Jack White puts $s behind his Detroit love

Louis Aguilar
The Detroit News

Rocker-turned-entrepreneur Jack White may no longer live in the Motor City, but the Detroit native’s legacy continues to grow in his hometown.

Just this week, the entertainer’s eclectic past resurfaced upon news that the vacant former drag queen bar — the site of the first performances of White’s Grammy Award-winning band The White Stripes — had been part of a $2.2 million deal to entities linked to the billionaire Ilitch organization.

The bar, the former Gold Dollar, and the neighboring buildings on the 3100 block of Cass Avenue in the once-gritty corridor are now destined to join the increasingly upscale area that the Ilitch organization is creating called The District Detroit. This development plan involves overhauling more than 50 blocks of Detroit on the northern edge of downtown into dense upscale neighborhoods full of new residences and businesses.

The project is anchored by the Ilitches’ crown jewel, Little Caesars Arena, the $863 million sports and entertainment complex that opened this fall. The arena is home for the Detroit Pistons and the Ilitches’ Detroit Red Wings.

The arena, the district development and these new acquisitions in the infamous Cass Corridor are sure to enhance the investments White has made in Detroit since moving to Nashville, Tennessee, in 2005. White, who said he moved because of Detroit’s “cynical environment” in an 2014 interview with journalist Dan Rather, has heaped major love on his hometown in the past few years.

Among his investments and contributions:

Third Man Records Cass Corridor and Third Man Pressing

Where: 441 W. Canfield

Details: In 2015, White announced a partnership with Shinola founder Tom Kartsotis to buy the 52,500-square-foot building that houses the Shinola flagship store, the Jolly Pumpkin Pizzeria and Brewery, Filson and Run Detroit. The massive Midtown facility was bought for $5 million by the partnership, public records show.

Later in 2015, White’s Nashville-based Third Man company opened Third Man Records Cass Corridor, a retail store that sells records and novelties, in the building. The store also has an in-store performance stage.

In 2016, Third Man Pressing, a 10,000-square-foot vinyl record pressing plant, opened in the building. The colorful space houses eight new German-built record-making machines. Each machine costs an estimated $220,000.

The Masonic Temple

Where: 500 Temple

Details: In 2013, White saved the historic Masonic Temple, the largest in the world, from being sold at public tax auction by paying off a $142,000 outstanding tax bill. White donated the money without being asked and initially wanted to keep it anonymous — the Masons later revealed he was the donor. White attended nearby Cass Technical High School. His band, the White Stripes, had performed at the temple, and his mother once worked as an usher at the gothic-style building.

The Masonic Temple Association renamed the facility’s Cathedral Theater the Jack White Theater.

Clark Park

Where: 1130 Clark

Details: The park in southwest Detroit is where White used to play baseball as a youth. His first donations for improvements at the park began in 2008 when the rocker gave nearly $170,000 to revamp the baseball diamonds and install new dugouts and grandstands, after the city had slashed funding for the park. The then-anonymous donor was identified by The Detroit News in 2009. The facility is now jointly run by the city and the nonprofit Clark Park Coalition.

“(White) still donates, he still checks in every once in a while to see how things are going,” said Anthony Benavides, center director the Clark Park Coalition.


Twitter: @LouisAguilar_DN