This post was authored by Paul Beshouri.
Photo by Michelle and Chris Gerard.
Just last year, the former Free Press building was on the verge of becoming downtown's latest success story. Generous tax credits had made a proposed conversion to at least 115 apartments a fiscal reality. With Fort Shelby developer Leo Phillips at the helm, we found ourselves getting all excited and breathy at the thought of living in a building that's just as much a monument to Detroit journalism as it is to Detroit architect Albert Kahn.
What exactly went wrong is unclear. Allegedly, a disagreement between investors was big enough to call it quits on the whole project. Now the Free Press Building is to be put up for bid online starting November 5th. Opening bid: $1.5M.
Sensing an opportunity to be nosey, we got in touch with a broker from Friedman Integrated Real Estate Solutions, who generously agreed to give Curbed Detroit a tour of what the new buyer will have to work with. Answer: A LOT. There's more to the Free Press Building than its limestone facade.
Although the Detroit Free Press moved out in 1998, the building has endured the 14 years of neglect admirably. The frosted glass in many office doors still bears the hand-painted names of those who once worked behind them. Most of the building is dedicated to the offices, which have sort of functional, masculine opulence. It really feels like Don Draper would be at home in any of these rooms.
Many of Albert Kahn's design features are assets in ways that Mr. Kahn couldn't have possibly foreseen in 1925. The building's unique shape offers five separate roof surfaces at various levels, all of which are potential spaces for a deck, garden, or balcony. The cavernous basement—a feature included to house printing presses—has been cleared by structural engineers to provide residents with three levels of underground parking.
The building's $38 M in available tax credits and incentives (which will transfer to the new owner) offset about half the cost of renovation. Here's to hoping that's enough to attract someone willing to give the Free Press Building every bit of attention and investment it deserves.
In summary: the Free Press Building has the potential to have five different roof decks and underground parking, and its historic status requires maintaining first floor retail. As our tour came to an end on the top floor, agent Ryan Snoek emphasized that it's features like these that can make all the difference. "Most buildings are cubes," he said while we admired the views of the Detroit River. "This building offers something the rest can't."
We couldn't agree more.