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City Snatches National Theatre, Development Rumors Abound

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According to Deadline Detroit, the City of Detroit has taken control of the National Theatre, a 102-year-old gem of Albert Kahn design. Why would Detroit, a city unable to control its own basic facilities, take control of a crumbling landmark? Says Deadline:

Jim Marusich of the city of Detroit planning and development department said the city "took it back" recently because the developer failed to rehabilitate the building as he had agreed to do a decade or so ago, when he acquired the building from the city. The last few months have been filled with rumors of every variety. It's obvious, however, that there is some sort of plan in the works. Some factoids to consider:
· According to Historic Detroit, the National is the only known Albert Kahn theatre still standing today.

· The National is squished between two active redevelopment sites. One one side, developers are trying to nail down the design for a new office tower. On the other, backhoes are slowly ripping down the Bates Garage. Both of those sites are owned by the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (DEGC), while the properties to the rear are likely Dan Gilbert Country.

· While it's on the National Register of Historic Places, we're told the National Theatre has failed to gain a historic designation from the city. That means little protection from demolition.

· Records indicate that Melvin Washington was the failed developer. Melvin usually does business as the Phoenix Group. Remember the strange renovation of the Castle Lofts? That was him.

· The National is the last survivor of the Monroe Block, a beautiful stretch of ornate buildings that dated back to the 1850s. The city demolished them in 1990, as the infinitely wise city council believe them to be hindering downtown's redevelopment. Read the full history at Historic Detroit.