Historic CPA building in Detroit avoids demolition

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — An iconic building anchoring the city’s historic Corktown neighborhood is being spared demolition.

The CPA building on Michigan Avenue across from Michigan Central Station was slated to come down next month at the expense of its New York-based owners.

But the City Council on Tuesday authorized an interim historic designation for the six-story structure as officials study whether it can receive a certification to ensure it won’t ever be torn down.

The council’s action comes after more than 1,100 business owners and community members signed a petition rallying against having the structure razed, urging Detroit leaders to intervene.

The 1924 building at 2238 Michigan Ave., commonly known as the Conductors Protective Association Building, had been on the market for 11 years before it was sold to Sequoia Property Partners for $900,000 in May 2014. The building is owned by BFD Corktown LLC, a entity of Sequoia.

Dave Steinke, owner of Mercury Burger Bar, said he saw activity at the site two weeks ago and thought redevelopment was finally afoot at the long-neglected building. But instead, he learned crews were prepping to level it. He’s pleased with the council’s decision to prevent the knockdown.

“It seems like the system worked,” he said. “There’s no need just to tear it down. The building actually seems pretty solid.”

Greg Newman, a local representative of Sequoia, said he’s pleased the building won’t be razed. The company didn’t want to tear it down but felt limited because it couldn’t meet renovation deadlines set by the city. The company plans to redevelop the entire block and incorporate retail and residential uses in the building.

“The community loves the building. It’s a landmark in the area,” said Newman, principal of Keystone Commercial Real Estate LLC. “They (Sequoia) agreed and did not want to tear it down.”

Detroit Corporation Counsel Melvin Butch Hollowell said the property at the corner of 14th Street and Michigan Avenue “has been vacant, blighted and dangerous for over 20 years.”

In July 2014, it was placed on the dangerous buildings list for demolition. A city building department inspection last September showed the site was in “terrible condition,” with masonry falling onto the sidewalk and open fencing that left it vulnerable to trespass.

The city’s Law Department obtained a court order Nov. 3 requiring the building either be fixed or torn down at the owner’s expense.

In compliance with the order, BFD Corktown obtained demolition permits from the city, retained a demolition contractor, and planned to have demolition completed by the end of the year. The law department has since put a stop on the demolition.

Janese Chapman, a senior historic planner with the advisory board, said the study is expected to take six to eight months.