Strangled in red tape

May 12, 2004 at 12:00 am

That nasty little number at 3432 Cochrane has finally been demolished, but that’s of little comfort to Damon Gray, who grew up just a stone’s throw away. He now owns and rents out his childhood home and the adjacent dwelling, and he’s trying to buy and renovate empty houses that surround his property. But he says his attempts have been foiled by bureaucratic red tape.

Gray says No. 3432 was finally demolished about two months ago — after he had complained numerous times to the city about the structure. According to Gray, the person who owned the razed home as well as the crumbling structure across the street at 3417 lost the houses after failing to pay taxes on them.

No. 3417 sits behind one of Gray’s properties, and Gray says he’s been trying to purchase it for renovation for four years. However, the Greater Corktown Development Corporation has site control — a land reservation of sorts — of the area where 3417 sits, meaning the GCDC has first priority.

GCDC executive director Scott Martin — who, incidentally, professed he is “not a big fan” of ASS because of the “negativity publicity” it generates for Detroit — says 3417 in particular, as well as many other homes in the area GCDC controls, will be redeveloped very soon. The GCDC intends to tackle Phase I of its project — 30 new homes constructed — then move on to Phase II, which includes No. 3417 and many other houses.

Gray, however, would like to buy the house now, instead of waiting for the GCDC to break ground on Phase I.

“I was so angry and frustrated,” he says. “I still would like to buy it and renovate it, but because of bureaucracy I can’t. I’d really like to fix it up and make it into affordable living for someone.”

Martin contends many developers — including Gray — are being considered for Phase II.

Bonnie Curry lives in one of Gray’s properties, with an abandoned home lurking nearby.

“Rats come over to my house from there, kids try to get in there, it’s terrible,” she says.

The day ASS visited, Curry’s 13-year-old granddaughter reported seeing squatters using drugs on the house’s porch as she walked home from school.

It that weren’t enough, an abandoned house that sits behind the lot where No. 3432 once stood caught fire just a few days before ASS spoke with Curry.

Gray says the torched home was a major drug house, and says he’s seen stretch limousines pulling up to the house.

Gray would like to renovate houses full time, but he worries he can’t compete with big companies looking to scoop up entire blocks.

“I’m just small time, I’m no big-time developer,” he says.

“It really hurts me,” Gray says of the blight that’s taken over his childhood neighborhood. “I’d like to see it brought back. There’s a lot of good people here.”

Sarah Klein is a Metro Times staff writer. E-mail [email protected]