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  1. #1

    Default The future of the Ford Auditorium site

    As I was taking in the Jazz Festival last weekend I was wondering what ultimately would happen on that parcel. It seems a little to prime being at the foot of Woodward and on the riverfront to remain empty forever. Building something that would challenge the Rencen close to it to the west would be damn cool to anyone like me that feels that Rencen is to monolithic looking in a sea of concrete especially from the river, Windsor or Belle Isle which is often the view of Detroit that is portrayed in the national media.

  2. #2

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    I doubt anything large scale gets built there. I could see a small building in size, but I don't know what kind you'd put there (housing, commercial, office)?


    Ideally, it'd be nice to see that become part of a reinvented Hart Plaza. That piece would substantially increase the plaza's footprint and further beautify the riverfront. But all that concrete needs to go. It's so brutalist and uninviting.

    And then the dream scenario: burying Jefferson all the way to 375 (or whatever MDOT is going to do with it) and turn all of that into parkland/event space in the model of Chicago's Millennium Park or Boston's Rose Kennedy Parkway. That to me is the ideal usage of that area.

  3. #3

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    I always thought that this should have been the last stop on the light rail; it could make a little jog on Jefferson and wind up right at the river. This would also be convenient for the RenCen employees.

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by mikeg19 View Post
    I doubt anything large scale gets built there. I could see a small building in size, but I don't know what kind you'd put there (housing, commercial, office)?


    Ideally, it'd be nice to see that become part of a reinvented Hart Plaza. That piece would substantially increase the plaza's footprint and further beautify the riverfront. But all that concrete needs to go. It's so brutalist and uninviting.

    And then the dream scenario: burying Jefferson all the way to 375 (or whatever MDOT is going to do with it) and turn all of that into parkland/event space in the model of Chicago's Millennium Park or Boston's Rose Kennedy Parkway. That to me is the ideal usage of that area.
    ^^^This. Although I doubt you see anything done with Jefferson ever. It would be nice if there were a pedestrian bridge or two over Jefferson. Since you mentioned Millennium Park, something like Gehry's serpentine walkway would be nice. It would add to the city as well as provide a way for people to cross easily without the hassle of waiting for the lights to change. Hart Plaza needs a serious makeover and one part of that should be its connectivity to the rest of downtown. As it stands now it is way too isolated and uninviting for anyone wanting to use it for anything but a festival.

  5. #5

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    I want a nice public park. And a community center. Include a nice sit-down restaurant as well.

  6. #6

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    Well I think an auditorium would be great for the spot. It could tie in with the music festivals during the hot summer, and could extend activities at the plaza into the colder months. High schools could have their graduation ceremonies there and people from throughout the area could have a shared communal experience of having graduated there. Important public figures like civil rights activists could give speeches there which would add to the dignity and significance of the place...

    I do think whatever goes there should have a civic purpose.

    Just thinking about it casually right now I'd say:

    - Government offices, but especially ones that citizens do business with. Departments that don't directly interact with the public would be located in the towers of the City-County building. Ones that do interact with people would be located in a horizontal building across Jefferson on the auditorium site. I personally think that atrium city halls like Aarhus City Hall or Milwaukee City Hall are a good government building typology.

    - In addition to standard government stuff, I think affordable (or even free) office space for non profits and community groups would be good. As well as meeting/convention/exhibition/banquet space. Maybe someone has a small club that needs a room to meet once a week. Maybe there's a cultural festival going on at Hart Plaza and they want to set up an indoor exhibit. "Boring" community center stuff.

    - "Fun" community center stuff, like a pool with slides, a gym, a cafe, auditorium, etc. These things have the potential to attract people to Hart Plaza, have good "synergy" with Hart Plaza, and are good things to have available to people in general. I imagine these things would be on the plaza and river levels and weighted towards the south, and the other stuff would be above that and weighted towards the north.

    - I also think it would be useful to have large, clean public restrooms available for people during festivals. If there are other functions that would assist the operation of festivals it would be ideal to include them as well.


    As for Hart Plaza, I think most of its problems are inherent to the site. It's an "edge". If it were in the middle of something, there would be people crossing through and there'd be more hustle and bustle. And then Jefferson is a deterrent. I don't think it's the width of Jefferson that's the problem, because it's really only a few lanes on each side of the median, I think it's all the crazy turning and merging and everything else. The recent MDOT plans show that they'd like to streamline this area, which I think would help a lot. I also think the layout of the park is pretty good. There is actually already a lot of grass there, and the paved areas are needed for durability. I don't think that criticism holds up under scrutiny, after all, is anyone complaining about the plazas in Venice or Rome not having any grass or trees? I also think the underground areas would get used more if the city was capable of managing them. They can't even keep the fountain working.

  7. #7

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    Wasn't the redevelopment of the FA site part of the Grand Bargain...along with the JLA site? As for another auditorium, don't hold your breathe. The theatre district still has one unrestored theate, the United Artists plus with the underused Masonic Temple we actually have more theatre seats in downtown/midtown/new center than other cities.
    Last edited by detroitbob; September-10-15 at 01:57 PM.

  8. #8

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    Anybody remember this....


    • Comerica Tower (Cesar Pelli) – In 1990, Pelli worked with Comerica Bank to design a new 30 story headquarters building where Ford Auditorium is located. The plan included demolishing the Ford Auditorium which generated tremendous public outcry (at the time) and the project was eventually cancelled.


    Also as been mentioned before... Detroit still has the twice built (first 1970s 3000 seat and then rebuilt to 5000 seats in 1980s) Chene Park Amphitheater. The city has better things to do with its' money than another tear down and rebuild outdoor theatre.

  9. #9

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    Totally agreed, Gistok, PLUS the west riverfront park is going the route of an outdoor bandshell concert venue now.

    My vote (and I've said this for like 12 years now) is to build a modern interpretation of old Detroit along Bates St., something fairly low (although I wouldn't mind a taller element rising up above the human-scale storefront) and super pedestrian friendly. Important to keep in mind that this was quite the classic urban riverfront prior to the civic center bulldozing project. Given the location, you'll likely get visitor and tourist oriented retail and hopefully a couple nice restaurants that spill out onto a new and improved Hart Plaza.

    I disagree with any notion of a pedestrian bridge, though I strongly agree that we need to ensure pedestrian safety. I'd change the timing of the lights to give people a longer crossing at Woodward and Randolph at Jefferson. I would make traffic cops a permanent fixture at those places. I think pedestrian bridges, with their stairs and all, can actually dissaude people from crossing (anything other than a highway), and they also look like crap.

    The formula should be: calm traffic, and create better enticement on the riverside to that people actually want to go there. As to the latter, Step 1: re-do Hart Plaza. Step 2: develop the FA site in a people-friendly manner.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mackinaw View Post
    I disagree with any notion of a pedestrian bridge, though I strongly agree that we need to ensure pedestrian safety. I'd change the timing of the lights to give people a longer crossing at Woodward and Randolph at Jefferson. I would make traffic cops a permanent fixture at those places. I think pedestrian bridges, with their stairs and all, can actually dissaude people from crossing (anything other than a highway), and they also look like crap.
    The bridge I referenced has neither stairs and actually encourages people to cross. Pretty cool as an art object as well.

    https://www.google.com/search?q=fran...w=1348&bih=932

  11. #11

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    Maybe it's just me, but putting up something more 6-7 stories would feel like it's "blocking" the view.

  12. #12

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    I'd slap a NEZ on this 2 acres and shop it to every high rise luxury condo developer with a proven track record in the country in a heartbeat. At some point in the future Hart Plaza will have to be rebuilt at the very least because it is crumbling away. Two more acres would not make or break a Hart Plaza renovation. Of course I like new construction and would love to see RenCen challenged vertically in close proximity because, to me, it is way too isolated in its size and frankly it would be tiring to look at by itself forever. The more residents that could be attracted as fast as possible will keep the growth and jobs coming.

  13. #13

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    I thought the entire point of tearing down Ford Auditorium was to build the amphitheater? Or was that just the cover for another kickback to Adamo?

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by iheartthed View Post
    I thought the entire point of tearing down Ford Auditorium was to build the amphitheater? Or was that just the cover for another kickback to Adamo?
    The whole amphitheater idea is idiotic to start with. You already have Chene Park a quarter mile away, plus the new West Riverfront concert area. Why build ANOTHER outdoor concert area? Dumb plan to begin with.

    And regarding an apartment/condo high rise, we aren't there yet. First come the small developments (Orleans Landing, Brush Park Townhouses, etc) at 2-5 stories. It's not economically feasible to put up 40 story apartment buildings at this point. We are going to see a lot of mid-height infill projects before anything above 10-12 stories is built.

    Could they "mothball" the Ford site by putting down grass and leaving it alone until the market demands a high rise? Wouldn't see why not. But we're also assuming the economy keeps humming along and everything doesn't go back in the shitter anytime soon.

  15. #15

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    I think we should go back to this. I'm tired of green space

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by YounginDetroit View Post
    I think we should go back to this. I'm tired of green space
    Hey, I DO have something in common with the younger set.

  17. #17

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    I would bet it will be a long time before anything happens there and when it does it's going to be government use with massive set back or just more easily monitored and secured parking deck as it's over top of the tunnel and adjacent to the customs plaza. Homeland security theater will make sure nothing of use to the general population will be constructed because....terrorism... or, horror or horrors... someone might take a picture of the customs plaza.

    ..side note. I was detained by a border patrol agent so he could search my person and my camera when I was taking some shots of the Ren Cen while walking up bates. Fun Facts; the Border Patrol has jurisdiction to make stops and searches that extends to 100 miles of any border.... which is pretty ridiculous when you think about how far inland that is and how much that covers. And they don't need a warrant to search or even have reason to suspect an individual is engaged in illegal activity before performing a search at an entry point... whether Bates counts as being within the entry point was a point of contention between myself and that agent....but of course, the pompous asshole with the handcuffs and ability to make my life miserable for literally the REST of it wins that argument every time.

    I don't know what it is about the border agents in Detroit, but by far they are the worst I've ever dealt with.

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