The Sugar Hill Arts District in Midtown Detroit gets new arts venue from abandoned church.

Midtown Detroit, Inc. (MDI), a non-profit planning and development agency charged with revitalization of Detroit’s Woodward Corridor, is purchasing with support from ArtPlace a vacant, abandoned church located in the emerging Sugar Hill Arts District.  This two-block district is located just south of Detroit’s Cultural Center and adjacent to its Medical Center and is already home to the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) and the G.R. N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art.

Built in 1915, this structure is a two-story brick building in the Late Gothic Revival style, which originally housed the Church of the New Jerusalem, a Swedenborgian congregation.  Most recently, this building housed, Crossroads of Michigan, a social service outreach agency that operated a local soup kitchen and food pantry from this location.  They relocated in 2008, and the building has sat empty.  Like many vacant buildings in Detroit, it has suffered a level of distress due to occasional squatters and feral animals but still holds promise for redevelopment.

This historic structure has a two-story nave that features four large pointed arch windows per side that are currently boarded over.  The façade has an arched limestone vestibule.  A single large, arched window covers most of the upper façade; it is also boarded over.  The front gable roof is accented on the façade by a stepped parapet that projects above the roofline.  The building is in good condition and blessed with ample parking.  With the original wood vaulted roof and some of the original light fixtures still intact, one can easily imagine restoring the beauty back into this structure.

The redevelopment of this church property will help transform this up-and-coming arts district into a more vibrant mixed-use neighborhood focused around the arts.  Though we do not know yet what the ultimate use of this building will be, one can easily imagine it being used as an intimate venue for lectures and concerts or as a community center that encourages art-making or other creative industries.  What better use than as a sanctuary for the arts?

MDI will be closing on this building in the next month and after that we will conduct an environmental assessment of the property.  This will be followed by a feasibility study, architectural and engineering plans in order to advance the project for financing.  We are definitely excited to begin the visioning process for this property with our partners and the community.

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