Detroit has no shortage of tragically ruined factories and industrial sites, some of which can and have been repurposed, and others that continue to fall apart. But one, the former American Motors Corp. headquarters on Plymouth Road, is both historically and architecturally striking, and deserves better than a wrecking ball, a Crain's Detroit Business writer argues.
Amy Elliott Bragg writes of the recently announced plan to raze the complex and redevelop the site, calling it a "missed opportunity:"
And it's far from the first under Duggan's leadership. In fact, Detroit has failed for decades to take a comprehensive, proactive approach to preservation that would protect sites like the AMC. Detroit has always had bigger problems to solve, or so the argument goes whenever the fate of a single historic building is weighed against other interests: job creation, economic opportunity, neighborhood revitalization — even though we have plenty of examples, in Detroit and abroad, of how historic preservation can accomplish all of these goals.
The AMC Building is worth saving as a time capsule of Detroit industry. It illustrates our manufacturing dominance beyond the motor, the rise of electric refrigeration, the Arsenal of Democracy and milestones in automotive history. It's also architecturally striking, with an Art Deco-detailed central tower that is a neighborhood landmark.
Before AMC took it over, it was the headquarters of the Kelvinator Corp., an early titan of home refrigerator sales. And unlike many industrial ruins, it's beautiful:
Architectural firm Smith, Hinchman and Grylls was commissioned for the new headquarters. For SH&G, architects William Kapp and Amedeo Leone designed a four-story office building with Art Deco and classical revival details. The distinctive central tower with bands of contrasting brick and stone makes the administration building look more academic than industrial.
It would be fitting to keep at least the tower, or most of the administration building in any redevelopment plan, Bragg writes.