Three popular properties at the world-famous Heidelberg Project on Detroit’s east side are up for auction because of delinquent taxes.
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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.
The project’s artist, Tyree Guyton, painted numbers on the house and sidewalk to honor the homeowner.
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“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.
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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.
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 lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.