Fabulous ruins of Ann Arbor
Detroit St. development, at last
by Natalie Burg
The abandoned gas station at 544 Detroit Street sat untouched for more than thirty years. Swisher real estate agent Doug Smith believes the longtime owner, former Ann Arbor resident and current Maryland physician Jack Epstein, always intended to get around to developing the triangular lot where Detroit and Division meet. But "because he [also owned] the duplex next door and that was generating income, there was no rush," says Smith.
So the garage and the lot just remained an abandoned eyesore until Epstein "finally decided it was just time to sell." Smith says Epstein tried to sell the properties as a package. Evidently no one saw a way to improve on the unusual boomerang-shaped duplex, however, because developer Dan Williams ended up buying just the gas station.
Between being three-sided, in a historic district, and with potential contamination issues, the site could be a tricky redevelopment--but neighbors are relieved that something is finally happening to it. "There has been a decent amount of neighborhood support," Williams says. "We've had a lot of positive feedback."
His plan--for a three-story, flatiron, mixed-use building--has made its way through quite a few committees already; at press time, the only remaining hurdles were an environmental review and approval by city council.
[Originally published in March, 2013.]