Detroit: A City on the Rise
Russell Industrial Center
There are people out there who view Detroit as a rundown, dangerous city. We have old factories here in the city, many of which have been abandoned and torn down. One of the most famous buildings is the old Packard Motor Car Company Plant. That, unfortunately is very rundown and falling apart. There is some good news though. The Russell Industrial Center (RIC) is one of those manufacturing buildings that have been saved.
The RIC is located at 1600 Clay Street, bordering I-75 to the west, and just due north of I-94. The Center was built in 1915, for John William Murray, and was completed in 1925. It was designed by Albert Khan, one of the most famous architects of Detroit. Murray wanted to use the building for auto-body manufacturing for the growing business. The building struggled to stay afloat even before it was completed. Business was suffering throughout its history, with Murray’s company merging many times. Murray sold the building in 1970 to Leona Helmsley, followed by another sale in 1981 to Dyson-Kissner-Moran Corp. (DKM), and another in 1991 to Wintor-Swan, a printing company. Finally, in 1998 the building became vacant after a tornado and flooding damaged it. In 2003, Dennis Kefallinos bought the building and renovated it, hoping it would become lofts and studio space.
Kefallinos’ bet paid off. He renovated the seven-building complex for $1 million. The complex now has more than one million square feet of space for studios and lofts for artists, creative professionals, and businesses. According to the building’s website, www.ricdetroit.org, “…studios range in size from 1000 to 7000 square feet each. Of the 2.2 million square feet, 650,000 are in use, with another 500,000 available for use. Infrastructure work is planned for another million square feet of space.”
When the building first opened up, it wasn’t called the Russell Industrial Center. It was the J.W. Manufacturing Company. The company merged in 1924 with three others to form the Murray Body Corporation. From then, until the late 1960s and 1970s when printing became the main use for the buildings, the Murray Body Company was one of the main manufacturers for Ford and Mercury. The company also produced parts for Packard, Lincoln, Chrysler, Plymouth, Dodge, and many other non-famous companies. In the last year of production it produced parts for Hudson-Jet and Aero Willys.
When the printing companies took over in the 1960s, over 130 companies occupied the building complex and printed. This is when Detroit was known as the printing capital of the Midwest for a short time.
This building complex has started a new trend in Detroit, urban development. The current tenants of the complex include: the Russell Gallery (Building 3), Art Studios, Stacey Ellis, the co-owner of B. Black Apparel, Madeline Stillwell, artist of Detroit Industrial Projects, Motor City Movie House, Architecture Practice, Woodworking Shop and Hand Crafted Furniture, Antiques, Kitchen and Bath Remodeling, Clothing, Furniture, Sewing, Photography Studios, Import, Export, a Health Food Store, a Performing Arts Studio, a Candle Shop, Custom Signs, Printer, and Helderop Pipe Organs.
The RIC also hosts a couple of events each year. The Russell Bazaar is an indoor marketplace, hosted by the tenants of the building on the first weekend of each month, showcasing art and wares. It brings in many people to look at and purchase what the tenants are selling. For those that want to sell their work, they can rent a booth each month.
Another event is the People’s Art Festival, which is held annually. Last year it was in August. The event is free and open to the public and features different pieces of art, music, merchandise, food, and entertainment. It is sponsored by many local non-profits and business to cover the costs.
What the RIC is doing is taking a former manufacturing plant, something that Detroit has an excess of, and turning it into something the community can use. Go and check out this place, because this is something that Detroit can use to look at and say, “Hey, the Russell Industrial Center is an old re-used manufacturing plant. If they can turn an old building into something plausible, why can’t we do that for the other ones?”
You can check out their website at www.ricdetroit.org. You can also contact their main office at (313) 872-4000 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to contact their webmaster, Nick Polifroni, his email address is email@example.com. You can check out my other articles at www.michiganjournal.org
Welcome back to classes! I hope all of you had a wonderful break and ready to attack another semester here at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. Detroit saw some good and bad news over the course of the break. One of the good stories that came out over break was none other than the North American International Auto Show. It is returning yet again, to Cobo Center, and will be for at least the next five years.
The “NAIAS” has roots that go all the way back to when Detroit first started producing automobiles. The first auto show in Detroit was held in 1907 at Beller’s Beer Garden in Riverside Park, near the Ambassador Bridge. It has been held annually every year in Detroit, except between 1943-1952. The auto show has been held at Cobo Center since 1965, and was renamed the North American International Auto Show in 1989.
The auto show has been a big draw, not only for just car lovers, but for the city of Detroit. It brings in some major media outlets for the press preview, and a boat load of money during the charity preview. This year the press preview ran from January 9-10, the Industry Preview on January 11-12, the Charity Preview on January 13, and the Public Show from January 14-22. During the press preview, the media outlets that apply get in to take pictures and develop stories of what cars are being revealed. The car companies usually reveal production cars they plan on selling in the near future and concept cars, vehicles that they may use toward a future production car. The industry preview is where companies bring in people to take notes on the vehicles, compare them to their, or others, without all of the crowds and some VIP hospitality.
The charity preview is where the city accumulates some funds, privately. The charity preview raises money for local charities. This year the ticket cost was $250 per person, a black tie event, which means dress very classy. The people around you are some of the most prestigious in the Metro Detroit area. From Dan Gilbert, who is the third largest owner of real estate in Detroit, to some famous athletes from the Red Wings or Tigers, are the possible guests. Since 1976, the charity preview has raised $84 million for children’s charities in Metro Detroit. $33 million of that has been raised in the past seven years alone.
The NAIAS rakes in an estimated amount of $500 million by the auto show executives for the area. That beats out the Woodward Dream Cruise, held annually each August by a long shot ($56 million).
Cobo Center, which is one of the largest convention centers in the world, boasts 2,400,000 sq ft. It is located along Jefferson Ave. and Washington Blvd. Its official address is 1 Washington Blvd. It was built in 1960 and named after one of Detroit’s former mayors, Albert E. Cobo. The exhibition space has access to the Lodge Freeway, and is located on the Detroit International Riverfront. It also has access to the Detroit People Mover and the adjacent Joe Louis Arena.
The center is built on the original landing spot of Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, the Frenchman who found Detroit. The building took four years to complete and $56 million. It opened with approximately 1.4 million square feet. The first ever convention held at Cobo was the Florist Telegraph Delivery. Along with the exhibition space, Cobo Center also opened an arena, named Cobo Arena. It had a capacity of 12,000 seats and was the home of the Detroit Pistons from 1961-1978. The arena has also hosted many concerts, including Kid Rock, The Doors, Kiss, The Rolling Stones, and The Who, among many others.
As the North American International Auto Show began to grow each year, the convention began demanding more space, and threatened to move elsewhere. Luckily, the Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority (DRCFA), who owns Cobo Center and the NAIAS agreed to a new five year deal, early this month to keep the auto show here for another five years at the very least.
What helped was an upgrade that started in 1989. That upgrade moved the space to 2.4 million square feet. That was the last time the facility was updated, and 20 years later, was in desperate need of another. It happened, and a brand new $229 million expansion project is in the works. It is scheduled to be completed in January of 2015, in time for the auto show that year. The plan is to demolish the seats in the arena and create a grand ballroom, and building a movable stage for better and more dramatic car reveals. During the NAIAS this year, you won’t notice any upgrades, but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening. A lot of the current renovations are happening out of sight, including making the building more energy friendly and efficient.
One big upgrade is the creation of a three-story atrium facing the riverfront. The DRCFA will be using the riverfront to its advantage, to bring people in, and give the facility a wonderful view. Along with the atrium, a brand new high-tech, digital video grid, across the front of the building’s façade. New parking, a bigger and better food court, and a more open concourse are just a few of the items that are going to be upgraded at Cobo Center.
Finally, a new glass façade will wrap around the building from Washington and Jefferson, to the Detroit River, giving you some amazing views of the river and Windsor, Ontario.
The North American International Auto Show is a Detroit thing, and keeping it at Cobo Center, where it has been held since 1965 is what every Metro Detroiter should want. Heading to the NAIAS and checking out all the cool production and concept cars is a must. Tickets are only $12 for adults, seniors 65 and older $6, children 7-12 $6, and children 6 and under are free. The public show runs until Sunday, January 22 from 9am-10pm with no admittance after 9pm and on Sunday from 9am-7pm, no admittance after 6pm. For more information visit www.naias.com and www.cobocenter.com
Michigan Central Station, mentioned previously in the last article about Corktown, has its own article because of how big it is the history the surrounds it and the news that constantly flow from the owner. It is one of the most iconic structures in the city of Detroit, and with the work surrounding it; the building may be on the rise in the near future.
MCS, as it’s known to many, was built in 1913 and was Detroit’s second railroad depot but the most famous. The first one was on Third and Jefferson streets since 1884. It burned down in late December and the brand new MCS was ready to go. Within a half an hour of the former train station burning down, the trains were already rolling into the new station, cancelling its dedication that was supposed to happen on January 4.
The old depot is located along Michigan Avenue, in the Corktown district, outside of Downtown. The cost of building the Michigan Central Station was $2.5 million ($55 million today). It was the tallest train station in the world and the fourth tallest building in Detroit when it was completed. The building consisted of a three story train depot, and an 18 story office tower.
The train station was in use the most during World War I and World War II. More than two hundred trains left each day during World War I as many saw their loved ones go off to war, some coming back, many not. A few of the famous people that walked through the halls of MCS include: Presidents Herbert Hoover, Harry S. Truman, and Franklin D. Roosevelt, actor Charlie Chaplin and inventor Thomas Edison. Henry Ford began buying up property in the 1920s only to have the Great Depression bring things to a halt.
With no large parking structure, the only problem of the area, ridership began to decline between both World Wars and after World War II. Once urban highways became more prevalent and driving cars and air travel took over, riding the train became third string. In 1956, the owners began looking to sell the building, and did, for $5 million (1/3 of its original cost). The new owners tried to sell in 1963, found no buyers and again tried to sell in 1967. As ridership began decreasing, the maintenance on the building decreased.
The restaurant, arcade shops, and main entrance all closed, along with much of the main waiting room. Only two ticket windows remained for service to passengers. Amtrak bought the station in 1971 and things seemed to turn around for a short time with the main entrance and waiting room re-opening in 1975 followed by a $1.25 million restoration in 1978. Six years later, the station was sold yet again and the final train left the station on January 6, 1988.
Current owner, Manuel “Matty” Mouron bought the station in 1996, because of its proximity to the Ambassador Bridge. Since 1996, Mouron has done nothing with the station, letting it slowly rot and die.
There have been many ideas presented to restore the old station into something new. A couple of the ideas that have been presented include: A trade processing center, convention center and casino, Detroit Police Headquarters, and Michigan State Police Headquarters. Most recently, the station has gone under renovations thanks to the Mouron who finally invested in something. This past summer, renovations started in removal of asbestos, old windows, and the old roof. In place will be a new roof and new windows.
This doesn’t mean that there are companies ready to move in as there is much more work to do on the inside. Mouron brought Quinn Evans Architects in to oversee the restoration and give some quotes on what it would take to renovate the interior. With Corktown seeing massive renovations, the depot may not be far behind.
There are other ideas citizens have put forth thanks to a new website set up by Mouron. Talktothestation.com is open to anyone that has an idea for the station. Although some ideas may not be taken too seriously, the ideas put forth may spur development. Michigan Central Station is one of the most iconic structures of Detroit, especially since 1988 as it has been in ruins. As workers continue to clean up parts of the building, more needs to be done. With the help of those who want to see it rise again, ideas can fuel companies and businesses to put forth money and grants, creating new life for the once largest train depot in the world.
We will pick back up with Detroit and its rise in January. Have a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a safe and Happy New Year!
Feel free to check out my other articles at http://michiganjournal.org/ and http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chris-zadorozny
This past weekend I had the pleasure of doing ladies night with a few friends.
We met up at the Woodbridge Pub, which just released it’s new Winter Menu. E and I waited for everyone to get there by having some icy cold beverages and white bean dip. The dip was really good, it started getting really garlicky as it got warmer, but luckily I’m a huge fan of garlic. Then after everyone got in, we decided that instead of going to Mexican Town like we would normally do, we’d try out Detroit’s new Seva.
Seva is Ann Arbor’s destination for veggie dining since 1973, serving breakfast (available all day), lunch, dinner, and housemade desserts. We have a full bar, featuring an eclectic wine list, rotating draft beers, artisan cocktails, fresh juice and espresso. The restaurant opened a second location in Detroit’s midtown area, at 66 E. Forest Ave. between Woodward and John R. They haven’t even had their Grand Opening yet, that’s scheduled for January 28th. But we have all heard good things, and two of the ladies had already eaten there. So we decided to give it a try.
It was like most Detroit restaurants, we walked in and immediately knew a bunch of people in there. We sat in the bark bar area at a table for 5. 3 of us split a bottle of house wine, 2 had cocktails that looked (and tasted) amazing, one was called the Ricky something, try that one, it’s amazing. We asked for the Cauliflower as an appetizer, it sounded really yummy, and must have been because they were sold out. So we split some Yam fries, since they said the kitchen was backed up, it was apparently their biggest night to date, and we had just caught the tail end of it. V ordered a Ruben, I got the Pesto Pizza sandwich, and K got the Thai noodle something. Unfortunately, and this is not a reflection on the restaurant, the food wasn’t all that amazing, my toasted sandwich was cold, and K’s food was even colder. But the atmosphere was pleasant, wait staff was friendly, and even though my sandwich was cold, it was still good.
We left there and went to Honest ? Johns on Selden. K wanted to get some food since all she had had was wine and some yam fries. So 3 of us split a 40oz. Old Milwaukee. K ate a Ruben and fries. We sat in one of the big dark booths, it’s my favorite booth in the city. We talked about all things you should talk about, lives, futures, pasts, hopes and dreams. We eventually finished 40 oz of beer and discussed where to go next. The Sugar House was closed for a private party, we could have gone anywhere, The Old Miami, Cass Cafe. But we decided to head back to the pub, E, A and I all live in Woodbridge.
So we went back to the Pub we had left only a few hours before. And it was crazy packed! There were so many people! It was Will Sessions After Party, he had played at the Detroit Institute of Arts before this and the Pub was jam packed with people dancing and having a good time! It was the perfect ending to a wonderful night in the city.
I’m glad I was able to try out Seva, and I’m glad that I understand new businesses and that I will try it again, because I know it was just the wrong time. I’m glad we got to go to all the places we went to. I had fun dancing at the Pub for the little while I was there, I left not too long after we got there, because I had a 10am meeting in Birmingham on Saturday morning. I had fun being able to eat at 3 different restaurants in the city, and didn’t feel the need to wait until a special occasion like Restaurant Week. We wanted specific things and we went and got those things. It’s an amazing city, with a vibrant life that you have to see to understand.
And I hope you plan on seeing and eating all that Detroit has to offer in the new year!
Inside Detroit, marketing and social media.
So, it’s the new year. 2012. Let me tell you a little about my 2011 in Detroit MI.
I got laid off in January. Never worked more than 40 hours a week on any one job. Spent most weekends gallivanting around Michigan taking photos of bicycle races. Spent 3 weeks driving out to CA and back. I got my dog a puppy.
Worked up to 4 jobs a week. Become friends with people in all sorts of different social groups. Put on the first sanctioned road bicycle race in the city of Detroit in over 20 years. Turned my dreams into reality. Turned my reality into dreams. Started blogging for the Huffington Post Detroit. Started thinking about the future as a project that I can manipulate however I choose. I spent a week in Dallas with family while George Clooney was filming Ides of March at Inside Detroit. I turned 28. I extended my circle of bicycling friends beyond measure. I’m working on more new projects every day. I tossed around the idea of moving to warmer climates for a job and a new life. I’ve watched the one of the co-founders of Inside Detroit get married in a public ceremony in the middle of Downtown Detroit. I went to a few Tigers games. I watched the Lions have a hell of a season. I started work with the D:hive. I went to a party in the David Whitney Building. Watched Christmas Trees get put up on the Hudson Site. I rode the People Mover and made some new friends while doing it. I met Emanuel Steward and Tommy Hearns.
What I didn’t do in 2011 – I did not want. I never looked around and felt sorry for the city I live in. I never felt scared in the places I’ve been. I’ve said goodbye to the co-founder of Inside Detroit, and wished her well on her new endeavors. I’ve seen a few good places close (Bureau of Urban Living which was replaced by Nest, so it wasn’t a bad thing really). I know of people’s houses and cars that have been broken into. I didn’t get so wasted that I threw up in public. I didn’t do anything all year that I wasn’t completely thrilled with the results. I didn’t do anything I regret. I didn’t go to a few parties that I should have.
Things that excite me for 2012 – Getting to go inside the GAR Building.
Putting on the second annual Criterium Detroit City. The possibility of absolutely everything. Riding my bike. Running my first 1/2 marathon. Being a tourist in my own town (sometimes you’ve just gotta). Being an insider. Cinco de Mayo. St. Patty’s Day Parade. Dally in the Alley. Noel Night. The Hoe Down. The Jazz Fest. Winter Blast. Running a 5k on Belle Isle on New Years Eve (I didn’t get to in 2011, but I will in 2012)! The Detroit City Futbol League. Going on Canine to Five walks with my dogs. Being a part of something bigger than myself, all while being myself.
Again Detroit, thanks for making this all possible on a 20 hour a week pay check and a car when it snows.