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Reusing building facads to preserve Detroit's architectural heritage in Grand Rapids?


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I was in Detroit not to long ago. I wont bore you with the usual cliches about the condition of the city, but needless to say I don't see any real way of saving much of the place.

But the thought just hit me as I was watching this video on YouTube showcasing many of the abandoned, yet architecturally beautiful buildings dotted all through the city.

(many of the examples here aren't the best, but you get the idea)

Detroit has century-old buildings it cannot use. Grand Rapids is still developing at a good clip, but we've lost many of our historical buildings to shot-sighted projects that never matched their sophistication.

Well I'm thinking why doesn't a developer in GR really go out on a limb and "buy" the skin of some of those structures, ship it to GR and reconstruct them with an obviously new 21st century interior?

As you know, this has been done fairly recently with the old warming shelter for the ice rink downtown that was once a former bank and the UICA. The structure was to come down for the GRAM, but the facade was saved and used as the entrance for a new bank building in East Grand Rapids.


The interior is new, but with a front that gives the place instant character that cannot be done inexpensively today.

Since many of these small to medium buildings in Detroit are rotting, and will likely go to the wrecking ball, either one attached to a machine or from nature, Detroit can quickly clear land, and do away with these unsound structures. Developers in GR can get dirt-cheap materials that are in essence recycled with architectural details that are impossible to replicate.

On top of that, Michigan's architectural heritage is saved from destruction.

Just a thought. Maybe a bit nuts?

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I've thought the same thing before. Don't know what the cost/hassle would be. I've seen entire facades for sale at architectural salvage places in Chicago.

Another great facade in a pretty lousy location is the train depot in Gary, IN. I've been in love with that building since I took my first Amtrak ride to Chicago.

I wonder if this has been done in other cities, or if doesn't make sense from a numbers standpoint.


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it is a shame that much of detroits fascinating architecture is in such a state of decay. I like the idea if they plan on demolishing the building anyways. But i'd have to point out that you are not the first person to come up with this idea. Although these guys went about it the wrong way.


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that bank in east grand rapids was such a disappointment to actually enter. I was expecting a high ceilinged lobby, maybe with some historical touches and instead found a cave like, claustrophobia inducing, drop ceilinged lobby that made my skin crawl. needless to say, I haven't been back since.

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