Abandoned Brewster-Douglass Site Could Be Replaced by New Housing and Retail

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor Detroit seems to have engaged in a race to tear down or repurpose all of its decaying buildings that point to the city’s economic distress. Motown’s rebirth is no longer just an abstract concept but a [...]

Detroit seems to have engaged in a race to tear down or repurpose all of its decaying buildings that point to the city’s economic distress. Motown’s rebirth is no longer just an abstract concept but a growing effort of city officials, corporate leaders and residents alike.

The Brewster-Douglass public housing complex built between 1935 and 1955 and located at 2700 St. Antoine Street in the east side of Detroit was once the largest residential housing project owned by the city. Designed by local architects Harley, Ellington & Day, the complex comprised six residential towers and at its peak capacity it housed up to 10,000 low-income residents—some of them famous figures, such as Diana Ross, Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard of The Supremes. In 2003, towers 303 and 304 were demolished; in the following years the rate crime was so high within the community that it caused an exodus. The remaining buildings became vacant and vandalized, with little hopes of a better future.

Fast forward five years: during the State of the City address on March 9, Mayor Dave Bing finally announced a $9.8 million demolition plan that would replace the four 14-story residential buildings with new affordable units and commercial space. According to the Detroit Free Press, the Detroit Housing Commission’s plans also include renovating the abandoned Brewster-Wheeler Recreation Center on Brewster Street, which is now vacant. Further details are yet to be disclosed.

Another Detroit property that did get new life after sitting vacant for several years is the former Helen Newberry Nurses Home located at 100 East Willis. As reported by WXYZ.Com, the 124-year-old historic building is now an energy efficient housing facility with 28 apartments including five two-bedroom units. Zachary and Associates, which acquired the building from the Detroit Medical Center in 2008, redesigned the property and added sustainable amenities such as a geothermal heating and cooling system, Energy Star appliances, and reclaimed wood floor in the grand entry.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons