Detroit — The Highwaymen Motorcycle Club faces an eviction battle over part of their clubhouse headquarters on Michigan Avenue in southwest Detroit.
This time it isn’t law enforcement trying to crack down on the motorcycle club, which has had members and associates convicted of violent crimes, drug dealing and federal racketeering laws. Instead, the private building owner, Milton Hall, contends the Highwaymen club has been illegally using his property since at least 2016 and he wants them out.
“My client has not had access to the building” for a number of years, attorney Gwendolyn Cook-Jones said Wednesday in Detroit’s 36th District Court.
Cook-Jones is representing Hall in his complaint to recover possession of the building.
“He hasn’t been able to get in” the property, Cook-Jones told Judge Demetria Brue.
Hall’s property is next to two buildings owned by the Highwaymen, property records show. The motorcycle club has used its buildings on the 3300 block of Michigan Avenue as a clubhouse for over a decade.
On the outside, the buildings, including Hall’s, are all painted black. Inside, the Highwaymen club has torn down an interior wall that separates the building, Cook-Jones said.
The Highwaymen claim the real culprit is confusing property records that have blurred the property lines as the buildings went through tax foreclosures and other sales, said Bryon Kelley, the attorney representing the motorcycle club.
“They did not tear down an interior wall. They purchased the unit as one structure” several years ago when the property was in terrible condition, Kelley said. “They invested a lot in those properties. You have two owners that have clear rights on both sides.”
Kelley said in court Wednesday there may be “discrepancies” in the deeds of the buildings regarding the property boundaries. “There may need to be a survey done to determine what ownership is where on the building.”
The court appearance was mainly procedural. The next court date is Feb. 23. Before then, the two sides have to work out a date when Hall can get inside the building.
Hall is an entrepreneur who owns multiple properties in Detroit and Las Vegas, his attorney said. Records show he bought the property on Michigan Avenue in 2007 from the Wayne County Treasurer’s Office for $1,800. Hall first attempted to contact the Highwaymen in 2016, informing the group to leave his property, Cook-Jones said.
The club had about 100 members and several chapters across southeast Michigan until a government crackdown led to dozens of convictions under federal racketeering laws.
The clubhouse is less than one mile west from Ford Motor Co’.s Michigan Central Station and Corktown, a neighborhood that has seen steady growth of businesses and residential properties for more than a decade.
Now that growth is spilling over to the stretch of Michigan Avenue that’s home to the Highwaymen clubhouse. For years, it was a strip of blighted buildings. But various plans of redevelopment are underway of nearby storefronts.
About two blocks away from the Highwayman’s clubhouse, there is a planned multimillion-dollar cannabis operations and training facility on 22nd Street. The planned development involves National Basketball Association Hall of Fame player Chris Webber and others.
Louis Aguilar is a Detroit freelance writer.