There are two buildings shown in this picture. The one on the left is the Park Avenue Building designed by Albert Kahn and opened in 1922. The darker building to the right is the Hotel Briggs. I know very little about this structure. I infer that it was constructed in the late 1930s and served as a hotel for some years. Later it was converted into The Park Apartment Building. It is possible that when housing was in short supply during World War II, the structure was switched from an hotel to an apartment building. I do not know if this hotel was an investment made by Walter O. Briggs. He established a body manufacturing firm in Detroit in 1908; one that developed into a very prosperous corporation that supplied Chrysler with bodies for many of their vehicles. Walter Briggs purchased the Detroit Tigers following the death of Frank Navin in 1935 and owned the successful team until he died in 1952. Mr. Briggs’ home, known as Stonehedge, in the Boston-Edison Historic District is described on this website.
There appears to be a steady increase in employment in traditional downtown Detroit thanks, in part, to Dan Gilbert’s successful efforts to make the area a focal point for software development and information technology linked to the vehicle industry. Presumably quite a few young STEM graduates and aspiring entrepreneurs will take job here but they will be saddled with substantial college debts. And some of them will be employed by start-up firms that pay modestly but offer stock options. Undoubtedly many of them will want to live close to their jobs given the very long hours they will work. But they will also want to enjoy the appealing entertainment, food and nightlife scene now found in dynamic downtown Detroit. Developers may see a substantial market include many aspiring young individuals who will wish to rent modest sized units at reasonable costs near downtown.
This 17-story building pictured above operated as an apartment structure until 2012 with 131 studio and one-bedroom apartments and just a few larger ones. In February, 2015 it was sold to Southfield investor, Joe Barbat, who earned his wealth in the Wireless Toyz firm. The new owner announced that in this, his first real investment in downtown Detroit, six million dollars would be spent to upgrade the building, refurbish the apartments add a recreation center and other facilities that appeal to today’s renters. He foresees putting 116 attractive apartments on the market in late 2015 or 2016. He selected a new name that links the building to its original title: The Briggs House Residence.
This building, I believe, is not a component of the Grand Circus Park Historic District. That district includes Grand Circus Park and all of the building that adjoin that green space along with a few others but not this one. The neighboring building, the Park Avenue Building, is included in the Park Avenue Historic District.
Date of Construction: 1937
Architect: Unknown to me
Use in 2015: Undergoing renovation to serve as a residential property
City of Detroit Designated Historic District: Not listed
State of Michigan Registry of Historic Sites: Not listed
National Register of Historic Places: Not listed
Photograph: Ren Farley; July 8, 2015
Description prepared: July 2015
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