Constructive Demolition

There has been a lot in the local news lately about certain buildings being scheduled for demolition in Flint and Detroit. The Genesee Towers in Flint has recently been scheduled and rescheduled to be demolished but the date keeps changing.  Also, what remains of the Brewster-Douglas housing project in Detroit is being demolished beginning September 4th. Hopefully tearing down the old will make way for the new and improved. 

At 19 stories tall and 250 feet high the Genesee Towers building is the tallest in Flint. It’s located near the Mott Foundation building and the former Flint Journal building on the corners of First and Harrison. Completed in 1968 for about $6.5 million, Genesee Merchants Bank & Trust Co. was the first to move in. Almost a year later the private University Club opened on the top floor. The majority of the building was used primarily for office space.

The Genesee Towers’ history includes some interesting tidbits. When the University Club first opened, it was preferred that members have college degrees and women were restricted from entering certain areas. In 1972 women were allowed to serve on the board and have access to the entire club.

Then, in 1981, there was a bit of a fender bender in the parking garage (which encompassed the first 8 floors of the building). Somebody accidentally ran their car into one of the parking bumpers and consequentially a slab of concrete on the side of the building three stories up fell down to the street. Luckily nobody was in the wrong place at the wrong time!

Later, in 1983, it was discovered that the owners of the building were involved in some shady dealings when they were indicted in New Orleans. They were charged with importing 40,000 pounds of marijuana from Columbia and pled guilty.

After several owners, tenants and legal issues the building was supposed to have been imploded sometime in late July of 2013. It was decided that the demolition would be put on hold until after Back to the Bricks and the Crim. As of today, it still stands. 

The Brewster-Douglas housing project in Detroit has been an obvious sign of Detroit’s decay for quite a while. The low income housing complex originally included both high rise and low-rise apartment blocks on over 14 acres west of I75 near Mack Avenue. According to Wikipedia the “Brewster Project and Frederick Douglas Apartments” were built between 1935 and 1955 for the “working poor”.

There is a historical marker on the site that reads, “Residents were required to be employed and there were limits on what they could earn. Former residents described Brewster as ‘community filled with families that displayed love, respect and concern for everyone in a beautiful, clean and secure neighborhood’.” In the beginning it was a safe and desirable place to live where lower income families could make a nice home for themselves. In the 1960s and 1970s as other housing options became more affordable and people started leaving the city, the Detroit Housing Commissions restrictions on residency became less selective and crime and decay became more the norm.

At the peak of its capacity there were 8,000-10,000 residents. Some of the more famous ones include Diana Ross, Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard of the Supremes and Smokey Robinson. Lily Tomlin grew up there and boxer Joe Lewis used the complex’s Brewster-Wheeler Recreation Center to practice.