Detroit residents get homes upgraded near Gordie Howe bridge

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

Detroit — Jose Guzman lives close enough to Interstate 75 that he can see the vehicles traveling from the porch of his Delray neighborhood home.

Within a few years, that traffic is expected to increase with the construction of the Gordie Howe International Bridge.

To help protect residents living near the area's truck traffic and noise pollution, the city is completing the first phase of a program that provides free home upgrades for Guzman and hundreds of other homeowners in the southwest Detroit neighborhood.

Jose Guzman, right, shows Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan his new HVAC system.  The home is the first of 200 houses being upgraded with new windows, HVAC systems and insulation to lessen the noise and environmental pollution of the construction and use of the Gordie Howe bridge.

“It’s very good, the program,” Guzman said Thursday standing outside of his home near one of its newly installed windows. “It works. … I needed it. To fix my house, I’d possibly spend about $15,000.”

Guzman received 15 windows and a new HVAC system. He says the old windows were deteriorating and the furnace and central air system were long overdue for replacement.

The $6.5 million effort, called I-75 Environmental Mitigation, is part of the Bridging Neighborhoods program funded by a $45 million community benefits agreement with the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority, which is overseeing the bridge project.

“This is a solid neighborhood,” Mayor Mike Duggan said after taking a quick tour of Guzman's home. “We wanted to preserve it, but the freeway overpasses are going to add to the noise. They’re going to add to the emissions, so we said what do we do so that people will want to stay?

"And we came up with this plan for 200 houses that are within 300 feet of I-75. … We’re putting in extra insulation, putting in double-pane windows so it’s quieter, putting in central air that filters almost to the level of hospital operating rooms so that people folks who live in these houses, can breathe easily, live in the quiet.”

Duggan said about 90 percent of families who qualify in the impact area have signed up.

In July 2018, officials from the United States and Canada broke ground on construction preparation for the Gordie Howe International Bridge. The bridge is expected to be completed by the end of 2024, said Mark Butler, director of communications for the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority.

As for the homes in the impact area, upgrades are expected to be finished on 39 houses by mid-October, said Mike Chaudhary, president and CEO of Detroit-based contractor DMC Group. Another 160 homes are expected to receive upgrades in 2020 and 2021.

Jose Guzman, left, gives Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan a tour of his home,  the first of 200 houses being upgraded with new windows, HVAC systems and insulation to lessen the noise and environmental pollution of the construction and use of the Gordie Howe bridge.

Upgrades include double-pane windows, HVAC systems with MERV 13 air filters and insulation when needed.

“The goal is to bring the houses up to a standard that would comply with the noise and (indoor) air goals they have,” said Simone Sagovac, executive director of Southwest Detroit Community Benefits Coalition. The community-based organization advocated for the program.  

Another component of the project underway is Home Swap, which helps residents who choose to not live near a bridge move to another Detroit neighborhood.

According to the city, in the past two years, the program has helped nearly 20 families in Delray voluntarily relocate to other Detroit neighborhoods. In that program, homeowners trade their homes for a newly renovated Detroit Land Bank home at no cost.

“We’re hoping that residents who haven’t yet looked at the opportunity, particularly the home swaps will keep their options open,” Sagovac said. “We understand it’s not for everybody, but some people are not really knowing how it could possibly be good for their family.”

Twitter: @CWilliams_DN