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Motor City Mapping Project Takes Aim at Detroit Blight

Motor City Mapping Project Takes Aim at Detroit Blight
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Urban and industrial blight as a result of Detroit’s economic decline has changed the look of the so-called Motor City and how it is perceived. But a new task force charged with revitalizing the city is spearheading an effort to electronically catalog each troubled property. The Motor City Mapping Project is on the cutting edge of technology and aims to give city planners a complete look at the task of eliminating blight in Detroit

To many who visit Detroit, the trash-filled lots, run-down houses and abandoned factories are symbols of Detroit’s past prosperity.

But Tia Ciara Bonner is able to look beyond the ruins. “As a Detroiter, I want to feel safe. So I need these abandoned homes knocked down,” she said.

Bonner is doing something about it, one run-down block at a time.

As part of a three-person crew of surveyors with the Motor City Mapping project, Bonner uses an electronic tablet to describe the condition of each troubled property she examines.

“I have saw [seen] more burnt up homes and more empty lots than the houses that are standing,” said Bonner.

Detroit Blight Removal Task Force
Detroit Blight Removal Task Force
The information the surveyors gather winds up on computers back at Motor City Mapping headquarters, where a team reviews the information, a process called “blexting.”

“Blexting is short for blight texting, so kind of appropriate with the theme,” explained
Jerry Paffendorf, CEO of Loveland Technologies, the company that designed the blexting software. “As properties are surveyed, they are stored in a database and immediately visualized on a map. Everything comes in real time, kind of like Twitter,” he added.

Paffendorf said surveyors in the field leave no stone unturned. “There’s like 360,000-some properties in the city and, as we sit here, I think we’re at about 180,000, so about half,” he stated.

“We’re looking at all structures in the city of Detroit and all vacant land,” Glenda Price said. Price is co-chair of the Detroit Blight Removal Task Force, which oversees the Motor City Mapping Project. She says the Task Force is bringing local, state, and federal agencies together to tackle the city's blight. The ultimate goal is not just mapping the blight, but eliminating it.

“One of the biggest obstacles in achieving that goal is money, because it is going to be costly, so that is why we recognize it will take probably three years, is what we are projecting to have the funds in place that will, in fact, be necessary to do the job,” stated Price.

The estimated cost to the city of Detroit to clean up each blighted property is about $5,000 to $10,000. Once the Motor City Mapping Project wraps up survey work sometime in February, members of the Detroit Blight Removal Task Force will have a better idea what it will cost to totally delaminate Detroit’s infamous blight.
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    Kane Farabaugh

    Kane Farabaugh is the Midwest Correspondent for Voice of America, where since 2008 he has established Voice of America's presence in the heartland of America.