In leveling 1860 Balmoral Drive, the boyhood home of one-time presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Detroit is losing a small piece of its history. But the project is part of a demolition effort that is just now gaining momentum and could help define the city’s future.
Detroit is finally chipping away at a glut of abandoned homes that has been piling up for decades, and intends to take advantage of warm weather and new federal funding to demolish some 3,000 buildings by the end of September.
Mitt Romney’s boyhood home is among 3,000 derelict structures Detroit plans to demolish by the end of September as it attacks blight and crime.
Mayor Dave Bing has pledged to knock down 10,000 structures in his first term as part of a nascent plan to “right-size” Detroit, or reconfigure the city to reflect its shrinking population.
When it’s all over, said Karla Henderson, director of the Detroit Building Department, “There’s going to be a lot of empty space.”
Mr. Bing hasn’t yet fully articulated his ultimate vision for what comes after demolition, but he has said entire areas will have to be rebuilt from the ground up. For now, his plan calls for the tracts to be converted to other uses, such as parks or farms.
Even when the demolitions are complete, Detroit will still have a huge problem on its hands. The city has roughly 90,000 abandoned or vacant homes and residential lots, according to Data Driven Detroit, a nonprofit that tracks demographic data for the city.
After a stuttering start, caused by a dispute over the disposal of asbestos from demolished homes, the program is just now gaining pace.
City officials say they aren’t sure how many structures ultimately need to be torn down. The mortgage crisis compounded Detroit’s economic decline, leaving nearly 30% of the city’s housing stock vacant, according to Data Driven Detroit.
“Neighborhoods that are considered stable are now at 20% vacancy,” said Deborah Younger, a development consultant involved in the demolition effort.