Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Phone Call

The Lafayette building has recently found itself the next target in the City of Detroit's non-stop effort to "cleanse the city of its eyesores" and create more parking. This fact became known just recently, as the city's development arm raced to solicit bids to tear down the structure, a 1924 landmark designed by C. Howard Crane, the architecture maestro who gave us the Fox Theater.

I wouldn't be surprised if you're not immediately familiar with the structure, even though it is visible from Campus Martius Park. It's not Detroit's most famous building, but it is spectacular. Sadly, due to a staggering 1920s construction boom, we're a little bit architecturally spoiled in this town, and sometimes even splendid buildings can go under appreciated.

However, this one in particular seems worthy of our admiration. When this V-shaped building was designed, according to Buildings of Detroit, it was envisioned to be “Michigan’s finest office building,” and was "outfitted with marble drinking fountains and bronze and American walnut trimmings," while "its roof line features a gorgeous ridge of terra cotta featuring hundreds of intricate fleur de lis."

With these descriptions just a sample of this building's beauty, we can be thankful that one of Detroit's great preservation organizations, Preservation Wayne, in tandem with Buildings of Detroit, stepped up to the challenge protecting this wonder from the wrecking ball.

Inspired by their efforts, I wrote a brief email and addressed it to some city representatives, including the City Council, the Mayor, and the President of the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation.

The next morning, before I awoke, I was startled by my phone ringing. I glanced at the number, didn't recognize it, and let the call go to my voice mail.

Later, when I was finally awake, I listened to my voice mail, and was stunned to find this message:

"Hi, this is council member JoAnn Watson. I'm in receipt of your email urging that the Lafayette building not be demolished. I love your comments, as an environmental activist myself, and want to invite you to come to the city council on Thursday at 10 am to speak during public comment... To put your issue out there and see if we cant build some strong support, ok? 10am, 13th floor of the Coleman A Young municipal center... I hope you can make it this Thursday."
As I write this blog entry, I am preparing to go with some friends to take up the Councilwoman on her offer. I hope that the council is receptive, and I hope that this time around the preservationists are vindicated - we have enough parking lots.

For information on Preservation Wayne, check out their site. To join the "Save the Lafayette Building" Facebook group, click here.

Photo courtesy of Buildings of Detroit.


Geoffrey said...

Andy, you have my blessings and best of luck! I hope you succeed in making our voices heard that this building should be saved!
- Geoff George

Matt Clayson said...

Hi Andy -

Has there been an effort afloat to create a formal, 501(c)(3) entity that would serve as a conservancy for the building; something with funding to secure the building, maintain it and create revenue from it. See as a morbid, albeit relevant example. As you know, the Stadium Conservancy in Corktown is another example of this happening here. I think CC and the Mayor's office would be much more willing to negotiate if there was a viable plan to perform minimum maintenance on the structure and prep it for future development.

Best -

Matt Clayson, Detroit

Andrew said...

That's really amazing..

Nice photo...wonderful thoughts....

Thanks for sharing...

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