Our series on Re-Imagining Detroit Buildings is an unscientific approach to seeing which buildings this city wants redeveloped. We're asking people who tend to know about these things to make a pitch for a building that has not been redeveloped yet... but should be!
Since our last Re-imagining Detroit Buildings post visited Highland Park, it was only fair that we give Hamtramck (that other city enclosed within Detroit) a plug as well. So we asked Jason Friedmann, Director of Community and Economic Development for Ham Town to pick the local building most deserving of redevelopment. Turns out the one he fancies is actually for sale, listed at just under $500 K!
For almost one hundred years Hamtramck as been known as the place where cutting edge automobiles are built– first Dodge, then GM, Cadillac and now the hybrid-electric Chevy Volt. Until recently the city was also the place where metro Detroiters’ went to buy their new cars. For years, Woody Pontiac, Al Deeby Dodge, and even Krajenki Yugo (“Hard to spell, but easy to deal with”) sold more cars than any other dealerships in the US. Most of these buildings have been re-purposed for new uses ranging from the Acts 29 Christian Fellowship church and community center, to the former Woody Pontiac site being demolished and rebuilt as the the State of Michigan’s prototype one stop shop Department of Human Services Regional Office. The only dealership left waiting to be redeveloped is the former Al Deeby Dodge Dealership. The 24,000 square foot, concrete reinforced building was the home of the highest grossing Dodge dealership in America from 1950 until 2006 when the business closed it’s doors and moved operations north to Clarkston (that’s past 8 Mile Road, right?) following the trend set by other dealership franchises (and often demanded by the parent auto manufacturer) to leave the city to chase the growing wealth/population/traffic of the far flung suburbs. The facility has seen little activity the past 6 years, but there has been a wide range of ideas of what the building could become. Proposals have ranged from solar panel sales and manufacturing, 24-hour fitness center, yoga studios, restaurant, and boutique hotel, and of course mega loft apartments are a natural fit. I would love to see ground level retail that takes advantage of the massive window openings – a brewery was looking at the space last year and it’s easy to imagine gazing at oversized brewing tanks & equipment through those same windows. The interior’s original features include terazzo show rooms floors, martini glass columns, original auto hoists, and ramps extending to the roof top parking deck – overbuilt to store up to 100 cars, the roof could easily be transformed into one of Detroit’s largest green roofs with amenities such as gardens, a pool, hot/tubs sauna, running track, and climbing wall, as was proposed as part of the boutique hotel mentioned above.
Detroit (and now even Royal Oak) loves a brewery, but our two cents is that this makes especially good sense in Hamtramck which is known for abundant dive bars beloved by locals. Something a bit more (dare we say it?) touristy, such as a brewery would bring more of the Wayne State and midtown after-work drinkers to the area. And what's more fun than getting drunk in the area where you can walk to Disneyland? Hotel or condos, we're also fully in support of the roof deck concept, provided they don't let the Village Green branding team at it. Those gurus can't say no to amenities and got a hold of the Detroit City Apartments. While that roof deck they deck out there was not horrible, we can't forgive them for "Sky Club" and "Sexy Bathrooms." Current asking price is $499,900.