Ann Arbor races to tear down bank-owned house before it collapses
Neighbors were concerned this winter about 1480 South Boulevard, as long-time owners moved out of the central Ann Arbor home and Fannie Mae posted its notices on the front door.
But having a bank-owned, vacant home in their midst took a sudden and urgent turn this month as they realized the house was also close to collapse.
Angela Cesere | AnnArbor.com
Now the city is taking steps to get it torn down — and fast.
“If it doesn’t get taken down, it will fall on either my house or the (other) neighbor’s house,” said Paul Bauer, who owns the house to the west.
The issue is a matter of safety, agreed Ralph Welton, chief development official for Ann Arbor, since the weight of the house is resting on the wooden beams at the base of the structure.
“The foundation caved into the basement,” said Welton.
That’s true around the perimeter of the home, but most visible on both the east and west sides, where gaping holes expose the basement — and the crumbling block that formed the home’s foundation for decades.
The two-story, 1,152-square-foot home was vacated around the end of the year, neighbors said. The property had been registered to Gyll and Diana Stanford, but a March 2011 foreclosure left Fannie Mae in control of it.
City assessors put the home’s value at $69,900, which would give it an estimated market value of about $140,000. At the time of the sheriff’s sale, a little more than $210,000 was owed on it.
Arnulfo Rodriguez owns the house to the east, which faces Packard. He said he wanted to buy the two-story home as he realized it was bank-owned.
“I was thinking it could be repaired,” he said.
But that changed early this month, as the degree of damage to the home became visible.
As he looked recently at the crumbling block at the base of the home and pointed to the roof, where the lack of gutters led to rot, he shook his head. He said it was obvious that the bank would have to act.
And lose its chance to recoup its investment: “Now they don’t have a chance to sell it (either),” he said.
Angela Cesere | AnnArbor.com
Leaving it standing can’t be an option, he added.
“It’s going to be worse and worse.”
That’s the fear of Bauer, who lives just a driveway away from the disintegrating structure in a home that his grandfather built in the 1920s. His home is a single story structure, leaving him worried that a collapse of 1480 South will send debris flying onto his own house.
He’s seen that house in better days, and Bauer said its history involves being moved from its original location long ago. The city assessor said it was built in 1922, but Bauer believes that when it was moved, it was placed on a foundation that was too narrow for its weight.
“It held up for some years,” he said.
But the disrepair of the roof and other issues seems to have been its downfall. There are signs in the basement that the previous owners tried to shore up the basement walls with wood beams.
Bauer said the city came right over to the house after he called officials and a representative of Fannie Mae in early March.
“As soon as they saw it, they said it has to come down,” he said.
Contractors have been to the scene, and Welton said Fannie Mae is working with the city to get the house demolished. Two bids were considered, and permits should be issued shortly. At the same time, Welton said, he’s pursuing the utility cut-offs and other steps needed to take the house down.
The urgency is more acute than in other cases of abandoned property in the city, he said, but he’s hoping the fast turnaround that avoids litigation and pulls the ownership into a solution that can be effective at other sites. The city recently started a blight fund to target problem properties.
“I think this cooperative approach will be vital in dealing with other foreclosed properties (in poor condition) in the city — in terms of securing, repairing, or demolishing,” Welton later said by email.