The Hantz Farm land purchase has nothing to do with a benevolent businessman making an investment risk in Detroit by purchasing 1900 parcels of Detroit’s vast, abandoned and crime ridden city. Of course, there is a lot of vacant land in Detroit but the land that Hantz seeks to acquire is in a prime location that is soon to see significant funding by foundations as well as state and federal tax dollars.
Nestled between Detroit’s Village’s neighborhoods, the Pointes and the Detroit River sits the land that Hantz seeks to purchase. And, if you take a closer look you will see that the Hantz land dips towards Jefferson Avenue where there is a large marina, an almost fully occupied residential building with condominiums as well as luxury housing where Detroit’s cultural and political elites live and / or party.
But, no one is telling the full truth. Detroiters are seemingly being let down by those in city government, the foundations and the press. The recent promises made by the City of Detroit’s legal counsel as well as those made by the Planning Commission in regards to due process and zoning safeguards that would both protect the people’s interests as well as the City of Detroit’s fiduciary interests are hollow.
Sr. Assistant Corporate Council, Bruce Goldman, recently told a resident concerned about the land’s future use (a reasonable concern) that a Development Agreement was unnecessary because of the protections provided by existing regulations. However, Goldman’s claim begs credulity because the evidence clearly indicates (and one assumes he knows) that any zoning rules present now are conditional because of the Detroit Works Project.
A quick review of the Detroit Works Project literature makes it clear that any zoning rule present now could change tomorrow. The Framework Zones Legend and #152 which proposes to “Revise zoning ordinance to allow for a much wider spectrum of alternative productive uses” are illustrative. Equally important and illustrative, the same literature shows a nice little thread (a “greenway”) that runs through Hantz’s proposed land that will link the frontage on Detroit River to his land with a path. And further, the evidence that the Detroit Riverfront will likely see significant investment dollars is relatively irrefutable.
John Hantz is not a benign capitalist helping the City of Detroit survive. The east side land transaction is about profit-making. This project has once again disregarded the interests of the 99 % and, sadly, there is likely more of this to come.
In a recent Opinion piece, Nolan Finley erroneously characterizes the Detroit City Council as incompetent obstructionists. The gift of the large parcel to Mr. Hantz wreaks of the bad policy-making that Joe Stiglitz describes in the highly acclaimed book, The Price of Inequality. This extractive development is what is leading to the growing divide between the classes in the US.
If Mr. Finley and others like him are so desperate for Detroit’s revitalization then maybe demanding good governance with more transparency would be better rather than lambasting Detroit’s legislators. Or, maybe good governance can come later. At what price?