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Ghost Town Poletown, Detroit: Slash-and-Burn Kleptocracy on Full Display

General Motors at the end of 2019 announced it would shut down its Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant, otherwise known as GM Poletown. The plant opened in 1985 following the employment of a dicey eminent domain action and a gubnut giveaway that eradicated an existing residential neighborhood known as Poletown. The expense of the action also contributed mightily to Detroit’s downward fiscal spiral.

In slash-and-burn economic models, land and plants are used up and abandoned. The old Detroit Dodge Main facilities were functionally obsolete due to their inability to be converted to build the next-generation BFI-type vehicles, which were originally scheduled to debut in the 1985 model year. The smaller, old facilities were torn down and the larger Poletown plant was built to replace it on land seized from Poletown residential neighborhoods. Wash, rinse, repeat. Twenty-five years later, the Poletown plant is shuttered, leaving more urban blight.

In the aerial images provide below, you can see that the GM plant razed housing of 4,200 residents, who were displaced when 465 acres of the northern half of the Poletown neighborhood were bulldozed for the facility. Furthermore, it was dropped into the fabric of the remaining Hamtramck and south Poletown neighborhood, giving the wider area an incompatible, blighted industrial feel. This slash-and-burn pattern was repeated all over the Detroit region.

In 1980, Poletown held 144 small businesses, 16 churches, two schools and a hospital. Chene Street was the neighborhood’s busiest corridor. The average home price at the time was $9,000. It’s generally recognized that the community was under-compensated and effectively scammed during the eminent domain process.

The city of Detroit agreed to acquire the land for $200 million (not including expensive debt financing). It then sold the land to GM for $8 million. Additionally, GM was given a 12-year tax abatement worth $60 million, all so that GM would retain 6,000 automotive jobs already in the city. But by the time the plant opened, GM executed an arbitrary escape clause and revised the job tally down to 3,000. Outside of GM, 9,000 existing area jobs disappeared within the Poletown community.

Highly taxpayer-subsidized plant used for 25 years, now abandoned.

During the 1950s and ’60s, freeway construction and urban renewal projects cut through and altered the neighborhood. Two interstate skewerings are visible on the images, to the west and the south. Afterward, the makeup of Poletown neighborhoods had become about 50/50 split between black and Polish residents, with most of the Poles the elderly.

Prior to freeway construction, according to “Poletown: Community Betrayed” author Jeanie Wylie, “Poles live and retain their customs to such an extent that the whole region more nearly resembles a fraction of Poland than a part of a city in the heart of America.”

Coleman Young mayor of Detroit, Michigan, from 1974 to 1994 during it’s rapid decline

GM executives met with then-Mayor the corrupto Coleman Young, who gave the auto company what they needed: the land, plus more for landscaping and parking, to accommodate a fully modernized facility.

The land grab was close to freeways. It had low housing values. Its residents were vulnerable, poor and could be easily moved. Poletown was a done deal. What surprised everyone was how quickly the deal was done, and how residents were kept out of the loop until the last minute.

GM mandated the city of Detroit to provide land within 10 months or else the automaker would approach another city. In those 10 months, State of Michigan lawmakers rewrote its eminent domain law to “authorize the taking of private property in order to encourage commercial development,” a clause not previously written into the law. But as the law was already written, residents would find it “impossible” to protect their homes against any kind of eminent domain.

Critics stated that Young could have chosen other areas for the plant, and yet he chose one of the final remaining working-class white areas of Detroit. Young had criticized the destruction of a functioning, black, working-class neighborhood, called the Black Bottom, through eminent domain. Black Bottom was bulldozed when Interstate 75 went in. The second photo shows interstate construction severing the heart of that neighborhood. Once the road construction was finished, several surrounding blocks became blighted, and the blight spread like cancer.

Black Bottom being skewered

Back in Poletown, the regional Catholic Archdiocese threw the community under the bus and supported the relocation. It had already agreed to sell its two Catholic churches that were in the area.

However, Joseph Karasiewicz, the priest at one of the parishes, defied his archbishop and fought to keep his building from being sold.

The Archdiocese stood firm in its support of the sale.

Following the last Mass at Immaculate Conception Church, which drew an estimated 1,500 worshipers, a couple dozen holdouts maintained a round-the-clock vigil to protect the church.

After 29 days, police SWAT teams were deployed to purge the church of the “little old Polish ladies” still praying the Hail Mary.

Among the videos below, the first one gives a sense of the still functioning Poletown neighborhood in 1981, before it came down.

Last video show the ghost town of Hamtramck and the surrounding area today. Note the large number of patchwork vacant lots, as decaying buildings have been leveled.


Read “In an Inverted World, Citizens Are Forced to Pay Multinational Firms and Billionaires for the Privilege of a Job”

11 Comments on Ghost Town Poletown, Detroit: Slash-and-Burn Kleptocracy on Full Display

  1. When I think of all the years as a conservative then libertarian that I defended these corporate bastards … Only for them to turn around and do things like this, offshore their production and fund leftist groups. An FBI criminal profiler wrote the there is a high degree of psychopathic traits in politicians and CEOs.

    • You need to read “Political Ponerology” and yes, there is a huge degree of psychopathy in politicians and CEOs…and I too was once libertarian…that went out when Rand Paul endorsed Romeny instead of Ron Paul and when I realized “free trade” was more oligarch garbage and giving jobs to illegals and HB visa holders from south Asia.

  2. One population group is conspicuously absent from being allowed to assert their collective political rights. Hmmm.
    Excellent article. Highlights what happens to good people, when they find themselves in a minority situation, politically and otherwise.

  3. Tuesday night open mike on Caniff in Hamtramck at the aptly named venue “The Ghost Light.” Some good players and singers usually are in attendance, but watch your back when going to your car at midnight.

  4. Sad that black voters continue to choose to elect black politicians, when the evidence is clear that they are controlled and care only about their own financial gain. How many Lori Lightfoot’s, Marion Berry’s, Maxine Waters, Barack Obama’s, Coleman Young’s will it take to wake them up to the reality that they (as an ethnic group) are plunging into further economic irrelevance and societal chaos?

    • What’s sad is that America has 45m disproportionately criminal Blacks, whose low average IQ means they cannot, as a group, make a positive contribution to a first world country.

      I have no problem with Blacks voting for Blacks; it’s natural, as few things transcend the group identity of race (at least for non-whites).

      The voting patterns of Whites concern me far more: they routinely split their vote between Democrats, who are increasingly and openly hostile to white people and the interests of white people, and useless Republicans, who serve the Chamber of Commerce — both parties are presiding over the demographic annihilation of Whites in America.

  5. Suburbs of Detroit are gorgeous with prices, architecture, museums and private schools… and natural beauty that outstrips many of the top ten places to live like Naperville IL for example which always features in the MSM top 5 five. In fact the inner north suburbs of Chicago are way classier than further out Naperville too but they never make the list. A little secret that probably plays out in all US cities. Lots of gogues still very active. Old money and too lovely to leave

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