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Real Estate Mogul Once Owned Drug House & Still Gets State Fair

Posted to MichiganNow.org on Tuesday, October 1, 2013

(UPDATED October 18) The text below reflects conflicting ownership documents provided by Joel Ferguson’s office, the City of Detroit and Wayne County. There is no indication that Ferguson was involved in or aware of the drug business at the disputed property.


INTRO: Earlier this month, the Michigan Land Bank Fast Track Authority board voted to sell the former state fair grounds to Magic Plus LLC. Magic Johnson is a household name in America and Joel Ferguson is not. But Ferguson has been Magic’s mentor for decades. Michigan Now’s Chris McCarus has been tracking other Detroit real estate that Ferguson has owned.

Joel Ferguson is 75. He’s chairman of the Michigan State University Board of Trustees. He owns real estate in several states. He developed the $60 million State Police headquarters in Lansing. In Detroit, he bought a brown brick three story apartment building for $185,000. It’s a half mile north of the Fisher Building at the corner of Second Avenue and Gladstone.

The office of Central Detroit Christian is across the street in the basement. They work on gardening, home ownership and youth education. Dottie Foster works for CDC. She lives two blocks away. She walks across the street to the apartments Joel Ferguson owned for 10 years.

“We see a lot of guys come out and cars pull up. People come out. People go in. When you in the hood you know it’s drug activity. You have it in the day and night  when we are doing business in our warehouse. We just want it to stop. When a drug deal goes bad all the people are in danger.”

Central Detroit Christian is fixing up 35 properties in the neighborhood. They boarded up the Ferguson property too.

“We went inside and boarded from the inside out. And it was open. The doors are gone. The windows are gone. And you look at that plywood to try to keep people out from selling drugs and living in them and squatting in them and putting trash in them and setting them on fire. Whatever you can think of they do out of them.”

Detroit City records show Joel Ferguson still owns the apartment building. $3,368.54 are owed in back taxes. County records still show the taxpayer’s address is Ferguson’s office:1223 Turner St. Suite 300 in Lansing.

Dottie Foster walks over to another property on the same block. City records show Ferguson still owns this too.

“It’s an empty vacant lot with trash on it. Weeds grown up. It’s an ugly sight for our neighborhood. Trash cans. There’s a lot of negative.. I know that the people who own it don’t live like this.”

Joel Ferguson’s 5,200 square foot home is on the Lansing Country Club golf course near the governor’s mansion.

The day after I first published this story on October 1, he asked that I call him. He used swear words to describe me and my reporting. That day I also talked to one of his employees, Christopher Stralkowski. In May, I had emailed Stralkowski asking if Ferguson would be willing to sell the apartments. This week he called by phone. I asked him:

“Didn’t you say that Joel says make him an offer?”

“Right. Correct,” Stralkowski said.

“Ok so if the city records indicate that Joel still owns the property and if Joel says make him an offer how would my conclusion NOT be that Joel owns it or at least controls it?”

“I can’t speak to how you make your conclusions,” Stralkowski said. “I can’t speak to how you come about an assumption.”

After my initial story on the drug house, Ferguson had the public relations firm Truscott/Rossman call and send me documents. They show that the apartments and the vacant lot were owned by an LLC. Ferguson owned the LLC.

Stralkowski said: “The address on the property, where the documents are sent to doesn’t indicate that it’s an ownership based on the fact that it’s our office. That you’re saying that because the documents are sent to that address in the mail doesn’t indicate that Joel owns the property.”

In 2010, he sold his stake in the company. His nephew Quinn Ferguson bought the company for $100. Therefore Quinn Ferguson now owns the real estate.  He lives in an apartment next to the expressway in East Lansing. I knocked on the nephew’s door one morning and then that night.

“So I’m back here at apartment B-2. 1670. I just wrung the door bell. It’s now about 8′ o’clock. Maybe it doesn’t work. (knock 4 times on door) My name is Chris McCarus. I’m a public radio reporter. Quinn I would like to talk to you about the properties in Detroit on Gladstone?”

“I’m not available for comment,” Ferguson said through his closed front door.

“You’re not available for comment,” I said.

“No sir,” Ferguson said.

The next day, Quinn spoke with his uncle Joel who then told his employee, Stralkowski, to ask why I knocked on Quinn’s door. I said that Central Detroit Christian wants answers.

“They’re not taking care of their investment. Whoever it is. Whether it’s Joel or Quinn. I mean someone has to stand up and do something about this property.”

That’s Lisa Johannon, director of CDC and a 25 year resident of the North End. She says the apartment building began to be abused 5 years ago. That was while Joel Ferguson was the undisputed owner.

“If it’s abandoned you have a responsibility according to City of Detroit ordinance that you have to keep it boarded up and free from trespass. They’re violating that because it’s being used as a stash house or a drug house. And they do have a responsibility to this community and unfortunately because it’s poor community people think they don’t have rights. They do have rights. We’re tired of houses like this in this community. We’ve closed three down this year. And this needs to be the fourth.”

Central Detroit Christian is hoping the owners donate the property to them. But they have no indication that will happen.

 

 

6 Responses to “Real Estate Mogul Once Owned Drug House & Still Gets State Fair”

  1. Euni Rose says:

    I am one of the “zealots” Kim Holman mentioned, who is vehemently opposed to the Magic Plus plan for our State Fairgrounds. I am a member of the State Fair Development Coalition, whose plan for exhibition, agriculture, education and entertainment with a focus on a public transit hub has been put before the Land Bank. We hate that Governor Snyder is giving this State-owned land to his buddy, Joel Ferguson, with Magic Johnson as the front. I will be speaking today at the Land Bank meeting; hope you will be there. We will keep on fighting to make a difference for the citizens of Michigan. Yeah, I’m “purple-prosing” now, but I am someone who does not give up.

  2. Christopher says:

    So, given your biased , incorrect and unverified
    story, you have made the conscious choice to leave your
    proven wrong statements and baseless claims on your website.
    Is this because you feel self righteous? Or is it just plain arrogance?
    Either way, you are a hack.

  3. Christopher says:

    Sorry. Having listened to the audio version again ( the story that
    was NOT first broadcast on Michigan Radio) and re-reading
    your web page story and then reading the story
    on the Detroit Huffpost, I cannot seem to figure out
    which set of facts are real and which set of details
    are fiction. As the author of this story, are they any
    real possibilities of syncing the facts and separating the
    fiction? It is your story.

  4. christopher says:

    Joel Ferguson does not own the property referenced in your article and he did not buy the property 25 years ago. The Fairground property was not offered nor did it sell for $1. Finally, page 21 has no reference to anything other than the structure of financing for the existing Gateway project in the context that property values are relative to investment.

    • Jim Casha says:

      And Christopher is Joel Ferguson’s son-in-law. And Joel’s daughter works for MSHDA (Michigan State Housing Development Authority) – who are involved in the transfer of the Fairgrounds – and ‘oh,what a tangled web we weave, when we practice to deceive’.

      It will all come out.

  5. Jim Casha says:

    Where is the ‘Key Person Questionnaire’ for ‘Magic’ Johnson?

    ‘Magic’ Johnson holds a 45% interest in Magic Plus, LLC. He was required to submit a KPQ as part of the response to the Request for Proposal submission to the Land Bank.

    I don’t see one. This response should have been tossed in the trash.

    See •Land Bank/Magic Plus LLC link at the beginning of the article.

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600 Gladstone is 3/4 of a mile north of the Fisher Building and Cadilac Place where the Michigan Land Bank will meet at 2 p.m. today. It's west of Woodward and east of the Lodge Freeway.

600 Gladstone is 3/4 of a mile north of the Fisher Building and Cadilac Place where the Michigan Land Bank will meet at 2 p.m. today. It's west of Woodward and east of the Lodge Freeway.

Lisa Johanon, executive director of Central Detroit Christian. She lives in the neighborhood she works everyday to improve. It's called several things: New Center North, The North End and Central Woodward. She, her staff and volunteers have spent dozens of man hours trying to maintain 600 Gladstone.

Lisa Johanon, executive director of Central Detroit Christian. She lives in the neighborhood she works everyday to improve. It's called several things: New Center North, The North End and Central Woodward. She, her staff and volunteers have spent dozens of man hours trying to maintain 600 Gladstone.

East Lansing apartment unit where Joel Ferguson's nephew Quinn lives. Joel was upset that we reported he owns the drug house and abandoned units at 600 Gladstone in Detroit. He sent documents showing he sold the place to Quinn. The morning after this reporter knocked on Quinn's door to ask about the drug house Joel called to ask why we bothered Quinn.

East Lansing apartment unit where Joel Ferguson's nephew Quinn lives. Joel was upset that we reported he owns the drug house and abandoned units at 600 Gladstone in Detroit. He sent documents showing he sold the place to Quinn. The morning after this reporter knocked on Quinn's door to ask about the drug house Joel called to ask why we bothered Quinn.

600 Gladstone has 6 units that are 3 stories each.

600 Gladstone has 6 units that are 3 stories each.

Dottie Foster, real estate manager for Central Detroit Christian, standing outside her office with 600 Gladstone in the background. The bus belongs to CDC.

Dottie Foster, real estate manager for Central Detroit Christian, standing outside her office with 600 Gladstone in the background. The bus belongs to CDC.

Joel Ferguson at rally in Lansing Boys and Girls club in September 2012 where Magic Johnson honored his uncle and Ferguson's brother. They taught Magic basketball. Joel taught Magic business. Johnson's sister is in white.

Joel Ferguson at rally in Lansing Boys and Girls club in September 2012 where Magic Johnson honored his uncle and Ferguson's brother. They taught Magic basketball. Joel taught Magic business. Johnson's sister is in white.

Mural in Gym
2 months ago, 5,000 volunteers, mainly suburbanites, were brought in by Central Detroit Christian to clean up trash, repair doors, roofs and porches. They tried to give 'hope' to several abandoned buildings like this one. One unit of 600 Gladstone now has this design painted on the front door.

2 months ago, 5,000 volunteers, mainly suburbanites, were brought in by Central Detroit Christian to clean up trash, repair doors, roofs and porches. They tried to give 'hope' to several abandoned buildings like this one. One unit of 600 Gladstone now has this design painted on the front door.

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