Historic Reuse – Using Our Past to build Our Future

Right there on the corner where Cass and Amsterdam meet up is an historic building recently purchased by Wayne State University and repurposed/converted into a new biomedical research facility as part of its TechTown District expansion. Not all old buildings in Detroit are quite so lucky.

Those who know the building’s history as one of the city’s most successful Cadillac dealerships for more than 40 years (Dalgleish Cadillac, established in 1972, was originally designed to be a Pontiac and Buick dealership) were happy to see it rescued from an all-too-common Detroit fate of demolition or, perhaps worse, becoming another poster child for ruin porn. But sometimes when you rescue a thing, particularly an historic (read ‘old’) thing, the entire thing cannot be saved.  And since there was really no way to incorporate an 80-foot water tower (that had been on the roof of this well-designed Alfred Kahn building since its birth date in 1927) into any sort of practical usage for a biomedical research facility, it appeared the water tower would likely be scrapped.

But then, as a last-ditch effort to save a bit of history, Sue Mosey of Midtown Inc. reached out to the Green Garage and Wayne State University  to see if there was anything they might be able to do. Knowing Green Garage’s track record with re-using old materials, Mosey figured it was well worth a shot.

The answer that came back was, “Oh heck yeah! We can do something with this…” Or words to that effect. But how to snatch an 80-foot high waterpower off a roof and then transport it two miles across town through the traffic of not-so-wide urban city streets?

For that journey you’ll need to watch the video.