DETROIT—Detroit, a former industrial metropolis in southeastern Michigan with a population of just under 1 million, was sold at auction Tuesday to bulk scrap dealers and smelting foundries across the United States.
"This is what's best for Detroit," Mayor Kwame M. Kilpatrick said. "We must act now, while we can still get a little something for it."
Once dismantled and processed, Detroit is expected to yield nearly 14 million tons of steel, 2.85 million tons of aluminum, and approximately 837,000 tons of copper.
The decision to demolish and cull Detroit for scrap was approved last month by a 6-3 City Council vote after a cost-benefit analysis revealed that, as a functioning urban area, it held a negative cash value.
According to scrap dealers, Detroit is an aging city in fair-to-poor condition, with "substantial wear and tear." It also bears the marks of extensive fire and rust damage, and it may not comply with current U.S. safety and emissions standards.
"There's little interest in the Detroit collectibles market right now, because virtually none of it is in mint condition," independent actuary and appraiser Arnold Cortier said. "The library, for example, is almost a hundred years old. If they're lucky, they'll cull some lead or pig iron."
Even structures in reasonably good condition will be scrapped, including the landmark Guardian Building. A last-minute attempt to spare it fell through late Monday when historical preservationists failed to put together the funds to tow the skyscraper out of town.
Other cities, such as New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, did not bid, explaining that they already had too many historic Art Deco buildings of their own.
Scrap processors and brokers called the auction a "win-win" situation.
"Detroiters can finally say goodbye to an eyesore that's blighted them for generations," said Al Ranneke, an Allegheny, PA scrap peddler who offered cash for hundreds of tons of the city's many metal parts. "No more getting nickel-and-dimed to death on little repairs, no more kids cutting themselves on jagged, rusted corners, and it all gets hauled off at no charge."
Ranneke acquired several Detroit commercial districts and the steel-and-glass 1970s-era Renaissance Center for $4,000.
"I did them a favor," Ranneke said. "Believe me, Detroit's been around the block. I was willing to take it off their hands for six grand, but I caught a glimpse of that Ambassador Bridge and I said 'no way.' I am not Santa Claus."
Another company, Bayonne, NJ's A-1 Salvage, purchased the recently vacated Tiger Stadium for approximately $.17 a ton. A spokesman for the firm said that the People's Republic of China had expressed interest in purchasing the dismantled sports venue. China is the world's largest buyer of scrap metal, and could receive up to 80 percent of the city.
The city's pending shutdown will make thousands of items with no scrap value, and several train-cars full of law enforcement equipment such as handguns, battering rams, and police clubs and riot suits, available to other buyers.
Residents whose homes and businesses are scheduled to be razed will be offered jobs in demolition and debris clearance to compensate for lost income. It is expected that the approximately 7.6 percent of the population that is currently unemployed will be able to start immediately.
The official demolition of Detroit's remaining structures will begin April 17.