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From arenas to apartments, all the latest demolition news in Detroit

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A lot of demolitions began or were announced this June


We’re not totally sure why, but a significant number of demolitions began or were announced this June. From arenas to apartment buildings, here’s everything you need to know about recent demolition news in Detroit.

Little Caesars leftovers

The two sports venues most hurt by the construction of Little Caesars Arena will be demolished by the end of the year.

We’ve known that would be the case for the Joe Louis Arena for some time. Demolition began on the former home of the Detroit Red Wings in early June and will continue through summer. The site is expected to be cleared by the end of 2020.

Later in the month, the Detroit Pistons announced that the Palace of Auburn Hills will also be demolished.

From our article on the news:

In a joint partnership with Michigan-based Schostak Brothers & Company, The Palace will be demolished in the fall and the site used for a future mixed-use development. The Palace sits on 110 acres with potential for 1 million square feet of space.

Sadly, this is the fate for many sports arenas around the country. Aside from hosting home games for one or maybe two teams throughout the year plus the occasional concert, sports arenas have few alternative uses. When a team leaves for a more modern stadium or different city, the derelict arenas almost always sit idle and eventually face demolition.

Another local case is the Pontiac Silverdome, which found no meaningful use after the Detroit Lions relocated to Ford Field. Instead it fell into disrepair—getting so bad that in 2013 the roof caved in—before finally being demolished in 2018.

WSU apartments

An old Wayne State apartment building is being demolished to make way for upgrades to the university’s campus.

The 15-story Helen DeRoy Apartments, built in 1972, has faced maintenance and sanitation issues almost since it was first constructed. Demolition began for the troubled building in mid-June.

Helen DeRoy Apartments mid-demolition
Matthew Piper

While the cost of making the much-needed renovations to the building likely made it too expensive to keep, the demolition is also being worked into WSU’s master plan. Keast Commons, which sits between the DeRoy and Chatworth apartments, will likely be expanded into a much more usable common space after the demolition

Another DPS school

Demolition of the Pitcher Elementary School, abandoned since 2007, began last week. There had been some attempts to build a community center at the former northwest Detroit school, but the increasingly dilapidated state of the building made it too challenging.

”We’re hoping that it will stabilize the community and maybe cut down on some crime,” District 1 Manager Latrice McClendon told WXYZ Detroit.

Some of the school’s tiles were salvaged and will be used at the adjacent O’Hair Park. The demolition is expected to be finished in July.

Due to years of declining enrollment, 195 schools, or around two-thirds of Detroit Public Schools Community District buildings, have closed over the last 15 years. It’s been a challenge to maintain them ever since.

In 2013, the school district tried to sell nearly 80 of its buildings. Some are being incorporated into neighborhood plans, like the Guyton School in Jefferson Chalmers, where the city will issue an RFP for a mixed-use development with affordable housing.

Is demolition really the answer?
An excavator sits at the site of a house demolition in Detroit. There’s dirt and fallen trees around the brick house, which has no windows or doors.
An excavator sits at the site of a house demolition in Detroit

And lastly, some thoughts about the city’s home demolition program, which has come under near constant scrutiny despite it being an important part of Mayor Duggan’s neighborhood revitalization efforts. Since 2014, the city has spent $177 million to demolish over 10,000 homes while simultaneously facing charges of corruption and for using contaminated dirt as backfill.

Nancy Kaffer, columnist for the Detroit Free Press, questions that strategy altogether. “[W]ithout meaningfully reducing tax delinquency and tax foreclosure, demolition is like pouring money into a bucket with a hole in the bottom,” she argues in a June column.

Tax foreclosure has decreased tremendously in recent years, but an analysis by the Quicken Loans Community Fund found that tax delinquency is almost at the same level as it was in 2013.

But instead of helping Detroiters shore up their finances, the city continues to invest in its demolition program. Kaffer ends her column with a harsh indictment:

Duggan announced that the city, which has nearly exhausted the federal funding that has paid for its demolition program thus far, plans to sell $200 million in bonds to pay for more demolitions. With those dollars, Duggan said, Detroit will be blight-free by 2024.

Money. Bucket. Hole.

The Palace of Auburn Hills

6 Championship Dr, Auburn Hills, MI 48326 (248) 377-0100 Visit Website