When a Canadian businessman bought the Penobscot Building earlier this year, we figured this would be good for giving downtown Detroit some diversity in building owners (cough, cough, Dan Gilbert). What we didn’t figure was that the investor would buy a second historic building downtown and consider tearing it down for a parking garage. That would be the State Savings Bank, purchased for $700 K this month by Toronto-based Triple Properties which is helmed by Andreas Apostolopoulos. His thought is to turn the State Savings Bank into a parking garage for his P’nob tenants, because of course, there aren’t enough parking structures in Downtown Detroit.
Well, to hell with Apostolopoulos (who also owns the Pontiac Silverdome) and “Detroit needs parking.” He is wrong. There are plenty of reasons to save the bank, and we will leave the other lots and garages argument to Deadline Detroit.
First off, The State Savings Bank was in the movie Transformers. Yes, the one with Shia LaBeouf. It’s actually in there a few times, but you would have to pause this video at the right parts, like the :33 mark. The film was the fifth highest grossing movie in 2007.
Then there are the interesting historical tidbits. When the city first started out, a fort was built to protect the city. One of those forts was Fort Lernoult (Shelby). It was a wooden fort, the second in Detroit. In fact, it was the last to be evacuated by the British in United States 16 years after the end of the Revolutionary War. The Savoyard Centre (the other name of the State Savings Bank) now occupies the exact spot where the fort was.
It was constructed in the late 1800s and was the largest bank in Detroit at one point. It became so big, they had to construct an addition in 1914 that extended the building to Congress Street.
The architects that designed this building, McKim, Mead, and White, designed many buildings in New York, but this was their only Detroit project. They put the Michigan Coat of Arms above the front entrance of the building. In addition to this bank, they also designed New York’s Public Library Morgan Library in Midtown Manhattan, the New York Municipal Building, the original Pennsylvania Station, and the James Farley Post Office in New York, as well as the West and East Wings of the White House.
Movie fame and designer fame. What else do we need to say to convince you this building needs to stick around? How about sports fame via party fame?
When Detroit hosted Super Bowl XL in 2006, The Savings Bank hosted four different parties, each on a different day. It played host to a Pure Rush/Lem Barney party that had a cost of $150-$500/person, a Hawaiian Tropic party at the cost of $500/person, a Penthouse party that included both drummer Tommy Lee and Snoop Dogg (now Snoop Lion, was that inspired by the best Lions party ever?), with a cost of at least $600-$1,250/person, and finally the Taste of Detroit Tailgate Party with a cost of $250 per person.
Memo to Apostolopoulos: If this building were demolished for a parking structure, you wouldn’t be doing Detroit or yourself any justice. This Beaux Arts style building has a wide fan-base, even among those that can’t identify architectural styles what-so-ever. If you want to know what it feels like to be the demolisher of a McKim Mead and White, why don’t you call New York City and ask them how much the are still mourning Old Penn Station (demo’d in 1963) while cursing the replacement? You’d think they’d be over it by now, but they are not. Is that how you would like to be remembered?
To read the original post that appeared online for Curbed Detroit, on Tuesday, August 28, 2012, go to Curbed Detroit.