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Detroit acquires 77 Detroit Public Schools properties as part of blight fight

Oct 29, 2014

Detroit will acquire 77 vacant Detroit Public Schools properties, securing them, demolishing some, and maintaining the rest
Credit screen grab from HDNet clip

The city of Detroit plans to acquire 77 vacant properties from Detroit Public Schools.

In return, the city will forgive the district's $11,600,000 in debt.  From the city's press release:

In the City’s ongoing effort to remove blight from the community, vacant Detroit Public School properties have become an urgent priority. With its financial difficulties, DPS has had to focus its resources on children in the classrooms, not on maintaining its surplus properties. DPS has also fallen behind in payments to the City of Detroit in the amount of $11.6 million, primarily in electric bills owed to Detroit’s Public Lighting Department. The City has been fearful that forcing repayment of the outstanding bills would result in further reduction in critical classroom-focused resources. Mayor Duggan and DPS Emergency Manager Jack Martin have agreed to a solution that will take the burden of maintaining the vacant properties from DPS and, at the same time, will relieve DPS of its $11.6 million liability to the City.

About 57 of the properties have buildings on them, and many are unsecured.

"We've tried very hard over the years to secure them," says DPS spokeswoman Michele Zrodowski.  "And undoubtedly the challenge has gotten away from us a little bit.   As quickly as we would get the buildings boarded up or secured, scrappers would come behind us and pull off the plywood or the coverings that we use to close up the buildings, and strip the buildings."

The city says it will do an environmental assessment of each property, and if there is contamination on any, that property transfer will be renegotiated.

Detroit officials say they will be able to secure most of the buildings and demolish those that cannot be sold, without using the city's general funds.

Funds will come from the Quality of Life blight remediation funds expected to be approved as part of Detroit's bankruptcy.  Detroit is also receiving $4.3 million for blight remediation from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.

Vacant schools not being demolished will be secured by the City of Detroit in partnership with the Greater Detroit Building Trades Council.

The Detroit Employment Solutions Corporation will use available federal funds to hire up to 150 employees, ages 18-21, for the purpose of securing the vacant school buildings.

The Greater Detroit Building Trades Council, will at its expense, provide the supervision for the work.