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Posted on Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

Ypsilanti City Council asked to address moldy, leaking ex-Smith Furniture Building downtown

By Tom Perkins


City officials want the roof on the old Smith Furniture Building repaired.

Tom Perkins | For

Following a recent rainstorm, hours after the clouds cleared, it continued to rain inside downtown Ypsilanti’s Smith Furniture Building.

That’s because the roof on the building has been riddled with holes that have continued to grow over the last three years.

The leaks have fostered significant structural damage and the growth of several types of mold, according to city building officials. Now, they are asking the City Council to order the 15,000-square-foot building at 15 S. Washington repaired. If it isn't, officials fear the whole building could collapse.

“We have got to get to this done before we have interior collapse,” said Ypsilanti Fire Chief Jon Ichesco. “If we have a bad winter, we could be in trouble.”

The city is beginning to target blighted buildings through several measures, including a process to address structures that fit the definition of a dangerous building per city ordinance and state law.

Once a building is identified as dangerous, Ichesco sets a hearing with a city-appointed dangerous building officer. The officer tries to work out a solution to address the situation either by having the owner bring the building up to code or arranging demolition.

If the building’s owner fails to appear at the hearing, the issue goes to the City Council, which can approve a building's demolition. If there is resistance to that order from the property owner, the city can bring the issue before a Washtenaw County Trial Court judge.

The building housed the Smith Furniture Company when it opened in 1965 but has been vacant since around 1995, Ichesco said.

Its owner is James Pate, who used to play a large role in the Ypsilanti business community. In 2008, Ann Arbor Spark considered using the building for a high-tech business incubator, but those plans fell through.

Ichesco said thick mold blanketed one of the front rooms around two years ago, and green and black mold began growing throughout the building.

“The stuff near the front window was green and it was about the right height to mow,” Ichesco said. “It looked like a great putting green.”

Dunn Construction was hired to abate the mold and start repairing the interior, but no work was completed after the mold was sprayed, Ichesco said.

Pate has not responded to city notices or citations since.

“He doesn’t show up to hearings, he doesn’t respond. We don’t know what he plans to do,” Ichesco said.

The City Council will consider the case at its regular meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012



Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 6:48 p.m.

the Fungus is Among us!


Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 4:11 p.m.

It's good to see Ypsi (city and township) taking blight seriously. This is what saves cities.


Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 8:53 p.m.

They need to find a way to legally knock it down and then send the charges to the owner. I would imagine they would have a good case that it is a health risk if the mold is actually growing like grass in there. The downtown are could use some extra parking and I highly doubt the owner is paying his taxes anyway, so no real lost revenue, so just tear it down.


Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 11:52 a.m.

Just wondering if it will take 17 years to get this building torn down? Just saying.


Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 6:49 p.m.

arieswoman, I wouldn't be surprised. just take a look at the Georgetown blight(sigh)......


Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 11:41 a.m.

""The stuff near the front window was green and it was about the right height to mow," Ichesco said. "It looked like a great putting green."" Seriously? That would make for some good pictures...why didn't the news try to get some shots?

Tom Perkins

Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 9:06 p.m.

The mold has been sprayed and killed. I tried to get some shots of the indoor rain, but the lighting conditions and having to shoot through a wet window made it impossible.