Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Park Avenue Historic District

Detroit’s Park Avenue Historic District is located along Park Avenue, between Adams Street and I-75. The District was designated as a State of Michigan Historic Site in 1996, and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997. Some of the more significant buildings in the district include the Women’s City Club Building, the Detroit Building, the Detroit Life Building, and the Park Avenue House, the latter by Louis Kamper. Other buildings in this district include a mixture of offices, apartments, hotels, social clubs, stores, and restaurants. The architectural styles of these buildings are varied and include Classical Revival, Beaux Arts, Late Victorian, and Early Commercial.

Park Avenue earned its significance in the city of Detroit during the automotive boom of the 1920s when commercial development in the city began to move up Park Avenue from Grand Circus Park. The Park Avenue Association, formed in 1923, developed a plan for the street to concentrate its commercial and office space at the south end, while constructing prestigious residences at the north end. As the Park Avenue District continued to develop, Detroiters began to perceive it as their city’s version of New York City’s Fifth Avenue.

Although Park Avenue experienced a decline in use and development during the Great Depression, it experienced a resurgence of interest after World War II when new social groups, multiple restaurant and entertainment hotspots, and new commercial industries including the Iodent Chemical Company, began moving to the area. The area declined again after the 1967 Uprising and the move to develop the riverfront area in the 1970s. However, the close proximity of the Park Avenue Historic District to the Fox Theatre and other venues including Comerica Park has led to its continued revitalization into the 21st century. 

In 2008, Ilitch Holdings announced the renovation of the 34,000-square-foot Detroit Life Building, which will be used primarily as office space for Ilitch-related companies.  In December of 2019, Olympia Development announced a $25 million renovation of the vacant Women’s City Club and the acquisition of a major tenant, Switzerland-based IWG, an office space company, to lease the top several floors. 



Women's City Club postcard, 1920s - 2012.020.123

Kresge/Kales Building postcard, 1920s - 2012.020.251

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