Field of Mars. What does that make you think? Probably the planet out in space, or the saying, “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.” You probably don’t think of Detroit. Well, that’s what Campus Martius means in Latin.
Campus Martius is a municipal park in the middle of Downtown Detroit. It is located directly on Woodward Avenue at the intersection of Michigan Avenue. It was designed as a military ground (another nickname for Campus Martius) in 1788. Unfortunately, a fire destroyed most of the city in 1805, including Campus Martius.
Detroit was rebuilt according to Judge Augustus Woodward’s baroque street-style plan with Campus Martius was to be the center of the new plan. Woodward, in which Woodward Avenue is named after, was the main architect of the plan, along with many surveyors from Canada. They laid the street plans out by placing their instruments on a giant rock in the middle of the park, which is known as the “Point of Origin.” That point is now marked, and is the center of the city. This is where the mile roads originate from. 8 Mile, 9 Mile, 10 Mile all the way to 26 Mile Road.
From that point on, it was a gathering place for all Detroiters. After 1900, when Detroit was just starting to come alive, the city began to retool the park. It was less a park, with a few monuments around Old City Hall, the first Opera House, and the city’s first Skyscraper. Hart Plaza was created in its place, and didn’t get the reviews many had hoped. It turned out to be more concrete, and less of a park.
When the city began hearing about a lack of a public space, other than Hart Plaza in Downtown Detroit, the city got to work. The Kwame Kilpatrick administration decided to use the former Campus Martius park space. The only thing that was left of the former public gathering space was the Soldiers and Sailors Monument.
The administration approved the construction and it soon began in May of 2003 with completion on November 19, 2004. The park includes two stages, sculptures, public spaces, and an ice rink in the winter. It is smaller than the original park at 1.2 acres, but the city also created Cadillac Square Park directly east of Campus Martius, toward the Greektown Historic District.
The ice rink is meant to resemble the rink at the Rockefeller Center in New York City, and in fact is larger than that. Cadillac Square Park opened in 2007, with the Bagley Fountain relocated to attract more people to that side of the park.
Since its opening in 2004, Campus Martius has become more and more popular with Detroiters. It is home to the Motown Winter Blast, a Christmas tree and Menorah lighting ceremony, and has brought over 450,000 people each year since its opening. Campus Martius has been named one of the Top 10 Great Public Spaces for 2010 and the Top U.S. Urban Park by Urban Land Institute.
It is open every day and there is even a small restaurant there to warm up for what is left of winter, eat, drink and have a good time. Fountain Bistro is open Monday-Thursday from 11:00am-11:00pm and 11:00am-12:00am on Friday and Saturday. They serve alcohol, sandwiches, soups, entrees and hors d’oeuvres.
Campus Martius was Detroit’s gathering place at one point during its life. It then died out because of the use of automobiles, larger buildings, and more people living in the city. It was revived because of the people of Detroit, and it now stands to be at the center of one of the greatest revivals we might ever see. So get down to Campus Martius, enjoy the outdoor space, embrace the feeling of being in a big city, and love the connections of a small city. Campus Martius: A historic piece of Detroit in the 21st Century.
Transportation is key to any successful city. Look at New York City, they have the subway, and cabs everywhere. Cleveland just integrated a Rapid Bus Transit system and Washington D.C. plans on opening a new streetcar system this year. Detroit needs rapid transit, or some form of improved transportation.
Detroit does have a couple of things, let’s not forget. They do have the People Mover. It’s an elevated light rail that transports people around the Downtown sector of Detroit. It’s officially 2.9 miles long, and has a daily rider ship of just around 7,000 people. The People Mover opened up in 1987, and is owned by the Detroit Transportation Corporation. The original fare that the company charged was $.50 up until this past December. The fare went up to $.75 to keep the light rail running.
The Detroit People Mover does its job; it transports people around the Downtown area, which is where many of the jobs are in the city. A few people have considered extending the People Mover farther out, towards the Midtown area, and even the New Center area. The plans for that probably won’t come to fruition as there are other plans for rapid transit in the city.
Other than light rail in the city, there is also busing. The SMART Bus system runs through Wayne County, Oakland County, and Macomb County. According to their website,www.smartbus.org, they provide 12 million rides annually, and work 22 hours a day, with 54 routes, and 275 fixed route buses. The bus system is trying to provide service to around 3 million people in the Metro Detroit area. Unfortunately, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing just cut busing in the city from 1:00am-4:00am looking to save money in their budget.
There have been many complaints about the bus system, in which the buses are always late, they need more buses, and drivers, and stops. Without a fast bus system, who would want to stay in Detroit or Southeast Michigan without reliable transportation? Many city officials, leaders, and prominent businessmen, as well as the federal government are looking to improve the transportation and solve the problems in Detroit.
One of the proposals, originally to help the transportation problem in Detroit was the M-1 Light Rail Project. Planning began in 2006 to bring some sort of light rail, or streetcar back to Detroit. From 1892-1956, Detroit had a streetcar system, but was scrapped for buses as they tried to move forward with technology. The light rail project supposedly was to be spanned from the Rosa Parks Transit Center on Michigan Avenue in Downtown Detroit, up all the way to the State Fairgrounds at 8 Mile and Woodward Avenue. There would have been 19 stops and 10 cars.
Unfortunately though, after years of planning, Mayor Dave Bing turned the idea down, explaining it was too much money for a short line, and wanted to use it for a larger system. The new idea is the Bus Rapid Transit System.
The Bus Rapid Transit System would cost the same as the M-1 Light Rail Project, $550 million, and cover 110 miles instead of just 9.3 miles. The system would be run by a regional authority, and be a lot faster than the SMART bus system that is currently in place. The system would also have a lane dedicated to just the buses, as well as larger, covered stations for passengers.
The passengers would be able to ride smaller, efficient buses around their neighborhoods, and move to the larger, more regional buses at the stations. Also, the system would include faster loading and unloading, with payment at a turnstile instead of on the bus when you get on. It seems to be supported by the federal government and the regional transportation authority. There is no date yet for when plans will be finalized for this, although it would help the region and the city especially.
The M-1 Light Rail Project isn’t dead either, despite the disappointing result of having it scrapped. The team (made up of private entrepreneurs and businessmen) is looking into a 3-mile route that would run from Downtown to the New Center Area at Woodward Avenue and West Grand Boulevard. There still aren’t concrete plans on when this could start developing either.
Detroit had some great transportation options during its heyday. Today, they barely provide adequate busing. If this possible Bus Rapid Transit comes to fruition, the Metro Detroit Region may improve and you could see more people coming to Detroit and the Downtown area. The city has so much to provide with entertainment, culture, the arts, food, and sporting events. The easier it is to access fast and affordable regional transportation, the more people will use it and come to Detroit.
You can check out my other articles at www.michiganjournal.org
A building that was the main focus of last week’s article was an old factory that was re-purposed into lofts and studio space for artists and artisans. This week we will look at a couple of buildings in the Downtown area that are looking to be renovated this year.
The former home of the Detroit Free Press was bought in late 2011 and is looking to start renovation this year. The Free Press Building, as it is known, was built in 1925 by renowned Detroit architect Albert Khan. It was home number 13 for the Detroit Free Press until 1998 when they moved into the Detroit News Building a few blocks down.
It is located at 321 West Lafayette Blvd between Washington and Cass. It is six stories with a 14-story tower that housed the executives of the Free Press. The owner who commissioned the building to be built, E.D. Stair, was a member of the Detroit Club, a renowned exclusive club for many of the city’s high ranking citizens. It is directly next door and connected on the third floor.
It has a lot of historic elements, including the entrance, and many reliefs of famous Americans including Benjamin Franklin, George Custer and Horace Greeley. Leo Phillips, who bought the Fort Shelby Hotel and helped redevelop that building into apartments and a hotel, bought the Free Press Building too. “Our intent is to convert this into a multi-use building, with the first floor being retail, second floor office, and starting from the third floor up we are going to put in 115 apartments,” said Phillips.
They also plan on putting a parking structure in the basement where the presses of the paper once were. There is an estimated $70 million going into the building, along with many tax credits because it is such a historic building. There is no update on when the building will open or when it will take applications for residents. Having the Free Press Building renovated gives the city something else to look forward to, an empty building that will have tenants and residents instead of another eyesore.
Another building that is going to be re-purposed is over near the Greektown area of Downtown. The University of Detroit-Mercy just recently bought a former firehouse. There is no exact date on when it was built, but many speculate that it was the early 1900s. It still boasts its old red firehouse doors, and the lookout tower. It is located at 585 Larned Street.
The two-story facility will house 6,000 square feet of space for the ten legal aid clinics for the school. UDM Law has said they will keep the historic look of the building. It is expected to be done by this December.
The Grand Army of the Republic Building is located in a part of Downtown that has seen many historic and older buildings torn down in favor of parking lots, at 1942 Grand River on a section of triangular concrete surrounded by road on all sides. It was built by Julius Hess in the late 1890s and early 1900s. It was built for all of the Civil War Veterans as a hangout pretty much. As the veterans grew older, the building became more and more empty. It closed in 1982, and has been empty ever since.
It was sold to Ilitch Holdings in 1992 and Mr. Ilitch, who spent $214 million a couple of weeks ago on one baseball player, let the building sit empty. The city of Detroit didn’t like that and sold it just recently to David and Tom Carleton, brothers who operate Mindfield Pictures, a media company based on the other side of Downtown Detroit. They bought it for $220,000 and immediately began renovating on the first of November.
They secured the roof to protect from water and snow in the winter. After a $2-$3 million renovation, it is expected to open sometime in 2013. Mindfield will make its headquarters on the top two floors while the bottom two will be leased to a restaurant and retail. The brothers also plan to have a Civil War Memorial incorporated into the building in some way to honor the veterans who spent much of their time in their old age.
Finally, in another recent development, Dan Gilbert, who was the focus of the series earlier in the fall semester, has done more to become one of the big players in Detroit. He has bought many other buildings downtown since we last mentioned him. He now has bought The Wright-Kay Building, located at 1500 Woodward, the Lane-Bryant Building, located at 1520 Woodward, and the Arts League of Michigan Building, located at 1528 Woodward. These three buildings are all on the same block. It has been said he wants to use these buildings as lofts, offices, and retail.
He also owns the Dime Building, First National Building, the Chase Tower, and now the former Federal Reserve Building, right next to the Dime. He is quickly becoming a large landowner in Detroit and is looking to fill all of these buildings with tenants. He hopes to fill the Federal Reserve Building with one tenant. He was able to announce this on the day of the official opening of the Madison Building, the former Madison Theatre Building this past week. He filled it with start-up companies, anchored by Skidmore Studios.
Gilbert is looking to fill a part of the Dime Building with Chrysler LLC, and hopes to revitalize Woodward with many web and digital companies, by calling it “Webward Avenue.” In revitalizing many of these buildings and more Detroit will have a great tax base, lots of tenants and once again be a great city.
You can check out my other articles on www.michiganjournal.org
Detroit doesn’t have the best neighborhoods, in fact many are run down. The city is looking to downsize because of the excess of space that it has. There are some good neighborhoods in Detroit though, that people are taking over, and making safer.
Indian Village, Woodbridge, and the Boston-Edison neighborhoods are all historic districts, within the city limits and are showing us that there can be sustainable neighborhoods outside Downtown.
The Woodbridge neighborhood is a historic neighborhood that is just outside of the Midtown district of Detroit. It is bound by Grand River Avenue, I-94 (Edsel Ford Freeway), and M-10 (John C. Lodge Freeway). It is also bordered, just on the other side of the Lodge, by Wayne State University.
The historic neighborhood is one of the last neighborhoods in the city that was spared from redevelopment throughout the history of the city. Many of the homes are of the Victorian era, and it has many significant architectural structures. A couple of the historic structures include the Eighth Precinct Police Station, which now houses The Phoenix Group, the Northwood-Hunter House, which is now a bed and breakfast, the Trinity Episcopal Church, and the Trumbull Avenue Presbyterian Church.
Being so close to the Wayne State campus, the neighborhood is being filled with many students, employees of many businesses downtown, and even the City Council President.
“The neighborhood was slated for demolition more than once by different expansions of local institutions and also urban renewal projects,” said Graig Donnelly, Executive Director of the Woodbridge Neighborhood Development Corporation.
The Woodbridge neighborhood is on its way to becoming one of the great neighborhoods to live in as it becomes more popular, and is recognized by Donnelly for being really safe.
The Indian Village neighborhood is another historic district in Detroit. Many of the houses in the neighborhood were built around the late 1800s. It is bordered by Mack Avenue in the north, East Jefferson Avenue to the south, and along the streets of Burns, Iroquois and Seminole. Many of the homes in Indian Village were built by Albert Khan, one of the city’s premier architects, and Louis Kamper, another architect of many Detroit buildings.
Many of the city’s prominent citizens lived in Indian Village, including Edsel Ford and Henry Leland, founder of Lincoln and Cadillac. Why are they included in this list? Well, the neighborhood has it’s own Women’s Garden Club and Men’s Garden Club. They also host every June, an annual Home and Garden tour, a neighborhood yard sale in September, and a holiday home tour in December. The neighborhood is bringing more people into the homes, showing them what they have, and how they are involved together in the community. They even have their own website, which you can visit at www.historicindianvillage.org.
The final neighborhood that is showing that living in the city is great is the Boston-Edison neighborhood. It is bound by Edison Avenue to the south, Woodward Avenue to the east, Linwood Avenue to the west, and Boston Avenue to the north. It is one of the largest residential historic districts in the nation. It has over 900 homes on just four east/west streets.
The historic district boasts many big names too, former residents of the neighborhood. Former Detroit Tiger Willie Horton, famous labor leader Walter P. Reuther, Michigan Supreme Court Justices Franz C. Kuhn and Henry Butzel, Michigan Governor Harry Kelly, U.S. Representative Vincent M. Brennan, boxer Joe Louis, Motown record label owner Berry Gordy, Henry Ford, Walter Briggs, and Max Fisher have all resided in the district.
The Boston-Edison district has the oldest continuous neighborhood association in Detroit, founded in 1921, the Historic Boston-Edison Association. The association also has their own website, www.historicbostonedison.org.
All of these neighborhoods in Detroit, although closer to Downtown instead of the outlying areas, are showing us that there are safe neighborhoods in Detroit. People do care about each other, and there is a want and a need for safe neighborhoods in the city. These historic districts are showing us that, and the more people do this and band together, to make Detroit a safer place, the more that people will want to live there.
You can check out my other articles on www.michiganjournal.org
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 email@example.com. If you would like to contact their webmaster, Nick Polifroni, his email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. 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
When Detroit was in its golden age, Merchant’s Row was the place to be. Merchant’s Row is now known as the Lower Woodward Historic District. It runs from Grand Circus Park in the north, to Campus Martius Park in the south. It’s not very large, just three blocks long, consisting of 31 commercial buildings.
As mentioned in the second article of this series, when talking about the Somerset CityLoft, the historic district was the largest in the country and the busiest in the 1920’s.
The intersection of State Street and Woodward Avenue was the biggest (most congested) pedestrian crossing in 1925.
We’re going to dig deep and find out what really was there and what is being done to revitalize what was the best shopping district in the city.
Merchant’s Row flagship stores were the J.L. Hudson Department Store, Vernor’s Soda Fountain, Sanders Confectionery, the S.S. Kresge Company, and Kern’s Department Store. The J.L. Hudson Building, which is now just an empty lot, was the tallest department store in the world.
It was 33 stories high and had 2.2 million square feet of retail space. It was where every Detroiter went to shop Downtown. The building was demolished in October of 1998 and the lot has been empty since. The only thing that exists is an underground parking structure.
For 13 years, nothing has been talked about for the site until recently. Dan Gilbert, mentioned a couple of articles ago, is looking into the site and has requested a longer tax break for it. It currently has a tax break until 2017.
If Gilbert gets his way, which has happened frequently with the purchase of many buildings downtown, it will become a space that will hopefully get used again. His tentative plan for the site, or so the rumors go as of now, is that it would be a mixed use building of retail, office space, restaurants, and residencies. There is no firm plan in place to start building, but at least there is speculation for the former Hudson’s site.
The Kern’s Building was directly next to Hudson’s and the Compuware Building now sits on the site. Kern’s was another department store in Downtown Detroit, not as popular as Hudson’s but there was something that made it stand out from the others: its clock. The big saying back then was, “Meet me under the Kern’s clock,” as it was so busy that if you were under the clock, people knew where to find you.
Vernor’s was the pop of city. It has been around since 1866 and had a flagship store on the corner of Woodward Avenue and Clifford Street. Detroit is still known for Vernor’s but the flagship store on Woodward no longer exists. Tall-EZ Shoes now sits in the original spot where the drug store was. Sanders Confectionery was the ice cream of the city like Vernor’s was the pop of the city. Sanders original confectionery was right across the street from the Kern’s Building. Sanders now only has a handful of stores left in the Metro-Detroit area, but is working on building their once successful empire back up. A parking structure now is built on where the former flagship store was.
Finally, the Kresge Flagship store was located across the street from the Hudson’s store. Kresge is now known as Kmart, but back then was yet another department store that Detroiters shopped.
The original headquarters was located in Grand Circus Park, but the department store was in the small little corner of the world that was the busiest in 1925. The building is not what it once was, but it’s on its’ way. The former flagship store for Kresge now has a restaurant and a few shops.
Somerset CityLoft is also helping to revitalize the area. It was a bunch of shops from Somerset Mall in Troy, making mini-stores out of a couple ground level floors just off of Clifford Street on Woodward Avenue. It started something great, only one weekend a month from June-October. It looks as if the mini-stores succeeded as they will come back for the Christmas rush. They will be open December 1, 2, and 3 from 11am-7pm.
There are still many empty buildings in the former Merchant’s Row, but with the revitalization of the area, they probably won’t sit empty for long. Dan Gilbert and Somerset are leading the charge for the area. Don’t be surprised if this area once again becomes the heart of Downtown.
Feel free to check out my other articles at http://michiganjournal.org/
Written by Chris Zadorozny
Detroit was a growing city, the fastest, in fact during the Roaring Twenties. As Detroit grew and became one of the largest in the country, the city needed something to solidify it as one the best cities in the country too.
America’s Thanksgiving Parade, as it is now known, was the answer. The parade, which began as the “J.L. Hudson Thanksgiving Day Parade,” brought in people from all around the Metro Detroit area from 1924 until 1979, when the J.L. Hudson Company could no longer put forth money to make a profit.
It was then that the Detroit Renaissance Foundation took over the parade for four years, before transferring it to the newly formed Michigan Thanksgiving Parade Foundation in 1983. Finally, The Parade Company took over in 1990 and has since held the rights to the parade, re-naming it America’s Thanksgiving Parade.
Since 1924, the parade has grown larger with each year. In its first year, the parade only had four bands, 10 floats, and a small number of people dressed up in large heads. Today, it draws over one million people downtown. It is the second oldest parade in the country, tied with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, and just behind the 6abc Dunkin’ Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philadelphia.
During World War II, in 1943 and 1944, the parade came to a halt to help the war effort. In 1942, the last year before they stopped the parade, the balloons, floats, and anything rubber had signs on them stating, “I’m on my way to the Rubber Salvage.” All of the giant animals and other balloons were sliced up behind the Hudson’s Building after the parade and went directly into the war effort.
When the parade returned in 1945, over 200,000 people came out to witness the first parade in three years and they were rewarded with over 600 characters, eight bands, and 75 clowns, including Donald Duck, the Toy Soldiers, and the Wizard of Oz.
It’s obvious that children are the main audience of a parade, and in 1948, the Rotary, Board of Education, and Legal Division of the Detroit Street Railroad combined to bring over 650 handicapped children in 20 buses to the parade. For the kids, Santa is the main attraction and seeing him brings a smile on every kid’s face.
For Hudson’s, it was important to be the biggest name out there to market the Toyland, which was located on the twelfth floor of the building. In 1958, Hudson’s began a contest for students to design floats for the parade and the winning design actually had their float built, which still continues today. The first ever winner of the float design was 10 year old Carol Kulesza.
The parade has also been broadcast live nationally on television, first in 1948 locally, then on NBC in 1952. As the parade became more nationally known, CBS wanted to broadcast it live but Hudson’s had a contract with ABC. CBS did air it even though it was threatened with a lawsuit in 1959. The national coverage ceased to exist in 1988, but resumed back in 1999.
One other aspect of the parade is the Turkey Trot, a 10k (6.2 mile) race before the parade starting usually around 7:30 or 8:00 am. This year it starts at 7:45 am, for its 29th year. There is also a 5k (3.1 mile) race and a one-mile fun run. Last year it drew over 17,000 runners and they welcome all ages. There is a costume contest and when registering, you receive a number bib, timing bib, and a pullover with the logo. This year, officials are expecting 20,000 runners, which is their limit.
The current parade route starts at Woodward Ave. and Mack Ave. in the Midtown District and moves south down Woodward Ave. ending at Congress St. This was the first route taken back in 1924 when the parade started. It has had to change courses over the years it has existed, though. It will take the same route this year on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 24. It will step off, as they say, from Mack Ave. and Woodward Ave at 9:05am.
America’s Thanksgiving Parade is a great event to attend and it doesn’t cost a dime. It’s totally free and if you get a good spot early on Woodward Ave., you will be able to see not only the runners run and cheer them on, but you also get to see a great parade. Make sure to dress warm, bring some hot beverages and snacks, a couple chairs and blankets, and you are ready to go.
It is such an historic event, even if you aren’t a kid, the enjoyment of seeing the different floats, bands, and people and the holiday cheer the parade brings won’t disappoint you.
Next week we will look at the buildings in the Lower Woodward Historic District, as well as what is being done to them to revive the area that was once the busiest in the city.
Feel free to check out my other articles at http://michiganjournal.org/
Written by Chris Zadorozny
This week we will switch the topic from the the growing entertainment industry in Detroit and focus in on one man and what he is doing to reinvigorate a city that needs help. In this piece, we will talk about what he has done for the city, his background, and his plans for the future.
Dan Gilbert is the current founder, chairman, and CEO of Quicken Loans, an online mortgage company based in the Compuware Building, downtown in the heart of the city. He was born in the city itself and earned his bachelor’s from Michigan State University as well as a Juris Doctor (first professional doctorate) from Wayne State University Law School. He is also a member of the Michigan State Bar Association.
He founded Rock Financial in 1985 and it grew into one of the largest independent mortgage lenders in the country. In 2000, Intuit Inc. bought out Rock Financial and turned it into Quicken Loans. Gilbert bought the company back along with a group of private investors in 2002 from Intuit Inc. and its affiliated companies and has since remained its CEO.
When becoming CEO, he became the majority owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team in 2005. He still embraces the team to this day even during the current NBA lockout. He also owns the Lake Erie Monsters, a professional hockey team in the American Hockey League, one step below the NHL level. They are the farm team of the Colorado Avalanche.
Gilbert knows how to make money and realized that Detroit can be a place for people to live, work, and play. In August of 2010, he moved 1,700 of his workers in Quicken Loans from Livonia to Detroit at the Compuware Building. Five months later, he announced the purchase of the Madison Theatre Building, directly next to the Broderick Tower in Grand Circus Park. This past April he also purchased the Chase Tower, one block south of the Compuware Building, and Two Detroit Center, a parking structure two blocks away.
This past September he finished his money spending with the purchases of the Dime Building, three blocks south of the Compuware Building, and the First National Building, one block south. He also owns rights to the old Hudson’s Building site, right next door to the Compuware Building. Once everyone moves into the Chase Tower and Madison Theatre Building, Quicken Loans will employ over 4,000 workers in Downtown Detroit.
The building he resides in currently is the Compuware Building. It was built in 2000 and finished in 2003. It’s a mix of office space, restaurant, and retail. Restaurants include; Hard Rock Café, Texas de Brazil (Steakhouse), and a Jimmy Johns, to name a few. The Compuware Building sits in the heart of Downtown Detroit at Campus Martius Park, and it and will be key to the revitalization of Detroit as more and more companies move downtown.
In fact, two companies just moved into the Madison Theatre Building in the past week. Skidmore Studio, a graphic design company, and Detroit Labs, a technology firm that creates applications for the iPhone, iPad, and Android moved in this past week.
Skidmore moved from Royal Oak, while Detroit Labs moved from the Compuware Building. Detroit Labs was able to move from the Compuware Building because of Detroit Venture Partners, a venture capitalist firm founded by Gilbert to help early stage technology companies in the city. It currently has only 15 employees.
Dan Gilbert is one of the best people to help reinvigorate the city of Detroit and he has done so already with the moving of his employees, purchasing buildings to bring tenants in and looking toward the future with the old Hudson’s site. Because he owns development rights on the site of the old Hudson’s Building, he is looking to seek a tax extension from the city. The current tax breaks run until 2017 and with the possibility of extending the tax breaks for another 15 years, it could mean something big, both for the city’s business district and quite possibly the skyline.
The old J.L. Hudson’s Building was built in 1911 and continued to grow towards the finished product presented in 1946. It was the tallest department/retail building in the world, and the second largest department store building (in rooms) in the United States, second only to Macy’s in New York City. It also holds the record for the tallest and largest building to have a controlled implosion. It was imploded on October 24, 1998. The site is now an empty lot with a parking structure underground, although the parking structure is built so that a building can be built on top with steel girders sticking out of the ground.
There is speculation that an urban Target or H&M store would be built on the site along with other retail, office space, and a residential portion as well. By seeking a tax extension on this “Renaissance Zone” which is exempt from city taxes, utility taxes, city and county property taxes, and state and business income taxes, it is very likely that Gilbert has a plan to do something with this site. We do not have any idea what his plans are but the purchase of the other buildings in downtown, he seems to have plans for those as well.
Dan Gilbert is a driving force behind bringing business and retail into the city of Detroit and he’s only 49 years old. Gilbert is young and will continue to help the city of Detroit and downtown improve. In next week’s article we will look at one of the oldest and best eateries in the city, and their rivalry.
Feel free to check out my other articles at http://michiganjournal.org/
Written by Chris Zadorozny