Detroit City Council is scheduled to discuss the transfer of ownership of the National Theatre today, Tuesday Oct. 17, at 10:00 am. You can find the agenda here — the National is item #64.
This is an important next step in the fight to save the National. City Council has the power to place conditions on the transfer of property that emphasize the historic significance of the theatre and hold the developer accountable for its stewardship.
We are asking City Council to transfer ownership of the National ONLY with a requirement that the developer shall, before any permits are pulled, collaborate with City of Detroit design and historic preservation staff to undertake a design alternatives study that explores options for integrating the existing building where it sits within the development.
Join us in asking City Council to protect the historic character of the National Theatre. If you can’t attend the meeting to make public comment, please consider writing a short note or making a call to your Council representatives’ office this morning. Find your reps’ contact info here.
Here’s our letter to Council. Read our previous statement and further coverage of the fight to save the National here.
Please consider the concerns of the preservation community and the Neighborhood Advisory Council before you transfer ownership of the National Theatre to Bedrock Detroit.
The National, built in 1911 and designed by Albert Kahn, is one of downtown Detroit’s most distinctive buildings and a living repository of Detroit’s rich performing arts history. It is the last surviving piece of downtown’s original live theatre district and one of the oldest surviving structures built to house the arts in North America. Preservation Detroit has been advocating for a better future for the National for well over a decade, and we have worked closely with partners in the City of Detroit Planning and Development Department to make sure the building was secure and safe from the elements and trespass while under the city’s ownership.
We are not satisfied with Bedrock’s proposed solution for The National, which would demolish most of the building, preserving and relocating only a portion of the facade. This compromises the building’s history and the story it tells where it sits in place. Furthermore, we are unpersuaded by Bedrock’s argument that they don’t need a theatre. Setting aside the fact that perhaps they should not be acquiring a significant historic building they do not need, we see this as a missed opportunity to creatively reimagine and reuse the structure and set a national standard (no pun intended) for the adaptive reuse of historic structures into ambitious modern developments.
We ask that you transfer the ownership of this property only under the condition that the developer shall, before any permits are pulled, collaborate with City of Detroit design and historic preservation staff to undertake a design alternatives study that explores the in situ integration of the building within the development.
Thank you for your consideration.
Board of Directors, Preservation Detroit