5:30 PM HDC Meeting Official Start Time. The buyer of one of Detroit's most gloriously decadent (but decaying) mansions allegedly ordered it scrapped. Tonight he has to face the Historic District Commission and explain why he thought he could alter the mansion without their permission. We'll start LIVE updates on this blog post later this evening. In the meantime, get caught up here on the scrapper saga if you are behind or say hello via twitter to Amy Swift aka @buildinghugger who is our reporter on the ground tonight.
6:30 PM So far they are half-way through the list of agenda items for tonight which means there is still some time to watch the Olympics if you are following at home. In non-nail-biting news, they are discussing other homeowner's requests to build decks and garages. One guy mentioned via our facebook page that he needs his fence approved.
6:35 PM Never mind the bronzed RoboCop statue Detroit was promised. The Detroit Athletic Club wants to install three bronze statues by A. Thomas Schomberg. Get this! They want to stick'em in the median owned by the city.
6:40 PM Statues approved! Schomberg is the guy that created the iconic "Rocky" statue for Philly. Now we're dying to see these renderings.
6:47 PM The HDC decides the Parkstone can have some new green awnings. Apparently a discussion of the shade of green was necessary. Next they are going to get into it over vinyl siding. Refill your martinis now, people!
6:58 PM A source in the room that know what he looks like says that the Mansion owner and alleged orderer of the scrapping, Mike Mallett, is a no-show but that his attorney is present.
7:01 PM With two agenda items before they get to the Van Dkye Mansion's alleged scrapping, residents are "pouring in." Seems like a well-timed show of West Village neighborhood support.
7:08 PM There's an "uh oh" in some Dan Gilbert-owned real estate. The Dime building already took down some signage without HDC permission in an effort to re-brand itself as the Chrysler House. The Fairmont sign company says it was their bad and that they did not realize the sign was historic.
7:11 PM They've brought one of the letters from the sign to this discussion. It is the "D," natch.
7:15 PM We've got a visual on real estate lawyer Rod Strickland, who lives next door to the Van Dyke Mansion and whom Mallett named as his attorney when he spoke to the Freep. He's also the previous owner.
7:21 PM Lots and lots of discussion on these Dime Building letters.
7:24 PM The result is that they'll have to use similar letters to replace the ones they took down, but they will get to spell out Chrysler House. They will also add a plaque to one of the columns that discusses the history of the building name.
7:28 PM This is it folks! They are getting into the issue of the Van Dyke Mansion now and discussing the changes made to the home without HDC permission. They begin with an overview. Hey! We have one of those here.
7:32 PM HDC has not been allowed on site yet but they are being shown a photograph of the damage right now.
7:33 PM Scratch that. HDC was on the site on July 9th to inventory.
7:36 PM In response to the commenter below that wanted to know about turn-out, we estimate an audience of about 40 people. Oh oh! Now Strickland, the lawyer, begins to speak on behalf of Mallett, who is still a no-show.
7:39 PM Strickland says that he reps many out-of-state developers
and claims they often don't know what to do but that Mallett "zealously pursued development." He is going to share what Mallet's approach to the renovation is and says Mallett wanted to restore the facade consistent with the original facade. He says he can have architectural plans submitted as early as Friday.
7:42 PM Strickland admits that he used to own the building and knew that it was in a Historic District. Woah. What? Strickland STILL has his office there? Apparently he advised Mallett about the water damage.
7:46 PM Well something is not right. Mallett had told the Free Press that he did not know Strickland before he bought the building and only hired him as his lawyer after two people were arrested at the home for alleged scrapping. Now the commissioner is questioning Strickland on if Mallet is actually as novice on real estate and renovations as he is being presented.
7:53 PM The commissioner is saying that knowing you need to pull a permit for work on a building is pretty basic stuff. He argues that that fact is pretty much the same here as in Ohio or anywhere else.
7:54 PM We have applause from the crowd!
8:00 PM Strickland says that elements that were removed from the mansion are still here in Detroit and secure. He says they've hired McIntosh Poris Associates in Birmingham as the architects for work on the home.
8:04 PM Since Strickland is not presenting the plans to HDC tonight the commissioner is saying they cannot take a vote. Commissioner says he's better at reviewing plans than he is at listening to dialogue.
8:06 PM HDC wants to review the building plans at the next HDC meeting. Now we're curious as to whether they will get into fines for the work done without permits.
8:09 PM This meeting did not allow for public comments but members of the audience have signs to express their feelings on the matter. One says "Hold Michael Mallet accountable. Restore it!!!!"
8:10 PM Fines were brought up. Crowd claps! Some are also wearing buttons that say "RESTORE 649 Van Dyke."
8:12 PM No fines for Mallett! At least not yet. The commissioner says he wants the money to go towards the restoration.
And now he's not too happy with some locals? He blames the "propaganda mill" for using this case to further the rumor that it is difficult to do business in Detroit. Fines will be reviewed at the next meeting at which they will look at the plans. They are saying it will be August 8th.
8:15 PM Meeting adjourned.
8:20 PM Oh hey, guess what? Residents are kinda pissed. One says, "That was a bunch of bologna." Oh that was too cute not to quote.
UPDATE While some residents seemed to think the committee was too lenient with Mallett and his
highway robber attorney Strickland, one savvy preservationist at the scene explained the politics of what went down and it makes a lot of sense. The Historic District Council's main goal and purpose is to protect historic resources. In order to do this, often they need to play nice with owners, no matter how slimy. Mallett (via Strickland) did not come to the meeting with building plans to review so there was nothing to technically vote on. There is a lot of hot air about restoring the building but right now there seems to be no concrete plan of attack by the owner or his cohort. This is what is slated to be presented at the next HDC meeting on August 8th so hopefully his architect can turn those drawings out in time! We also hope Mallett chooses to make an appearance. We'll be too busy live blogging again so we promise not to throw tomatoes.
Fines have been tabled as well because in the grand scheme of things, even if they exact the max fine of $5000, that's likely a drop in the bucket for a guy like Mallett. And really, even though we might be a little cash strapped, Detroit needs a resource like the W.M. Finck mansion more than it needs $5000.