Well-designed buildings can inspire awe. But which buildings inspire the people who design them, the architects?
We spoke to four Detroit architects about their favorite buildings in the city and what they appreciate about them. (Spoiler: None of the architects we spoke to made an obvious choice like the Guardian Building, Fisher Building or Fox Theatre.)
This week in Detroit development news, we’re checking in on Brightmoor residents who say they were promised a chance to buy their home but have faced years of delays. Plus, the Michigan Legislature may expand the rights of renters with vouchers, southeast Michigan agencies are behind in preparing the region for the increased rainfall, and the old Michigan State Fairgrounds band shell has found a new home.
One more thing: Community Development Advocates of Detroit, with support from JFM Consulting Group and Data Driven Detroit, is conducting a survey about the lived experiences of Detroiters. It’s called the Neighborhood Vitality Index, and its goal is to track progress and advocate for resources in Detroit neighborhoods. Respondents will receive a $25 gift card. The survey closes Oct. 31.
As always, thanks for reading.
>>House-sitting in Brightmoor: The low-income residents of a development in Brightmoor thought they’d have the option to buy their homes after living there for 15 years. But just 10 out of 231 residents of the single-family homes have successfully closed on their purchase nearly 25 years after the first homes were built. Residents feel betrayed by developer John O’Brien, who continues to collect rent. The city contributed $450,000 in grants to the project early so buyers wouldn’t have down payments, but said it won’t be contributing more money to future sales. O’Brien may also be dragging his feet, arguing that the low-income tenants would struggle to maintain their homes and that the development may not be financially feasible if too many of the homes sell. (BridgeDetroit)
>>Expanding renters rights: The Michigan Legislature is poised to pass legislation barring landlords with five or more rental properties from denying housing to tenants based on their source of income. The bill is primarily designed to prevent discrimination of Section 8 voucher holders, according to the bill’s sponsors. It passed the Senate along party lines, 20-18. Democrats said it’s important to make sure people who get public benefits can find housing. A statewide association of landlords opposed the bill saying, among other things, that public housing authorities can take too long to inspect properties and approve rental amounts, which would lead to empty units and no income for landlords. (Crain’s Detroit Business, Outlier Media)
>>We are not prepared: Metro Detroit continues to experience unprecedented levels of rainfall, overwhelming the region’s sewer system and causing widespread flooding. The problem is only going to get worse. The agencies tasked with building resilient infrastructure are behind the eight ball and just beginning to work on the problem. The Great Lakes Water Authority created an internal team this year to address climate change and started working with the Army Corps of Engineers to develop a long-term rainfall strategy. The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments says more studies are needed to gauge how much the state needs to expand sewer capacity. The council said its early estimates suggest the region should spend $1 billion annually on infrastructure upgrades through 2035. (Planet Detroit)
>>Development news quick-hitters: The old Michigan State Fairgrounds band shell, which nearly faced demolition several years ago, will be moved to Palmer Park. It’s expected to open in summer 2024… A $9 million renovation to Hart Plaza’s Dodge fountain began Tuesday and is expected to finish in April. The fountain’s elaborate water feature will be running consistently for the first time in years when finished… The city announced that it installed the 10,000th speed hump since the program began in 2018. It touted a 36% reduction in crashes on streets with a hump… The board of the Detroit Transportation Corp., which operates the People Mover, has rescheduled its last six months of board meetings to dates not listed on its website and has required Freedom of Information Act requests to obtain minutes. One eye-popping finding of those minutes: The board approved more than $1.3 million over five years in office furniture, moving expenses and space at the Guardian Building. (Metro Times, Detroit Free Press, CBS Detroit, Outlier)
Detroit architects’ favorite Detroit buildings
Detroit has a variety of stunning architecture: majestic art deco skyscrapers, ornate Gothic structures, serene modern buildings.
We spoke to four architects about the Detroit buildings that inspire their work. Their answers might surprise you.
What’s next for Duggan’s land value tax plan?
Mayor Mike Duggan’s proposal to revise Detroit’s property tax system is facing stiff resistance. Last week, the bill stalled in the Democrat-controlled state Legislature. Four City Council members are also criticizing the idea.
The city continues to reach out to lawmakers to get the proposal on the ballot in 2024, but can opposition be persuaded?
The end of an iconic University of Detroit Mercy building
The University of Detroit Mercy is demolishing the iconic Fisher Administration Building because undertaking the repairs and renovations to bring it up to modern standards was more expensive than demolition, according to the university.
The building was planned in the early 1960s when the university was looking to consolidate its administrative offices. The Fisher family donated $750,000 toward its construction and had their name attached to the final building. The university hired acclaimed metro Detroit architect Gunnar Birkerts to design the building, which opened in 1966. His firm won several architectural awards for the design, but also received criticism due to the building’s harsh modern aesthetic being at odds with the Spanish-inspired architecture on the rest of campus.
The university said “the building has proved to be less than enduring” because of several outdated design features, like bathrooms in stairwells that were inaccessible to anyone who can’t climb stairs. Demolition of the 52,000-square-foot building began in late September. There’s been no news about what might be built in its place.