Efforts to restore Detroit’s historic Blue Bird Inn move on to next phase

What’s happening: After a successful 2021 fundraising campaign raised $40,000 to replace the roof and secure the building’s structure, the Detroit Sound Conservancy (DSC) has launched its next round of fundraising to complete the architectural design of the historic Blue Bird Inn. The Detroit-based nonprofit’s goal for 2022 is to raise $30,000 to help complete the architectural design of the legendary jazz club on the city’s westside.

A link for the fundraiser can be found on the DSC website.

Rendering of the Blue Bird Inn. Courtesy of Detroit Sound Conservancy.
Who’s behind it: Celebrating its tenth year, the Detroit Sound Conservancy is a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the legacy of Detroit music, operating as a historical archive and advocacy group. They purchased and restored the Blue Bird stage in 2016 before buying the distressed building itself in 2018. Other projects include advocating for the preservation of United Sound System Recording Studios and restoring the sound system of Club Heaven, a legendary Black LGBT after-hours club of the 1980s. The DSC resumed their Detroit Music Bus Tour program, a partnership with City Institute, late last year.

Fly with the Bird: The Blue Bird Inn first opened in the 1930s and became a go-to spot for what would become legendary jazz performances. Many of the greats of the mid-20th century performed at the Tireman Avenue club, including John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Thelonius Monk, and Charlie Parker, to name but a few of the most recognizable artists. The club closed in the early 2000s and would sit vacant and in disrepair until being purchased by the DSC. The organization is restoring the building, redeveloping it as a music venue, community and cultural education center, and home to the DSC archive. It’s hoped that construction will be completed by the end of 2023.

Floor plan for the Blue Bird Inn. Courtesy of Detroit Sound Conservancy.
Why it’s important: “Detroit is one of the greatest music cities in the world but has not rightly been acknowledged for its legendary status,” says Michelle Jahra McKinney, executive director of the DSC. “As an organization, we advocate for the recognition of Detroit in shaping the classic and contemporary sounds of the nation and the world. The rehabilitation of the Blue Bird Inn will create access to this venue for generations to come. We could not be more proud of DSC’s ten-year milestone and hope that our decade of work to preserve Detroit's music and culture inspires our communities to donate and get involved. Detroit deserves to be celebrated on the world stage.”

[Read our June 2021 interview with Michelle Jahra McKinney as part of the Model D Explorer Series.]

Saundra Little of Quinn Evans Architects. Photo: Quinn Evans Architects.The architect: Design of the interior, which is slated to be finalized this summer, is led by architect Saundra Little of Quinn Evans Architects. Little has led several prominent local projects, including the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn and the David Klein Art Gallery and Randolph Hotel in Detroit. She is also a founding member of the National Association of Minority Architects’ (NOMA) Detroit chapter and was the second Black woman in Michigan to receive recognition as a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

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MJ Galbraith is Model D's development news editor. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.