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New Center Commons

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1900–1925. Bethune, Pallister, Seward, and Virginia Park sts., between Woodward Ave. and Lodge Service Dr.

The neighborhood has solidly crafted houses dating from the arrival of the streetcar that ran from Jefferson Avenue to Six Mile Road, now McNichols Road, along Woodward Avenue. Laid out in 1893, Virginia Park contains architect-designed houses for upper-middle-class businesspeople and professionals and their families. Building materials were restricted to brick and stone, the homes had a twenty-five-foot common setback, only one house could be built on each fifty-foot lot, and homes had to cost at least $5,000. Fearing that commercial growth on nearby Woodward Avenue would lower their property value, homeowners started in 1910 the Virginia Avenue Improvement Association and landscaped the entrances in a parklike manner to separate the neighborhood from Woodward Avenue.

Dividing houses into apartments for rentals began in the 1940s and continued through the 1980s. Then, General Motors announced its New Center Commons plan, sponsored six rehabilitations on Virginia Park and urged other Virginia Park property owners to undertake similar projects. Soon, nearly 150 houses and 50 apartments were acquired, rehabilitated, and marketed by the New Center Development Partnership, a subsidiary of the General Motors Corporation. For costs ranging from $32,000 to $135,000, people could enjoy in-city living at New Center. Streets have been realigned and landscaped with Urban Action Development Grant funds and made secure by police patrols.

Two blocks north at 8000 Woodward Avenue, the huge auditorium-plan neo-Gothic Metropolitan United Methodist Church (1922–1926, William E. N. Hunter) served a congregation that grew to 10,300 in 1949 but had fallen to 375 by 2010.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Kathryn Bishop Eckert
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Citation

Kathryn Bishop Eckert, "New Center Commons", [Detroit, Michigan], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/MI-01-WN84.

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Michigan

Buildings of Michigan, Kathryn Bishop Eckert. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2012, 96-96.

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