Detroit’s Choice: Beautiful Historic Buildings or More Parking

Photo: ##http://eng.archinform.net/projekte/38755.htm## archinform##

Let’s just get this out of the way right now: Sigh. Okay then, on to the story. A Canadian developer wants to tear down this building, the State Savings Bank, to make room for more parking in downtown Detroit.

Does Detroit need more parking? Not exactly. Downtown Detroit, an analyst told the Huffington Post, has approximately 71,000 parking spaces and 80,000 daytime workers. About 8.5 percent of metro Detroiters drive in carpools, and another 4.6 percent walk, take taxis, or bike to work.

“Detroit’s downtown has far more parking per worker than nearly every major downtown in the country, from San Francisco to Atlanta, New York to San Diego,” said Rob Linn of Data Driven Detroit.

Now granted, not all of Detroit’s buildings are in use, but they just don’t make them like this one anymore. Detroit still doesn’t seem to recognize that beautiful architecture is one of its best remaining assets.

For decades, Detroit has been trading landmarks like the one above for environments like this:

And there might be no better illustration of backwards attitudes toward cities and public space than this now world famous space in Detroit, the former Michigan Theater:

Detroit's Michigan Theater, converted into a parking lot. Photo: ##http://weburbanist.com/2011/01/01/detroits-michigan-theater-the-worlds-most-beautiful-parking-lot/## Weburbanist##

It’s time for Detroit to start thinking differently about these things.

Cleveland has an old bank building a lot like State Savings that’s been empty for more than a decade — the Cleveland Trust Rotunda:

Image: ##http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Cleveland_Trust_rotunda.jpg##Wikipedia##

The Plain Dealer recently reported that Cleveland’s Cuyahoga County is entertaining potential buyers for the building. The county staged a recent “bidder conference” inside the rotunda, which apparently is everyone’s favorite of the 22 buildings the county is hoping to unload.

Sound surprising? Not as much as you might think. Downtown Cleveland has become a very popular residential area, and apartment occupancy is above 98 percent, according to the Plain Dealer. “Developers are looking for new rental opportunities,” the paper reported last year. While this building won’t likely be converted to residential, a rising tide just might be enough to lifts all boats, as they say.

In the past, Cleveland hasn’t necessarily been shy about clearing away architectural treasures when a developer with her mind on 150-square-foot car stalls comes knocking. But, showing laudable restraint, the city’s planning commission recently rejected a plan to turn another downtown building into a parking garage.

Will Detroit begin to see the light as well?

HuffPo reporter Ashley Woods’ take wasn’t too promising: “In downtown Detroit, the battle between parking and preservation usually tips in favor of those with the deepest pockets.”

Toronto-based developer Andreas Apostolopoulos wants to build a $20 million parking garage on the site. The Detroit Free Press reports the decision will likely come before the city’s Historic District Commission.

  • Pomahen

    And don’t forget about the Playhouse Square theater district, which was set to be razed and become parking lots until a few local citizens got together to save the buildings and restore the district. It’s one of Cleveland’s greatest success stories in the second half of the 20th century.  http://www.playhousesquare.org/default.asp?playhousesquare=48

  • Detroiter

    It’s not the City of Detroit that wants to tear it down. It’s the Canadian investor that bought the building. Detroiters are rallying to KEEP him from tearing it down!

    http://www.change.org/petitions/ceo-of-triple-properties-do-not-turn-the-state-savings-bank-in-detroit-into-a-parking-structure

  • AnotherDetroiter

    I would like to reiterate the comment left by Detroiter:

    The City of Detroit isn’t planning or considering anything. A developer from Toronto is considering demolishing this beautiful historic building, and is likely to meet a lot of opposition along the way.

    Still, thank you for bringing this issue to your readers’ attention. We need all of the help we can get to save our beautiful buildings in Detroit.

  • New Detroiter

    To be fair, pretty soon Detroiters will start complaining that pictures of this abandon building are ruin porn and calling for its demolition. 

  • Todd Scott

    Don’t let the facts get in the way of another opportunity to rip on Detroit. It’s an old, tired record that you love to play. As noted here, a Canadian developer announced an intention to demolish a structure that the city has protected, but somehow the city needs to see the light.

  • Hey sorry. Todd you’re right. We changed the story to make it clear that it’s a developer that wants to demolish the building not the city. Apologies. It’s still going to be up to the city of Detroit, it seems, to decide whether it stands. I didn’t write this story to rip on Detroit. We want to see Detroit succeed just like you do.

  • Rjlj
  • Ted King

    Update on the Cleveland Trust rotunda :

    Geis intends to redevelop
    the the [sic] 28-story tower as high-end apartments, the Cleveland Trust
    rotunda as retail or another public use
    , and the Swetland Building as
    apartments and offices.

    Source : http://planning.co.cuyahoga.oh.us/blog/land-use/office/ (16 January 2013 entry)

    Bldg. info : http://www.clevelandskyscrapers.com/cleveland/rotunda/clevelandtrust.html (nine images)

  • JKR

    Demolition Derby Lake Erie!

  • Darren Snakeman

    I think people have too many cars these days. Also, it would be better preserve old buildings to have a lot of beauty to look at.

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