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Posted on Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 11:31 a.m.

Wild Swan Theater evicted from its Maple Road space

By Jenn McKee


Wild Swan Theatre's headquarters on Maple Road.

Angela J. Cesere |

The Wild Swan Theater—an award-winning professional company that presents kid-friendly shows—is suddenly on the move, and not by choice.

The troupe learned on Tuesday afternoon that it is being evicted from its building, at 410 S. Maple Road—a building previously shared with the now-defunct Veritas Christi, a small, private school for autistic children.

“The school had been in the building last year, but over the summer, or the beginning of fall, they did not open for the new school year,” said WST box office manager Kathy Pawlicki. “Shortly after that, we learned that the building was in foreclosure.”

Pawlicki said that the building’s court-appointed receiver, David Findling of the Royal Oak-based The Findling Law Firm, initially seemed willing to work out an arrangement with WST. “We were told that, as a paying tenant, we were an asset to the building,” said Pawlicki. “We asked if we could have a short-term lease, but we were not given that. They would not give us a lease. And then yesterday, the (architects for the building’s buyers) showed up and started measuring the space. And that’s when we found out we had to leave. This morning, we received the official eviction notice.”

“It’s unbelievable to me that they didn’t contact us when an offer was on the table,” said WST company manager Michelle Trame Lanzi, who noted that the law firm had recently asked WST to pay for snow removal. “When I called, he told me that they just did everything according to the law, and that the deal wasn’t finalized until yesterday. … And I know that business is business. But have a heart.”

Findling, meanwhile, argued that once the building went into receivership, the company should have been preparing for the building's sale.

“Typically, this stuff happens in a few days,” Findling said. “A buyer comes to me, he or she makes me an offer, I negotiate with them, and we draw up a purchase agreement. … I wouldn’t notify a tenant unless I have a deal. … (Wild Swan) was on notice since the inception of the receivership, and that was months ago.”

"At the beginning of a receivership, the first thing we do is, someone from my staff goes out to meet with them, to talk to the tenants about our role, and about what their possible choices are," said Findling. "When a receivership is appointed, typically the one purpose of the receivership is disposal of the property. It should be no surprise to Wild Swan that the person appointed to sell the property is selling the property. … I don't want to kick out Wild Swan. … I'm not insensitive to their concerns and frustrations, but I'm not certain what else we could do for them when the building went up for sale. … Our broker is trying to help Wild Swan find a location."

WST has been at the Maple Road space since August 2007, and previous to that, the troupe was housed in a building on Huron Street, across from the YMCA. The Maple Road site houses offices and studio space; the theater generally does its local performances at Washtenaw Community College.

According to WST’s eviction notice, they need to be completely moved out of the space by March 31.

“Apparently there’s a church that wants to buy the building,” said Pawlicki. “They want to start a rebuild on April 1, and they don’t want a tenant.”

March is a particularly busy time for WST, with rehearsals, touring shows, and two productions coming up; the troupe intends to go ahead with all those plans. “This couldn’t have happened in a worse month,” said Pawlicki. “But (Realtor) Jim Chaconas is supposed to find some spots for us to look at this week.”

The company is reeling from the news, but Pawlicki notes, “We’ve already been getting some support from the local theater community, so we’re hoping for the best.”

“I know it will work out,” said Lanzi. “I really do. I just don’t know how.”

Jenn McKee is the entertainment digital journalist for Reach her at or 734-623-2546, and follow her on Twitter @jennmckee.


Greg Lanzi

Sat, Mar 10, 2012 : 3 p.m.

We can not assume that Wild Swan did not have a plan B. Knowing Wild Swan very well I'm sure discussions of plan b, c and d were ongoing. As I understand the situation, purchasing this particular building was never an option - the price tag on the property was more than Wild Swan could afford. Perhaps legally, they were not obigated to inform Wild Swan of the impending sale until it was finalized. But, morally, with an eviction notice emminent, the right thing to do would be to let Wild Swan know immediately that an offer was on the table. March is probably the absolute worst month for Wild Swan to pick up and move spaces. They are completely booked with performances and workshops. It is difficult to say a theatre company that has operated for over twenty-five years does not understand the business world. I think the staff of Wild Swan Theatre knows first-hand about the day to day operations of that world.


Sat, Mar 3, 2012 : 3:13 a.m.

I'm a huge fan of wild swan and I'm also not in any way religious so let me disconnect myself from both. This article made me chuckle a little bit and how ridiculous this situation is . . . Imagine for a second . . . . I rent a house from a owner whose house goes into forclosure WHILE I'm living there. I'm 100% fully aware of this but make NO plan B's. The bank then finally sells the house and evicts me. Is it the bank's responsibility or the new owners to find me a new place to call home?! Who would EVER expect such a thing?! Would write an article about that?? WST KNEW a long time ago their "home" was for sale. Keep in mind they don't own the building, they rent. They drove past the for sale sign every day for years. They did not have a plan B and they chose not to buy the building. They can only blame themselves. Here's the deal with this church who is buying the building . . . lack of planning on one's part doesn't necessitate an emergency on another's part. It's not the buyer's responsibility to do anything for the "month to month" tentant. Even if they do "have a heart" why would they? Legally, they shouldn't even be communicating with them. The church is buying the building to use it, I'm sure they'll use all of it. The wild swan will find an awesome place and continue to be awesome. This church I'm sure will like all the others in Ann Arbor, but at least they bought up another building for sale, good for them. Another forclosed property being bought up which will then drive up the market, win for all! Good luck to both parties involved.


Sat, Mar 3, 2012 : 1:28 p.m.

RyanB Bravo this is the most thought out and reasoned explanation of what took place.


Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 7:36 p.m.

Email pastor Kevin, let him know what you think about this: Maybe they can work something out.


Sat, Mar 3, 2012 : 8:07 p.m.

In the words of Crapgame ("Kelly's Heroes"): "Maybe we can make a deal."


Sat, Mar 3, 2012 : 3:16 a.m.

Seriously? Don't email this poor guy. They OBVIOUSLY don't want to work anything out or they would have already. I flagged this post. Take his contact info down

Your Name Here

Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 6:42 p.m.

How awful a situation. Wild Swan Theater is an essential part of this community - providing equal access to all of their shows with audio description for blind audience members, shadow interpreting for Deaf audience members, and a magical experience for all. Adored by kids AND adults, their situation really is a despicable one. To those here who have posted snarky comments -- "Artists appear not to be business people in this instance." -- That's incredibly insulting. Business people are the only ones of right mind and MUST be telling the truth because they don't traipse around on stage in silly costumes and makeup?! WST has lightened the heart of communities stretching statewide -- Schools have bused in kids from far of cities in Michigan because of the phenomenal experiences WST provides. Adults, too, enjoy and learn from all the actors, artists, writers, designers, directors, musicians, interpreters, and volunteers who comprise their company of magic-spinners. The label of "Artist" is not indicative of a lacking business sense. Have you ever been to one of their performances?? My guess is not. I hope you go see a show one day. I hope you enjoy it and it makes you smile from ear to ear. I hope you find as much inspiration in your business filled world like others find in Wild Swan's world of wonders.


Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 3:20 p.m.

Get lawyers invoved and the non logic increases dramatically.


Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 3:12 p.m.

Oh Well, there used to be a place at Third and Washington, who catered to the arts, but it burnt down and it is no longer. Something happened and built the new Y there. This whole thing put a lot of very low income people out of a practice space and theater, the old Y was closed and a lot very low income people were displaced, for a new Y concept (No Vacancies) building could be built leaving some 400 people displaced. The whole thing looked mighty suspicious to me and a few others who had utilized these spaces. The almighty dollar hard at work to keep the poor down and the well to do more greedy. Now that's my point of view. The old Y housed many homeless and many poor students, and had a long bright history. Now people who can't afford the high rent in Ann Arbor, just live in the woods, who cares, they can't afford to live here so leave them there. The great democracy is not working out so well for these people and many like them. Since we have the science and intelligence, why are there so many hungry in the world? I say it's a matter of "opinions", that keep the poor down, and the well to do in huge luxurious life styles. So, eat dirt and kick rocks punk.


Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 2:27 p.m.

With the support for artistic talent in Ann Arbor, I'm sure an organization or a person will find a solution. "Break a leg"!

Always Amazed

Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 9:13 p.m.

Hopefully the new owners of the building will be better managers than Veritas Christi, the high school that went belly up, likely due to its lack of experience in the business arena. Many nonprofits have limited funds with which to pay rent and cover the costs of moving--hanging on may have been a reasonable strategy if the lease terms were favorable in the short run. Good luck to Wild Swan in relocating!


Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 8:41 p.m.

Pretty sure when you have a lease in a space that is in bankruptcy you should be looking for a new home...weird that they waited until the 11th hour.


Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 12:53 p.m.

"It's unbelievable to me that they didn't contact us when an offer was on the table," I could be wrong but I took this to mean the offer on the table was from the church. And WST thought they should have been notified so they could make an offer also. Pawlicki said that the building's court-appointed receiver, David Findling of the Royal Oak-based The Findling Law Firm, initially seemed willing to work out an arrangement with WST. "We were told that, as a paying tenant, we were an asset to the building," said Pawlicki. "We asked if we could have a short-term lease, but we were not given that. They would not give us a lease


Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 2:12 a.m.

The article does state they thought they had a deal with the people who owned the place. It is in there reread the article. They will find a place if they come to Ypsilanti.


Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 12:48 a.m.

jns131 I do not believe anything in the article supports the "deal on the table" statement. I do hope they can find another space.


Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 11:28 p.m.

They had a deal on the table. That deal fell thru without them knowing about it. Very sad to be double dealing with a company that does wonders for the children. As I said before? Come to Ypsi. We do wonders here.


Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 8:36 p.m.

I can't believe the sarcastic and arrogant tone of these comments. The Wild Swan Theater has been a vital part of the Ann Arbor arts community since 1980. It has presented high quality theatrical performances for young people, both as a touring company, and as staged performances at WCC. Instead of sniping at them, why not be part of the solution and support them in their efforts to remain a viable part of our community.


Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 8:34 p.m.

I had recently heard about a church that bought space in that area. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> One groups excitement is another groups disaster. So sad they cannot work something out until WS finds a new place to call home.


Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 8:26 p.m.

There performing at the Howell Opera House this Saturday.

Christine Moellering

Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 7:01 p.m.

Move to Ypsi. It's nice.


Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 11:26 p.m.

Yes, yes do move to Ypsilanti. There is a thriving puppet theater in Depot Town. I bet the two of you can make a huge go of things. Wow, what a great idea!


Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 8:21 p.m.

Great point, it's up there with Flint and Detroit... and Afganistan.


Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 8:12 p.m.

You took the words out of my mouth. I hope their search includes Ypsi. We've seen several shows they've put on. What a great community asset they are. Good Luck WST.


Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 6:41 p.m.

"It's unbelievable to me that they didn't contact us when an offer was on the table," said WST company manager Michelle Trame Lanzi. Artists appear not to be business people in this instance. Contact occurred when the property was listed for sale months ago. WST did nothing but continue tenancy on a month-to-month basis. WST could have purchased the building, yet chose not to. Unless, WST had a written right of first refusal, there would be zero reason for the seller/receiver to contact them. Regardless, best wishes WST in finding new digs. Best wishes to the un-named purchaser, as well.


Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 5:40 p.m.

Perhaps they should perform at Frita Bandita! That would certainly get a LOT of mention in your space!

say it plain

Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 11:41 p.m.

More so if Jim Chaconas brokers the deal lol...


Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 4:40 p.m.

Maybe they can move into a Mark's Cart location. could kill two birds with one stone.

Dexter Bear

Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 4:25 a.m.

Ha ha! Too funny! GRRR. And actually a good idea, too...entertainment while dining!