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Sue, Sell And Less To Landfills

Posted to MichiganNow.org on Friday, March 21, 2014

INTRO: The City of Detroit is Detroit’s largest land holder. The school district is the SECOND largest land holder. They’ve had trouble coordinating all the vacant buildings and vacant parcels. Now this appears to be changing. Michigan Now’s Chris McCarus went to the Detroit Public schools marketing event held Friday March 14.

The Detroit Public Schools has listed 75 buildings and 50 lots for sale. DPS held a day long conference for investors who paid $65 dollars each for food, speakers, documents and a bus tour. They also heard from Mayor Mike Duggan.

“If you’ve got a viable plan for a school building and you acquire one there’s going to be lots of options. One is I am going to move heaven and earth on the permitting side to get you whatever support you need.”

Duggan says 9 different government agencies have mucked up real estate transactions. He has gotten three land bank offices to shrink into one that he can control.

“If there’s a bunch of city owned property in the range of your school building and you want to buy that property to extend your footprint we’re going to be very happy to have that conversation. I don’t want to hold onto 85,000 parcels of land.”

The Herman-Kiefer Hospital is next to the Lodge Freeway. It’s a good example of city and school property side by side. The complex is huge and historic. Scrappers have wrecked the schools. But 24 hour security guards have protected the hospital. Altogether it’s about 40 acres and nearly a million square feet. This Tuesday March 25, you could come to an open house and buy it all.

Mayor Duggan described how he took legal action to fight blight starting in 1999. That’s when he was the Wayne County Prosecutor.

“Knocking down one house on a block doesn’t help. So we started filing what we called nuisance abatement suits. We’d go into a block and sue every owner of an abandoned house on the same day. We’d say you have two choices: sign a court order to get it fixed up and occupied in 6 months or deed it to us.”

Landlords claimed their properties were not a nuisance. The case of Wayne County Executive vs. Acorn Investment Co. began in 2001. The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled on it in 2005. http://www.michbar.org/opinions/appeals/2005/010405/25716.pdf

The landlords lost and Duggan won. At the DPS event, Duggan didn’t blame anyone for stopping that program. He appealed to the 100 investors in the room, some of whom traveled from out of state.

“If you have a real plan to develop then I’m going to be your best friend. The flip side is that if you’re buying one of these properties because it’s cheap and you don’t have a plan and you’ll sit on it as a speculator there is an excellent chance in the next 12-18 months I’m going to sue you. So the days when people could sit on land like it’s a lottery ticket in the hope that someone is going to come pay you a big amount of money… that’s going to be gone.”

“For a long time the city and school board worked very well together. The city needed a piece of land then the school board gave it to them. Vice versa. They helped each other. They were all for the public good.”

That’s Joel Landy. About 45 years ago he dropped out of Oak Park High School to live in the Cass Corridor where he remains.

“When they went off on their own private agendas that cooperation went away and it hurt us a great deal. So it’s exciting to see that they consider themselves again one and the same and they’re serving the people of the city.”

Landy owns former school buildings plus 50 other properties. DPS invited him to speak at their marketing workshop. I talked to him later in the lobby of his apartment building. The Addison. Landy unrolled the original blueprints of Cass Technical High School from 1919. Contractors were throwing them in the garbage before they demolished the place three years ago.

“We saw that the conference was sold out. There’s great interest because there’s great value. Unfortunately we couldn’t have guessed how many students we lost and we put tremendous money into these buildings and these developers will get to take advantage of that money. I call it your tax dollars at work. But it’s much better than spending $300,000-400,000 a piece more to put them in a landfill. Keeping a vacant lot does no one any good.”

Landy has inspired many in Detroit to make something out of nothing. That doesn’t mean you can get THIS real estate for nothing. You still gotta have some money and a plan.

One Response to “Sue, Sell And Less To Landfills”

  1. Jim Casha says:

    It would be nice if the RTA (Regional Transit Authority)would have had their ‘act’ together by now and be in a position to acquire some of this land and buildings near locations for transit hubs. They could then long term lease the land and property and generate revenue for transit. They could control and spur development.

    But no, they will say; they have no money. That is where cooperation for the public good comes in. Just give it to them! The legislators should allocate some of the $822 million Rick wants to stash in the rainy day fund so the RTA can invest it in these properties and the people, seeing how everyone is working together for the public good, would vote for a millage increase to fund their share of the transit system.

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Landy has blueprints drawn for Cass Tech High School in 1919. Landy tried to help Cass alumni save the building from the wrecking ball in 2011.

Landy has blueprints drawn for Cass Tech High School in 1919. Landy tried to help Cass alumni save the building from the wrecking ball in 2011.

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Historic preservation developer Joel Landy in the lobby of one of his many buildings, the Addison Apartments, March 17, 2014.

Historic preservation developer Joel Landy in the lobby of one of his many buildings, the Addison Apartments, March 17, 2014.

Angela Fortino, business development coordinator for the Detroit Regional Chamber, and Jannell O'Keefe of Keep Growing Detroit touring an empty school.

Angela Fortino, business development coordinator for the Detroit Regional Chamber, and Jannell O'Keefe of Keep Growing Detroit touring an empty school.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan at 'Old Schools, New Uses Property Developers Conference' March 14, 2014.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan at 'Old Schools, New Uses Property Developers Conference' March 14, 2014.

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