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Design Of Upcoming La Feria Restaurant Approved By HDC

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The post was authored by Amy Swift.

While we didn't feel the need to bore you with a live blog feed of mostly driveway and tree branch issues from last night's Historic District Commission Meeting (you're welcome), there were a few notable items that are worth getting excited over. Architect Joel Schmidt of D MET design was in attendance to represent two of his recent Midtown projects. While we can look forward to a new sign and awning outside of The Kresge Foundation's Midtown location above Great Lakes Coffee, the big news item here is the unveiling of the renovation plans for the building that will soon be home to Hatch Detroit's 2012 winner, Le Feria. You may also remember it as the building that will house artist Adnan Charara's new studio, which we wrote about seven months ago.

While the architect admits the approach is not historically appropriate according to the Secretary of Interiors Standards, he argues that it is reversible (a perfectly acceptable approach with plenty of national precedent). The building at 4130 Cass Ave was constructed in 1918 and originally housed (surprise) an auto-related business. It is a contributing building to the Willis Selden Historic District and currently serves as the studio space for the artist and owner Charara. The "Astro Distributors Inc." lettering on the facade is also (as urban legend has it) the inspiration behind the name of our favorite Corktown coffee spot Astro Coffee.

The renovation will convert the front of the building into two new retail spaces while maintaining the owner's studio in the back. The design will reactivate the facade via a single large opening for the two angled retail entrances, as well as two large storefront windows. Since the intent of the historic districting in this area is to maintain the streetscape, the opening of the facade in this case is historically appropriate and in fact will add to the quality of the streetscape. Midtown Detroit Inc. has provided a facade matching grant for the property and was also in attendance last night to voice their support for the project.

The historic material that remains, including the Astro sign, will be stabilized and maintained; however, the application of a rainscreen of high density cement boards will cover these features in this next iteration of the building's lifeline. According to Schmidt, the intent was to be "contextual and neighborly without being imitative," thus a complimentary contrast approach was taken. The design was derived to maximize the usable shingles while minimizing waste, and a graffiti-resistant weatherboarding was proposed to mimic the shadowlines of the original masonry.

All-in-all the HDC commissioners were pleased and approved the project unanimously. We're told that visible construction will be under way the week after next, and construction for La Feria will start "very soon!" Schmidt promised us a rendering of that space in a few weeks time, so we'll pass that along when we get it. Until then, pins and needles!

· Rendering Revealed For Artist Adnan Charara's New Studio [Curbed Detroit]
· La Feria Detroit [Facebook]
· D MET Design [Official]