Dear Mr. Lassiter:

Last Thursday (11/10/16) a gross misunderstanding of the W. Grand Boulevard Collaborative position on the Sweet Home preservation issue was evident at City Council by those who spoke for HFHS, and I am writing to restate the WGBC position, because those who spoke in support of HFHS made statements that were unrelated to the facts of anything put forth by WGBC, and this email is to rectify misrepresentations. Among those copied are City Council members, as they will be making the final decision on this matter, and the following facts should be taken into consideration:

1. WGBC is 100% in favor of the HFHS Cancer Center Development. Our aim is to enhance the project through a process that includes community input.

2. At the time WGBC filed for Local Historic Designation we did not know that HFHS had plans to demolish the Sweet Home buildings, one of which is a stone structure designed by George D. Mason, the Godfather of Architecture in Detroit , and both of which are on the National Register of Historic Places.

3. In 2010, WGBC asked HFHS, (Thomas Habitz, Meagan Dunn, and William Schramm) to share with their surrounding neighbors the proposed footprint of the Cancer Center , but each time we were told the footprint of the development could not be disclosed.

4. Several times since the churches were purchased in 2012, Thomas Habitz has stated that HFHS purchased the buildings to be reused and repurposed, and the word in our neighborhood was that they would be used for community benefit. Therefore WGBC was caught unawares when we filed for Local Historic Designation, and found that the churches were up for demolition. Back in 2010 when WGBC first asked about the footprint, we did so to initiate community input in support the development utilizing the expertise of WGBC professional consultants including the Detroit Studio LTU Department of Architecture. Back then, there would have been no added cost to create designs to preserve the churches and enhance the spill-out area to which Tom Habitz has referred.

5. WGBC commends HFHS for recently revealing the Cancer Center footprint and for askig City Council to postpone hearings regarding demolition to meet with the WGBC community to seek compromise regarding the churches. During that process, the architectural services of Lord Aeck Sargent, a firm that specializes in historic preservation, was secured by D4 on a pro bono basis on behalf of WGBC in the person of Kristen Nyht, who rendered viable options to demolishing the George D. Mason building.

6. One of the options drawn by Kristen Nyht was a mirror image of the current HFHS Cancer Center design that simply flips the design east to west thereby placing the skywalk on the east side of the building and avoids the necessity of demolishing the churches. With this Kristen Nyht design, the churches would be left in place for the uses for which HFHF originally purchased them.

7. Another option put forth by WGBC was to move the footprint east over the grassy “spill-out” area in the existing design, and use the grassy area next to the stone church for spill-out, and this area could be expanded if the brick church is demolished` – and the WGBC community is open to the compromise of demolishing the brick church building. An added benefit to this compromise would be that the stone church could be the focal point of a spill-out park space that would have the added benefit of being an indoor spill-out area for use in all weathers.

8. With demolition, these buildings will be forever lost, but we still have the opportunity of creating a win for HFHS, a win for Placemaking and Walkability, and an overall win for the City of Detroit .

Although skywalks in an area without surrounding tall buildings is an anathema to the principles and best practices of urban planning, walkability, and placemaking, the skywalk as proposed by HFHS is not the issue at hand and is not being addressed by WGBC. However, if the George D. Mason structure is demolished, the harm to our community and our City would be irreparable and compounded by the loss of our City’s chance for economic growth and stability other cities have achieved by capitalizing on local historic and architectural treasures – and the WGBC hopes that City Council will not sacrifice invaluable and irreplaceable historic and architectural assets upon which Detroit can build economic prosperity citywide to accommodate the desires of one developer.

Fortunately, City Council has access to expert resources to guide their decision, and in their hands we must rest our case.

Your time and attention are very much appreciated, and I thank you.

 

Mildred Hunt Robbins, President
West Grand Boulevard Collaborative (WGBC)
Chair, WGBC Community Coalition (WGBC3)
PO Box 2247 , Detroit , MI 48202
313/ 870-9244

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