At press time July 22, the Tennis House structure in Grosse Pointe Farms  was still up. The structure is slated to be demolished this month.

At press time July 22, the Tennis House structure in Grosse Pointe Farms was still up. The structure is slated to be demolished this month.

Photo by K. Michelle Moran

New condo plan calls for razing ‘structurally unsound’ Tennis House

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published July 23, 2019

GROSSE POINTE FARMS — A plan that would have preserved a piece of community history has had to be scrapped after a discovery that the building couldn’t be redeveloped.

Developer Matt Kornmeier, director of property management for Birmingham-based ANK Enterprises, had hoped to convert the old Tennis House building, at 360 Moselle Place, into a 12-unit condominium building, complete with an underground parking garage.

Built in 1935 and opened in 1936 as a private club for notable locals including Edsel Ford, Allan Shelden, Arthur Gardner and Ernest Kanzler, the dome-shaped structure at the end of Moselle Place had a tony and storied history. Kornmeier is a Farms resident and club member who acquired the building in August 2013. He had originally hoped to restore the tennis club, but after being unable to attract enough new members to make costly needed renovations, he  planned on at least preserving the unusual exterior structure by redeveloping it into condo units. However, that plan was derailed when engineers discovered that the building wasn’t salvageable.

Addressing the Farms City Council July 8, Charles “Chip” Berschback, the attorney representing Kornmeier and ANK/Tennis House Corp., said they were seeking an amendment to the planned unit development that the council approved in 2017 because of  “the unfortunate fact that the actual Tennis House structure, after numerous attempts … has been deemed structurally unsound.”

Kornmeier said the building was, in essence, a Quonset hut.

“The buttresses to the ground are tied together with a turnbuckle,” he explained, and said that deterioration deep below ground due to water wasn’t picked up after initial inspections.

“Once those turnbuckles are deteriorated, you really have to tear it down,” Kornmeier said.

So now, instead of the Tennis House building and four detached condominium buildings in front of it, Kornmeier is adding another two of the detached condos to the area where the Tennis House sits. The new condos will be architecturally similar to the other four detached, single family condos that Kornmeier has been building on the site.

“This is compatible with the existing neighborhood,” Berschback said. “It doesn’t really require any variances.”

Nearby residents had been concerned about the development and wanted to make sure there was adequate landscaping to screen it, but City Councilman Lev Wood noted that this was “less of an issue” now, due to the reduced density.

Public Services Director Matthew Baka said the developer is adding 125 plants and “not taking down any existing trees.”

“I think, based on what they’ve submitted, it should adequately buffer the neighbors,” Baka told the council.

The council voted unanimously in favor of the amended plan, which replaces the Tennis House building with two new, single family detached condominiums accessed by a cul-de-sac and offering four parking spaces for visitors.

As of the afternoon of July 22, the Tennis House structure was still partially up, but likely not for long.

“We plan to bring the structure down before the end of this month,” Kornmeier said.

He said it would take about three to four days to bring it down and another four or five days to clean up the site. Kornmeier said they were taking the necessary measures to protect air quality during the demolition process.