Demo begins on storied high-rises at Brewster-Douglass housing projects

Brewster ProjectsThe last stage of demolition of the historic Brewster-Douglass housing projects begins this afternoon as crews begin leveling four 15-story towers that have been vacant since 2008.

Demolition is set to begin after a 2 p.m. press conference with Mayor Mike Duggan and former Mayor Dave Bing, who secured $6.5 million in federal funding to finance the project last year.
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BrewsterThe brick high-rises towering over I-75 near downtown are all that’s left of the Brewster-Douglass, where crews have been leveling smaller buildings since September.

Brewster-Douglass is considered the nation’s first publicly funded housing project for black people when it was built in the 1930s. The building quickly began to deteriorate in the 1980s because of neglect, crime and drugs.

Brewster has a rich, tragic history.

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who was an outspoken advocate of racial equality, was at the groundbreaking and said the new apartments represented a grand achievement for human rights.

At any given time, between 8,000 and 10,000 residents lived at the Brewster projects.


But a drawn-out exodus left the housing units vacant in 2008.

Since then, the buildings have crumbled. Thieves have gutted everything of value, tearing apart floors, ceilings and walls for metal. The grounds are covered in trash, glass and furniture dropped from the top floors.

The adjacent recreation center where Joe Louis learned how to box is falling apart. Tennis and basketball courts are cracked.

The city is looking for investors to buy the property, which is next to historic Brush Park.

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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