Men, Prayer, Politics, Horses, Detroit

HB 5232: A Detroit Demolition, or Not?

Wherever you find yourself at this moment, turn to the person nearest you and ask them this simple question: What are your top three favorite things about Detroit? Chances are the term ‘architecture’ will be included somewhere in their response. The architecture of Detroit is Detroit, literally. Elegant, ambitious, ragged, desolate, triumphant, our story as a city, gets told through our buildings. Rubble to ramparts, fuck with our buildings, you’re fucking with us.

The Michigan Legislature agreed and way back in 1970, passed Public Act 169 which gave us the tools we need to act quickly when developer dujour with a dozer threatens one of our historic structural sentries with annihilation.

The Hotel Park Avenue

The Hotel Park Avenue

It puts the legal muscle in place that provides us the opportunity to identify and protect, through the establishment of Historic Districts, both public and privately owned properties whose significance to our shared history requires rights all its own in the public realm.

Let us look at a current example: When daddy Ilitch gets a hankerin to move, or remove, one of his local monopoly pieces, PA 169 gives us the power to say NO, you may own it, but we own its history and our history matters and has rights. Now comes Ilitch wanting to exclude 3 historic structural citizens of Detroit from a protective proposed Historic District, allowed thanks to PA 169 and to be named Cass Park Historic District. These three buildings, the Alden Apartments, the Wil-Mar Garage and the Cole Building are located in Ilitch’s Arena District plans. Smart as we are, the City Council, with the Historic District Advisory Board running block, is holding ground this time against Arena Man and his plans-though it is far from over. All possible because we figured this shit out way back in 1970.

Representative Chris Afendoulis

But wait, what is this we hear? Why it’s none other than Republican state Rep. Afendoulis from District 73. Afendoulis has conveniently introduced House Bill 5232, which, if moved out of committee and to the floor for an affirmative vote, would rip the innards out of PA 169, rendering it open dozer & dynamite season on Detroit’s bricks and mortar, our life blood as a city.

If enacted, HB 5232 eliminates our greatest tool in halting impending demolition in the 11th hour. Here is the kicker, and why I believe Afendoulis is jamming this legislation through, relevant to the proposed Cass Park District which threatens Ilitch’s right to demo the aforementioned three buildings: under HB 5232, creating the new Cass Park Historic District would require not only enactment by the City Council but a majority approval by vote in the next public election, a delay that would afford the Ilitch demolition team plenty of time. Isn’t it interesting that Ilitch has delayed the pending decision on the Cass Park District until February 11th?

Being able to bulldoze now and explain later is apparently not enough. According to HB 5232, though renewal is possible, all existing protective Historic District designations in Michigan, including Corktown and the Belle Isle Historic District would evaporate in ten years, Kapoof!

In addition, any local legislative unit (city council) can eliminate any existing protective Historic District by writing and passing a new ordinance stating so, no explanation necessary, rendering the process purely political. Currently, such cannot be done without first meeting stringent, nationally recognized criteria.

HB 5232 would be culturally and economically devastating to Detroit and the State of Michigan. Tell Afendoulis just where he can stuff his Bill. Got a minute? Give him a call: 517-373-0218 or email him: ChrisAfendoulis@house.mi.gov

Take action now:


For technical info go here:

PA 169: http://www.legislature.mi.gov/%28S%28siyqa5h5xpvdwunhx5aqvr5n%29%29/mileg.aspx?page=getObject&objectName=mcl-399-202

HB 5232 and SB 720: http://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/2015-2016/billintroduced/House/pdf/2016-HIB-5232.pdf

Authors note: an edited version of this piece appears in the February issue of The Metropolitan

© 2016   Nancy Kotting    All Rights Reserved    Reproduction by Permission Only




3 comments on “HB 5232: A Detroit Demolition, or Not?

  1. David Kramnic
    February 1, 2016

    I’m not sure, but it looks to me like a “conditionally effective ordinance” could put a stopper on any demolition until the vote.

  2. NK
    February 1, 2016

    …I believe the understanding is the ordinance would not be enforceable until approved in the next general election. Issue is we have ‘representative Government’ for scenarios just like this. If every ordinance had to go to the general election for voter approval, our elections would be a nightmare. What is so disturbing in this bill, besides ALL of it, is that it requires voter approval in a general election to enact an ordinance creating or renewing a Historic District designation = a tediously slow process. Yet, it does NOT likewise require voter approval in a general election to eliminate a designated Historic District. In the later scenario, we can rely on representative government apparently. Worse however is the fact that it removes the criteria for determining whether a District qualifies for elimination from designation. Meaning any person or group can impose whatever form of influence upon a local governing unit (city council) and once that governing unit feels they have enough votes- could pass an ordinance eliminating the District (PURELY political) with absolutely no defining criteria applied. HB 5232 and SB 720 are simply an abomination and should be immediately withdrawn from committee (and buried deep!).

  3. Pingback: The proposed MI legislation HB5232/SB720 to "modernize" historic … — ISearchDetroit

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