Detroit's Famed Grande Ballroom Is Deemed Safe For Renovation
Albert duce [CC BY 3.0], from Wikimedia Commons

Detroit’s Famed Grande Ballroom Is Deemed Safe For Renovation

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DETROIT (CelebrityAccess) There’s a bit of good news for an old, but definitely not forgotten, building in Detroit: The once mighty, and always iconic, Grande Ballroom, which was a central hub to rock ‘n’ roll in the 1960s, on par with The Fillmore, is still healthy enough for renovation.

The building shuttered as a music venue in 1972 but, much like The Fabulous Forum, the lower floor was converted into a church and is now home to the Chapel Hill Missionary Baptist Church. Its two upper floors, including the ballroom on the second, were considered dilapidated after 25 years of neglect and a target for demolition but a grassroots group called Friends of the Grande Ballroom created a GoFundMe campaign to have the building inspected. It is the first phase of the campaign, with the second being an actual restoration.

After inspecting the building last month, a structural engineer, plus a disaster recovery and roofing contractor, surveyed the building and compiled HD video footage captured from a drone, according to the Metro Times.

According to the structural report: “the structure is in much better condition than expected. … While it needs repairs, the repairs are relatively minor and the structure is in no danger of collapse during repairs as long as no large construction loads are added to it.”

The study found that, although there has been plenty of water damage to plaster and wood, the foundation has not been corrupted.

The Ballroom on the second floor. (Albert duce [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons)
The ballroom was built in 1927 by a Detroit businessman. In 1966, it was acquired by a high school teacher/radio DJ named Russ Gibb who, inspired by the Fillmore, converted it into a hangout for the local counterculture. He brought on board counterculture figure John Sinclair and agent/manager Hugh “Jeep” Holland. Together, they hosted many regional acts like Alice Cooper and Ted Nugent, plus one of the building’s house bands was the legendary MC5, which recorded its debut live album at the Grande. The other house band was The Stooges.

Soon the building was hosting national and international acts like Jeff Beck Group featuring Rod Stewart, John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers, Wayne Cochran, Led Zeppelin, Janis Joplin, Pink Floyd, The Grateful Dead, Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Jeff Beck, Procol Harum, Cream and The Who.

The Grande Ballroom was added to the National Register of Historic Places last year.

However, even though the building can be renovated, it’s still a far cry from if it will. Leo Early, author of “The Grande Ballroom: Detroit’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Palace, told the Metro News last year, “You can’t go home.”

“The church wants to retain the building for their use. The lower level was originally retail space so it would likely be retail or other lower level tenants,” Early said. “The upper level, which was the original ballroom, has been envisioned as a possible sanctuary or event space for the church.”

The next phase for what is being referred to as “Grande 2.0” will include stabilization and structural restoration efforts as well as grant writing and fundraising to ensure all efforts are compliant with the recent inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places, the Metro News said.

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