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First Independence Bank Building still listed for $10.9M

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A number of recent redevelopment ideas for the downtown building have all been abandoned

A two-story modern bank building with tall windows on a wide boulevard Photos by Costar

Several plans have been proposed over the years for the First Independence Bank building at 44 West Michigan Avenue downtown. Instead of bringing those ideas to fruition, Detroit-based Basco of Michigan, whose principal is Roger Basmajian, has instead put the building up for sale. It’s listed through Keystone Commercial Real Estate for $10.9 million.

The First Independence Bank building was built in 1915 and designed by renowned architecture firm Donaldson and Meier. In the middle of the century, the building was resurfaced to a more modern look and its top six floors were removed (there are only two now).

Basmajian bought the building in late 2015 for $2.45 million. Ever since, it’s been the subject of various development speculations.

More windows overlooking a busy intersection

In 2016, Basmajian explored adding back the lost floors. Earlier this year, he announced redevelopment plans to the building as part of a larger suite of investments he would make to his downtown portfolio. The First Independence Bank building had a tenant lined up and would receive about $8 million in renovations.

Those plans, however, have been scrapped. When the property first hit the market, Kirk Pinho, writing for Crain’s Detroit Business, called it a “flip.” It seems no major work has gone into the building.

“Even though this is one of our prized properties and in an absolute stellar location, other projects have taken priority and that is the reason we are now contemplating a sale,” Basmajian told Crain’s by email.

The building itself is around 21,000 square feet. In addition to the above-ground floors, there’s both a basement and sub-basement. All of the impressive safes, vaults, safety deposit boxes, and crank elevator are still in their original conditions.

The main lobby has been white-boxed and the building could potentially be converted into a number of commercial and office uses.

Central lobby with the building has concrete floors, exposed ceiling, and large windows
Arched window looking towards downtown
Former cashier desk is gilded with gold bars
Huge metal vault
Smaller vault and smaller metal railing
Secure-looking metal safe