Demolition of abandoned Liberty Square complex to be paid for by banks behind foreclosure crisis
Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com
Ypsilanti Township will receive $653,000 in grant funding to complete the demolition process of the Liberty Square townhome complex.
The township applied for $653,000 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, and came after a national class action lawsuit was filed by Michigan, 48 other states and the federal government.
Township officials are hopeful the site will be cleared by the end of May, but the project is not a small one. Liberty Square is a 151-unit, 17-building complex that sits on 25 acres. The land is on the north side of South Grove Road and a quarter-mile west of Rawsonville Road.
The township already has paid for minor asbestos cleanup and has secured the buildings since they were abanadoned in 2011, though continue to be a regular target for scrap metal thieves and vandals. Around 30 units were broken into in January, and it costs about $100 to have each resealed.
The $653,000 includes the direct cost of demolition, but does not include the more than $170,000 the township has spent on legal fees, board-up fees, an asbestos survey and asbestos abatement.
“Demolition would be the conclusion of a very long process, and I can only imagine what it means to the business owners and residents who live in close proximity, who have to stare at it everyday,” said Mike Radzik, director of the office of community standards. “It’s the worst continuing eyesore in the township in recent memory.”
Selecting projects and distributing money was done through a partnership among the Michigan State Department of Human Services, Michigan Land Bank and Michigan State Housing Development Authority.
The awards ranged from a $10,000 sum given to the Houghton County Land Bank to as high as approximately $3.7 million that was given to the Genesee County Land Bank. All geographic regions of the state were represented.
According to a press release from the DHS, the state allocated $25 million of the $97 million settlement toward a Blight Elimination Program “to help communities demolish vacant and abandoned properties with the goal of promoting public safety, stabilizing property values and enhancing current and future development opportunities.”
Detroit was awarded $10 million of those funds, while 90 other municipalities and agencies applied for the remaining money.
Radzik said he was overjoyed to know funding is on its way, especially because the land sits near the busy South Grove and Rawsonville Road intersection, just south of Interstate 94. The location makes it attractive to potential developers.
“Returning it to active use would be huge,” Radzik said.
One last legal obstacle remains, however. The Michigan Court of Appeals will soon issue a ruling on an appeal by Liberty Square homeowners who contend they shouldn’t be forced out of their homes because their neighbors’ units are deteriorating.
No stay was placed on a Washtenaw County Circuit judge’s order to demolish the property, so the township is moving forward with the project. Around nine of the 151 units were occupied at the time of the order.