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Still Vacant: Important Buildings Left Out of Downtown's Revival

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Map research by Curbed intern Daniel Charles Ericksen
Photo by Michelle and Chris Gerard.

In recent years, many formerly vacant downtown buildings have been renovated and occupied; the Broderick Tower was one of the largest. The expected completion of the GAR building and the David Whitney will be two more huge wins. But in the downtown revival many buildings have still been left out. Curbed mapped the most notable buildings that are still vacant. None of these are currently under renovation and in many cases the future for them remains unclear.

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1. Book Tower

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1260 Washington Blvd
Detroit, MI 48226

Designed by architect Louis Kamper in the 1920's, the tower was open for action in 1926. Bookie's Tavern was the last business the tower grasped back in 2009 before finally moving locations. Plans for renovation have come and gone but it looks like a plan for apartment and commercial use is most realistic for the tower's future.

2. Old Free Press Building

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615 W Lafayette Blvd
Detroit, MI 48226

Used as a Detroit news headquarters since 1916, the old home of The Detroit Free Press has been closed since 1998. Plans to use the building for condos and apartments was proposed in 2010 but the plans fell through. No known proposals for the Albert Kahn-designed building have emerged since the building was auctioned off for just over 4 million dollars in 2013.

3. Metropolitan Building

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33 John R Street
Detroit, MI 48226

The 15-story building originally used for various shops and offices has been empty since 1977. Once notoriously known as the "Jeweler's Building" for all of its jewelry related purposes, the Metropolitan Building should really be known as the "Metro-passionate Building" for its mysterious heart signs in the windows. Work to renovate the building took place in early September but what's to come with the property is still unknown.

4. Wurlitzer Building

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1509 Broadway Street
Detroit, MI 48226

Built in 1926, the deteriorating Wurlitzer building was the home for the musical instrument manufacturer The Wurlitzer Company until the 1970's. The building officially closed in 1983 and random remnants of the building have fallen ever since than. A renovation for a residential purpose has been in the talks but no moves have been made since the building was re-sold in 2012.

5. The National Theater

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118 Monroe St
Detroit, MI 48226

The oldest surviving theater in Detroit is in the hands of who else but Dan Gilbert. Another building designed by architect Albert Kahn, the National Theater has been standing since 1911. The theater was sold to a man with the intentions to turn the theater into a restaurant in 1977, but things didn't work out. The city of Detroit claimed it back in the 1980's and it's currently awaiting renovations under Gilbert's ownership.

6. Old Wayne County Building

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600 Randolph St
Detroit, MI 48226

Once the location of the administrative offices and court rooms of Wayne County, the Old Wayne County Building is now merely a beautiful landscape in Detroit. Constructed from 1897 to 1902, the building served as the county's headquarters until 2007 when the commission decided to move to the "bigger" Guardian Building, also in downtown Detroit.

7. Farwell Building

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1249 Griswold Street
Detroit, MI 48226

The Farwell building was the residence for many offices when it opened in 1915. Located in Detroit's Capitol Park, the building closed its doors in 1984. However, renovations into an apartment building are scheduled to start next year.

8. United Artists Theatre

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150 Bagley
Detroit, MI

Standing 18-stories high since 1928, The United Artists Theatre used to be one of Detroit's best places to catch entertainment until it's demise in 1971. It was used as a recording studio for The Detroit Symphony Orchestra in 1979 until the poor state of the building became too much of a burden in 1983 and the DSO left. The destiny of the building currently lies in Mike Ilitch's hands, who almost demolished the structure for convenient parking to Comerica Park.

9. Park Avenue Building

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2018 Park Avenue
Detroit, MI 48226

Built in 1922, the Albert Kahn-designed structure is a beautiful mess. Located next to the late Hotel Charlevoix, the future for this historic building is troublesome. The Park Avenue Building is likely for demolition unless the building is cleaned with new plans proposed. A petition to keep the building alive is circulating the Internet.

10. Fort Wayne Hotel

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500 Temple Street
Detroit, MI 48201

Neighboring the majestic Masonic Temple, the Fort Wayne Hotel building has been sitting patiently and quietly since it was shut down in the 1990's. Built in 1926 and eventually renamed the American Hotel, the next step for this ditched building is unknown.

11. 54 W Elizabeth

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54 West Elizabeth Street
Detroit, MI 48201

This mysterious edifice has been squished between the Fillmore Theater and another prestigious looking building for probably a very long time. How long you might ask? We don't know. Information on this house-looking building is impossible to find! It was, however, probably built before the Fillmore was finished in 1925. Besides that....it'd be a killer location to live in, as long as you enjoy your neighbors playing music extremely loud on a nightly basis.

12. Detroit Life Building

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2210 Park Avenue
Detroit, MI 48201

The Detroit Life Building was the home for Detroit Life Insurance starting in 1923 when the building opened. The building served as a home for other offices and shops as well. It officially closed in 1977 and Mike Ilitch bought it in the 1980's. A roof has been replaced but nothing has been done towards a renovation since then.

13. Blenheim Building

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2218 Park Avenue
Detroit, MI 48201

Mystery lurks around the Blenheim Building on Park Avenue as well. It's unclear when it was built exactly but it was most likely between 1905 to the 1920's. Documents claim it to have been apartments but others believe it was used for manufacturing purposes. Its neighbor, the Detroit Life Building, closed in 1977 and you can assume the same for the Blenheim.

14. Loyal Order of Moose Lodge

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2215 Cass Avenue
Detroit, MI 48201

The former lodge for the Loyal Order of Moose Club has stood vacant for decades. A lodge where Henry Ford most likely made appearances has no apparent plans for renovations. The Ilitch-owned property did seem to receive spurts of renovation in 2013 but the fate of the building is currently up in the air.

15. Eddystone and Park Avenue Hotel

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2643 Park Avenue
Detroit, MI 48201

Both designed by Detroit architect Louis Kamper, The Eddystone and Park Avenue Hotel are two common citings while driving on Woodward Ave towards anything downtown. They both opened in 1924, but The Park Avenue Hotel outlived its partner. The Eddystone closed sometime in the 90's while Park Avenue was closed in 2003. Once structures owned by businessman Lew Tuller, they have now become buildings in the way of Mike Illitch's vision for the Red Wings' new arena.

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1. Book Tower

1260 Washington Blvd, Detroit, MI 48226

Designed by architect Louis Kamper in the 1920's, the tower was open for action in 1926. Bookie's Tavern was the last business the tower grasped back in 2009 before finally moving locations. Plans for renovation have come and gone but it looks like a plan for apartment and commercial use is most realistic for the tower's future.

1260 Washington Blvd
Detroit, MI 48226

2. Old Free Press Building

615 W Lafayette Blvd, Detroit, MI 48226

Used as a Detroit news headquarters since 1916, the old home of The Detroit Free Press has been closed since 1998. Plans to use the building for condos and apartments was proposed in 2010 but the plans fell through. No known proposals for the Albert Kahn-designed building have emerged since the building was auctioned off for just over 4 million dollars in 2013.

615 W Lafayette Blvd
Detroit, MI 48226

3. Metropolitan Building

33 John R Street, Detroit, MI 48226

The 15-story building originally used for various shops and offices has been empty since 1977. Once notoriously known as the "Jeweler's Building" for all of its jewelry related purposes, the Metropolitan Building should really be known as the "Metro-passionate Building" for its mysterious heart signs in the windows. Work to renovate the building took place in early September but what's to come with the property is still unknown.

33 John R Street
Detroit, MI 48226

4. Wurlitzer Building

1509 Broadway Street, Detroit, MI 48226

Built in 1926, the deteriorating Wurlitzer building was the home for the musical instrument manufacturer The Wurlitzer Company until the 1970's. The building officially closed in 1983 and random remnants of the building have fallen ever since than. A renovation for a residential purpose has been in the talks but no moves have been made since the building was re-sold in 2012.

1509 Broadway Street
Detroit, MI 48226

5. The National Theater

118 Monroe St, Detroit, MI 48226

The oldest surviving theater in Detroit is in the hands of who else but Dan Gilbert. Another building designed by architect Albert Kahn, the National Theater has been standing since 1911. The theater was sold to a man with the intentions to turn the theater into a restaurant in 1977, but things didn't work out. The city of Detroit claimed it back in the 1980's and it's currently awaiting renovations under Gilbert's ownership.

118 Monroe St
Detroit, MI 48226

6. Old Wayne County Building

600 Randolph St, Detroit, MI 48226

Once the location of the administrative offices and court rooms of Wayne County, the Old Wayne County Building is now merely a beautiful landscape in Detroit. Constructed from 1897 to 1902, the building served as the county's headquarters until 2007 when the commission decided to move to the "bigger" Guardian Building, also in downtown Detroit.

600 Randolph St
Detroit, MI 48226

7. Farwell Building

1249 Griswold Street, Detroit, MI 48226

The Farwell building was the residence for many offices when it opened in 1915. Located in Detroit's Capitol Park, the building closed its doors in 1984. However, renovations into an apartment building are scheduled to start next year.

1249 Griswold Street
Detroit, MI 48226

8. United Artists Theatre

150 Bagley, Detroit, MI

Standing 18-stories high since 1928, The United Artists Theatre used to be one of Detroit's best places to catch entertainment until it's demise in 1971. It was used as a recording studio for The Detroit Symphony Orchestra in 1979 until the poor state of the building became too much of a burden in 1983 and the DSO left. The destiny of the building currently lies in Mike Ilitch's hands, who almost demolished the structure for convenient parking to Comerica Park.

150 Bagley
Detroit, MI

9. Park Avenue Building

2018 Park Avenue, Detroit, MI 48226

Built in 1922, the Albert Kahn-designed structure is a beautiful mess. Located next to the late Hotel Charlevoix, the future for this historic building is troublesome. The Park Avenue Building is likely for demolition unless the building is cleaned with new plans proposed. A petition to keep the building alive is circulating the Internet.

2018 Park Avenue
Detroit, MI 48226

10. Fort Wayne Hotel

500 Temple Street, Detroit, MI 48201

Neighboring the majestic Masonic Temple, the Fort Wayne Hotel building has been sitting patiently and quietly since it was shut down in the 1990's. Built in 1926 and eventually renamed the American Hotel, the next step for this ditched building is unknown.

500 Temple Street
Detroit, MI 48201

11. 54 W Elizabeth

54 West Elizabeth Street, Detroit, MI 48201

This mysterious edifice has been squished between the Fillmore Theater and another prestigious looking building for probably a very long time. How long you might ask? We don't know. Information on this house-looking building is impossible to find! It was, however, probably built before the Fillmore was finished in 1925. Besides that....it'd be a killer location to live in, as long as you enjoy your neighbors playing music extremely loud on a nightly basis.

54 West Elizabeth Street
Detroit, MI 48201

12. Detroit Life Building

2210 Park Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201

The Detroit Life Building was the home for Detroit Life Insurance starting in 1923 when the building opened. The building served as a home for other offices and shops as well. It officially closed in 1977 and Mike Ilitch bought it in the 1980's. A roof has been replaced but nothing has been done towards a renovation since then.

2210 Park Avenue
Detroit, MI 48201

13. Blenheim Building

2218 Park Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201

Mystery lurks around the Blenheim Building on Park Avenue as well. It's unclear when it was built exactly but it was most likely between 1905 to the 1920's. Documents claim it to have been apartments but others believe it was used for manufacturing purposes. Its neighbor, the Detroit Life Building, closed in 1977 and you can assume the same for the Blenheim.

2218 Park Avenue
Detroit, MI 48201

14. Loyal Order of Moose Lodge

2215 Cass Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201

The former lodge for the Loyal Order of Moose Club has stood vacant for decades. A lodge where Henry Ford most likely made appearances has no apparent plans for renovations. The Ilitch-owned property did seem to receive spurts of renovation in 2013 but the fate of the building is currently up in the air.

2215 Cass Avenue
Detroit, MI 48201

15. Eddystone and Park Avenue Hotel

2643 Park Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201

Both designed by Detroit architect Louis Kamper, The Eddystone and Park Avenue Hotel are two common citings while driving on Woodward Ave towards anything downtown. They both opened in 1924, but The Park Avenue Hotel outlived its partner. The Eddystone closed sometime in the 90's while Park Avenue was closed in 2003. Once structures owned by businessman Lew Tuller, they have now become buildings in the way of Mike Illitch's vision for the Red Wings' new arena.

2643 Park Avenue
Detroit, MI 48201