The 3 Fifty Rooftop Terrace at Music Hall shows an enticing panoramic of the city. (Laura Raisch / Music Hall)
From the top of the Music Hall, seven floors above downtown, Vince Paul can see the future.
He can see the ballpark and the football stadium. The Penobscot Building and the Guardian. The Book Tower and the Westin Book Cadillac. The Millennium Bell.
He can see a Friday night crowd on another roof, at the Coors Light Sky Deck atop the Detroit Opera House. And he can see misconceptions, wafting away on the soft breeze.
“It looks pretty nice,” he says. “It looks like a city.
“Getting up and above, all of a sudden you can see enough to wipe away the clouds of distortion.”
Paul, 50, is the relentlessly positive president and artistic director of the Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts, an 85-year-old piece of living history on Madison Street that typically hosts more than 220 events a year in its 1,731-seat theater or downstairs at its Jazz Cafe.
In a season that typically runs from Labor Day through June, it’ll now hold 100 more at the 3 Fifty Rooftop Terrace, Paul’s vantage point as he takes in his favorite views of the city you don’t hear about.
Opening up their eyes
As for his least favorite view, it’s that standard photo of the Detroit skyline, taken with a long lens from someplace in Windsor. “That does not sell tickets,” Paul says. Show the jazz clubs and the seven theaters and the lights of Comerica Park, the bird’s-eye view of bustle, “and now they’ll bring their convention to Detroit.”
The 3 Fifty Rooftop Terrace, named for the Music Hall’s address, has been piecing itself together since Opening Day in April, adding cedar siding here and barrel chairs there while dealing with various fresh nitpicks from the city. All it’s waiting on now is an awning above the bar, across from the stage.
Meantime, the M@dison Building has opened a spectacular rooftop event space, the deck at Cheli’s Chili Bar remains a go-to spot on game nights, the Detroit Athletic Club is building a deck on its roof overlooking the outfield, and the Opera House will open the Sky Deck for every Detroit Tigers home game throughout the postseason.
“For us,” says Jason Warzecha, the Opera House’s director of operations, “it’s about allowing people to see Detroit in a whole new way.”
Reaching out to the 'burbs
A 34-year-old who has lived downtown since he was 18, Warzecha is his own target audience. The Opera House had long used its roof for donor events, but found sponsors and became a Friday and Saturday night destination as of June.
He’s a particular fan of the opposite view from that standard chamber of commerce shot — from the John R side of the former silent movie theater, toward the river. “Hopefully,” he says, “we can convince people to come down and see what Detroit really is, not what they’re being told it is.”
Nobody is saying the city is Oz. But Paul can cite larger numbers than Chapter 9, like the 19 million cars each year that use the Madison Street exit from I-375, and he can tell you that beleaguered neighborhoods like Brightmoor are not the same as the places you can hear Sarah Brightman.
“We’re already the best-selling entertainment district in the country besides Times Square,” Paul says. “But somehow, they’re not getting that memo in Birmingham.”
There’s action on the rooftops, he says, because there’s solid support at street level.
“I’m not here to rebuild Grandpa’s Detroit,” he says. “This is my Detroit.” And from what he can see, things are looking up.