Wednesday, September 3, 2014

News Hits: Petitioners seek to save Park Avenue Building in Detroit

Posted By on Wed, Sep 3, 2014 at 11:32 AM

  • Via WXYZ screenshot

Preservation boosters around town have begun throwing their weight behind efforts to save the 12-story Park Avenue Building in downtown from demolition. The city of Detroit wants a Wayne County Circuit Court judge to order the owner to tear down the beaux-arts style structure, but a petition launched last week urges the city to reconsider the move.

The Albert Kahn-designed building at West Adams and Park avenues has been empty for about 15 years, and the city described it in a court filing as “the very definition of irreparable harm to the public,” according to The Detroit News. That shouldn’t be the focus of attention, though, preservationists contend. As the petition puts it, “After decades of careless demolition, Detroit cannot afford to lose any more of its beautiful high-rise buildings, especially one that helps encircle the historic Grand Circus Park.”

Numerous buildings in and around Grand Circus Park have undergone extensive renovations, the petition points out. Instead of seeking a court-ordered demolition, the petition asks the city to seize the property, seek bids to restore the structure, which was constructed in 1922, “and preserve what is left of our cityscape.”

The city’s move can likely be attributed to a campaign it announced last month against owners of blighted commercial structures, though it’s unclear if, and when, that will move to the city’s outlying neighborhoods. (Detroit officials discussed the initiative in a story this rag published last month about the former AAA of Michigan building, which was demolished last week as the result of a court order.)

In an interview, Amy Elliott Bragg, president of the board at Preservation Detroit, says the city should rethink the purpose of the lawsuit. Demolishing the structure only would reward owner Ralph Sachs, who, even without the structure, would still own the parcel of land.

The better course of action, she says, would “be to step up code enforcement” to make it harder for owners to let a building deteriorate.

At press time, close to 1,000 people had signed the petition.

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