Pretty soon…the Brewsters will only be a memory, to be seen in photographs.
Upon my return visit to Detroit, we drove by the Brewsters to see what still remained since they had started the demolition process. I expected to see an empty lot, but was surprised to see that only one of the 3 remaining buildings had been partially demo’d.
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Here’s a little bit of history on these iconic buildings,
The complex was home to such notable figures as Diana Ross, Mary Wilson, Florence Ballard, Lily Tomlin, Loni Love, and Etterlene DeBarge, during their early years. The claymation animated series, The PJs, was based on the housing project, as well. It was also seen in a screenshots for the movie Dreamgirls, as well as D12’s debut music video. RuPaul mentions the Brewster Projects in the intro of the 1992 song, “Supermodel (You Better Work)”.
The Brewster-Douglass Project were built for the “working poor”; the Detroit Housing Commission required an employed parent for each family before establishing tenancy. As the Commission became less selective, crime became a problem in the 1960s and 1970s, and the projects eventually fell into disrepair. The Frederick Douglass Apartment towers were converted to senior housing.
In 1991, the most of the low-rise apartment blocks of the original Brewster Project were demolished, and by 1994 were replaced with 250 townhomes dubbed the “New Brewster Homes”. Two towers (Towers 303 and 304) of the adjacent Frederick Douglass Apartments were demolished in 2003.
On March 9, 2012, mayor Dave Bing announced that the Detroit Housing Commission planned to request funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to demolish the remaining housing on the site, but redevelop the abandoned Brewster-Wheeler Recreation Center. The vacant land would then be developed as affordable housing and commercial space. The demolition was announced on November 15, 2012 and formally began on September 4, 2013.