Nicole Curtis takes victory lap after Detroit Land Bank win, hosts home tours
HGTV star Nicole Curtis said she's not quieting down any time soon. Standing at the top of the porch steps of a rundown home she won in a court battle earlier this month, Curtis said Sunday she's going to get even louder.
She's calling for reform of the Detroit Land Bank.
"Not every house is historical but every house has a story," Curtis said during an open house of the abandoned home at 451 E. Grand Boulevard on Sunday afternoon. "The story of this house will be the house that called for the reform of the Detroit Land Bank, that called for eyeballs to watch the hypocrisy of the Detroit Land Bank authority."
A line wrapped around the corner of Grand Boulevard and Kercheval as people waited to meet HGTV's "Rehab Addict" and see the house she fought to own for more than a year. Curtis mounted a flag on the house Saturday in honor of Memorial Day.
A prayer was said to bless the house before guests entered, and a donation of $5 or more and a waiver was needed before going inside.
"I think that she makes some really good points. ... I love everything she's done and this is by far my favorite," said Katie Villamil of Grosse Pointe Park. "I think that she has a very healthy respect for the past and she wants to bring it back. What would have happened to the house if they don't fix it up?"
Karen Brooks of Detroit said Curtis' battle for the home was inspiring.
"This shows other people that they can fight too. She's not the only one that's been a victim of the land bank," said Brooks.
A newly restored house a few doors down at 469 E. Grand Boulevard also was open for tours on Sunday.
A judge awarded the home at 451 E. Grand Blvd. to Curtis on May 21. Curtis and her attorney, Jim Rasor of Royal Oak, held a press conference at the house Saturday to call attention to what they say were abuses by the Detroit Land Bank Authority, which claimed ownership of the house after Curtis bought it in 2017.
Curtis said she is "just one of hundreds, perhaps thousands of Detroiters who have lost their properties, perhaps illegally, to the Detroit Land Bank."
"We stand here today and there is 4 feet of grass surrounding us," Curtis said. "Four feet of grass that if I did not mow my lawn right down the street, or two houses down from this, I would get a blight ticket from the city of Detroit, which is how the Detroit Land Bank gets so many houses in their inventory, is by their nuisance abatement program.
"And yet the Detroit Land Bank owned this home for almost the past year, they took possession of it and the grass is 4 feet high," Curtis said.
Curtis' Detroit Renovations LLC paid a private owner $17,000 for the house in 2017. But she learned the next year that the land bank actually held the property title.
The Lake Orion native sued the Detroit Land Bank Authority in March to recoup her investment in the 1908 foursquare, arguing the land bank took advantage of her when it took the deed to the house she's paid taxes on, was insuring and had stabilized and secured.
Wayne Circuit Court Chief Judge Timothy Kenny said in his ruling that the land bank was awarded the house in a nuisance abatement proceeding in 2016 yet it didn't record the title for more than a year after Curtis' renovation firm recorded its deed.
Kenny also concluded that the house "poses a nuisance and a danger to the health, safety and welfare of the community," and ordered Curtis' company to abate it by completing its renovation work.
Detroit Land Bank spokeswoman Alyssa Strickland said the Land Bank Authority is not a ticketing authority. Blight tickets are issued by the city of Detroit, which receives the money collected from blight tickets.
"The nuisance abatement lawsuits are exclusively filed on properties that are vacant and blighted," Strickland said. "It’s based on feedback from neighbors, the department of neighborhoods and staff assessment.
"We are the ones that alerted her to the deed issue in 2018 and offered her multiple opportunities to sign an agreement saying she would renovate the property and she would maintain ownership, and she did not."