Ann Arbor prepares to replace blighted house on Kingsley Street with rain garden, art installation
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
This article has been updated to reflect that Beal Demolition, not JC Beal Construction Inc., will be handling the demolition. Both are part of the Beal group of companies.
Developer Stewart Beal owns a property across the street from the blighted and abandoned house at 219 W. Kingsley St., just west of Kerrytown in Ann Arbor, and he’s been trying to get the building demolished for the last 10 years. Now, he’s getting his wish on multiple levels. Not only is the building going to be demolished, but Beal's company, Beal Demolition, won the contract for the job.
“It’s excellent,” he said. “Let’s tear it down.”
The city will hold a public meeting on July 26 at the property, where the house has been falling further and further into disrepair over the years, to answer questions regarding the demolition of the house and its transformation into a rain garden.
A rain garden is a planted depression that captures runoff water. “You use very deep rooted native plants in the garden to facilitate the infiltration of the water into the ground,” said City stormwater and floodplains programs coordinator Jerry Hancock .
“Before, the house was displacing water, the rain garden will bring it in. It won’t make the flooding go away, but it will lessen the severity.”
The rain garden will be created on the plots that were formerly 215 and 219 W. Kingsley St. The property was purchased using a FEMA grant awarded to the city in late 2010. The deal was completed March 13, 2012. The two plots, totaling 88 by 64 square-feet were bought for $170,674.25.
Courtesy city of Ann Arbor
Besides a rain garden, the site is also slated to get some public art. The Ann Arbor Public Arts Commission has selected it as a location for for a public art installation. Hancock said the commission is in the preliminary stages of picking an artist, so it’s too early to know exactly what the art will be.
“Right now it’s an open slate,” he said.
“We’re going to put in a path around the garden, and our budget includes putting in a bench and a tree or two. So the artist could work with that, or decide to do something different. But we want the art and the garden to be integrated.”
Hancock said the budget for the rain garden itself was $25,440 with a $2,500 contingency fund. He expects the garden and installation to be completed by next spring.
The garden will be designed by Conservation Design Forum, which has an office on South Main Street.
“We haven’t made a any decisions on what plants will be in the garden yet,” said Patrick Judd, who is working on designing the garden. “But some plants you might see are the Blue Flag Iris, Marsh Blazing Star, Blue Vervain, and possibly even Showy Goldenrod.”
The Conservation Design Forum will work with the artist selected by the city to incorporate the art into the garden’s design.
Beal said he is looking forward to having something nicer across the street from his property than a deteriorating abandoned and boarded-up house. It was difficult to find a tenant for his property the last time he was leasing it, he said.
"We showed the property to 10 tenants, and five said they would not even remotely consider it because of the property across the street," he said.
"It was a direct negative impact to the neighborhood and the businesses around it."
Hancock said missing paperwork from the purchase of the property in the 1970s held up the city’s purchase of the property. The previous owner’s name was still on the title and it took attorneys and the current owner 9 months to solve the issue.
During that time, appraisals were made on the property and lead and asbestos surveys were done.
The next step after the meeting is for the building to be demolished. Beal said his company has set a preliminary timeline for that starting on Aug. 8, with the building completely gone by Aug. 10. These plans still have to be reviewed and approved by the city.