Historic Detroit Commission Advises Against Ilitch-Linked Development of Downtown Theater

The Historic District Commission advises against two projects and the Charter Revision Commission has experienced turbulence on its board, in this week’s city meetings rundown.

City Bureau
City Bureau

The Historic District Commission weighs in on two key development proposals, and there’s been some shake-ups on the Charter Revision Commission, according to notes from WDET’s Detroit Documenters program.

Detroit Documenters is a program by 101.9 WDET, CitizenDetroit and Chicago’s City Bureau to pay local residents to attend city meetings and take notes on happenings that often go uncovered. These notes are publicly available on documenters.org, where you can also find upcoming public meetings in the city. 

Click on the player above to hear WDET reporter Eleanore Catolico speaking about what happened at public meetings.

Historic District Commission Says ‘No’ to United Artists Project

Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019 meeting of Historic District Commission. See live tweets from the meeting here.

What Happened: The Historic District Commission reviewed two key action items on local development proposals during its meeting last week.

First, the commission denied an application to install a fence around the Lafayette Towers apartment complex, located at 1301 Orleans St in the Lafayette Park/Mies van der Rohe Historic District.  

The reasoning behind the commission’s decision was the fence would not adhere to the historic district’s design standards and it would create a physical and visual barrier between the Towers, the nearby park and surrounding buildings, according to Director of Historic Preservation Garrick Landsberg.  

Eleanore Catolico / WDET
Eleanore Catolico / WDET

The owner of the property, Gregory Jackson, proposed to build the fence due to public safety concerns, but there was strong opposition by current and former residents, saying that the lack of security was the real issue and a fence wouldn’t solve the problem. 

The commission also reviewed a proposal on the rehabilitation of the office building and demolition of the theater wing of the United Artists Building in downtown. The proposed project, located at 150 Bagley, is adjacent to the Grand Circus Park Local Historic District. Even though the property is not in a historic district, the commission deemed that the project as a whole, including the rehabilitation of the office building and demolition of the theater wing, would still have a negative impact on the historic, cultural and architectural character of the area. 

The commission is sending their finding to the City Council and the mayor to review, but the finding is non-binding and only advisory in nature.  

Why this matters:  The United Artists Building was established in 1928 but has been vacant for many decades. The developers of the United Artists Building also received a significant tax break from the city last month. The project is estimated to cost $56 million. The developers, the Bagley Development Group LLC, plan to renovate the property into apartments. This building was initially a part of the Ilitch’s residential redevelopment plan, but movement on the project had been delayed significantly up until this point. There is ongoing concern about development of historic sites amongst Detroiters, and persistent frustration with the Ilitch family who owns the property and is leasing to the development group. 

What’s next: The Historic District Commission regular meeting will be on Wednesday, December 11th at the Erma L. Henderson Auditorium, located at 2 Woodward Ave., Suite 1300.


Charter Revision Commission Play Musical Chairs After Member Resignation

Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019 meeting of the Charter Revision Commission. Details of the meeting are available here. 

What happened:  The Charter Revision Commission had some position restructuring during its Committee of the Whole meeting last week. Commissioner Tracy Peters resigned as both the commission’s Treasurer and Budget and Finance Committee Chair. 

The head of the commission, Carol Weaver, appointed Nicole Small as the new Budget and Finance Committee Chair. Barbara Wynder was also approved to be the new Treasurer. 

There are currently only eight active members on the commission right now. Laura Hughes, who’s affiliated with the current city administration, resigned last week. 

She cites a new job opportunity in her resignation letter as a factor in her decision. 

“I acutely recognize and appreciate the importance of the Charter Revision Commission and I am grateful to the people of the City of Detroit who elected me to this esteemed position. I have a new major national client that will require my full attention so I am respectfully resigning my Charter Revision Commission seat,” according to the letter. 

Per the Commission’s bylaws, the commission can fill the vacancy by selecting the next eligible candidate not elected but who received the next highest number of votes.  

Why this matters: The commission is tasked with proposing changes to the city’s charter, which will be put up for a public vote.  But so far, the meetings have been embroiled in conflict amongst board members, and the commission has been under fire for a lack of transparency in their hiring processes. 

What’s next: The Charter Revision Commission will hold a Committee of the Whole meeting this Saturday, November 23rd. 

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  • Eleanore Catolico
    Eleanore Catolico is Civic Reporter with 101.9 WDET, covering local affairs with the Detroit Documenters program. She enjoys techno.