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Allan

Park Avenue

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Park Avenue was named in 1835 because of its starting point at Grand Circus Park. As the city push northward, Park Avenue developed into a rather fashionable district. By the 1920s, the street was like Detroit's version of Fifth Avenue in New York. In 1923 business owners on Park Avenue form the Park Avenue Association, which envisioned the southern end of the street as being a high end shopping district. Commercial and office space would be concentrated at the north end. The onset of the Great Depression brought Park Avenue's heyday to an end. In the 1940s and 1950s the street recovered, but its glory days had passed. The Iodent Chemical Company began manufacturing toothpaste and toiletries on the street during this time. However, by the late 1960s, the suburban exodus had taken its toll. In the early 1970s, business owners again banned together, and retained urban designers Michael and Susan Southworth to formulate an urban design plan for the street. Unfortunately, the plans for Park Avenue were eclipsed by the construction of the Renaissance Center, and never happened. Today Park Avenue exists as a shell of its former self.

Looking up Park Avenue from Adams Street

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The Albert Kahn-designed Park Avenue Building from the Kales Building

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The Blenheim Apartments were constructed in 1895, and are now owned by Mike Ilitch, who received the property in a deal with the city in 1987.

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Detail on the Blenheim

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Also owned by Ilitch is the Detroit Life Building, which was completed in 1923. It was originally home to the Detroit Life Insurance Company, which occupied 8 of the building's 10 floors. The building closed in 1977. I cannot think of the architect's name for the life of me - I remember that it was a really small firm out of Chicago.

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Yet another Ilitch-owned property is the Vermont Hotel. Curtains still blow in the breeze as the wood framed structure continues to rot away.

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The Cliffs Bells Building is being renovated for the Super Bowl. This two story building is the base of what was supposed to be a 20 story building.

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Across the street lies the 1905 Charlevoix Building. It was originally a hotel, but was later turned into apartments, and finally offices for various union groups around the city. The building was designed by William S. Joy, and is currently owned by a slumlord from Troy who has said that he will not do anything with the building until the city forces him to. A renovation began in the 1990s, as evidenced by the lack of stairs, and neatly stacked marble in the lobby. However, with a roof that is near collapse in some places, the building's future does not look bright. As a side note, the same slumlord also owns the Park Avenue Building next door.

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The last businesses to occupy the Charlevoix were a strip club & a dry cleaners.

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Around back, the only clue to the building's identity is the faded Charlevoix sign.

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The rear of the building has turned into someone's garbage dump. On a recent visit, however, I noticed that one of the cars was gone, and that a threatening note was attached to the back door of the building.

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The Park Avenue Building's Fire Escapes

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The alley between the Park Avenue Building & Charlevoix Building

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The Park Avenue Hotel (formerly known as the Royal Palms Hotel & the Park Avene House) was designed by Louis Kamper and completed in 1927. It is the only hotel from its era that is still in operation today. Today, it is home to the Town Pump, a popular tavern.

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Just south of the Park Avenue Hotel lies the Iodent Building, which is being renovated into lofts. The Iodent was built as the Womer & Moore Building in 1923, and was home to the Womer & Moore Investment Company. Other real estate companies also occupied the building, and the Mayfair Restaurant made its home on the ground floor for years. In the postwar era, the Iodent Company took over the building, manufacturing toothpaste & toiletries there until the building closed in the late 1970s.

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Finally, one shot looking south down Park Avenue, towards the Statler Hotel

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The Park Avenue Historic District includes the following properties:

2323 Park (Chipman Apartments)

2333 Park (Hensel Apartments)

113 W. Fisher Freeway (Chipman Annex)

155 High Street - Now 119 W. Fisher Freeway

2033 Park (Hotel Charlevoix)

2233 Park (Wormer & Moore Building - now Iodent)

2209 Park (vacant lot)

It was listed on the national register on 05/13/1997 & on the state register on 04/18/1996.

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Nice Allan! When I get them on my computer, I'll post some interesting pictures. More people should see them indeed but I'm just a new guy here so give it some time :) .

Peace from DetroitBazaar

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The building was designed by William S. Joy, and is currently owned by a slumlord from Troy who has said that he will not do anything with the building until the city forces him to

Who is this guy? I swear to God this city has more asshole landowners than anyplace in the world. It's like they all expect a multi-million dollar check to fall out of the sky for whatever decrepit property they own

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Great pictures. I havent really explored this area but now im going to next time im downtown. Allan how many of these structures do you think Illitch would tear down for a new arena? There is some great old architecture there and it would be a shame to lose a lot of those buildings. If the owners decided to convert those buildings into residential Detroit could have a mini Greenwich Village.

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Man, how do you know so much, Allan?!

To me, this is one of the greatest existing districts in downtown Detroit. It really can tell a story of what the city once use to look like. So many times we can only get that feeling from photographs now, but the Park Avenue District is still a living example of that.

I hope it will last. I was browzing around there yesterday afternoon and it seems like so much hope is lost for some of the grandest of buildings there. The renovation of Kales should spread its positive energy into Park Avenue. It's such an asset that Detroit cannot afford to lose!

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Zissou,

I don't expect that any of the buildings on Park to be torn down for an arena. Hotel Vermont will come down, although it's not on Park. Ileech only controls the east side of Park Avenue. The west side of the street has several non-Ileech owned properties, and is also a national historic district. However, I do expect that if an arena goes in around there, that the buildings on the east side of the street will come down for parking lots.

I begin to hate Ileech more and more each time I go downtown. The Ileeches pride themselves on the Fox Theater. However, the previous owners were the ones that did most of the restoration work. Ileech just came in and cleaned the theater. The city basically made some deals to get the previous owners to sell so that they could essentially give the theater to the Ileeches. Then the city gave the Ileeches $18 million to "restore" the building. Not to mention all the free land and vacant buildings that came with the deal that they have done nothing with. They call themselves "restorers and renovators." I call them crooks.

Michi,

That's mostly stuff I've picked up over the last year and a half or so after reading forums & doing some research. Sometimes I wonder how I remember all of it!

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I never understood why Illitch has always claimed to be a renovator and restorer. The man who previously owned the building, whose name alludes me and also owns the Gem theater, did so much of the work that Illitch takes credit for. The man claims to do good for the city but he will not invest in something that doesnt stand to make huge returns and take the residents money. Tigers, Red Wings, Little Caesars, Motor City Casino, these ventures are all cash cows and the man is wealthy beyond all imagination. I wish he would really give back to the city that has made him what he is instead of claiming he does so.

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FOPA (Friends of Park Avenue UNITE!) ;) Seriously, something needs to be done here. Maybe we can call on Detroit Urban Living once they are done with Hotel Eddystone and Harborlight.

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Good point Zissou,

I always preach that Chuck Forbes was the real savior of the Fox, Ilitch only did a cleaning.

Michi we should form FOPA, those buildings are seriously in danger. Thats why we chose it to represent Downtown Detroit in the 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

We got some goodies against Ilitch at the FoBC store now, check em out! Boycott, Boycott!

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Ah yes Chuck Forbes. IMO he has done much more for the city than Illitch has. I think im gonna purchase a Book Caddilac shirt. Thanks for the link.

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Gibberish deleted. I got a complaint about this post. Please learn to use the quote properly and read the forum rules about using CAPs. Its annoying to the real forumers here.

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Rallytoo, I believe the conversation you are quoting from Michi and Allan (information picked up from forums, ect) is in regards to knowing all the buildings, build dates, history, ect for Park Ave. You appear to take that out of context and apply this to the Ilitch debate.

The fact is Ilitch purchased a bunch of properties for which he was planning on tearing down for the new stadium. Comerica Park went on the other side of Woodward and he was left with a bunch of property he had no intentions of doing anything with. The big question is why doesn't he sell them then? Is he holding out for more money? You appear to have the inside scoop on the family, so maybe you could let us know what his plans are for all that property.

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Unfortunately i didnt get a chance to read what Rallytoo said. Would someone like to summarize? Maybe tell me why it got deleted.

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Rallytoo's post got edited because it was unreadable without having to study it carefully. The post, with the exception of the parts he quoted, was in all caps, which is against forum rules. A forumer complained, and the post was reviewed and edited accordingly by moderation.

Basically Rallytoo said that Ilitch renovated the Fox because that's what the newspaper said. He called into question all of the facts I have presented in this thread and used them against me, even though they had nothing to do with the Fox. He is entitled to present his opinion, but not in the manner that he did.

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That and he was basically saying Ilitch is responsible for starting the rebirth of downtown.

I took me a long time to understand what he wrote, like Allan said, and by the time I replied it was gone.

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Sorry, didn't mean to make a blanket statement.

But I did have to question Allan. He takes great pictures and provides great information, but a great deal of the info. contradicts what is presented in the local papers. I simply asked where he gets his info., especially since in one of his posts he says he can't remember where he gets some of it. I think that is only fair (and should not have been pulled).

The other thing I questioned about Allan is the angst he has for some owners...he actually uses the word "hate" in his posts when talking about them. I don't believe that helps any of us or our causes.

For the record, my first post didn't credit or discredit anyone for the Fox Theatre renovation. I only attempted to copy some info. from an RJ King story that didn't mesh with the info. Allan posted. Apparently, I didn't do a very good job in keeping it readable (sorry again).

One last note, Fletch makes some great points in his post today. He understands and accepts the world we live in and it's imperfections--including the fact that the last fourty years in Detroit have left us with a city without the proper funding to save many of our historic buildings (Point 2 in his post). I'm not sure how we can blame any individuals that are now in play for this situation and I really don't think we should "hate" someone because of this condition. That won't get us anywhere and certainly won't help save a building.

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Rallytoo, just to clear things up, your post was not pulled for its content, but rather it was removed by a moderator because you didn't properly use the quote and used caps all over the place. A combination of which made your post unreadable. How do I know this? Because I tried to read your post several times and read the moderators comments. See ...

Gibberish deleted. I got a complaint about this post. Please learn to use the quote properly and read the forum rules about using CAPs. Its annoying to the real forumers here.
Note that I am not the one who complained, but I do understand.

I simply asked where he gets his info., especially since in one of his posts he says he can't remember where he gets some of it.

This statement that you are referring too, I believe is taken out of context from reading through all the posts.

As for hate toward Ilitch, there are a lot of people that "hate" him for what he is doing with his property, not just Allan. You appear to single him out. This all stems from all the property he owns that he has no intention of doing anything with. I understand his reason for doing so (see my earlier post), but that time has past and the preservation community would like to know why he doesn't try to get rid of some, if not all of them.

Economically speaking, holding on to a vacant property and doing nothing but paying property taxes on them, doesn't make sense when they could get money from selling them and they're hurt the property value by owning so much in one area. Maybe he's holding out for the market value to rise, but when there is so much property to do develop on, I doubt this will happen any time soon. Plus, since most of his property is bunched together, he is really hurting the property values of his properties by leaving an entire area undeveloped or turned into parking lots. I'm not an economist, but would think that if he sold some of this property to developers, this would only make his property value go up because the area is no long a vast field of abandonded buildings and parking lots.

Freman Hendrix, when hopefully he gets elected, is going to try and change the city's policy of having to selling their properties for market value to one where they get what they can and turn the property around. The reason for this is that vacant land does them no good and generates no income. If you sell it to a developer for $1 and they build something on it, they will generate property taxes, therefore generating a steady source of revenue (the sale is a one time only source of income). This is long term financial planning as opposed to short term.

The property for one Kennedy Square, for example, was sold to the developer for $1 (note, this is an exeception to the current city policy). Another thing that happens from this is that it helps to rid the city of blight.

Now I realize that you need developers and the demand for all this to work, but currently this is starting to exist in Detroit. The Madison-Lennox did have a developer wanting to do something with the building. In fact, I believe one of the criteria for demolishing a historic structure is that you have to try and sell the property to a developer for 12 months, which didn't happen here. It was an illegal demolishion, whether it be Ilitch Holdings, or the city that is responsible, we'll find out soon enough.

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Rally can you understand why people really dislike Illitch? The man is worth hundreds of millions of dollars and has money coming out of his ears yet refuses to put some of that money back into the city and economy which has made him so rich. He owns many properties that can be restored but refuses to do so. When people show interest in developing the property which he refuses to he ignores them and doesnt allow anyone else to develope these properties. If he cant make a killing at the box office or slip it in an oven Illitch has no interest. The Tigers, Red Wings, MCC, and Little Caesars are all enterprises that make lots of money but give very little back to the area. This is why people are upset with this man.

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