Ilitch plan saves one historic hotel
Detroit – — On the edge of the site of the yet-to-be built $450 million hockey arena, the Ilitch organization is proposing to save one empty historic building for residential use, including a section reserved for affordable housing, while an adjacent historic building will be demolished.
The building that could be revived is the former Eddystone Hotel, a 13-story Italian Renaissance-inspired structure on the northwest corner of Park and Sproat, according to sources familiar with the plans that haven't been made public. The building to be demolished is the 90-year-old former Park Avenue Hotel, which is across the street from the Eddystone on the southwest corner of Park and Sproat.
The Ilitch's Olympia Development of Michigan contend the former Park Avenue Hotel must be demolished because it is so close to the new arena that it violates Homeland Security protocols followed by the National Hockey League, sources said. That is something Ilitch officials have hinted at in previous statements. The venue will be the new home ice for the Detroit Red Wings, one of the two professional sports teams in Detroit owned by Mike Ilitch.
A spokesman for Ilitch Holdings would not comment for this story.
The Ilitch proposal regarding the two buildings will be unveiled as part of its effort to get zoning approval from the Detroit City Council. The zoning change is needed to allow construction of the arena on Woodward in the Cass Corridor neighborhood just north of downtown. The venue is expected to be ready for the Wings' season opener in 2017.
It is still not clear when the rezoning request will return to the City Council. The zoning change centers on a four-block area between Woodward and Cass that includes the arena, two above-ground parking garages and mixed-use space connected to the arena. The Park Avenue is just within that four-block area.
That zoning decision has been delayed since November after the City Council added a number of amendments to the original request, which included more information on traffic, parking and historic preservation of the buildings. Already, the City Council has taken steps to protect the former hotel. In December, the planning and economic development committee backed an amendment that included saving the Park Avenue. The building was most recently the former Salvation Army Harbor Light. It is now vacant.
Councilwoman Raquel Castaneda-Lopez said her office submitted additional questions to Olympia late last year regarding parking and the general layout of the project. They still haven't received the information.
Castaneda-Lopez she had not heard about the proposal for the hotels. She said she wouldn't oppose demolishing the Park Avenue Hotel building if it was shown that it would somehow impact security at the arena, she said.
"But I can't make a decision at this point because we don't have the information," she said.
The two buildings are remnants of Detroit's 1920s boom when there was a rush to build luxurious hotels to meet the needs of the flourishing city, according to documents from the City of Detroit's Historic Designation Advisory Board. Both buildings were designed by architect Louis Kamper, who created many of the city's leading hotels and other downtown landmarks.