The Parade Co. is eyeing a historic site near the Douglas MacArthur Bridge to Belle Isle for its new home.
The organization — which puts on events including America’s Thanksgiving Parade, the Ford Fireworks and the Strategic Staffing Solutions Turkey Trot — has submitted an application to the Detroit Historic District Commission for a $36.5 million project to develop its new home on the site of the city-owned Richard Thornton Brodhead Naval Armory.
The site, which includes a two-part building and a stretch of land down to the Detroit River, is located at 7600 East Jefferson Ave., about three miles east of downtown Detroit.
The $36.5 million project includes $30.5 million in construction costs and the balance is in “soft costs” such as architectural and engineering work, consultants and the like.
Currently, the Parade Co. operates from a former automotive plant on Mount Elliott Street north of I-94 in an industrial district that is not well-suited for public visits due to heavy semi truck traffic and safety concerns. It’s been looking for a new home for the past nine years, spurred even more by the major repair needs of its current building.
Originally built in 1929-30 as a military facility, Brodhead Armory has been the victim of deferred maintenance, the elements, scrappers and vandalism since it closed in 2003 and a site the city has sought to redevelop since, as Crain’s reported in 2014.
The Parade Co. has launched a $37 million campaign to fund rehabilitation of the site. It said in the application — dated May 14, 2020 — that it hopes to have fundraising completed in 2021, and to break ground next year. It estimates it will have construction completed within two years.
As planned, the redeveloped site will include high-bay areas of 25-30 feet for the production and storage of floats, a grand lobby, design studio, public gathering spaces, an exterior plaza with connection to the developing Riverwalk and terrace.
The project is set to come before the Historic District Commission on Wednesday.
A spokesman for Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s office confirmed the property is still owned by the city.
“Our goal is to bring life back to a landmark jewel which will serve as a new home and studio for The Parade Co.,” President and CEO Tony Michaels said late Thursday in an emailed statement.
Establishing a new home for The Parade Co. at the site “would help energize the Jefferson corridor and be a beacon in the neighborhood,” Michaels said.
The nonprofit is early on in the process to move the project forward, he said.
“We are respectful of this process, starting with the Historic District Commission this week and further steps with Detroit City Council upon approval. We will update the community at the appropriate time.”
Economic conditions cannot be separated from creative efforts, The Parade Co. said in its application before the Historic District Commission.
During the Depression era, funds became available for public art, attracting world-renowned muralists to Detroit, the nonprofit said. They included Diego Rivera recording the story of the emerging industrial age on the walls of the Detroit Institute of Arts and Edgar Yeagar and David Fredenthal representing naval life and vessels on the Brodhead Armory walls, works that have since deteriorated because of neglect.
“Our dream is to build a Parade Studio which not only houses all of the creativity and production seen in everything we do, but also opens up new opportunities for the community: tours, events, education, internships, and jobs,” as well as bringing back the opportunity to celebrate cultural military events at the historic location, The Parade Co. said.
Built for use as a training center and barracks for the state’s military reserves in 1929-1930, the Brodhead Armory is located east of the MacArthur Bridge to Belle Isle and Gabriel Richard Park.
The armory building was designed by William Buck Stratton, husband of Pewabic Pottery founder Mary Chase Stratton. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994.
As envisioned, the project will rehabilitate the northern (or front) portion of the two-part building with roof, window and infrastructure repairs, demolish the southern (or back, river-facing) portion of the building and construct a new, 130,300-square-foot addition. Where feasible the Parade Co. said it intends to salvage and reuse limestone panels from the South Block as cladding accents for the new building addition and to retain historic elements of the demolished South Block building through educational exhibits and displays, redeployment of historic elements to city of Detroit facilities and Detroit area museums, schools and community organizations.
Rossetti is serving as architect on the project. Barton Malow is serving as general contractor, and 1.618 Interests LLC is overseeing the entire project on behalf of The Parade Co.