Sound systems

Detroit’s historic United Sound Systems studio spared demolition

One of Detroit’s iconic music spaces will be untouched by the wrecking ball, according to a new real estate deal announced on Friday.

United Sound Systems studio is where John Lee Hooker, Aretha Franklin, Bob Seger and Parliament were just a few of the legendary artists to record.

Open since 1939, it is Detroit’s oldest recording studio. But it was in danger of demolition as it sits in the footprint of a massive I-94 reconstruction project.

Now, the Michigan Department of Transportation says it bought the studio and adjacent parking lot for $ 1.7 million and plans to move the studio, intact, to the parking lot site.

“Our intention is to move the studio to a safer location while we do the work on the highway, then revert to the public auction format and sell it,” MDOT spokesperson Rob Morosi said. .

“He really has a rich heritage. It was the first major independent recording studio in the city of Detroit. It has a long history.

Morosi says there is no guarantee who the building will ultimately be auctioned off. However, he says the MDOT will make an effort to ensure the building retains its original form and function.

“It may require historic commitments on the act requiring either the entire studio, or part of the studio, to continue to function as a recording studio,” Morosi said. “It remains to be seen, but we fully expect something in this direction. And really, that is our intention.

Carleton Gholz runs the Detroit Sound Conservancy, which has campaigned for the preservation of the studio since its inception in 2012.

“This is the first day we know of when the Michigan Department of Transportation said out loud that it was a bad idea to demonstrate the building and that they would preserve the building. And so we’re going to take that as a victory, ”Gholz said.

Gholz said he hopes there is a historic alliance or “some sort of agreement” with any future owner on the preservation and use of space as a public good, “and we hope to make an impact. on this process in every way possible “.

“It’s not just a building. It’s not just a business. It truly is Detroit’s 20th century musical center, ”said Gholz.

Morosi says the bridge work that will most immediately affect this site is expected to take place in 2021. The massive I-94 reconstruction project is expected to begin in earnest in 2022 or 2023. The MDOT is still completing an additional environmental study for the project. .