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LIVEBLOG: Mansion Restoration & Hotel Charlevoix Updates

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As mentioned earlier on this site, we are liveblogging the HDC hearing that begins at 5:30 this evening. Live updates will kick off as soon as things get interesting so stay tuned. Say hi to our woman on the ground, Amy Swift, via twitter (@buildinghugger) or get caught up on the agenda for tonight here. Both the scrapped Mansion at Van Dyke Place and the super-dilapidated Hotel Charlevoix will be discussed!

5:51 PM And here we go! They are discussing the Hotel Charlevoix now. BTW there are some great historical photos of it on

5:53 PM A representative from the building department is explaining that based on Ralph Sach (the owner)'s track record he has not been in "good faith compliance" in the last 8 months specifically since things have been falling.

5:58 PM Want a peek at what this building looks like right now? It's pretty messy. Here are the shots on

6:02 PM You may have noticed a chain-link fence around the Hotel that is supposed to keep people away from the area where pieces might fall on them. Apparently the building department paid for that fence to go up.

6:05 PM ...And wouldn't you know it? They are not too happy about that. That building is dangerous! The building department says they feel like they've done everything outside of putting him (Sachs) in jail. The commission is concerned about the safety of people near the building. We had a mild winter last year.... what if we have a harsher winter next year? They plan to schedule bi-weekly check ins and the building department is going to take this case to legal! Sounds like trouble for Sachs.

6:09 PM It looks like they are giving the Hotel Charlevoix a two-month timeline to secure itself. HDC is voicing concerns over Sachs' other properties.... they know he has many other properties that aren't under their jurisdiction.

6:11 PM HDC has offered manpower to help the building department remain diligent in monitoring Sach's properties.

6:12 PM And WOAH! Onto next agenda item already! It is the Van Dyke Place Mansion which owner Mike Mallett has said he will restore after altering it without permits or HDC permission. His lawyer Rod Strickland is here as well as an architect from McIntosh Poris Associates named John Skok.

6:17 PM The detailed architectural drawings for the restoration are not completed due to the short turn-around time. Although they complete a plan that was submitted for HDC review yesterday.

6:18 PM In order to complete the plans, they need to pull more photos to confirm what the elements being restored looked like before Mallett bought the building. Hey readers! If you have shots of the building from last winter, email us!

6:22 PM Architect John Skok is saying he was hired on July 11 and is working to return the building to the state it was in when Mallett purchased it. He gives the HDC a CD with a photo inventory of the "parts and pieces" from the mansion. Skok is still trying to figure out that status of the home when it was bought and is open to HDC's assistance in figuring out what that was.

6:24 PM Skok says that some balusters and banisters were damaged by disc grinders. He suggests that they be replaced but says some pieces may be too damaged.

6:25 PM Reese's Pieces! Skok is giving a long list of parts.

6:26 PM Here is the deal according to the Architect: the filler bricks can be salvaged from piles on the site or remade. But Oh NO! The front window over door (the large gaping hole in the facade) is damaged, potentially beyond repair. And something has gone missing! Skok says the metal front door "needs to be found" and repainted before it can be put back.

6:29 PM The balcony was severely damaged when removed.

6:30 PM The commissioner wants to know about the timeline. Skok says there is an 8 week lead time for replacement bricks. It seems Mallett, the owner, just got back from London today. (He attended the Olympics). Strickland (the lawyer) says his "client is interested in getting this done as quickly as possible."

6:33 PM They need over 250 bricks for the repairs. There is no commitment to a timeline or to even a time that owner can provide a timeline.

6:34 PM The commissioner says since they're claiming water damage/leaks were to blame for this, the plans should include roof and gutter repair.

6:35 PM So here is where it HEATS UP! At the last meeting, the ruling was made to restore the building fully. But now the story is that Mallett is only going to return the mansion to the purchase "appearance."

6:36 PM The commissioner smells a rat. The lawyer, Strickland, says his client shouldn't be forced to lose his shirt.

6:37 PM The commissioner is grilling Strickland about when Mallett will give them a long term "future development" plan for the building. Strickland is giving him the run-around. The commissioner says "this is out of hand."

6:39 PM Another commissioner is asking what was the original plan was because he moved very quickly by beginning work on the building. So he clearly had a plan? She says "he didn't just buy it for fun".... so what was the plan??

6:40 PM So now we can see commissioners passing notes and giggling! Strickland is saying the original plan was to stop damage. The audience members roll their eyes. The commissioner is concerned over the innocence (Mallett's) being presented.... he calls a rat.

6:44 PM If there was indeed a grand renovation plan for the mansion then they aren't asking for more work than what would have originally been done. They want a renovation compliant to the Secretary of Interiors Standard. Strickland says the original plan was larger than what anyone knew about.

6:45 PM According to Strickland, Mallett doesn't want to be known as a guy that comes into a community and strips a building. The commissioner wants to engage in a conversation about motive and intent and says that even in Ohio you cannot selectively demo a building without a permit.

6:47 PM HERE IS IS YOUR MOMENT OF ZEN! The commissioner says Mallett should know that he is required to perform repairs not in deference to community but rather in compliance to the law and says Mallett ultimately vandalized the property for financial gain!

6:51 PM The commissioner suggests that the "office project" described is a cover up for the vandalism since since no architect was hired for the design of the office project.

6:53 PM The commissioners have no further questions. One says they have spent an exhaustive amount of time talking about this project

6:55 PM ... And now there is a motion for a $5,000 MAX FINE!

6:56 PM They are still debating the fine. Someone proposes to reduce it to $3,500 if the owner allows HDC in to see the property.

6:57 PM They are saying that the spirit and intent is precisely what should be considered when assessing a fine. One person says that it is IMMORAL to perform acts that destroy the social or cultural characteristics of a community. (That was Commissioner Jones)

6:58 PM Basically, the HDC believes that previous testimony was untruthful. Mallett tried to say that there was a water leak but they have no evidence of this water damage.

7:00 PM Strickland is defending himself and his practice and saying he aids HUNDREDS of out of state clients that are coming to this city to buy properties for development.

7:04 PM We have a decision finally! Michael Mallett has been ordered to restore the mansion as previously stated and will pay a fine of $3,500.

7:06 PM This is the motion HDC passes: Mallett will be required to restore the damages made by his selective demolition efforts. The means he has to take it back to the way it was when he purchased it because it is pretty clear he has no definite future development plans.

7:11 PM That's a wrap for the real drama. They've moved on in the agenda to the stuff that was initially supposed to be first up. Interesting move to cut the action at the beginning.

7:28 PM Mallett's in the conversation again. The HDC thinks there is a "communication issue." Basically they are annoyed that Mallett has not appeared and they have not heard directly from him. He's only sent Strickland in his place to date. (Update: Mallett has emailed the committee so they have heard from him, but not in person and not often. Just that one email was mentioned)

8:00 PM This meeting marches on. In midtown Union Street wants to install a seasonal outdoor cafe on the sidewalk.

8:02 PM And that outdoor cafe has been approved! It will have a wrought iron fence.

Hotel Charlevoix

2029 Park Ave, Detroit, MI