The former Uniroyal Tire plant on Jefferson Avenue is a good example of the hidden potential of Detroit.
The site was initially home to the Morgan and Wright Tire Company, which built its first plant there in 1905. The plant gradually expanded and was sold to US Tire in 1914, which later became US Rubber, and then Uniroyal.
Uniroyal struggled through the 70's, and in January of 1980, announced that it was shutting down the Detroit plant and another one in Massachusetts. Contributing to the decision to shutter the Jefferson avenue plant was the piecemeal expansion that had taken place over several decades. "The basic structure of the facility imposes inherent high costs and makes modernization, efficient layout, and future expansion highly impractical." 1700 employees lost their jobs.
In 1981 the city of Detroit bought the Uniroyal plant for $5M. Four years later the plant was demolished, opening up a vast stretch of attractive waterfront property, that came with a hitch: the site was heavily contaminated with toxic chemicals left over from tire production.
From the mid-1980's to the present, various plans for development have surfaced, only to be hobbled by the massive cleanup operation required to make the area habitable again. A 2004 partnership between the city and former football star Jerome Bettis to build as many as 2,000 residential units stalled after the economic downturn, but have recently been revived.
At a news conference in September of 2011, Mayor Dave Bing and Bettis announced that cleanup work at the former Uniroyal site was beginning. While no dates have been set for construction on the site, it’s an important first step towards revitalizing an important stretch of Detroit's waterfront.