DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – A former recreation center near downtown Detroit where boxer Joe Louis and other athletes trained will be demolished unless someone comes up with a workable plan to save the building, the city said.
The two-story Brewster Wheeler Recreation Center, which dates to 1929, is structurally intact but in disrepair. John Roach, a spokesman for Mayor Mike Duggan, said the site has been added to a list of places slated for demolition.
“It is slated to come down this fall unless someone presents a workable redevelopment plan,” Roach wrote in an e-mail to the Detroit Free Press.
There had been hope that the city-owned building, which closed in the early 2000s, could be renovated.
“It just kills me. It takes away another piece of history from this city of ours,” Stuart Kirschenbaum, founder and president of the Michigan Boxing Hall of Fame and a former state boxing commissioner, told the Free Press. “It’s almost sacrilegious to see that nothing was done to at least save something — a stairway, an entranceway.”
The final phase of demolition is taking place nearby at the former Frederick Douglass Homes, better known as the Brewster projects. Louis once lived at the public housing project, as did members of the Supremes before the musical trio became vital voices of the Motown sound.
The housing project was built in 1935 as Detroit’s first publicly funded housing development for African-Americans. Crews have been using heavy equipment to take down four 15-story towers that are part of the housing project. Other demolition work began at the site last year.
The city will soon issue a request for proposals for redevelopment ideas in adjacent Brush Park, a historic but underpopulated district Roach said. A similar request was made early in the year, but officials decided to give developers a chance to update their designs.
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