Demolition of the former Pinball Pete’s building — a well-known campus landmark that was damaged in a fire earlier this fall — is set to begin next week when classes end and students begin leaving town for winter break.
Dennis Tice, owner of the former Pinball Pete’s property that was charred beyond repair in late October, said demolition of the property will begin on Dec. 14 and is expected to continue through Jan. 6. But, based on advice from city officials, major demolition won’t begin until after Christmas, when most students have left campus. What follows after the demolition, however, is still up in the air.
The Oct. 24 fire that ravaged the abandoned building on South University Avenue took firefighters from two departments hours to fully extinguish and temporarily displaced hundreds of residents from the neighboring University Towers apartment complex. Two men, who are thought to be homeless, were arrested in connection with the blaze Dec. 3 and have been charged with arson of private property. A court hearing for one of the suspects is set to begin tomorrow.
Shortly after the fire, Tice said he received a letter from city officials acknowledging the incident and inquiring about what his plans were for the property.
Tice — who has been in negotiations to sell the building for the past five months — said though the fire recently occurred, he has been waiting for years for city approval to demolish the building.
A construction company JC Beal Construction was later hired, and the company’s president Stewart Beal met with John Brink, project manager for the city of Ann Arbor, to discuss the demolition’s timeline.
Brink, who manages street permit guidelines and processing times, said the city’s only requirement was that the bulk of the demolition be done over the University’s winter break, in an effort to minimize any disruptions or inconveniences.
“That was the city of Ann Arbor’s suggestion, and we were happy to comply with it,” Beal said.
To this end, smaller components of the teardown will begin on Dec. 14, but heavy equipment will not be brought in until Dec. 26, when construction will take place every day of the week.
“We’re going to get it done as quickly as possible,” Beal said. “We know the importance of getting it done.”
Though construction is set to finish on Jan. 6 — the same day students return to class — the process could be delayed if any major snowstorms hit the area in the next few weeks.
“In terms of a finite ending, it’s hard to say since this is the worst weather time,” Beal said. “It’s all weather related — if we were to get a blizzard for three days it would set us three days back, or more.”
Tice, who also owns Pizza House, was less clear about what would replace the former Pinball Pete’s property. He said that previous plans were stalled as he waited for the final passage of the city’s A2D2 zoning initiative, since it would determine what types of property could fill the space.
“My brother and I have been waiting for five years to know,” Tice said. “Now that it’s voted on, I anticipate a lot of properties being sold or redeveloped.”
The zoning changes, approved last month by the Ann Arbor City Council, were created to implement new design standards for downtown Ann Arbor, restructure the city’s parking system and help simplify the land development proposal process.
Tice said he would have torn the building down years ago if the city’s new zoning regulations had been set.
“That building had no or very little value as it was,” Tice said. “The value is in the land.”
For the past five months, Tice has been negotiating a sales agreement for the former Pinball Pete’s property with an undisclosed developer, but he said the developer was more interested in the land than the building itself. Tice would not disclose who the developer is.
Tice said the building was so run down and out of code that any new property owners would have likely demolished it.
Tice added, “I don’t believe the fact that the building is gone is going to change their mind.”