The fight to save the historic Hotel Park Avenue in the Cass Corridor is likely over after the Detroit City Council unanimously approved zoning plans today for the new Red Wings arena.
The Red Wings want to replace the 91-year-old building, designed by famed architect Louis Kamper, with a loading dock. While the Detroit Historic District Commission could still oppose the demolition, a state commission and court are likely to get involved and override the decision.
Late last month, Motor City Muckraker published photos from inside the building, which has been vacant and boarded up since 2003.
The plan calls for preserving the neighboring Hotel Eddystone, which also was designed by Kamper, the mastermind behind the Book-Cadillac Hotel, the Broderick Tower and other hotels and downtown landmarks.
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 Red Wings arena is expected to be finished by late 2017.
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.