Demolition of ancient Brewster Projects draws crowd

Demolition project began Monday in Detroit

Scillian, Spencer, Gaidica, Smilovitz.
Scillian, Spencer, Gaidica, Smilovitz.

DETROIT – The Brewster Projects are a symbol of decay in the middle of some of Downtown Detroit's gems, but they will soon be gone as the heavy machinery arrived to start the demolition on Monday.

A large crowd gathered with mixed feelings Monday to watch the start of the demolition of the Brewster Projects. Some former residents have fond memories of these buildings, but the four remaining buildings have been abandoned for about six years and needed to come down. A federal grant of $6.5 million is helping Detroit make way for a fresh start.

The Brewster-Douglass complex broke ground back in 1935, and former residents feel pride in having had their homes there.

"Lived in Brewster Projects, born and raised," said Bernard Glover, a former resident. "And I will always be a Brewster Project child."

One former resident that was watching the demolition remembers a different time.

"We took care of the children and senior citizens," said Rosanna Johnson. "(We) had a mental health office, two social service offices, day care."

Brewster was home to some Detroit legends, like Smoke Robinson and Diana Ross.

"My favorite memory is sitting on the basement steps listening to Diana Ross practice," Glover said.

Colbert Prince remembers good times at Brewster, and says there was always a place to go for him and his friends.

"Where Brewster, sitting where Joe Louis grew up boxing, we'd go up there and our whole day was spent up at the recreation center, swimming, prayers, gym, skating, you name it, it was there for us."

There is talk about redeveloping the area and not leaving it to sit empty. The city can't blow up the buildings, because they are too close to the freeway and debris may cause damage. So the four buildings are expected to take about two weeks to bring down.