French Road Mini-Take from Above

The French Road Mini-Take

Image: Wayne County Aerial Photograph- 1981, DTE Aerial Photographs, University of Michigan Clark Library.

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The difference between the two photographs is stark.  The first, from 1981, shows a lively neighborhood off of French Road next to the Detroit City Airport packed with houses.  By the time the second photo was taken, in 1997, however, the area had been decimated.  Many of the houses are gone, and the remaining ones are surrounded by empty lots left behind from the houses that were demolished.  It is also clear that the surrounding businesses have suffered from people moving out.  The parking lot next to the neighborhood— full of cars in 1981— was bulldozed by 1997.  Many of the abandoned homes show evidence of fire damage, and the empty lots have become dumping grounds.

The disappearing houses are largely thanks to a 1994 plan by the Detroit City Council to buy out around five hundred neighborhood residents in order to create a buffer between the airport’s runways and the homes, called the French Road Mini-Take.  Assured that the project would only take 18 months and they would not be left in a no-man’s land, the residents agreed to it.  Twenty years later, however, the project has still not been completed.  Several mayors have promised to finish, but the lack of funds available to the city have resulted in 100-150 occupied homes remaining amid the empty lots.

Aerial photo showing the French Road neighborhood before houses began to be removed

Wayne County Aerial Photograph showing the French Road neighborhood in 1997. DTE Aerial Photographs, University of Michigan Clark Library.

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