New homes, lofts, less blight in downtown Pontiac

A $13.7-million government program meant to stabilize struggling cities by targeting crumbling neighborhoods and re-building their decaying urban centers is complete in Pontiac. And, while still in the early stages, it appears to be achieving its mission.

The two-year-old Neighborhood Stabilization Program targeted Pontiac and about 10 other Michigan cities. It has led to the removal of dozens of blighted properties and building of new homes in Pontiac's Unity Park neighborhood, as well as two residential loft developments including the $20 million Lafayette Place Lofts, which sit atop the Lafayette Market and an Anytime Fitness, and the 10 West Lofts. Lafayette Place Lofts, a project of West Construction Services, is the city's largest development in 30 years or more.

The federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program was administered by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority in partnership with the Michigan Land Bank, Oakland County, and the city of Pontiac.

Funds from the program covered the demolition of 50 blighted homes in the Unity Park Neighborhood and the construction of 18 new single family homes there. All have been sold. Local members of the Michigan Association of Home Builders, Michigan Association of Realtors, lenders and developers marketed the homes.

Downtown, the 46 units at Lafayette Place Lofts in the former Sears & Roebuck Store, which opened to residents in December, are expected to be fully occupied within weeks and the Lafayette Market, a speciality grocer and coffee house, is filling the void of a fresh food source and take-out prepared meals for the city. The market and neighbor 24-hour Anytime Fitness, both on the ground floor of Lafayette Place Lofts, are generating traffic downtown.

Also downtown there is 10 West Lofts, another multi-use development in the downtown that has a skyline of historic buildings and a history of struggles.

Altogether, at least 300 construction jobs and 75 full-time jobshave been created.

Several other projects, though not a part of the stabilization program, are ongoing and more development is expected as a number of other initiatives roll out. One, the reconstruction of the main road leading into downtown, will direct motorists into the city instead of around it. Another, the opening of a new transit station, is for now a stop for Amtrak and local buses, but could function as a stop on a commuter light rail line between Detroit and Pontiac -- a proposal that is very preliminary and probably years away.

It all adds up to what may be an economic tide-turner for a city that has gone into bankruptcy, been taken over by an emergency financial manager and held back by the crime, hardship, and poor educational system that come with poverty.
Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Michigan State Housing Development Authority
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