Announcement planned at vacant housing project

November 15, 2012 • Entertainment

FILE – In this photo taken Feb. 18, 2010, downtown Detroit and Ford Field are seen from a window at the Brewster-Douglass Housing Projects in Detroit, where singers Diana Ross and the Supremes lived before becoming Motown singing superstars. Mayor Dave Bing has called a news conference for Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012, to announce plans for the projects, which Bing said in his March State of the City address that he wanted to demolish this year. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, file)

DETROIT (AP) — Mayor Dave Bing is set to announce the future of a long-vacant Detroit housing project where members of the Supremes lived before becoming Motown superstars.

The announcement is scheduled for Thursday morning at the 14-acre site of the Brewster-Douglass Homes.

Details of the announcement were not released late Wednesday, but Bing said in his State of the City address in March that the [auth] complex would be demolished by year’s end to make way for “affordable housing and commercial redevelopment.”

Bing said then that the city was committed to working with Housing and Urban Development officials and the Detroit Housing Commission on the demolition.

Known to most Detroit residents as the Brewster projects, the brick, mortar and steel condolike units, six-story buildings and four 14-story towers had been one of the oldest public housing projects in the country.

Hundreds of auto, manufacturing and other workers and their families flocked to the low-income housing units just northeast of downtown.

Diana Ross, Florence Ballard and Mary Wilson lived there for a time as teens before signing with Berry Gordy’s Motown record label.

But over the years, more and more people moved from Brewster-Douglass and other housing projects as crime and drugs flourished in some city neighborhoods and other affordable housing was built elsewhere.

The Detroit Housing Commission relocated the final 280 families from Brewster-Douglass in 2008, then-commission chief Eugene Jones told The Associated Press last year.

“The reason why we moved everyone out is because we could not maintain this property in decent, safe and sanitary condition,” Jones said. “The elevators were going out; systems were in need of repair.”

Some families were given vouchers for Section 8 units, while some were moved into newer public housing in Detroit, Jones said.

Many of the apartments in the complex still look as if they were abandoned quickly. Sofas and chair sit overturned in living rooms. Rusting canned and molding boxes of food sit on shelves or among piles of clothing strewn across floors.

Empty, Brewster-Douglass became one of the largest examples of blight in the city.

Scrappers pillaged through the hundreds of vacant apartments, busting out tiled walls to get at metal pipes and wiring. Windows and frames — even in the top-most floors of the four towers — are missing.

Stray dogs and cats freely prowl, competing with urban raccoons for whatever food scraps can be found.

Jones, who left the housing commission earlier this year, had hoped to entice big-box retailers to the site, but the massive size of the complex and demolition costs at one point estimated at $6 million or more hampered those efforts.

The property was appraised in 2009 at $9 million, he said. A 2010 appraisal revealed the value had dropped to $3 million.

“A lot of people don’t want to take this because they got to demolish it,” Jones said. “In order to make it attractive, you’ve got to knock it down yourself, then put it on for sale then maybe you’ll get some takers.”

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