10:00 a.m. press conference on St. Aubin and Wilkins, partially for some details, and partially to see if Mayor Bing will be wearing his favorite demolition hat. We'll bring you any updates.
Correction/Note: An earlier version of this post mentioned Pulte Homes as being connected with the Detroit Blight Authority. That is incorrect. The DBA was created by Bill Pulte, a managing partner at Pulte Capital Partners LLC, which Crain's describes as "a private equity fund designed to use the Pulte family name and expertise to make acquisitions in the housing industry."