Hudson's building worth more study, historic adviser says

February 3, 1997

Free Press Staff Writer

The director of the city's Historic Designation Advisory Board said a plan in the works to tear down the downtown Hudson's building would be "ill advised."

William Worden warned in a January memo to the Detroit City Council that it should make its decision cautiously.

"Since there is no new development on the horizon for this property, there seems to be no reason not to take the time for a more measured approach to the problem of the Hudson's building," he added.

"Whether the building can or cannot be reused, the present demolition proposal seems ill-advised."

His opinions also received backing from the Detroit City Planning Commission.

In a separate memo, Marsha Bruhn and Robert Davis of the commission wrote to the City Council that many local people who are knowledgeable about the building believe "the city should focus its limited demolition dollars on buildings that are economically unfeasible to rehab and should try to conserve what it can."

The officials also warned that demolition would be costly and that transportation and utility interruptions during the process could harm surrounding businesses.

The Greater Downtown Partnership has estimated the cost of demolition at $12 million to $15 million.

The memo was spurred in part by a recent presentation before the council by Randal Alexander, a Madison, Wis.-based developer who wants to turn the old department store into 650 loft apartments, shops and a parking garage. He says he can do it for between $70 million and $100 million and estimates he could obtain financing because the building would qualify for a variety of income credits set aside for historic buildings.

The plan has received a cold reception from city officials, notably from C. Beth Duncombe of the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. She has said the idea is excellent, but would be too expensive.

Last week, members of Atwater Entertainment said they would pay for the demolition if they could use the building site for a casino. But Mayor Dennis Archer has said he wants to use the site for office or retail development.

The council, which must approve the demolition, has decided to wait until the Greater Downtown Partnership completes its plan for the redevelopment of downtown. The partnership has hired a Toronto firm to help it create a plan. The council plans to hold a public hearing on June 13.

"No major North American industrial city located in the northeast quadrant of this country has had a downtown development turnaround without a strong element of historic preservation," Worden said.

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