Letter raises questions about likelihood of development

By J. Patrick Pepper
Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN — A subsidiary of Burton-Katzman Development Co. currently doesn’t have enough money to finance engineering reports on two crumbling concrete foundations slated for demolition.

Company attorneys made that contention in a Feb. 25 letter to city officials in response to a January Demolition Board hearing, at which city officials alleged that the foundations had become a public safety hazard. The city required the engineering report if the company wanted to stop the demolition proceedings.

“Regarding the city’s request that West Village Commons LLC (the B-K subsidiary) provide an engineering report, West Village does not currently have the ability to fund such a report,” the letter says.

The pads in question were poured more than two years ago as part of Burton-Katzman’s west downtown West Village Commons project and were supposed to be the site of two six-unit condominium buildings.

But since construction halted on the development, the pads have deteriorated to the point that vegetation now springs from a growing web of cracks and pits across the surfaces.

Attorney Josh Moss of law firm Barris, Sott, Denn & Driker argued that since the Demolition Board hearing, West Village has fixed a perimeter fence that had fallen into disrepair. He said because the repaired fence now prevents access to the site, any public danger that may have existed has been eliminated.

Moss said West Village company officials still believe the foundation is capable of supporting loads from the proposed condominiums. He also noted that the city has not shown that “the alleged defects in the foundations are so serious that they could not be repaired prior to construction for significantly less than it would cost to build new foundations.”

And if the city moves forward with demolition, Moss cautioned, it would be “purposely interfering” with the company’s ability to comply with a court order that it must break ground on 12 condominium units – as well as two midrise buildings — by no later than April 3. The buildings are projected to be worth more than $16 million when, or if, they are finished.

The order at issue was given earlier this year by Wayne County Circuit Judge Michael Sapala as part of the city’s ongoing lawsuit against Burton-Katzman and several company executives for failing to complete the project, which was built on a city-owned parcel.

City Attorney Debra Walling on Friday declined to comment when asked what West Village’s apparently weak cash position could mean for the company as it tries to comply with Sapala’s order. But she did say that the company had not submitted any of the typical paperwork that is necessary to start construction.