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ZachariahDaMan

Lafeyette Building

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I was hoping to get some discussion going on the Lafayette Building. I am wondering what everyone wants to happen to it and what they think will end up happening.

It seems like a huge eye-sore, especially given its location. Being so close to the now opened Westin Book Cadillac Hotel and Campus Martius Park. Now there is a fence around it since pieces of the facade are falling off.

Do you all see anyone restoring it or do you think it'll just rot away more and eventually get torn down?

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The city already sent out a RFP to have it demolished. It's most likely coming down soon.

I think it could have been something really nice if it had been renovated. I understand though, that in the short term it's not likely to be renovated, and not particularly more likely in the future, and that parts of the facade are falling onto the sidewalk. At this point I think it makes sense to demolish it. I don't think the city should be given any credit for being right or for making the area more viable though, this is something they fumbled and it's their fault it's in the condition it is today.

But at the same time, I don't think there's much to be accomplished by demolishing it. It should be obvious to anyone that cleared land is not more attractive to developers. There's cleared land all over downtown, and no new construction, but quite a bit of renovation. This lot in particular is shaped funny. The only thing valuable about that property is the building itself. Not even the location is all that valuable, or else it wouldn't be surrounded by parking, or the Monroe or Hudsons blocks would be filled, along with all of the other lots in "valuable" locations downtown.

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If the Lafayette Building is demolished, then why can't they clear the entire block that the building is built on? There are 3-4 other small buildings on the site and two of them house eateries that have the words "Coney Island" in their name. On the Statler Block, there is a 4-story building that was damaged by a fire. Since the damage wasn't repaired, do you think they should tear that building down, too?

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If the Lafayette Building is demolished, then why can't they clear the entire block that the building is built on? There are 3-4 other small buildings on the site and two of them house eateries that have the words "Coney Island" in their name. On the Statler Block, there is a 4-story building that was damaged by a fire. Since the damage wasn't repaired, do you think they should tear that building down, too?

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The smaller buildings that are east of the Lafayette Building cannot be torn down because they are not owned by the city. This is the same reason why the little white building is left on the Statler block. It is owned by an owner other than the city, and the city cannot force anyone to tear down their buildings.

The American Coney Island is one of the oldest coney islands, but I don't believe it is the oldest. It opened in 1917, and then expanded into the United Shirt Co. Building in 1989. I believe the oldest coney island is the Red Hot Coney Island on Victor Street in Highland Park. They used to be open 24/7, but have cut their hours back until about 5pm lately since business has dropped off from the days when the nearby Model T factory was still operational. I know that Red Hot makes their own chili from scratch; the downtown coney islands both use a nation-wide, brand name chili. My friend raves about how much better the chili is at the Red Hot Coney, but I wouldn't know, since I don't eat red meat. In any case, it's worth a trip to the Red Hot Coney Island to see all the old photos and memorabilia on the walls there.

As far as the Lafayette Building itself, the push is to convince the city to mothball the building for future redevelopment, since it is obvious that any attempt to renovate it given the current economy will likely fail. Details to come later....

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I simply don't see any convincing arguments to bring it down unless one argues from a simple businessperson angle for a rather complicated problem. If one argues the simple angle, half of downtown would be could be brought down under this view of things.

The B-C across the street and the Fort Shelby down the street both should have never been. They had to be made to work, and this project would be no different. The tightening credit market is definitely an obstacle, but alone can't legitimize its demolition on its own. This is not to mention that both the B-C and Shelby were both physically much worse of, physically.

I think believing this can be renovate at the moment is pretty unrealistic, but I don't see how anyone could argue for anything besides mouthballing the thing. I propose that the DEGC/DDA should sell the building to the county land bank for a symbolic $1, and let the land bank mouthball the building until the economy pics up. It seems like a win-win.

Zach, out of curiosity, didn't you see the recent article done on this in the Freep just a few days ago?

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. . . Zach, out of curiosity, didn't you see the recent article done on this in the Freep just a few days ago?

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I think the building closed in the late 90s.

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Yep, it's one of the more recently shuttered of the shuttered buildings, downtown. The last tenants didn't leave until 1997, and they didn't leave it willingly, either. It's closure situation is very similar, in fact, to the struggles of the Book Tower, now that I think about it. I hope that story turns out better.

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The Lafayette Building actually closed in 1991. I just finished reading through all the newspaper articles pertaining to the closing of the building. The pipe shop located next to the Lafayette Building actually was located in the Lafayette Building, and they were one of the very last tenants to leave. Apparently there was quite a bit of water damage on the upper floors due to a mistake on the part of the building manager, who forgot to drain the water tank and pipes when he turned off the boiler which controlled the heat on the uppermost floors. Water was running up there for months and months before anyone still occupying the lower floors of the building noticed. I have the original promotional brochure for the building, which is an interesting read. I will post it if I can find/borrow a scanner somewhere.

The closing of the Lafayette Building is very similar to the fate of the Book Tower. The Book Tower is owned by a foreign investment company who hasn't paid the electric bill since they obtained the building in August. DTE tried to shut off their utilities once, but the remaining ground floor tenants were able to avert it. DTE tried again recently to shut off the electricity, and the tenants took DTE to court in an attempt to keep power on until they could relocate their businesses. DTE had wanted to cut power on the 18th of December, but the issue has been through the courts, and it sounds like the power is going to be cut sometime around the first of the year. I was at the Boat Club yesterday, and was talking to someone who seemed to think that it was going to happen either today or Monday. When that happens, the building will join the ranks of others like the Broderick, David Whitney, and Lafayette.

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Where do you think the 1997 numbers comes from, out of curiosity? It's a number I've seen thrown around for years.

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I have no idea. Until I got involved with the Lafayette Building cause, I also thought that it was 1997. It's probably just a coincidence, but 1991 is the same year that the old United Shirt Company Building (now part of American Coney) had its top 2 floors lopped off, transforming it into its current state. The story the owner told me was that the city was going to raise their taxes, since they taxed them based on the buildings' square footage, so they just chopped off the top 2 unused floors.

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(I was going to post this message some time ago, but my Internet connection got cut short before I finished, so I'm gonna have to repost it.)

I said something about tearing down the small buildings on the same block as the Lafayette Building. If these buildings get demolished, there always the option of temporary relocation for the Coney Islands until some new building gets constructed on the site. And if the city doesn't own these small buildings, they should buy them anyway for the sites can be redeveloped property.

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The only problem is that any new or temporary coney island simply won't have the same character as the existing buildings. Also, if the Lafayette Building is leveled, it will likely be 2-3 decades before something is built on the site. Case in point: the Kern block. Kern's was demolished in the early 60s, and Compuware finally decided to build on the site 40 years after the fact!

If the city cannot get anyone to build on the Hudson block, which already has on-site parking and the structural foundations required to support a building of substantial size, they are never going to find someone to build on the Lafayette block! There are many examples...the Tuller block, the Statler block, the Monroe block, etc. The DEGC is fooling itself in thinking that empty lots attract development. If that was the case, Detroit would be booming. Nobody is clamoring to come to Detroit, and creating more empty lots won't convince people to come to the city. I've heard of people coming to the city to look at historic architecture, but I've never heard of anyone coming to the city to take a tour of all the parking lots downtown. As far as I'm concerned, they can leave the Lafayette standing. The Statler may have been an "eyesore", but it still beats looking at the unmowed, weedy, fenced-off lot that took its place.

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How does demolishing currently occupied buildings (if even only partially) on an already unconventionally shaped block make sense? If anything, it make it even more diffcult to redevelop a completely empty block. It's never really talked about, but the irregular block shapes really hamper redevelopment in a downton with relatively low demand. Downtown Detroit was developed in spite of its strange street grid, and that was in the best of times. If anything, leaving the corner buildings makes developing a cleared Lafayette site easier to develop, and I don't even want to see that.

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So there was a forum meetup (from another website) that involved the Lafayette building. Glad I got to see it before it goes. Looks like owners left the water on in there, because there is ice everywhere.

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I can't imagine that it looks any better inside than when I went in 2006. It can't be much worse than the Metropolitan Building though. I recall being in that building and seeing 1-2 inches of water on the 7th floor which had leaked all the way down from the roof. Of course that building has pieces of the facade raining down on passersby, too. I wouldn't be surprised to see the DEGC trying to get that building torn down once they're done with the Lafayette. In fact, I would be surprised if the city didn't try to tear it down, since this city fails to see the value in properly mothballing any building.

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I guess you missed the article, today, about the mayor putting the demolition on hold:

Cockrel puts hold on Lafayette Building's demolition

y JOHN GALLAGHER • FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER • April 2, 2009

Mayor Ken Cockrel Jr. has put the demolition of downtown’s Lafayette Building on hold while he studies bids for razing the building.

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I guess you missed the article, today, about the mayor putting the demolition on hold:

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The Mayor Kenneth Crockel may have cancelled plans to raze the Lafayette Building due to a public outcry to save it. If the building is saved for demolition, then the plan for the conversion of the Lafayette Building into another use may be revived.

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