Land bank lets Gilchrist keep blighted Detroit building after weekend cleanup

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News
On Monday, there were no longer any mattresses in the backyard of Garlin Gilchrist II's property on Marsten in Detroit.

Democratic lieutenant governor hopeful Garlin Gilchrist II is keeping ownership of his building at 253 Marston Street in Detroit after “clearing the front yard of debris and securing the building.”

Gilchrist was in danger of losing the home because of the blighted condition of the fire-damaged duplex, but cleanup efforts over the weekend met the terms of the Detroit Land Bank’s Monday deadline.

“Mr. Gilchrist will be expected to keep the property maintained and secure, and the Detroit Land Bank Authority will continue to work with him to see the project through to completion,” the authority wrote in a statement.

Gilchrist bought the duplex apartment in August 2016 in the North End neighborhood for $27,000 from the Detroit Land Bank Authority, city records show. His ownership of the blighted property, the condition of which the Land Bank called “unacceptable,” was first reported by Deadline Detroit.

In a statement Monday, Gilchrist said he bought the fire damaged building and initially put money into its rehabilitation but did not have the financing to finish the project.

“We hit some bumps along the road of the construction project,” Gilchrist said in a video statement Monday. “We made some honest oversights.”

On Friday, Gilchrist released a written list of the work he has done on the property: "demolish the building interior, remove the collapsing rear balcony and staircase, repair the significant damage to the leaking roof, install main line plumbing, install new windows, and level the building by raising it eight inches. I also hired an architect to draw plans for the building and initiate the permitting process for construction."

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer's campaign on Tuesday released electrical and plumbing permits for the work at 253 Marston over Gilchrist's two-year ownership. Those permits were verified late Tuesday by city officials.

The campaign also released a statement from Adam Helfman, the contractor who managed the work at the property.

Demolition at the home did not require a permit, Helfman's statement said, because the removal of the back deck, "which was entirely on the ground," was  blight related. 

"All of this debris was cleaned and removed in a responsible manner with dumpsters and proper disposal," he said. "During this process, there was no disturbing of any structural elements of the property."

Fencing has been installed around the front of the property at 253 and 257 Marston Street in Detroit. The property was bought in 2016 by Garlin Gilchrist II from the Detroit Land Bank Authority.

On Monday, Gilchrist paid off a $763.23 summer property tax bill after missing the city’s deadline to pay an initial installment by Aug. 15 or in full by Aug. 31. Gilchrist also was delinquent in paying his summer and winter bills in 2017 but paid those off — roughly $935 — on June 5. 

Gilchrist “got a pass” from his former employers in Detroit, the campaign for Republican governor hopeful Bill Schuette said Tuesday. The campaign demanded that Gilchrist or the land bank release all documents related to the property, including those related to the site’s auction, deadline extensions, permits and financing.

“Garlin Gilchrist is treating the North End neighborhood like a game of Monopoly and today the city let him off the hook while his neighbors remain stuck with his rotting building on their street,” Schuette said in a statement.

Whitmer's campaign said Schuette's response was a ploy to distract from his own work as attorney general and his lagging support ahead of the November election. 

"There's only one thing that can explain Bill Schuette's weird obsession with Garlin Gilchrist: He's losing badly in the polls and desperate to turn around his failing campaign," said Zack Pohl, a spokesman for Whitmer's campaign.

Gilchrist took a leave of absence in August from his role as executive director of the Center of Social Media Responsibility at the University of Michigan, where he was earning $137,300 a year.

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