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Tiptoe Through Detroit's Giant, Empty Medical Complex

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Photography by Chris and Michelle Gerard

In its endless quest to cut costs, the City of Detroit has offered up the unbelievably huge Herman Kiefer Health Complex for redevelopment. H-K contains the fingerprints of some of Detroit's top architects, but the complex's gem is its largest building, which opened in 1928 to combat outbreaks of tuberculosis, measles, and other unsavory ailments.
From the outside, you don't need an especially powerful imagination to envision the property renovated into something great. The buildings are beautiful and there's plenty of parking. Perched next to the Lodge Freeway a few miles from downtown, its location couldn't be better. Inside, however things get a little bit eerie. What would you do with so much space?

Herman Kiefer covers 17.9 acres. Its eight buildings contain a total of 526K square feet, and many are connected via underground tunnel. Much of the complex was abandoned in 2012, but a small portion was occupied until last October. These photos were taken Tuesday, when the city opened up H-K for a public walkthrough.

The problem with Herman Kiefer is its size. Estimates for renovating all 526K square feet easily top $50M. The realistic choice, however, would be to save only the large Albert Kahn-designed building.
The City of Detroit isn't making it easy. Developers bidding on a city-owned property are required to submit a "solid and feasible financial plan." Proposals without one are turned down. Unfortunately, developers were only given from March 10 to April 18 to submit proposals.
Lining up the finances to make historic renovations possible can take months--sometimes years. City officials that the high-speed process minimizes the $200K/year cost of guarding a vacant Herman Kiefer from scrappers. But they've also promised to spend $4.5M to demolish the entire thing if no viable bids come in.
· Can Detroit learn anything from Traverse City State Hospital project? [Mlive]
· Herman Kiefer Health Complex in Detroit offered for new use [Freep]
· Making the Case For The Herman Kiefer Complex [Curbed]

Herman Kiefer Health Complex

1151 Taylor St., Detroit, MI 48202