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Posted on Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 5:58 a.m.

6 boarded-up houses on Ann Arbor's North Main Street slated for demolition by next month

By Ryan J. Stanton


One of the boarded-up houses on North Main as it looked over the weekend. Six of the eight houses are slated for demolition by March 15.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Six of eight boarded-up houses along the east side of Main Street north of downtown Ann Arbor will be demolished by March 15 if all goes as planned.

Mayor John Hieftje said he'll be glad to see the blighted houses — reminders of the failed Near North affordable housing project — finally torn down.

He said he would have liked to see them removed from sight months ago, if not years ago, but it took longer than city officials and residents would have liked.

"I've been pushing on this issue for a while," Hieftje said. "It's not as easy to tear down buildings as anyone in the public might think. There are a lot of hoops to jump through and a lot of procedural steps to take, so I'm very happy this is moving along."


Another of the houses being demolished as it looked on Saturday.

Ryan J. Stanton |

The Ann Arbor City Council is expected to vote Tuesday night to accept a $96,000 grant from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.

The additional Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds from MSHDA can be used only for the demolition of structures deemed dangerous at 700-724 N. Main, and the city must complete the work by March 15, said Brett Lenart, the county's housing and community infrastructure manager.

"Furthermore, MSHDA may make additional money available to fund this demolition project, if necessary," Lenart wrote in a memo to council members.

The city previously received an allocation of $850,000 in NSP funds. In late 2012, MSHDA announced the opportunity for existing grantees to apply for unallocated NSP funds.

The city and the county submitted a request that resulted in the additional $96,000. Lenart said that brings the city's total NSP award to $946,000, the majority of which already has been spent — mostly on redeveloping abandoned or foreclosed residential properties.

Ann Arbor officials pledged last August to have all eight boarded-up houses demolished within 45 to 60 days. At the time, Ann Arbor-based nonprofit Avalon Housing and for-profit developer Three Oaks Group still had plans for a 39-unit affordable housing project called Near North on the site.

Less than a month later, the development team canceled those plans, citing troubles financing the project. Changes in floodway boundaries left the project ineligible for essential federal funds.

The eight houses from 626-724 N. Main St. are owned by a limited partnership between Three Oaks Group and Avalon Housing. County records show Three Oaks purchased the properties under various entities over the course of eight years for about $2.5 million.

The Near North property is now in a six-month redemption period after the lender, Great Lakes Capital Fund, foreclosed in November.

The city has declared six of the eight houses dangerous buildings. That means the two southernmost houses will remain standing.

City officials said the property owners have waived all proceedings and admitted the buildings are dangerous, but they're uncertain if Three Oaks and Avalon are completely walking away from the property or what the plans are for the two houses that will remain standing.


Another of the houses being demolished as it looked Saturday.

Ryan J. Stanton |

A spokesperson for Avalon could not be reached for comment. Representatives of Three Oaks have not returned phone calls or emails from in years.

The city was planning to pay for the demolition of the houses last year using a revolving blight fund established by the City Council. The city would have fronted the money for the demolition work and then tried to recoup its costs by putting a lien on the property.

Sumedh Bahl, the city's community services administrator, said the fact that the property went into foreclosure complicated matters. The city wasn't sure it would recoup its money.

"So instead of the city using city funds, this is the funds we will use," he said of the $96,000 in grant funding coming for the demolition.

By going that route, Bahl said, the property owners won't be billed for the demolition. He said it wasn't a goal of the city to hold the property owners harmless, though.

"We didn't think that way," he said. "What we thought was, we need to take care of this."

After the demolition work is complete, Bahl said, the city will plant new grass, so the site won't be an eyesore to passersby. It'll just be an empty green space.

The City Council voted unanimously in August to approve contracts with four separate contractors that are on standby to tackle demolition work for the city.

The four companies are Bierlein, DMC Consultants, Beal and Van Assche. Per the council's resolution, total expenditures per contractor cannot exceed $150,000 per year.

Hieftje said he remains hopeful that although the Near North project didn't work out, and the city is losing a row of houses near downtown that fell into disrepair over the last several years, another development on the site will move forward eventually.

He suggested the site would be a great location for new townhomes close to downtown — and across from where the city is planning to create a new greenway park at 721 N. Main.

"That area is going to be experiencing some good things," he said. "There is an edge of (the Near North site) that's prone to flooding, but a substantial portion of it is not."

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.


Ann English

Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 11:54 p.m.

The deadline date is the one-year anniversary of the Dexter tornado. Is that why March 15 was chosen?


Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 7:38 p.m.

Avalon, speak up! Take on your responsibility. You had given up on the project even before the flood plain ruling.


Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 6:09 p.m.

I'll believe this when I see the 'dozers at work....


Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 3:15 p.m.

I've asked this question several times but have never gotten a difinative ( < I don't fell like spell checking it ).But are things like floors,doors, woodwork etc...being salvaged if they have value ? I'm not concerned about recycling but I hate too see good old stuff being wasted


Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 6:09 p.m.

tdw, it's "definitive".


Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 4:08 p.m.

Thanks dog...


Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 3:51 p.m.

Habitat for Humanity went in a few years ago and salvaged all the good stuff. Put your worries to rest.


Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 2:54 p.m.

I am outraged that a plan didn't go as planned, and that a new plan had to be planned. I only vote for omniscient and omnipotent people to make decisions for beautiful Ann Arbor, for she is very delicate and sensitive; what happened to their omnisciency and omnipotency? This is an outrage!

Ryan J. Stanton

Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 3:18 p.m.

I think a lot of the disappointment being expressed is not just that the project didn't work out as planned, but maybe more so that the community is losing near-downtown affordable housing that was allowed to fall into a state of severe disrepair during this whole process.


Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 3:05 p.m.

"It is the plans that are not planned for, not unplanned plans that did not plan out". - Rumsfeld Hefty, speaking for the Downturned Demolition Area


Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 1:49 p.m.

Let's all remember this, shall we: "...the blighted house - reminders of the failed Near North affordable housing project..." Let's all remember this also: "they're uncertain if Three Oaks and Avalon are completely walking away from the property or what the plans are for the two houses that will remain standing." ...and this: "A spokesperson for Avalon could not be reached for comment. Representatives of Three Oaks have not returned phone calls or emails from in years" It seems to me like Avalon and 3 Oaks, under the guise of "Affordable Housing," obtained these properties (using money from several sources, two of which I assume are city funding and gifts from taxpayers), let them rot, and now the demolishment/cleanup is being paid for COMPLETELY by someone else (city funds or taxpayer money, among other sources), and it does not look to me like they are losing the rights to these properties. we're paying for the cleanup, and STILL don't know what Avalon/3 Oaks plans are? How about the ownership of those properties is transferred AWAY from them before we continue cleaning up their mess? Any clue as to how much money was mis-spent on this whole affordable housing project? As in wasted with no real accountability or impact on/consequence to Avalon/3 Oaks? I would think a VERY watchful and attentive eye should be kept on the ownership/development of these properties over the next several years, with special attention paid to who is part of what organization when all's said and done.

Lizzy Alfs

Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 2:31 p.m.

I went to the register of deeds and pulled the deeds for all the houses a few months ago. Remember this site was intended to be a higher-end condo development, proposed only by Three Oaks. According to the deeds, Three Oaks acquired the properties over the span of several years for about $2.5 million. It wasn't until that project came under fire that Three Oaks pulled Avalon into the discussions. I'm under the impression that Three Oaks and Avalon are going to lose the properties and they will go back to the bank. Although, it would indeed raise questions if the groups redeemed the property and then had the demolition already done for them using federal funds.


Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 1:14 p.m.

great that at least most of the ghetto is going to be torn down, but a big BOO to city council for not holding Avalon (aka "I don't like to pay my own rent.") responsible for promoting blight in order to force an inappropriate project on this already beleaguered neighborhood. Hopefully we will be spared any further ghettoisation of our neighborhood.


Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 3:03 p.m.

we need ghettoisation to balance of housing value, after all Hieftje want be one boy in hood so he release his rap album..

Wolf's Bane

Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 1:05 p.m.

Thank you! can't wait for these wrecks to come down. Hey, how about an ice skating rink in their place... until a developer with cash can build something?


Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 1:03 p.m.

"By going that route, Bahl said, the property owners won't be billed for the demolition." Nope, just us sucker taxpayers again. How about we still bill them and then send the money to the state when they pay up?


Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 1:26 p.m.

Actually all the taxpayers of Michigan will get to share in the joy. Lucky them. Thanks, Avalon. Thanks, Three Oaks. Thanks, city leadership.

Wolf's Bane

Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 1:06 p.m.

I love being a tax payer in A2. I especially enjoyed paying for my new sidewalk a few years ago, only to have it all torn up and replaced by the city after they decided to repave the road. Swell.


Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 12:49 p.m.

Outrageous that taxpayer funds are being used that won't be repaid. Outrageous if many of the parties ever gets to develop anything in A2 without repaying those funds.


Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 1:01 p.m.

I agree. And Three Oaks can't even be bothered to comment on the situation. Not surprising, since their website still links to the article about getting the Deal of the Year award for this project from their front page, and they list Near North in their projects section. When you look through that site, Three Oaks is nothing but a slumlord with some student housing near EMU. They never should have been given approval to go ahead with a project like Near North.

Lizzy Alfs

Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 12:25 p.m.

"Hieftje said he remains hopeful that although the Near North project didn't work out, and the city is losing a row of houses near downtown that fell into disrepair over the last several years, another development on the site will move forward eventually." Because a large portion of the site is now in the floodplain, development is going to be extremely difficult at this site and there are a lot of restrictions. I've talked to several developers who said they've looked at options for the site, but it just doesn't make sense. It will be interesting to see what happens.


Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 7:05 p.m.

He needs a crash course in house tear downs 101 from Ypsilanti Township. Maybe that will give him a clue on how to be more of a mayor then a mouse when it comes to tearing these things down. Ypsi Township gets the job done. OK, so we have one obstacle over on the east side, but it looks like we are getting that thing torn down in March. Fingers crossed.


Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 3:48 p.m.

@Lizzie, Hieftje said only an edge of the property is in the floodplain, you say it's "a large portion." Can you tell us what percentage of the acreage is actually in the floodplain?


Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 3 p.m.

"will move forward eventually." yes those Hieftje sure know what he's talking about...that why he's face is Red.


Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 11:50 a.m.



Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 11:48 a.m.

Irony? Taxpayer development funds being used to demolish more affordable housing units than were to be replaced by failed plan; all in context of solvent, for-profit developers; benefiting no one in the realm of public good other than the relief of crumbling visual aesthetic a reminder of failed investment, waist, and failure of another city project, disappearing from the visual dashboard of our daily lives, and fiduciary responsibility. Thank you City of Ann Arbor, for doing what you do best: spending lots of taxpayer money, from many sources, on projects that benefit the chosen and few. Think of all the time and taxpayer money that has been spent to create more holes in the ground, that are filled with cash. Irony and folly


Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 11:42 a.m.

More public funding for relief of failed private development. . . Mr. Stanton: What is the total public fund expenditure for this "Near North" site, including staff time and money?


Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 5:06 p.m.

Think total funds (not just demo related) as being time and money spent on this property: Near North project to date, plus demolition. = Time spent by city planning commission and department, housing commission and department, building department, legal department, grant writers, city council, mayor, etc = Money spent from federal, state, and city (general fund, housing fund, DDA fund) sources "Near North" has certainly taken the taxpayers "far south" of the solvency line.

Ryan J. Stanton

Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 3:15 p.m.

I'm not sure anyone's keeping a tally of city staff time spent on dealing with the demolition of these houses, but I imagine it's a useful learning process to go through for the city as it looks to demolish other dangerous structures using its blight fund.


Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 11:41 a.m.

IT appears that at least one of these four companies considered are not considered a company but an individual by the Ann Arbor News as I was censored for making the comment that I preferred not one of these four to be chosen. I guess one might figure out which entity is an individual and not a company? They often make the News for their lack of performance.


Mon, Feb 18, 2013 : 11:21 a.m.

Anyone but Beal is my choice for demolition!