Brewster Douglass Projects, Vacant Detroit Housing Complex, Awarded $6.5 Million For Demolition

The vacant Brewster-Douglass housing projects are set to be demolished, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing announced Thursday, and soon a fraught piece of history will disappear from the city's skyline.

The 18.5-acre development on the city's near east side bordering Eastern Market, now known as the Frederick Douglass Homes, is expected to happen next year. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Capital Fund Emergency Grant Program awarded $6.5 million to the Detroit Housing Commission to pay for the demolition.

"The former Brewster-Douglass complex has a proud place in Detroit’s rich history, as the nation’s first federal housing project for African Americans; as the place where Joe Louis learned to box; and where Diana Ross, Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard formed the Supremes,” Bing said in a statement.

“However, as a vacant site it became a major eyesore and a danger to the community," he said. "We welcome the chance to make it a productive residential and commercial area once again."

The first public housing for African-Americans when the original Brewster Homes opened in 1935, the projects were recently the subject of a short documentary by Detroit filmmaker Oren Goldenberg. The film shined a light on those who still live there as squatters, as well as showing the congregation of the Greater Shiloh Baptist Church, a historic black church at the site that has twice avoided demolition.

“I think people want to see them torn down, because they’re blight at this point," Goldenberg told The Huffington Post earlier this year. “Things being torn down in Detroit seems like progress, but it all depends on what’s built to replace them."

According to the Detroit Free Press, Bing said developers from throughout the country are already proposing ideas for the large space. The city stated demolishing the site will aid in plans to connect the Dequindre Cut pathway to downtown and Midtown.

Shuttered for good in 2008, the complex contains four 12-story high rise apartment buildings, two six-story mid-rise apartments and 75 town homes.

Bing vowed to raze the projects in his March State of the City address.

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