The Historic District Commission meeting on the the proposed demolition of the State Savings Bank by owner Andreas Apostolopoulos is happening right now, and we're live at the meeting to bring you updates on the action.
5:30 PM: It now official meeting starting time. There is no sign of State Savings bank owner Andreas Apostolopoulos yet.
5:35 PM: The turn out for this meeting is quite large (we took the above photo before most arrived). There are perhaps 70 people in the room so far and a huge line to sign in.
5:40 PM: It begins. "I'm guessing most of you are here for a single application" says the HDC commissioner. If he means the State Savings Bank then, "yes sir!" If he means all those applications that involved new fences, he really does not get us at all.
5:46 PM: Apostolopoulos's application says that the building is not structurally unsound, but is in the way of his big ol' parking garage. He's submitted 10 letters of support for his plans to demolish the State Savings bank.
5:47 PM: The person speaking on behalf of the proposed State Savings Bank demo is Robert (Bob) Kraemer.
5:49 PM: The commissioner notes that there were 757 signatures against the demo of the building.
5:51 PM: Team Apop's proposal is for a 1,189 car parking garage. The development will cost $30M.
5:54 PM: This meeting is going to be a real tweet fest. John Gallagher from the Free Press is here tweeting. So are preservationists.
Owner's rep arguing that we have to demolish this building to save another - the Penobscot. #savestatesavings— amy elliott bragg (@thenighttrain) August 14, 2013
5:55 PM: Apop's rep is going all-out, contrasting the upsurge of downtown Detroit against the decline of the Penobscot Buildings's tenancy, which has allegedly fallen from 80% to 50% since Apop bought it out of foreclosure. They're essentially saying they must demo one historic structure to save another. "We are here to say we have to make a choice. And the choice is that the Penobscot building is in peril."
6:05 PM: The commissioners clarified that this meeting is not about the proposed development, but about demolition alone. Apop's people have asked that the demolition be considered specifically BECAUSE of the awesome new development that will follow. Apparently the parking garage will fix everything.
6:05 PM: Apop's presenter, Kraemer, continues "We do not want to do a Madison Lennox type site. We don't want a Hotel Charlevoix type site?.the value is a future development." You'll remember the Hotel Charlevoix was demo'd earlier this year because the owner had let the building rot for years and years.
6:09 PM: Apop's presentation is over! On to a gazillion public comments.
"Detroit deserves better than another flattened landmark," preservationists tell Detroit Historic Dist Comm at State Savings hearing #freep— John Gallagher (@JGallagherFreep) August 14, 2013
6:11 PM: One public commenter is getting a little bit dramatic. "You know how people commit suicide right before they get rescued?" he says. Apparently that's what demo would be like for Detroit. His comments finish strong: "I will conclude my comments, as they were hastily assembled on the way over here."
6:15 PM: All comments thus far are from those against the demo. One speaker accidentally calls it the "Steak" Savings Bank. That really does sound like something we'd want to demolish.
6:18 PM: Apop just got called out. A former district commissioner claims that the bank's former owner took much better care of it, adding that it was during a time when downtown was way, um, crappier.
6:19 PM: There are going to be a lot of speakers.
6:20 PM: And now there is finger-pointing. The Penobscot's leasing agent is here (essentially defending his own job), saying Quicken Loans took all of the available downtown parking. THIS IS YOUR FAULT, GILBERT.
What's the point of having an office in Detroit if it just looks like Troy? - Mark Armitage #savestatesavings— amy elliott bragg (@thenighttrain) August 14, 2013
6:25 PM: Comments are getting feisty: "Not every building has an expanse of asphalt next to it. Those places are called suburbs, and they are NOT in short supply."
6:26 PM: You know when Eminem wins the final rap battle in 8 Mile? That last moment was just like that. But silent.
6:31 PM: It's a total preservationist fest here, and on twitter.
Maybe Penobscot's decline in occupancy rates has more to do with crappy management than a lack of parking downtown? #savestatesavings— HistoricDetroit.org (@HistoricDET) August 14, 2013
6:32 PM: Former Penobscot tenant from the 1980s is throwing DOWN: "Detroit is cool again! It's taken a long time to get there. The loss of this building makes detroit LESS COOL?" He claims his company did not leave the Penobscot for lack of parking, then concludes by saying Apop has left one of the Penobscot's windows open for days, while it was raining, probably on purpose.
6:43 PM: David Carleton, co owner of the GAR building (Detroit's downtown castle), is speaking. He points out that Detroit used to be Paris of the Midwest, but might now become be the parking lot of the midwest.
David Carlton from @Mindfieldusa (developers of GAR): You knew parking would be a problem when you bought the Penobscot. #savestatesavings— amy elliott bragg (@thenighttrain) August 14, 2013
6:45 PM: Public comments are closed! Kraemer is called up to respond to the army of preservationists.
6:47 PM: Kraemer refuses to back down on the need for parking. "Why would they build the Z-Lot if there wasn't a need for parking?" he argues. The Z-Lot is Dan Gilbert's currently-under-construction-project.
6:48 PM: Compromise? Kinda? The Apop development team is open to keeping the facade and making a parking garage within.
7:01 PM: The HDC chairman makes a motion to DENY the demolition request: "I think with a historic building like this, the presumption is that it stands." He continues: "Before we could endorse the position you're taking, we'd have to see substantial evidence." He's referring to evidence proving that parking couldn't possibly happen anywhere else.
7:03 PM: Request for demo unanimously DENIED. The meeting takes a break so 90% of the audience can leave.
7:09 PM: Earlier we mentioned that one Apop development option presented involved preserving the facade and putting a parking garage inside of that. Here is a rendering the team brought of that idea.
7:15 PM: This concludes the LIVE blog portion of our Wednesday night. Thanks for following.