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Posted on Fri, Oct 28, 2011 : 2:22 p.m.

Trees cut down on City Place property: Demolition next?

By Ryan J. Stanton


Several trees have been cleared behind the houses on the 400 block of South Fifth Avenue. The developer plans to move quickly on demolishing the homes and constructing two box-like student apartment buildings containing 24 units with 144 beds and a 36-space surface parking lot.

Ryan J. Stanton |

The developer of City Place apartments moved one step closer to demolishing seven homes on South Fifth Avenue on Thursday, cutting down several trees on the property.


At least 10 trees were reduced to stumps on Thursday as the contractor for City Place began site preparation.

Ryan J. Stanton | visited the site and found at least 10 trees — some of them more than two feet in diameter — reduced to stumps. At least one other tree in front of one of the homes had an orange X marking its trunk, indicating more could be chopped down.

An industrial-sized dumpster warning of dangerous asbestos also sits on the site now. Asbestos removal is expected to be done along with the demolition.

Jeff Helminski, an out-of-town developer who is heading up the project, could not be reached for comment.

Ann Arbor developer Alex de Parry, who formerly owned the rental properties and recently had the tenants move out, said clearing the trees is the first step in moving forward with City Place.

He said the trees being removed were, for the most part, invasive or "volunteer" trees. He said he left them alone in the past because they gave the houses a nice canopy.

Wendy Rampson, the city's planning manager, confirmed today City Place Ann Arbor LLC is moving forward with construction.

She said the contractor is prepping the site for demolition and the parcels have been combined. The contractor also is doing the utility shut-offs for the seven houses, but no demolition permit applications have been submitted yet.

The next steps, Rampson said, are completion of an administrative amendment to the site plan, which is still under review for minor changes to the site, recording of the development agreement, and construction of a segment of water main and new hydrant.

Construction permits have been submitted and will be reviewed by the city's staff concurrently with those activities, Rampson said.


The stumps left over after a grouping of three trees were chopped down on Thursday.

Ryan J. Stanton |

The approved plans include constructing two box-like student apartment buildings containing 24 units with 144 beds and a 36-space surface parking lot.

A majority of Ann Arbor City Council members this week rejected a proposal to reexamine the historic significance of the Germantown neighborhood where the houses stand.

Washtenaw County Clerk Larry Kestenbaum has joined the ranks of those citizens lobbying the City Council to save seven century-old homes from the wrecking ball.

Kestenbaum sent the mayor and council an open letter on Thursday, making a case for preserving the homes on the 400 block of South Fifth Avenue.

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.


Wolf's Bane

Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 7:38 p.m.

I think what we're witnessing on this blog is fundamental culture clash between folks who respect and cherish Ann Arbor's rich history and beautiful turn-of-the-LAST-century architecture and those that wish to capitalize on the growing student population and make a killing in the real estate market which is, perhaps, the only real estate market in the southeastern Michigan to still have life in it. Do I think it is wise to wish DeParry and Jeff what's-is-name ill will for buying these properties? No, they are simply investing and now plan to realize their vision and hard work by building two large cubes. Do I blame city council? Well, it appears that they never bothered to really stipulate what the real zoning ordinances were, nor did they care enough to develop a charter or bylaws giving them more power to block such proposals as City Place or whatever. The real shame is that the city is over a barrel on this one – we need the money from this project and all the others that will follow. What will the ultimate cost be? Well, Ann Arbor will transform and all that we held dear and familiar will fade away, my fellow townies. Change is not always a bad thing, but in this case, I am surprised by how weak City Counsel came out on this one and how horribly wrong it all went. In closing, as a further money saving gesture I vote to disband the Historic District Commission immediately. You can't have it both ways City Counsel. Enough.


Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 4:54 a.m.

It really doesn't matter how anybody "feels" our government doesn't function on "feelings" it functions on "law" if you don't abide by the law then you are "lawless" and anarchy will be the "rule". Jennifer Smith would probably be "really" sad if "feelings" start becoming the rule of the land.


Sat, Oct 29, 2011 : 4:18 p.m.

If I wrote about a liberal on like wrote about the developer, they would have deleted my comment.


Sat, Oct 29, 2011 : 3:27 p.m.

This is so stupid. Why are they demoing houses? Couldn't they find a nice empty lot somewhere? What about a derelict house? Or why stop at houses? Why not just demo a street? Or a park? There has to be a better place out there for two new flats. It's not the historical part that is making me upset. It's the fact that these are people's homes. And the fact that these new pricey apartments won't be filled within a year. It's a loose-loose situation all around.

Craig Lounsbury

Sat, Oct 29, 2011 : 11:36 a.m.

No matter how one feels about the project I agree with others that the article has enough slant to more appropriately be deemed an Op-ed piece than actual unbiased reporting.

Laura J

Sat, Oct 29, 2011 : 8:41 a.m.

I went into one of these houses not too long ago when it was for sale. It was beautiful inside. Original, non-painted woodwork was amazing. Anyone who says these houses were cruddy or ugly probably never even set foot insde. Can the developer allow people inside to take some of the period pieces? i.e. doors, fixtures, metal grates, flooring. It seeems as though this would cut their demolition costs and be good for other houses around the neighborhood.

Raggety Andy

Sat, Oct 29, 2011 : 4:06 a.m.

A city's historic buildings are part of what create its community character. Once they are gone they cannot be replaced. Just more evidence of our disposable culture.


Sat, Oct 29, 2011 : 2:23 a.m.

City Place is architectural garbage, pure and simple. In all likelihood it will happen, because the new developer has no ambitions aside from money, but that is how things are. Remember his name when he tries to build anything else in this town and oppose it, making sure that this is his first and last destruction in our town, and also commemorate this disgusting affair by voting against Ms Higgins and Mr Rapundolo next month. The Mayor's Bunch has to go!

Leah Gunn

Sat, Oct 29, 2011 : 2:34 a.m.

Both Higgins and Rapundalo voted in favor of Heritage Row. Those who voted against it were Briere, Anglin, Hohnke and Kunselman. Get your facts straight.


Sat, Oct 29, 2011 : 2:11 a.m.

Wonder what the Sierra club that put this city council in office 10 years ago has to say? this used to be tree city, you know quite college town, quant now its asphalt concrete and tennet housing. when these devolpers realize they are no students to rent these you can be they will turn into section 8 housing right down town. within 5 years we will begin to see razor wire around parking lots. when will this city council bring a legitimate business into this town besides another 'student housine' project. Ann Arbor is on its way to becoming little Detroit- complete with incompetent corrupt city council members


Sat, Oct 29, 2011 : 1:15 a.m.

Oh, boo hoo hoo! Whine, whine, whine. Get over it! Someday they'll be tearing down City Place and the whining will just start again then. Some people just can't admit they're getting older and the world is changing!

Wolf's Bane

Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 7:42 p.m.

Loveaduck: The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing. - Socrates


Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 2:34 a.m.

Think Detroit. No trees and just a lot parking lots and empty vacant housing. Think the pan handlers will go for it?


Sat, Oct 29, 2011 : 2:14 a.m.

no i bet it will go in foreclosue first from no tennets and then section 8 HUD housing. you think downtown has some vacancies now just wait....


Sat, Oct 29, 2011 : 12:51 a.m.

Re: M, at least these houses have a 100+ year head start on "signifiance"

Ron Granger

Sat, Oct 29, 2011 : 12:33 a.m.

Our city council has completely bungled and failed on this. Maybe they were too busy developing that parking structure north of town - you know, where they gave away our parkland to the University (who pays no taxes) for nothing? Oh sorry - HIGH SPEED RAIL STATION - what was I thinking...

Stan Hyne

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 1:32 p.m.

They were busy with a vote on Arizona immigration and idling vehicles.


Sat, Oct 29, 2011 : 12:09 a.m.

The gateway to ugly apartments and more students that do not need apartments and to the landlord? Who will have empty space? Sad, very sad. Glad I left Ann Arbor. This will leave a gaping hole in as a hole in the over all dynamics of how Ann Arbor use to look. Can we say Detroit anyone? This is what Ann Arbor will eventually look like because city council cannot agree on anything. Enjoy the eye sore. I sure won't.


Fri, Oct 28, 2011 : 11:51 p.m.

"student apartment buildings containing 24 units with 144 beds and a 36-space surface parking lot." This will certainly be high density! Is there really student demand for 6 beds per unit and .25 parking spaces per person? Even at my poorest as a student I wouldn't have wanted this, and it's hard to imagine the students of today going for it. I hope the developer has done his duly diligent feasibility study!

Stan Hyne

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 1:27 p.m.

There will be some place for the homeless people who get kicked out of the shelter for being drunk. They don't have cars and just need to walk down town to panhandle.


Fri, Oct 28, 2011 : 11:46 p.m.

Take all the trees and put them in a tree museum.......


Sat, Oct 29, 2011 : 12:10 a.m.

they paved paradise and put up a parking lot..........dunt dunt............


Fri, Oct 28, 2011 : 10:26 p.m.

I doubt there are many of the whiners here that have invested much in this town!

Tom Joad

Fri, Oct 28, 2011 : 10:20 p.m.

Didn't put much imagination into the name...City Place


Fri, Oct 28, 2011 : 10:19 p.m.

Those houses are such an eyesore.

Wolf's Bane

Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 7:39 p.m.

These houses...?


Fri, Oct 28, 2011 : 9:42 p.m.

Ha Ha Ha. Just another bungled job by our local government. Instead of working with the investor, property owner and tax payer they choose to make it difficult to get anything done in a productive manor. These may be old homes with historic architechture but now there just old homes that have been turned into multi-unit housing(I'm not a historian but those decks and stairways are not period correct). Maybe if the city would have worked with the developer(and vise versa), something beautiful and functional could have been built on the sight and yes increased the tax base. Police, fire and schools are not free, if you dont increase your revenue you can't increase your spending.


Sat, Oct 29, 2011 : 7:04 p.m.

John Q your a tree hugging putz. Let me tell you how it works, if you want to control something...own it. The problem with some Ann Arborites is that they think they have an opinion on everything. You have a bad opinion of this project, what about fuller road, stadium bridge, or pedestrian crossings. We would all be sick (R or D) if we knew how much corruption went on. You could have saved the houses,paved the streets, fixed the sidewalks and went to washtenaw dairy for ice cream. But NO, we have an underground garage across the street that cost a sick amount because we didnt want it poking out of the ground.

John Q

Sat, Oct 29, 2011 : 5:05 p.m.

No, you have been ignoring reality. That was a fantasy world plan. If it had been approved, it never would have been built. When time could have been spent on figuring out how to save the houses, the developers were wasting everyone's time with pie-in-the-sky plans.


Sat, Oct 29, 2011 : 12:46 p.m.

John Q, that is totally incorrect. The developers came to Council multiple times with an alternate plan that would have saved the buildings. Council failed to muster the super-majority required to approve that plan. This is the result.

John Q

Sat, Oct 29, 2011 : 3:06 a.m.

I guess you haven't been paying attention but the developers had no interest in saving the buildings.


Fri, Oct 28, 2011 : 9:31 p.m.

M If you can call this progress, you can have it. Those things they're building, how long do you think it will take before they become shabby?


Fri, Oct 28, 2011 : 9:29 p.m.

Sounds like a done deal. Too late for City Council to save face on this one. Possibly lesson learned?


Sat, Oct 29, 2011 : 1:27 p.m.

This Council is incapable of learning.


Fri, Oct 28, 2011 : 8:44 p.m.

What can be done at this point to stop this? This is one of the most upsetting developments in AA I've heard in a long time. No profit/loss ledger from an MBA-type like Jeff Helminski can take into account the long-term value that Ann Arbor receives from having beautiful homes with large mature trees. People simply want to return to this city because its a great place to live. You might squeeze a little more out of the balance sheet in the next 10 years by building these crap-holes, but is anybody thinking long-term? Seriously, what can I do? I will chain myself to a house to prevent this from happening. Can I get six others? If this project goes forward, there will be hell to pay.


Sat, Oct 29, 2011 : 1:18 a.m.

"If this project goes forward, there will be hell to pay." And who will do the collecting?


Fri, Oct 28, 2011 : 9:56 p.m.

You have already done what you can do. Whine!


Fri, Oct 28, 2011 : 8:43 p.m.

I can't believe that anyone in Ann Arbor would vote to re-elect the city council after this (and several other) fiascos.


Sat, Oct 29, 2011 : 1:27 p.m.

I cannot agree with you more. The members of this City Council were negligent in there duties and lacked a coherent strategy for working with the developers to arrive at a good out come for all.


Sat, Oct 29, 2011 : 12:11 a.m.

there is re election next year? Or not.


Fri, Oct 28, 2011 : 7:53 p.m.

When faced with the need to make definitive decisions regarding the future of Ann Arbor, fence stradling is a very difficult position to maintain. It appears that this whole situation was and continues to be a muddle reflective of a lack of clearly delineated commitment to the preservation of neighborhoods that have helped to make Ann Arbor such a wonderful place tolive. It is beyond understanding that the approval for the building of condensed/ high rise student housing is given helter skelter with little regard to neighborhood cohesiveness or wishes. To base a decision on whether an area can be designated "historical" or not begs the issue of quality of living for those who have chosen to live in Ann Arbor's "inner city". To put a developer through years of uncertainity is also untenable. Ann Arbor needs to get a grip on its values in terms of planning for future "growth" projects.


Fri, Oct 28, 2011 : 7:45 p.m.

M: Perhaps if the owner/developer would have taken care of the old houses they wouldn't have been "falling down". Could it have been his plan to let them go as an excuse to tear them down?

Ron Granger

Sat, Oct 29, 2011 : 12:31 a.m.

I had friends who rented an apartment in one of those houses. The woodwork was gorgeous.


Fri, Oct 28, 2011 : 7:56 p.m.

They've been there for a hundred years, I doubt it's one developer who neglected them for a few years and that's all it took. Chalking this up to greed would be hard, particularly when the houses could have been sold pre-neglect for a lot more money. This i a hundred years of changes, neglect, and some bad choices. It's time to clean the slate.


Fri, Oct 28, 2011 : 7:42 p.m.

This article has a pretty nasty slant for being in News and not Opinion. Whenever the developer is mentioned, it's in a negative light. "An industrial-sized dumpster warning of dangerous asbestos", describing the buildings as "box-like", referring to the tree removal so harshly - "some of them more than two feet in diameter — reduced to stumps". The old, ugly houses with several additions that have no historical significance are revered. I don't care if something is a century old. That does not make it automatically good. Ann Arbor needs to get off this "preserve everything always" kick and make some real progress.


Sat, Oct 29, 2011 : 12:50 p.m.

M - totally agree on the slanted writing. Maybe it's for Halloween - "A MONSTER DUMPSTER FULL OF ASBESTOS - BOO!" And when you get down to it, aren't about 99% of all buildings "box-like"?

John Q

Sat, Oct 29, 2011 : 3:05 a.m.

The demolition of the Anberay Apartments to make way for the Zaragon project proves that your claim isn't backed up by the facts.

Roy Munson

Fri, Oct 28, 2011 : 7:35 p.m.

Has a funeral been held yet for the trees? Or are all those people too "busy" over at the occupy thing?


Sat, Oct 29, 2011 : 12:11 a.m.

They were made into toilet and hurled at their fore bearers.

Linda Peck

Fri, Oct 28, 2011 : 7:34 p.m.

More cruddy looking buildings - egad - what is our world going to look like in 10 years?


Fri, Oct 28, 2011 : 8:22 p.m.

What it would look like in ten years is an old town with no new development.

Jennifer Smith

Fri, Oct 28, 2011 : 7:21 p.m.

This makes me really sad. I'm not sure that I am for demolishing older buildings and trees to make for cookie cutter student housing. I don't think that it adds to Ann Arbors appeal in the least bit. Matter of fact, I personally think that it takes away from it.


Fri, Oct 28, 2011 : 7:25 p.m.

What it adds to Ann Arbor is housing that's not so ridiculous to afford. It's not like the houses that are there are massively significant to the city. I doubt tourists will stop showing up since we razed some old, falling down houses. Ann Arbor has a massive problem with letting go of stuff so we can have some nice things and make all of our lives better.