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LIVEBLOG: On the Scene For Building News at the HDC Meeting

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Hello! We're live on the scene of a yet another Historic District Commission meeting for all your building news needs. Here is a preview of what tonight's (rescheduled) meeting will cover.

5:35 PM It begins.

5:42 PM The James Burgess Book Jr. House is looking to do some work on the building. It was built as a residence but is now an office. They want to restore it and turn it back into a residence. DAMN that would be a sweet pad.

5:45 PM The plans for the Book house include removing the breezeway that was added when it was converted to an office.

5:47 PM Here's an image via wikipedia.

5:49 PM Apparently, they want to remove windows in the carriage house addition to allow a car to get in. They say they need more turning radius. As it turns out, there is a lot owned by the Detroit Land Bank nearby.

5:50 PM At least one neighbor seems to be upset by all these plans. He says the original renovation plan from this same owner was to turn this house into a music venue. This person has a theory that the owner wants to use the land bank lot as parking for the music venue.

5:53 PM The department of Building Safety and Engineering approves the plans as presented for the Book house. They assure HDC that there is no plan for parking on the site. They do want to petition city to decommission the adjacent alley for use as a driveway.

6:02 PM Next agenda item: now they are talking about tree removal! We won't bore you with the details. You are welcome.

6:06 PM Looking at the agenda, the next item is supposed to be about "streetscape enhancements" on Woodward Ave in the Financial District. Could this involve Gilbert-owned real estate?

6:10 PM Here's the word. Someone wants permission to install six planters on the 600 block of Woodward. That is between the First National building and Cadillac Square.

6:12 PM If all goes well, you can look forward to Honey Locust trees and metal benches... AND cafe seating. The Detroit Economic Growth Corp is present to support this effort. The proposal comes from the design firm Mannik & Smith, but we're not sure who would be operating the cafe.

6:19 PM The owner of Corktown's Mercury Burger Bar, Dave Steinke, enters the room. That restaurant has an item on the agenda a bit later.

6:20 PM Downtown wins approval for the streetscape improvements discussed.

6:21 PM And we're onto demolition! Well, the proposed demo for two Brush Park homes.

6:23 PM The request is to demolish 259 and 281 Erskine. A structural inspection states that both properties are in poor condition and could collapse.

6:25 PM Yikes! 281 Erskine has been on the dangerous buildings list since 1998.

6:27 PM Both buildings are owned by the Kappa Foundation, which are known to be negligent owners for many properties. We hear they own much of Brush Park.

6:31 PM And now they debate. HDC wants to approve only a partial demo and mothball plan. But the foundation wants full demo; they have had these two buildings for 30 years.

6:35 PM What's Kappa's deal anyway? They say they've spent "a few thousand dollars" on the homes in the 30 years they've owned them. They have never tried to sell these properties. The owner is the non-profit arm of the fraternity.

6:40 PM The committee has some serious questions about this group's intentions. They say their mission is the preservation of Brush Park.

6:41 PM Woah there. Kappa has been getting notices of violations for these building since 1995! They included code violations, health and safety, blight... basically every violation under the sun.

6:42 PM Kappa says they were previously approved to demo the houses in 2004. And now Preservation Detroit's Melanie Markowicz takes the stand.

6:44 PM Melanie says she is "appalled" and agrees that the buildings are a danger to the public. But the problem here is that the owners are committing demo by neglect. They also claim they never got those violation notices.

6:46 PM Melanie says that this makes her "very angry and sad" that these properties were so neglected for so long. She would like for the owners to be held responsible in some way.

6:48 PM The department of Building Safety and Engineering (BS&E) says that 281 Erskine has been listed for an emergency demo since 2009. It has no roof and no east wall. Again: Yikes! ....And the west wall has partially fallen in.

6:52 PM 259 Erskine has been on the demo list since 2000. Now it is also on the emergency demo list. There are about 10 people from Kappa at this meeting.

6:53 PM HDC is investigating this issue as to whether the violations notices got to them. The Kappa President tries to argue that they've done good things for the city. The Commissioner stops him to re-state that. He wants to know what the Kappas have done with respect to the properties.

7:02 PM Why care so much about this block? This is one of the only remaining Brush Park blocks with a contiguous row of houses, If these two go the block will obtain the character of the rest of the neighborhood: sparse.

7:03 PM The Kappa accountant is claiming that harsh economic times led to the current state of the homes. Oh but hey! They'll cover the cost of the demo to save the city money.

7:06 PM Important fact! They bought these homes a mere $1,000 each!

7:10 PM The Kappas are getting a tongue lashing! HDC says "if you would have paid even a small amount of money every year these buildings would not be in the condition they are in." The commissioner is getting pretty emotional. Wow. HDC wants The Kappas to pay all the past fines.

7:14 PM HDC tells the Kappas, that "if you have the money to demolish, you have the money to preserve." Yeah so this fraternity is in trouble.

7:15 PM Here's the result BS&E: will have to go through all the old records to find the total fines on these buildings. The Kappas will have to pay that before they get the permit for demo. But basically these buildings are done. They formally approve that 259 Erskine can be taken down.

7:20 PM Once again, they say this is a classic "demolition by neglect" case.

7:25 PM Both houses will be taken down. The commission is still grilling the Kappas on if they have a development plan. One commissioner is expressing concerns over them owning property at all.

7:32 PM HDC wants a future development to replace what is coming down. Basically they want a caveat on approving the demo. They want the condition of new development to apply even if Kappa sells to new owners.

7:34 PM And we're finally on to a new agenda item: The Mercury Burger Bar. Remember that barn-like awning that went up on the side of Mercury Burger Bar back in May? Well, it turns out they never pulled a permit or got HDC approval before building in a historic district.

7:38 PM A fence was constructed at Mercury without HDC approval, but the owner Dave is now saying that he thought the violation was the banner. He says that in the two weeks since the HDC meeting was postponed, they have found new violations for him.

7:40 PM Since Dave thought that there were just minor issues, he does not want to comment on the more major violations until he is prepared.

7:43 PM Dave defends the fencing saying that he originally looked at wrought iron fencing as the committee suggests. Because of the location along Michigan Ave, he decided they needed something that would block the dirt and the noise. He says they spent good money on the development of the site, unlike many of the others along that ave (with the exception of Slows BBQ, of course).

7:46 PM Ok so there is a lot of zoning discussion going on. And they are talking about permits, too. Man oh man, is this a long meeting.

7:57 PM At this point, the fence will be decided at later date, but Mercury has to move the AC condenser on the roof. It has been denied a certificate of appropriateness.

7:59 PM There's some debate still as to what the process will need to be. But somehow, Mercury will have to submit documents to get approval for the already built fence.

8:25 PM Hi hey hello. We are still here. We are waiting for some other boring items to get out of the way for the Palms Apartment Building discussion to begin.

9:20 PM And we're back. Let's see what is happening at the Palms Apartments. Photo via Wikipedia.



9:21 PM The proposal for this apartment building is to replace 21 basement windows with glass block. HDC wants to deny this application.

9:25 PM The owner is saying its a security issue which will prevent people from breaking in.

9:28 PMThe result is that the larger windows along Jefferson Ave. will be getting some decorative grills and the other smaller windows will be replaced with the glass block.

9:31 PM And done! Wow what a long night. Please say thanks to @buildinghugger for sitting through this.