This dilapidated house could be yours for $5 million

DETROIT — A ramshackle house in Detroit near the new Little Caesars Arena — one of the last “holdouts” in the area — is back on the market with its most ambitious asking price yet: $5 million.

The two-story wood structure with peeling paint, at 2712 Cass Ave., Is one of the last properties within the footprint of the city’s coming sports and entertainment district that the Ilitch organization has yet to acquire. It neighbors one of the district’s newly built parking decks and is steps away from the $635 million arena, which will become home to the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Pistons when it opens in September.

The house has jumped on and off the market in recent years, each time returning with a higher asking price. It was last de-listed in May after failing to sell at $4 million.

In a phone interview Tuesday, the house’s new agent, Darren Johnson of Johnson Premier Realty Co., Said he re-listed the property last week for an official $4,999,999 — by far the priciest house listing in the city. He said the $1 million jump in asking price reflects the increase in value since the Pistons announced in November that they will join the Red Wings at the new arena later this year and leave the Palace of Auburn Hills.

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“That brings more value because that means there are more days of traffic down there,” said Johnson, who emphasized that he is marketing the 4,791-square-foot property for its future arena district location — not for the house itself. Any buyer would likely tear down the house and build something new.

The listing suggests the site would make a great spot for a nightclub, a restaurant, a hotel or a parking structure.

“It’s probably the most expensive piece of real estate right now,” Johnson said.

A commercial buyer would also need a zoning change, according to Johnson.

“That shouldn’t be too hard to do considering that most of what is in the ground now is zoned commercial,” he said.

Land records show the property last sold for $25,000 in June 2002 to a family partnership composed at the time of six individuals. That sale occurred years before the rumors — ultimately proven true — that the sports venue to replace Joe Louis Arena would be built there in the neighborhood at the edge of Detroit’s once-notorious Cass Corridor.

The house has been mostly vacant since a 2013 electrical fire. Its current occupant is a fellow who has lived there rent-free in exchange for guarding the property from scrappers. The man answered the front door on Tuesday afternoon but declined all comment; a message left for the family wasn’t returned.

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“He is living there right now until we actually sell the property,” Johnson said.

The house is one of two side-by-side homes on what’s left of the block. The other house, at 2720 Cass Ave., Last sold in 2009 for $210,000. Its buyer was a limited liability corporation, Urban Horticulture, that state records show was merged last fall into another corporation — ODM Parking — overseen by Stanford Berenbaum, vice president and general counsel for Ilitch Holdings.

An Ilitch organization representative did not return messages seeking comment for this story.

Although the new $5 million price tag for 2712 Cass Ave. Far surpasses that of its neighbor eight years ago, it’s not completely out of bounds when compared to what properties deeper inside the arena district fetched in the past from the Ilitches’ companies.

The Free Press has reported how the companies spent more than $50 million buying properties in the area, including $7.8 million for the former offices of the Greater Detroit Cab Co. Along the Fisher Freeway. And the boarded-up liquor and convenience store Park and Sibley Market — better known in the neighborhood as Ma Pete’s — netted $5 million.

“It’s all about the location, location, location,” Johnson said.

In one of the area’s few recent non-Ilitch sales, a by-the-hour flophouse near the arena known as the Temple Hotel, at 72 Temple St., Was sold in 2013 to DTE Energy after having listed for $3.7 million. The hotel’s owner wouldn’t reveal the selling price, but said his accountant described it “like maybe we hit the lottery.”.

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Follow JC Reindl on Twitter: @JCReindl.

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