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Transformed: A Guide to Converted Spaces in Detroit

Posted on Thursday, June 12 2014 in Culture

ConvertedSpaces Rivard Plaza

In a city with this much history, it’s no surprise that many of Detroit’s most popular places and spaces have taken on several forms of life throughout their existence.

Despite media reports that focus on blight and abandonment, Detroit is full of passionate entrepreneurs, developers and just plain go-getters who are committed to making the most of Detroit’s past, present and future spaces. From outdoors to dining-out and more, here’s a snapshot of some cool converted spaces in Detroit:

Green Spaces:

Admittedly, not long ago the Detroit Riverfront attracted little more than parked cars. But today thanks to the dedicated efforts of the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, hundreds of walkers, bikers and joggers enjoy this revitalized stretch of riverfront property each day.

The Dequindre Cut, formerly a Grand Trunk railroad line, is now a beautiful bike and pedestrian path with future expansion in the works.

Once a military training ground, Campus Martius Park is one of Detroit’s signature public spaces offering year-round activities — including a beach in the summer and ice rink in the winter.

Restaurants and Bars:

ConvertedSpaces GrandTrunkTicketOffice
Formerly a ticket office for the Grand
Trunk Railway, today memorabilia
including detailed woodwork featuring
the GT logo still remain in the building.

Decades ago you’d be more likely to find a train ticket in your hand than a beer if you were at Foran’s Grand Trunk Pub. This building was formerly used as a ticket office for the Grand Trunk Railway (and also a jewelry store).

Over in Detroit’s historic Rivertown District, Atwater Brewery has made great use of the abundant space within a former factory warehouse from the 1900s.

Only in Detroit can you grab award-winning cuisine inside the historic mansion-turned-restaurant at the former home of lumber baron David Whitney Jr.

Coming this fall, the much-anticipated Detroit Hop Cat will breathe new life into the former Agave restaurant building, including a biergarten.


Just down the street, the Museum for Contemporary Art and Design in Midtown, housed within a former auto dealership, maintains much of the facility’s original character.  

Also in the realm of automotive history, the A. Alfred Taubman Center is home to one of the nation’s leading art education institutions — the College for Creative Studies. But before art was made here, the building was the birthplace of the world’s first automatic transmission vehicle when it was an engineering and research building for General Motors.  

In Detroit’s Mexicantown, the 555 Nonprofit Gallery and Studios gave new meaning to the term “prison art” by turning a former police precinct and the jail cells within into a place for artist exhibitions, community art education and events.


Detroit has countless converted spaces to be proud of (way too many to fit in one blog post). Which others come to mind? What renovation projects are you looking forward to seeing come to life in the future?


By: Angela Hernandez

Photo Credit: Detroit Riverfront Conservancy (Rivard Plaza), GrandTrunkPub.com (Grand Trunk Railway)