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Posted on Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Ann Arbor prepares to replace blighted house on Kingsley Street with rain garden, art installation

By Ben Freed


This local eyesore will be demolished and replaced with a rain garden that should help mitigate flooding.

Melanie Maxwell |

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.


The house as it appeared in 1999

Courtesy city of Ann Arbor

According to the city website, the assessed value for the two properties was $108,300 for the 2012 tax year making their estimated market value about $216,600.

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.

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Ben Freed covers business for Reach him at 734-623-2528 or email him at Follow him on twitter @BFreedinA2



Sun, Sep 9, 2012 : 10:44 p.m.

Any updates on this? Clearly August 8th has come and gone...


Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 9:02 a.m.

Good! I'm sick of seeing this house while taking that sharp turn on Kingsley Street. Wasn't there a fire at the house a few years back?

Ron Granger

Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 3:09 p.m.

Local artists are free to submit proposals for consideration, just like any other artist. Local artists should not need "affirmative action" or other preferential treatment. Either their work qualifies, or it does not.


Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 1:20 p.m.

+1 for local art. Where is the appropriate forum to encourage commissioning a local artist?

Dog Guy

Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 9:37 p.m.

DJBudSonic and aabikes, you should know that Mrs. Waite is the Ann Arbor Public Arts Commission public contact. If you want to be heard by the Ann Arbor Public Arts Commission, go to Helen Waite.


Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 2:48 p.m.

Good luck with finding that forum- I sent off my third email in as many months last week to the chair of the AAPAC and have not gotten one reply back. Also have left phone messages with no luck. I am beginning to think that indeed there is some sort of buddy system running this town. I know how it works; many people bid on a job, (if they even find out about it) but someone slips their buddy the bid amounts and behold! the last bid received (just in time) is the lowest and winning bid. The same could be suggested about many city projects, especially those run by the DDA, but that is a rant for another time.

JV Brew

Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 4:29 a.m.

Why not save the art money to hire another firefighter?


Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 12:32 a.m.

Yes! This would be excellent! I live in the neighborhood and have wondered for years what was going on with that nasty old house. I totally agree with what others have said... a local artist should be picked to do the garden! If none present themselves then they should be sought out.


Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 12:59 a.m.

And who will maintain this garden? No one, that's who. It will look exactly like the other public "gardens" the city has created and then abandoned due to "lack of funds" or interest.


Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 12:17 a.m.

I beg of you, dear City, hire a local artist.


Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 10:07 p.m.

Having just returned from a 1500 mile motorcycle trip through Ohio, W. Virginia and Virginia it seems to me that the city of Ann Arbor is in a constant state of "blight". The streets are rutted and patched into oblivion, the dies of the streets are unkempt and full of weeds, there is trash everywhere and a general feel of nobody cares. How can a city like this even recognize blight? I am ashamed to say I was born and grew up in a place who values unpopular art installations over it's public image. It is time for Ann Arbor to clean up it's act in more ways than one. How about using some of that $855,000,000 "rainy day fund"?


Sat, Jul 20, 2013 : 9:45 p.m.

i grew up in kalamazoo, a college town of similar size to ann arbor about an hour and a half west of here and the roads there are both in much better condition and much better suited to the traffic volume than ours. so it's not just an ohio thing, or a virginia thing. i'm not sure if road maintenance is just not a priority here, or if the funding is being grossly misused.

Dog Guy

Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 2:27 a.m.

My goodness, @justcurious, invidious comparison of Ann Arbor to both Ohio and West Virginia would have my hackles rising except that I wasn't along on your ride to see what you saw. Perhaps Ann Arbor has gotten more comfortable, smug, and blind while the hill-folk to the south have progressed. You cannot, however, accuse us of hoarding our old newspapers.

Michigan Man

Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 12:59 a.m.

JC - Have been saying this for days/weeks/months/years now - blowing into Ann Arbor gives a feel of dred, over the hill, over rated, has been - not clean, poorly attended to, drab, no energy = just no longer an All American city. Locals who are bracketed by Zeeb to the west and carpenter to the east are just out of touch. Ann Arbor really trending downward and no one seems to understand this or much less care about the image of their fine city.

sandy schopbach

Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 9:27 p.m.

This is an excellent idea. But PLEASE do NOT plant goldenrod. Many people are highly allergic to it. Goldenrod is one of the most allergy-inducing plants that exists. AND not only is its pollen borne by the wind, it reseeds in all directions. If you want some yellow to go with your blue - it is U-M's town after all - there are many others to choose from. Don't subject the neighborhood to sneezing.


Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 12:20 p.m.

"Goldenrod flowers used as an infusion can actually help the symptoms of allergies. " Sure it can.

Linda Diane Feldt

Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 1:04 a.m.

The goldenrod pollen is sticky, it doesn't easily spread. Ragweed has profuse airborn pollen, and it flowers at the same time as goldenrod. So many believe it is the goldenrod that is causing the problem. Goldenrod flowers used as an infusion can actually help the symptoms of allergies. It's helpful to be able to identify and remove ragweed - it will be flowering in a few weeks so now is your chance.


Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 10:08 p.m.

It is not goldenrod that people are allergic to, it's ragweed. Common knowledge. In my opinion, rain gardens look like crap most of the time.

Attempted Voice of Reason

Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 8:02 p.m.

It appears that every time the city uses the term "rain garden" they really mean "constructed swamp". Look at West Park if you don't believe me. Have they never heard of West Nile? And that's not the only mosquito-borne disease around here, not to mention the irritation of constant mosquito bites. Swamps do not belong in areas where people are. Is the city clueless about mosquitoes? Or do they just think that extra mosquito-related disease is acceptable? We have the County telling us to eliminate standing water to avoid West Nile - while at the same time we have our City pushing for standing-water marshes everywhere. Vote out the idiots.


Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 12:18 p.m.

I wondered about the potential of mosquito problems from the city/county "wet meadow" project at the County Farm Park. Looks like a big mosquito nursery to me.


Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 7:58 p.m.

More public art and less least public art won't give you a parking ticket or speeding ticket, either will police officers that are laid off.


Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 10:46 p.m.

Exactly. Enough public art already! Hire the cops back and FIX THE POTHOLES!


Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 7:12 p.m.

And all this with taxpayer money? Without our approval? Vote Council and the Mayor out!


Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 7:56 p.m.

"The property was purchased using a FEMA grant awarded to the city in late 2010." You don't seem to understand, this was paid for with a grant from FEMA. That's not taxpayer money, that's money printed by the federal reserve or borrowed from places like China. It's free money..............this kind of spending by a country that is going on 16 trillion in debt is maddening and it continues blindly heading for the economic cliff.............


Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 6:59 p.m.

"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." This went on for 10 years+? I only see an accounting of the last nine months of delays. No excuse for this blight to have been on that site for 10+ years. Who is responsible for this debacle?


Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 6:55 p.m.

"...he's been trying to get the building demolished for the last 10 years." Why did it take this long? Actually, that property has been sitting abandoned longer than 10 years. But I'd like to hear an explanation of why it took that long, what were the issues and obstacles, and who was responsible for the inaction.

Madeleine Borthwick

Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 5:34 p.m.

Wow. what a before-and-after picture. how sad.


Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 4:59 p.m.

I'm sure it will look lovely in the warmer months but what will it look like in the dead of winter?


Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 7:33 p.m.

covered with snow probably


Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 4:40 p.m.

Oh, and btw- whose watch did Beal grease to get the cash? I would love to know. Landlords who let property deteriorate need to be fined and eventually have their property taken and sold by the city at auction - not paid top dollar. Vote Hieftje out please. My dog Bernie needs a job.

Basic Bob

Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 5:13 p.m.

Competitive bid. Doubtful he made a lot on the job, but his crew got to work for a day. I'm sure they need the money more than Bernie the dog.


Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 4:32 p.m.

Omg. More public art? Please, someone, get me a cement wall to pound my head on.

Angry Moderate

Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 1:40 p.m.

There's a lovely wall in front of City Hall you can pound your head on. There's no running water to wash the blood away though.

Dog Guy

Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 2:55 p.m.

Concerning safety, what will be the maximum water depth in the rain garden? This quasi-park will be pleasant (if The Ann Arbor Public Arts Commission doesn't crap it up), but not permanently remove the land from different uses. Perhaps Anthony Frudakis of Saline could be commissioned for a bronze sculpture of Johnny Appleseed or two Anns in an arbor. Maybe the city could get a good deal on a used Joe Paterno statue.


Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 4:34 p.m.

Or how about a giant bronze mosquito? Because that's all this new public place - the maintenance for which we do not have funding - is going to be good for aside from vagrants.

Leah Gunn

Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 2:51 p.m.

Regarding the Georgetown Mall property - thanks to the efforts of Council Member Teall, the state granted $1 million for demolition. According to the Brownfield Authority, that will take place in August of this year. It is very difficult for the city to demolish private property - they can condemn it as unfit for habitation, but that's about all. I think this will help the Allen's Creek drain. As to the landlord's complaint - you bet the city inspects your property, to make sure that it is safe for people to live there. That is what we expect in Ann Arbor.


Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 9:06 p.m.

Sorry if I was unclear. I was aware of the brownfield grant, but looking for confirmation of the August (2012) demolition plan. That's the first I've heard of it and I can't find anything to corroborate it. If true it's good news for the neighborhood.

David Cahill

Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 5:34 p.m.

From The Ann Arbor Chronicle: "County administrator Verna McDaniel reported that she had received a letter from state Sen. Rebekah Warren, congratulating the county on the cleanup of the Packard Square development at the former Georgetown Mall in Ann Arbor. [Warren is married to county board chair Conan Smith.] On May 11, the Michigan Dept. of Environmental Quality issued a press release announcing that the state had awarded a $1 million brownfield redevelopment grant for the project." .


Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 5:01 p.m.

I hope what you say about the Mall demolition is true, but I can't find anything on or in the Chronicle about it. Can anyone confirm this?

Tony Livingston

Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 2:40 p.m.

As a local landlord who is under continuous scrutiny and endless fees by the city of Ann Arbor, I find this maddening. Places like this can sit for 10 years with no attention from city hall. But have the paint in your rental house peel? You will be forced to fix it and pay the outrageous inspection fees for the priviledge. This is a complete outrage of incompetence and neglect by the planning department and they should be called to task for it. Any council members care to take it up? Doesn't Ms. Smith live in that area? Why are they silent while this type of place sits year after year?


Sat, Jul 20, 2013 : 9:38 p.m.

i'm no fan of landlords but all i see here is a guy who would like equal protection (or persecution) under the law. i don't see anything wrong with that.

Tony Livingston

Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 1:41 a.m.

wow. There certainly are a lot of assumptions here from some very ignorant people.

Madeleine Borthwick

Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 5:43 p.m.

Hey Tony, maintain your properties and you won't have this problem to begin with. but don't whine because you neglected your properties and one of your tenants" ratted you out."

rusty shackelford

Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 5:03 p.m.


rusty shackelford

Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 5:02 p.m.

Terrible attitude. Blight like this mentioned in the story is a problem, but that hardly excuses your own admitted shoddiness. Sounds like you're just bitter because you don't have enough sway to get away with it. Perhaps you should keep your properties in decent condition in the first place, in which case you wouldn't (deservedly!) be charged fines and/or reinspection fees. Your tenants inhaling paint dust and all the chemicals therein? Who cares? You have a few bucks to save on a new coat. The notion of decent stewardship and doing things properly the first time is uniquely foreign to Ann Arbor landlords, and it's disgusting. That includes players and small timers along.

Ben Freed

Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 2:38 p.m.

@Jeff Renner, To clarify: Stewart Beal is the President of Beal Inc., also known as Beal Demolition. This is a separate entity from JC Beal, however both companies are members of the "Beal Group." Membership structure differs from company to company. The article will be updated to reflect this, Thanks for reading, Ben


Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 1:43 p.m.

Hey Public Art Comission! How about choosing a local artist? How is this process underway? I have been on your email notification list for some time now and have never received one message from you, not a thing. Not an update, not meeting minutes, nothing. Just trying to keep up with how you are spending our money... people DO want to know how you are spending our money.


Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 10:50 p.m.

I think this Public Art Commission needs to be fired. Who are they? Who appointed them? Who gave them the right to spend thousands of taxpayer dollars with NO input from taxpayers? Get rid of all of them. NO more public art unless it is approved by voters on a NOVEMBER ballot.


Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 9:06 p.m.

As I understand, Herbert Dreiseitl was chosen to design the "water art" monstrosity outside the Municipal Building because one important member of the Art Commission was familiar with his prior works. He was given a contract even before he offered a draft describing the art that he was planning. Soon the art commission will bless us with a $150,000 chandelier hanging from the ceiling of the Municipal Building which you can access 24/7 but must check your cell phone and any other belongings and pass through a metal detector. Have fun parking nearby also. Since the Art Commission does not entertain citizen input, you may assume that it is putting together quite a personal art collection for its members.

Madeleine Borthwick

Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 5:40 p.m.

good point DJ!! yeah, public art commission, how ARE you spending our money? Huh? (sound of crickets chirping)


Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 1:40 p.m.

McGovern for Truth!

Alan Goldsmith

Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 1:07 p.m.

Arboriginal, some of us knew what you meant about the fence at the end of Kingsley. It survived for decades, was repainted several times, turned into Obama For Truth at one point and then...disappeared. McGovern For Truth--timely statement from the Nixon era with all the fake 'democrats' in local offices.


Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 12:43 a.m.

Last time I saw George McGovern on TV, he was delivering an anti-union issue ad.


Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 6:45 p.m.

Just a bit of townie graffiti that has been historically located across the street from this house.

Madeleine Borthwick

Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 5:38 p.m.

Arbo, is he even still alive? I remember voting for him when I was old enough to!


Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 1:17 p.m.

Too bad we can't get the "blight police" interested in Georgetown Mall. Talk about an eyesore. And I'm sure that the ~6 acres (!) of imperviousness there doesn't help the stormwater situation. We don't need any rain garden or art, either. But since it isn't downtown nobody cares. I'll think about that as I'm walking by there on my way to vote in the council primary here in the 4th ward.


Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 3:54 p.m.

A field of flowers at lower town site? More like a overgrown field of weeds.


Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 1:39 p.m.

Seriously, at least the Lowertown mall was torn down and now it's a field of flowers. I would rather have that than the vacant buildings of Georgetown. It must be that there is more value in the property with the building on it? Are we getting more tax value with the buildings in place? I cannot figure out why it is still there either.


Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 1 p.m.

Have very mixed emotions regarding this project -- rain gardens I guess would be okay if it helps with the flooding?? But why do we continue to go with all of this art stuff when there are so many other needs within the city. Please don't get me wrong, LOVE art but there are priorities and unfortunately right not it's not art especially when the city will not even go with an Ann Arbor artist or even a Michigan artist.


Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 10:52 p.m.

The secretive manner artists are selective is unconscionable. The fact that there is NO public input on these decisions using thousands of taxpayer dollars is unbelievable. Get RID of everyone on this Public Art Commission, who are favoring their crony friends with these so-called art commissions.

Elena Chesney

Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 12:41 p.m.

Good news!

Jimmy McNulty

Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 12:11 p.m.

" Hancock said the commission is in the preliminary stages of picking an artist...." Why not set out to select a local artist for this project? Just as the city did not spend hundreds of thousands on a search for a new police chief, why not stipulate that a Michigan artist will be selected?

Chase Ingersoll

Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 12:04 p.m.

A2comments: Had lunch at the Side Track last week. No longer an eyesore. Nice job Stewart, but I can't believe you risked a dime on that property. Renner:

Wolf's Bane

Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 1:34 p.m.

You must be blind.


Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 8:56 p.m.

I'm sure you've heard the expression, polish a turd. It is still a roofless abandoned unsecured building in Depot Town, two blocks from a elementary school. Boy it looks great..

Jeff Renner

Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 1:47 p.m.

Thanks for the link, but the name "Stewart Beal" does not appear on the page. One can infer that he is a member of the unnamed third generation, but again, I suggest that this information should be a part of the story.

Jeff Renner

Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 11:53 a.m.

There are two questions raised in the lead paragraph that I kept waiting to be answered but which weren't: why did it take the alleged ten years to demolish the house; and what is the relationship between Stewart Beal and JC Beal Construction? The only even partial answer I can find is that it took nine months to clear the title. That's not ten years. What was Beal doing the other nine-plus years "to get the building demolished"? The answer to the second question, which seems important, is unaddressed. Is this such common knowledge that the reader is assumed to know?

Ben Freed

Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 2:44 p.m.

@Jeff Renner, To clarify: Stewart Beal is the President of Beal Inc., also known as Beal Demolition. This is a separate entity from JC Beal, however both companies are members of the "Beal Group." Membership structure differs from company to company. The article will be updated to reflect this, Thanks for reading, Ben


Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 12:10 p.m.

Yes, they are related. I think a lot of people know this because they are in the paper quite a bit, especially Stewart.


Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 11:36 a.m.

Isn't Beal the developer with the large "eyesore" in Depot Town?

Wolf's Bane

Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 1:33 p.m.

Gosh, that "thing" needs to be torn down ASAP. What a joke. The Thompson Block is nada, gone, pushing up daisies. What remains is something akin to a children's drawing. As for the A2 property, great that this property will be reduced to zero. Reminds me of Detroit.

Jimmy McNulty

Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 12:06 p.m.

CORRECT! I assume you are referring to the uninsured bldg that was set afire 3 years ago, for which Beal held Depot Town hostage for over a year with his buttresses.