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Posted on Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 1 p.m.

Ann Arbor officials: Row of blighted houses along North Main Street must be demolished

By Lizzy Alfs


This dangerous building notice was posted on the house at 708 N. Main St. in November, requiring the property owner to demolish or repair the home.

Courtney Sacco |

Ann Arbor officials are pushing for the demolition of several dilapidated houses along Ann Arbor's North Main Street.

The six houses from 700 N. Main St. to 724 N. Main St., which are now considered dangerous buildings, are expected to go before the city’s Building Board of Appeals on Thursday. The site owners will have an opportunity to state their intention for the properties moving forward.

“One way or another, (those houses) will be demolished,” said Ralph Welton, the city’s chief building official. “I don’t think the owners have any intention of trying to save (the houses) for any reason.”


One of the houses on North Main Street that was supposed to be demolished for the Near North project.

Courtney Sacco |

County records show the 1.19-acre property on North Main Street, which includes eight houses that have been targeted for a development for years, is owned by a limited partnership with two main entities: Ann Arbor for-profit developer Three Oaks Group and nonprofit Avalon Housing. The groups purchased the properties for about $2.5 million over the course of eight years.

But now the property is in a six-month redemption period after the lender, Great Lakes Capital Fund, foreclosed in November, said Carole McCabe of Avalon.

During a redemption period, a borrower may reclaim the title and possession of property by paying off the debt.

Until recently, Avalon and Three Oaks were planning to demolish the now-dilapidated structures and build an affordable housing apartment complex called Near North on the property. As the groups tried to line up financing for the project, the houses fell into a state of disrepair.

In September, the project was canceled entirely when new FEMA floodplain maps brought as much as 50 percent of the property into the floodplain, causing the developers to lose a significant portion of funding for Near North.


The city cited a list of issues with six of the houses along North Main Street, including neglect, vandalism and damaged foundation.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Now that the project is no longer moving forward, city officials have begun the formal process required before taking action to demolish six of the structures. The houses at 626 N. Main and 630 N. Main are not included in the dangerous building notice.

Notices posted on the six houses in November detailed the issues with the properties. Among the citations: neglect, vandalism, damaged foundation, roof damage, no windows, no doors, stripped siding, dilapidated porches, vacant more than four years, rear porch collapsing, roof severely compromised, disintegrating foundation, open to vermin infiltration, fire and water damage, and disintegrating block chimney.

Welton said the property owners will have the opportunity at Thursday’s meeting to make a case against demolition or describe their plans for the property before the city would move forward with demolition on its own. He said the process is complicated by the foreclosure and the complex ownership structure.

McCabe said at this point, Avalon is cooperating with the city in the process but does not intend to demolish the houses.

“We told the city that we’re not going to be able to get those houses down,” she said. “We weren’t able to get them down in the timeline the city wanted…we’re cooperating with (the city) however we can.”

She added: “We’re in a six-month redemption period before any other action takes place, but we’re still in place as the ownership entity.”

Welton said if the owners don’t intend to demolish or repair the houses, the city will proceed with demolition using money from its $250,000 blight fund that was established in February and then put a lien on the property for the demolition costs.

“The bottom line is, (the houses) will end up coming down, and whoever actually has ownership — whether it’s the money lenders or the various developers involved — will end up paying for the demolition.”

Council Member Sabra Briere, D-1st Ward, said if the board gives approval at Thursday’s meeting to demolish the houses with the blight fund, she expects demolition would happen sometime in the spring.

"In an ideal world, I wouldn't like to see those buildings come down, but we don't live in that world," Briere said.

"I'm told they're in such bad shape they could not, in an affordable manner, be rebuilt," she continued.

Related story: Near North project stalled on Ann Arbor’s North Main Street: What’s next?

Lizzy Alfs is a business reporter for Reach her at 734-623-2584 or email her at Follow her on Twitter at


Michigan Man

Fri, Jan 11, 2013 : 12:39 a.m.

Quality of life in Ann Arbor really trending downward these past few years. Still remember the pride I had as a young Ann Arbor resident of an all American city. Fine Republican leaders of the 50's and 60's really put Ann Arbor on the map. Just a shame the liberal left has pissed it away.


Fri, Jan 11, 2013 : 2:15 p.m.

Nice try.


Fri, Jan 11, 2013 : 2:16 a.m.

Now all they do is talk about it. All talk and no action. Agreed. Ann Arbor has really slipped.


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 6:43 p.m.

So Ann Arbor finally got a hint from Ypsilanti? Wow. Talk about catch up time. There is more blight up on Maple Road Ann Arbor. Will be nice to see something done for once.


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 12:49 a.m.

Who has been paying the taxes on the properties and how far behind are they? Take them by eminent domain proceedings.

Ann English

Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 12:44 a.m.

So two of the citations are roof damage and roof compromised. Perhaps the snow we get this winter will help collapse the roofs so heavy machinery won't be needed to break them off or collapse them inward. I don't mean that a video should be made and published here if snow does in fact cause some roofs to collapse into those North Main houses, although doing that would be better than the video made and published last year of the demolition of seven historic houses downtown.


Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 11:28 p.m.

Avalon had an apartment complex on Pauline that they demolished in a timely fashion. Why not here?


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 12:56 a.m.



Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 12:46 a.m.

no subsidies?


Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 11:16 p.m.

Those houses should be considered historic and they need to be saved.... How can we stand loosing 6 houses in a row?........ What is happening here? Where is HDC when we need them? I say the neighborhood should pick a name and create a town out of it and go for saving all these old houses.....


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 6:46 p.m.

Should have been working on City Place not these homes. I don't think there are any historical value here except blight.


Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 11:14 p.m.

Am I reading this correctly, that Avalon, a nonprofit affordable housing endeavor, paid a bunch of money for these properties, then just sat back and let them languish, then lost them in foreclosure, and now is waiting for the city to spend its money demolishing the houses? Uh, does Avalon EVER get money from the city of Ann Arbor for ANYTHING? I really, really hope not. Because if they DO, that's quite the double dip there. And for nothing, too. From Avalon's website: "Avalon coined the term "Enhanced Management" to reflect the way we blend social work into the business of being a landlord. We hire social workers and train them to be property managers. They are then able to focus on community engagement." Doing a great job with that. I sure do hope people who give money to Avalon stop doing that. And I sure hope they never got any of my tax money.


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 12:51 a.m.

"Avalon coined the term "Enhanced Management" to reflect the way we blend social work into the business of being a landlord. We hire social workers and train them to be property managers. They are then able to focus on community engagement." There's your problem right there. Social workers and lawyers have done more damage to society than any other professions.


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 12:15 a.m.

Avalon. DOES not take care of the places they have now, so why do they need more?


Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 10:28 p.m.

I am really surprised that no one has taken the initiative to develop this area into an extended downtown. I realize that this would require an incredible amount of rehab, but having a riverwalk in this area with a nightlife would be really cool. It would probably do well as a destination for folks from just outside Ann arbor.


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 6:47 p.m.

Ypsilanti has something like you are talking about. There is a park to walk after eating at one of the fine restaurants on Main Street or Depot Town.

Kyle Mattson

Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 10:33 p.m.

Hi chrisp- Just to note these houses are not directly on the river; however, the idea you present is one that is regularly presented by commenters here on the site. I would agree with you that it would be nice to see that concept come to fruition.


Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 10:10 p.m.

Sure, tear down the houses. You've already demolished a whole block of historic homes. It's shameful that the city couldn't step in and renovate these houses for homeless families. I know what "affordable housing" means in Ann Arbor, and it's more than I could afford. It's time we get serious about providing honestly "affordable" housing in our city.


Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 11:12 p.m.

There is plenty of affordable housing in SE MI. You don't have to live in A2.


Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 9:57 p.m.

If the buildings are worthless, can they renovate/restore them if they are in the floodplain?


Fri, Jan 11, 2013 : 2:12 p.m.

But.. it was added to the floodplain for a reason.

Lizzy Alfs

Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 10:05 p.m.

@Gill: The buildings could be restored in the floodplain, since they are already there. The floodplain development rules would come into effect with a new project proposal. Also, because Near North was approved under the OLD floodplain boundaries, that also could still be built.

David Cahill

Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 9:30 p.m.

I am also disappointed at Avalon's attitude. They have a duty to either fix or demolish, and they are doing neither.


Fri, Jan 11, 2013 : 2:11 p.m.

Like the article says, "Welton said if the owners don't intend to demolish or repair the houses, the city will proceed with demolition using money from its $250,000 blight fund that was established in February and then put a lien on the property for the demolition costs. 'The bottom line is, (the houses) will end up coming down, and whoever actually has ownership — whether it's the money lenders or the various developers involved — will end up paying for the demolition.'"

Urban Sombrero

Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 9:02 p.m.

This is great news. And, at the risk of preaching to the choir, may I please say, "It's about time!"?


Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 8:58 p.m.

This will drag on for years and years and years. No money, complex ownership, foreclosure, etc etc etc. One excuse after another. Just get the bulldozers out.


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 6:48 p.m.

If it was in Ypsilanti? The job would have been done years ago.


Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 8:50 p.m.

I am very disappointed in the lack of care for our community shown by Avalon Housing and their partner, Three Oaks. This has been going on for many months, and yet McCabe from Avalon is quoted saying that they won't do what is good for the community, but that they won't demolish the houses. The houses went from mediocre shape to abysmal shape under Avalon and 3 Oaks ownership, and are now refusing to be responsible. I hope that all funding of any kind to these 2 entities is halted until the issue is resolved properly by them. You own it, now be responsible and take care of the problem.

Brian Kuehn

Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 10:01 p.m.

The City of Ann Arbor allocated $144, 028 to Avalon Housing for 2012/2013 as part of a $1,200,000 funding of local non-profits. I trust there will be some discussion over future allocations if Avalon doesn't do their absolute utmost to assist the City in moving the demolition forward. Avalon performs valuable services to the local area but they seem to have a blind spot regarding this problem.


Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 8:47 p.m.

Darn, there go six affordable housing units!


Fri, Jan 11, 2013 : 2:09 p.m.

Not exactly affordable, no. $2.5 million/6 = $416,667 each. Then whatever it takes to bring them up to livability.


Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 8:14 p.m.

It's not blight, it's history! We should convert them all into independent bookstores. /s


Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 11:59 p.m.

I'm an investor in It's amazing how an equity stake in a business proposition can motivate somebody -


Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 9:10 p.m.

Man, you're really angry about that independent bookstore opening up, aren't you? Don't much cotton to book learnin', huh?

Elaine F. Owsley

Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 8:11 p.m.

Chapter 212 in the continuing saga. Let us wait til you can tell us they are in the process of being torn down, ok?

Wolf's Bane

Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 7:56 p.m.

Thank you!!! YES!!! Now would be a good idea!


Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 7:39 p.m.

It's about time!

Lizzy Alfs

Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 8:32 p.m.

You're right that the houses were supposed to come down within 60 days as of August. I've been told that the foreclosure and ownership complexity delayed that process.


Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 7:47 p.m.

About time? On August 10 of last year, published an article about how the city was going to have them torn down within 60 days. At the taxpayer's expense, no less. Now, Avalon and Three Oaks have apparently defaulted on the loan making the demolition process even more cumbersome and lengthy. Fantastic.


Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 7:16 p.m.

These houses were fine when they were occupied.As are most of the houses along Main St. It's just when a speculator bought them hoping to rebuild and and make $ and then couldn't follow through that they became blighted.


Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 8:56 p.m.


Lizzy Alfs

Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 6:28 p.m.

Also - please note this will be updated with another story after the Building Board of Appeals meeting tomorrow.


Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 6:12 p.m.

Gosh....and here I thought Georgetown Mall was bad! Yikes.


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 6:50 p.m.

Just a thought here. Ypsilanti tears down blight. Ann Arbors city council talks about it. So there is no comparison there.

Ann English

Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 12:36 a.m.

As bad as the blighted houses in Ypsilanti, on Bell Street, Monroe Street and Jefferson.Those in Ypsi and these on North Main Street happen to be very close to freeway entrances to the cities.

Top Cat

Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 6:10 p.m.

Why not just declare them to be "Art", illuminate them at night and save the expense of demolition ?

Wolf's Bane

Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 7:56 p.m.

They should either be restored or removed. Blighted art project is a no go.

Homeland Conspiracy

Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 7:17 p.m.

Sorry but this would be classified as "local" art & A2 does not promote "local" art. Now if you were to ship in several dilapidated houses from...let's say Germany then it would be worth showcasing.