Lafayette Building

The Lafayette Building, situated at the intersection of West Lafayette Boulevard, Michigan Avenue, and Shelby Street in downtown Detroit, Michigan, was once a commercial high-rise. It was constructed between 1923 and 1924, ceased operations in 1997, and underwent demolition between 2009 and 2010.


The Lafayette Building was designed by C. Howard Crane in the Neo-Classical style and constructed by the partnership of George G. Epstean and Julius Herman as a speculative high-end office tower. 8 Crane had earlier designed the Fox Theatre, Opera House, and Orchestra Hall.

Before its completion, the lot the building was situated on was home to the Bressler Block, which was owned by Charles Bressler and composed of smaller commercial structures, including the Detroit Book Exchange. 6 The properties were purchased by the Edsel Ford family in 1910 and leased until 1917.

The V-shaped structure allowed natural light to filter into the building from several angles. 1 2 3 The interior was lavish, with black-walnut walls on the first floor and marble walls accented with bronze fixtures elsewhere. 1 3 Two marble drinking fountains were located on each floor. Seven high-speed elevators, arranged in circular tiers, opened into a large lobby.

The Lafayette featured 31 storefronts in a large arcade on its first three floors. 1 3 The upper floors held tenants such as the Michigan State Tax Tribunal, offices for the Michigan Supreme Court, and several railroad companies. 1 2 3

Other than a slate facade on the first level that was added in the 1960s, the Lafayette received only minor exterior changes. 2


The Lafayette closed in 1997 after years of decline. 1 2 3 7 Little maintenance work had been conducted since the tenants were given initial eviction notices in 1991. 4

On December 15, 2005, the Peebles Atlantic Development Corporation of Florida proposed that the Lafayette be restored into 125 residential condominiums and first-floor retail at a cost of $40 million. 8 Work was slated to begin in 2006 and wrap up in 2007. The proposal was ultimately nixed after disputes arose between the developer and city.

On November 13, 2007, the city of Detroit offered the Lafayette to Quicken Loans for $1. At the time, Quicken Loans was actively searching for a new headquarters, but ultimately, the company chose the vacated Compuware Building elsewhere downtown.

The Ferchill Group, responsible for the renovation of the Book Cadillac, speculated about purchasing and restoring the building but found that it was not economically viable. 1 7


On December 9, 2008, the city requested environmental consulting services to prepare the Lafayette for destruction. The Downtown Development Authority (DDA) solicited bids to demolish the building on March 26, 2009. 7 After the submission deadline passed in April, Mayor Kenneth Cockrel Jr. canceled demolition plans over public outcry. 2

The city council refused to designate the Lafayette as a historic landmark in a meeting held on June 23. 4 5 The DDA, however, voted unanimously to proceed with prior plans to demolish the Lafayette on June 25, also voting to award a demolition contract to Detroit-based Adamo Demolition Company for $1,445,888. 2

In a last-minute proposal to save Lafayette, Dionysia Properties asked Detroit city officials to give the company two weeks to conduct a structural inspection on the tower to see if it could be rehabilitated cost-effectively. The DDA refused the request.

Demolition of the Lafayette Building began in October 2009 and was completed on February 24, 2010, at 4:30 a.m., when the last of the tower was cleared. 1



  1. “Another one bites the dust .” Metro Times [Detroit] 30 Sept. 2009: n. pag. Metro Times. Web. 30 Mar. 2012. Article.
  2. Nanco, Ashley. “Detroit Votes to Demolish 1923 Lafayette Building.” Preservation Nation 25 June 2009: n. pag. National Trust for Historic Preservation. Web. 30 Mar. 2012. Article.
  3. Foley, Aaron. “Demolition begins on Lafayette Building in downtown Detroit.” Michigan Live [Detroit] 2 Oct. 2009: n. pag. mlive. Web. 30 Mar. 2012. Article.
  4. Foley, Aaron. “Detroit City Council denies historic designation for Lafayette Building downtown.” Michigan Live [Detroit] 23 June 2009: n. pag. mlive. Web. 30 Mar. 2012. Article.
  5. Kaffr, Nancy. “Detroit City Council rejects historic designtion for Lafayette Building.” Crain’s Detroit Business 23 June 2009: n. pag. Web. 30 Mar. 2012. Article.
  6. “Lafayette Building.” Historic Detroit 2012: n. pag. Web. 10 Apr. 2012. Article.
  7. Kaffr, Nancy. “Detroit’s Lafayette Building targeted for razing.” Crain’s Detroit Business 26 Mar. 2009: n. pag. Web. 10 Apr. 2012. Article.
  8. “Lafayette Building.” Emporis 2012: n. pag. Web. 10 Apr. 2012. Article.


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