Tour Oakwood Heights The Detroit ghost town that Marathon Oil created

“We recognized from the beginning that not everybody would find this an attractive offer, for whatever reason,” said Marathon spokesman Jamal Kheiry. “And we are happy to remain neighbours with the folks who have chosen to stay, whatever their reasons might be.”McKenzie acknowledged that the neighbourhood had deteriorated over her four decades there. When she moved in, it was a blue-collar Italian area. When the former residents moved out, she said, slumlords moved in. There were crack houses to her left, a couple more down the street to her right, and a few in the Her family figures the money’s out there. A very rough calculation based on the average offer per house, excluding demolition costs, suggests the whole relocation program might have cost the Marathon Oil Corp. less than 1% of the overall price tag for its $2.2-billion plant renovation.But the company won’t reveal the total budget for its relocation program. Nor will it disclose the volume of Canadian oil in its Michigan plant, saying only that its renovation was designed to handle heavy crude and that an unspecified amount of the new supply comes from Canada. More than one-third of U.S. oil imports are from Canada, and that ratio is growing. What the company will say is the relocation offer has expired.Bloomberg But what about pollution? Her family wants to plant fruits and vegetables on the vacant land next door, but they have their doubts — a recent study pegged this zip code as the dirtiest place in all of Michigan. McKenzie shrugs off the risks.“I figure if Marathon hasn’t killed me yet — I mean, I’m 71 years old,” she said. “Let’s face facts, I’m not gonna live forever.”She doesn’t really have any complaints about the company, whose trucks help patrol what’s left of the neighbourhood. She simply says it would have to double its offer to get her to consider moving.AP Photo/The Detroit News, David Coates Picture a block the size of a football field, once crowded with old working-class homes. Then imagine it razed into empty lots of grass and dirt, with nothing left standing except for one home and a couple more abandoned houses slated for demolition.Then imagine five- or six-dozen such fields. That’s what happened in Oakwood Heights.Wikicommons The company offered an average of $65,000 a house in an area where the standard home is pegged at $16,000 and some properties can be had for less than $5,000. People jumped on the deal. Ninety per cent of the 100-acre area has been cleared, with 275 homes demolished and more demolitions scheduled for this year.But not everyone took the money. Some refused for sentimental reasons, others for financial ones. For Mary McKenzie, it was both.The retired school secretary has 19 grandkids. They gather here for holiday dinners, she says, reminiscing about one Christmas when they began decorating the house with an angel collection and lit statues.She also did some math and figured the $64,000 being offered wouldn’t last very long. McKenzie concluded that once she repaid some credits for renovations, and the remaining mortgage, and the loan to add a new roof, porch and windows, she’d have lost the place with the memories without much to show for it.“I wouldn’t have had anything,” McKenzie said. “I kept thinking, ’Where am I gonna go? I’m not going to have any money to buy a house, I’m not going to have money to rent a house.”’Alexander Panetta/Canadian Press DETROIT — It looks like a ghost town, and Canadian oil helped build it.[np_storybar title=”Haunting images at the heart of Detroit’s financial emergency” link=””%5DOnce a prosperous hub for the American automotive industry, Detroit has seen its neighborhoods abandoned, its properties vandalized, and its homes stripped. This stunning collection of photos documents its decline [/np_storybar]The burned-out, abandoned parcels of property in a west-end Detroit neighbourhood are the reverse image of an oil boom town — a ramshackle yin to the thriving yang of Fort McMurray, Alta.For three-quarters of a century, crude oil has arrived here at the Marathon refinery. Even as this once-bustling, blue-collar area became blighted by crime and neglect like so much of Detroit, the industry survived.So when neighbours started complaining about smells and occasional explosions while the plant was planning a US$2.2-billion expansion to handle the influx of Alberta-type heavy crude, basic economics proffered a solution. The business expanded, and the people were paid to leave.Alexander Panetta/Canadian Press Occasionally, a drug den would be sprayed with gunfire from a rival gang. There were also arsonists, and the neighbourhood was densely populated. So McKenzie said she used to worry around here — but not so much any more.Her grandson, David McKenzie, has mixed feelings about his grandma staying.He wishes she could move to a vibrant neighbourhood, if only the company would offer more. He says when her house was robbed a while back, the police didn’t even show up.But the 32-year-old is attached to this place. Even in its roughest days, he says, nobody messed with his family. Anyone who tried would have come face-to-face with a grandson who’s a robust 6-foot-5, sporting a tattoo collection that’s about 1-foot-6.Alexander Panetta/Canadian Press He describes new and unexpected charms in the area.In this industrial heart of Detroit, on the footsteps of petroleum-coke storage facilities and the Marathon and Ford plants, there’s a bit of an inner-city wildlife ecosystem developing — think Mad Max meets National Geographic.“There’s foxes, possums, raccoons, groundhogs, rabbits. I’m waiting for a deer to walk through here,” David McKenzie said.“I had a hamburger the other day, and (a fox) was coming down, and I threw a hamburger to him, and he looked up at me and gave me a nod…. He looked at me like, ’Where’s the rest of it?”’Now the sound of gunshots is gone. Mary enjoys sitting on the porch, reading, and it’s quieter. In some ways, she says, it’s a bit more like the old days.“There was no place in the city of Detroit, I bet, as quiet as this was (last) New Year’s Eve,” the grandmother says with a chuckle. “It was wonderful. No gunshots, no nothing.” read more

Toronto market opens lower despite rosy economic data as commodity prices sink

TORONTO – The Toronto stock market opened lower as gold and oil prices lost ground and despite some data painting a relatively rosy picture of the North American economy.The S&P/TSX composite index lost 16.46 points to 12,387.17, while the TSX Venture Exchange was down 2.53 points to 1,173.99.The Canadian dollar was down 0.05 of a cent to 101.15 cents US after Statistics Canada released some positive data on retail sales and payrolls.Statistics Canada said average weekly earnings of non-farm payroll employees rose to $909 in October, up 0.9 per cent from September.On a year-over-year basis, earnings were up 2.8 per cent. That reflected a number of factors, including wage growth and changes in the composition of employment by industry as well as the average number of hours worked.Statistics Canada also reported retail sales edged up 0.7 per cent to $39.4 billion in October, the fourth straight monthly increase. In volume terms, retail sales increased 0.3 per cent, with eight of 11 subsectors reporting gains.U.S. markets were mixed amid some largely positive messages on the state of the economy. The Dow Jones average shed 1.96 points to 13,250.01, the Nasdaq moved 4.86 points higher and the S&P rose 1.85 points to 1,437.66.The U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of 3.1 per cent over the July-September quarter as consumers spent more and state and local governments added to growth for the first time in nearly three years. But the economy is likely slowing in the current quarter.The U.S. Commerce Department’s third and final estimate Thursday of growth for the July-September quarter was revised up from its previous estimate of a 2.7 per cent annual growth rate.However, the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose last week by 17,000, reversing four weeks of declines. The Labour Department reports that a seasonally adjusted 361,000 people sought unemployment aid the week ended Dec. 15, up from a revised 344,000 the week before.Meanwhile, the U.S. National Association of Realtors is releasing its monthly report on previously occupied homes. Economists predict it will show that sales are hitting levels not seen in more than 2 1/2 years.Meanwhile, IntercontinentalExchange Inc. has signed a friendly agreement to buy NYSE Euronext for about $8.2 billion in cash and stock, a deal that would create an industry giant that includes the New York Stock Exchange and other securities markets.Investors remain focused on budget talks in Washington. Republican lawmakers were advancing a bill that would raise taxes on people earning over $1 million a year, but President Barack Obama has threatened to veto it.After a week of taking baby steps toward a compromise, Obama threatened Wednesday to veto a new plan floated by John Boehner, speaker of the Republican-controlled Congress, sparking an early sell-off on global markets.Commodity prices were mixed with the February oil contract down 27 cents to US$89.71 a barrel and February gold futures down $18.20 to US$1,649.50 an ounce. Copper prices shed seven cents to US$3.53 a pound.Still, the energy and mining sectors were some of the only sectors on the TSX main index, along with the information technology sector, that were in positive territory.In Canadian corporate news, Bombardier Inc. (TSX:BBD.B) has a firm deal to sell at least 10 of its new CSeries passenger jets to AirBaltic, which has an option to buy an additional 10 planes. The Latvian airline’s firm order has a list value of US$764 million. The deal could be worth up to US$1.57 billion if AirBaltic fully exercises options to buy an additional 10 Bombardier CS300s.It’s the second major order for the new-generation CSeries planes announced this week by the Montreal-based aerospace company. Bombardier said Thursday that an unidentified airline based in the Americas wants to buy 12 to 30 CSeries planes, worth up to US$2.08 billion. Shares added three per cent or 95 cents to $3.66.After markets close Thursday, traders will get the last peek into RIM’s (TSX:RIM) financials before it releases its much anticipated new line of smartphones in the new year. Shares were up 1.3 per cent or 18 cents to $13.67.Analysts will be closely watching the company’s cash volume and subscriber numbers after the BlackBerry-maker surprised in the last quarter with better than expected numbers on both fronts.RIM has already said it expects to report an operating loss in its most recent quarter. Analysts are expecting a quarterly loss of 32 cents per adjusted share on revenue of $2.6 billion. AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email Toronto market opens lower despite rosy economic data as commodity prices sink by Sunny Freeman, The Canadian Press Posted Dec 20, 2012 10:16 am MDT read more