|Date(s):||1981 to 1997|
|Tag(s):||aerial photograph, French Road, Environmental History, Detroit City Airport, Nortown, Detroit|
|Course:||“Environmental History in Detroit,” University of Michigan|
The difference between the two photographs is stark. The first, from 1981, shows a lively neighborhood off of French Road next to the Detroit City Airport packed with houses. By the time the second photo was taken, in 1997, however, the area had been decimated. Many of the houses are gone, and the remaining ones are surrounded by empty lots left behind from the houses that were demolished. It is also clear that the surrounding businesses have suffered from people moving out. The parking lot next to the neighborhood— full of cars in 1981— was bulldozed by 1997. Many of the abandoned homes show evidence of fire damage, and the empty lots have become dumping grounds.
In the first half of the 20th century, Detroit built an airport in the Northeast section of the city, known as the Detroit City Airport (later as the Coleman A. Young International Airport). Later, in the 1990s, the city decided that there should be a buffer between the airport’s runways and the neighborhood that now existed right next to the airport. The disappearing houses are largely thanks to a 1994 plan by the Detroit City Council to buy out around five hundred neighborhood residents in order to create this buffer, called the French Road Mini-Take. Assured that the project would only take 18 months and they would not be left in a no-man’s land, the residents agreed to it. Twenty years later, however, the project has still not been completed. Several mayors have since promised to finish it, but the lack of funds available to the city have resulted in 100-150 occupied homes still remaining in a sort of limbo amid the empty lots— there are homes, but the neighborhood has been stripped away.