Detroit Tag

Woodward Avenue Presbyterian Church
Our Savior

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places due to its fascinating history and its amazing architecture, the Woodward Avenue Presbyterian Church in Detroit, Michigan is one that needs to be saved. Let’s consider that it was designed by the Cleveland, Ohio firm of Nicklas & Badgley in the Gothic Revival architectural style and that it was outfitted with curved wood pews and a distinct pipe organ from the Stevens Organ Company of Marietta, Ohio. That’s unique. Read More

Lee Plaza
Lee Plaza

Lee Plaza is one of those iconic abandonments of Detroit, Michigan that stands out as a prime example of what went wrong with the city in the latter half of the 20th century, and is a pillar of potential along West Grand Boulevard. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Lee Plaza is an excellent representation of Art Deco from the 1920s and was at one point, a luxurious apartment complex that offered hotel amenities to its wealthy residents.

On a bitterly cold day several years ago, I trekked down West Grand to pay a visit to Lee Plaza, and to capture at least some of the beauty that remained. Read More

St. Anthony High School
Eastern Catholic High School

Driving down Gratiot Avenue in Detroit, Michigan late night in the summer of 2011, I came across the former Eastern Catholic High School. The obviousness of its abandonment, with its blown out windows and the hulking structure contrasting to the vast, empty lots surrounding it, made the four-level school all the more interesting to enter and photograph. Read More

Packard Automotive Plant
The Packard

The Packard Automotive Plant in Detroit, Michigan has long been on my list of abandonments to visit. Known for its extensive deterioration, brought about by decades of underutilization and neglect, and by scrappers, the Packard encompasses 3.5 million square feet that fills vistas from all directions.

But how does one simply cover the Packard? Read More

Packard Automotive Plant
Packard Motors

The Packard Motor Company on East Grand Boulevard in Detroit, Michigan was constructed in 1903 and closed in 1958. With just the exception of a brief reuse in several locations, the entire complex – 3.5 million square feet over 35 acres, produced 1.5 million vehicles. Designed by Albert Kahn, the industrial complex used reinforced concrete for its construction, a first for Detroit.

Michigan Central Station
Detroit plans on downsizing for the future

It’s a pretty sad situation when a city plans on downsizing to embody the future.

But that is what Detroit Mayor Dave Bing plans on doing in the near future. Plagued with neighborhoods almost entirely vacant, thousands of vacant and abandoned properties, unmaintained infrastructure and services spread too thin for a city that was designed for over two million but only contains 900,000. As of 2009, there were 33,000 vacant houses in the city.

The process began in April 2008, the city announced a multi-million dollar project to help kickstart a neighborhood stabilization program by targeting six specific locales, such as East English Village, Osborn and the North-End, and helping foster new growth and development as a manner to increase the tax base and provide new jobs and income. Private organizations and corporations stepped up to provide additional funding.

Data for the project was funded by Living Cities, a collection of philanthropic foundations and financial institutions. Next Detroit Neighborhood Initiative, which that was founded by former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick in 2007 as a division of the city but since transformed into a privately funded non-profit, used the data to devise a plan on which neighborhoods should receive “time and expenditures.”

Many were skeptical of the project, insisting that it left out many desperate neighborhoods in favor of a select few, but others contended that it was the only sure-shot way to slow the bleed of population out of the city. Immigrants are being counted as part of the revitalization process, already playing a big factor in the development of Mexicantown and other thriving ethnic neighborhoods.

City Council President Pro Tem Gary Brown acknowledged that there “are neighborhoods that aren’t viable,” adding that he was “much for prioritizing viable neighborhoods.”

“You can’t spend limited resources over great distances and see a great impact. We have to be strategic about how we invest these limited resources.”
-Steven Ogden, executive director of Next Detroit Neighborhood Initiative

Part of the plan involves relocating households from neighborhoods targeted for wholesale demolition to concentrate them in areas where there is stability. That process could involve condemnation or eminent domain, and that no option has been ruled out.

In addition, portions of the city would literally be “closed off,” or left to be reclaimed by nature. In some areas of Detroit, this has already happened. Miniature farms dot the city’s vast vacant landscape, pockmarked by pothole-ridden streets and deteriorated houses. Coyotes and other wild game have moved in, roaming from lot to lot in search for domesticated game.

The benefits could be fiscally beneficial. Streets could be closed off as a result, and utilities to vacant neighborhoods severed. Unused police and fire stations could be disabled and concentrated. Police vehicles could use less gasoline on patrols of deserted streets, and trash collectors could save fuel by not driving down roadways with a handful of houses where there used to be many. Resources could be consolidated and be made more effective. Greenspace could be added and turned into nature preserves and reserves.

And to an extent, Youngstown, Ohio and other cities hard hit by massive job losses and a declining tax base have tried the same downsizing tactic. It’s a matter worth investigating and possibly implementing, in order to stabilize Detroit’s tax base and stabilize its population numbers, and to preserve it’s strongest, most viable neighborhoods, in an effort to protect them from becoming the next urban squalor.

Lafayette Building
One Detroit landmark saved, another one to go

In a surprising reversal of attitude towards Michigan Central Depot in Detroit, Michigan, the historic train station and adjoining Roosevelt Warehouse will stand if for a bit longer after a Detroit City Council Public Health and Safety Committee decided to delay a decision on demolishing the properties. The announcement was a reversal of some April commentary that called for an emergency demolition of the buildings, citing safety and health hazards.

Manuel Moroun, owner of the Detroit Bridge Company and of both affected structures, noted that he needed more time to negotiate with potential developers. He further elaborated that just last month the federal government was expressing strong interest in converting the station into a base for its Homeland Security operations in Detroit.

Only two miles away in downtown, the Lafayette Building may meet the wrecking ball after the Downtown Development Authority voted unanimously on June 25 to demolish the 14-story mid-rise. Vacant for more than a decade and fast deteriorating, the office structure once held offices for the Michigan Supreme Court among for more general functions and purposes.

The building would be landscaped with grass and bushes until such a redevelopment plan could be implemented for the triangular lot. Let’s hope that the lot can be put to better use than the one-story parking garage that replaced the historic Hudson’s Department Store property. Even better, let’s hope that the Lafayette can be fully restored, a cheaper and more viable alternative in today’s market.