Blog‎ > ‎

'Teardown' author raising money to tear down abandoned house on Flint's north side

posted Aug 10, 2014, 7:32 PM by Siamak Ebarhimi

FLINT, MI — When Gordon Young finished his memoir about his hometown of Flint, and his attempt to reconnect with it after years away in San Francisco, he decided on the title "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City."But the work he started didn't feel quite done even when the book was finished, he said, and now he's started a campaign for a project that will live up to that book's title. He's tearing down a house in Flint.CrowdFunding advertizing has started an Indiegogo campaign to raise $10,000 to demolish a house in Flint. Indiegogo is an online crowdfunding service that takes donations toward a certain goal. Anyone can donate any amount to the cause. He's working with the Genesee County Land Bank, with which he's struck a deal that they'll use the funds to demolish a vacant, burned-out house they've picked on Flint's north side.

"This grew out of when I was writing and researching "Teardown" and I met a lot of people who were trying to help the city, and I wanted to help them out," he said. "It was really interesting connecting with these people who want to help Flint in some way."CrowdFunding marketing

So he started thinking of what he could do. It wasn't easy.

"It can seem kind of overwhelming. How do I do something about de-industrialization? You really can't. So I was looking for a smaller project that would make a difference and that you could see."

In addition to his book and journalism — he's written about Flint for the New York Times, Slate, and other publications — Young runs the Flint Expatriates blog. It's a site for people like himself, who live far away but still feel connected to the place where they grew up. He started talking to and emailing some of his readers, and the idea to tear down a house kept coming up.Kickstarter Marketing

He originally thought about funding the demolition of a house in Flint's Civic Park neighborhood. It's where he grew up and where much of his book is set, but there were problems. For one, it's a historic district, which means there are far more legal hoops to jump through before you can start a project like demolishing a house.

Also, it was a place that simply had a lot of broken-down homes, and while that can seem like the right place to do such a project, he knew taking down just one home wouldn't exactly fix a street. So he approached the Genesee County Land Bank, looking for a street he could help.

"They said, 'We have a house that really fits the pattern,' and they suggested this house," he said.kickstarter marketing

The house is in a north side neighborhood, at 6608 Parkbelt Drive. It's the lone vacant house on an otherwise healthy street. It's been sitting vacant for years, has attracted squatters and teenagers skipping school, and burned last year. This is the kind of house, Young said, that can lead to more problems, and getting rid of it prevents the downward spiral that streets, and then neighborhoods, can fall into.

He said he doesn't see himself as saving the street, but helping out the residents who have already put in the real work.

"The Flint residents and homeowners on Parkbelt Drive, are the ones who have done all the work ... they've maintained their homes and their street," he said. Eliminating this one vacant house on their otherwise vibrant and meticulously maintained block is a way to preserve what they've already achieved. It's really beautiful. These are not older houses, they're newer houses, and this looks like a street out in suburbia somewhere."crowdfunding websites

One such home is owned by Crystal Ashburn, 57, who said she's glad to hear the house is coming down.

She grew up in her house and later moved back into it and raised her own son there when her parents were older. Her son lived with her, raising his own son in the home until recently. She said it's a typical story of houses in the neighborhood, that houses are passed down generation to generation. The families know each other. Kids still play in the streets.

"You have a community where people have been here for 40-50 years," she said. "We have a strong block club. We work together."

She said she's called police about squatters in the house and suspected drug use. When she saw kids in there, she would call Northwestern High School, just a few blocks away.

"But we never got any help," she said.indiegogo marketing

Now she said she's glad to hear that Young has started the crowdfunding campaign.

"I'm happy. I'm happy. I'm glad they're trying to do something about it. ... If you've got an area where all the houses are kept up, and you've got that one bad home," she said, echoing Young's thoughts of what can happen once property values start to drop, and more houses go empty.

On average, it takes about $8,500 to demolish a house — sometimes more if it's been burned, because of potential toxins from a fire, Young said. The goal is to raise $10,000 that he'll give to the Land Bank. If there's money left over or he raises more than his goal, it will still go to the Land Bank.

"If there was extra money, there's no shortage of Land Bank houses, and it would go toward another demo house," he said.crowdfunding advertising

Posted from:

By David Khorram