The sad fate of the once-glamorous University Club was sealed today as construction crews began knocking down the three-story Collegiate Gothic building near downtown.
If all goes as planned, the building at 1411 E. Jefferson Ave. will be replaced by a liquor store or fast food joint.
Demolition follows an intentionally set fire in June that gutted the abandoned University Club, which served as a social institution for college graduates. It was designed by famed architect William Kapp, who also did the Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts.
The club’s owner Albert Ammori, who owns a liquor store across the street, is behind the demolition plan and hopes to soon begin construction on his new liquor store or fast food joint. Since buying the property for $600,000 in April 2010, Ammori neglected the building, leaving it open to scrappers, vandals and extreme weather. Stained glass windows were shattered; graffiti covered the red-brick facade; and the roof was caving in.
Preservationists tried in vain to save the building with a historic designation, but Councilman Kwame Keynatta boastfully nixed the plan more than a year ago after saying “blacks probably couldn’t” be members, which was false. Even former Mayor Coleman A. Young was a member.
“I don’t have the same nostalgia that most folks have about some of these buildings; most of them were built many years ago when certain folks couldn’t be let in,” Kenyatta said at the time. “You’ve got slave institutions that were designed by great architects and some of them still stand.”
The University Club went bankrupt in 1992, and the YWCA took over the building until 2008, when maintenance costs became unsustainable.
Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.