Judge orders former Kmart in Ypsilanti Township's Gault Village demolished
Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com
A judge has ordered part of the Gault Village Shopping Plaza demolished within 60 days.
The plaza’s owners must tear down an abandoned K-Mart in the plaza located near Interstate-94 and Grove Road or the township is authorized to complete the job per a court order.
Washtenaw County Circuit Court Judge Donald Shelton ordered both parties to establish a timeline for the former Kmart's demolition in March.
The building has a collapsing roof, cracked outer wall and mold infestation, among other issues. Shelton wrote that the township may request the court’s assistance if the parties are unable to reach an agreement.
The store has been abandoned for over 20 years.
According to Township Attorney Dennis McLain, the plaza’s owners, Sylvan Lake-based Union Lake Associates, have claimed they don’t have the money to complete the project, which is complicated because the K-Mart is attached to the remainder of the building.
But McLain said Union Lake is earning $50,000 a month off rent from the plaza’s remaining tenants, and he doesn’t believe they can’t afford to perform the project.
“Union Lake continues to cry poverty while they’re making $50,000 a month off rent from the remaining tenants,” McLain said. “They do have mortgages and other expenditures, but they’ll have to figure out some way to work the demolition into the equation.”
Representatives from Union Lake couldn’t be reached by AnnArbor.com.
In the event Union Lake fails to follow the orders, the township can demolish the property and place a lien on it. The township could then go to court to seek financial relief from rent money Union Lake receives from the remaining tenants, McLain said.
A second case involving the remainder of Gault Village is headed toward trial.
In March, Township building inspectors visited the plaza on several occasions during rainy weather and found it to be “raining harder inside ... than outside.”
Value Foods employees tried cordoning off an area where water was leaking onto the floor and shelves, but water continued to flood outside that area, officials said. Building officials also found water leaking into light fixtures that weren’t in use
Shelton ordered the store closed until major repairs were made. Among his concerns in that order were the possibility of the ceiling collapsing, food spoilage, electrical fire hazards and other public health issues.
The store remains closed, and there is an ongoing investigation with the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Department into the possible theft of the store's remaining stock following the closure.
Township Building Inspector Ron Fulton said mold has been uncovered in around five of the plaza’s units, though most are unoccupied.
The building has suffered from years of neglect, has bad roofs and multiple code and maintenance violations that aren’t being addressed, officials said.
“What we’re dealing with at Gault Village is much the same as what we had at Liberty Square - we’re looking at a cessation of maintenance.” Fulton said.
“The owners of the mall are simply bleeding it dry and getting as much money as they can from the current rent without putting any significant money into maintenance,” he said.
“The township has to go to court to force them to do that, which is not something the township should have to do, but there is no other choice. We have to maintain property values and protect residents in and near Gault Village.”