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Last-ditch effort to save Statler falters

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Last-ditch effort to save Statler falters

Detroit wants to get demolition started

December 24, 2004

BY JOHN GALLAGHER

FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER

What may have been the final hope to save the landmark Statler Hotel in Detroit appears to have been dashed on Thursday.

Detroit officials told representatives of a New Orleans-based development firm they weren't interested in delaying planned demolition of the Statler any longer. Demolition of the historic hotel at Grand Circus Park is expected to begin by year's end.

HRI Properties, a firm that includes former New Orleans Mayor Sidney Barthelemy, had hoped to persuade Detroit officials during a conference call to give it a chance to work on a deal to save the Statler. It cited no specific plans, but has a record of adapting urban buildings for new uses.

"Unfortunately, I don't think they were swayed from their plans to demolish the building," said Hal Fairbanks, HRI's director of acquisitions. "They felt it would be a cleaner image for the city to get rid of it."

Representing the city during the call were Walt Watkins, Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's chief development officer, and George Jackson, president of the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. They could not be reached for comment.

Built in 1914, the Statler had 800 rooms and was one of Detroit's leading hotels. But the decline of the city following World War II sapped the hotel's business, and the Statler has been abandoned for about 30 years.

Attempts to renovate the Statler have foundered on a multimillion-dollar financing gap, that is, a shortfall between the revenue that any hotel or residential reuse would bring in and the much greater amount it would take to cover the costs of renovation.

Preservationists who had hoped to save the Statler contend that virtually all downtown projects, whether new or renovated, have funding gaps that need to be filled by incentives such as tax credits and low-interest loans.

Watkins and Jackson have said they expect to attract a developer to build a residential building on the site once the Statler is gone.

Contact JOHN GALLAGHER at 313-222-5173 or [email protected]

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I have lost all faith in the city. They knew they were gonna demo the building even before they talked with HRI.

It's such a shame. This is why I hate the city.

Now remember KK and the people in office pushed for the demo.

The CITY is the one who neglected it for those 30 years. Its the city's fault. Don't give me that we cant afford to mothball or maintain the property. It's way to damn late.

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I too have lost all faith in this city. The city did not even give the developers a chance. They went into the conference and refused to consider renovation. For every step forward this city takes, it also takes one step back.

I hope Detroiters get great enjoyment out of the city's new grass lot. It will sit there for 20 or 30 years until the city decides to build some new Crosswinds-style townhouses or a new strip mall. What a nice addition to the urban environment that will be!

I am disappointed that the governor would allow this to go on. So much for having so-called "cool cities."

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can we please stop all the whining. This just happens sometimes. That building needed to go. It had a configuration that developers did not want to mess with. There are many reasons to question your "faith" in the city, but this is not one of them.

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I've just seen one too many buildings fall for no reason. I'm fine if it goes, but they need to have a specific plan for the site first. They should have a developer committed before they go demolishing the place. The gash in the urban landscape is more damaging than loosing the building itself. The Statler is really not that architecturally attractive as far as historic buildings go.

The city can't even attract developers to the blocks on Campus Martius in the very heart of downtown. What makes them think they can attract a developer to the Statler site?

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can we please stop all the whining.  This just happens sometimes.  That building needed to go.  It had a configuration that developers did not want to mess with.  There are many reasons to question your "faith" in the city, but this is not one of them.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Don't even start with me.

Preservation is always an option.

and THERE WAS A DEVELOPER - I even seen tha plans and all,but the city never gave them a chance.

So before you go and try to start this learn the facts.

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The facts are

Yeah there was a "developer"

Just like the first Book Cadillac Developer

Just like the current Book Cadillac Developer who can't seem to get the job done

Just like the the "developer" of the Broderick

Just like the "developer" who wanted to turn Tiger Stadium into apartments

Just like the "developer" who wanted to turn Michigan Central Station" into a financial building

Just like the "developer" of the David Whitney building

These are just the ones off the top of my head. The "facts" are, we cannot win them all. There is no conspiracy theory to tear down all of Detroit's buildings. Its just called financial reality. That building wasn't even that great. No one in my family even knew what it was when I told them about it, and they have lived in Detroit for 50 years.

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HRI did in fact draw up plans for the Statler renovation. They were quite interested and toured the building multiple times. Each time, they came back with a financial gap that was too large for the city. There are now tax credits and incentives that did not exist back then, however. Why they were not persuing other creative financing options all along is beyond me.

I do feel that the city did not give HRI their fair chance though. As part of the out of court settlement the city was supposed to discuss possible redevelopment options. Instead the city just brushed the developers off, basically saying "ok, we don't care, we are tearing the Statler down anyway." So much for negotiation!

So where is this developer who the city wants to build a residential tower on the site? If the city hired a good developer, the Statler site could be an amazing opportunity. However, I can see it already...the city will struggle to attract a developer, and then they will settle for something less than should be built there. The DEGC claims that the street wall of the new building by the new "developer" will be at least 3/4 the height of the Statler's street wall. I just can't see them sticking to their word though.

BTW, Ferchill is in fact the developer of the Book Cadillac. The renovation will move forward as soon as the IRS restores a certain historic tax credit. Who knows how long that will take...it has been several months already. Maybe they need to look at other ways of bridging the gap that remains.

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Realistically, it's financially impossible to save the building at this moment. Although I hate to see it go, there is too big of a finance gap. Besides, the city is already tied up with getting the BC saved. Personally, I'd like the Statler to sit around awhile longer until things pick up in Detroit. But then we must look at the condition of the building. Is the interior structure intact? Constructed with floors having post tension systems, floors tend to give out if not maintained properly. And this system would definitely not work in redevelopment. Furthermore, I really don't think the overall design of the building is efficient enough for todays standards as a hotel or office building, or apartments. Load bearing walls are all in the wrong places, and will make renovations very difficult. With the BC, it was possible because of its construction.

Don't get me wrong, I want to see the Statler saved. It is one of my favorite buildings in Detroit, and looks awesome in Grand Circus Park. Without it there, a new building will have a huge void to fill and I am 100% sure it will not even come close to the architectural merit the Statler has.

I honestly do not know what is motivating Detroit to level the Statler at this moment. It's defnitely not the Superbowl because I feel this project would have been rushed more. The building will be dismatled piece by piece until it becomes a gravel parking lot --- something no one wants.

statler.jpg

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Actually the demolition ontract calls for the site to be planted with grass, just like the Kennedy Block. I'm surprised that the city doesn't want the parking revenue, but I'm not complaining...grass looks a lot better than asphalt.

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Well that's good news.  I don't think that it's very likely that it will be saved though....

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Agreed. I am working on my R.I.P. Statler Detroit thread right now. :(

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And all hope has been lost.  Statler demolition has begun.  :(

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Still saveable, its just prep work, but its still bad. The outlook doesn't look good :cry:

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Sunday, January 2, 2005

Local Comment

Saving the Statler hotel would help preserve Detroit's architectural heritage

By Richard Moe / Special to The Detroit News

When I visited Detroit last October, I walked the downtown streets, visited construction sites, dodged earthmovers and exposed sewer lines. I saw several impressive preservation victories and some important landmarks that remain seriously threatened. All in all, I believe I got a good sense of Detroit's city center -- its strengths, weaknesses and opportunities.

I came away with the impression that downtown development is building to a crescendo that will return the city's long-neglected core to its rightful place as a vibrant, attractive regional center. There's an optimistic new spirit at work in numerous projects -- such as the Campus Martius Park and the downtown YMCA -- that are repairing the urban fabric that had become so badly tattered. Efforts to bring new life to landmarks such as the Guardian Building, the Detroit Opera House and the Gem Theatre are commendable, as is the imaginative conversion of historic commercial structures to residential use at places such as the Kales Building, the Lofts at Merchants Row, and the Lofts at Woodward Place.

Still, Detroit has barely begun to use its incomparable architectural legacy as a resource for rebirth. Structures such as the David Whitney Building, the Broderick Tower, and the Madison-Lenox Hotel (which was named one of this year's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places by the National Trust) represent obvious opportunities to spur revitalization through rehabilitation.

The city's process for determining the fate of individual older buildings is uneven at best. The former Book-Cadillac Hotel, for example, was the beneficiary of a comprehensive and well-funded analysis that will now guide its exciting renovation. By contrast, the former Statler-Hilton Hotel has received no such attention -- and as a result, it now faces a possible state-sponsored execution. The loss of this building would be both tragic and unnecessary. The money that would be spent on its demolition could easily be redirected to its rehabilitation. What's more, a nationally recognized developer experienced in such projects has expressed interest in converting it to condominiums that would give downtown a transfusion of the residential lifeblood that it desperately needs.

Walking through Grand Circus Park in October, I experienced one of America's premiere urban spaces. The Statler is a keystone in that historic context, and its demolition would not only rob the city of an important building but also create a gap in the setting of a park that is one of downtown's jewels.

Other cities across the country have successfully capitalized on their architectural heritage to revitalize their urban centers, restoring historic structures as a visually exciting counterpoint to handsome new buildings. Public officials and private developers have learned that the economic incentives for historic rehabilitation, including state and federal historic tax credits, New Markets Tax Credits and additional local private-sector sources, can leverage the investment of millions of dollars in the challenging task of community revitalization.

It's beginning to happen here in Detroit, but much remains to be done. Saving the Statler would take the city a big step closer to the day when downtown is once again the lively, attractive place it once was. Saving the Statler isn't just about saving a piece of the past; it's about shaping the future.

Richard Moe is president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

http://www.detnews.com/2005/editorial/0501/02/A14-47297.htm

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If the Statler was a good opputunity then developer would've been found. The Book Cadillac a building 200,000 sq ft bigger found a developer in less time. The Kales whose RFP went out a the same is nearning completion. Hell, even the Fort Shelby which has been empty just as long has been involved more serious development rumors than the Statler. The city has been at this for 5 years, 1 1/2 with HRI at some point enough is enough. It was just too little too late

It'd been nice to keep that Statler around, but with the state paying for it, it doesn't make sense to keep and have city pay for it

You can't compare Campus Martius with this project; the residental market is stronger than the office. So far every downtown project has been a success. Considering how every other project has sold, that it's cheaper and more effecient, why wouldn't a developer be interested in building?

BTW speaking of CM surveyors were seen out on the Kennedy Block this week another sign that Visteon might really be coming.

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Yeah, I saw the Kennedy Block being surveyed today. They need to locate the posts in the ground before they design the building, cut the steel, and deliver it to the site, only to discover that it doesn't fit! Just look at the Post Bar over on Broadway. I guess they thought they were exempt from the "measure twice, cut once" rule. LOL.

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If the Statler was a good opputunity then developer would've been found. The Book Cadillac a building 200,000 sq ft bigger found a developer in less time. The Kales whose RFP went out a the same is nearning completion. Hell, even the Fort Shelby which has been empty just as long has been involved more serious development rumors than the Statler. The city has been at this for 5 years, 1 1/2 with HRI at some point enough is enough. It was just too little too late

It'd been nice to keep that Statler around, but with the state paying for it, it doesn't make sense to keep and have city pay for it

You can't compare Campus Martius with this project; the residental market is stronger than the office. So far every downtown project has been a success. Considering how every other project has sold, that it's cheaper and more effecient, why wouldn't a developer be interested in building?

BTW speaking of CM surveyors were seen out on the Kennedy Block this week another sign that Visteon might really be coming.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

It's the city's fault for not maintaining their building, not the building itself!

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Is the Statler structurally unsound? How long has it been vacant? I'm not too familiar with the failed deal with HRI, but did the city consider just giving the building to HRI for free?

Sometimes you have to give away the kitchen to help jumb start critical benchmark projects, like the Statler and Book-Cadillac. In the end, where there's a will there's a way, and it seems like there was no real will, on the city's part, to see this building saved.

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I think the biggest problem with the Statler is the floors. The building was constructed using a floor system that is nolonger used. While the system works great in maintained buildings, the lack of maintenance means that the floors are slowly starting to collapse. It is my understanding that the problem can be fixed, but the city certainly won't go to that expense!

The building closed in 1975. There were plans to renovate it into 300 apartments, with a parking garage. Unfortunately those plans fell through in December of 1988. The city then let the hotel sit instead of pursuing other development options. In July 1999 the DDA did Requests for proposals (RFPs) for the Statler and the Kales. There were interested parties in both buildings. The building would have been sold to the developer for $100,000. Unfortunately nothing ever materialized from the Statler RFP.

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I think the biggest problem with the Statler is the floors.  The building was constructed using a floor system that is nolonger used.  While the system works great in maintained buildings, the lack of maintenance means that the floors are slowly starting to collapse.  It is my understanding that the problem can be fixed, but the city certainly won't go to that expense!

The building closed in 1975.  There were plans to renovate it into 300 apartments, with a parking garage.  Unfortunately those plans fell through in December of 1988.  The city then let the hotel sit instead of pursuing other development options.  In July 1999 the DDA did Requests for proposals (RFPs) for the Statler and the Kales.  There were interested parties in both buildings.  The building would have been sold to the developer for $100,000.  Unfortunately nothing ever materialized from the Statler RFP.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I seriously think the city should stop trying to make a buck out of these city-owned buildings and just give them away to qualified developers interested in restoring them. As a kid, you must learn to crawl and walk before you run and the same applies to a city, that wishes to make its downtown become a 24/7 vibrant neighborhood. Detroit officials could learn a lot by looking at the successful revitalization techniques that other city's across the country have done.

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The urban decay has more to do with the advent of the freeway and the rapid suburbanization and white flight that began in the early 1950s than anything else. Detroit was home to the first urban freeway (Davison Freeway, 1942) and the nation's first shopping mall (Northland Mall, 1954). The racial tensions just further accelerated the problem.

I have attached the HRI presentation drawing of the Statler renovation for anyone who is interested.

post-67-1105367897_thumb.jpg

post-67-1105367897_thumb.jpg

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