As Spaulding Court turns 100, renovated complex making a comeback

Posted on June 20, 2012

When Josephine first moved to the Spaulding Court apartments north of Corktown a decade ago, she wouldn’t let her children go outside because of the fights, shootings and drug deals.

The mother of 10, who wouldn’t give her last name, said she would make her children quickly come inside from school and would shut the door until the following morning. A few years ago, the complex was firebombed. She said she listened as people were beaten or worse just outside her window.

“On Friday, Saturday, I’d get up in the morning and had to wash off the porch because of the blood,” she said.

This Saturday will be different as Spaulding Court turns 100.

The neighborhood is celebrating with a block party that will mark its rebirth. For the past two years, a group of local residents has been rebuilding the 20-unit complex one apartment at a time, giving Josephine new neighbors, and her children and grandchildren a chance to play outside again.

“It’s much quieter,” she said.

In February 2010, a group of nearby residents formed Friends of Spaulding Court. Led by engineer and Corktown Residents’ Council member Jon Koller, the group bought the dilapidated apartment complex from the county for $1,000, plus about $10,000-$15,000 in back taxes.

The roof was leaking, a water main kept breaking, and the people living around Josephine weren’t necessarily paying rent to anyone.

“It was unclear who was living there and why they were living there,” said Koller, who lives down the block. “A lot of it came out of talking to my neighbors. Everyone agreed to help.”

They kicked out a drug dealer and started fixing the old stone building. They held periodic soup events to raise money for the rehab and to give local creative types a little cash to pursue projects.

With five units filled, the buildings are more stable, Koller said. Donations at Saturday’s event will help pay off the rest of the back taxes and will kick off a 100-day period of planning and designing a Spaulding Court that will be full of people, gardens and neighbors with open doors.

“We’ll start work on the 101st day. We’re committed to moving it along,” Koller said.

As Spaulding Court changes, so does the neighborhood.

Hostel Detroit is around the corner, giving visitors an inexpensive place to stay. A bar, restaurant and resale shop dot the open land. Brother Nature Farm supplies local restaurants and farmers markets.

“It really illustrates how an abandoned property can act as a malignant tumor on a neighborhood,” said Jeff DeBruyn, a neighborhood activist who led the Corktown Residents’ Council around the time that Friends of Spaulding Court was formed.

Spaulding Court is holding a 100th birthday party starting at 2 p.m. on Saturday, featuring art, music and crafts. The party is at 2737 Rosa Parks Blvd., north of Corktown in Detroit.

By: Megha Satyanarayana, Detroit Free Press