Developers To Preserve Facade of Historic Detroit Theater

Dec 27, 2017

A real estate agency is hoping to preserve the front of a historic theater building in downtown Detroit as groundbreaking nears for an area development project.

National Theatre in Detroit exterior
Credit Detroit Free Press Archives/

Bedrock is planning to break ground on the Monroe Blocks project in the first half of 2018. The more than $800 million project is expected to take almost three years to complete, and will include an office tower and four residential buildings, the Detroit News reported .

Conceptual drawings released by Bedrock propose incorporating the facade of the National Theatre within the project. The drawings show the white-glazed terra-cotta facade used as a gateway to a pedestrian walkway.

Click here to see photos of the theater from

Pieces of the facade will be removed from the site and safely stores elsewhere during restoration, said Kumar Kintala, Bedrock's director of development. The restored structure will eventually be brought back to a location within the site, but the specific spot hasn't been determined.

It's better to save old buildings than to tear them down. ... Once it's gone, it's gone. - Eric Kehoe

"We've seen over the past few years the work we've done in restoring buildings; they have a lot of value," Kintala said. "That's what makes Detroit unique. Here's a feature that Detroiters have walked by for 40 years. The facade is crumbling and the back of the building dilapidated. We think it would bring a lot of value to the public to restore it."

Some preservationists have expressed frustration with the plan to demolish the 106-year-old theater, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. A group called Preservation Detroit issued a letter this fall pointing out the building's significance as the last theater in the district.

"It's really just a missed opportunity," said Eric Kehoe, Preservation Detroit's board president. "(Bedrock) should be the lead. They've done great work with some of the other rehabs in preserving Detroit. It's better to save old buildings than to tear them down. ... Once it's gone, it's gone. When I walk downtown in 10 years, I want to see our story. We don't' look at historic buildings we demolished and feel glad that we did it."