Hamtramck’s ‘Newsmaker of the Year’ — One very large housing grant

Thanks to a $15 million federal grant, Hamtramck is able to demolish dilapidated housing and replace them with new housing units. A total of 78 houses will come down in the coming months.

By Charles Sercombe

The year 2011 is now old news.

But the year did produce one major story – albeit a story that’s been told before.

The year’s “Newsmaker of the Year” award (sorry, no drum roll this year, we had to cut back on costs) goes to Hamtramck’s $15 million housing redevelopment story.

Think about it: Fifteen million bucks given to the city. How many cities the size of Hamtramck can boast of snagging that kind of check?

We asked Jason Friedmann, the city’s Director of Community & Economic Development, that question since he was responsible for winning the grant.

As it turned out, Hamtramck lucked out because we teamed up with 11 other cities, including Detroit, Flint and Highland Park, to apply for the grant. The package deal was so successful, the 12 cities that partnered up were the only Michigan cities to win a grant, which technically came through the federal Housing and Urban Development Department.

“It’s a huge chunk of money,” Friedmann said of the grant. “The grant was the largest HUD has ever given out.”

So, what do we get for that kind of dough?

In the last couple of months, you probably noticed the demolition of dozens of dilapidated houses, housing that was so far gone it could not be remodeled.

But there were some homes that could be saved, and you’ve probably seen a scattering of them around town. In fact, there are 14 houses being rehabbed or about to be and 25 new units to be constructed.

In all, 78 houses will be torn down.

Although the real-estate market is still in the toilet, these new housing units are going to be priced to sell. Friedmann said there are several financial aid programs available that will bring down the final price for the houses to $40,000 to $50,000.

If you have a job and are still renting, now is the time to buy.

The grant also has a cherry to go on top. Part of the grant will be used to redevelop the Shoppers World building currently sitting empty in the middle of the Jos. Campau business district.

Although final design plans have not been announced yet, we got a mini-preview of the design, and all we can say is, prepare to be blown away.

When it’s all done and over with, you will not recognize it from the otherwise drab looking building it is today.

Prepare to be blown away.

So, while many metro communities remain stagnant development-wise, Hamtramck is marching ahead of the pack.

Break out the bubbly. Here’s to an even better 2012.

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