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Future uncertain for historic state fairgrounds properties

Michigan State Fairground
Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio
A sign designating the Michigan state fairgrounds as a historic site.

Governor Snyder has officially opened the former state fairgrounds in Detroit for re-development, but it’s not clear what will happen to the historic structures on the site.

There are a handful of historically-designated properties on the Michigan state fairgrounds. The most prominent is the Grant House. That’s where former Civil War General and U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant once lived (the structure itself is located on the fairgrounds, where it was moved from its original location elsewhere in Detroit).

Bob Hovansian, a lawyer who works with the group Preservation Detroit, says that in legal terms, those historical designations don’t amount to much.

“There’s not a whole lot of protection that’s offered for historical properties, even if they are designated as such," Hovansian said.

And he says the fact that the land bank has control of the process means the state is looking to move things along quickly--something Governor Snyder has acknowledged as a priority.

“So what I see this land bank as is kind of a holding group that will assure the property is turned over to whatever the highest bidder is,” Hovansian said.

Sandra Clark, Director of the Michigan Historical center, says there have been discussions about moving the Grant House yet again--but no firm plans are yet in place for that property, or any others on the fairgrounds.

Clark says the Historical Center is in touch with the land bank about the issue. "We're aware of its value, and we're trying to stay ahead of [the process]," she said. "The sooner, the better."


Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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