Wayne State begins taking down marshmallow overhang on Cass

What is arguably the ugliest piece of architecture on Wayne State University's campus is starting to come down this spring, the white, plastic canopy at the corner of Cass Avenue and Ferry Street.

The university is restoring the facade of its facilities management building at 5454 Cass. The project will include restoring the 2-story building's original early 20th Century facade, repairing the sidewalk and installing a new canopy, replacing the decades-old plastic overhang that Wayne State University's Ned Staebler describes as "whale tusk" architecture.

"We're also looking at the building next door (where most of the plastic canopy stands)," says Staebler, vice president for economic development at Wayne State University. "People ask why don't we take down the whole thing? We can't because we don't own the building (at the corner of Cass and Ferry)."

That doesn't mean Staebler and the university don't want to do it. They are in talks with the building's owner to find more solutions that would remove the "whale tusk" canopy and replace it with something that fits the block's original architecture. Staebler hopes to reach some sort of resolution by the end of the year.

A facade-improvement grant from Midtown Detroit Inc helped make the initial canopy removal possible. The university is working on obtaining architectural drawings for the new facade for its facilities management building. Staebler hopes to have the entire facade renovation done by this fall, allowing the building to shine in its original state.

"When we took off the section of the awning we were really struck by how different the building looks," Staebler says. "The architecture detail and how much of a difference there is between the 1- and 2-story buildings is big."

Source: Ned Staebler, vice president for economic development at Wayne State University
Writer: Jon Zemke

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