Owner of landmark Penobscot Building fined for multiple blight issues

Louis Aguilar
The Detroit News

Detroit — The landmark Penobscot Building in downtown Detroit has racked up more than $5,000 worth of city fines since October because some of its 47 floors are unsafe, unsanitary and have too much debris, city officials said.

The issue has become so persistent that the city wants the Canadian owners of the skyscraper to submit a work plan and timeline when the issues will be fixed, said John Roach, a spokesman for Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.  

The Penobscot Building was evacuated Jan. 17 after a fire broke out. The landmark skyscraper has been  hit with more than $5,000 in fines since October because some of its 47 floors are unsafe, unsanitary and have too much debris, city officials said.

Since October, the Art Deco gem at Griswold and Fort has received 15 blight tickets, including six on Monday, Roach said. The city is in talks with the building owner to ensure improvements. 

The city hopes to finalize a consent agreement with the building owners in the next seven days, said Jessica Parker, the city's chief enforcement officer for the Buildings, Safety Engineering and Environmental Department. 

The Penobscot, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, was purchased in 2012 by Toronto-based Triple Properties Inc. Company officials could not be reached Tuesday. Triple Properties purchased the building for around $5 million when the property was in foreclosure. 

City inspectors have found blight issues on multiple floors, particularly on some of the building's vacant floors, Parker said. More than one of the elevators is not working, she said. The building owner has told city officials that one of those elevators will cost more than $300,000 to repair, she said.

In January, a fire broke out in an elevator shaft between floors. No one was injured. A recent local television report showed images from some floors with exposed wire, mold and water dripping from ceiling​​​​​s.

"Financially, we know it's going to be heavy lifting" for the various repairs, Parker said. The city and the building owner are still discussing what would be sufficient time to fix the issues, she said. "We don't want to set them up for failure," she said. 

A long-vacant storefront inside the landmark Penobscot Building in downtown Detroit. Owners of the building have been fined more than $5,000 in city blight violations.

Late last year, one of the building's main tenants, Strategic Staffing Solutions, announced it was moving to the Fisher Building in New Center.

The vacancy rate for the Penobscot Building is 42.5%, according to CoStar, a commercial real estate database.