Demolition has begun on the historic Hotel Park Avenue to make way for a loading dock for a new Red Wings arena near downtown Detroit.
Crews this week began knocking down the walls of the first floor and are expected to raze the entire building within the next two weeks.
The fate of the 91-year-old building was uncertain until earlier this month when the Detroit Historic Commission approved demolition with a vote of 3-1.
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That was only possible after Mayor Mike Duggan removed a sitting commissioner and replaced her with a pro-developer – a move that prompted City Council’s staff to conclude the mayor likely broke the law.
As part of a deal with the council, Olympia Development, which is building the $450 million arena, agreed to preserve the neighboring Eddystone Hotel.
Both hotels were built in the 1920s, when the lower Cass Corridor was teeming with fancy shops. But the area declined sharply after World War II when white, 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.
Both hotels were designed by Louis Kamper, the mastermind behind the Book-Cadillac Hotel, the Broderick Tower and other hotels and downtown landmarks.
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.