McIntosh Poris Sheds New Light on Historic Downtown Detroit


DETROIT, September 14, 2010 — McIntosh Poris Associates’ continued work toward renewing Downtown Detroit’s urban core takes the spotlight with a new façade lighting and improvement program to revitalize a select group of historic commercial buildings. The plan—implemented in association with the City of Detroit’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA)—will stabilize and light the buildings to make them more attractive to potential business developers in the future, an interim practice known in urban redevelopment as “mothballing.”

Founding principal Michael Poris, AIA, has long advocated for saving and restoring landmark structures. McIntosh Poris’ proven expertise in preserving the city’s historic building stock was a key factor in winning the project commission from the DDA.

The project, now under construction by JC Beal, calls for street-facing façade and interior lighting powered by rooftop photovoltaic cells, and immediately upgrades the buildings’ appeal and approachability on the block. The intent is also to enhance security and a sense of street life in the broader context of the city’s downtown neighborhoods. The lighting and façade improvement program—which might be expanded in the future to “mothball” additional significant buildings—represents the first application of its kind in Michigan.

“These historic buildings give Detroit its authenticity, which attracts people back to the city, and drives economic and civic recovery,” says Detroit-area native Poris. “Instituting innovative ideas that can reshape our urban landscape serves our cities in the long run.”  The integration of high-tech solar power into the program makes the prototype façade lighting and improvement project cost-effective and sustainable, as well as aesthetically pleasing.

Poris and his team—including project manager John Skok, LEED AP, and designer Jacklyn Melfi—are working in close collaboration with the DDA, which is also providing a portion of the funding. Additional layered financing is through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, and the project is being overseen by the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation. Future redevelopment could qualify for historic tax credits, as well as other federal, state, and local funding sources, loan programs, tax incentives, and foundation grants.

In addition to the storied Harmonie Club (311 E. Grand River Avenue)—the project’s only partially-occupied building—three buildings on Woodward Avenue (1413-1415, 1520, 1528), Detroit’s main thoroughfare, are part of the current program. Under further study for inclusion is the Metropolitan Building (33 John R Street), a former hub for watch and jewelry makers that has already undergone environmental remediation for radon. Work on the Metropolitan could also involve repairs to exterior terra-cotta details.

McIntosh Poris Associates has a long history of making a difference in the fabric of Downtown Detroit. The firm developed the Broadway District master plan in 1999, as well as the Park Avenue plan (1996), which helped designate the area an Historic District and fund structures, including the Kales and Iodent buildings, through the use of historic tax credits. McIntosh Poris’ renovation of the Eureka Building for apartments and the popular Small Plates eatery won the firm a Michigan Historical Preservation award. The firm has worked on other significant buildings, including the Park Shelton Tower, the Detroit Athletic Club, and the Michigan Opera Theater. Genesis Villas at Medbury Park, a ground-up, 90-unit affordable housing community in the Milwaukee Junction district (home to the original Model T plant), caused McIntosh Poris to pull the first residential permit in the area in 20 years and bring the neighborhood back to life; the project was given an award for urban design from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Detroit Chapter.

McIntosh Poris Associates is a full-service architecture, interiors, and urban design firm. Founded in 1994 by the late Douglas McIntosh (1962-2006) and Michael Poris, AIA, the firm’s goal is to transform buildings, communities, and urban centers with architecture realized through vision and dialogue. Since its inception, McIntosh Poris Associates has designed award-winning projects for residential, commercial, and institutional clients. It has built single and multi-family residential, mixed-use, commercial, hospitality, and arts projects in Michigan, California, Connecticut, New York, and Ontario.