Pontiac on track to be blight free in 2019, officials say
Pontiac — City, county, state and other officials met Friday to announce Pontiac’s anti-blight efforts are on track to make the city blight-free in 2019.
Pontiac Mayor Deirdre Waterman, County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, Gov. Rick Snyder and Blight Authority founder Bill Pulte made the announcement during a joint press conference.
“Starting in 2014, we identified 916 properties that needed to be demolished,” Waterman said of the public-private partnership to help put Pontiac back on track. “We are proud that we are 90 percent there and will have reached our goal in 2019 — 99 remain and they will be taken down. It has strengthened our neighborhoods and made them safer."
Pulte noted hundreds of blighted buildings have been taken down in the city in the past five years, leading to “arsons dropping, crime statistics being down and real estate values going up” in Pontiac. He said it cost around $12,000 to demolish and remove a blighted house.
“The blight problem has been eradicated,” Pulte said, adding that it was achieved with the help of Patterson, who introduced him to Snyder.
Patterson said initially the project was expected to take 10 years, which would have been considered doing well, but in five years “it's been done in the snap of a finger.”
“This is exciting for Pontiac and its residents,” Patterson said. “Being blight-free, now that’s something to brag about.”
The process used federal and state funds, including $3.2 million in federal community development block grants to take down 320 homes, he said. Another $3.7 million was used to repair and rebuild 194 homes that would have otherwise been demolished.
“This is all part of the restart and resurgence of this very historic town,” Patterson said.
Snyder said “there is more to be done but it’s a time to celebrate.”
“It’s all about partnerships, working together as a team,” Snyder said nodding towards the other officials. “We’ve gone through some difficult times in our state but the way to come back is all of us working together … it's an example of good government.”
That assessment speaks volumes about how far Pontiac has come since 2009, when it had so much red ink that it went through a succession of three emergency managers. Over a four-year period, the state-appointed managers ordered massive layoffs of city workers, disbanded its police and fire departments and outsourced the duties, sold off city-owned properties, including its water department and the Pontiac Silverdome, in efforts to restore fiscal stability.
“To bring a community back up, you have to have three things,” Snyder said. “A good quality of life. Career opportunities and you’ve got to market it. I would encourage the mayor to be loud and proud about the community and how Pontiac is coming back.”
Waterman remarked when she became mayor five years ago “we were among the top 10 most violent cities in the country. With the help of the sheriff’s office, which took over police duties for the city, violent crimes decreased 40 percent.
Following the press conference Snyder took a tour of several Pontiac downtown business, including the Strand Theatre and the nearby M-1 Concourse, where car enthusiasts keep their vehicles in car “condos" adjacent to a private track.
Pulte said “people around the country are aware of what has happened in Pontiac. It's become a model.”
Pulte said plans were for similar anti-blight efforts in Chicago, Baltimore and Atlanta.