Demolition starts on City Place houses in Ann Arbor
Jeff Sainlar | AnnArbor.com
- Photo gallery: Images from the first day of demolition of City Place houses
There's a big pile of rubble on South Fifth Avenue where a century-old house once stood, and soon six other houses surrounding it will be leveled.
The developer of City Place student apartments project today demolished the first of seven houses that stand in the way of the controversial development that has been at the center of a fierce community debate about historic preservation for the last three years.
The city of Ann Arbor issued the demolition permits on Tuesday. Sources close to the project say the rest of the houses should be demolished by the end of the week.
Residents of the Germantown neighborhood are mourning the loss of the houses, which they believed added to the charm and character of their near-downtown neighborhood.
Some have argued that the houses should be protected under a historic district, but the Ann Arbor City Council rejected a proposal to give the neighborhood that designation.
In addition to the house that was demolished today, the front porches have been ripped off some of the other houses along Fifth Avenue, just south of William Street.
A minority group of council members — Carsten Hohnke, Sabra Briere, Mike Anglin and Stephen Kunselman — blocked an alternate development for the site known as Heritage Row, which would have restored the houses and added new apartments behind them.
Hohnke and Anglin said recently they were willing to give reconsideration to Heritage Row, but developer Jeff Helminski ultimately determined the project previously proposed by developer Alex de Parry, who turned the project over to Helminski, wasn't economically viable.
"It's a sad day, no doubt," said Kunselman, who stopped on his bicycle to watch the demolition today. He grew up nearby and said he'll miss the houses.
"It's a sad day all around," he said. "But we have to move on, and I think the big point now is that we have to understand that we have some rules to change in our zoning law to prevent the consolidation of multiple properties in existing neighborhoods to create these mega projects. These mega projects is what the problem is."
Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to AnnArbor.com's e-mail newsletters.