Detroit —  Demolition of the historic Saturday Night Building in downtown Detroit has begun.

The work comes several weeks after Detroit's city council voted 7-1 against an interim historic district designation that would have prevented a private owner from tearing down the building at 550 W. Fort to build a parking lot.

"I saw that it was happening," said Francis Grunow, 45, of Detroit, co-founder of the group, Detroiters for Parking Reform. "It's a real shame. I'm not surprised."

The group has been vocal about its opposition of razing the building.

"I think it's incredibly short-sighted on the part of the developer, the city council and the mayor's office," Grunow said. "It was a structurally sound, intact, urban building that was being considered for historical designation."

The building had been fated for demolition since before the 2008 recession when owner Emmett Moten Jr. told the city he intended to tear it down to provide parking for the planned condominiums in the adjacent Fort Shelby building. Moten also said previously the recession stalled the demolition.

Moten declined to comment. 

MoreSaturday Night Building appears destined for demolition despite cries to save it

In December, Moten’s MCP Development applied for and was granted a demolition permit, according to the city. This sparked concern among preservation advocates decrying the demolition of the structure that was once home to the Detroit Saturday Night newspaper from 1914 to 1929.

The properties for the Fort Shelby project were purchased through loans from the General Retirement Systems and the City of Detroit. In a memo to the city council, the law department said the parking issue has impacted condominium sales and repayment of the loan.

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Grunow said the Detroiters for Parking Reform will continue to fight for a moratorium on new commercial surface parking lots in the city's downtown.

"We're going to use the loss of the Saturday Night building as a recent example of a bad outcome and why this needs to be stopped in the future," he said. "We've heard there are other buildings being targeted. I mean, theoretically, we could just keep demolishing downtown until it's all just a big parking lot."

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