City lot sale under investigation

City Councilmember Anam Miah is calling for an investigation into the sale of a city-owned lot on Caniff to a local developer without going through a public auction.

City Councilmember Anam Miah is calling for an investigation into the sale of a city-owned lot on Caniff to a local developer without going through a public auction.




By Charles Sercombe

City Councilmember Anam Miah is asking the city administration to look into the sale of a Caniff lot to a local developer.

The lot, located at 2048 Caniff, had been city-owned until 2016 when former City Manager Katrina Powell sold it to Henry Velleman for $2,500.

The lot had not been put up for auction, which at the time was required by the final orders laid down by former Emergency Manager Cathy Square.

One of her orders said that if a city asset was going to be sold, it must go through an auction process.

Powell also did not tell the city council about the sale. Powell left her position last year when her employment contract ran out.

Miah asked Acting City Manager Kathy Angerer and City Attorney Jim Allen at last Tuesday’s council meeting to investigate the matter and take appropriate action.

He also asked for a review of “other lots that were sold that we don’t know about,” Miah told The Review in a telephone interview.

He said the sale of the Caniff lot was unfair to others in the community.

“It was not advertised so nobody else in the community had an opportunity to bid on it,” Miah said.

The lot is now one of several lots that Velleman owns on Caniff, which are sitting undeveloped.

Velleman owns dozens of lots and commercial buildings in the city. He has been criticized by some in the community for keeping most of his commercial properties vacant, which has made a large chunk of Jos. Campau look empty.

Velleman owns Progressive Poletown Properties, located on Jos. Campau.

As for why Powell sold the lot, that is not known. She did not return an email from The Review asking for an explanation.

But according to an email Powell sent to community stakeholders a couple of years ago, it appears she was trying encourage Velleman to take care of his other lots and rent out his empty storefronts.

“Clearly, if someone has ever met Henry and/or had a conversation with him, you know threatening him or pushing him against the wall, to get your way, Will. Not. Work,” Powell said in her email to the stakeholders, which was obtained by, an online publication.

Powell continued: “Trying to shame him publicly just gives him the fight he so desires, and no one wins.”

This story was edited on Aug. 21, 2018. The address of the lot was incorrectly reported as being 2028 Caniff. The correct address is 2048 Caniff.

10 Responses to City lot sale under investigation

  1. John Dory

    June 23, 2018 at 7:28 pm

    This investigation is sorely needed.

    ALL real estate transactions involving the City of Hamtramck as seller while the state was in receivership need to be examined thoroughly. This includes under Katrina powell’s tenure as well as under Emergency Manager Cathy Square.

    Long overdue.

    Thank you, Councilperson Miah – and thanks also to the Hamtramck Review for more fine investigative reporting.

  2. John Dory

    June 24, 2018 at 1:33 pm

    Henry Velleman has promoted his Hamtramck properties on his website:

    A 2016 news article describes the admiration Velleman had expressed in a letter regarding Katrina Powell:

    “The letter only offers praise for city manager Katrina Powell, who makes decisions about whether to ticket Velleman for code violations.”

    The online article goes on to cite Velleman’s criticism of the local business community and another city official:

    “It mocks and disparages Hamtramck’s burgeoning business community, the appearance of the city’s Bangladeshi business community, and the mayor.”

    It was not until early 2017 that Katrina Powell – just before her departure from Hamtramck as city manager – did authorize some serious level of legal action against Velleman-controlled properties in Hamtramck, however in a sweet plea deal negotiated between the City Prosecutor and Velleman’s attorney, Sean Kowalski, he only pled to two of thirteen ordinance violations filed by the City of Hamtramck – and had modest fines imposed by the District Judge Alexis Krot:

    At the last City Council meeting, the question of graffiti languishing on Velleman-controlled properties without apparent code enforcement action by the City of Hamtramck was discussed.

  3. Jeremy

    June 25, 2018 at 11:25 am

    Good on councilmember Miah for looking into this. I’m also curious as to why the city allowed Mr. Velleman to build 9 non-conforming cyclone spite fences in the central business district without having to request a variance for a single one of them. I’m also curious as to why, after Ms. Powell hired extra code enforcement officers (whose hiring was subsequently approved by the RTAB) in response to the heat from the aforementioned articles, those code enforcement officers were never allowed to actually begin working for the city.

  4. Concerned

    June 25, 2018 at 2:51 pm

    City ordinances, like the spider’s web, catches the little insects but hawks fly directly through it.

  5. Stan Zelmanski

    June 27, 2018 at 6:52 pm

    One aspect of concern raised at a recent City Council meeting is the vigorous code enforcement violation activity initiated against property owned by Mohammed Al-Somiri for alleged graffiti and the inaction of code enforcement officers relative to graffiti on Velleman properties.

  6. Concerned

    June 28, 2018 at 5:25 pm

    & he gets 100% homestead exemption on Charest property without any running water.

    Amazing how this city is run!!!!

  7. John Dory

    June 30, 2018 at 4:13 pm


    If there is a homestead exemption claimed against a property that is not valid, the Mich. Dept. of Treasury can challenge it in an audit and disallow the exemption.

    They often do this via comparison voter registration records drivers license information – and utility records.

    There is no doubt that many, many homestead exemptions on properties in Hamtramck are invalid – if not fraudulent.

  8. Ken Hissong

    July 4, 2018 at 7:06 pm

    Another building in question is the former Hera Fish Market at 3011 Holbrook. The building was burned out a couple of years ago and it has been boarded up and vacant since. Weeds are growing up in the side walk and it is an eyesore. Why has there been no action to have the building demolished?

  9. Fatema Hossain

    July 7, 2018 at 3:35 pm

    @Ken Hissong:

    The City of Hamtramck recently beefed up their code enforcement staff – but do NOT expect any dramatic changes.

    Henry Velleman owns 85 properties and many are dilapidated – little code enforcement is done.

    Properties of others -people of color – are hit with multiple violations!

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