Ode to mid-century kitsch sells for $600K in Midtown

Louis Aguilar
The Detroit News

A former motel and tribute to mid-century kitsch design has been sold to the Midtown Detroit Inc., the nonprofit development group that plans to revive the empty building.

The former University Motel, 5841 Second Ave., on the northern edge of Wayne State University, is being sold by the city to influential Midtown Detroit Inc. On the horizon is the historic Fisher Building in New Center.

The former University Motel, 5841 Second Ave., on the northern edge of Wayne State University is tattered and trash-strewn, yet retains some of its vintage charm.

The sale of the city-owned motel and an adjacent two-story building at 5847 Second was approved Tuesday by the Detroit City Council for $600,000. Plans include a hotel, “micro-residences” and retail, according to a City Council document. The sale was approved without comment from the council.

Officials from Midtown Inc. did not return an email or telephone calls Tuesday afternoon. The nonprofit has been playing a major role in shaping development in the booming area north of downtown.

The development group Midtown Detroit Inc. bought the former University Motel and the adjacent 5847 Second Ave. building for $600,000 from the city. Detroit City Council approved the sale Tuesday.

The two-story, 23-room motel still has a big white sign out front advertising “movies” as a draw. The angular, glass-walled lobby contains a statue of Buddha in lotus position beside a bright orange sign posted by the city’s Building Safety and Engineering Department declaring the building needs to be vacated. Four late-model Mercedes Benz vehicles, including a vintage roadster , can be found in the parking lot.

The city bought by the two buildings in 2014 from the Wayne County Treasurer in 2014 for $29,700, city property records show.

The buildings, bordering I-94, are three blocks south of the future Henry Ford-Detroit Pistons Performance Center, scheduled to open in summer 2019. That new building will house a training facility, a sports medicine complex and the NBA franchise’s corporate headquarters.


Twitter: @LouisAguilar_DN

Staff Writer Christine Ferretti contributed to this report.

A vintage roadster is one of four late-model Mercedes-Benz vehicles left in the parking lot of the former University Motel.