Survey of blighted properties, tree-planting project discussed during economic club event

Bill Pulte Jr. walks in front of a Pontiac house being demolished by Pulte's nonprofit Detroit Blight Authority.
Bill Pulte Jr. walks in front of a Pontiac house being demolished by Pulte's nonprofit Detroit Blight Authority.

DETROIT — The results of a survey of abandoned structures and vacant lots across Detroit will be presented in mid- to late May, the co-chair of the city’s Blight Removal Task Force said today during a panel discussion.

Multiple projects to eradicate blight eventually will take place at the same time, but much of the attention will be placed on some of Detroit’s hardest hit neighborhoods, Glenda Price told business and community leaders at a Detroit Economic Club luncheon.

The city’s Land Bank also is examining the economic development potential of blighted properties, she added.

Price, president of the Detroit Public Schools Foundation, was joined by Rock Ventures President and Chief Executive Matt Cullen and HantzGroup chief John Hantz.

Hantz is behind a massive tree-planting effort. Cullen also works with the Blight Task Force which is drafting a plan to remove blighted structures and clear thousands of vacant lots. The work is part of efforts announced last year by the administration of President Barack Obama to help Detroit, which is trying to work through the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.

“In every instance we can we are going to try to revitalize neighborhoods,” said Cullen, who added that now there appears to be a collective effort by various groups to improve Detroit.

One of those projects is Hantz Woodlands. Detroit’s state-appointed emergency manager has approved a purchase agreement for 140 acres of land on the city’s east side as part of the tree-growing project.

On May 17, about 1,000 volunteers are expected to help plant 15,000 maple and oak saplings on 50 acres of land on Detroit’s east side. Crews already have cleared blighted properties from the land.

In Pontiac, Bill Pulte, the head of the nonprofit Detroit Blight Authority, announced the demolition today of the first abandoned structure in the northern Detroit suburb. Pulte, an heir to the PulteGroup Inc. homebuilding business, joined Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson to announce that Pulte was taking on the clearance work in Detroit’s northern suburbs.

The authority cleared about 700 homes in Detroit beginning in 2013. Pulte said in early April that he was ending involvement with demolitions in Detroit as the municipal government consolidated the work.