Pulte Plans to Work With Loveland Technologies to Map Pontiac Blight Removal Efforts

Posted on July 3, 2014

Pontiac’s neighborhoods could look quite different by the end of 2017.

“Or even sooner, as long as we have the funding,” said Bill Pulte, founder and chairman of the Detroit Blight Authority.

Pulte’s new blight removal efforts in Pontiac will likely use the same mapping technology used by the Detroit Blight Removal Task Force to determine which dilapidated homes need to be demolished.

He said this morning that he plans to contract with Detroit-based Loveland Technologies LLC for use of the same technology that helped the task force survey Detroit’s 380,000 parcels and determine that 73,035 homes and multifamily buildings are blighted or on the road toward blight.

Blight power plays

If you’re getting dizzy thinking about all the blight removal projects going on, here is a quick recap: Pulte announced the Detroit Blight Authority in February 2013 and, until April, was focused on blight removal in Detroit. At that time, he pulled out of Detroit at the request of city officials and refocused his efforts on Pontiac and other areas.

F. Thomas Lewand, Detroit’s group executive for jobs and economic development, said in a January interview with Crain’s that the Detroit Land Bank Authority will assemble blighted properties and consult with the blight removal task force, appointed in September, “to make sure we tear the houses down as quickly as possible.”

The blight authority and task force are different entities with different leadership, both tackling the massive and painfully slow job of blight removal in Detroit.

Pontiac plans

Now focused in Oakland County, Pulte’s efforts are expected to expand quickly.

Using Loveland’s technology would allow the new Pontiac Blight Task Force — comprised of Pulte, Pontiac Mayor Deirdre Waterman and Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson — to survey Pontiac’s 25,000 parcels. The survey is expected to begin by the end of the month and be complete by the end of November.

Pulte estimates that somewhere between 500 and 1,500 homes will need to be demolished and the demolition can begin by March.

He expects the blight removal to be done in a “tiered” manner in which the city will be divided into seven or eight zones and those with the most severe blight will be targeted first.

“We’ll treat it like a forest fire, like we did in Detroit,” he said, referring to an area near the Eastern Market District and in Brightmoor on the city’s west side where the blight authority removed blight on a mass scale. Pulte said total blight removal in Pontiac is expected to cost between $10 million and $15 million.

“They’ve got about $8 million that has been allocated either through the county, city or state in demolition funds,” Pulte said. Those are coming from sources like the federal Hardest Hit Fund and Community Development Block Grants. Oakland County is also eligible for other funding that it can use in Pontiac.

Pulte also said Pontiac is open to waiving demolition permit fees.

“We are not trying to come in and say, ‘Let’s just knock stuff down for the sake of it’ like Detroit has done.”

Branching out

Pulte hasn’t been shy about criticizing Detroit’s bureaucracy since April when he stopped focusing on structural blight removal there at the request of city officials. However, he said he “wouldn’t be surprised if one day we are asked to come back into Detroit, whether by this mayor [Mike Duggan] or another.”

Pulte and Patterson announced in April that Pulte would turn his attention to Pontiac. The same day as the announcement, a home at 70 Thorpe St. north of Huron Street (M-59) and west of North Johnson Avenue — in the neighborhood that I wrote about — was demolished.

Pulte said the Detroit Blight Authority, which recently received its 501(c)3 status, had to return more than $200,000 to various donors when it stopped doing blight removal in Detroit.

He also said he has had discussions with officials in South Bend, Ind., and Chicago about doing blight removal there. However, he said, “I’ve only got so much time to allocate.”

Pulte is the grandson of William J. Pulte, the founder of PulteGroup Inc., which was founded in Bloomfield Hills but is relocating its headquarters to Atlanta this summer. He is also the managing partner of Bloomfield Hills-based Pulte Capital Partners LLC.

The Detroit Blight Removal Task Force was led by a three-person committee of Dan Gilbert, founder and chairman of Quicken Loans Inc. and Rock Ventures LLC; Glenda Price, president of the Detroit Public Schools Foundation and president emeritus of Marygrove College; and Linda Smith, executive director of U-SNAP-BAC Inc. It released the findings of its survey in a 350-page report in May.