[Editor’s note: Merry Christmas! This week, we’re taking time off to focus on our loved ones, so we are sharing some of our favorite stories from this year. Keep an eye out for our top features from the archives as we rest and get ready for a brilliant 2019! Cheers, from Candy and the entire staff at CandysDirt.com!]

Bethany: Everyone sent me this link. Everyone. And it generated a lot of comments both on our site and on social media. So obviously, you people like statues in your bathrooms and other weirdness, and also, it had to be our Reader’s Choice for Best of Wednesday WTF this year.

Social media is a blessing (most of the time). You can talk to your friends. You can keep track of who broke ugly after high school. You can argue with strangers about collusion.

And you can also have 100 people simultaneously send you the same home listing because they know part of your job is to find the most jacked-up houses in the world and write about them. (more…)

What Can a Redeveloping Detroit Teach Us About Dallas? | CandysDirt.com

The 20th-century tale of Detroit is often one of woe. Auto industry job loss, economic decline, and rapid suburbanization decimated the city and left it floundering, with a population loss of 60 percent. The blight of urban decay is just one of the problems facing the area and Detroit declared bankruptcy in 2013, becoming the largest American city to ever do so. 

maurice cox

Maurice Cox

But not all is lost in Motor City as committed citizens and employees work to revitalize neighborhoods, engage residents, and redevelop the urban core, all while making sense of the new landscape. 

Nationally acclaimed community designer and leader of the public interest design movement Maurice Cox knows a lot about developing bold – yet achievable – plans that become tools for civic discourse and empowerment, embraced by diverse sectors of the community. He is the director of planning and development for the city of Detroit, speaking at the Dallas Architecture Forum lecture Feb. 21

“Maurice Cox has achieved a nationally acclaimed reputation as a community designer who incorporates active citizen participation into the urban design and planning process,” said Dallas Architecture Forum executive director Nate Eudaly.

(more…)

Drew Philp Detroit by Garrett McLean

Author Drew Philp in his Poletown home he purchased for $500

Photo: BuzzFeed/Garrett Maclean

Candy and I have been discussing this very interesting long-form story from BuzzFeed about a man who bought a home in Detroit’s Poletown neighborhood for $500 when he was 23 years old. Since then, protesters, investors, and CEOs have bought up property throughout Detroit’s devastated neighborhoods, demolishing buildings and shrinking the city’s footprint.

Drew Philp‘s story is a gripping one if you are interested in reclaiming urban neighborhoods, overcoming a history of civic corruption, and reinvesting in cities wrought by economic peril. I know several people in the southern reaches of North Oak Cliff who have purchased homes knowing that it could be years before their neighborhood transitions into a marketable one and a profitable investment. Did that deter them? Heck no.

Still, Philp’s perspective on broadening gentrification is an interesting one. His account, which takes us through the first couple of years of living in a once-abandoned home that was so full of trash it took him a month to clear the first floor, to now. Here’s a telling excerpt:

Dan Gilbert, the owner of Quicken Loans, has moved more than 7,600 employees downtown. He also just sent a notice to one of my ex-girlfriends, explaining he has purchased the apartment building she’s lived in for the last 16 years and his future plans don’t include her. The city is talking of disinvesting in entire neighborhoods such as mine — literally letting the neighborhood go to seed and removing city services, shrinking the city in what some have termed as “white-sizing”; upstarts backed with foundation money are talking about transforming an entire neighborhood into an 2,475-acre urban farm. The state just approved a $350 million subsidized giveaway for a hockey stadium with a suburban fan base that’s going to tear down another portion of the city and push more people out. Of course, the divide between the gentrifying Detroit downtown and the bankrupt Detroit that is the rest of the city mirrors what is happening in a lot of this country.

These changes are making me feel a bit threatened and defensive. Instead of a lone weird white kid buying a house in Detroit, now I’m part of a movement. I shop at the Whole Foods, knowing every step into that store is a step away from a brand-new city that could be. And if someone tries to break into my house again I will not hesitate to defend myself and someday my family. Some days I feel caught in a tide I cannot row against, but these are the realities. Maybe I’m feeling a bit like the good people of Detroit must have felt to be counted amongst the citizens of “Murder City.”

But there’s another Detroit, too, of which I am but a small part. It’s been happening quietly and for some time, between transplants and natives, black and white and Latino, city and country — tiny acts of kindness repeated thousands of times over, little gardens and lots of space, long meetings and mowing grass that isn’t yours. It’s baling hay.

It’s the Detroit that’s saving itself. The Detroit that’s building something brand-new out of the cinders of consumerism and racism and escape.

Read the whole thing and then tell us: Does the modern Detroit really reflect how our nation is changing? And how do we turn the tide, as Philp suggests we do?

 

Drew Philp Detroit by Garrett McLean

Author Drew Philp in his Poletown home he purchased for $500

Photo: BuzzFeed/Garrett Maclean

Candy and I have been discussing this very interesting long-form story from BuzzFeed about a man who bought a home in Detroit’s Poletown neighborhood for $500 when he was 23 years old. Since then, protesters, investors, and CEOs have bought up property throughout Detroit’s devastated neighborhoods, demolishing buildings and shrinking the city’s footprint.

Drew Philp‘s story is a gripping one if you are interested in reclaiming urban neighborhoods, overcoming a history of civic corruption, and reinvesting in cities wrought by economic peril. I know several people in the southern reaches of North Oak Cliff who have purchased homes knowing that it could be years before their neighborhood transitions into a marketable one and a profitable investment. Did that deter them? Heck no.

Still, Philp’s perspective on broadening gentrification is an interesting one. His account, which takes us through the first couple of years of living in a once-abandoned home that was so full of trash it took him a month to clear the first floor, to now. Here’s a telling excerpt:

Dan Gilbert, the owner of Quicken Loans, has moved more than 7,600 employees downtown. He also just sent a notice to one of my ex-girlfriends, explaining he has purchased the apartment building she’s lived in for the last 16 years and his future plans don’t include her. The city is talking of disinvesting in entire neighborhoods such as mine — literally letting the neighborhood go to seed and removing city services, shrinking the city in what some have termed as “white-sizing”; upstarts backed with foundation money are talking about transforming an entire neighborhood into an 2,475-acre urban farm. The state just approved a $350 million subsidized giveaway for a hockey stadium with a suburban fan base that’s going to tear down another portion of the city and push more people out. Of course, the divide between the gentrifying Detroit downtown and the bankrupt Detroit that is the rest of the city mirrors what is happening in a lot of this country.

These changes are making me feel a bit threatened and defensive. Instead of a lone weird white kid buying a house in Detroit, now I’m part of a movement. I shop at the Whole Foods, knowing every step into that store is a step away from a brand-new city that could be. And if someone tries to break into my house again I will not hesitate to defend myself and someday my family. Some days I feel caught in a tide I cannot row against, but these are the realities. Maybe I’m feeling a bit like the good people of Detroit must have felt to be counted amongst the citizens of “Murder City.”

But there’s another Detroit, too, of which I am but a small part. It’s been happening quietly and for some time, between transplants and natives, black and white and Latino, city and country — tiny acts of kindness repeated thousands of times over, little gardens and lots of space, long meetings and mowing grass that isn’t yours. It’s baling hay.

It’s the Detroit that’s saving itself. The Detroit that’s building something brand-new out of the cinders of consumerism and racism and escape.

Read the whole thing and then tell us: Does the modern Detroit really reflect how our nation is changing? And how do we turn the tide, as Philp suggests we do?

 

Todd Staples at MetroTexThat’s Todd Staples, candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Texas with me, Rhonda Needham, Former TAR TREPAC Chair, and precious Vicki White, Keller Williams Elite. Todd sure made the agents feel great when he said “Realtors are the reason why Texas is doing so well!” After cautioning everyone on the headwinds facing Washington, he focused on the two most important things he worries about in Texas: our future water needs, and a skilled workforce. (Photo kindly taken by Marvin Jolly, Keller Williams Elite.)

Speaking of headwinds, I am sure you all have heard about the bankruptcy court’s decision in Detroit: “In a ruling that could reverberate far beyond Detroit, a federal judge held on Tuesday that this battered city could formally enter bankruptcy and asserted that Detroit’s obligation to pay pensions in full was not untouchable,” this from the New York Times. My favorite (shudder) part of the story is what Bruce Babiarz, a spokesman for the Detroit Police and Fire Retirement System, said:

“This is one of the strongest protected pension obligations in the country here in Michigan,” he said. “If this ruling is upheld, this is the canary in a coal mine for protected pension benefits across the country. They’re gone.”

Why do we care about Detroit when we are sitting happy in Dallas? Look for a big fight on pension protections across the country as municipalities find they cannot sustain support of police, fire, streets, education and crime fighting etc. and still support these pensions.

Todd Staples at MetroTexThat’s Todd Staples, candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Texas with me, Rhonda Needham, Former TAR TREPAC Chair, and precious Vicki White, Keller Williams Elite. Todd sure made the agents feel great when he said “Realtors are the reason why Texas is doing so well!” After cautioning everyone on the headwinds facing Washington, he focused on the two most important things he worries about in Texas: our future water needs, and a skilled workforce. (Photo kindly taken by Marvin Jolly, Keller Williams Elite.)

Speaking of headwinds, I am sure you all have heard about the bankruptcy court’s decision in Detroit: “In a ruling that could reverberate far beyond Detroit, a federal judge held on Tuesday that this battered city could formally enter bankruptcy and asserted that Detroit’s obligation to pay pensions in full was not untouchable,” this from the New York Times. My favorite (shudder) part of the story is what Bruce Babiarz, a spokesman for the Detroit Police and Fire Retirement System, said:

“This is one of the strongest protected pension obligations in the country here in Michigan,” he said. “If this ruling is upheld, this is the canary in a coal mine for protected pension benefits across the country. They’re gone.”

Why do we care about Detroit when we are sitting happy in Dallas? Look for a big fight on pension protections across the country as municipalities find they cannot sustain support of police, fire, streets, education and crime fighting etc. and still support these pensions.

Carlita and Kwame Kilpatrick

Neither Carlita or Kwame Kilpatrick are smiling now, that’s for sure. Kwame is still behind bars following a very ugly and public sexting scandal, and now his wife, Carlita, is having some tough luck of her own as neighbors of her 5,000-square-foot rental in Grand Prairie said that the Detroit native moved out overnight.

Carlita was let go from her job in Duncanville earlier this month according to a story from The Detroit News. So it stands to reason that she probably couldn’t afford the $2,600 a month rent for 3012 Pamplona. From what neighbors said, Carlita probably left in a hurry, ditching several family possessions on the curb right before trash day.

“A lot of stuff was out on the curb for trash day — stuff that people wouldn’t throw — like a computer desk,” neighbor Malinda Carter said.

The family kept to themselves in the five-bedroom, four-bathroom house, Carter said, adding she never saw Detroit’s former first lady or her three children outside and neighbors had to keep up the landscaping. She said she saw more news crews than signs of life in the home.

“Neighbors cut the grass because it was getting too long,” Carter said. “Flower beds were out of control and it looked like there was no one in there.

“I never saw a female or any man out there.”

Real estate agent Joe Livingston said the Kilpatricks did an “average” job keeping up the home while he attempted to sell it in May and June. There were no offers and another agent is now trying to lease the house, said Livingston, adding he doesn’t know why the family left.

Carlita should consider heading back north to Detroit. With a situation as tough as hers, I am sure the more affordable housing in the area would definitely help cope.

Kwames-new-GP-rental1-533x400

Woodward_Ave_Detroit_1942Jeeze Louise. $18.5 billion in debt. Will city workers, firemen and policemen, get their pensions? Does the garbage get picked up?  This is a great piece by Morgan Brennan over at FORBES on how other cities that have endured bankruptcy are seeing home prices start to stabilize and inch up. Of course, that is happening everywhere in this country, as we saw last week. Still, it is no secret that Detroit’s property values were, no, ARE about as low as you could go.

But Brennan says investors are snapping up those homes.

Lormax Stern Development partner Daniel Stern echoed a similar sentimenton CNBC, noting that,”The bankruptcy, for us, it’s old news.” He says prices in desirable neighborhoods like downtown Detroit (currently undergoing a massive revitalization initiative) and the city’s surrounding suburbs have been climbing for the better part of four years.

I am not buying any plane tickets to Detroit, are you?

“If the city continues to hollow out, it’s unlikely the housing market will continue to recover,” says Dr. Svenja Gudell, senior economist of Zillow. “Roughly 30% of Detroit’s housing units already lie vacant, and without job growth and a healthy economy to attract new workers, what demand there is will inevitably dry up. Those homes currently vacant will remain so, blighting the cityscape and creating a double whammy of downward price pressure in the city’s neighborhoods.

(See why these economists come in handy?) There may be more pain to come, but the big price declines or cutbacks in services probably already happened, says Jeb Kolko over at Trulia.

“By the time your city files for bankruptcy, it’s too late: declining home values are more cause than effect of city bankruptcy. Poor city services reduce housing demand and can hurt prices, but bankruptcy itself doesn’t cause city services to disappear. Struggling cities will cut back on services long before they go bankrupt.”

Thankfully, except for the Never-Ending Story of school board shenanigans, Dallas is light years from Detroit’s problem, Still, let’s just keep eyes on our Dallas city leaders so we don’t end up in the same sinking boat.