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wolverine

More of Lee Plaza Roof Stolen

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This is getting ridiculous, does the city even care?

I'm sorry, but how is it that law enforcement officials have not seen anyone walking out with large strips of copper and aluminum?

Over at DetroitYES, it was even noted that calls were placed when the scrappers were sighted, and nothing was done about it?

You can go over to Detroitfunk's site and see photos of the carnage. So much for a renovation.

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Like I said over at DetroitYes, I can't believe this wasn't front page news, and shows you were the priorities of the city and residents are. How in the world can a high-rise (one of the most prominent locations for a high-rise since there is nothing of any significant height around it for quite a few blocks) be stripped of it's bright, green copper roof, and for no one to make a big deal about it? Day or night you would have either seen this going on, or heard it because it was bound to be a very noisy job.

I just can't believe this. Vacant or not, this is theft of the most blatant kind, and is one of those things that leave me with less hope for the city. If no one really seems to care, what does that say about Detroiter's commitment to crime fighting? I hate to say it, but I think this speaks volumes about the city, and in the most negative way.

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Lee Plaza closed down just about this time of year back in 1995. It remained well-sealed until about 2000. Then the lions started disappearing, along with the windows (many of which remain in stacks in the hallways). The scrappers weren't far beind, and have been at work since then. They city's half-hearted attempt to keep the building sealed have been incredibly unsucessful. There's been easy access to the interior for the past five years. Not to mention the times that the front door has been pried open. I've driven by several times only to see the front door wide open. It's been welded shut, only to be pried open again. If the front door isn't hanging wide open, then there is a good chance that one of the bricked-up windows has an opening it in. These holes get patched with plywood, so the scrappers create a new one.

It is a never-ending battle, and it is nearly impossible for the city to be on the winning end. It is nearly impossible to completely seal an abandoned building. Even prominent buildings downtown, such as the UA, have been open for years. The Broderick is sealed as well as it can be, yet is still possible to get into. The only way to protect an abandoned building from scrappers is to employ a guard. That costs money, and money is one thing the city of Detroit does not have.

Lee Plaza did get a little bit of media attention, but that was not enough to stop it. A big part of the reason is that Detroit has bigger problems to deal with. I've called 911 before and have been on hold for more than 5 minutes...that is simply unacceptable. I've called 311 and have been on hold for 30 minutes. Even if you call 311 or 911, there's no guarantee that you'll get a response, let alone a timely one. Detroit is a broken city...there's not much getting around it. The priorities aren't always where they should be.

Unfortunately, it is too late for Lee Plaza. The damage has been done. Most of the architectural details have been stripped, the building has no windows, and now the copper roof is gone, making it that much easier for water to get into the building. Given the building's location, condition, and rate of deterioration, I give the building 2-3 years before demolition.

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I understand that. I still believe that it is one thing to not properly seal a building, it is entirely another for an entire roof to simply vanish with little fan-fare, if not from the general public or city at least from Detroit preservation groups. I haven't heard a peep from them.

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It is actually possible to protect a building without employing a guard.

First off, these buildings are the city's assets. It's important that they not become damaged or they will lose value.

Second, most damage to these buildings is caused by neglect and vandalism. Vandalism usually precedes neglect since windows are usually the first thing to get broken. Water gets in and nothing is done to stop it. Vandalism increases as people begin to realize the building's hopelessness. As vandalism (or scrapping) increases, the building becomes more open to the elements, causing even more deterioration. Building owners become less motivated to fix and maintain the structure as repair expenses rise.

There is a really simple way prevent the damage from happening, and that happens right after a building is vacated:

1. Detroit is still a city full a crime. Therefore, owners should immediately secure the building after it is vacated. This means securely bolting all points of entry except an emergency egress and site entrance. When I say bolting, I mean bolting in steel angles to properly seal the door. In order to enter from the outside, an intruder would have to punch through the door itself. If it's a wood door, it should probably be cinder blocked up with steel rebar..... (Never used in Detroit history)

2. The next step would be to board up all the windows. Typically, OSB board is used on most buildings. However, if it is not painted, it will weather quickly and can easily be pried off. OSB also bends very easily. A frame of 2 x 4's should be built on the back, with the OSB nailed to the frame. The entire panel should be secured to the building using bolts with atypical heads. The panel system only needs to be eomployed on the lower levels or windows that can be accessed from rooftops, trees, poles, etc. It is smart to board up the 2nd and 3rd floors as well, but standard OSB, without a frame, that is painted is all that is necessary. This will prevent damage from projectiles. However, this may not succesfully keep the most desperate intruders out so another system must be employed

3. A standard silent security system should be used. A simple infrared sesnor would work. Usually these are inexpensive and cover large areas. But that system should be connected to a security service that would notify the local police of a break in. The alarm system should be silent in that it is the goal to catch the intruder, not scare them away since they've already done damage entering the building.

The above steps necessary to secure a building could be costly even for a small building. But the cost of damages if the building is left unsecured far surpass those required to keep it safe.

Just think of what condition Lee Plaza would have been in if such a system were used. It's only been abandoned 10 years, and it already looks 10 times worse than other structures that have been left to rot for over 30 years.

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It's hard to argue with that logic. But then again, few to none of the downtown buildings have taken any of these measures to secure their buildings. These renovations and loft conversions would certainly be less costly if they didn't have to clean up the mess and repair the damage done by vandals first.

Of course, if properly secured, we wouldn't have all of these great interior pictures of Detroits abandoned buildings but I would be willing to give those up for pictures of the same buildings in almost their original condition and maybe even occupied. :)

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Your last statesment are an interesting point, Andrew. I actually thought about that since I take a lot of photos of abandoned buildings. But then I think of the underlying reason of why I take them, and that is because I want to preserve the building through images before the damage gets worse, or it gets torn down.

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The scrapping has moved to other portions of the building including terracotta details.

It's over, the building is no longer an architecturally significant structure, and will now likely be demolished.

Folks, scrapping has become a legal activity in Detroit. Apparently the DPD does not, and will not report to any calls reported for vandalism and scrapping. This is a really bad thing. Another feeling of hopelessness.

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The terra cotta details under the windows have been disappearing for about 6 months. If calling the DPD to report scrapping activity, you must report a burglary in process. That will get them to come out to the scene.

I went into LP for the first time in months - through the wide open front door - the other day. I was a bit reluctant, since recently there was a group of people who were followed into the building by a person with a knife. I never really enjoy going back to that building, since I am always scared to see what kind of damage has occured since my previous visit. It never fails - it is always worse.

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Yeah, There's something about LP lately that has suddenly made it a harbor for criminal activity and violence.

I still want to go up there and take more pictures of the skyline, but I know it isn't worth the risk of getting hurt. Alot of this has to do with the open accessibility of the building now, allowing these people to get inside.

Many of you all know I enjoy taking photos of abandoned structures for preservation reasons and my great interest in architecture. It is sad when certain people go and ruin it for everyone by destroying and stealing parts of these buildings. Then the photographers who actually care about these buildings ended up getting frowned on for entering these properties.

This is one of the main reasons why people are no longer allowed to walk through Michigan Central Station.

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Maybe part of it is because it's a huge abandoned building in a not-so-great area of the city. Plus you know that so many people are in the building for whatever reason. People are living in there on the 10th floor. I keep thinking that it's only a question of time before I find a dead body in one of these places.

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BTW, I always felt that any renovation that would happen would strip the building of most of historic details, anyway. That didn't seem like a big deal to me unless you're a staunch preservationist. The building would probably structurally rebuilt and rebricked, anyway. I've always imagined that whoever develops it would first redevelop it as a senior building again, and over the years fix it up more an more until they got the interest to support condos. In that neighborhood, starting off condos would make the entire property a high-security island. But, maybe I'm underestimating how much interest a project like this would attract.

I'm just worried about what this means on a symbolic level.

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That depends. If a renovation were to use historic tax credits than the exterior appearance would be expected to remain very much the way it was back in the 1920s. The guidelines also govern the interiors, but to a much lesser extent. The only thing really worth saving interior-wise is on the first floor, but even those areas are getting to be pretty far gone.

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