An FX Celebrity & An Old Paper Mill…Is There A Connection?
 by Ryan Biziorek, January 17, 2002, Kalamazoo College - Urban Economics

When you drive by a neighborhood and see an empty parcel of land, a bit of curiosity may make you wonder, “Why is that piece of land empty?”  Often in cities today, there are not many empty parcels of land unless they are parks, contaminated areas, or new housing developments with parcels just waiting to be sold.  Here in Kalamazoo there is an empty parcel of land in the east side neighborhood.  The land is on the corner of Lake and Clarence and looks to be around 120ft. x 120ft.  Why is it empty?  Who owns it?  What was it used for in the past?  How is it zoned?  These are some of the questions that we will hopefully answer about this mysterious open area.

On a sunny Sunday afternoon, a short drive out to Lake and Clarence proved to make the mystery larger then thought to be.  This was the first time my partner, Jill, and I have seen this empty lot and it was spooky.  There were many homes right next to it and businesses down the street on Lake, but this lot was empty.  The first goal in mind was to find some clues about the address.  Some sort of utilities box (most likely a telephone routing box since Ameritech had a sticker on it) was labeled with 1011.  This seemed a very likeable address since the adjacent homes had similar address values. 

In addition to the utility box, there were some other clues around that may tell us who owned this empty lot.  The first clue was a “Bus Stop” sign on the corner of the lot.  Does the city own the land?  Another clue was the nearest business on the north side of Lake Street.  The business was Pipeline Maintenance Services Inc. (PMSI).  Sure, this may not seem like a significant piece of information, but this was a storage area for their trucks and there were only two trucks inside the fenced area.  Does PMSI own the empty piece of land and never expanded their fenced area?  Just looking at the parcel does not provide the answer to this question, so we were off to the public library. 

At the library, we hoped to use a plat map to figure out who owned the land.  Unfortunately, the map did not have enough detailed information to show who owned the land.  Browsing through some of the other maps, we came across an old insurance map.  This book showed each building within the city and its structure type for building insurance purposes.  On the corner of Lake and Clarence in the 1930’s there were homes right next to a paper mill named King Paper Company.  Many questions quickly came to mind.  Did the paper mill own this land in order to house their workers?  What happened to the paper mill?  Was it torn down?  Did it declare bankruptcy?  Some more answers were needed so a trip to the City Assessor’s Office was our next step. 

If you ever need to find information on a piece of land, the City Assessor’s Office is an amazing resource.  With an address, a simple computer search can be performed to find out the real estate information of the land.  Detailed maps of city land are also available.  With the help of an employee, Frankie, I searched for 1011 Clarence Street.  I discovered a lot of information and many of our basic questions were answered.  The lot is owned by Arthur P. Dore from Bay City, Michigan.  It is zoned as a class seven area, a multiple family residence district.  Apartments, fraternities, and even rest homes can be built on zone seven lands.  Valued at $4,091.00 and a size of .14 acres, the lot was completely empty.  After my excitement subdued, I noticed on the real estate summary sheet that the lot only covered 45 ft. of Clarence Street.  This was not the whole corner of Lake and Clarence.  Who owned the other portion of land? 

Another trip to the City Assessor’s Office by Jill unearthed that the property on Lake and Clarence did have other parcels on it.  In addition to this, she discovered that Arthur Dore also owns these parcels and some land next to it on Lake Street.  After mentioning the old paper mill that used to be in the area, Frankie told Jill that she had heard that land was contaminated.  After discussing our information, we made another trip down to the City Assessor’s Office.  Using the computer search again, we found that Arthur Dore owns 1011 Clarence, 1503, 1507, and 1511 Lake Street.  These areas are all zone seven lands and total to a value of $12,531 and acreage of .42 acres.  In addition to this residential land, Mr. Dore also owns a large piece of zone one land (general manufacturing district) with an address of 1609 Lake Street and some other small pieces of zone seven lands on East Vine Street.  Mr. Dore’s real estate totals up to over 10 acres and a value over $100,000.  Still, we wanted to know more.  Was it for sale?  Were there plans to build on the land?  A few phone calls answered some of these questions. 

I first called Rita Corsi at the Planning Office, who was a very helpful resource.  She was able to tell me many of the same pieces of information that I had found before, but the biggest help was that Dore Enterprises owned the land.  Recently, she has had many inquiries on the land but has not seen a site plan packet to review so there were not any plans to build on it at the moment.  Using the business name, I was able to find their phone number and location on the Internet.  Sure enough, Dore Enterprises was located in Bay City, Michigan.  When I called, I inquired about the property and a woman by the name of Sheri Fisher spoke with me.  She explained to me that Mr. Dore owned a wrecking company and they were hired to tear down the paper mill that used to be there.  In return for tearing down the mill, Mr. Dore received some of the land as a payment.  He has had the property for over 20 years.  When I asked if it was for sale, she replied, “Everything is for sale.”  After I laughed, I confirmed that if the offer price was high enough, then the land could be mine. 

After all this research, the paper mill was still in the picture.  To find out more about this mill, we took another trip to the public library.  With the help of a librarian, we found many different articles about the King Paper Company in the Kalamazoo Gazette.  A photo with a large caption from January 5, 1978 informed us that the Dore Wrecking Company was hired to demolish the site but delayed to do so.  In March 1976, the city sued Dore for his delays and was given 180 days to finish the demolition as a result.  Eventually, Dore was found in contempt of the court in July 1978 and was given until November 15, 1978 to have the job finished without a penalty.  After this deadline passed, Dore was fined $50 a day until the job was finished.  His fine totaled $1,250 when the site was cleaned to the judge’s satisfaction, but there were still some other small things to be done and the judge gave Dore another 30 days to finish.

After finishing our research at the library, we decided to stop by the City Planner to see if we could find out any information on the future use of this land and if Frankie was right about the contamination rumors.  We were referred to the Development Manager, Chad Howell, who was very happy to speak with us after he found out that we were in Dr. McKinney’s class.  He had a large file on this land and knew all of the history behind it.  It turns out that Mr. Dore is the owner of not only a wrecking company, but also owns and hosts the Toughman show on FX!  He explained to us that the paper company that used to be there ended up going out of business.  After many years, the building became old and the city ordered that it be torn down.  At one time, the city was interested in acquiring the land at 1609 Lake Street but Mr. Dore wanted more money then the city thought the land was worth.  The land isn’t worth that much either because the foundation of the paper mill was never torn out and there is some ground contamination.  Although the industrial land may be contaminated, Mr. Howell assured us that the residential land at the corner of Lake and Clarence is not contaminated. 

We asked him why there was land zoned for residential use right next to land zoned for industrial use.  Mr. Howell told us that this was something that hasn’t been changed over time but it is inappropriate.  To correct this, the zone one land would be changed to zone two, a light manufacturing district.  Sure enough, a look at the city’s future planning map showed 1609 Lake Street to be rezoned as zone two. 

That small vacant corner had more history behind it then I had ever imagined.  The next time I research a vacant piece of land within a city, I will certainly go straight to the Planning Board first.  I believe that these vacant areas are of a high interest to the city in case they want to purchase them for some type of future developments or promote business growth.  The City Assessor’s Office would be the next place to go because you can get a great deal of information with just an address.  Next time, I will certainly target the majority of my research efforts in these two places.


Corsi, Rita.  Kalamazoo Planning Office.  Personal & Phone Interview.  16 January 2002.

Frankie.  Kalamazoo City Assessor’s Office.  Personal Interview.  14 & 16 January 2002. 

Fisher, Sheri.  Dore Enterprises.  Phone Interview.  16 January 2002.

Howell, Chad.  Kalamazoo Planning Office.  Personal Interview.  16 January 2002.

Insurance Maps of Kalamazoo, Michigan.  Map. 1931 ed.  Broadway, NY: Sanborn Map

Co., 1908.

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Last Edited by JMW 05/25/15