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A wide, white skyscraper. At the top in red letters reads “David Whitney Building.”
The David Whitney Building, which reopened in 2014

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10 redevelopments that shaped Detroit over the last 10 years

The defining trend of the 2010s is undoubtedly the reclamation of Detroit’s vacant historic buildings

While some of Detroit’s biggest redevelopments—Michigan Central Station, the Book Tower, Herman Kiefer Complex—are still underway, no trend has defined the city more during its “revival” than the literal revival of its once-vacant historic buildings.

There’s many buildings we could have chosen. But these the ones on this list either had a long way to go, a particular historic significance, or were emblematic of redevelopment in some way.

Here are 10 of the most important projects completed over the last decade.

Metropolitan Building

Perhaps no redevelopment in Detroit was as daunting as the Metropolitan Building.

The 14-story Neo-Gothic office building built in 1925 had been abandoned for 40 years. During that time, scrappers had taken most parts of value and the city had even erected nets to catch debris from its collapsing facade. Demolition seemed certain.

Despite those challenges, earlier this year the building opened as Element Detroit at the Metropolitan Building, an extended-stay, 110-room hotel redeveloped at a cost of $33 million. Developers the Roxbury Group and Means Group also opened The Monarch Club, a rooftop cocktail lounge and outdoor terrace.

See the impressive before-and-after photos to get an idea of how much work was required to bring this building back.

Wurlitzer Building

Right around the corner from the Metropolitan is another many thought wouldn’t survive. The tall, narrow, Renaissance Revival building once housed the instrument-maker Wurlitzer Co.

The building, with its lovely terra cotta facade, had been abandoned since 1982. For years, it was owned by a speculator who did no upkeep and let it fall into disrepair.

But in 2015, the Wurlitzer Building was bought by ASH NYC who converted it into The Siren Hotel at a cost of $22 million. It opened in March 2018.

Photo by Michelle Gerard

David Whitney Building

Historic Detroit calls it “one of the most important structures in Detroit.” Designed by Daniel H. Burnham & Co. and opened in 1914, it has arguably the most impressive atrium in the city.

The building got a “modern” makeover in the 1960s that few would approve of today, removing many of its ornamental details. It eventually closed around 2000.

But the 1 Park Avenue building got revived this decade thanks to a $92 million redevelopment by the Roxbury Group, which converted it into a mixed-use structure with a hotel, apartments, and retail. Kraemer Design Group also restored many of its original features.

Broderick Tower

Originally the Eaton Tower, this 34-story building designed by Louis Kamper opened in 1927. Its lobby was filled with marble panelling and a gorgeous coffered ceiling. Flood lights on the top four floors illuminated it spectacularly at night.

But the building had sat vacant since the 1988. Its most notable distinction during this time was the huge whale mural completed in 1997 by artist Robert Wyland.

In 2012, Michael Higgins, who has owned the building since the mid-70s, completed a $50-million redevelopment, converting it into 125 apartment units. Fortunately, many of the original details were restored.

Photo by Michelle & Chris Gerard

Farwell Building

Most known for its elaborate ironwork, this Capitol Park building opened in 1915 as an eight-story office building. But it closed in 1984 and was heavily vandalized for years.

After an extensive renovation, with designs by Kraemer Design Group, it reopened as an 82-unit apartment building in August this year.

Grand Army of the Republic Building

One of the most iconic buildings in Detroit, this castle-like structure opened in 1901 as a gathering place for Detroit’s Civil War veterans. But the veterans eventually died out and the building became a city recreation center. Mayor Coleman A. Young closed it as a cost-cutting measure in 1982.

In 2011, it was bought by creative studio Mindfield who completed an over $2 million renovation in 2014. It now houses the company headquarters, as well as two restaurants on the ground floor.

Ransom Gillis House

There’s several reasons why the restoration of this historic Brush Park mansion, built in 1876, made this list. But the main one is due to the attention HGTV star Nicole Curtis brought to this project and Detroit, which signified a larger narrative about the city and its revival.

When it reopened as a duplex in 2015, huge crowds gathered to take a look inside. And rightly so—the church-like Venetian Gothic home has impressive details throughout, especially the floating turret.

St. Rita Apartments

This over 100-year-old building in the North End had a long path to restoration. Various groups had been trying to redevelop neoclassical apartment building, with its terra cotta and brick facade, since the 1990s.

And it finally did reopen in March this year after a $7.2-million redevelopment by the nonprofit Central City Integrated Health. Thanks to Low-Income Housing Tax Credits and other financing mechanisms, the 26 well-appointed apartments are reserved for formerly homeless individuals.

State Savings Bank

Another building that was incredibly close to demolition. The spectacular Beaux-Arts building was saved by Bedrock after it had been abandoned for at least 20 years.

Designed by McKim, Mead & White and opening in 1900, the opulent former bank branch has arched colonnades, Ionic columns, a soaring coffered ceiling, and an enormous vault. It reopened in late 2018 as an event space.

Foundation Hotel

This unique redevelopment converted an old Detroit Fire Department Headquarters into an upscale hotel and restaurant. Opened in 2017, the building now blends the new with plenty of nods to the old.

State Savings Bank

151 W Fort Street, Detroit , MI

Ransom Gillis House

205 Alfred Street, , MI 48201

Michigan Central Station

2198 Michigan Ave, Detroit, MI 48216

Metropolitan Building

33 John R Street, , MI 48226

Farwell Building

1249 Griswold Street, , MI 48226

David Whitney Building

1 Park Avenue, , MI 48226

Broderick Tower

10 Witherell St., Detroit, MI 48226

Book Tower

, , MI 48226
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