Capitol Park Artists Get the Boot
Published: February 12, 2014
It’s unclear what Bedrock intends to do with the building, but the company says it is “contemplating some retail use on the grade level along with a likely residential use for the remainder of the building. We … expect to have a more detailed and certain plan over the next 4-6 month timeframe.”
The company invited current residents “to apply for an apartment if and when the necessary renovations are completed.”
Garcia calls the offer a bluff. If the building is repurposed as a residential facility, it’ll likely be out of reach for the majority of 1217’s residents, he says.
“They know full well that pretty much everyone here is not going to be able to afford the rent of whatever’s going to be put here,” he says.
Cassetto says: “The people who are most in need” of what Gilbert proposes — a walkable environment with an emphasis on the arts — “are already here and are being removed.”
Other longtime residents agree.
Gabby Buckay, a painter who has lived inside one of the building’s spacious 2,500-square-foot lofts for 16 years, says she moved here because it wasn’t like every other place in every other big city. “It was like a total weirdo place,” she says.
But once the letter arrived, not only was Buckay skeptical of Bedrock’s offer of financial assistance, she was disappointed at the prospect of an organic arts community being disbanded by its self-proclaimed proponent.
“It’s like the classic, boring gentrification story,” she says. “It’s like … you had an opportunity to do something different.”
It’s unclear whether Bedrock even knew 1217 was occupied when it purchased the property. “A Placemaking Vision for Downtown Detroit,” the Gilbert book of grand ideas says. “Today, only one building, a Section 8 housing project for seniors, is actually in use [in Capitol Park].” (Relatedly: Broder & Sachse Real Estate, a firm that has completed extensive renovation work on Gilbert’s buildings, purchased that building last year and soon after informed the low-income residents they had until the end of next month to vacate.)
Residents of 1217 says two weeks after the purchase, Bedrock security guards were in front of the building monitoring activity, apparently surprised to see people exiting the building.
Cassetto says they asked one resident, “What are you doing here?” He said, “Uh, I live here?” The security guards said, “Oh, people live here? We thought this place was abandoned.”
Asked about the incident, Bedrock tells Metro Times they were aware of 1217’s residents when they closed on the building, and security guards monitor all of the company’s properties.
And the placemaking book’s claim that “only one building … is actually in use” in Capitol Park? It’s a misunderstanding, Bedrock says. The statement was intended to be communicated as “only one senior house building complex [is] in use in Capitol Park.”
Cassetto says she hopes the evictions of 1217 Griswold and the senior housing project across the park spark a dialogue that’s been missing from the conversation about downtown in recent years. Gentrification, opportunity, whatever you call it, there are real issues brewing at the nexus of downtown life, work, and play, for both old residents and new.
“It is purely for the people who are not here, who seek to cash in on the opportunity,” Cassetto says about the opportunity offered by Gilbert. “And the consideration, from start to finish, has nothing to do with the people who are already here.”
Garcia echoes that sentiment. “It’s essentially becoming a company town,” he says of downtown and Quicken. “Like, where we own the company, we own the housing, we secure the streets.”
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