Rare glimpse inside vacant Hotel Park Avenue before expected demo

Park Avenue Hotel
A view from inside Hotel Park Avenue, which has been vacant since 2003.

Update: Detroit City Council approved rezoning plans for the new Red Wings arena on April 21, which likely means the end for the Hotel Park Avenue.

The end appears to be approaching for the historic Hotel Park Avenue in the Cass Corridor after a city council committee approved rezoning plans Thursday for a new Red Wings arena.

The plans call for demolishing the 91-year-old building and preserving its neighbor, the Hotel Eddystone.

Eddystone
The Hotel Eddystone (left) and Hotel Park Avenue in Detroit’s Cass Corridor. Steve Neavling/MCM

Both hotels, which are on the national historic register, were designed by famed architect Louis Kamper, who also was the mastermind behind the Book-Cadillac Hotel, the Broderick Tower and other hotels and downtown landmarks.

A photographer recently provided these photos from inside the hotel, which has been vacant and relatively secure since 2003.

In the 1920s, the area surrounding the hotels was teeming with fancy shops and hotels, drawing its inspiration from New York City’s Fifth Avenue, according to a historic account by the Detroit Historic Designation Advisory Board. But the area declined sharply after World War II when middle-class residents began moving to safer neighborhoods and the suburbs.

Before long, the area was overtaken by drugs, crime and poverty. The few upscale apartments and hotels that weren’t demolished hung on by providing services to lower-income people.

The Park Avenue Hotel, for example, became a senior complex and then a rehab center for drug addicts and homeless people.

The following photos were taken this week.

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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.

  • Trexinmichigan

    This is not a remarkable building. Time for progress.

  • EDG

    All the ruin porn/decay you see is cosmetic. These concrete reinforced buildings could stand another 100 years and those views would make a great apt or hotel.

    Keep tearing things down and you never learn. Enjoy your parking lot, Detroit.

    • Don

      Funny you say that when city council and residents are more concerned about not being enough parking in the area.

  • JeffKeathley

    Last time I was around the Cass Corridor(and looking at these photos), it reminded me of Chernobyl. Let’s hope they finally fix it up. It has a lot of potential with the new arena, Cass Park, CTHS and Masonic Temple being nearby.

  • ruffinoruffino

    What is still wrong with Detroit. Detroit has a “tear it down and build a sports complex” mentality. Shame Detroit can’t do something to make the city attractive to all people and not just the sports fan.

    • JeffKeathley

      Take a look at these photos, it looks like some of the bombed buildings in Berlin during WWII. Who in their right mind would waste money on renovating this thing.

      • ruffinoruffino

        Welcome to the “Detroit mentality”. If you are seriously compairing these buildings to the WWII era bombed buildings in Berlin, I strongly suggest you acquire a few picture books on WWII history.

      • santini

        Jeff-You have no idea what you’re talking about.

      • matt

        Look at the bombed out palace in Budapest and all the buildings surround it after ww2. They looked far worst yet they were saved and renovated. An look what the result is. A much more attractive city that most of the cities in the US. Nothing new that is build today will come anywhere close to the stuff that was build in the past. Thats why we have to fight for every last building. Ok so you tear it down, then what do you have left. An ugly condo high rise and some strip malls. Who on earth wants that? These few buildings that Detroit has left are this cities Louve or Buckingham palace. We need to start treating them that way.

        • Bluelionman England

          How can two places have the same name if you look at one of the photos the building in the distance is also called Hotel Park Avenue – it is painted across it’s top?

          • Robert Wallace

            That’s what I have been saying Bluelionman England. The two buildings in the photo are the Hotel Eddystone and the Harbor Light Center, which sit opposite each other at the corner of Park and Sproat Streets in the Midtown Cass Corridor. The Hotel Park Avenue is a few blocks further south towards Downtown Detroit.

    • I sympathize with you insofar as I believe that tearing everything down isn’t always the answer. However, I don’t think the “Detroit mentality” is to blame. How many investors were stepping up to renovate this building before the Red Wings deal? The stadium will draw more people into the city. But that alone isn’t enough. People have to be motivated to move into Detroit proper for more buildings like this one to survive, IMO.

      • ruffinoruffino

        You are absolutely correct. I admit I was seeing the problem through rose-colored glasses. Sadly, this view is not the real world. The world isn’t so pretty without them.

        • I totally agree. And don’t get me wrong, I love old buildings and I think that the city is worse off without them. I would like to see them filled with occupants. As a newcomer to the area, I like the idea of BEING a resident in a building as old as this. I think that the “Detroit mentality” that needs to be challenged is the mentality of putting a full court press on downtown so that it looks good while the neighborhoods are left to rot. More people in the neighborhoods, more money, more investors. That’s a really vague and lofty idea, but it’s a start to keeping buildings like this standing.

          • ruffinoruffino

            Well, welcome to Detroit. I spent my adolescent years in Detroit way back in the 50s. I remember when Detroit was a proud city with hard working people and truly impressive architecture. I love that city and to see it on its knees tears at my heart. Detroit’s future is in the hands of people like you who have an appreciation for the old as well as the new. Thank you for becoming a Detroiter!

          • Don’t thank me yet. I haven’t moved to the city proper yet. I’m still feeling this whole situation out. Considering I have a fiance and we’ll be starting a family before too long, I’m trying to figure out what a safe place for that is and what is not ;). We’re interested, but this city is a different ballgame compared to where we were living.

          • matt

            Build a strong urban core an it will fan out the the neighborhoods. You can’t do it in reverse.

      • BobNB

        There are renovations and have been renovations going on throughout the city based solely on a reversing market and unrelated to the arena projects or comparable golden bullets. The Broderick and Whitney are done, and they are what they are because people want to live downtown, not because of baseball or hockey games, as much as we all love them and as much as well all take pride in our venues. Same goes for the pending renovations of the Strathmore and Hammer-Nail buildings in Midtown, the completed renovation of the Garden Theatre block, and so many more pending and completed renovations (including, most recently, the Wurlitzer and Metropolitan Buildings downtown). There are market fundamentals at work in downtown and midtown, and frankly, Olympia has really just been interferring with them through its decades of slumlording and sitting on land. It’s only because of this that we now MUST see the fruition of the arena district so that there is some kind of a bridge between midtown and downtown.
        Bottom line: these buildings can be put back together. Bigger feats have been accomplished. To have the height and commanding views they provide, and the historic streetscape they create, is priceless. All the City needs to do is require their renovation. Olympia need not be the developer and need not shell out any money. If anything, the City’s edict might force them to the side and open an opportunity for those who are willing to do it. Motivated parties are clearly at hand when you review the countless comparable historic renovations going on around town.

        • Don

          Bill Shea said it best in his interview with Stephen Henderson yesterday. We have preserved other buildings, but this is a different case. These buildings are not in the heart of downtown and the last time Park Avenue was used it was a rehab center for drug addicts. We are not exactly talking about the David Whitney Building here.

      • Blais Elias

        How many people moved into the city when Comerica Park was built? Zilch. How many businesses other than bars and trinket shops did Comerica Park bring in? Zilch. All the talk by Lilitch is just a same to expand his empire. Buldoze anything in his way.

        • When I said “draw people into the city” I meant strictly for events. I think that people permanently moving to the city is what Detroit should be shooting for. A new arena isn’t going to make that happen, yes.