See our Best of Detroit 2020 winners.

Harping on Harper 

After years of neglect, the abandoned retail space and apartment units at 15432 Harper on Detroit’s East Side suffered an August 2003 blaze that left the structure in a state that conjures images of war-zone ruination. Like a nightmarish dollhouse, its eastern face is all but missing. Its ceilings and roof have caved in, leaving the ground floor piled with broken furniture, rotting bags of garbage, and the rubble of fallen concrete and lumber. Shards of windowpanes and liquor bottles line the structure.

Owner Jerry Bolinger faults the city. Bolinger claims he was not notified of the fire until three weeks after it had occurred, and that police have ignored the structure ever since, allowing it to become a haven for drug users and transients.

“The City of Detroit is responsible for the conditions,” he says.

Attempts to obtain comment from the city were unsuccessful.

Area business owners, despite their frustration with the city, do not entirely share Bolinger’s view. Mickell Rice, owner of Motor City Apollo restaurant, says he has temporarily closed shop because of the stench and other problems associated with Bolinger’s building. Rice contends that Bolinger has delayed razing the building while he seeks to sell the property.

“It’s real terrible,” Rice said. “You shouldn’t have property looking like that.”

The City Council ordered the building demolished in March 2003. A month later, Bolinger succeeded in petitioning to halt demolition. But by last July it was placed back on the removal list. As far as ASS (as in Abandoned Structure Squad) could tell, a new demolition date has not been set.

Bolinger claims to be in negotiations to sell the property, but would not reveal the potential buyer or the buyer’s plans.

“It [the building] is fixable,” he claims.

Though Bolinger, a native of Detroit and current Warren resident, bemoans the condition of the city (“I love the City of Detroit. It’s so sad I could cry.”), he has an unusual idea for expressing his distress.

“I would like to make a memorial [out of the building], to how the city of Detroit wants to be: kind of burned-out and run-down.”

In that case, 15432 Harper is already a scorching success.

Editor’s note: If you know of an abandoned home you would like to see featured in this spot, send a photo and pertinent information to News Hits, c/o Metro Times, 733 St. Antoine, Detroit, MI 48226 (or e-mail

Check out all of our Abandoned Shelters of the Week

Contact News Hits at 313-202-8004 or

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.

Read the Digital Print Issue

October 21, 2020

View more issues


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In Detroit