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One Last Look: Capitol Park's Crumbling, Vibrant Loft Spaces

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[Photography by Chris and Michelle Gerard]

The countdown continues for the residents at 1217 Griswold, who now have two weeks before they must vacate their apartments. Their building, purchased a few months ago by a company connected to Dan Gilbert, has been accused of hosting a multitude of safety issues that can only be addressed through an all-out renovation.

And it's true. Take a few steps up the winding, creaking interior stairway, and you'll realize that 1217 Griswold is about as prepared to pass a building safety inspection as the Packard Plant is ready to host an elementary school. But these unique lofts aren't just low-rent living spaces, they're evidence of a vibrant community of art, innovation, and Detroit's proud DIY mentality. It'll be sad to see it all disappear.

Between the historic facade and the downtown location, 1217 Griswold's loft spaces feel almost too good to be true. The building could be a movie set. The residents, many having lived there for years, built bedrooms and kitchens into their individual loft spaces, renovating them as they saw fit. One has a screen printing facility. Another doubles as a skate park. Musical instruments are visible in most of them.

At the same time, years of negligence from the previous ownership has left the structure in frightening condition.The roof leaks badly. An abandoned unit on the uppermost floor is in such terrible shape, you can see the sky through holes in the ceiling. There are rumors of an unpaid DTE bill worth thousands of dollars. One resident claims to have encountered a Bedrock employee in the entry area, who immediately accused him of trespassing. It took some convincing for the worker to realize people actually lived in the building.

There's little doubt that the magnitude of required repairs necessitates the removal of the residents. And Bedrock's compensation of $2,000 in moving expenses and discounted temporary housing is generous. But, as the Metro Times explains in a recent article, it's ironic that Dan Gilbert's goal of turning Capitol Park into downtown's arts district doesn't involve a plan to retain its established artists.

If you want to check out the building before renovations begin, residents are hosting an open house/estate sale on SUNDAY. Links to the work of individual residents can be found at

· More Capitol Park Residents Receive Eviction Notices [Curbed]
· Letter Reveals Gilbert Controls This Capitol Park Loft Building [Curbed]
· Capitol Park Artists Get the Boot [Metro Times]