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Posted on Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 2:37 p.m.

Want to buy a piece of City Place houses? Materials Unlimited selling salvaged items

By Ryan J. Stanton


A worker from Ypsilanti-based Materials Unlimited uses a hammer and crowbar to salvage an ornamental window from the house at 407 S. Fifth Ave. today. The company plans to resell the materials it salvages from the seven century-old houses that are soon to be demolished to make way for student apartments.

Ryan J. Stanton |

It's been debated over the past few years whether the seven century-old houses that stand in the way of the City Place student apartments project are worth salvaging.

Apparently at least pieces of them are.

Crews from Ypsilanti-based Materials Unlimited are on site today in Ann Arbor, beginning the process of gutting the seven houses piece by piece.


Items salvaged from the City Place houses today await transport to a Materials Unlimited's store in Ypsilanti.

Ryan J. Stanton |

They've spent the last several hours slowly chiseling away at the houses with crowbars and hammers, carefully salvaging doors, cabinets, windows, and other items of value that the company plans to resell as reclaimed material.

A worker who spoke with said the pieces of the South Fifth Avenue houses might work well for someone looking to do historic renovations to another house.

Or they might make a good keepsake for anyone who wants to hold onto a piece of the houses, which have been at the center of a heated debate over the preservation of the Germantown neighborhood for the last few years.

Materials Unlimited maintains a 15,000-square-foot store at 2 W. Michigan Ave. in downtown Ypsilanti. It prides itself on selling "fine antiques and architectural elements."

The reclamation work is being done in advance of approval of demolition permits that developer Jeff Helminski hopes to receive from the city this week.

As of earlier today, crews on location at the City Place site also had ripped the siding off the house at 407 S. Fifth Ave. and had begun taking apart the porch.

Wendy Rampson, the city's planning manager, said the demolition permits for the houses at 407, 411, 415, 419, 427, 433 and 437 S. Fifth Ave. are under review for compliance with the city's demolition requirements.

She said the work currently under way at the City Place site includes abatement activities at 407 S. Fifth Ave. — specifically removal of "transite" siding — and salvage activities.

Investigation of salvage options is required as part of the demolition permit process. Rampson said salvage does not affect the structural integrity of the building and therefore does not require a permit in advance of a demolition permit.

Once all seven houses are demolished, the developer plans to construct a series of six-bedroom student apartments in two buildings separated by a 36-space parking lot.

Crews from Michigan Pipe & Valve are on location today continuing the installation of new underground water and sewer pipes along Fifth Avenue, just south of William Street.

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.


wolfman jack

Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 1:45 p.m.

The properties were clearly for sale at one time. Why no owner-occupied residential use ? That nicely preserves the site. Oh - the land could be used to actually make money. That ought to cause the communists real concern. Soon everything will be valued for its economic uses. Wait - everything is ! Oh ...the horror ! The horror ! Like it ? Want to preserve it ? Buy it.

Marilyn Wilkie

Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 1:35 p.m.

So is this what we will be left with? Is this the desired result? <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

Craig Lounsbury

Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 2:01 p.m.

no and no are the answers. alternatives are endless. On the other hand the box houses you linked might be preferable to no house at all as many in the third world suffer from.

Dr. I. Emsayin

Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 12:23 p.m.

You can all thank Calthorpe and the DDA's wiley ways.


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 4:04 a.m.

So once these houses were loved and adored. Children were bore here and parents died here. A man built a house for the woman he loved and wanted a place to call his own. Women would talk to each other and share recipes. Children would be tucked into bed here. Now? These houses are no more then trash to the board members. All they care about is money and being revered as those who tore down the last remaining fore fathers who founded Ann Arbor. They are being slowly torn down to make way for a place that the students will care less what or who walked in these grounds. All they will care about is getting to class on time and a place to live. I really hope ghosts start haunting these hallowed homes. Might as well tear down the Kemp House. Its not needed. But its space is. But I will note this, at least one house will always be on displayed in Greenfield Village. Similar to the Kemp House.

Craig Lounsbury

Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 12:53 a.m.

Maybe we should demolish the whole city and harken back to the good old days before the white man showed up in the new world. Why is 1920 any more magical than 1320?


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 2:03 p.m.

Nicely put Craig!

Craig Lounsbury

Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 11:46 a.m.

I know a fair amount about my family history, thanks entirely to one of my daughters taking an interest But I don't confuse it with a house. Your argument is unworkable. There is some &quot;family history&quot; in every structure ever built. It doesn't mean we can or should force the current owner to maintain my memories.

Marilyn Wilkie

Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 2:31 a.m.

Craig, what can you tell me about your ancestors that came to America? Did they struggle to be able to come here? What were they leaving? Did they say goodbye to family members knowing that they probably would never see them again? Did they ride a wagon for days looking for that perfect piece of land? Did they lose children in the flu epidemic of 1917? Did they die in wars fighting for their country? Did they expect that you would know or care? You too have a history, as we all do.


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 1:48 a.m.

Back when there was little competiton for squirrel trying to get a nut, the good old days.


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 12:41 a.m.

The character of a neighborhood is of the residents that inhabit it, not the superficial facade of a building. The character changed a long time ago when it became very profitable to turn these single family homes into rentals with parking lots for back yards. Now the times have changed and so have the wants and needs of the renters. Let's hope the glut of &quot;luxury&quot; student housing will allow for the remaining houses in neighborhoods to lose their profitability as rentals and revert back to single family homes with swingsets in the backyards instead of parking lots.

Mary Paul Friend

Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 12:04 a.m.

Alfred J Paul was my grandfather, also the brother of Amelia Reule who lived next door. His Great Grandfather, Henry Paul, settled in Ann Arbor in the early 1830's. Alfred was the Street Commissioner for the City of Ann Arbor for many years, also the co-owner of the Orient Saloon on Main Street. Not only for personal reasons but historical, this breaks my heart. A sad day when our history and heritage is allowed to be destroyed.


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 12:03 a.m. everyone: I am relatively new to Ann Arbor, so can someone help me understand? I thought the Green Belt was established to help preserve A2 from development? Why would this property in question not be saved by the Green Belt? Why save the outer perimeter of the city, only to let the core be destroyed? It makes no sense...


Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 6:15 a.m.

Because, as you note, the Green Belt is not for the interior of the City. In these times, it should really be up for repeal, but our Council will not do that.


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 4:08 a.m.

Glut and greed and the almighty dollar still wins out every time. Need to elect these officials out of office to let em know how we feel about what they have down to history.


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 12:36 a.m.

Very good point. The problem is that too many real estate people have been elected to council ....


Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 11:06 p.m.

This makes me sad and sick. What a horrible way to ruin a neighborhood and put in a greedy housing project. How about a Walmart next door?


Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 9:54 p.m.

This is not the first time that developers have built ugly stuff in AA. Look at U Towers. When I came to school here in the 60's it stood out like a sore thumb. Same with the big building on Maynard, the building that has Buffalo Wild Wings in it on State and on and on. I remember the whine about taking down the house on Maynard for a McDonalds. They built the ugly little cathedral which is gone. I have to say it was better looking than the Olga's at State and Washington,with its orange roof, (soon to be painted black because some vandals threw black paint balloons from the parking structure) onto its roof. Nothing has really changed.

Vivienne Armentrout

Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 9:17 p.m.

This is very painful but I am glad that Materials Unlimited is salvaging artifacts. I hope that this sad chapter in Ann Arbor political history will be the beginning of a serious effort to save our near-downtown neighborhoods. The Council Party has been unsympathetic to preserving the character of these areas, in spite of existing master plans that call for their integrity. We should begin by insisting that the R4C/R2A committee results do not make these areas even friendlier to student housing construction.


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 4:09 a.m.

Might as well start in on the Kempf House since its property value nearly doubles what City Place will cost. Just a thought.


Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 8:57 p.m.

treetowncartel--I have no idea if it will have one of those, but I think it is a fair bet to say that it will not have a bronze plaque celebrating the developer, Mr. Helminski and his pals, or the architect, Brad Moore, nor that of the Mayor!


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 1:17 a.m.

PersonX- Instead of a bronze plaque, They should move that thing from the City Hall to the City Place!!!


Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 9:04 p.m.

However, if it were a city funded project it could have an artistic rendering of a bronze plaque.

Ryan J. Stanton

Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 8:55 p.m.

Please note I added a paragraph from Wendy Rampson saying salvage does not affect the structural integrity of the building and therefore does not require a permit in advance of a demolition permit.


Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 8:53 p.m.

One question though, is the new place going to have a dedicated beer pong court?

Neil Dorsey

Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 8:42 p.m.

Let's look at it differently. The new student apartments will move the student population out of the neighborhoods. These old homes will surely be picked up as single family homes and be restored. Preserving homes in the campus area. Will also bring business downtown.


Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 8:42 p.m.

This Developer ranks right up there with the City Council that approved architecture for the New City Hall Building.


Wed, Nov 9, 2011 : 6:12 a.m.

The new City buiding is ugly because taxpayers did not want to spend any money on it. They screamed to high heavens about it being built at all, despite high levels of radon an asbestos in the old City Hall - that was good enough for City workers . The City was left with no choice but to build a low cost, butt-ugly building. It was the best they could do.

Wolf's Bane

Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 12:12 a.m.

Every time U of M builds something (with the exception of the renovated stadium) it is beautiful and fits right into the atmosphere of A2. Anytime a developer builds a city counsel approved building it is beyond ugly and doesn't fit at all into the community. Now, we have another piece going up and all I can say is... I'm voting against all incumbent.

Wolf's Bane

Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 8:19 p.m.

I asked what Ypsilanti-based Materials Unlimited paid to have the rights to gut these beautiful old houses and you censored me? Woah!

Rob MI

Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 8:17 p.m.

The only things worth saving in these buildings, long since changed from their original construction, are being saved. I will focus my celebration on that aspect of this entire process--the only thing to be celebrated given its handling from the onset.

Go Blue

Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 8:14 p.m.

Well city council, I applaude you and your infinite wisdom. You have completely and utterly failed our community. You have allowed a blight to be erected in place of our history and it will be remembered forever that your lack of ability to get the job done, has given us this hideous monstrosity. Thanks for nothing.


Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 8:11 p.m.

This project aside, i live in a 90 year old house and Materials Unlimited is a great place to shop for repairs and remodels, as well as just some plain old decorative stuff for a contemporary place.

Marilyn Wilkie

Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 7:56 p.m.

I wonder what Material Unlimited's bid was on this? This is the message I sent to some of the people who allowed this to happen. Subject: Just so you know..... My great grandfather Henry Fischer owned a sawmill at the southwest corner of Packard and Hill Street in Ann Arbor in the 1800's. You are responsible for destroying our history. To us they are cherished reminders of those who came before. To you they are building lots. Just to remember who cherished these homes when they were fairly new. Polk's Ann Arbor City Directory, 1915 407 S. Fifth Ave. - Alfred W. Paul 411 - Andrew Reule 415 - Samuel W. Beakes, Robert L. Stancill (1916) 419 - no one noted 427 - Mrs. Josephine A. Hamilton 433 - Herbert M. Slauson 437- Mrs. Anna S. Taylor, Mrs. Keziah Campbell, nurse (1916) Article on Samuel W. Beakes - <a href="" rel='nofollow'>;oldid=43941</a> --------------------- Andrew Reule - Owner, Ann Arbor Buggy Co. And.... <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> ---------------------- Alfred Paul - Owner, Ann Arbor Bowling Alleys ---------------------- Herbert M. Slauson - <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> .


Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 11:39 p.m.

&quot;I couldn't afford Ann Arbor's prices. Just like many people who grew up there.&quot; But you expect the tax payers of Ann Arbor to preserve YOUR family heritage!

Marilyn Wilkie

Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 9:18 p.m.

Craig, I couldn't afford Ann Arbor's prices. Just like many people who grew up there.

Wolf's Bane

Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 8:20 p.m.

I inquired and the answer was 'no'. This is another sad day for preservation and Ann Arbor's history. Scavengers!


Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 8:15 p.m.

I would have bought one if they had been offered individually. But they were not. They were grouped as one lot in order to maximize return. Any way you paint it, it's not about you or me or the fabric and character of our city. . It's all about greed.

Craig Lounsbury

Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 7:59 p.m.

you should have bought the houses and preserved them.

Craig Lounsbury

Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 7:55 p.m.

I have a few things for sale too. Can you send a reporter out to my house?


Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 7:54 p.m.

The barbarians have won ... remember them when you walk or drive by and see the cheap architectural garbage they are about to give us. Apparently some people have no professional pride, but are proud of their greed, as the developer wrote that he is &quot;proud&quot; to present City Place. Congratulations!


Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 7:53 p.m.

Anyone want to take up a fund to buy some of those leaded glass windows and present them as gifts to the council members who voted against Heritage Row?


Tue, Nov 8, 2011 : 7:40 p.m.

That's too classy. How about a commode on a pedestal in the council chambers?

Craig Lounsbury

Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 7:52 p.m.

&quot;Want to buy a piece of City Place houses?&quot; No but thanks for asking.

Craig Lounsbury

Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 7:54 p.m.

Is this like one of those late night/Saturday afternoon infomercials? Looks like a story but is really an advertisement.