A 30-year-old videographer has appropriated the promotional video for The Albert apartment building in Capitol Park and added cameos of the poor, elderly tenants who are being evicted to make room for the new, young inhabitants shown in a glittering downtown.
The result is a provocative volley in the growing discussion about the influx of money, people and attractions in selected Detroit neighborhoods amid the struggles and poverty in the rest of the city.
This latest chapter in the gentrification debate began two weeks ago, when the developers of The Albert released a promotional video. The Albert is a 12-story apartment building undergoing renovation in a corner of downtown slated for redevelopment as an arts district.
The reaction was immediate: Critics attacked the video as a tone-deaf attempt at asserting generational change in downtown Detroit, which seemed off-key given the renovation is displacing mainly poor, black tenants -- some of whom are disabled -- who lived for years in the building when it was called The Griswold.
Paul Beshouri at Curbed Detroit called the promotional video "unbearable" and "so awful, you might end up hate-watching it again and again."
Enter Kate Levy, a photographer/videographer/archivist who lives in Detroit.
Levy took a version of the original promotional video and added scenes she shot of the tenants, whose deadline to leave the building was Monday. Her video is a guerilla version of the original that raises questions about the sensitive process of evicting the elderly and poor to make room for the young and comfortable.
"This video presents the bookends of a complicated structural issue. It's not enough to just notice one group of people prospering and another dying," Levy writes on the Vimeo page that hosts her video.
In an email to Deadline Detroit, Levy said the reaction to her video has been mainly positive, though she heard some criticism that her version is one-sided and biased.
She asked how, when there is so much positive press about gentrification, a media byte like her video that questions the negative effects could be considered biased.
The whole context is biased, and frankly, racist. I think to anyone who thinks the piece is biased needs to consider it in the context of other pieces. It’s not really my job to tell a complete story, but to position a part of the story in conjunction with other parts. My goal in making it, then, was to dispense people into research—it certainly did for me. I know a lot more now than I did when I put the piece out there just over a week ago.
The partnership developing The Albert was created by Todd Sachse and Richard Broder, principals in both Sachse Construction and Broder & Sachse Real Estate. Sachse Construction has done much of the renovation on buildings purchased in the central business district by Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert.
Levy said Broder responded to an interview request and suggested two small corrections.
Residents told Deadline Detroit last year many people in The Griswold lived on less than $600 a month and rely on walkers and electric mobility scooters. Monthly rents can be as low as $130.
The developer has posted an altered version of the original video here that has dropped the most smug and cringe-worthy segments of young, mostly white people taking about how Detroit now belongs to their generation.
News of Levy's video appeared first on the Metro Times' website.
Previously on Deadline Detroit: