Arsonist strikes another Heidelberg Project house as fundraising continues


Another art-festooned house at the Heidelberg Project was damaged by an intentionally set fire shortly after 5 a.m. Tuesday.

Investigators believe someone fire-bombed the abandoned Birthday Cake House, which was damaged but not destroyed like the others.

The home, which had no takers in the tax-foreclosure auction earlier this month, was on the edge of the outdoor art exhibit on Heidelberg Street. The owner, S.K. Davis, owed $21,169 in taxes and late fees.

It’s the seventh Heidelberg Project house to burn in a suspicious fire since last year.

That doesn’t include the art-decorated house on the same street that was heavily damaged by a fire two weeks ago. That house belongs to Tim Burke, a sculptor who works with salvaged materials.

The nonprofit that runs the Heidelberg Project raised more than $50,000 last year for a security guard and surveillance cameras after intentionally set fires tore through five houses. The nonprofit dropped the security guard after about a month and now relies on cameras. The nonprofit’s handling of the fundraiser incensed some donors.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the cameras caught the latest arsonist in the act because the nonprofit has stopped discussing the case outside of written statements.

Investigation: What the Heidelberg Project doesn’t want you to know

The Heidelberg Project is in the midst of another fundraiser because of the past arsons, even though the nonprofit owns just four properties inside the project area, and all of those are empty lots. Since 2007, Wayne County seized eight of the nonprofit’s properties in a tax foreclosure.

Donors aren’t exactly lining up to help the Heidelberg Project this time. Only $280 was raised so far, and the fundraiser is more than two weeks old.

The Heidelberg Project released this statement:

Around mid-morning, we learned of another fire striking a home on Heidelberg Street, this time, the Cake House. First and foremost we are thankful that no one was injured in the fire and that the fire department was able to contain the blaze which marks the 11th suspicious fire in the area in just 16 months.

Last summer, Tyree had been approached by a neighbor who had seen individuals scrapping materials from the house and asked him if he could board it up as a measure of safety. TG did so without hesitation, adding a little Heidelberg flair to the house in the process, adorning the home with birthday cakes as a reminder to celebrate each and every day.

As the home sits outside of the two block area home to most of Tyree’s art, it is not directly associated with the project. We still don’t know much about this fire, but as Detroit Fire authorities continue their investigation, we ask that anyone with information contact the department directly at (313) 596-2940. The ATF continues to support this investigation as well, pledging resources and manpower as they can. Special Agent Donald Dawkins may also be reached in this regard at (313) 202-3400.
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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.

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