More than two months after a fire ravaged the former Pinball Pete’s location on South University Avenue, the spot where the abandoned building used to stand is a little more than dirt lot covered in straw.
And, the property owned by Dennis Tice may stay that way for a while.
Prior to the demolition, Tice told The Michigan Daily that he had been looking to sell the property for five months before the fire occurred. At the time of demolition — which took place over winter break — Tice was in talks with a developer about what to do with the property, but he couldn’t disclose further information.
Tice, who also owns Pizza House on Church Street, told the Daily in an e-mail interview yesterday that he currently plans to “hold onto the site.”
Stewart Beal, president of JC Beal Construction, was hired by Tice to demolish the remains of the building — which was mostly destroyed in the fire — on Dec. 26. He said the demolition was delayed two days until Dec. 28 because landfills were closed for the weekend.
Once the week began, Beal said demolition went as planned without complications, even though the construction closed portions of South University Avenue.
The project was completed and the street reopened by Jan. 8, only two days behind the initial schedule.
Beal said he had not yet spoken with Tice about any future development of the lot.
The former location of Pinball Pete’s became a ruin after it was ravaged by the Oct. 24 fire. Two homeless men, Justin Arens and Ian MacKenzie were charged with starting the blaze that lasted for hours as firefighters struggled to keep it under control. The fire destroyed the structure and caused minor damages to both University Towers and Momo Tea.
Evidence and tips from people in the area when the fire occurred led Ann Arbor police to believe Arens and MacKenzie were involved in the incident. Arens was arrested on Nov. 29 after police spotted him walking in downtown Ann Arbor. MacKenzie later turned himself in.
Arens, 21, pleaded no contest to charges of arson of real property to Circuit Court Judge Melinda Morris on Monday. Arens now faces up to 10 years in prison for the conviction — a reduced sentence after making a deal with Prosecutor Karen Field.
In preliminary court proceedings, Field dropped the additional charge of arson of personal property for both defendants, stating that the arson of a vacant building fell more accurately under real property. The dismissal of the personal property charge removed 10 years from Arens’s maximum sentence.
Arens faced problems earlier in court proceedings when a request to lower his $100,000 bond was denied in his preliminary examination by Judge J. Simpson, who cited his previous criminal record.
In the past, Arens was convicted of home invasion and retail fraud. With such a history, Judge Simpson said Arens’s release would be “detrimental to the safety of the community.”
Arens remains in custody and will stand before Judge Morris again for sentencing on Feb. 22.
Mackenzie, 18, stood in front of Judge Morris on Jan. 4 for his pretrial conference, which was adjourned until Jan. 25.
At the time of the adjournment, the court was made aware that MacKenzie intended to submit a written request to post the $50,000 bond and be released from custody.