Historic public library on Gratiot to open as bookstore
A former Detroit Public Library in a non-gentrified part of Gratiot Avenue is the latest example of how small entrepreneurs continue to stretch the boundaries of where they will invest in Detroit.
Midtown resident Andrew Sisley purchased the former George S. Hosmer Branch at 3506 Gratiot from the city for $35,000, according to public records. If the City Council approves the zoning change, the 105-year-old building will become a bookstore and cafe.
The library closed in 1975. It became a methadone clinic run by Wayne County. When it closed in 2010 it became yet another empty historical ruin. The building has been thoroughly scrapped.
“But now, boom! It’s one of those buildings you’re thinking no one would ever buy,” said Mark Caldrea, a local developer.
It’s a sign of the times, he contends: “In the past three years, I’d say the downtown, Corktown, Midtown area has become so competitive. But, you have small risk-takers willing to buy in places that they would have just drove by.”
Last year, the city put the Gratiot building up for sale at $75,000. It found a buyer, but then in April, part of the interior was put on fire. That buyer backed out.
The city put it back on the market and Sisley bought it. He couldn’t be reached for comment.
The former library is about a mile from the stretch of Gratiot in Eastern Market that has seen a steady transformation to restaurants, art galleries and residences.
The stretch of Gratiot that’s home to the former library is typical of many parts of Detroit: There are some empty storefronts, abandoned homes and vacant lots. Amid that are well-kept homes and longtime businesses like Atlas Plumbing Supply Co., which has been on the same Gratiot location since 1966.
“That library looked beautiful even when it was empty,” said Bill Wolf, an owner of Atlas, which is across the street from the building. “Then the fire broke out and I thought ‘Oh no, it made this long and now what.’ I thought it was over.”