Novi city seeks buyer to relocate historic BeGole House by October’s end

House will be demolished by city if not moved

By: Jonathan Shead | Novi Note | Published September 23, 2021

 The BeGole House was formerly owned and occupied by former Novi Police Chief Lee BeGole.

The BeGole House was formerly owned and occupied by former Novi Police Chief Lee BeGole.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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NOVI — City officials have put the house once owned and occupied by former Novi Police Chief Lee BeGole, at 43707 Grand River Ave., up for sale for $1, in as-is condition, with the stipulation that the buyer relocates the house off the property so the city can complete the ring road project at Grand River Avenue and Novi Road.

The BeGole House must be relocated by Oct. 31.

“If it doesn’t get relocated by then, then it’ll be demolished,” Novi Assistant City Manager Victor Cardenas said. “Honestly, we’re just looking for anyone who has the interest and the wherewithal to move it to another location. Wherever they move it to, or what they do with it, is completely up to them.”

According to the city’s website, the home isn’t currently habitable and would require restoration efforts to return it to its Victorian-era architecture. A hazardous materials evaluation hasn’t been performed. The sale would include the home only; the city would retain the land, and the purchaser would be responsible for the required permits and approvals needed to relocate the residence.

While the Oct. 31 deadline isn’t a hard date, Cardenas explained, the city’s primary focus right now is finding a buyer capable of moving the property.

“If there’s a viable, interested party that we can work on an agreement with, and they have a sound plan to move it, (but) maybe it’s not by the 31st, maybe it’s a couple weeks after that, I’m sure we can work around that, but at this point it would really be identifying the buyer and seeing if they have the wherewithal to make that happen,” he said.

The house needs to be moved, Cardenas said, in order for the city to complete the southwest portion of the ring road, which the city has been working to complete over the past couple of years. A ring road is one that circumvents an intersection and provides an alternate way to get around traffic and reduce congestion.

Cardenas said there wasn’t much conversation about the city relocating the house itself.

“We’d need a location,” he said. “We’d need a purpose. It needs a lot of work to get it back up to any kind of useful condition, so there would be a lot of dollars that would have to be (expended) to make sure that’s a suitable usage somewhere else in the city.”

As the news was announced on the city’s Facebook page Sept. 8, however, many residents expressed sadness to hear the BeGole house may get leveled, while others questioned the possibilities of getting the proper permits and approvals to relocate the property by the city’s deadline.

For 28-year Novi resident, Aaron Martinez, the news was especially shocking.

“Chief BeGole died, I think, at the beginning of 2020, and there’s just so much history that’s in that house. I would hate to see really one of the last historic properties in Novi get torn down. It would be heartbreaking,” Martinez said. “I think a lot of folks over the last several years have noticed how much Novi has changed from that original small city that we used to be.

“I think a lot of folks are really yearning to kind of have these types of monuments still up and still available so we can really talk about what the humble beginnings of the city were.”

That got Martinez thinking that maybe the BeGole House could turn into a Novi history museum. The Novi Historical Society, and BeGole himself, Martinez said, have spent a lot of time preserving and sharing the city’s history. The historical society has past videos of BeGole sharing Novi’s history with students and others around the community.

“People could go into it, get to know about Novi history, hear about it from Lee BeGole himself, and really make it something that’s memorable and something that’s unique and original to Novi that a lot of other cities have of their own,” Martinez said. “They’re able to preserve their history and put it on display, and Novi hasn’t really had that.”

Novi Historical Commission chairperson Kathy Crawford, who said via email that the commission knows little about the history of the BeGole House, believes that the costs needed to rehabilitate the home into a history museum would be prohibitive.

“The home is in desperate need of many repairs. We know from experience with the Fuerst Farm home and the Villa Barr properties, to make it open to the public, major expenses would be incurred in order to provide safe and adequate access,” Crawford said in an email.

The David Barr home and art garden, paying homage to a well-known metro Detroit artist, is located on Napier Road, between Eight Mile and Nine Mile roads.

Martinez doesn’t see why the BeGole House couldn’t be included among the city’s current historic properties. Alongside other concerned residents, Martinez has found “several” city-owned parcels near the BeGole house’s current property where the home could be relocated. He believes the city has enough community and corporate sponsors who would be willing to pitch in financially to help.

“There are parcels in that area which would not be affected by that ring road project that the city already owns,’’ Martinez said. “What I would respectfully ask the folks at the city is, consider what it would take to just move that house to another city lot and allow us to actually put some foresight and planning in place for how we can preserve and rehabilitate this house.”

Some construction logistics pertaining to the ring road project still needed to be worked out, Cardenas explained, including the city working with other homeowners in the area to secure the proper right of way.

“We hope we can do that by the end of the year, but if not, it’ll be done when spring construction starts next year,” he said.

Martinez hopes the city will listen to residents and delay the project.

“I would hope that if the city gets enough of a response from the community that maybe they would consider delaying whatever project would happen in October, and just allow the residents to kind of get together and work with the city to actually preserve the house in a place that makes sense, that’s not obstructive to the growth of the city, but just something that adds to the city.”

For more information, visit cityofnovi.org.

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