Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Revisiting our brief encounter with the late Pastor Henry Covington

I was shocked to read media reports that told of the passing of Pastor Henry Covington, whose work with the I Am My Brother's Keeper Ministries in Detroit was well-documented in Mitch Albom's book "Have A Little Faith".

I had a chance to meet Pastor Covington one afternoon last summer. I posted a few words on here following that meeting. Click here to read it.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wah-Hoo Chinese restaurant puts its own spin on dining in the 'D'

There's no shortage of Olde English 'D' sightings when wandering around downtown Detroit, but the one we most recently spotted ranks among the favorites.

The still-kind-of-new Wah-Hoo Chinese restaurant on Congress at Shelby has done wonders for enhancing the street-level of the Murphy-Telegraph Building, including window signage that features the eatery's logo. The Olde English 'D' done in Far Eastern styling is pretty cool.

As for Wah-Hoo, it's a great addition to the downtown food scene. The dining room - which features a full bar complete with a large flat screen - is an upscale-casual area. Much of the food is a little pricier than I normally drop on lunch, but the plate of chicken fried rice was tasty, piled high, and only cost six bucks. They've also got a full sushi bar, if you're into eating such things.

Whether for a quick lunch, dinner out on the town, or a few drinks at happy hour, Wah-Hoo is definitely a place worth checking out. Find it at 536 Shelby, or call 313-324-8700.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The latest redevelopment plans for the old Free Press Building

Add this to the list of "cool doorways in Detroit that nobody ever walks through."

Hopefully, that will change in the coming years. The old Free Press Building on Lafayette has been empty since the Detroit Free Press moved down the street in the late 1980s. Peak through the street-level windows and you can still see evidence of its previous tenants.

Reports now are saying that a company called Free Press Holdings, LLC out of Florida is hoping to redevelop the building, with multi-million-dollar plans that call for creating retail space at the street level, commercial space on the second floor, and apartments in floors 3 through 13. The top 14th floor would feature a health club and conference space, and the below-ground floors, where the newspaper's printing equipment once lived, would be converted into a parking garage.

While we take this as good news, we contain our excitement, especially given other recent development plans concerning the old Free Press Building. Last year around this time, the rumor mill was churning out news that it was being targeted as the future home of Motor City Film Works. But then months passed and nothing changed at 321 W. Lafayette Boulevard (even though the Motor City Film Works website still lists that as its home address). Don't get us wrong, the old Free Press Building is one of our favorite unused buildings downtown, and we're pulling for a plan that will bring it back to life. It's not likely that work will begin any time real soon, but we'll keep our eyes peeled for the firsts signs of (re)development.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Hotel Charlevoix: Detroit's 100-year-old pile of bricks

A few weeks back in this space, we stopped in at the Park Bar behind the Fox Theater, and I made mention of the lovely view that patrons are afforded of the Hotel Charlevoix just across the street.

It occurred to me that most of you have likely never vacationed at the Charlevoix, so I thought I'd revisit the block and offer a little more detail.

The Charlevoix was built in 1905 and originally served as a 12-story hotel before later becoming an apartment building, and then later yet an office building. Like much of downtown Detroit, it's been empty since the 1980s. Since then, it's been standing there collecting rain, to the point that (although I'm no architect) it now appears the Charlevoix is way beyond repair.

The interior staircases have reportedly been removed to dissuade urban explorers from venturing to its upper levels, and a fence has been erected at the street level to discourage squatters. It'll be interesting to keep an eye on the Charlevoix in the coming months (years?) to see if the wrecking ball is in its future. Honestly, though, to the uneducated eye, it looks like the Charlevoix is a good-stiff-breeze-ripping-across-Grand-Circus-Park away from tumbling without the help of demolition crews.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Jack Daniels ad takes over prominent space overlooking Campus Martius

Once upon a time, members of the Detroit City Council were all stirred up because of the Colt 45 billboards featuring Billy Dee Williams that had popped up all over the city.

Wonder what they'll think of this?

Replacing the huge mural that announced Quicken Loans' recent arrival to downtown Detroit, it now appears as if a Jack Daniels billboard will occupy the Campus Martius Park-facing side of the Cadillac Tower. Installation of the new mural was only half-complete when we wandered by earlier today, but the Black Jack brand was already clear.

To be fair, many of the city council members who were chafed by the Colt 45 signage aren't around any longer, after being either voted out of office or incarcerated. It'll be interesting to see how the new council reacts to having a 12-story whiskey ad towering over the city's public skating rink.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

New Cadillac Square Apartment Building was once one of Detroit's grand hotels

A stone's throw from Campus Martius Park and a short walk from Greektown and the RiverWalk, the New Cadillac Square Apartments enjoy a prime location in downtown Detroit.

It's unfortunate they couldn't get a little more clever with the name, but I won't nitpick.

The New Cadillac Square Apartment Building – which stands 21 stories tall, next to the 40-story Cadillac Tower (the building that once boasted the Barry Sanders mural and now features a Quicken Loans welcome billboard) – was originally a hotel with a way cooler name. Built in 1927, it was called The Barlum, after co-builder John J. Barlum.

As a hotel, it featured 800 well-appointed rooms that each included (you ready for this?) a bathroom with a tub and shower. The building also included a cigar and news stand, a beauty salon and barber shop, and telephones. Illustrating how people's needs and wants have changed over the years, these days the building features 224 units in various studio and one-bedroom layouts. Call it urban sprawl.

And by the way, for anybody curious about such things, rooms at the New Cadillac Square Apartment Building range from $525 for a studio to $650-$850 for a one-bedroom. If you ask me, they should offer the first month free to anybody who can offer up a better name for the building. I nominate the Henrose, which is what it was called back in the '50s when then-owner Henry Keywell squished his first name with that of his wife, Rose.