Back under the big top

By Mike Fossano

At long last, it appears as though new life might be pumped into two of the most well-known derelict parcels in Grand Circus Park.

First, after being stuck in financial purgatory for nearly a decade, JC Beal Construction recently announced that a project to renovate the Broderick Tower is officially a go. The 34-story building will house a restaurant/bar and business incubator on the ground floor, as well as 127 residential suites ranging in size from 422 to 2,220 square feet. It’s not known yet if we will see a resurrection of Otto’s Crispy Corn, but construction is expected to wrap up on September 1, 2012.

Across Woodward Ave., the first steps have been taken to procure funding to give the 96-year-old David Whitney Building a major facelift. Like the Broderick Tower, it has also stood vacant for many years amid numerous failed renovation attempts. This magnificent structure was once home to downtown doctors and dentists, and currently still houses the Detroit People Mover’s Grand Circus Park station. However, it’s worth noting that unlike the Broderick Tower announcement, an actual plan has not been put into motion, but rather a $1 million loan has been approved by the Downtown Development Authority to help an interested party buy the building.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been fortunate to have the chance to travel every summer to urban centers all across the country. There are usually two schools of thought when it comes to building a new stadium: surveying cheap, open land in the outskirts of a metropolitan area, or constructing one in a densely-populated downtown district. The former follows an “if you build it, they will come” mantra, operating under the assumption that bars, restaurants and residential complexes would soon dot the peripheries of the newly-zoned land. In my experience, these stadiums have actually become isolating rather than fertile, with few exceptions (one being the Palace of Auburn Hills).

Detroit is blessed to have a stadium district that other cities would love to have. Ford Field and Comerica Park are arguably the most pristine among their peers, and there are dozens of restaurants and entertainment venues within walking distance. The only thing missing from the equation are the people who would call the 48226 “home.” In cities like Chicago, Boston, or St. Louis, these structures would be considered prime real estate. One can only imagine what the going rate would be for a space in the Broderick with a stadium view.

While Campus Martius has emerged as a relatively vibrant cultural and commercial hub, Grand Circus Park is undoubtedly the heart of the city. For several decades, it was a living symbol of Detroit–battered, bruised and decayed. The Broderick, David Whitney, Kales Building and Detroit Statler Hotel soon looked less like Mt. Rushmore and more like giant tombstones within a swath of desolation. The Statler is now gone and the Kales has been revived, perhaps providing an ideal blueprint for its’ brethren. Now it’s up to city officials to work alongside the developers and community leaders to see these projects through. While this presented obvious hurdles in the past, let’s just hope that for the sake of the city that we’ve truly moved on.

Jeff and I have only one request: Save the whales!


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2 Responses to Back under the big top

  1. Pingback: Rumors swirl as developers eye Detroit | The Woodward Spine

  2. lomr says:

    That really is an amazing looking building

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