Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Forbes, Chuck

Born in Detroit, but raised in Highland Park, Chuck Forbes worked for the Ford Motor Company for 31 years as a salaried employee. After retiring in 1979, Forbes began to invest in real estate across the country, including his hometown of Detroit. Forbes jumpstarted the movement to purchase and preserve historic buildings in Detroit’s theater district, a move that created long-lasting effects throughout the downtown area.

He began his preservation efforts in 1984 with the purchase of the 1925-built State Theatre, known now as The Fillmore Detroit, and the Fox Theatre, built in 1928 and once the largest theater in the city. That same year he also purchased the combined Gem and Century building, along with The Colony Club on Park Avenue, a 1928-era women’s club, now restored and used for a variety of events. In 1987, the Ilitch family bought the Fox Theatre, and gave it a $12 million face-lift. The Forbes family restored their other purchases, most recently a 2018 upgrade to The Fillmore.

In 1997, the Gem/Century building was faced with possible demolition to make way for new stadiums for the Detroit Tigers and Detroit Lions. Forbes reached an agreement with the city which included relocating the building five blocks, a distance of 1,850 feet, to its new and current residence. The move placed the Gem/Century building into the Guinness Book of World Records as the heaviest building to be moved on wheels, at about 2,700 tons. Joining the move was the Elwood Bar and Grill, also owned by Forbes Management Group.