Poletown East, Detroit
Poletown East is a neighborhood area of Detroit, Michigan bordering the enclave city of Hamtramck. The area was named after the Polish immigrants who originally lived in the area. A portion of residential area known as Poletown became the Hamtramck auto assembly plant in 1981 with those residents relocated by the city of Detroit which claimed eminent domain in order to make way for an automobile plant.
Poletown was settled in the 1870s when the first waves of Polish and Kashubian immigrants came to Detroit, and served as the heart of Detroit's Polish community for many years. The nucleus of the community was the St. Albertus Roman Catholic Church, which opened in 1871 and closed in 1990. Poletown experienced its greatest period of growth during the 1920s and 1930s as thousands of Polish immigrants came to Detroit in search of jobs in auto plants and the slaughterhouses that were in the area. Poletown was not only home to Poles, but also to Italians and Blacks. During the 1950s and 60s, freeway construction and urban renewal projects altered the neighborhood.
In 1981, a portion of the neighborhood was cleared to make way for the construction of the General Motors Detroit/Hamtramck Assembly plant. The city of Detroit relied on eminent domain to relocate the 4,200 people who lived in the area, along with their 1,300 homes, 140 businesses, six churches and one hospital. The plant was built at the boundary of Hamtramck and Detroit as a BOC factory (Buick-Oldsmobile-Cadillac) and became known as the "Poletown Plant".
The displaced residents sued the city, but the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that economic development was a legitimate use of eminent domain. Public resistance especially from one Catholic parish led to national news attention and the involvement of Ralph Nader and the Gray Panthers. A 29-day sit-in at the Immaculate Conception Church came to an end on July 14, 1981 when police forcibly evicted 20 people from the church.
Poletown Neighborhood Council v. Detroit became a landmark case for "public use" eminent domain matters. Twenty-three years later, the Michigan Supreme Court reversed the precedent that it had set in the earlier case. In their 2004 decision, County of Wayne v. Hathcock a property owner near Detroit's Metropolitan Airport successfully fought against the development of a new suburban office/industrial park. The case was argued by Michigan eminent domain attorney Alan T. Ackerman. In a later 2005 United States Supreme Court decision, the case of Kelo v. City of New London ruled that the use of eminent domain to promote economic development is constitutional, but the opinion in Kelo cites the Hathcock decision as an example of how states may choose to impose their own restrictions on the taking of property.
 Other uses
Poletown is sometimes used inclusively as slang for Hamtramck, Michigan, probably due to Hamtramck's strong identification with Polish-Americans. "Poletown" proper is the section immediately south of Hamtramck within the city of Detroit, but at one time had a strong and vibrant Polish neighborhood. Hamtramck itself has become highly diverse and there is still a small Polish-speaking minority. Polish bakeries and restaurants there are particularly popular, especially around Fat Tuesday. Many people around the city celebrate Fat Thursday by eating Pączki (singular form: pączek), even if they are not Polish.
 See also
- Auto plant vs. neighborhood: The Poletown battle by Jenny Nolan of the Detroit News
- The History of Poletown
 Further reading
- Buckowczyk, John. "The Poletown case and the future of Detroit's neighborhoods," Michigan Quarterly Review 1988. 27:449-57.
- Wylie, Jeanie. Poletown: Community Betrayed, with foreword by Ralph Nader and photographs by David C. Tbrnley. (University of Illinois Press, 1989)