Southfield, Michigan, located just 15 miles north of Detroit, has one of the largest concentrations of modern buildings in the state of Michigan including the well known Reynolds Metals Sales Headquarters by Minoru Yamasaki. Docomomo US has learned that one of these buildings, formerly home to the Federal-Mogul Corporation, could lose its distinctive "Jewel Box" structure of geometric columns encasing the original portion of the structure.
Unoccupied since 2015, the auto supplier company Marelli announced in March that it would move its headquarters there by 2021. The international-style site was designed by architect Louis Rossetti, a French-born architectural engineer who got his start in the offices of Albert Kahn. Although the original footprint has been expanded over the years, many of the defining features of the original structure have remained. As part of its move, Marelli plans to spend millions of dollars renovating the building, including replacing the façade with a non-descript glass wall and removing the distinctive "Jewel Box" surrounding the main structure.
The Southfield City Council will be voting on Tuesday May 26th at 6 pm EST whether or not to approve a tax abatement for the Marelli company, and in doing so, has the power to request that Marelli preserve the defining features of this significant modern building in order to receive the abatement.
Individuals are encouraged to call in TODAY at 6 pm EST to provide comment. The number is (248)796-5152. Speakers have up to three minutes to address the Council.
You can stream the council meeting HERE.
While all parties involved are supportive of Marelli occupying the building, many are concerned about the proposed changes. The mayor of Southfield, Ken Siver, has spoken out in support of preserving the structure's exterior. Docomomo US/Michigan has also issued a letter voicing their concern.
May 27, 2020 Update
After a presentation by Marelli representatives and testimony by Docomomo US/Michigan and Dale Allen Gyure, JD, PhD, interim chair of Architecture at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, the Southfield City Council voted unanimously in favor of the tax abatement. Many on the City Council and Mayor Siver spoke out in support of the project but in opposition to the destruction of the historic concrete frame box. The Marelli representatives were adamant that they want the new building to be known as “the Marelli Building” rather than the Federal Mogul building and that their decision to "not keep the lattice [concrete frame]" is “final.”
While the vote and discussion were disheartening, Docomomo US and Docomomo US/Michigan will work with the City of Southfield and consider possible next steps.