Summit Place stands until at least 2017, clerk says

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News

The vacant and abandoned Summit Place Mall will not be razed until August 2017 under a best-case scenario unless its owner creates a reasonable redevelopment plan, Waterford Township Clerk Sue Camilleri said Thursday.

And that’s only if the California-based owner of the boarded-up, 1.4-million-square-foot mall at Telegraph and Elizabeth Lake follows orders from township-appointed hearing officer Walter Pytiak to demolish the decrepit building.

“We anticipate that they will do nothing as a result of this hearing,” Camilleri said.

The demolition would take at least a full year and cost more than $4.1 million to complete. The mall’s owner, Los Angeles-based S.D. Capital, has until July 15 to pull permits for the demolition or present a redevelopment plan.

If the owner decides on demolition, it would have another month to start tearing down the mall. S.D. Capital bought the mall for $5.5 million in 2010, according to media reports.

If S.D. Capital fails to take action by July 15, the township will take the owners to civil court, Camilleri said, drawing out the mall’s death rattle. This is the course of action the township clerk expects the company to take.

Richard E. Rassel, an attorney for S.D. Capital, shared a June 10 letter sent by his firm to the township that said Pytiak “was far from impartial” and “essentially served as an expert witness for the Township and led the charge against S.D. Capital.”

The owner’s “due process rights have been violated,” the letter reads. “Any additional hearings will amount to a sham.”

Rassel declined to comment further on the demolition order.

The building owner in April asked for a 270-day adjournment of the demolition hearing so it would have time to respond to concerns. The company was given until June 14, Camilleri said, which wasn’t what was requested, but still enough time to present a new plan.

The company’s lawyers indicated ahead of the June 14 hearing that they wouldn’t attend, Camilleri said. Officials heard public comment and then ordered the building demolished, she said.

“We have been very patient,” Camilleri said. “We understand this is private property and people have rights to private property, but enough time has passed. It is a dangerous building.”

Waterford Township officials have said since 2014 that the mall was unsafe “inside and out.”

Township Supervisor Gary Wall has estimated that it could cost between $80 million and $100 million to rehabilitate the mall.

Camilleri said Thursday the township has a “civil” relationship with the building owners. Wall speaks to officials from the owner every Friday, and while plenty of ideas for the mall’s future have been brought up, the entities cannot agree on a plan for the once-bustling mall.

In 2007, the mall was 60 percent vacant. It closed in September 2009 during the recession, leaving two anchor stores, Macy’s and J.C. Penney, which shut down in 2010. A Sears store, in a separate building on the property, closed in 2014.

“Everyone was sad to see the mall fall into disrepair,” Camilleri said. Many people have fond memories of perusing the 200 shops once housed in the mall around the holidays, but “the good memories have been wiped out with the terrible condition it’s in now,” she added.

S.D. Capital listed the property for $10 million in 2014. The current price tag is $5.9 million.

Jeff James, Waterford Township deputy police chief, said in April the vacant mall is too unsafe for officers to enter and investigate reports of break-ins or vandalism unless they were sure a child was inside. A collapsing roof, flooded basement and broken fire suppression system are only a small fraction of what plagues the mall, township officials have said.

Wall has said the township doesn’t want to buy the mall.

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Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau