Why the Heidelberg Project is being forced to move from Midtown Detroit

Posted at 9:41 PM, Mar 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-23 15:32:27-04

As a Detroiter born and raised, I have seen many stories on the famous Heidelberg Project.

Some see it as a beautiful form of expression -- others see it as capitalizing on blight.

Love it or hate it, those two blocks on the city's east side have become a Detroit landmark and despite attempts to bulldoze it or torch it, the work by Artist Tyree Guyton still stands.

In our Detroit 20/20 report, we take a look at why "now" 30 years later, the Heidelberg Project headquarters and all is being forced to pack up and move because it literally can not afford to stay.

Guyton's wife Jenenne Whitfield says, "if you drove down the street, you might say oh my God what is this? However, when we give a tour and you learn that the shoes hanging out of that tree was a recollection of Tyree's grandfather recalling lynching in the South, Tyree would say could you see the people?"

If you don't know the history of the Heidelberg Project, trash or masterful treasures you simply will not get the underlying meaning.

The city has bulldozed portions of Heidelberg twice until a judge intervened. From 2013 to 2014 Heidelberg was set ablaze 12 times by the hand of an arsonist, yet Heidelberg still stands.

Guyton says, "the fires kept coming I said I am not giving up, it's been too long to give in now here we are."

The Heidelberg Project has been headquartered in Midtown for 8 1/2 half years. This nonprofit educates kids and does community outreach. This building is also their home full of treasures, gifts, and memories.

However, now they are being forced to move. The building that house their headquarters recently sold for $1.2 million dollars. Tyree and his wife were hoping to buy it for $600,000.00.

Jenenne Whitfield says, "I have gone through it I had to divorce the space I am moving on."

The revitalization of Midtown over the last three years is putting the squeeze on Detroiters who have lived here when it wasn't the hip place to be.

Whitfield says, "we love that this area is being built up but to be priced out is still I don't think people understand the insensitivity of this."

So they're packing up and moving by the end of the month.

The Heidelberg Project as we've come to know it is moving too but only temporarily for a year. All of Tyree's art is being packed up and carefully moved to storage. The plan is to return to the block where the Heidelberg Project was born in 1986 and where 90% of the people are living in poverty.

Now may be the time to do just that in the forgotten neighborhoods of the city as depicted in Tyree's many works of art.

Guyton says, "Carolyn this is our time to shine like never before in Detroit."