The historic, dilapidated, distinctively turreted Ransom Gillis mansion in Detroit's Brush Park is getting ready for prime time and the hands-on design talent of HGTV star Nicole Curtis, a.k.a. the "Rehab Addict."
Curtis will lead the renovation of the 1876-built mansion for an eight-part HGTV series to be sponsored by Quicken Loans, the mortgage lender founded by local billionaire Dan Gilbert, according to a Quicken news release. The series is scheduled to air in November and "will celebrate Detroit."
"Room-by-room renovation and filming" of Ransom Gillis' transformation began last week, the press release said. Brush Park residents said Curtis, who grew up in Lake Orion in Oakland County, also was spotted on the site.
In May, Gilbert's Bedrock Development announced it was the lead partner in a $70-million plan to revitalize a swath of Brush Park with new housing, as well as the restoration of the Ransom Gillis house and three other historic mansions on Alfred St. between John R and Brush.
Gilbert plans 337 new townhouses and apartments for Brush Park
Not since it was erected 139 years ago has the Ransom Gillis house, named for a merchant and located at the corner of John R and Alfred, seen so much heavy-lifting and construction as it has in the last few weeks.
Rehab work has begone on the historic Ransom Gillis House that was built between 1876 and 1878. (Photo: Diane Weiss Detroit Free Press)
Yet, Bedrock and City of Detroit officials have acknowledged that Bedrock's initial work on the still city-owned Ransom Gillis house was done without securing required city building permits for various aspects of construction. That city permit process is now under way after inquiries from the Free Press this month.
"The Brush Park Development Company does have a right of entry permission for 205 Alfred (Ransom Gillis) for the purpose of inspecting and securing the property. Of its own initiative and its own expense, the BPDC apparently has performed some work to stabilize the structure from further deterioration without first obtaining the necessary permits," Eric Jones, director of the city's Buildings, Safety Engineering & Environmental Department (BSEED), said in an email to the Free Press.
"We have been in conversation with the BPDC, which is in the process of submitting its paperwork for a permit to begin the rehabilitation of this historic building. Once a permit is obtained, an inspector will visit the site to perform a detailed inspection to ensure that all work being performed is done to code," Jones wrote.
Gilbert's Bedrock Development is the lead partner in the Brush Park Development Company, and includes Pam Rodgers of Rodgers Chevrolet, former Detroit Deputy Mayor Freman Hendrix and developers Marvin Beatty and Sam Thomas.
A spokesperson for Rock Ventures, another Dan Gilbert entity, said the initial work was done to stabilize and secure the historic structures.
"Brush Park Development Company continues to work with the City of Detroit to finalize the ownership documents for 205 Alfred. In the meantime, we have been doing critical stabilization work on the property at our own financial risk so it doesn't further deteriorate since it has been vacant for many years," said Carolyn Artman, senior public relations manager at Rock Ventures, in an email.
"We are in the process of submitting final documents for construction permits so we can begin to return this historic mansion to a beautiful, habitable home. We look forward to working with the community and key stakeholders to help make Brush Park a vibrant neighborhood once again," said Artman.
The Ransom Gillis house is in a historic district, and its exterior renovations also are subject to approval by the city's Historic District Commission, according to members of a Brush Park citizens council, who can give an advisory thumbs up or thumbs down to proposed renovation plans.
Curtis in a WXYZ-TV interview back in March indicated her next Detroit project would be the restoration of Ransom Gillis house. But neither Bedrock, City of Detroit officials or HGTV would confirm it until now.
Homeowners in the neighborhood just north of Comerica Park, say they spotted Curtis at the Ransom Gillis house as renovation ramped up last week. But Brush Park community leaders, who met in late June to review development plans for the neighborhood, said Bedrock officials declined even then to say whether Curtis would work on the project.
The Ransom Gillis house was last occupied in the 1960s, the press release said. The TV show also will feature Quicken President Jay Farner in several episodes. The house will be divided into two residential units, the release said.
"The series will celebrate Detroit, and the rehabilitation will be guided by inspiration from the home's distinguished history. The transformation will include the sourcing of fixtures and furnishings from the local community," said the release.
The release said there will be related filming regarding "the home-buying process, including selecting a neighborhood, finding the right home, buying the house and then turning it into a home that suits the buyers' individual personality and needs."
Brush Park residents say Bedrock representatives have contacted them about filming other historic homes in the neighborhood
"We're seeing a blow-by-blow of the renovation of the property and so far, it's really good," said Mona Ross-Gardner, president of the Brush Park Community Development Corp. "There's nothing to complain about."
She said Bedrock's preliminary work on the Ransom Gillis house block cleaned up "a very unsightly place to look at."
"I've seen that Bedrock has excavated the property, cleaned up the rubbish and property. And made it so that it's visually stimulating," said Ross-Gardner. "If there was a time frame in which they did not get preliminary permits, and are doing so, I don't see any problems with it."
In six seasons of "Rehab Addict," Nicole Curtis has become a HGTV staple and star, rescuing and remodeling abandoned homes in Minneapolis and two in Detroit.
Earlier this month, Curtis posted a photo of herself pregnant on Facebook to announce a second child. In May, a "Rehab Addict" episode ended with a fleeting shot of a pregnant Curtis sitting on a window stoop. A Nicole Curtis Facebook page post on May 7 showed her holding her dog and with a sign covering her mid-section that read "New Episode Detroit Baby!"
Last week, HGTV spokesperson Lauren Kenyon said Curtis could not be reached for comment because Curtis was on maternity leave.
Another official announcement on the way