Photos courtesy of Homrich inc.
Razing the dead Homrich Inc. opened a Detroit office to manage an expanded job roster, including the Brewster-Douglas housing project demo.

Detroit, long a poster child for urban blight, is shifting gears and planning to ramp up building demolition to an average of 400 to 450 a week from about 100 structures a week.

The goal is to do it before 2020.

The increase in pace is part of the plan to exit its record $18-billion bankruptcy that Kevyn Orr, the city's emergency manager, filed on Feb. 21. The plan calls for spending $1.5 billion on capital improvements—including fire, police and emergency service, and transportation— and more than $500 million in blight removal.

"Reduction of urban blight is among the City's highest reinvestment priorities," Orr's plan says.

It calls for spending $520.3 million over the next six fiscal years, $7.3 million in fiscal 2014, $113 million in fiscal 2015 and $100 million each year in fiscal years 2016 to 2019. The top goal is demolition in areas around schools, and the plan cites an average cost of $8,500 per house.

Expansion Plans

Homrich Inc., a demolition company in Carleton, Mich., has opened a Detroit office to handle work there, including the demolition of the Brewster-Douglass housing complex. That two-phase, $6.5-million job, currently under way, calls for the removal of 12 two-story buildings, a pair of six-story buildings and four 15-story buildings for a combined total of 578,000 sq ft.

"We definitely are involved and engaged in tackling blight," manager Roger Homrich says, adding that "we're hopeful" the necessary funding for the rest of the removal work is available.

The company has one of three big demo jobs from the Detroit Housing Commission for completion this year. The other two are contracts for scattered-site demolition awarded to Blue Star Inc., Warren, Mich., and Adamo Group, Detroit, according to Kelley Lyons, executive director.

Blue Star also is bidding on work for the Detroit Blight Authority, a privately funded non-profit established to remove residential blight, says Scott Krall, vice president.

The demo work included in the bankruptcy exit plan won't be as massive as the Brewster-Douglass job, but $8,500 to $10,000 per house "is an industry norm … assuming you do it right," Homrich says. That figure includes removal of demo waste to a recycling center, a concrete plant or a construction landfill, as needed. There are enough construction landfills in the Detroit area to handle the debris, Homrich says.

Demolition firms also face a challenge if the pace accelerates too rapidly, Homrich notes.