Mayor Duggan fielding proposals to redevelop storied Brewster-Wheeler Rec Center

Mayor Duggan

The storied Brewster-Wheeler Recreation Center where Joe Louis learned to box may dodge demolition after all.

Less than a month after announcing that the center in Brush Park would be razed barring last-minute interest from developers, Mayor Mike Duggan said Thursday that reputable investors have shown a desire to redevelop the art deco building, which was abandoned eight years ago this week.

Brewster-Wheeler Recreation Center (Steve Neavling/MCM)
Brewster-Wheeler Recreation Center (Steve Neavling/MCM)

Duggan said the building must go or be redeveloped soon because of surging interest in the Brush Park area following news this summer that construction will soon begin on a $650 building project to build a Red Wings arena and Entertainment district by mid-2017 on the other side of Woodward.

Standing outside the graffiti-strewn building, Duggan said the city will begin taking proposals for the site, which was converted into a community center after city officials rejected calls to integrate the spacious, first-rate YMCA in downtown Detroit in 1929.

The idea is not to land “pie-in-the-sky plans,” Duggan said, but to find “a viable business idea that can keep this facility open for years to come.”

The squatty building was named after the first black city recreation worker, Leon Wheeler, and the center’s main draw was from the adjacent Brewster housing projects, which was built for African Americans after they were forced out of their homes in the name of “urban renewal.”

For more details of the requests for proposals, click here.

Proposals are due by Nov. 14.

Steve Neavling

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.