So You Want to Save a House?

I am speaking on this panel today. I am talking about how you can collaborate with a land bank to market historic houses in your neighborhood that they were going to either demolish or let languish.

Lose sleep! Work hard! Eventually get neighbors! It’s great.

The details: So You Want to Save a House?
Published in: on January 27, 2016 at 10:52 am  Comments (1)  
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I kept thinking someone was coming up the driveway, with the weird white light at the end of it. People often use our driveway to turn around, or… was it my landlord coming home? I stopped twice, and then hesitated again at the end of the drive, but there was no car coming. I backed all the way out of the driveway and sat there in my car, dumbfounded, in the pool of light. Looked at my hands in the light, looked at the steering wheel in the light. Backed down the street a few feet, rolled down the window, stuck my head out and discovered that NEW STREETLIGHTS HAVE REPLACED THE LONG TERM BROKEN ONES ON MY DETROIT BLOCK.

Published in: on November 3, 2014 at 9:11 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Late notice: Why save old buildings in Detroit? Preservation Detroit on Who We Are and What We Do


Preservation Detroit President Amy Elliott Bragg and I will be talking about old buildings in Detroit and why they matter, later today. If you can make it, we’d love to see you and answer your questions.

Published in: on October 15, 2014 at 11:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Weekend vignettes

Walking in a Hamtramck alley yesterday, we crossed paths with a woman carrying crutches but not using them. She asked, “Making pictures?”


“Do you work for the historical society?”

“Actually, yes.”


As we were leaving the historic Jewish cemetery we visited today, he pointed out the water pump.

“Oh, you wash your hands when you leave,” I explained, “so death doesn’t follow you home.”

“Do you want to?”

“I’m pretty sure it’s broken. It didn’t work last time.”

So he got his water bottle out and we washed our hands there in the parking lot.

Published in: on September 21, 2014 at 4:25 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Last Service: A memorial for First Unitarian Church

The Last Service: A memorial for First Unitarian Church


On Sunday,  Preservation Detroit will host a memorial for First Unitarian Church, at the site. The abrupt burning and demolition of this 1890 building has been a shock for many of us. Join us for readings, remembrance, and solidarity.

Published in: on May 15, 2014 at 1:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
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neighbor = comrade

When I’m in a good mood and it’s a sunny day, my idea of what constitutes my neighborhood grows. My neighborhood is all the neighborhoods within a couple mile radius of my house. My neighborhood is the entire Northeast Side. My neighborhood is all of Detroit (and Hamtramck and Highland Park). My neighborhood stretches all the way to your neighborhood, and it’s full of fascinating little surprises.

Published in: on May 4, 2014 at 4:37 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Community working session on pollution in Delray

A friend passed this info along. The EPA is holding a community working session to figure out how to redress the harm that Severstal Steel has done/will continue to do with pollution in Southwest and Dearborn.

Community Working Session

May 6th 4-6:30 PM

Delray Community Center, 420 Leigh Street Detroit MI

The  US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), Department of Justice (DOJ) and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ)  will be hosting a working session to solicit ideas for supplemental environmental projects (SEP) related to a possible settlement of alleged Clean Air Act violations asserted against Severstal Dearborn’s steel manufacturing plant in the future. 

A supplemental environmental project is an environmentally beneficial project that a defendant agrees to undertake to settle an enforcement action, but which it is not otherwise legally required to perform.  The ultimate decision to participate in the SEP process and the project proposal will come from Severstal Dearborn. US EPA, MDEQ and DOJ will gather ideas to pass along to Severstal. These agencies will have to approve any project proposal prior to its inclusion in a settlement.  All such projects must comply with the SEP policy*, including the requirement to have an adequate “nexus” to the violation. This means that there must be a specific connection between the proposed project and the violation.

In this case, EPA and MDEQ have issued violation notices to Severstal, alleging, among other things, that it has violated state and federal rules limiting particulate matter emissions from Severstal’s iron and steel-making operations. 

We are looking for projects that relate to the violations and can be scaled to different project sizes. We will collect comments limited to five minutes in length and will collect any other ideas in writing after the meeting.


Questions?  Contact:

Kasey Barton, Associate Regional Counsel

US EPA Region 5         Ph: 312-886-7163

Let there be light (or not)

This morning I saw that the semi-functioning streetlight across from my house had been marked, and that MichCon equipment was hanging out at the end of the block. Honestly, I got a lil upset. I really, really hope the light will be replaced and not just removed. It doesn’t work about 60% of the time, but some light is still better than none, and the physical presence of a light pole signifies the possibility of having a working light again someday. When the cops come as slowly as they do in Detroit, you need light, even on a fairly safe block.

I used Google Pedometer to measure, and I think my block is long enough to qualify to have a light in the middle under Duggan’s newest Public Lighting plan (although I don’t have my notes on the plan in front of me). A sliver of the block is in Hamtramck, though, so I hope that doesn’t make us somehow not make the cut-off for keeping a light mid-block.

Either way, I just added “Get someone tall to put a new bulb in my porch light” to the weekend’s to-do list.

Published in: on April 25, 2014 at 11:19 am  Comments (5)  
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Preservation Detroit Picks Claire Nowak-Boyd to be Executive Director

Preservation Detroit Picks Claire Nowak-Boyd to be Executive Director

I was on WDET yesterday, talking about Preservation Detroit.

Published in: on March 5, 2014 at 3:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Packard Plant Ex-Owner Reportedly Wants Money; Redevelopment Delayed

Packard Plant Ex-Owner Reportedly Wants Money; Redevelopment Delayed

I wish these terrible humans would turn over their parts of the Packard Plant to the new owner. You technically own a small part of a large derelict factory that occasionally partially collapses, and that is famous for being on fire frequently. Let it go.

Creepy absentee speculators/slumlords do not get enough attention as a problem that keeps Detroit from recovering quickly. More of the focus on vacancy needs to be not just on the symptom, the buildings, but on the cause, which includes the owners. Some vacant houses are just owned by somebody who used to live there and couldn’t afford to stay, but some vacant properties are owned by slumlords with lawyers, who never so much as board up a door but who awaken the second it seems like they could squeeze a dime out of somebody else’s positive efforts.