muckraker report

‘Bring on more gentrification,’ declares Detroit’s economic development czar

george jacksonGeorge Jackson Jr., the influential leader of economic development in Detroit, told an audience in Grosse Pointe Farms that he’s a staunch supporter of gentrification because the city needs a larger tax base to emerge from a decades-long funk.

Speaking at a forum about Detroit’s future Tuesday evening, the president and CEO of the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation said gentrification is “one of the costs of progress.”

“When I look at this city’s tax base, I say bring on more gentrification,” Jackson told the audience. “I’m sorry, but, I mean, bring it on. We can’t just be a poor city and prosper.”

Jackson’s surprisingly frank remarks on the topic seem to have gone unnoticed beyond the crowd of about 200 at the Grosse Pointe War Memorial.

55 W. Canfield 20130515_6637But the comments couldn’t be timelier. In the past few weeks, hundreds of low-income residents and seniors have been told they are being evicted from at least four large apartment buildings. Three of those buildings were purchased by an undisclosed company, which sent eviction notices to residents on Henry Street in the Cass Corridor. It’s widely believed that Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch is targeting the corridor for a new hockey arena and entertainment district.

“They don’t care about us poor folks,” said Nathaniel Conners, 57, who is being evicted from one of the Henry Street apartments. “It’s always about the money, and money causes nothing but problems.”

cass apartment

Residents are being evicted from three Cass Corridor apartment buildings.

In the Capitol Park district downtown earlier this month, seniors living in rent-subsidized apartments were told they had a year to vacate because of plans for pricier housing.

Gentrification is a sore subject among many Detroiters. Black residents were forced out of their homes in the 1940s and ’50s in the name of economic development. Their communities were leveled.

During Tuesday’s forum, Jackson said gentrification has to be handled “as humanistically as possible,” but he maintained the city has plenty of lower-income housing options.

“We have more affordable housing than any city in America,” Jackson said. “It’s not like we don’t have options.”

No doubt, the city’s tax base is shrinking and unable to pay for adequate services.

“I [would rather] manage this problem of having to deal with gentrification than having the problem where we had a lot of empty buildings and nobody who wanted to develop them,” Jackson told the audience.

“We have to build a tax base. … That’s one of the major problems that we have. We don’t have a tax base to support things we need to have.”

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.

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  • Denise Michaels

    You can’t have a prosperous, thriving city filled with poor residents who don’t pay taxes. The numbers don’t add up. Want a prosperous city where services work and opportunities abound if you’re willing to go after them? You need people who pay taxes and people who shop and buy in their community.

    I remember back in the late 60’s, the 70’s and 80’s all the hue and cry about white flight and, “If the people with money left what would happen to Detroit?” Detroiters got to see how rough it could get in a city with not just a shrinking population but with a huge shrinking tax base.

    Now it’s slowly turning around and the people in Detroit are griping, “Omigosh, white people moving into Detroit? We can’t have that!”

    What do you want? A vibrant city with a dynamic downtown and an increasing job base? Or a hell hole? There are no magic wands.

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  • http://none(doesnotapply) truthseeker

    Ask Warren Buffet — the wealthy don’t pay taxes in the same proportions as poorer people do.
    Leona, “Only little people pay taxes!” Helmsley was sent to prison for telling the truth!
    If Jackson thinks the wealthy’s tax payments are going to save Detroit — bless his heart, he needs to conduct further research.

    • KDOGG

      HALF of Detroit’s citizens don’t pay any taxes, but not because they aren’t billed. What he’s saying here is that gentrification will bring in more responsible citizens that will pay taxes. He’s not talking about a million Warren Buffets or Gilberts, but he’s talking about responsible citizens paying taxes. This will help the city.

    • jamieb

      your a fool. Warren buffet is trying to buy a friendly place in the history books, and also ensure no one else does what he did, the way he did it. He built his fortune on paying low taxes on capital gains.

      Also romney pays MILLIONS in taxes every year, its just 14 % of his income.

      If you think he is getting over too well, then copy what he does. That is how the world works.

      What is sick, is your boy buffett wants to reign supreme, be lauded, then have the rules change so no other simple investor can do what he did. That is sick. He is an out of control egomaniac.

    • Knuckles Mutatis

      True, but this isn’t about pulling in rich people like Buffett – it’s about attracting a far lower class than that….to be specific, upper-middle class types. Programmers, designers, higher-earning engineers and the like. You know, yuppies who want to be part of the hip new downtown.

  • Detroit N

    Poverty and class are obviously huge issues in Detroit (and the US) today, but implying that enlarging the tax base will eradicate these issues from a city this large and this entrenched is silly. Gentrification happens, it happens everywhere and yes it stinks, but so does the garbage that doesn’t get picked up in parts of the city or not having enough money to maintain street lights/parks/schools/emergency services. In order for Detroit to move forward in any way it has to have areas in the city where people from higher income brackets dwell, work and play. This is bound to happen in the areas closer to the “play” areas like the Comerica and this supposed Red Wings arena. I know the rent on my Midtown apt will go up with the light rail and the illitch build and I am trying to prepare for it however I can.

    Instead of beating our wings against a brick wall we need to find ways to help those displaced by gentrification to remain in the city and improve their lives – ahhh but that usually takes tax dollars, bummer where will we get those from since over 37% of those citizens living in Detroit don’t pay taxes and live under the poverty line.and 47% of property owners don’t bother to pay. Conundrum.

    • bebow

      The issue is not about gentrification. It’s about the grossly uneven distribution of critical resources, favoring a tiny segment of the population in an area where white people just happen to rent and play. Why would unserviced property owners continue paying dishonestly inflated taxes on parcels rendered worthless by the diversion of services to a favored few? Would you pay for services denied? If critical services were available outside of downtown and Midtown, displaced, vulnerable residents would not be fearing death in the violent, lawless neighborhoods where they’re headed. That’s the real issue – life and death. Who is worthy of receiving life-saving services and who is not?

      • P.F. McCracken

        This suggests that the city or certain persons are Intentionally under valuing these properties to gain a profit for themselves and/or a Private connection.

        Look into who his friends are. He may be financially biased.
        Watch which persons or corporations buy the properties and do the rebuilding. Is it one or two? Or are there many earning the contracts.

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  • Monica Lewis Patrick

    Seems like Mr. Jackson may be willing to act as the emergency manager of Negro Removal in Detroit!

    • Justin

      There really will not be;”negro removal in detroit” but there will be relocation. It is always mindful that we keep in mind that government welfare/entitlements are being paid by someone that is doing something.
      I advocate Voluntary Population Shifting (VPS) in which people could relocate to cities like Detroit and the federal government would pay up to $800.00 per month to rent or buy a home with no deposit and no qualifying iregardless of income for up to 10 years, this is cheaper than the current Section 8 program in the U.S. which subsidizes people to live in very expensive areas
      and does not result in large redevelopment but just more cost.

      • JKR

        Why would you do that when there are 29 other US cities that seem to work. The “Free Market” concept doesn’t really fly to well in Detroit. Good job at being the “bad example” of urban development.

    • jamieb

      can poor black people pay other poor black people to sit around and be poor all day?

      How can there be any services, or anything if everyone is poor as shit, and the only tax they pay is sales tax, or tax on cigarettes, and a tax on the stupid aka the lottery?

  • Philip F. McCracken, III

    Education and Jobs will help the most. Otherwise the poor will again pushed out to who knows where, away from the jobs and access to employment.

    The Washington, DC area did this at least twice. Pushing the poor out to cheap neighborhoods. Later state paid housing?

    Renovate, ok… but do not making housing impossible for those who need job or we will end up taking care of them through higher taxes or in prisons.

  • Peter C. Riley

    With people like Jackson in leadership roles that allow large amounts of tax-payer dollars to be spent for a very limited and small group that will see any return can there be any dought why Detroit is struggling to return to greatness. Unless and until Jackson, Ilitch and others are sent packing nothing will i truely change for the good of Detroit. Fire George Jackson and demand more from the leaders of Detroit now and in the future!!!!

  • Kimberly Zatkoff

    “Black residents were forced out of their homes in the 40’s and 50’s in the name of economic development” is your quote. How about adding the fact that “White residents were forced out of their homes in the 60’s and 70’s in the name of fear” that speaks volumes as to the state of the residential sections of the city.

    • Tony

      Being forced out by government for private entities is not the same thing as leaving voluntarily – whatever the reason. And those who left had the option to stay and fight, they chose flight.
      And no one mentions how big of a failure those private economic investments were

      • jamieb

        not sure which specific investments you mean, but if they were really private and not subsidized, then its a moot point. It does not hurt you or anyone, not every investment pans out. Thats the idea, thats why when it does work, you are supposed to do really well and move out of the middle class or lower middle class and be rich or upper middle class.

        You want every investment to pan out? It is as if you are some many child who has not observed anything meaningful ever, and have no understanding of how the world works.

    • durfeem

      I was here in the 50’s and 60’s and i don’t remember anyone holding a gun to my parents head telling them they had to ,ove. I am still here today living with the products of your family’s fear.

  • Don

    “And while many think of gentrification as a race thing, as in rich white people move in, poor black people move out, that’s not been the case in Detroit, says Cliff Schrupp, executive director of the Fair Housing Center of Metropolitan Detroit. Here, the little gentrification that does take place is African-Americans with money replacing African-Americans without money.

    Meanwhile, Dr. John Betancur, a professor of urban economic development, says it’s nearly impossible to revitalize without moving people out. “The dynamic of gentrification, unfortunately, is that housing prices go up … taxes go up. I don’t see how you can avoid the dynamic of the market.”

    Hogwash to all of it, says Isaac David, a Cass Corridor resident who likes the city just as it is. David asked the professors if we couldn’t move toward a different philosophy, one in which “there’s a place for decay. A place where the self is allowed to run free because there’s so little else around you.”

    Yes, David, there is such a place. Unfortunately, it’s called Wyoming.”

    • bebow

      The individuals and businesses in question are highly subsidized. Be honest. They’re not paying squat for the pleasure of our company and the resources diverted from our neighborhoods to provide them with an enhanced urban experience.

      • durfeem

        SPOT ON!!

  • Eric

    The Federal Urban Renewal program was not gentrification, it was sheer racist displacement. And almost everyone agrees Detroit needs to increase their tax base, there’s too much affordable housing in the city.

  • bebow

    It’s the height of dishonesty to cast the conflict as one centered around gentrification. The dishonesty is intended to camouflage the real issue at hand, the issue George Jackson’s subconcious finds troublesome enough to prompt an apology (I’m sorry, but…) inconsistent with his stated position. Jackson publicly called himself out, but he probably isn’t sharp enough to see it without some assistance. You’re welcome, Jackson.

    • Detroit

      he is saying poor people need to go somewhere else…while that may be morally twisted, based on economics its quite all right. you cant pick and chose your morals. if you ar a free marketer, then you are a free marketer, if not then your are not.

      Evenn if they qwerent throwing people out, and detroit acted as a real market, and people with money decided to move to a certain neighborhood. the owners of those properties would rasie rents. end of story. The only way to have mix income neighborhoods, is by using government subsidy, a nd that generally reodes values over time.