Change Agents, Development, New Economy, News

Fighting blight in your PJs: Can Detroit’s Vacant Structures Be Crowdfunded Away?

Bulldozer on the east side of Detroit in the Blight Authority demonstration area

The people of the internet collectively bought a Robocop statue. But, can that same power be used to tear down houses?

Wednesday night, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing unveiled the “Detroit Blight Authority,” a public and private partnership of interests. In fact, the oft talked about “mystery demolition” on the city’s east side turns out to be one of the new group’s projects.

One of the things that could be a game changer for the elimination in blight in the city is that they have significantly reduced the cost of tearing down houses. Not only are they claiming that 80% of the structure will be recycled, but they say they’re going to halve the overall average cost of demolition in Detroit from $10,000 down to $5,000. That means double the amount of potentially dangerous houses knocked down for the same money.

There’s a slew of partners from the private sector and philanthropy, such as the Kresge Foundation (who put significant money behind the Detroit Long Term Plan), Office of the Mayor of Detroit, DTE Energy, Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn LLP, Price WaterHouse Cooper (PWC), American Waste & Recycling and Michigan Caterpillar.

Channeling the infomercial host Ron Popeil, “But wait, there’s more!”

Can demolition in Detroit be funded by the internet?

Screenshot of Blight Authority Pledge Page (click image to enlarge)

Not as widely reported yet is the crowdfunding component that you’ll find if you visit  After all, their website was built by the same folks (Loveland Technologies) who also brought you the Robocop statue that was successfully funded for $67,436. Or, in this new Detroit demolition math, one Robocop statue = about 12.5 house demolitions.

Anyone can make pledges (they don’t have tax-exempt status yet, but the site says they’re looking to get it) and you can get your name listed on the web site for pledging. Just drop in your name, your email, message and voila, a link appears to fund your pledge via Paypal.

This will be one of the biggest tests of crowdfunding since it’s inception. Can it do more good than fund a statue or one-off project? Can it step in and help the government do what it can’t afford to?

Can crowdfunding help change the face of an American city?


Ground view of Demolition area test zone facing downtown Detroit

HDR of the demolition demonstration area facing downtown Detroit

View to the Northeast of Detroit Demolition test area

View to the north east of the proposed demolition area

View facing Edison Academy in Detroit Blight Authority demonstration area

View toward the Detroit Edison Public Academy

Detroit blight elimination view facing Detroit skyline

View of Blight Authority project facing the downtown skyline


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