Why Is Commercial Blight Removal Slowing In Detroit Neighborhoods?

Crain’s Detroit Business reporter Chad Livengood: Demolitions of vacant businesses has slowed over the last 18 months.

Jake Neher/WDET

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan often touts his efforts to remove blighted buildings as something that has improved neighborhoods in his first term.

That program has largely targeted abandoned homes. 

But what about commercial properties? What’s happening with the thousands of empty businesses that dot the city? 

According to an article written by Chad Livengood in Crain’s Detroit Business, demolitions of those properties has actually slowed over the last 18 months. 

Livengood writes:


Because commercial properties are bigger and can contain more hazardous waste, they’re more expensive to demolish, costing nearly four times as much to raze than bulldozing a single blighted house, according to city demolition data.

Livengood speaks with Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson about the impetus for writing the article and the status of blighted commercial properties around Detroit. 

The inspiration for the article came from a pile of rubble located on Mt. Elliot that Livengood drove past multiple times over the last six months. Over that time, nothing was done about the pile so he decided to look into it further. 

“I had already been…digging around about commercial blight,” says Livengood. “I had talked to the mayor about it up at the (Mackinac Policy Conference in June).” 

According to Livengood, Mayor Duggan asserted the city would be doubling its efforts to remove commercial blighted buildings “from 150 a year to 300.” 

“I pulled the data and sure enough, they haven’t really been doing 150 a year,” he says. 

In looking into this issue further, Livengood found that removing commercial blight gets bogged down in bureaucracy “because of the scrutiny the residential program has faced from the federal government.” 

Click on the audio player above for the full conversation. 


  • Detroit Today
    Dynamic and diverse voices. News, politics, community and the issues that define our region. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today brings you fresh and perceptive views weekdays at 9 am and 7 pm.