houses join Brush Park revival
FREE PRESS COLUMNIST
your before-and-after pictures: This pair is a doozy.
But as an example of inner-city ruin and resurrection,
the story is even better than the pictures.
By the end
of summer, the crumbling brownstones in Detroit's
Brush Park pictured at right will be restored on the
outside to their 1890s splendor. Inside, they'll echo
the luxury homes they once were, but with open, 21st-Century
The six row
houses will be offered for sale in about 60 days,
says Bernie Glieberman, CEO of major developer Crosswinds
Communities. They'll have three bedrooms, two baths,
2,700 square feet and start in the $400,000s. Crosswinds
is not taking deposits yet, but interested buyers
can sign up to learn more at the company's Web site,
of the Brownstones on John R is the newest good thing
to happen to downtown's Brush Park, Detroit's longtime
poster child for urban blight.
the hundreds of new Victorian-style flats and townhouses
mushrooming north of Comerica Park in a development
called Woodward Place at Brush Park, also by Crosswinds.
More than 100 of those units, priced from the low
$200,000s to about $350,000, have sold.
says Glieberman, there will be more than 800 units
at Woodward Place. That will include some new designs
his company is planning to be more affordable to singles
-- lofts and apartment-style units priced from $150,000
on John R, Crosswinds will restore five old Victorian
mansions nearby. Some may be divided into condos of
more manageable size. For example, one mansion on
Adelaide Street already is restored and divided into
two units. Each sold for about $360,000.
in higher-priced Brush Park homes surprised even Crosswinds,
which started it. At first Crosswinds' plan was to
build condos like Royal Oak's Main Street Square --
the 1993 project that started metro Detroit's current
vogue for townhouses.
Oak project targeted first-time buyers -- about 1,000-1,270
square feet with prices that started in the $85,000-$120,000
range. (Today, they cost much more in resale.)
pent-up need for new upscale housing quickly caused
the Brush Park project to escalate. Buyer demand pushed
the size to 1,300-1,750 square feet, and prices rose
on to houses
It has been
more than 100 years since life and real estate were
this lively in Brush Park, close neighbor to the Fox
Theatre, Comerica Park and Ford Field.
In the boom
that followed the Civil War, this was the neighborhood
where Detroit lumber barons and industrialists built
homes that showed their new wealth. The grandest mansions
were built on or near Woodward, lesser ones a couple
of blocks back.
War II, the huge brick homes became rooming houses
for war workers. But they stood firm against urban
renewal in the 1950s and civil unrest in the '60s.
Even the 1967 Detroit riot claimed almost no Brush
struck in the 1970s, '80s and early '90s. As many
grand homes were forfeited for unpaid taxes, the City
of Detroit refused to put them back on the market.
Preservationists who tried to buy the homes were rebuffed.
that then-Mayor Coleman Young wanted the land cleared
for an industrial developer. The city denied it, but
between 1970 and 1995, the city acquired 75 percent
of Brush Park's houses and would not resell them.
Many potential restorers were turned down repeatedly.
would stand vacant for years. Their walnut doors and
marble fireplaces would show up in downtown antique
shops. Plumbing was stripped for its copper components.
Eventually, the structures were beyond saving.
Mayor Dennis Archer requested proposals for Brush
Park's empty land. By then, just 20-30 mansions survived
in the hands of fierce urban pioneers. Two on Adelaide
Street near Woodward -- at the north end of today's
Woodward Place -- had been restored to showplace status
by dedicated owners whose work spanned years. Of all
the plans submitted, only those from Crosswinds didn't
require a subsidy -- money from an outside source.
That firm's proposal was for nonsubsidized middle-income
condos that would compete in the open market.
that was a huge reach. General Motors had not moved
downtown. There was no new Compuware headquarters,
no casinos and no new ballparks.
gamble proved good, but the road from 1994 to 2001
was long. As is typical for city redevelopment, getting
clear titles to the many little parcels of land was
hard. Brush Park's infrastructure was so old some
water lines were made of wood.
Place at Brush Park opened its first models 1 1/2
years ago, there was a long waiting list. Today a
long block of handsome flats and townhouses are full
of new residents who bring life to the street.
On many nights
Woodward and its cross streets are jammed with crowds
going to the Fox and State theaters, Comerica Park
or Ford Field. It's hard to believe that a short time
ago this area was so desolate that colonies of wild
pheasants nested in Brush Park's vacant fields.
and his canoe are just one part of Detroit history.
These stories of fighting back from blight are another
important piece. It has taken more than one kind of
pioneer to bring the city to where it is today.
ROSE at 313-222-6614 or firstname.lastname@example.org.