Jan 31, 2023 - News

How one man bought up an entire east side neighborhood

Illustration of a key with a keychain in the shape of a plot of land.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

A wealthy entrepreneur who purchased an entire east side neighborhood with the help of the city in order to establish a tree farm is facing fresh scrutiny after largely abandoning the project.

Driving the news: A decade after acquiring thousands of parcels of land for less than half of a million dollars by making lofty promises, John Hantz has offloaded a fraction of the properties for more than $9.5 million, BridgeDetroit reports.

  • The parcels Hantz hasn't sold have sat vacant, racking up hundreds of blight tickets and thousands of dollars in unpaid fines.
  • Hantz still holds about 2,000 properties of the 2,600 he originally acquired.

How it happened: Hantz, who heads a financial firm managing $5.7 billion in assets, unveiled his vision for a tree farm on the city's east side in 2012. Promising to remove blight, he negotiated with the city to sell him the land at a lower cost.

What they're saying: "It just feels privileged," Matthew "Jaye" Green, a longtime resident and property owner, told Bridge. "He's not even from the area."

  • Residents blame the city for allowing Hantz to buy the properties with special purchase agreements with a land bank that aren't typically afforded to residents like Green, who purchased his childhood home in East Village after his grandmother lost it to property tax foreclosure in the early 2000s.
  • After failing to renovate the property according to the land bank's purchase agreement timeline, Green might lose the house for a second time.
  • Hantz has also failed to meet deadlines, but is working under a different set of standards, and hasn’t had to return any of his properties.

Worthy of your time: Hantz tree farm falls short on solving east side blight

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