The Mission of Preservation Chelsea

It is our mission to preserve Chelsea as a village rich with history and charm, reflected by historic buildings, surrounding farmlands, and as found in our beautiful and vibrant village center. We aim to work through education, offering to ourselves and the community the history of Chelsea as well as the issues shaping our future. We intend actively to preserve historic landmarks and to have a voice in all issues that affect any possible de-centralization of our village. It is our intention to pursue this mission with full involvement and input from merchants and citizens of Chelsea and to act in ways that make sense for the preservation of Chelsea's charm and historic integrity while supporting a vibrant and successful downtown.

Federal Screw Works

Federal Screw Works
This property has been under threat of total demolition since 2008--there are historically signficant and architecturally interesting sections that should be preserved!

Jackson Street Panorama

Jackson Street Panorama
The DDA voted at the meeting on 9.20.12 to demolish the Daniels Addition Car Showroom despite the letter from the State Historic Preservation Office. (please read below)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Letter to the Editor details "DDA's Demolition by Neglect" -- Sun Times 10.31.12

During the public comment segment at the Sept DDA meeting Tom Girard, city resident and engineer at the U of M, spoke up about lack of basic care and attention to the Longworth complex that the DDA owns.  The property was bought so as to improve the appearance of the north access to Chelsea.  Sad to say but action, or lack thereof, speaks louder than words in this case, since the purchase of this property by the DDA has left it in pretty much the condition at the time of purchase about four years ago.  Bear with me as I share some of the history around this topic. 
I was a DDA Board member for twelve years.  Last year I was replaced at the choice of the mayor.  However, I was present during the process from the beginning regarding this property.  Mark Heydlauf, a board member since the Chelsea DDA's inception, brought before the board the need to purchase the Longworth property.  The basic reasons being: it creates a very poor image of Chelsea to those heading south on M52 via auto, and the flash view of Chelsea to those traveling on the train.   It was identified as a "significant" gateway structure and property that the DDA should purchase and improve. No question, the property had  been deteriorating for years and needed attention.  Years prior to this no one was at all interested in purchasing it and the property was only getting worse in it's appearance and upkeep.  After a series of presentations, evaluations and visioning to the DDA Board, a decision was made to purchase it.  The costs to purchase exceeded $400,000 that included: purchase, engineering studies, soil testing, purchase options, etc. The vote to buy the property was unanimous.  It was purchased at a price that exceeded the appraised value.  
I'm formerly a restoration contractor and builder.  Rule #1 when a property is purchased is: take necessary steps to ensure the entire exterior envelope be dry and secured.  Exterior envelope includes: windows, doors, grade for drainage, exterior walls and roof.  Studies and evaluations of the property clearly showed that the buildings needed to be protected from the elements.  Water was coming in from the roof and parts of the foundation.  Windows were broken and access to the inside was possible.  The DDA addressed the security issues but nothing else.  
Then, a visioning session was set up with the public to show what options were being considered for the property in hopes that improvement to the property could start within a year.  Of the options presented, Option B was selected.   Option B showed the adaptive reuse of only one of the three historic structures.  Two buildings were tobe demolished for parking and a small green space.  Consideration for saving all three of the historically significant buildings to be adaptively reused was not offered or considered by the DDA.  The fact that one of the historic structures would be adaptively reused was a revelation in itself.  In the twelve years I was on the Board, not once had the DDA purchased any historic property, improved and adaptively reused it.  I jumped on this opportunity in hopes this might occur.  The Board recognized "Option B" as the option of choice at the visioning session and voted to go forward with this choice.
Then the game changed.  Mark Creswell, a citizen and local businessman, stepped up to possibly purchase the property.  Ut oh!  No one thought there would be interest in this property.  Now the DDA was presented with a dilemma: does the DDA want to get the Longworth property off their books and allow an entreprenuer to start a business in this space that might produce revenue or does the DDA carry on with the envisioned plan for combination demolition/adaptive re-use plan which keeps the property under the public domain incurring expenses with all Option B elements they once felt needed to be there? 
Through much discussion it was decided to allow consideration of the sale of the property to other entities should the DDA's purchase conditions be met by a potential buyer.  Thus started the long and tedious effort to possibly have the property put back on the tax roles and it's improvement fall on the back of a possible future purchaser.  (The process being tedious because it involved: creation of a "Request for Proposal" ["RFP"] which is a written question/answer document of many pages, potential buyers requesting the "RFP" because it had to be completed to be considered a potential purchaser,  completion of the RFP, committee review of the completed version of the RFP and then, committee accepted RFP's went to the board for their review).   This is a lengthy, time consuming process. 
At this point, a number of the DDA Board members decided there would be no more monies spent on this property if it was to be owned by someone else in the future.  It was at this point that there appeared a division amongst the Board.  Some said that the property is nothing but old buildings that should be torn down and to go forward with the plan and others stating that if it can be purchased by an entreprenuer for private enterprise we should allow that option to go forward.  Once the prospect of private ownership of the property was in play, the boards commitment to protecting the structure further from deterioration during the RFP process and thereafter all but disappeared.
Twice, I put forward a motion to spend some money to protect the buildings. Reasonable sums of money to protect the DDA/City investment.   By role call vote the motions were defeated.  Now in the last four years nothing of significance has been done to improve the exterior envelopes and incoming water has continued.  Even the one historic structure that was planned to be adaptively reused is in peril.  Maybe those wishing to see the old structures go and have parking put in its place could see how this might happen.  Its known as "Demolition by Neglect".  Can I say for sure this was the plan?  No I can't.  Do actions speak louder than words?  Demolition is going forward as I speak.
Jim Myles
Chelsea, MI     
Jim and Kim Myle
Owners and Innkeepers
toll free: 877-618-4935
local: 734-475-2244

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