GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Nine homes in northwest Grand Rapids are being torn down due to frequent flooding caused by an insufficient drainage system.
Monday, Lois Day brought her grandsons from their nearby home to the 2000 block of Tremont Boulevard NW Monday afternoon to see something that for most little boys is better than any video game.
"Look, Nathan, it's tipping in," Day said as part of a wall came down on one of the homes being demolished.
Every few years, heavy rain inundates Tremont, backing up the storm drain and flooding homes. The problem is that the storm drain system in the area is simply too small to handle more than four inches of rain in a one hour period.
The most obvious solution would be to build a bigger drain. But that new pipe would have to be three quarters of a mile long.
"The cost or that was, depending on whose numbers, between five and 10 million dollars," Kent County Drain Commissioner Bill Byl said.
Officials determined the most cost-effective solution is to get rid of the problem by getting rid of the homes. Residents in the flood zone agreed to sell their houses.
For the people still living on Tremont, the neighborhood will never be the same.
Ed Kettle has lived in his home there for 31 years. The flood waters don't reach his basement, so his is one of five homes on the block that's not part of a mostly taxpayer-funded buyout of the properties.
"It's a little heartbreaking in many ways for everybody in this neighborhood," Kettle said.
Most of the project's $1.3 million price tag is covered by a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant, with the City of Grand Rapids and a county drain assessment on area homes picking up portions of the cost as well.
The project could be one for the history books. FEMA often buys up homes along waterways because of flooding issues, but rarely on a city block so far away from a body of water.
Once the homes are clear, the city will make the site an open field. Creating a park is phase three of the project. But so far, no one has come up with the money to make that happen.
"Next year at this time, I think that people will be really surprised by how good it looks," Byl said.
But that's where the uncertainty for Kettle, who wanted the city and county to come up with another plan that would have preserved most of the homes, comes in.
He's worried about his property value, and the overall quality of the neighborhood once an empty field replaces what were once people's homes.
"I didn't move into this neighborhood to live next to a park or a prairie or whatever it's going to be. I moved in here because of the Andersons, the Patrauskis and all of my neighbors."
People in the neighborhood will gather Thursday to get an update on the tear down and plans for the future. That meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. in the multi-purpose room at Holy Spirit Church located at 2230 Lake Michigan Drive NW.
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