The State Bar of Michigan will commemorate the 1981 Poletown decision (Poletown Neighborhood Council v. Detroit) on Tuesday, Dec. 2, as part of its Michigan Legal Milestones program highlighting significant legal cases in state history. A bronze marker will be unveiled at the ceremony that will take place at Polish National Alliance Council 122, located at 10211 Conant Street in Hamtramck. The plaque will be permanently installed at Zussman Park outside Hamtramck City Hall at a later date.
What happened in Hamtramck nearly three decades ago still reverberates today. In an effort to bolster Detroit’s crumbling economic base, a working-class neighborhood known as Poletown was demolished to make way for a new General Motors plant. This action was challenged by homeowners and small businesses in the area, but was rebuffed by the Michigan Supreme Court in a landmark 1981 decision. The ruling had national ramifications and set a new standard by expanding the power of eminent domain and allowing the definition of public use to include economic development. In 2004, the Court reversed itself.