Emmett Moten told Detroit City Council that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) deemed it necessary to demolish the United Artists Theatre in order to redevelop the rest of the downtown building. HUD says that’s false.
“HUD did not impose a condition requiring the demolition of the theater,” Marta Juaniza, public affairs specialist for HUD, told the Detroit News. “The borrower’s proposal was to demolish the theater.”
Moten’s claim came during an October 24 meeting of the City Council’s Planning and Economic Development standing committee. There, he laid out a $56 million plan to convert the 18-story former office building, which has sat dormant for years, into 148 apartments with 20 percent designated as “affordable.”
When asked by a member of the city’s Legislative Policy Division what would happen to the historic theater, Moten said that the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and HUD, which is supplying the project with a 40-year multifamily construction loan, deemed it unsalvageable.
“They’re not gonna go forward unless the theater comes down,” Moten said. “We don’t have a project without that.”
The plan to demolish the theater was absent from the presentation the City Council.
Two other important participants in the redevelopment, however, don’t think the theater can be saved.
An architect with SPHO told the Detroit News that due to questionable structural integrity, it’s “not a viable candidate for rehabilitation.” Photos inside the theater show extensive damage to the roof and its many ornamental details.
And Crain’s Detroit Business obtained a copy of a letter from Gershman Mortgage, which is providing $34.5 million in debt for the project, saying that “refurbishing the theater would put the project’s financing at risk.” The mortgage company worries that the theater makes it less marketable because it would take away potential parking spots and “disrupt the residential tenants.”
Moten is the same developer looking to demolish the Detroit Saturday Night Building on Fort Street and replace it with a surface parking lot.