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Posted on Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 4:15 p.m.

Last house down: Images from final day of City Place demolition in Ann Arbor

By Ryan J. Stanton

The last of seven houses on South Fifth Avenue in Ann Arbor was demolished on Friday afternoon to make way for City Place student apartments.

Several passersby stopped to watch as the house was reduced to rubble, all in agreement that it was a sad day.

"It's heartbreaking," said Betsy de Parry, wife of Ann Arbor developer Alex de Parry, who fought last year for approval of an alternate development called Heritage Row that would have restored the century-old homes and added new apartments behind them.

"This is what failure to compromise looks like," she said as she filmed the demolition on Friday with a tripod-mounted digital camera. "And it breaks everybody's heart, including mine."

Betsy de Parry, who fought back tears to talk, said she and her husband once lived together in the house at 415 S. Fifth Ave.

"It was our first home in Ann Arbor together — a lot of good memories there," she said, adding her husband has an even bigger emotional attachment to the houses.

"Alex moved into 427 S. Fifth in 1972 and lived there for five years. He's lived in a couple of other houses," she said. "Both of his kids lived in these houses while they were in college. His office has also been on the block since the '80s, so he's continuously been on this block for 39 years. He saw the first day of demolition. I'm just glad he's not here to see the rest of it."

After a long and frustrating battle with the city, Alex de Parry recently sold the properties to developer Jeff Helminski who is pushing ahead with City Place. The by-right project includes a series of six-bedroom apartments in two buildings separated by a 36-space parking lot.

The city of Ann Arbor issued the demolition permits on Tuesday. Residents of the Germantown neighborhood also are mourning the loss of the houses, which they believed added to the charm and character of their near-downtown neighborhood.

Some argued the houses should have been protected under a historic district, but the Ann Arbor City Council rejected a proposal to give the neighborhood that designation.

The six who opposed the historic district proposal last year were Stephen Rapundalo, Christopher Taylor, Tony Derezinski, Margie Teall, Marcia Higgins and Sandi Smith.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's e-mail newsletters.


pooh bear

Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 10:38 p.m.

oh my the crocodile tears shed by Betsy De Parry...The DeParrys are completely responsible for City place including the design and getting it passed. Your reporter should know this since he's been covering this story for years. This is a travesty of the worst order. The DeParrys have done their dastardly deed and they need to be held accountable. Let's call it DeParry's Dream.

P Beal

Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 3:44 p.m.

Not the first time I've seen a house or building demolished for whose restoration I made custom work. The lesson for me is a sorry reminder to just do it for the money and keep as much heart out of it as possible...


Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 2:55 p.m.

As I look at the time line between the council vote and the demolition? They did not waste any time in getting rid of these homes. Down and gone. By spring the ugly stuff will be built and the old homes forgotten. I really hope you all remember that you voted for city council and they voted to remove these old homes for something other then keeping Ann Arbor what it is, quaint.


Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 1:36 p.m.

What - no lederhosen-clad protestors?


Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 12:53 p.m.

One must remember this is the same ship of fools who decided to build an underground homeless shelter by the old library...It's sad to see these come down when a good alternative was available, but then the morons who put these people in office are getting what they deserve.. too bad the rest of us are forced to be on the fantail waiting for the band to play...

Wolf's Bane

Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 12:43 p.m.

In the name of progress! This is the fundamental American way: Out with the old, in with the new and let's make a profit while we're at it! I commend the DeParry's for accumulating these properties and condemn the City of Ann Arbor and City Council for letting him. PS. The iron radiators pictured in the photographs should go to recycling, not a landfill!!!


Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 12:12 p.m.

is this really Progress?


Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 3:40 a.m.

I hope they enjoy their new neighbors of rowdy, drunk partying students that will move in. What a disgrace. The fact that no one was able to salvage ANYTHING from these old homes just sickens me. Hell, I'd have just taken whatever I'd wanted since it was just going to be destroyed. Ann Arbor paves paradise and puts up apartment blocks.


Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 2:59 p.m.

Not a lot of it was stripped. You can't get much out of it unless there is something inside the walls of value. I agree with grimmk. More for the police less Ann Arbor to deal with when it comes to rowdy parties and drunkenness out in the streets. Ann Arbor? You get what you pay for. Enjoy the new students coming in because I moved out years ago.


Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 1:35 p.m.

Previous articles said that the demolition company first stripped the homes of any valuable architectural items.

Barbara E. O'Donnell

Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 2:02 a.m.

Saw the last house down today with a daughter from out of town -- Her comment was >seems city government does'nt care -- or could have corrected this -- What does she know -- she only an attorney from outside of Ann Arbor -- grew up here though --

West Side Mom

Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 1:43 a.m.

So sad to see the loss of this neighborhood. I lived in one of these houses in 1987 as an undergraduate and had friends living in apartments in other houses on the block. It was a great neighborhood. Close to campus, close to downtown. Living in and among those houses made you feel part of a neighborhood, even if you were just a transient student. Some of those houses had great interior features. The house I lived in was modest, but the one next door had beautiful windows, high ceilings and cool tile work. I wonder if any of it was salvaged. Pictures suggest not. I think we are going to regret impact of all this new student housing in another five years. It signals a cycle of abandonment that does not bode well for the older neighborhoods that have been historically home to students.

Ann English

Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 1:05 a.m.

That slide show got me to thinking again about what could have been removed from those homes before demolition. Someone had mentioned a beautiful marble countertop in one house, now a pretty railing to the front door of a house was shown in one photo. I do recognize the church in the background of one slide, but why was one picture taken with a construction crane showing in its background? Demolition within sight of construction.

Ann English

Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 12:57 a.m.

I'm glad these demolition videos are short. What was the purpose for the hose? The possibility of the freshly exposed wood catching fire? Apparently Marcia Higgins' vote against preserving those homes didn't hurt her chances for re-election this week.


Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 2:33 a.m.

The hose is to reduce air borne contaminants carried by dust released from the demolition. It's a near certainty that there is lead-based paint, for example, in every one of those buildings.


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 11:28 p.m.

Instead of being reduced to rubble, these homes could be undergoing renovation right now if not for a vocal minority of citizens and a minority of 4 council members (Briere, Anglin, Hohnke and Kunselman) who blocked the Heritage Row proposal, which would have saved these houses. Mr. Deperry worked hard to get that project approved. It was recommended by the planning commission and voted for by the majority of council members, but the minority of 4 council members stood in the way. This is the consequence, and it's erased some of Ann Arbor's history and left a permanent scar on South Fifth Ave. Shame on them. Ryan, a more complete title of your article might be: "Last house down: images of final day of demolition courtesy of council members Anglin, Briere, Hohnke and Kunselman."

Wolf's Bane

Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 12:44 p.m.

Hey, thanks for the chicken ordinance, Kunselman!

John Q

Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 3:49 a.m.

Wrong. de Parry sold the city a plan that wasn't financially viable.

Marilyn Wilkie

Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 10:28 p.m.

Why keep showing the corpses? It's hard to look at.

say it plain

Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 10:16 p.m.

Somehow I'm not feeling the great sorrow of the de Parry's here... 'tragic' is a bit maudlin-feeling somehow, for a sentiment of somehow who sold to this Helminski guy lol...

Old Salt

Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 10:15 p.m.

The distruction of these old beautiful homes is disgusting And what they plan to put up is also disgusting..


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 9:43 p.m.

What a waste. It's a crying shame.