Abandoned Liberty Square complex sits as Ypsilanti Township waits on demolition funds
Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com
Ypsilanti Township is waiting to hear from the state on whether it qualifies for grant dollars that would be used to demolish the abandoned Liberty Square townhouse complex.
In the meantime, the complex, on Grove Road just west of Rawsonville Road, continues to be a magnet for vandals and scrap metal thieves.
In December, the township applied for $635,000 out of a $97 million settlement banks agreed to pay the state of Michigan for the banks' role in the foreclosure crisis.
That money is earmarked for foreclosure prevention and blight elimination. The settlement came after a national class action lawsuit filed by Michigan, 48 other states and the federal government.
The 151-unit and 17-building Liberty Square complex has sat abandoned since late 2011. It was largely vacant during a two-year process to clear the blighted property of its remaining tenants and for the township to convince a court to order it vacated and demolished.
A Washtenaw County Circuit Court judge ordered it demolished within 60 days last August. There was an appeal to the ruling by several of the vacated complex’s former owners, but no stay was filed on the order. Around nine units were occupied at the time.
Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com
Township officials say the lack of a stay means they are under order from the court to move forward with the project. In June, the township received an environmental report that showed some asbestos contamination, and that cleanup work has been completed.
Of the settlement pot, $25 million is set aside for the state's most urgent blight elimination projects. The city of Detroit received about $10 million of those funds, while municipalities statewide could apply for part of the remaining $15 million.
The grant applications are scored on four factors, and Mike Radzik, the township's director of the office of community standards, said he believes the township and Liberty Square is positioned well to qualify for the funding.
The state is trying to distribute the money evenly among different geographic regions, and Washtenaw County opted not to apply for funds because it didn’t want to decrease the chance of Ypsilanti Township receiving funding for the project.
Several county departments, the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Department and Van Buren Community Schools also sent letters of support for the project. Rawsonville Elementary School sits directly across the street from the complex.
“I think it’s going to score highly. It’s the most deserving project in Washtenaw County, so we’re hoping to receive all or at least partial funding,” Radzik said.
The $635,000 includes the direct cost of demolition but does not include over $170,000 the township has spent on legal fees, board-up fees, an asbestos survey and asbestos abatement. Radzik said he believes omitting the administrative costs will also better position to receive the funds.
If the township doesn’t receive the money, it will either look for other grants or pull the funds from the general fund, Radzik said.
While the township waits, it continues to pay contractors to reseal the properties as scrap thieves break in. Since Christmas, around 30 units have been broken into, and it costs around $100 to have each unit resealed.
Tom Perkins is a freelance reporter for AnnArbor.com.