Historic Free Press building neglected, covered in mold, open to trespass

The Free Press building was open to trespass though a broken window.
The Free Press building was open to trespass though a broken window.

The former Detroit Free Press building, an Art Deco high-rise that housed Michigan’s most storied newspaper for 73 years, is a sad version of its old self.

The Albert Kahn-designed building on Lafayette was wide open to trespass for at least three days this week after a broken window overlooking the federal courthouse was shattered.

IFree Press Buildingnside, the 14-story building is showing serious signs of neglect. Walls are covered in black mold. Pigeon carcasses and droppings are scattered across the floors. And marble walls were tagged with graffiti.

The historic building was purchased last year by a Chinese firm, DDI Group, for $4.2 million.

Ken Creighton, vice president and regional general manager of the firm, told me the building is in good hands and will be turned into apartments. He said the building is undergoing environmental tests, and the company plans to soon hire a construction manager.

The company also paid $9.4 million for the 38-story David Stott Building on Griswold, which has been largely vacant since.

The firm is expected to receive more than $20 million in tax credits to restore the building. The total cost is estimated to be around $45 million.

The interior photos were taken Wednesday by a photographer whose identity we won’t reveal for legal reasons.

Check out our friends at HistoricDetroit.org and Detroiturbex.com for more history and photos of the building, which was vacated by the Free Press in 1998.

Free Press lobby
Free Press lobby

Free Press building

Free Press building

Free Press Building
Marble still lines some of the walls.
Over the past year, a lot of black mold has collected along the walls.
Over the past year, a lot of black mold has collected along the walls.

Free Press building

Free Press building

Free Press building

Free Press building

Free Press building

Free Press Building

Free Press Building

Free Press Building

Black mold is collecting on the walls.
Black mold is collecting on the walls.
A lone bear on the first floor.
A lone bear on the first floor.
At the rear of the building.
At the rear of the building.

Free Press Building

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.

  • Ballsy Terri

    It’s only fitting that the quality of the “Free Press” web site today, in it’s newer digs, closely resembles the condition of it’s old building.
    AND, with the “revamping” of the “News” and “Free Press” websites, they now can both claim the distinction of being EQUALY crappy with all the week-old stories with click-inducing headlines, a lay-out similar to the new Windows PC touch screen system that sucks just as much as their home pages do, and the overall hard to find sports schedules, stats, and standings.

  • aeider

    Are there any rules that should prevent something like this from happening?

  • Jackie

    GREED IS THE PROBLEM…..CORRUPTION AND CRONYISM IS THE PROBLEM….
    The problems in our city are not caused by poor people, blacks, whites, chinese…they are caused by too few people with too much money and power disregarding the needs of the many for the wants of a few.
    When the economic system fails those in power benefit from disinvestment for decades and decades in Detroit. This did not just develop by accident. It was planned.
    Our current system manages to turn working class wealth into poverty.
    Our current system BAILS OUT, BANKS, INSURANCE COMPANIES, AUTO COMPANIES, AND TAX ABATEMENT TO THE RICH ONLY.
    The poor and working class are considered shiftless and lazy. Not worth bailing out.
    When I read 40,000, -100,00 homes in Detroit will be foreclosed for taxes only. What it says to me is that MANY of these people have struggled to pay off their homes….and now with the economy in shambles all over the world….the BANK , mortgage companies can’t take your home. SO..now the government, the corrupt city, corrupt state , federal policies foreclose AND LEAVE YOU HOMELESS.
    Once you are homeless your assistance will be counseling, not a place to live, but a shelter..GO FIGURE!
    HOMELESS PEOPLE ARE NEVER GIVEN MONEY, JUST LIP SERVICE FROM THE POVERTY PIMPS THAT RACK IN ALL THE DOLLARS.
    When I read that STEP FORWARD MICHIGAN RECEIVED $498 MILLION in federal money to help families avoid both tax and mortgage foreclosures, they are denying applications by the thousands, and often don’t even answer the phone. Just 22% of the millions earmarked for distressed homeowners had been spent in the last part of 2013.
    Millions are being spent on counseling the poor, working class instead of what they need….ADEQUATE financing which is NON-EXISTANT IN DETROIT.
    The programs available for payment arrangements with Wayne county ARE apparently not meeting the needs of the masses.
    The foreclosure for taxes includes exorbitant penalties and fines attached to the delinquent taxes making it impossible to pay in full.
    I say we need a peoples bankruptcy. For those who have stayed in Detroit trying to make it a better place to live, work, and socialize.
    Per another article…not in the main stream newspaper but an article quotes a wayne county official…that the STEP FORWARD MICHIGAN PROGRAM has assisted only 4,000 homeowners with their taxes in Wayne County. About $200 million is still left in the program and county officials and heavily burdened delinquent tax home owners FEAR the federal government might discontinue the program and reclaim remaining funds.
    It is my understanding that if you are denied property tax assistance there is no appeal process. Which is certainly un democratic in my opinion.
    Much of the dollars that have been sent to revitalize DETROIT OVER THE DECADES WAS RETURNED TO THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT UNUSED.
    Many of the dilapidated homes could and should have been renovated with this money. Perhaps drugs would not be so prevalent if the people could see another way to survive.
    DTE rates and shut offs threatened daily to many families.
    Water shut offs threated daily… . IT IS A HORIBLE SITUATION.
    We need a solution…where are the movers and shakers SOLVE THIS FORECLOSURE PROBLEM…..this what the people pay you to do!
    Where are the judges, lawyers, newspapers, citizens defending the peoples rights.?

    • bebow

      Addicts gonna be addicts, thieves gonna be thieves, and killers gonna be killers. After being subjected to Third World Detroit for a decade, I see mass foreclosures as a solution, not as a problem. People’s rights? Oh, please.

      • Jackie

        ” It is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their selfish purposes.
        Distinctions in society will always exist under every just government.
        Equality of talents, education, or of wealth can not be produced by human institutions.
        I n the full enjoyment of the gifts of Heaven and the fruits of superior industry, economy and virtue, every man is equally entitled to protection by the law,
        BUT when the laws undertake to add to these natural and just advantages artificial distinction, to grant titles, gratuities, and exclusive privileges,
        to make the rich richer and the potent more powerful,
        the humble members of society-
        the farmer, mechanics, and the laborers who have neither the time or the means of securing like favors to themselves, have a RIGHT to complain of the injustice of government.”
        ANDREW JACKSON

        • bebow

          Let’s talk about the injustice in paying dishonestly inflated taxes year after year, while the local elected and appointed decide we’re unworthy of having the services we paid to receive and the dopeman and his minions, as a direct consequence of that morally depraved decision, flagrantly and relentlessly destroy the neighborhood and interfere with the freedom of decent, law abiding residents living in it. Andrew Jackson never anticipated this bad scene.

          • Jackie

            Andrew Jackson did not always practice what he preached.
            Jackson had long been an advocate of what he called ” INDIAN REMOVAL”
            President Jackson frequently ignored the letter of the law and forced Native Americans to vacate lands they had lived on for generations.
            Jackson working on behalf of white settlers who wanted to grow cotton and own slaves on the Native Americans’ land, the federal government forced them to leave their homeland and walk thousands of miles to an unknown to them area.
            This difficult and sometimes fatal journey is known as the TRAIL OF TEARS.
            IN MY OPINION…I see what is happening to many Detroiters’ who own their homes free and clear the politicians find away to make them vacate their homes….with heavy penalties and fines on delinquent property taxes.
            Detroiters who have lived without streetlights, terrible roads, high crime rates, and dubbed as the murder capitol of the U.S. pay taxes that are not commensurate with services.
            ALSO…..
            Sometimes supposedly good people do bad things!

          • bebow

            “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter.”

            Your narrative is twisted.

            Embracing twisted narrative carried Detroit to the edge of the abyss.

            Let the Reality Therapy commence.

            Amen.

          • Jackie

            Thanks for reading my opinions.
            ” Look less at the opinion given, than at the character of him who pronounces it.
            Incalculable mischief is often done by people receiving as “authority” the opinions of a mere ass, on subjects which they are imperfectly acquainted, but on which he is supposed to be better informed,
            YET which are often the farthest from the truth the judgment of such a person being either swayed by the most absurd prejudices, or blinded by the most ineffable conceit.”
            Politicians can spend the taxpayers dollars on housing for the poor, the working poor, the middle class
            stop massive foreclosures, and government confiscating homes owned by its citizens…or spend tax payer dollars for tax abatement for stadiums, golf courses. etc..
            In my opinion, a man, company with enough money to buy the Free press building should protect it from vandalism…as I think for many years the train station was vandalized a complete eye sore…but owned by the rich. NO problem!
            But when we speak of blight ..it is only the poor man that is discussed.
            The poor mans blighted neighborhoods are due to the lack of adequate financing to renovate and repair… I call it… financial terrorism,
            financial terrorism has devastated Detroit….not the people!
            ,

          • bebow

            As I said, Jackie, your narrative is twisted, and this opinion is coming straight from the heart of Third World Detroit.

          • Jackie

            Third World Michigan would be a more accurate title for twisted thinking,
            PROBLEM #1
            Foreclosures not only in Detroit but all over Michigan.
            PROBLEM #2
            The lack of affordable auto insurance rates in Detroit.
            Detroit’s average car insurance rates
            are more than 10 times that of Winston-Salem N.C. the city with the lowest average rates.
            Michigan politicians so hungry for insurance campaign funds that they ignore the key role they play in car insurance rates state wide.
            Detroit’s average rates are more than twice as much as the second most expensive city New Orleans.
            Many Detroiters must choose between painting their homes, manicuring their lawns, replacing an aging roof, and the list goes on or paying exorbitant auto insurance and homeowners insurance…THAT IS THE BOTTOM LINE!
            Problem #3
            Obsession with CRIME and PUNISHMENT
            Mass Incarceration that is now coming to a boiling point taxpayers can no longer afford to house 2 million citizens for extremely long sentences for relatively minor crimes.
            Closing mental health facilities/
            Imprisoning the mentally ill.
            Problem#4
            Decriminalize marijuana and tax it. The people have spoken.
            The politicians are somehow benefitting keeping it unlawful.
            Problem#5
            Corporate power protected
            Tax abatements for the rich and not the working, middle class.
            Problem#5
            FINANCIAL TERRORISM!
            Problem #6
            Controlled mass media, FLUFF NEWS…UNABLE OR UNWILLING TO TACKLE THE PEOPLES CONCERNS.
            PROBLEM#7 the cost to taxpayers, pensioners, etc. for the DETROIT BANKRUPTCY.
            Have a nice day!

  • bebow

    In Detroit, we’ll tolerate anything. Our enthusiasm for pandering to the lowest element knows no limit. We also have an unlimited supply of cash and credit available to keep fixing up and tearing down everything our poor, misunderstood criminals destroy. See, we love our dopeman and are determined let our criminals run buck wild in order to keep our dopeman’s profits flowing by any means necessary, because certain parties are eagerly awaiting their cuts. That’s what’s fueling the scrapping and the violence. Digging deeper, the warrantless narcotics raids are foreplay, which explains why the dopeman cannot be seen. “The problem is the community won’t work with us. They won’t give us any information. There is a no snitch, funky cultural problem going on. We can’t enforce the law without cooperation.” Lie, lie, lie, lie… The DPD is receiving very specific information and choosing not to act on it for obvious reasons. Let’s all pretend we can’t see nothing, and soon enough,that’s exactly what we really will be seeing.

  • Tim Burke

    Dan Gilbert should have bought it.

  • Muhammad Mojaradi

    too bad.

  • nolimitdetroiter

    Kinda like the Freep itself, both have seen better days.
    The chance of revival is much better for the building.