3 Heidelberg Project properties are up for auction because of tax delinquencies

The Number House, which is used by the Heidelberg Project, is up for auction.
The Number House, which is used by the Heidelberg Project, is up for auction. All photos by Steve Neavling.

Three popular properties at the world-famous Heidelberg Project on Detroit’s east side are up for auction because of delinquent taxes.

Bidding began Thursday on two art-festooned houses and a vacant lot, which are not owned by the nonprofit but have been integral to the project for years. The iconic Number House was left vacant after the owner, Thelma Woods, died several years ago. Taxes haven’t been paid at the 3632 Heidelberg St. property since 2007, county records show.

The minimum bid is $7,400 to cover the costs of delinquent taxes. If the house doesn’t fetch a bid by Sept. 17, it will be auctioned again, starting at just $500, like the other two properties.

This house, which is adorned with paintings of birthday cakes, is up for auction.

The project’s artist, Tyree Guyton, painted numbers on the house and sidewalk to honor the homeowner.

“The grandmother talked of how the kids learned to count from the numbers on the house,” he told Juxtapoz last year. “When she died, the children wanted us to keep that memory alive.”

The sale of the properties puts the project in a precarious position. Since 2007, Wayne County seized in a tax foreclosure eight of the nonprofit’s properties, including its signature Party Animal House, which was intentionally destroyed by a fire on March 7. The nonprofit currently owns just four of the properties – all vacant land – in the two-block area.

The Heidelberg Project also was hammered by a string of arsons late last year and has been using a smaller portion of its budget on maintaining property in the outdoor installation park.

Losing the three properties could break up significant sections of the project.

Also up for auction is a vacant lot just east of the Number House at 3616 Heidelberg, where installations are erected across the lawn. The minimum bid is $2,500. The owner, Howard Lewis died, and hadn’t paid taxes since 2006, according to county records.

A vacant lot also is up for auction.
A vacant lot also is up for auction.

The third property, which is a block east at 3434 Heidelberg, is a house adorned with paintings of birthday cakes. The owner, S.K. Davis, owes $21,169 in taxes and late fees. It’s unlikely to sell in the first round because the minimum bid is $21,700.

The three properties are among more than 23,000 in Detroit that ended up in the Wayne County Tax Auction this year.

Check out this map of every tax foreclosed property in Detroit.

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.

  • LAHeat

    Well since this is art, I’m sure the DIA will step up and purchase the properties, I mean art! After all, you wouldn’t let them bulldoze a Picasso, would you? Or maybe there is some of that 50K left over (for the cafe and welcome center that was never built) to use for purchasing these beauties? Or maybe Mr. Guyton still has some of the 25K left over from the Kresge Award he received to purchase the properties? What was that song by Pete Seeger … Where has all the money gone? Opps, I mean flowers…

  • “The Heidelberg Project also was hammered by a string of arsons late last year and has been using a smaller portion of its budget on maintaining property in the outdoor installation park.”
    Well they certainly haven’t increased spending (outside of their budget, remember all the whining for additional donations) on security, paying property taxes on the parcels they own, acquiring other properties so “integral” to the project. And they sure don’t spend much on maintaining what they have. So where does their money end up going?

  • 1Joshua

    Guyton is nuts. Only in barbarized Detroit could this rubbish be seen as art. Tear it down.

  • A.L. Cadillac

    Is this part of the art? I just don’t get it. Is Heidelberg meant to be a transient experiment or permanent installation; a commentary on abandonment and re-thinking of an urban neighborhood? It doesn’t seem like a difficult proposition to purchase the properties, particularly considering all the money they raise, to solidify the mission of the nonprofit. Disgraceful.

    • Amanda

      You really think they spend their free time pondering sociological affects and turn them into art on such a philosophical level? What they have exhibited is a high budget for delinquency, and profits that go nowhere but in their pockets. Oh, they also practice the art form of not communicating with ANYONE.

  • OneCanOnlyHope

    Please sell the property and bulldoze down what ever structures are left. That is not art; I don’t care what anybody says. It’s a stinking eyesore and if I lived anywhere near it I would be celebrating with each new fire. Nobody with an ounce of sense would want to live by that ugly mess.

    • A.L. Cadillac

      Another suburban art critic makes their voice heard. Thanks for playing.

      • OneCanOnlyHope

        Your welcome LMAO!!