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Posted on Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 5:57 a.m.

Fire-damaged Golden Chef restaurant facing demolition

By Tom Perkins


TheGolden Chef restaurant, at 175 N. Maple Road in Ann Arbor, has been vacant since it burned more than four years ago.

Tom Perkins | For

Editor's note: The name of the restaurant has been corrected. Details of a former Tim Hortons deal at the site have also been included in the article.

Owners of a former Chinese restaurant near Maple and Jackson roads must quickly figure out how to renovate their building or it will face demolition.

The owners of the former Golden Chef in the Maple Village Shopping Plaza have asked Ann Arbor city officials for more time to figure what to do with their vacant restaurant.

The restaurant burned more than four years ago and has been vacant ever since. The city’s planning and development department began receiving complaints about the building in July.

The city sent the owners a notice of violation, detailing all of the issues that needed to be corrected by August 12, but they failed to act.

That led planning and development officials to ask the Building Board of Appeals to order that the former restaurant at 175 North Maple be demolished.

The board agreed, and now the owners are required to act within 20 days of receiving notice of the demolition order.


The former Golden Chef is charred and vacant.

Tom Perkins | For

The owners asked the board to grant more time so they could have an engineer assess the building. They had to first hire contractors to clean out the interior of the building to make it accessible to an engineer.

In Aug. 2011, Canada-based coffee shop chain Tim Hortons announced plans to open a store at the site. However, the chain never submitted plans to the city of Ann Arbor and it appears the deal fell through. Tim Hortons representatives have not returned multiple requests for comment over the past few weeks.

Ralph Welton, the planning and development department’s chief development official, said he is unsure what the owners of the building hope to do moving forward.

"The question comes down to what are they willing to spend to repair it," he said.

Among the issues:

  • The brick veneer is damaged.
  • The soffit is deteriorating and open to vermin.
  • The electrical panel and exposed conduits are stripped of copper.
  • The facade is broken down in several areas.
  • The foundation is crumbling in some spots.
  • Concrete is beginning to heave.
  • The top portion of the building around the roof is burned.

“It doesn’t look like it’s going to fall down on anybody just yet, but it’s quite an eyesore,” Welton said.

The situation is complicated by the fact that, because the building is non-conforming, it would have to be built closer to the street if it were torn down, Welton said.



Tue, Nov 6, 2012 : 5:24 a.m.

please clarify this: I was under the impression from previous stories that Tim Hortons wanted to tear down the building and build in the center of the lot and that the city wanted them to maintain the same set back from the front of the lot that the current footprint has. So it sounds like TH wanted to see if that was feasible for what they wanted and that maybe it wasn't and they kinda walked away from it. In which case I blame the CITY for once again running a business, employer and a new building out of town. they shouldn't have to maintain the same set back, that location is in dire need of an eyesore removal, I don't fault TH if they can't have the building they want and are willing to pay for it.

Eric S

Tue, Nov 6, 2012 : 12:18 a.m.

It burned in November, 2006, almost 6 years ago. Yes, it's been languishing that long.


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 7:11 p.m.

tear it down! Tear it Down!! TEAR IT DOWN!!!


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 5:24 p.m.

Maybe they could renovate the building and put food carts in the parking lot, Only use the building for cooking for the carts. Or tear it down....


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 5:21 p.m.

Glad to see the city moving on so many westside properties. That spot would be a great space for a new restaurant. Now no more time for the deadbeats, get rid of it!


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 4:51 p.m.

Sounds like another private enterprise that could use one of those state appointed "emergency managers" we've been hearing about.


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 3:37 p.m.

P.F. Chang's please.

Tom Perkins

Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 3:20 p.m.

The story has been updated with the restaurant's correct name. Thank you to those readers who pointed out the error.


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 3:04 p.m.

Don't confuse owners with tenants.


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 8:01 p.m.

Neither of us can be wrong all the time.


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 4:09 p.m.

From what I remember from the original story 4 years ago, the operators of the restaurant actually did own the building, but were leasing the land that the building sat on. The tax records probably reflect the owner of the land and not the owner of the building. Of course, this type of arrangement only makes everything more complicated.


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 3:22 p.m.

Good point. See, I agree with you too...maybe 2% of the time.


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 2:58 p.m.

I though I read where they are operating their restaurant over at Westgate. If they are making money over there, they may not be too anxious to do anything with the old place, or maybe they are holding out for more money from developers. I too recall the illegal immigrant story. They probably gave them a 90 day deadline in August.


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 2:23 p.m.

4 years shows we have a city council and mayor who are more concerned about $750,000 worth of questionable art than ridding the city of burned out structures. Priorities people.

Alan Goldsmith

Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 2:22 p.m.


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 2:12 p.m.

According to City tax records the owner is MAPLE VILLAGE SHOPPING CTR Unit: 09 CENTRO NP HOLDINGS 1 SPE, LLC P.O. BOX 4900 Scottsdale, AZ 85261-4900


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 3:46 p.m.

When you Google Centro NP Holdings 1 SPE, LLC you can see that they have real estate holdings everywhere. They were also an interested party in the Border's Bankruptcy. Big company that probably isn't too concerned about small fish like this building.

Lizzy Alfs

Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 2:03 p.m.

Readers: I corrected the name of the restaurant in the story. It was the former Golden Chef. Also, I added details about the Tim Hortons deal, which appears to not be moving forward at this point.

Urban Sombrero

Tue, Nov 6, 2012 : 12:45 a.m.

I'm surprised you guys aren't writing more about the fire that gutted that place, considering it was a big debacle when it happened. (My ex-husband (at the time that happened, he was my current husband) works for the "Fire Safety" company who did their suppression system. According to what I heard (and I believe it went to court, etc) that system was DELIBERATELY dismantled.......)


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 1:59 p.m.

Tear that eyesore down! That is the perfect spot for a Tim Horton's!!

Ron Granger

Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 1:58 p.m.

Did they receive an insurance settlement after the fire? If so, one wonders where the money went.


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 1:58 p.m.

It seems curious to me that abandoned homes, some almosty falling down, can be there almost indefinitely without threat of demolition but a business is acted upon relatively quickly. How does the city justify that apparent bias?


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 3:15 p.m.

They have not been watching Ypsi and Detroit tearing theirs down at phenomenal speed. Guess they need a few lessons?


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 2:59 p.m.

Four years is quickly?


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 1:56 p.m.

I believe the name was Golden Chef. Can you not get the name correct? They may also have owned another by the name China Garden.


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 1:54 p.m.

So when will the city get around to the Georgetown Mall? It's sitting in the middle of a neighborhood and so you would think it might rate a little higher priority than something in a strip mall. I'll be walking past it on my way to the poll tomorrow. That's why I'll be writing in Jack Eaton for council. Yes, it won't be counted, but what reasonable alternative is there?


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 1:46 p.m.

The only China Garden I know was in Whitmore Lake. This place was called Golden Chef.

Elaine F. Owsley

Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 2:35 p.m.

I thought that name didn't compute. Thanks for the update.

Rose Garden

Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 1:41 p.m.

The owners were given an August 12 deadline and they ignored it? Don't deadlines mean anything? Why does the City make threats if it doesn't act on them? The city should act on its threat and tear the place down immediately.


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 3:14 p.m.

Rose, you couldn't be more right!! nothing erodes one's authority faster than to issue threats that are not carried out in a timely fashion. when will the powers-that-be get this?!


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 1:40 p.m.

About time for another highrise proposal. "The way you cut your meat reflects the way you live." (Confucius)


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 3:13 p.m.

LXIX, I like the quote from Confucius but the last darn thing A2 needs is another highrise....


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 1:39 p.m.

The building pictured was "Golden Chef" Chinese resturant....and did, indeed, have a beautiful salt water fish aquarium. Many a delicious carry out from their kitchen was waiting for me when I got off work late after working another mandatory overtime at the hospital! Too bad that they got burned out! There were several other fires at that time....Quarter Bistro also had a fire, and so did English Gardens in the outdoor area.

Elaine F. Owsley

Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 1:36 p.m.

There should be some established length of time owners know from the get-go with no extensions. A friend used to suggest that people who want to vandalize be turned loose on these things and let them get it out of their system and save everyone time, money and frustration.

Vivienne Armentrout

Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 1:34 p.m.

It was called Golden Chef for several years before it closed. The discussion at the Building Board of Appeals revealed an interesting consequence of the changes to the Area, Height and Placement aspects of the zoning ordinance. The owners were hoping to maintain some framework of the current building so that they would not be required to comply with those changes, which include a much smaller front easement. The AHP changes set a maximum front easement which decreases the parking area available in the front, quite considerably. (This is reflected in the last sentence of the article.) Presumably the owners see this as decreasing the value of a future structure.


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 1:27 p.m.

Wasn't this restaurant called Golden Chef? I remember the Buddha in the lobby.


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 3:11 p.m.

A2ron, yes it was.


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 1:22 p.m.

The owners were convicted of having illegal immigrants living in the basement of their house in Pittsfield Township a few years ago.


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 2:45 p.m.

Yes - I found the source of the article and placed it here for the good of the thread. Thanks for sharing:

Unusual Suspect

Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 2:18 p.m.

And I believe I recall the early-morning fire (3am or something?) was related to the fact people were living in the restaurant. This one, not the buffet place in Westgate, which I believe was owned by the same people.

Unusual Suspect

Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 2:17 p.m.

sellers., it was in the news. Back when this town had "news."


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 2 p.m.

Do we have a vetted source of this intel ?


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 1:18 p.m.

Really? Only 4 years? I feel like that place has been empty for a decade.


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 3:13 p.m.

September 2006 is when it burned. The owners were going to rebuild but didn't for one reason or another. I think that Chinese place was there for a long while. Glad to see that building gone and something new in its place. Coffee, a doughnut and some plant stuff.


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 1:09 p.m.

i thought it was going to be a tim hortons. did they back out?


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 3:10 p.m.

golfer, yeah they did.


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 12:51 p.m.

That was a "Burger Chef" restaurant in the 70's - I can't remember when it closed but I used to go to the Chinese restaurant in the early 90's. They had some nice salt water aquariums at that time. I am not sad to see it go though.


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 3:12 p.m.

I know in the 80's it became a Hardy's and then after some other burger place. The Chinese place went in in the 90's. I know it has never been idle until now. This will really help that new plant place behind it.

Matt Cooper

Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 12:44 p.m.

I'm wondering if any of you are familiar with the 'due process' standard of law.

Matt Cooper

Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 10 p.m.

Johnnya2: Nobody is saying that? Really? 63Townie: "Enough is enough, teat the eyesore down." A2 Comments: "No more time" Jack Holsombeck: "Four years and they need more time?Tear it down" mady: "due process, my butt. they've had 4 doggone years. tear the eyesore down!!!"


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 9:08 p.m.

Matt, Nobody is saying they should just walk in and take it. They are saying they should not be granted and extension because they were too incompetent to meet the deadline provided for them. When the city tells you, you have 48 hours to move your car that is abandon, you either move it, or lose it. The owners should spend the time and money taking care of their abandoned building instead of fighting the city on it. The city has an obligation to ALL its residents, not to an incompetent land owner.

Matt Cooper

Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 6:55 p.m.

jojo, good question. First, they have to hire someone to clean the inside of the building out and make it safe for inspection and assesment. Then they have to have someone come and inspect the building before doing anything else. Then there's a whole list of things to be done before ever agreeing to let it be demolished, and still more to be done if they decide to keep it and upgrade. This all takes time and money. Some here think that the city should just walk in and tear it down with no notice and no due process of law. Is that the way we do things in America? Let the government seize and destroy our property with no legal recourse, no notice and no appeals process? I hope not. Especially since none of the good folks posting here ever even gave that building a second thought until they read this article (4 years after it burned). If they wanted it torn down now, why weren't they complaining 4 years ago? I certainly don't want the government seizing my property without due process. Would you?

Jojo B

Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 6:22 p.m.

Matt -- You've made your point that the due process has not been four years, but rather two and a half months from the August warning that they needed to do something. Are you arguing that the owners should be given more time because that's not enough?

Matt Cooper

Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 5:03 p.m.

And one other thing, SMAIVE. "Four years is significant time for 'due process'." Really? Were the owners of the building given legal notice four years ago? I can't seem to find that in the article. Matter of fact, the article states that no one complained at all about the building until last July. And if you're going to quote legal terms like 'negligience', or 'public endangerment' it might help to know what those terms mean, and neither of the two has anything to do with a vacant building sitting unoccupied.

Matt Cooper

Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 4:57 p.m.

"due process my butt" Right. So with no notice the state should just be able to walk right up and seize the property with no notification and no time to contract people to figure out what to do with the building. The state should just have the authority to knock down this building with no legal notice aforehand. Just take it and determine that it doesn't belong there. Quick civics lesson for ya: See, we live in America, where the government cannot take action to seize, remove or destroy your property without due process of law. Study up on it.


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 3:09 p.m.

due process, my butt. they've had 4 doggone years. tear the eyesore down!!!


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 1:54 p.m.

Four years is significant time for 'due process'. There is also "negligence" and "public endangerment".


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 12:24 p.m.

You know a Hardee's wouldn't be too bad there..... 0.o


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 10:45 p.m.

It was a Hardys before it left the area in the mid 80's I cried because their burgers are better then those other places.


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 6:45 p.m.

Yes! Would love for Hardee's to return to the A2 area!

Unusual Suspect

Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 1:42 p.m.

Or a Burger Chef


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 1:17 p.m.

LOL. Throw back!


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 12:21 p.m.

Enough is enough, tear the eyesore down.

Lizzy Alfs

Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 12:10 p.m.

Yes, it should be noted that Tim Hortona previously had a deal for this site. However, from what I've heard, that deal has since fallen through. I've been trying to get confirmation for some time.


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 10:44 p.m.

Something is happening there. There are 6 black barrels, a big metal trash hopper and Mich Con. So go figure what is happening now.


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 11:53 a.m.

Four years is more than enough time.


Tue, Nov 6, 2012 : 12:37 a.m.

That's what I said about obama.

Chip Reed

Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 11:52 a.m.

I thought that would be the site of the new Tim Horton's. Did something happen (or not happen)?

Jack Eaton

Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 7:17 p.m.

Tim Horton's intended to build one of its outlets on this property. The Area, Height and Placement amendments to our zoning code prohibit buildings on that site where the setback from the property line is greater than allowed (25 feet, I think). The Tim Horton's plan apparently could not comply with the setback requirements. The Area, Height and Placement amendments are part of the whole hostility to driving element of our local zoning laws. The thought is that if you make it difficult to drive somewhere, residents will forgo their vehicles and bike, walk or use transit. This is particularly silly in the context of this project. Who walks to a location to buy a donut?


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 3:37 p.m.

Article did say that Tim hortons never submitted the paperwork and that they are not responding to questions/inquiries - sad cause I too was looking forward to a Tim hortons on this side of town! Glad to see a new one on A2 Saline rd and Eisenhower just opened ;)


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 1:11 p.m.

sorry did not see this before i made my comment. i am guessing it fell through, has to be since they are asking for it to either be repaired or removed. so no coffee shop damn!


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 12:11 p.m.

I thought so too, I wonder what happened with that project?


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 11:37 a.m.

No more time.

Jack Holsombeck

Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 11:21 a.m.

Four years and they need more time?Tear it down.


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 5:02 p.m.

According to the article, the Tim Hortons deal fell through.


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 3:10 p.m.

I remember calling this one in. I was driving by and saw smoke. Called 911 and left when I heard sirens. That was September 2006. I know, I started a new job that week. So lets see....6 years and still vacant. Glad to hear Timmy is going in. Can't wait.

Alan Goldsmith

Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 11:11 a.m.

Who are the 'owners'?