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Developers save two emblematic Detroit buildings from demolition

Jan 22, 2015

A sign outside of 1515 Broadway Cafe offers free coffee to anyone who buys the Wurlitzer Building.
Credit User: Sean_Marshall / Flickr

Developers say they will turn the Wurlitzer building and the Professional Plaza building into a hotel and apartment complex, respectively. 

Detroit's historic Wurlitzer building was deemed one of the city's 'most dangerous structures' because it's been raining bricks onto neighboring buildings, such as 1515 Broadway Cafe. Comically, the cafe responded with a sign that reads 'Free coffee with purchase of Wurlitzer Building'. 

Many believed that the Wurlizter was too far gone to be redeveloped, but that didn't stop Brooklyn based ASH NYC from buying the building to turn it into a hotel. 

To the right, Detroit's historic Wurlitzer Building.
Credit User: Paul Sableman / flickr

"This news is certainly welcome, but it's a bit of a surprise," Dan Austin of the Free Press and HistoricDetroit.org said.  

The second building is Midtown's Professional Plaza building, known for its neon hammer and nail sign. Detroit-based Roxbury Group bought the building to turn it into a residential and retail space. 

"We're starting to see a real sea-change in the city itself, certainly downtown and now also in midtown, of people thinking about things before they just end up bringing in a wrecking-ball," Austin said. 

The Wurlitzer building and the Professional Plaza building are the latest Detroit buildings to be bought up for refurbishing. The David Whitney building reopened in October, Broderick Tower was turned into luxury living space, and Dan Gilbert saved the historic State Savings Bank. 

The Hammer and Nail sign that used to be on top of the Professional Plaza building in Detroit.
Credit user: yooperann / Flickr

Austin said that renovations like these will get downtown Detroit humming again, and once that occurs, he hopes that development will spread out into the neighborhoods of the city. 

"Detroit is 139 square miles," Austin said. "There's a lot of city to bring back from the brink." 

--Paige Pfleger, Michigan Radio Newsroom 

* This story has been edited to correct a mistranscription regarding the size of Detroit.