First Block - The heart & soul of downtown
The best way to protect the history of First Block is to designate it or the buildings on the block as local landmarks. Designation provides a review process with public hearings so that potential adverse impacts associated with redevelopment can be balanced against what keeps the block special! The city initiated district designation in 2013, inviting block owners and the public to comment. Two of the buildings on the block, the Detroit and Bishop Hotel buildings, have been individually designated as landmarks, the applications for designation having been prepared and submitted by SPP.
On Oct. 20, 2016, City Council considered the block's historic district application and deadlocked in a 4 to 4 vote, meaning the district designation, at least for the time being, has been rejected. It is our understanding that Mayor Kriseman is looking at other ways to ensure the block is protected and remains special. Making your voice heard can make a difference in whether that happens! You can urge council to recognize the historic values of the block and to protect the block by sending your message to city council - we've made it easy to do so, just click this link to send a message or you can email city council at firstname.lastname@example.org! I And you may want to send a shout and thanks to Mayor Kriseman, for his support for keeping First Block special!
First Block is essentially where the 'Burg started with the construction in 1888 of the Detroit Hotel in conjunction with the coming of the Orange Belt Railroad. The historic photo above (note the street car tracks in the brick street!) shows a portion of the Detroit and the "Peacock Row" building that was owned by Frank Pulver, who was known in the 1920's as the city's millionaire bachelor mayor! You can click here to view a city report about the block's history, including many more historic photos.
Unfortunately, with the council deadlock vote rejecting historic district designation, block owners wasted no time in putting forward a block redevelopment plan - the easiest way to describe the plan is it calls for a "monster" 25 story tower in the midst of the block. You can view the redevelopment application, including renderings of the tower by clicking here. The owners submitted their application for redevelopment approval to the city and as of Nov. 7, the city had determined the application to be incomplete. Assuming the owners submit additional information in support of their application, it is likely to be scheduled for public hearing and review in January, 2017.
It is also important to remember that the owners at First Block do not have the right to build as big as they want just because the property is in the middle of downtown. In fact, the city has specifically rejected such a claim, noting that for the last 35 years the city's planning process for the block has included maintaining its historic character. This means the block's special character is one of the factors that limits development potential, just like building heights, setbacks and other development requirements may do. By the way, those limitations were put in place long before the primary property owners bought into the block.
First Block Significance
Benefits of Local Landmark Designation
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