UPDATE 4/4/2015: The City Council Planning and Economic Development Committee has approved Olympia’s proposed development plans for the Arena District. The plans will now go to the full Council session on Tuesday, April 7.
One condition of the plans approved by the Planning and Economic Development Committee ensures a firmer commitment from Olympia for the rehabilitation of the Eddystone Hotel. Rehab plans for the Eddystone must be submitted to the Historic District Commission for a certificate of approval (COA) before the City will issue a demolition permit for the Park Avenue Hotel.
The committee also pressured Olympia representatives to provide more detail about their plans for the dozens of other historic properties in the arena district:
Olympia consultant Richard Heapes said the arena district will maintain the neighborhood’s historic character. Olympia is “in process of preparing a district wide historical asset strategy,” Heapes said.
“As we go through the planning, those are the cornerstones of any district strategy,” he said. “You want to incorporate as many (historic assets) as are possible and are worthy into our overall district strategy.”
The time to make your voice heard is now. Tell City Council via email, phone call, or in public at the meeting on Tuesday:
- The Park Avenue Hotel isn’t in the way of the arena — Olympia’s planners chose to locate the Arena in the way of the Park Avenue. They have the power to alter their plans to save both hotels.
- We didn’t ask for more green space or a skate park. An empty green space — surrounded by private development! — won’t give this district “more neighborhood character,” as Olympia has suggested. A revitalized historic building will.
- Keep the pressure on Olympia to be up-front about their plans for historic preservation throughout the arena district. Olympia has been sitting on some of these properties for a decade or more and we have the right to hold them accountable for what happens next.
We’ve been working hard to advocate for preservation of the Park Avenue Hotel and other historic assets in the Arena District for over a year. We plan to keep it up, but we need your help to build capacity. Please consider supporting our work with a donation to Preservation Detroit!
UPDATE 3/26/15: City Council met this morning to continue discussion with Olympia Development regarding the Arena District rezoning plans. The issue did not go to a vote and representatives from Olympia did not stay for public comment, which was not heard until the end of the agenda.
While the Eddystone will remain standing, the 90-year-old Park Avenue Hotel next door, also known as the Harbor Lights, will need to be torn down, Heapes said.
Razing the building will make way for a high-capacity loading dock and a park area.
Heapes said that had the Harbor Lights building been left standing, security measures required between the building and the arena would have nullified any perks of living close to the arena.
The loading dock will also boost the appeal of the arena, Heapes said, allowing it to compete with The Palace of Auburn Hills for big shows and events.
“We have to compete and be better than The Palace,” Heapes said.
The outdoor park area that would occupy much of the space where the Park Avenue Hotel stands would further make the entertainment district a “much more neighborhood-oriented” project.
Olympia is scheduled to appear before City Council again on April 2. Save the date on your calendar for another important opportunity to provide public comment and tell City Council that you don’t want to see an empty park where the Park Avenue Hotel used to be.
UPDATE 3/25/15: Olympia Development of Michigan is scheduled to appear before City Council this Thursday, March 26, at 10:00 am to submit a revised rezoning proposal and seek City Council approval on their plans so construction on the new arena district can move forward. We expect that a plan for the Park Avenue Hotel will be included as part of the proposal.
This could be our last chance to persuade City Council that both hotels should be saved. Now is the time to take action!
- Attend the public meeting and ask City Council to save both hotels. They’re better together!
- Contact your City Council representative TODAY! Voice your support for historic preservation in the arena district. Here’s a contact list.
- Sign our petition asking City Council to save the Park Avenue AND the Eddystone Hotels. We’ll bring your signatures to the Council tomorrow.
- Follow us on Twitter for live updates from the meeting and sign up for action alerts to find out what happens next.
What happens next?: Even if the rezoning proposal is approved, ODM is legally obligated to follow the City’s due process around historically designated structures, and the Historic District Commission will have to decide whether or not to approve the demolition of the Park Avenue Hotel. This will provide another opportunity for the public to have their voice heard about the future of the hotel buildings. We expect all parties to abide by the HDC’s decision. It’s the law, after all.
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UPDATE 1/31/15: What’s up with the proposed “compromise”? The Free Press broke the news yesterday that City Council is close to “making a deal” with Olympia Development of Michigan on a zoning plan that includes the two historic hotels in the Arena District.
The plan includes the rehabilitation of the Hotel Eddystone, which will be adapted for mixed-income housing. It is exciting that this landmark will lend real historic character to a vibrant, urban neighborhood. And it’s great to see affordable housing, which will help to maintain what is already an inclusive and diverse community, included in the proposed development. This is undoubtedly a step in the right direction for the Arena District.
But the plan also proposes the demolition of the Park Avenue Hotel. This is not a “compromise” — in fact, we suspect the demolition of the Park Avenue Hotel has been ODM’s plan all along. This is a historically designated and legally protected landmark eligible for federal historic rehabilitation tax credits. ODM knew that when they purchased it. Their designers and planners knew that when they chose to locate their arena “in the way” of the Park Avenue Hotel. There is no reason to give the Park Avenue’s owners a pass for their own poor planning. There is also no reason to see the rehabilitation of the Eddystone as a gift or a favor to the City of Detroit, which has supported this project with hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes and a sweetheart deal on the land.
What happens next? Setting aside arguments about whether the Park Avenue Hotel should or shouldn’t be saved, ODM is legally obligated to follow the City’s due process around historically designated structures, which is in place to protect the public interest. ODM will still formally present their rezoning plans to the Planning Commission, and the City Council will still vote on the rezoning request at a public hearing.
Most importantly, the proposed demolition of the Park Avenue Hotel will have to go before the Historic District Commission before a certificate of appropriateness for demolition is granted. This will give the public an opportunity to have their voices heard about the proposed demolition of the Park Avenue Hotel.
We expect all parties to respect and abide by the HDC’s decision. In a city making a fresh start after bankruptcy, let’s not return to a status quo of back-room deals that gives wealthy developers a different set of rules than the rest of us have to play by.
UPDATE 1/29/15: Olympia Development has postponed bringing their rezoning request back to City Council for several weeks. Late last night, news broke of talks on a possible compromise that would save BOTH buildings. It is encouraging to hear that Olympia is working with both City Council and the Mayor’s Office towards a solution that recognizes the effectiveness of adaptive reuse of historic buildings in attracting people to live, work, and play in the city.
UPDATE 1/14/2015: A revised rezoning request is likely to go before the City Council next week. Watch this space for further news.
UPDATE 11/30: Olympia Development pulled their rezoning request before City Council was to vote on it. It will likely be up for a vote before Council in January. More news coverage of their request for delay here.
UPDATE 11/22/14: You showed up, emailed, called, and tweeted in force for last Thursday’s City Council discussion – you made it clear that you want the Park Avenue Hotel reused, not flattened. However, there was not a quorum of City Council members present, so no voting could take place.
KEEP IT UP!
If you haven’t yet contacted your city councilperson, please do it right now. If you have, we ask that you do it again. If you are not a Detroit resident, you can still help. Power up your network! Reach out to friends who live and work in the city, tell them why this matters, and give them the contact link: http://preservationdetroit.org/city-of-detroit-contacts/
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Here’s what we know about the Park Avenue Hotel and Eddystone Hotel, and what you can do to protect these buildings while development on the new hockey arena gains momentum.
What we know about the Park Avenue and Eddystone Hotels
The Park Avenue Hotel (2643 Park — sometimes referred to as the Harbor Light) and the Eddystone Hotel (100-118 Sproat) are located just outside the proposed boundaries of the new hockey arena. Both properties are owned by Olympia Development of Michigan (ODM).
Plans for a new hockey arena and entertainment district have raised eyebrows for years about the future of the Park Avenue and the Eddystone. Although both buildings have been vacant for the better part of a decade, they appear to be in fair condition (we’d need an independent structural analysis to know for sure). They were designed by architect Louis Kamper and constructed in 1924.
The Park Avenue Hotel and the Eddystone Hotel are both locally designated as historic districts and on the National Register of Historic Places. Any significant changes to either building, including demolition, must be approved by the City of Detroit Historic District Commission (HDC). The HDC has not to our knowledge received any petitions for changes to either building.
ODM remains evasive about their plans for the buildings
In July, Olympia Development spokesperson Christopher Ilitch said they did not have immediate plans to demolish the buildings:
“Our goal is to use those buildings in this project,” Christopher Ilitch told the Free Press in July, when the family rolled out plans for a new district surrounding the arena. “If we can’t figure out a way to use them productively, then they become liabilities, and they may go away.” (Detroit Free Press, “New Red Wings arena raises preservation concerns,” Nov. 16, 2014)
On September 18, ODM presented its plan for the proposed development of the arena to the City Planning Commission. Notably, ODM notched the Park Avenue Hotel building out of the boundaries of the proposed development, possibly to avoid making plans for the building public, or to buy more time to figure out what to do with it. Preservation Detroit Board President Amy Elliott Bragg gave public comment at this meeting, urging the Commission to examine any adverse effects of the proposed development on adjacent historic districts (including the Park Avenue, Eddystone, and Brush Park historic districts) before approving any rezoning requests. Members of the Neighborhood Advisory Council (NAC) and Councilmember Raquel Castaneda-Lopez also gave public comment about several concerns raised by the proposed development, including the fate of the Park Avenue Hotel.
On November 6, the City Planning Commission voted to recommend approval the proposed development of the arena, despite its stated concerns. Since then, however, pressure to include the Park Avenue Hotel in the boundaries of the proposed development has intensified, led by Councilmember Scott Benson. (This would, in effect, force Olympia to make a plan for the building, or else to say directly that they plan to tear it down.) At a meeting on Nov. 12, the Historic District Commission passed a resolution in support of including the Park Avenue Hotel in the development’s boundaries. The City Council’s Planning and Development Committee voted unanimously on Nov. 13 in support of a recommendation to include the Park Avenue in the arena’s rezoning request.
Detroit City Council discussed the rezoning of the Arena District on Thursday, Nov. 20 at a packed session and heard loud support from the public for saving the Park Avenue Hotel. (More about how the session went here.) Without a quorum, City Council was unable to ask questions or take a vote.
A vote on the proposed rezoning was originally expected before City Council recessed for the winter holidays, but ODM pulled their proposal at the last minute and asked for more time to address Councilmember concerns.
What happens next
Representatives for ODM have offered a number of reasons why the rehabilitation of the Park Avenue Building will be a challenge. Most recently, they’ve cited an NHL guideline for new construction that recommends a 100-foot “security zone” around any new stadiums. The Park Avenue is partially situated within this zone, but the guideline is not legally binding and appears to be flexible. (A number of stadiums across the country have incorporated existing historic buildings into their designs.) Preservation Detroit feels that this is an evasion of ODM’s legal responsibility to protect and preserve their historically designated buildings.
We’ve heard repeatedly that ODM wants to create a vibrant, walkable, and unique urban district around the arena, with hotels, restaurants, offices, and residential development. The Park Avenue and the Eddystone are local landmarks. Rehabilitating them would be an economically impactful way to lend authentic, one-of-a-kind character to the neighborhood. Demolishing them erases the neighborhood’s history, its character, and its aesthetic.
Furthermore — despite the deserved praise they’ve received for the restoration of the Fox Theatre — the Ilitches have a mixed track record when it comes to historic preservation in Detroit. Rehabilitating these iconic hotels will generate substantial goodwill and good publicity in the community.
What can you do?
Contact your City Councilmember. Tell them you want to save the Eddystone and the Park Avenue Hotel and ask them to support including the Park Avenue Hotel in the proposed arena development. Remind them that this project is 58% publicly funded, so your input counts!
Come to City Council meetings regarding the arena districts. Participate in the public hearings and have your concerns about preservation in the arena district heard.
Work on the new Wings arena could start in ‘several weeks,’ Detroit News, March 16, 2015
New Red Wings arena plan raises preservation concerns, Detroit Free Press, Nov. 16, 2014
Dan Austin: Detroit’s past can play role in future hockey arena district, Detroit Free Press, May 20, 2014
Detroit Red Wings arena plan could save two historic, blighted Cass Corridor 1920s hotels, MLive Detroit, July 20, 2014