Even with close to $2 million in welfare on the table, Home Depot has walked away from a Detroit community — for the second time. According to reports this week in the Detroit Free Press, the Atlanta-based retailer broke a development deal that left many homeowners in limbo, and caused the developer to file a lawsuit to stop Home Depot from abandoning the project. Home Depot was slated to be the big box anchor of a $40-million shopping center in northwest Detroit, at 7 Mile and Telegraph. The company reportedly had offered to buy houses from nearly 90 homeowners in the area — for as much as three times the assessed value of their properties. One homeowner agreed to sell his $50,000 home for $150,000, and with that expectation, bought a new house. The developer, Eye on Detroit LLC of Southfield, which should have kept its eye on Home Depot, says now that their shopping center won’t work financially without Home Depot. The developer claims that Home Depot signed a lease agreement with Eye on Detroit on Sept. 28, and had until November 1st to back out of the deal. The developer now claims that Home Depot withdrew after the deadline. “I don’t know why they would pull this on us at the last minute,” the developer told the Free Press. For its part, Home Depot would not say why it pulled out. “It was within our contractual rights to pull out by this date,” a company spokesperson said. “We have looked at that site and determined it does not fit with our development plans.” The retailer still wants to build stores in Detroit, just not in the 7 Mile and Telegraph neighborhood. Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was asked to intervene in the deal to keep Home Depot firm, but the appeal apparently didn’t matter in Atlanta. The city was even willing to throw tax dollars at the world’s riches home improvement store, including a $1 million brownfields tax credit, and an $800,000 single business tax credit, according to the Free Press. In 2002, Home Depot also backed out of a project on East Jefferson Avenue in Detroit. One neighbor who was expected to sell her home to the retailer, now had nothing good to say about the company. “I would like to have a boycott of Home Depot. I wouldn’t spend a dime in that store,” she told the Free Press.
One more lawsuit for Home Depot, and another neighborhood that got the shaft from the big corporation. On the bright side, all the other residents near this project won’t have to put up with the lights, the cars and the noise of having a Home Depot on the block. On the whole, I’d say the neighbors aren’t losing a store, they’re gaining back their neighborhood.