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  1. #501

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    United Artists Building developer seeks tax abatements, plans to tear down theater
    "The development group planning a $56 million conversion of the United Artists Building into apartments is closer to receiving tax abatements for the long-delayed project that also includes demolition of a decaying theater attached to the tower.

    "It's the first forward momentum in the effort to turn the 18-story building at 150 Bagley St. into 148 apartments since it was announced about 2 1/2 years ago as part of the Ilitch family's District Detroit area's residential plans. Construction is now expected to begin in the first quarter and be complete by the middle of 2021.

    "Moten also said the United Artists Theater, which opened in 1928 and is attached to the Ilitch family-owned building, is expected to be demolished as a condition of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development providing senior debt on the project through its 221(d)(4) program, which provides a 40-year multifamily construction loan that requires HUD evaluation of the market, demand and other issues. He also said banks had similar requirements to tear the theater down.

    "We looked at ways we could use it, and you can't use it for anything," Moten told the standing committee. "They are not going to close on this project unless the building comes down."
    Last edited by hybridy; October-24-19 at 02:44 PM.

  2. #502

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    Screw Ilitch and Motten. This is incredibly short sighted to tear down a historic theatre.

    I do not buy this guys reason one bit.

  3. #503

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    First the Saturday Night Life Building and now the UA Theater building? Edward Moten has no shame!

    Can't restore the theater because construction would disturb the residents? What an idiotic excuse.

  4. #504

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    This cannot be allowed to happen! Unfortunately no one but Ilitch lackeys have been allowed to see inside the theater for years so we have no idea what state it's in.

  5. #505

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    I thought this city was finally starting to learn it's lessons, but too often it's just a beacon of bitter disappointment due to rich men looking for a tax break.

  6. #506

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    Illitch UA Playbook:

    Step 1: Make false claim that theatre needs to be torn down. Associate false claim with promised “great redevelopment” that will never actually happen. Sell the city on the idea of a “great redevelopment” of the UA building proper.

    Step 2: Tear down theatre, expand adjacent surface parking lot. Make money from parking lot.

    Step 3: Quietly never follow through on proposed redevelopment of UA building. Continue to collect money from surface parking lot.

  7. #507

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    Quote Originally Posted by Atticus View Post
    Illitch UA Playbook:

    Step 1: Make false claim that theatre needs to be torn down. Associate false claim with promised “great redevelopment” that will never actually happen. Sell the city on the idea of a “great redevelopment” of the UA building proper.

    Step 2: Tear down theatre, expand adjacent surface parking lot. Make money from parking lot.

    Step 3: Quietly never follow through on proposed redevelopment of UA building. Continue to collect money from surface parking lot.
    How about a deal that the theater can be torn down.......as soon as the UA building renovation is complete. Make them put up FIRST for once!

  8. #508

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    Emmet Moten is so full of BS.... nothing that can be done with the theatre... try telling that to the Detroit Opera House folks before that theatre was given up for dead in 1989 (a piano was floating in the flooded orchestra pit). The late great Dr. David DiChiera had something that Emmet Moten does not... VISION!

    Here is Dr. DiChiera in the Ruinous Capitol Theatre (1990) before it became the Detroit Opera House... looks just as rough as the Detroit UA today... followed by the Detroit Opera House today... once 90% of the plasterwork was molded and replaced.
    Attached Images Attached Images      

  9. #509

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    Quote Originally Posted by SaintMe View Post
    I thought this city was finally starting to learn it's lessons, but too often it's just a beacon of bitter disappointment due to rich men looking for a tax break.
    It's not the city it's a handful of garbage people who should have never been given property.

  10. #510

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    This promises to be at least as big a crime as the gutting of the Michigan Theater, with even less justification considering the direction the city is heading these days. How many buildings in this city once given up for dead are now wonderfully renovated and operating again? This proposed idiotic vandalism, just so the pizza baron family can make a few more bucks, is a crime against our city and must not be allowed to proceed.

  11. #511

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    Gistok,

    In deference to Miss Gloria Swanson's opening night radio broadcast to the audience in the brand spanking new UA theater on Bagley Ave., here is Miss Swanson standing amidst the rubble of the venerable Roxy Theater in NYC. I can imagine Swanson's spirit standing (floating?) in the UA auditorium, asking a cruel God, "Why?"



  12. #512

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    “Great architecture has only two natural enemies: water and stupid men.”
    ― Richard Nickel

    Yves Marchand / Romain Meffre's light painting of the UA Theatre circa 2007.
    Name:  Marchand-Meffre-UA-Theater.jpg
Views: 821
Size:  135.2 KB

  13. #513

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    Those curtains, and the middle parts of the procenium arch cut out were done in the 1950s, when wide screen films (not sure if it was CINERAMA) were shown here. The curtains were added to reduce the glare from the film.

  14. #514

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    Thanks Vitalis... I had seen that image of Gloria Swanson at the demo of the 5920 seat Roxy Theatre in New York before. The Roxy was the largest movie palace built in the 1920s... the 5174 seat Detroit Fox was #2. (The 1919 built NYC Capitol Theatre (5260 seats) was another fatality.)

    According to movie palace buffs, the greatest of the great movie palace loses was the 4,651 seat San Francisco Fox, largest movie palace on the west coast... back in 1963. It was considered the most palatial (in the palace style) of American movie palaces. This 1963 video clip about it shows how cavalier people were about things in the days before historic preservation really took hold (NYC magnificent Penn Station was being pounded to rubble at the same time). You can scroll past the organ discussion at the beginning...

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8o90jvKRec

  15. #515

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    Quote Originally Posted by MSUguy View Post
    I have I think the outage is less over what could e torn down than who is asking to do it. The National Theater is due come down and no one brought out the pitch forks. I think in large part since Dan Gilbert has a great track record of preservation. These guys not so much.

    That said if you use the renovation of the opera house as a baseline that project cost $75 million in 1996. That is easily $100 million today. We all know it's doable, but what is the business case for saving the UA? Is there even demand for venue of that of that size?
    The difference is that Olympia has owned the UA Theater for over a decade and have done nothing with it.

  16. #516

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    I think someone should smash Mike Illitch's grave stone. You demolish one of ours we demolish one of yours. Fair is fair

  17. #517

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    Quote Originally Posted by MSUguy View Post
    I have I think the outage is less over what could e torn down than who is asking to do it. The National Theater is due come down and no one brought out the pitch forks. I think in large part since Dan Gilbert has a great track record of preservation. These guys not so much.

    That said if you use the renovation of the opera house as a baseline that project cost $75 million in 1996. That is easily $100 million today. We all know it's doable, but what is the business case for saving the UA? Is there even demand for venue of that of that size?
    Not quite...

    Preservation Wayne (Detroit) cleared 3 dumpsters full of rubble out of the National back in 2002. We saw how little of the plasterwork was left on the walls... very little, and it was in very poor condition. With the National, one would have to strip out the interior to do anything with it. Preservation Detroit chooses its' battles wisely, and they know that one is beyond the point of return (unless they wanted a modern theatre with plain walls, then that's doable). Reuse of the facade is the goal of Preservation Detroit now.

    The United Artists Theatre had half the seating of the Detroit Opera House (Capitol Theatre). The $75 million you referred to for the Opera House included about $30 million for the parking structure, and of the $45 million for restoring the theatre, more than half was used to tear out the shallow stage, and build an entire huge stage house... including a nearly 8000 sq ft. stage, a stage house for state of the art backdrops and storage of opera scenery, a new recital hall, dressing rooms, loading docks, elevators, and much more.

    So only a fraction of the $75 million amount went to restore the plasterwork shell of a theatre about 3 times the volume of the United Artists.

    I agree with you on the need for a business case for saving the UA. However, the UA is the LAST surviving unrestored downtown theatre... and I think it should be mothballed (it already has a new roof, the rubble has been cleaned out of the interior, and the facade will be sealed even in the renderings for an office tower reuse). Sealing it up for a future potential use might be prudent... because once it is gone, any chances for future reuse of an additional downtown venue would be gone forever, since there are no others (the Michigan would cost about $100 million, which ain't gonna happen).

    As for a venue that size.... it had about 1400 seats before it closed. The closest things we have downtown are 500 seat Gem and 1800 seat Music Hall, so it would be somewhere in between those two.
    Last edited by Gistok; October-25-19 at 10:49 AM.

  18. #518

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    This is terrible. This is the building in Detroit I've wanted to be restored for the longest time.

    All I know is that every time I go to the Fox, Fillmore, Masonic, Orchestra Hall or Opera House, people stare at the architecture in awe, take pictures and murmur about how beautiful they are. It never fails. So to act that "you can't use it for anything" is ridiculous. I know there are a lot of theaters in Detroit, but I'm sure if someone had enough vision we could support one more.

    The sister theater still exists in LA as the Theatre at the Ace Hotel. All you have to do is look at that to see what the UA could be here. If they needed to replicate design elements, they could use the Ace as the basis.

    To lose the UA would be shameful for Detroit.

  19. #519

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    With the Fillmore, Fox, Music Hall, Masonic, Opera House, Fisher, Gem, Majestic and the casinos (including Caesar's Windsor) as event venues to compete with, it's pretty impossible to envision a business model that supports a multi-million dollar investment into the UA theater. But that doesn't mean that the state and the city should cave in to another demolition with the lost building replaced with a "landscaped parking lot." If the theater footprint is not viable for ramped parking (and first floor retail), the taxing agencies should leverage their tax credits by requiring additional residential units on the newly vacant land. As for parking, remember that Ilitch Organization owns hundreds of surface spaces literally across the street from the UA. The feasibility of any UA redevelopment does not hinge on the availability of 15-20 spots that would fit on the theater footprint.

  20. #520

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gistok View Post
    Not quite...

    I agree with you on the need for a business case for saving the UA. However, the UA is the LAST surviving unrestored downtown theatre... and I think it should be mothballed (it already has a new roof, the rubble has been cleaned out of the interior, and the facade will be sealed even in the renderings for an office tower reuse). Sealing it up for a future potential use might be prudent... because once it is gone, any chances for future reuse of an additional downtown venue would be gone forever, since there are no others (the Michigan would cost about $100 million, which ain't gonna happen).

    As for a venue that size.... it had about 1400 seats before it closed. The closest things we have downtown are 500 seat Gem and 1800 seat Music Hall, so it would be somewhere in between those two.

    Somehow instead of fixing typos I deleted my post. Anyway I would agree mothballing might be the best course of action. Another question that needs to answered what are their plans for that land. The theatre takes up good a chuck of that block. Moten says they can't get their HUD loan with the theater if that really is the case and it must be torn down. Any deal should require not one square inch should be used for parking.
    Last edited by MSUguy; October-25-19 at 11:40 AM.

  21. #521

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    A business model for the UA?

    Back in 1953, the Music Hall Theater committed to a major retrofitting, so that they could book and present CINERAMA attractions exclusively. They were promised a slew of such features over time that would have long, roadshow-like runs. And for the next decade The Music Hall was, indeed, the home of CINERAMA in Detroit. When new releases thinned out in later years, the MH booked exclusive, roadshow premieres of non-CINERAMA shows like, EL CID and The Sand Pebbles.

    So, perhaps the idea would be to make the UA a shrine, a cathedral to film, focusing on a particular theme. An auditorium dedicated to large formats like CINERAMA or/and IMAX could draw audiences - certainly not 7 days a week, but over long weekends, surely?

    However, and here is where all of the expense and intricate detailed work of a restoration on the scale of the UA meets the demands and requirements of large format viewing - the screen size and curvature and placement would mask the beauty of the proscenium and the rest of the front of the auditorium.

    Still, if the theme were to be "Roadshow" movies - widescreen, true - but with screen requirements less challenging as with CINERAMA or IMAX formats - then perhaps the screen size could be incorporated into the restoration with far less marring of the handiwork.

    A Revival House Like No Other! Welcome to Detroit's Own Motion Picture Cathedral - Welcome to The United Artists Theater!
    Last edited by Vitalis; October-25-19 at 02:25 PM.

  22. #522

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    Detroit Architect C. Howard Crane's mastery of unique and exotic styles was never in doubt.

    He built his 3 exotic Spanish Gothic United Artists flagship theatres (LA, Detroit, Chicago) in 1927, and then he got his stride for his 3 even more exotic Fox masterpieces (Detroit, St. Louis, Brooklyn).

    Here are some images of how the Detroit United Artists looked like soon after opening. It was as though you were in some Moorish Castilian medieval courtyard with the flat walls painted to look like ashlar stone blocks.
    Attached Images Attached Images          

  23. #523

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    I'm offering a $100 bet that cars will be parking on the UA footprint before [and if] the UA Building is ever renovated. Any takers? .... Thought so.

  24. #524

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lowell View Post
    I'm offering a $100 bet that cars will be parking on the UA footprint before [and if] the UA Building is ever renovated. Any takers? .... Thought so.
    It will be beautifully landscaped, so there's that.

  25. #525

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    Quote Originally Posted by southen View Post
    It will be beautifully landscaped, so there's that.
    Actually, they will promise that it will be beautifully landscaped but not even follow up on that.

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