Detroiter says he's behind $3M bid for blighted land
Detroit – — Real estate developer Herb Strather says he's the leader of an anonymous group of investors who bid $3 million for a bundle of 6,350 mostly dilapidated and vacant tax-foreclosed Detroit properties.
The bid came this month in Wayne County's annual tax-foreclosure auction, but the identity of the potential buyer hasn't been released by Treasury officials who grouped the lots in a package to discourage land speculation.
Strather said he wants to work with community groups and churches to redevelop the properties. He said he would release more details on his plan and the investors after the auction ends Tuesday afternoon.
"This is a bid to lead the way to the redevelopment of the city," said Strather, who confirmed his bid to The Detroit News on Monday.
"We were concerned that these parcels would get in the hands of outsiders."
But some residents in Brightmoor say they are worried about their vacant lots going to developers. Resident Riet Schumack said her neighbors were assured by city officials that a bid was unlikely and they would be able to buy the lots from the city for $100. Some have been turned into small farms, gardens and parks.
"We have young people who have put blood, sweat and tears into these lots," said Schumack, a program facilitator with Neighbors Building Brightmoor. "It might be all for naught. It's really hard to stay motivated."
"Trust right now is very thin."
Wayne County Treasurer Raymond Wojtowicz, in collaboration with Mayor Mike Duggan, bundled the properties in hopes of discouraging tax deadbeats. If no buyer came forward, the Detroit Land Bank was expected to take the homes, demolish the rundown ones and auction those that are salvageable to qualified bidders.
County officials said they couldn't confirm the identify of the bidder until after the auction. The only bid now is $3,183,500. That's slightly above the minimum bid of $3.175 million.
Strather is a one-time casino investor who runs his own real estate school called Strather Academy. He was involved in the Woodbridge Estates development that replaced the Jeffries Housing project in the early 2000s and was the major owner of the Hotel St. Regis when it went into receivership in 2009.
About 2,000 of the properties in the bundle are vacant lots and 3,000 need to be razed, said Chief Deputy Treasurer David Szymanski. Another 1,000 are considered salvageable homes.
The treasurer is requiring the buyer either demolish the dangerous properties within six months or submit redevelopment plans, including proof of the financing, to the treasurer's office for approval.
Strather's group would have to come up with 10 percent of the price within 24 hours and the full amount in 14 days, Szymanski said.