Discuss Detroit Archives - Beginning January 2006 Detroit office decline of the 1980s Previous Next
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Andylinn
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Username: Andylinn

Post Number: 44
Registered: 04-2006
Posted From: 68.40.195.233
Posted on Thursday, May 11, 2006 - 2:05 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I was reading the history portion of

http://www.brodericktower.com/ history.html

and it mentions the dramatic fall off of office workers in detroit in the 80s... I found this surprising, as the RenCen and 150 W. Jefferson were built during that time... I know that detroit has struggled with office woes for quite some time, but I was not aware that there was a certain particular time that it just fell off in this manner... anyone have any details on whether this is true or not and what the cause/s was?

thanks. .andy.
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Eric
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Username: Eric

Post Number: 452
Registered: 11-2004
Posted From: 35.11.210.161
Posted on Thursday, May 11, 2006 - 2:20 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Consisering that's when the Broderick, Whitney, Kales, United Artist buildings went vancant I'd say it's very true. A couple of new building doesn't make up for that. The cause? Sprawl as usual companies heading to the burbs
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Erikd
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Username: Erikd

Post Number: 620
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From: 69.242.214.106
Posted on Thursday, May 11, 2006 - 3:02 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

It is absolutely true.

There are many reasons why it happened...

The elimination of decent mass transit, massive freeway construction, and suburban flight that started after WW2 had completely changed Detroit by the 80s. The "white flight" to the suburbs, the new majority black population in the city, and rising crime in the city, created a racial and geographic devide that became a major issue by the 80s.

This dramatic social change wasn't the only reason for the problems in the office market. Most of Detroit's office space had been built during the boom years, prior to the Depression. By the 1980s, downtown Detroit was filled with 50+ year old office space. Most of these old buildings didn't have attached parking, air conditioning, large floor plates, and many other features found in the new suburban office buildings.

All of these factors resulted in businesses leaving the old downtown buildings for new buildings in the suburbs.

I can't cover all of the reasons for the downtown office decline in a few paragraphs, but these are some of the major factors behind it.
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Itsjeff
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Username: Itsjeff

Post Number: 5873
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From: 69.242.213.167
Posted on Thursday, May 11, 2006 - 9:05 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

RenCen was conceived in the late 1960s and built in the 1970s. It sucked up most of downtown's viable tenants, especially lawfirms, from the First National and Penobscot buildings and they never really recovered.
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56packman
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Username: 56packman

Post Number: 275
Registered: 12-2005
Posted From: 129.9.163.234
Posted on Thursday, May 11, 2006 - 9:23 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

That decline started in the 70's, it hit critical mass in the 80's. Southfield and Troy sucked a lot of office business from the CBD.
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Apbest
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Username: Apbest

Post Number: 39
Registered: 03-2006
Posted From: 68.40.65.66
Posted on Thursday, May 11, 2006 - 9:30 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

dont forget that time period also corresponds with the building of the Southfield Towne Center, 2.2 million sq feet of surburban "urban village" office space...as well as American center and toher southfield office space
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Gistok
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Username: Gistok

Post Number: 2080
Registered: 08-2004
Posted From: 4.229.3.170
Posted on Thursday, May 11, 2006 - 11:35 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

What you all say is true, but buildings like the Broderick Tower and David Whitney Building were home mainly to professional folks.... doctors, dentists, laywers, etc. When their clientele moved farther out into suburbia, they moved too.

Many of the doctors and dentists moved not to suburban office buildings, but smaller professional buildings. Just drive down streets like Little Mack in St. Clair Shores, or Kelley Rd. in Eastpointe. There is one doctor/dentist/lawyer professional building after another, all single story with free parking.

(Message edited by Gistok on May 11, 2006)
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Dialh4hipster
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Username: Dialh4hipster

Post Number: 1602
Registered: 11-2004
Posted From: 68.250.205.35
Posted on Thursday, May 11, 2006 - 11:41 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)


quote:

Consisering that's when the Broderick, Whitney, Kales, United Artist buildings went vancant I'd say it's very true. A couple of new building doesn't make up for that. The cause? Sprawl as usual companies heading to the burbs




Yeah, sprawl was the culprit. The rampant crime in the CBD had absolutely nothing to do with it.
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Danny
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Username: Danny

Post Number: 4106
Registered: 02-2004
Posted From: 141.217.174.229
Posted on Thursday, May 11, 2006 - 11:44 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

White flight, ecomonic flight, rise in violent crime contribute to a decline of office space in Downtown Detroit. That's something that Coleman Young should have done a long time ago to restore ecomonic business in Detroit. He can take action in the UAW a long time ago, but he couldn't took action against Detroit's blight.
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Cris
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Username: Cris

Post Number: 414
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From: 71.227.30.129
Posted on Thursday, May 11, 2006 - 12:24 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Pretty much all of those big office buildings in Troy were built in the 80s. I remember them going up. My husband remembers that, when he was a kid in the 70s, Troy was more of a rural area and it seemed like a long, long drive from his home in Royal Oak.
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Danny
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Username: Danny

Post Number: 4112
Registered: 02-2004
Posted From: 141.217.174.229
Posted on Thursday, May 11, 2006 - 12:30 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Dialh4hipster,

You're NOT looking to the recent post from Erikd carefully. Unless you have some evidence to support your thesis, then common violent crime does contribute to decline of office space in the Downtown Detroit anf the CBD.
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Erikd
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Username: Erikd

Post Number: 623
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From: 69.242.214.106
Posted on Friday, May 12, 2006 - 1:52 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)


quote:

Yeah, sprawl was the culprit. The rampant crime in the CBD had absolutely nothing to do with it.




That statement has a few flaws in it.

Rising crime in the city was certainly a factor, but "rampant crime in the CBD" is a pretty exaggerated statement.

As I stated in my first post, the decline resulted from the combination of many factors. Isolating any one of these factors as 'the" reason for decline is a gross oversimplification of reality. Rising crime and urban sprawl were just two of the many factors leading to the decline. This wasn't an "either-or" situation.
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Danny
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Username: Danny

Post Number: 4117
Registered: 02-2004
Posted From: 141.217.173.176
Posted on Friday, May 12, 2006 - 10:12 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

That's why there are so many glass covered skyscrapers in Southfiled, Troy and Dearborn because of gross oversimplification of reality, rising crime and urban sprawl. What a MESS that we had created!
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Dialh4hipster
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Username: Dialh4hipster

Post Number: 1604
Registered: 11-2004
Posted From: 68.61.187.234
Posted on Friday, May 12, 2006 - 10:36 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Oh, really? There are flaws in my statement? Why don't you sit down and have a lunch with my dad, who had his offices in the Kales building until the mid-80's. He can tell you about the muggings, break-ins, a stabbing in the parking garage and a rape in the elevator of that building all in the twelve-month period that preceded the move out.

I mention the crime because I was just a bit surprised that nobody said anything about that. I mean, it's easy to blame the mean white businesspeople who just up and fled, but there were actual reasons for that aside from racism. Fear of death or bodily harm being one.

It had been a gradual process, naturally, but in case you were perhaps too young to remember the 80's yourself, it wasn't a pretty time downtown.

If you need another component to blame, neglectful building owners (who perhaps couldn't afford to keep up their buildings due to declining occupancy due to ... um, sprawl) didn't help - did you hear the one about the guy who fell to his death in the Kales building? Chatting with other people, waiting for an elevator, the doors opened and he walked right in ... but the elevator wasn't there. Fell 15 stories. Yeeouch.
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Iheartthed
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Username: Iheartthed

Post Number: 66
Registered: 04-2006
Posted From: 141.213.55.38
Posted on Friday, May 12, 2006 - 12:55 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Eh, crime was high in every urban area in the country during the 80's. Wasn't it during the 80's when NYC was notoriously known for its crime epidemic? and DC was the murder capital? and Chicago wasn't pretty either. They all look a lot better than the D right now...
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Bobj
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Username: Bobj

Post Number: 709
Registered: 11-2003
Posted From: 68.40.89.238
Posted on Friday, May 12, 2006 - 1:06 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Sprawl definitely was a major factor as was the general idea of working Downtown. I graduated from College in 1981 and interviewed at many Downtown firms. I remember several of them bringing up the fact that soon they or the majority of employees would be moving to the gleaming towers of Troy or Southfield. The general feeling was that Oakland County was the place to be. People were moving out of the City and the inner ring suburbs in droves - I remember people telling me to never buy a house south of I 696 - that would be the new 8 Mile. Al of relatives moved out of Detroit in the 80's.It was a whole different time and attitude, there was more crime Downtown that there had been in years gone by and it was probably exaggerated to some extent. My Mother worked at the Dowtown Hudson's and she had daily stories of crime that she saw firsthand. It wasn't like that in years gone by. She couldn't wait to transfer to another store.

Things have changed a lot, but you could argue that the 80's were the lowpoint for Downtown.
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Huggybear
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Username: Huggybear

Post Number: 212
Registered: 08-2005
Posted From: 68.79.164.102
Posted on Friday, May 12, 2006 - 8:54 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)


quote:

That decline started in the 70's, it hit critical mass in the 80's. Southfield and Troy sucked a lot of office business from the CBD.


Actually, Northland was the kickoff in the late 1950s, and the smaller offices started clustering around it in the 1960s. Face it, if you weren't going to drive downtown to shop, you sure as hell wouldn't do it to go to the doctor, dentist, etc.

(Message edited by Huggybear on May 12, 2006)
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Erikd
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Username: Erikd

Post Number: 626
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From: 69.242.214.106
Posted on Friday, May 12, 2006 - 11:33 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)


quote:

I mention the crime because I was just a bit surprised that nobody said anything about that.




I don't know why you say that. Rising crime in the city was one of the fist reasons that I mentioned in my origional post.

(Message edited by erikd on May 12, 2006)
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Mind_field
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Username: Mind_field

Post Number: 559
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From: 209.240.205.61
Posted on Saturday, May 13, 2006 - 12:20 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

My mom worked in the Lafayette Building in the late 70's. She didn't work there for more than 2 years, but still had some bad crime stories.

A man who came to fix some office equipment was murdered in a parking garage near her office and she said it was disconcerting to have homicide detectives coming into the office the next day asking questions. She also said she was walking downtown on a busy sidewalk when some random stranger poked her where his hands should not have gone.

It would be interesting to see the businesses that moved and the number of workers they relocated to the suburbs. What were some major tenants that downtown lost? I know Gale Research moved out of the Penobscot to Farmington Hills, and they had quite a lot of space at the Penobscot. I also know that R.L. Polk, Plante & Moran, and several law firms moved out of Detroit for the suburbs and I'm sure there are a lot more that moved.
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Burnsie
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Username: Burnsie

Post Number: 413
Registered: 11-2003
Posted From: 35.12.18.208
Posted on Saturday, May 13, 2006 - 12:36 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Northland opened in March or April of 1954. By the end of the decade, sales at Downtown Hudson's were down 20%-- according to Detroit: Origins of the Urban Crisis, IIRC.
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Andylinn
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Username: Andylinn

Post Number: 48
Registered: 04-2006
Posted From: 68.40.195.233
Posted on Saturday, May 13, 2006 - 12:37 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I guess the thing that really gave me the desire to start this thread was all of these things make sense and all... but why do i see the "crash of the office market in detroit" referred to so frequently... as if it was a sudden great depression kind of thing? it's strange... it seems that all of these reasons are more gradual kinds of problems...

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