Detroit Mayor Dave Bing announced that the vacant Brewster-Douglass housing project, an eyesore where some buildings have stood empty for two decades, will be demolished next year with the help of a $6.5 million federal grant, reports the Detroit News. Bing said he looks “at changing the face of Detroit” by tearing down one of the city’s most historic housing complexes, the former home of Motown legend Smokey Robinson, comedienne Lily Tomlin, and where Diana Ross, Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard formed the Supremes.
Covering several city blocks at the edge of downtown, the complex had become a symbol of the city’s decline, visible to the thousands of motorists who pass each day at the junction of Interstates 75 and 375. Demolition could being in just months and will take about a year. Bing said the city hopes to develop the 18 acres. The first buildings on the site began going up in 1935, and it is registered as a Michigan historic site, “the nation’s first federally funded public housing development for African-Americans.” But by the 1980s, the neighborhoods were in decline. The last tenants moved out of the final habitable building four years ago, but since then, the apartments have been gutted of anything of value. Windows were smashed or stolen, creating a complex of see-through buildings.