These formerly abandoned Detroit buildings are getting stunning redevelopments


Many historical pieces of architecture in Detroit, such as the Hudson’s Department Store or the Lafayette Building, have been torn down and have been lost in time. And there are others, like the Lee Plaza or the Eddystone Hotel, that are in harsh condition and have difficult paths to redevelop.

However, dozens of important buildings have been purchased and renovated in recent years. For some, this result seemed unlikely. Check out this 2014 Curbed Detroit map of buildings in need of salvage and see how many there will be in just five years.

Today we’re introducing six at different stages of readiness. Hopefully we will have a lot more in the future.

Metropolitan Building

Courtesy of the Roxbury Group

The 14-story Metropolitan Building, which was slated for a demo in 2013, opened as the Element Hotel earlier this year. Run by the Roxbury Group and Means Group, the Metropolitan is a 110-room extended stay hotel and an incredible rooftop bar, the Monarch Club.

During the 40 years that it stood empty, the scrapers had consumed most of the value, and the city had even set up nets to catch debris from its collapsing facade. Check out these incredible before and after photos to get a sense of how much work it took to bring the building back to life.

Wurlitzer building

The exterior of the Wurlitzer building in Detroit.  The facade is white with several windows.  In front of the building there is an elevated railway and a street crossing.

Photo by Michelle & Chris Gerard

Much like the Metropolitan, the Wurlitzer had dropped parts of its facade and looked like it was doomed too. That is, until Ash NYC bought the narrow building from 1926 and converted it into the chic Siren Hotel, which opened in March 2018. The coffeeshop’s infamous neighbors sign is no longer required and offers free coffee to anyone who has bought the Wurlitzer.

James Scott Mansion

The exterior of the James Scott mansion in Detroit.  The facade is made of brown brick with several towers and spiers.

Photo by Michelle & Chris Gerard

The James Scott Mansion from the 1890s was a partial shell of a house for decades (exterior pictures from 2014 can be seen here).

Joel Landy bought the property in 2002 but was struggling to get funding for the rehab. Signs of life crept in again in 2016 and renovation work began. The building with its 26 residential units and the commercial tenant was officially opened in February of this year.

Forest Arms Apartments

The exterior of the Forest Arms Apartments in Detroit.  The facade is red and white with an arched entrance.

Photo by Michelle & Chris Gerard

This Midtown apartment building was nearly destroyed by a massive fire in 2008. Developer Scott Lowell took over the project after the owners thought they could tear it down. Most of the fire damage was on the top floors, but some water and smoke damage went through the rest. Even so, there were details that were worth saving.

The work has been intensified over the years and completed in 2016. Everything could have been lost in this impressive building, but now it houses 70 residential units.

Park Avenue building

The exterior of the Park Avenue building in Detroit.  The facade is light brown with arched windows on the lower level.

Photo by Michelle & Chris Gerard

Last year, the Park Avenue Building in Grand Circus Park fell apart. Literally. This building, like its neighbor, the Hotel Charlevoix (now a car park), has also been exposed to a demo in recent years. Long-time owner of both buildings, Ralph Sachs, died in 2017 and Park Avenue is now in new ownership. It was recently featured in the Detroit News as the last “dangerous” building in downtown Detroit.

New owner Rino Soave plans to renovate the building into 78 apartments at a cost of $ 22 million. Although work has not yet started, Crains Detroit Business reported that construction should begin soon and will take about two years.

Michigan Central Station

The exterior of Michigan Central Station in Detroit.  The facade has several windows and pillars that flank the entrance area and the lower windows.

Photo by Michelle & Chris Gerard

The most surprising rescue project of all.

A year and a half ago it was hard to imagine that the old train station would be well used again. It had been owned and operated by the Moroun family for decades and just sat there and was the symbol of Detroit’s decay.

Last year there were rumors of the Ford Motor Company buying the station, which seemed almost too good to be true. It was all confirmed with a big celebration in June 2018 and plans to bring thousands of mobility-minded workers to Corktown with the train station at the center.

So far, Ford has winterized and secured Michigan Central Station, including installing a temporary roof and cleaning the building of debris. Full renovation will take a few years – and lots of money and tax incentives – but Michigan Central Station will be open again.

2198 Michigan Ave, Detroit, MI 48216

33 John R Street, MI 48226


Dusty Kennedy