Hundreds turn out to support Corktown ‘institution’
For Sophia Softky and others in Detroit, the UFO Factory in the city’s Corktown neighborhood has long been a haven.
The space was where her feminist art and music collective frequently held functions, and karaoke nights as well as other events have drawn many visitors from across the area. So now that the site at 2110 Trumbull has been closed since a cement mixer struck the side of the building last week, Softky didn’t hesitate to attend a fundraiser Monday night to help raise money for workers left unemployed.
“They’ve always been super supportive and open,” she said while in the crowd at El Club. “This a really horrible blow losing that space. I want to help as much as possible. Everybody that I’ve talked is outraged. That was a community institution. It always felt like a real place where you can hang out with friends.”
Hundreds packed the southwest Detroit bar to support the employees now out of work since construction next door to the UFO Factory damaged the building.
Crews were working on the Elton Park project, a $44 million retail and development next door. Three employees working inside said they felt the building shake after it was struck. The hit damaged the building’s foundation, causing a safety hazard, said Aliccia Bollig-Fischer, an owner.
The future there is unclear. After assessing the damage, Detroit’s Building, Safety Engineering and Environmental Department issued an immediate vacate order since the site is unsafe, a representative said Monday night. The next step is expected to be determined through negotiations between UFO Factory owners and Soave Enterprises, which had worked with the Monahan Co. for the Elton Park project, according to the city.
UFO’s owners declined to grant interviews Monday night.
While working to develop a solution after the damage and awaiting analysis from engineers, Soave and Monahan on Tuesday plan to donate $15,000 to the GoFundMe site launched to help the workers.
“Our intention in developing Elton Park is to help bolster the Corktown community, and we hope this donation reflects that goal,” company officials said in a statement. “We are committed to getting the UFO Factory and Elton Park back on track for Corktown and Detroit.”
Meanwhile, more than $20,800 had been raised through GoFundMe as of Monday night, surpassing its $15,000 goal.
Estimates for the El Club event were not yet available, but the bar drew hundreds for drinks, pizza, DJ sets and specialty merchandise.
“We were outraged and wanted to give our support,” said Eric Iverson of Detroit, who joined his wife in the crowd.
The steady flow of patrons in the neon-lit space underscores UFO’s importance, he added. “I was worried we wouldn’t be able to find a place to park.”
To many, the iconic venue represents a unique environment in the city that deserves preserving, said his wife, Mary Iverson. “Why are developers getting rid of all these little places that people love?”
Since there is so much interest in the spot, word about the fundraiser spread quickly, which translated into the packed parking lot and massive crowd, said Mike McGonigal, a former Metro Times music editor who helped coordinate the event.
“The turnout is amazing. It’s really exciting,” he said. “People really feeling this space and the community.”
Among the fundraisers was Marty DeNicolo, who has attended many gatherings at UFO Factory and noticed supporters from out of state.
“I’m hoping they can use the money to rebuild,” he said near a “Support UFO” sign over the bar. “I see it as a labor of love. It’s a really popular venue.”