The Fisher Building at 3011 West Grand Boulevard in Detroit is one of the most recognized office buildings in the Midwestern U.S. Designations and acknowledgments in the National Register of Historic Places, National Historic Landmarks Program, and Michigan State Historical Society contributed to this iconic property earning its well-deserved nickname as “Detroit’s largest art object”.
In 1910, the Fisher Body Company was founded with a $50,000 investment and 18 years later was sold to General Motors for $208 million. The Fisher brothers then commissioned Albert Kahn, best known as the “Architect of Detroit,” to build “the most beautiful building in the world,” right across the street from General Motors Building, now Cadillac Place. The property took less than 15 months to build. While the original plans called for a complex of two 30-story structures flanking a 60-story tower, the Great Depression took its toll and the design was significantly restrained.
The Fisher brothers spent $9 million on the creation of the Art Deco building, with over $2.2 million of that total investment going toward artwork and luxury materials. Its elaborate decor includes a 44-foot barrel-vaulted arcade embellished with bronze and gold leaf. Mosaics of birds of paradise, eagles with outstretched wings, a semi-nude figure of Mercury (the god of transportation and the bearer of messages), and four semi-nude bronze inlays of figures symbolizing the four elements of air, earth, fire, and water all grace the gallery.
The building’s roof was originally covered in gold tiles, but that changed to asphalt during World Word II, so that the building would not be an obvious target. There are 40 different types of stunning marble tile from Africa, Italy, and Missouri throughout the property. The exterior is surfaced almost entirely with limestone, granite, and marble. Along with the nearly 1.4 million-square-foot Cadillac Place directly across Grand Boulevard, the Fisher helped to spur the development of a New Center in the Detroit commercial real estate market right in the middle of the Great Depression.
Having gracefully endured, the property remains an important part of the Middle Woodward office submarket today. Just north of downtown Detroit, the Fisher Building now accommodates a mixture of uses including office, high-end retail, private and public event space, movie shoots, and a 2,089-seat theatre. Over the past few years, about $100 million has been invested in restoring the Fisher Building and the nearby mixed-use Albert Kahn Building. This effort is one of the largest redevelopments in Detroit’s downtown central business district. The property’s 2,539 parking spaces provide an abundant parking ratio of 4.00/1,000 square feet. Perhaps not a surprise, given that Detroit is also the birthplace of the American automobile industry.
Parking isn’t the only thing that makes the Fisher Building attractive to tenants and visitors alike. There are free building tours throughout the week and weekends, providing 360˚ views of the Detroit skyline and visits to world-class retail destinations such as the vintage clothing Peacock Room flagship store, and the modern women’s clothing store YAMA. The Detroit Public Schools District headquarters occupies five floors in the building. Other key tenants include Detroit Electric, Detroit Radio, Albert Kahn Associates, Children’s Hospital Foundation of Michigan, and Total Health Care.
Property images courtesy of Yardi Matrix.