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Posted on Sat, Jan 5, 2013 : 5:57 a.m.

Former juvenile court on Platt Road likely to stay in Washtenaw County hands in 2013

By Amy Biolchini

Washtenaw County's former juvenile detention center and juvenile court at 2270 Platt Road in Ann Arbor likely will stay in the county's possession in 2013, according to commissioners.


The exterior of the front entrance of Washtenaw County's vacant juvenile detention facility in June 2011 on 2270 Platt Road in Ann Arbor.

Angela J. Cesere |

The center has been vacant since May 2011, when juvenile court staff moved out of the facility and into the third floor of the county courthouse in downtown Ann Arbor. Services provided by the juvenile detention portion had moved to the county's Hogback Road facility eight years prior.

Though the site -- which includes two aging buildings on 13.5 acres of property appraised recently at $1.4 million -- has attracted the interest of several private investors in the past, commissioners want to keep the property in the county's fold, said Commissioner Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor.

“Selling the property is less desirable, and has not gotten much traction from the commissioners,” Rabhi said. “There’s a desire to continue to use that site for the public use and the public benefit.”


The interior of the front entrance of the county's vacant juvenile detention facility on 2270 Platt Road in June 2011.

Angela J. Cesere |

Demolition of the juvenile center building itself is likely, Rabhi said. The 42,320-square-foot-structure, built in 1969, includes cells to house inmates and would be extremely difficult to re-purpose. It costs $211,040 per year to operate, according to county records.

The Board of Commissioners will not approve a demolition project until they know of future plans for the site, Rabhi said.

However, the second vacant building on the property, the O’Brien Center, could be renovated for office space, Rabhi said. Built in 1954, the 6,680-square-foot O’Brien Center was last used by the public defender and prosecuting attorney. It costs about $46,636 per year to operate.

As the county attempts to house less of its operations in leased space and more in properties it owns, Rabhi said the Platt Road property could serve as a good option for county departments. Rabhi hosted a public meeting in summer 2011 to gauge public interest for what should be done with the property.


The former location of the O'Brien Center in June 2011 on 2260 Platt Road in Ann Arbor, which is adjacent to the former juvenile detention center.

Angela J. Cesere |

There was a strong desire to keep the property as public land and incorporate multiple uses including green space and affordable housing, Rabhi said.

This summer, community garden program Project Grow built a number of plots on the Platt Road property. Rabhi said the partnership is one that commissioners would like to continue, but the garden plots may not be in the same place on the property in the future.

The Platt Road property is now in the commissioner district of Andy LaBarre, the newest Democrat to represent Ann Arbor on the county board in 2013.

During his campaign for the seat, LaBarre said he heard many of his now-constituents express interest in the future of the juvenile center property.

“I would get questions about it,” LaBarre said. “Affordable housing came up … another big thing was a community garden.”

LaBarre said there was a keen interest in making sure whatever happened to the property on Platt Road fit the neighborhood.

“I think it is worth the county’s time: Not just getting rid of the land, but finding a good use for it and finding a common good to serve some needs that are present,” LaBarre said. “To the extent that we can, it would be great if it was dog-friendly.”

The Board of Commissioners will be addressing the future uses of the property in February or March when the county’s space plan is addressed, Rabhi said.

Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for Reach her at (734) 623-2552, or on Twitter.



Sun, Jan 6, 2013 : 3:11 a.m.

The two pictures in this article, labeled the front entrance and exterior of the former detention center, are actually pictures of the former juvenile court, not the detention center.

Chuck Saltpeter

Sat, Jan 5, 2013 : 3:46 p.m.

I support keeping the land and developing it as it is used today, as a community garden annex, a dog park, and a multipurpose open space. Level the building and make it parking, put in a few benches, have a dirt trail/track that connects to the County Farm Park trail, and put in a sidewalk on that side of the street.

Craig Lounsbury

Sat, Jan 5, 2013 : 3:27 p.m.

Seasoned Cit , certainly a good point. Governments at every level struggle for dollars. Turning it in to a source of revenue by selling it to the private sector would arguably have the broadest "serve the community" in the coffers. Anything else would more likely benefit mostly those who live nearby.

Craig Lounsbury

Sat, Jan 5, 2013 : 8:39 p.m.

I live 3 blocks from there. The county farm park is there, the Washtenaw County Rec department is there, There is a city park 3 blocks away on the other side of Platt road. The only real neighborhood in the immediate area also has easy access to Allen school which abuts Buhr. park. So there is no shortage of public use property in the area. And I am not exactly proposing it be sold but I do think it needs serious consideration.


Sat, Jan 5, 2013 : 6:28 p.m.

Heaven forbid we should do anything to benefit a working/middle class neighborhood, right?

Seasoned Cit

Sat, Jan 5, 2013 : 2:24 p.m.

Wouldn't the sale of the lot also serve the community? It could generate some tax income reversing the current situation where no tax money comes in and several thousand of dollars are spent mainiaining empty space.


Sat, Jan 5, 2013 : 2:19 p.m.

It could be the dog park and community garden annex to the County Farm Park. It's a natural fit. Speaking of which, how do others feel about the "remodel" job on the Washtenaw side of the Farm Park? I recently did a winter walk through the woods and along the north side of the park and was very disappointed with how much the quiet and seclusion of the park has been detrimentally affected. You can easily watch the traffic on Washtenaw through the woods and the road noise is much louder than it used to be. Was it worth it to remodel a creek and get rid of "non-native species"?

Craig Lounsbury

Sat, Jan 5, 2013 : 12:01 p.m.

" juvenile center includes cells to house inmates and would be extremely difficult to re-purpose." turn the cells in to office space for politicians.

Lets Get Real

Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 1:53 p.m.

Take off the bars of the cells and house the homeless?

Craig Lounsbury

Sat, Jan 5, 2013 : 11:59 a.m.

"green space.... affordable garden .... the neighborhood." the neighborhood includes a church (my church) that used to be a roller rink, an auto body shop, an auto repair shop and several nondescript low slung office buildings that house a dentist, the local United Way and a few other under the radar businesses.


Sat, Jan 5, 2013 : 11:56 a.m.

Use the grounds to expand community gardens. You'd save money on the mowing. Food Gathers could use it it or just your local urban farmers.

Craig Lounsbury

Sat, Jan 5, 2013 : 12:14 p.m.

I'm on board with that idea.