After years of neglect, the abandoned retail space and apartment units at 15432 Harper on Detroit’s East Side suffered an August 2003 blaze that left the structure in a state that conjures images of war-zone ruination. Like a nightmarish dollhouse, its eastern face is all but missing. Its ceilings and roof have caved in, leaving the ground floor piled with broken furniture, rotting bags of garbage, and the rubble of fallen concrete and lumber. Shards of windowpanes and liquor bottles line the structure.
Owner Jerry Bolinger faults the city. Bolinger claims he was not notified of the fire until three weeks after it had occurred, and that police have ignored the structure ever since, allowing it to become a haven for drug users and transients.
“The City of Detroit is responsible for the conditions,” he says.
Attempts to obtain comment from the city were unsuccessful.
Area business owners, despite their frustration with the city, do not entirely share Bolinger’s view. Mickell Rice, owner of Motor City Apollo restaurant, says he has temporarily closed shop because of the stench and other problems associated with Bolinger’s building. Rice contends that Bolinger has delayed razing the building while he seeks to sell the property.
“It’s real terrible,” Rice said. “You shouldn’t have property looking like that.”
The City Council ordered the building demolished in March 2003. A month later, Bolinger succeeded in petitioning to halt demolition. But by last July it was placed back on the removal list. As far as ASS (as in Abandoned Structure Squad) could tell, a new demolition date has not been set.
Bolinger claims to be in negotiations to sell the property, but would not reveal the potential buyer or the buyer’s plans.
“It [the building] is fixable,” he claims.
Though Bolinger, a native of Detroit and current Warren resident, bemoans the condition of the city (“I love the City of Detroit. It’s so sad I could cry.”), he has an unusual idea for expressing his distress.
“I would like to make a memorial [out of the building], to how the city of Detroit wants to be: kind of burned-out and run-down.”
In that case, 15432 Harper is already a scorching success.
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