The Parade Co., which stages the annual America’s Thanksgiving Parade, the Ford Fireworks, and other events, has presented a proposal to acquire, renovate, and expand the shuttered R. Thornton Brodhead Naval Armory on Jefferson Avenue along the Detroit River.
The proposal to purchase the property at 7600 E. Jefferson, which dates to 1930, is expected to cost close to $37 million. The plan to acquire the city-owned property near the Belle Isle Bridge will be presented to the city of Detroit’s Historic District Commission meeting on Wednesday.
“Our goal is to bring life back to a landmark jewel which will serve as (our) new home and studio,” said Tony Michaels, president and CEO of The Parade Co. in a statement. “We are at the beginning of the important and necessary process in taking the appropriate steps, given the fact that the building has been unoccupied for 16 years.”
The Parade Co. says it has been evaluating sites for a new home for the past nine years. Its plan, according to the proposal, “is to build a Parade Studio which not only houses all of the creativity and production seen in everything we do, but also opens up new opportunities for the community: tours, events, education, internships, and jobs.”
When renovated, the facility will provide 130,000 square feet of new high-bay area for the production and storage of floats, big heads, and costumes, and an additional 30,000 square feet for offices and events. The front portion of the structure will be renovated, and the rear section is proposed to be demolished and replaced with new construction (high-bay area).
Rossetti, a multi-discipline architectural firm in Detroit, is working with the nonprofit event production organization.
The Parade Co. says it plans to create a collaborative partnership with the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy, Jefferson East Inc., and Rivertown Detroit Association.
If approved, The Parade Co. envisions expanding its family oriented offerings, including an increase in tours, particularly elementary and middle school tours; educational workshops and internships; corporate events; family and community celebrations such as weddings, graduation parties, and bar mitzvahs.
“We envision a new home that partners with the Detroit community in a way that sets the gold standard for opportunity, inclusion, creativity, and fun,” states the proposal. “We see a new home that is a beacon of light to all, a sanctuary of culture similar to the Detroit Institute of Arts and Campus Martius.”
The Parade Co. also says it plans to work with local veteran organizations to collaborate on Memorial Day celebrations and gatherings due to the building’s military heritage.
The complex was named after Lieutenant Commander R. Thornton Brodhead, the head of the Michigan State Naval brigade, who led the drive to establish the armory. Since 1930, the Brodhead Armory has served the Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and their reserve and militia components.
The Parade Co.’s current home is located on Mt. Elliott Street north of I-94 in a district that is becoming a transportation logistics hub with heavy semi-truck traffic. The studio operates in a section of a former automotive plant. The Albert Kahn designed facility is in need of major work; in particular the saw-toothed roof system leaks like a sieve. Being located in an industrial area has been a deterrent to attracting school tours, as well.
The Parade Company currently runs The Ford Fireworks, America’s Thanksgiving Parade, Hob Nobble Gobble, and the Strategic Staffing Solutions Turkey Trot. Assisted by over 2,500 volunteers, each year the organization hosts thousands of children and families.
To view the entire Parade Co. proposal, visit here.