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Updates From Inside of the Castle: Detroit's GAR Building Progresses

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This post was authored by Curbed contributor MJ Galbraith.

Photographs by Andrew Kopietz.

The new owners of Detroit's downtown "Castle Building" have set a date for the re-opening! The Detroit production company Mindfield, which purchased the Grand Army of the Republic building last November, has the perfect date in mind to honor its history. That would be Veteran's Day, November 11, 2013, which makes sense given that the Castle is dedicated to the veterans of the Civil War. Per terms of its purchase from the City of Detroit, Mindfield must keep the building's appearance as historically accurate as possible. Co-founder David Carleton says they have assembled a "dream team" of historic specialists and carpenters who "live and breathe every minute detail of these buildings." So the G.A.R. building is set to appear much as it did back in 1898, except, you know, with incredibly high speed internet and touchscreen tablets on every wall.

As for those minute details:

· Exterior work is about to begin and should be finished by the fall. The company believes they identified the quarry where the original 19th century stone came from and will go there for whatever needs to be replaced.

· Historic specialists are currently going over 120 windows, mostly of which are salvageable, and stripping the frames down to their black primer base. Mindfield will attempt to match any new glass to the original.

· Much of the original hardwood floor is in excellent condition because the city covered it up with new floor decades ago.

· The majority of damage to the building has been from rain and snow. Whether it was the vandals, urban explorers, or party kids, some folks didn't shut the trapdoors to the roof after climbing back down, letting all the elements in. The damage has made its way from the 5th floor to the 1st, forcing the company to replace 40 to 50 joists. They say they'll re-purpose the virgin pine.

· One of the biggest challenges promises to be how the company is going to run plumbing, electricity, and technology lines throughout the building. Co-founder Sean Emery says they're thinking of running everything through the center of the building and "spider webbing" out. The attic, their favorite space, will have to be where all the mechanicals go.

· Integrity Building Group's John Biggar is the architect for the project.

· They haven't figured out the elevator yet, either running the cables through the attic or pushing it up pneumatically from the basement. They believe the original elevator cab is most likely salvageable.

· Mindfield is planning on starting a non-profit to run a veterans memorial in the building. It will feature some sort of high-tech interactive media.

· The first floor is going to have a bar/restaurant in a giant space on the north side of the building and maybe some retail. The second and third floors can be leased for office use. Mindfield's offices will be in the fourth and fifth floors. The fifth floor is more of a mezzanine.

"This is going to be one very high tech historic building," said Carleton.

· Andrew Kopietz Photographer [Official]
· Mindfield Production / Motion / Interactive / Photography [Mindfield]
· Downtown Detroit's Castle Building Has Been Bought! [Curbed Detroit]
· Detroit's Castle Building Gets the Love It Deserves [Curbed Detroit]
· GAR Restoration Blog [GAR Posterous]

The GAR Building

1943 W. Grand River , Detroit, MI 48226