Plan to level historic Detroit building for parking causes a stir
2018-12-13 | Detroit Free Press
The debate, which so far has taken places via emails, letters to
Because the building is adjacent to the historically designated Fort Shelby hotel -- which Moten also owns -- the commission must give its opinion on any proposed alterations.
What happens after the commission gives its assessment, however, remains unclear.
In August, following news that a demolition company contracted by Moten had attempted to pull a demo permit -- it was denied and flagged because of the proximity to the Fort Shelby -- activists sent a letter to City Clerk
The council, which is on recess until
"The commission's recommendation is strictly advisory and speaks only to the demolition's potential to affect the adjacent designated local historic district (the Fort Shelby hotel),"
The uncertainty of what will happen after Wednesday's meeting -- and also to the building -- has both historic preservationists and Moten frustrated.
Preservationists contend the building, which was completed in 1914 to house local paper Detroit Saturday Night, is an important piece of publishing history. They also argue that
Moten, who purchased the building in 2007 -- the same time he purchased and rehabbed the neighboring Fort Shelby with a loan from the
"This is punishment," said Moten of the current efforts to block his demolition plans. "This is using historic preservation to punish people."
Moten, who has a long history working on development in both the public and private arena, moved to
The three properties were purchased with a loan from the
In recent years, the need for parking has become more urgent as there has been more a struggle to pay back the pension fund, he said.
In 2016, with approval from the board of trustees of the pension board, Moten and his partners began to sell some of the units within the Fort Shelby as condos to recoup funds. But, according to Moten, selling the condos has become more difficult without corresponding parking. He says the lot behind the hotel has about 40 spots and they're already taken.
"It's not like we're putting the lot in there for hockey and football fans," said Moten, who says city officials tried to create a compromise with him, offering a parking lot option two blocks away. But he believes this would be unreasonable for condo purchasers and would bring down the value of the units.
"This takes care of the customers," he said of new parking. "I was supposed to be doing this a while back. We need parking for our customers. The value of the property would go down (with parking two blocks away), and the lender, the
The pushback from preservationists, Moten says, is unreasonable, specifically since he has done so much work to maintain and rehab the Fort Shelby hotel.
"I don't go around knocking down buildings; we save buildings. Don't we get credit?" he said, adding that if historic preservationists want the Detroit Saturday Night building, they could buy it from him.
"We just didn't have the resources for a parking lot before," he said. "But now, I have to do something because I can't sell condos because I can't supply parking for condo owners."
"I don't know how many people were aware of the plan to demolish this site of
When asked for evidence to prove that the parking lot had always been a part of the vision, Moten said he had none, but suggested the pension board did.
"It was the General Retirement System of
According to Partain, the current principal balance on the
"The lender is current on its terms," she said. "As each condo is sold, the borrower is making a significant payment toward the principal."
In his letter to the council, Grunow,wrote about the historic value of the Detroit Saturday Night building: "The proposal puts in jeopardy this structure, which is the last on the block facing
He said the debate over the demolition, planned or not, highlights a bigger issue around the city's planning and management of parking lots downtown.
"The sentiment that we must demolish another building for parking is problematic. There are more parking spaces downtown today than at any other point in the history of the city," said Grunow.
"It only underscores," he continued, "the need for us to adopt some clearheaded policies around managing parking downtown."
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