Work halted at vacant Hudson's

Judge stops crews removing awning

November 1, 1997

Free Press Staff Writer

Hudson's former flagship store was temporarily spared the wrecking ball Friday by Wayne County Circuit Judge Sharon Tevis Finch, hours after a late-night effort by work crews to tear down an awning that circles part of the vacant building in downtown Detroit.

Finch's ruling came on a request by downtown property owners and housing advocates to stop the demolition pending a public hearing. The hearing would look at plans to raze the landmark building and ideas for alternative uses, such as lofts and retail.

The group filed a suit Thursday morning against the city and the Downtown Development Authority to stop the demolition, even as crews were fencing off the building.

By late night, workers were tearing down the copper and brass awning, said James Turner, a Detroit preservationist. He said they did not display a demolition permit.

"It is unconscionable...that the DDA has to resort to these sophomoric tactics, to move in under cover of darkness when most of us were patrolling our neighborhoods to protect against the (Devil's Night) fires," Turner said.

Turner said the workers reported they were taking down the awning as part of a pre–demolition effort to remove asbestos.

"Debris was flying in the air. They broke windows and they damaged the artwork on the walls," said Greg Pawlica, who arrived at 11:30 p.m. Thursday.

Finch put the demolition on hold pending a Nov. 10 court hearing. She said it appears that without a temporary restraining order "there will be immediate and irreparable harm."

She also found a "reasonable likelihood" that current demolition plans could be illegal.

The DDA's attorney, Ulysses Boy kin, said he had no comment.

Mayor Dennis Archer said "there was no demolition contract. No matter what occurs to the building, asbestos has to come out." He added: "Everybody loves the Hudson's building—I love it too. But we can't stand in the way of progress."

The City Council approved the demolition in February by a 7-2 vote.