Garlin Gilchrist could lose Detroit property over blight
Detroit — Garlin Gilchrist II, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, is at risk of losing a fire-damaged duplex he bought from the city if he doesn't clean up the property by Monday, city officials said late Friday.
The issue has become fresh ammunition for Gilchrist's Republican opponents who accuse him of "slumlord-like behavior."
Gilchrist, who is Gretchen Whitmer's running mate, bought the duplex apartment in August 2016 in the North End neighborhood for $27,000 from the Detroit Land Bank Authority, city records show. Gilchrist's ownership of the 253 Marston St. property and its condition were first reported by Deadline Detroit. The land bank is the city agency that controls property lost in tax foreclosure. The land bank is the largest landowner in the city.
Usually, the buyer must repair and have the property occupied within six months, according to land bank rules. But because Gilchrist bought a larger property, an eight-unit apartment building, compared to a single-family home usually sold by the land bank, he has been given more time to do repairs, said land bank spokeswoman Alyssa Strickland late Friday.
Still, the land bank "finds the current condition of the exterior ... to be unacceptable."
Gilchrist was given until Monday to provide proof the exterior of the property is clean and secure.
"If Mr. Gilchrist fails to provide the requested evidence of clean-up at his property, the Detroit Land Bank Authority will issue a notice of reconveyance," the statement said, which means the city agency will take back the property.
Gilchrist issued a statement Friday, saying he's "exhausted his personal resources" to do extensive repairs to the duplex at 253 Marston and is trying to continue repairs by securing a loan. City records show Gilchrist filed permits for electrical work to be done in 2016.
"The apartment building is not in the state that I want it to be in, even with the significant progress that has been made thus far," Gilchrist's statement read.
He added "it has been a struggle to secure a loan" in part due "to my pursuits of elected office in 2017 and now again in 2018." Gilchrist unsuccessfully ran for Detroit City Clerk last year.
"I remain committed to securing the financing, ending the holding pattern that this project has been in, and bringing the apartment building renovation to completion as soon as possible."
Whitmer said after the Friday night gubernatorial debate that her campaign had known about Gilchrist's property but was not fully aware that immediate action was needed. "He's doing his best to get it remedied, and I'm confident he will," she said.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Schuette pounced on the revelation, describing Gilchrist's actions as "slumlord-like behavior."
"Garlin Gilchrist has shown he is too extreme for Michigan based on his negligent handling of this property, his past support of Hamas, criticism of Israel and its supporters and other radical positions,” said Stu Sandler, spokesman for the Schuette campaign in a written statement Friday.
The anti-Israel charge is a continuation of the Republican attack campaign that's based on a Gilchrist 2009 tweet that he later apologized for. Gilchrist is the executive director of the Center of Social Media Responsibility at the University of Michigan, a position from which he plans to take a leave if elected in November.
Whitmer on Friday countered that Gilchrist, a native who had lived in Washington state and Washington D.C., wanted to make an investment in the city and "was excited to come back home."
"He's a great return story of the kind of people we want to come back to Michigan," Whitmer said. "Obviously people have bumps, and he's trying to do his best to get it remedied, and I'm confident he will."
The controversy comes the same day as the first gubernatorial debate between Whitmer and Schuette at 7 p.m. in Grand Rapids. The debate will be live streamed online at detroitnews.com and simulcast on several other television stations around the state.
Staff Writer Beth LeBlanc contributed