The Free Press has talked to a man named Michael Mallett who says he owns the Van Dyke Mansion, the site of what we called scrapping on Wednesday night. Pieces of the limestone facade were removed this week without the proper permits to meet requirements involving historic homes in this district. Natch, Ohio-resident Mallett denied the scrapping and told the paper the workers he hired were "trying to stem water leaks." Residents are saying this is bullshit.
"The intention was to strip the house," said architect Brian Hurttienne, executive director of the Villages Community Development Corp., a neighborhood organization. Hurttienne said architectural features -- such as façades -- are extremely difficult to replace once they are removed. He estimated the value of what was pulled off the Van Dyke house in excess of $100,000.
Terry Martin, a supervisor in the city's code inspection department, said the list of things he saw dismantled -- cornices, medallions, the limestone facade -- did not equate to fixing water damage
So we've got a good he-said, we-said going and no interior photos but plenty of images of the removed facade parts stacked neatly in the yard, seemingly awaiting to be loaded on a truck. Well bring in the lawyers.
Enter real estate lawyer Rod Strickland, who lives next door and still has keys to get inside the fence. He is now saying he represents Mallett but had not met him before Wednesday night. Turns out he is also the home's previous owner. At the time of the sale, the place was a bank-owned foreclosure; he bought the mansion for $500,000 in 2001 and lost it to foreclosure in 2011. Um, why does he have the keys? In any case he would not let reporters in. A person on the scene reports that all the cars that pulled into the gate yesterday carefully parked with license plates backed in so that they were not visible. As for how the neighborhood outrage went over with the new owner, looks like he's not going to be at the next Tashmoo Biergarden day in the Villages. He says that if the neighbors don't want the office building he was planning he'll just, "put it back the way it was and put it back on the market." Might be a good move.
In the meantime, we're happy to report that this hood has one helluva advocate. State Rep. Maureen Stapleton, a Democrat who represents West Village, said she looking into legislation that would create harsher penalties for people who buy historic homes to gut them. "We're talking about more than just scrapping. We're talking about people purchasing buildings fraudulently and dismantling them," she said.
There. She said it. Many things about this sale smell fraudulent. We'll keep you updated as we learn more. Strickland is listed as a Principal at the Bulk REO Network , where he has "has negotiated and drafted several agreements to effectuate a seamless disposition of REO assets to the private investor market." REO means Real Estate Owned, which is a property that the lender or bank acquired through foreclosure.
Update: Michael Mallett of Findlay, Ohio is CEO of something called Mystery Shopping. It is a business that sends "specially trained shoppers" to evaluate their experiences as customers at retail stores, restaurants and other businesses. Which makes it sound like they just train people to use Yelp.
· The elegant lives of a Van Dyke mansion [The Detroit News]
· All Previous Curbed Coverage of the Van Dyke Place Mansion [Curbed Detroit]