Detroit's oldest recording studio spared from demolition by MDOT

In an article in Model D from 2015, Matt Lewis wrote, "It may not have the name recognition of Motown, but there's a recording studio in Detroit that is just as important to the city's (and frankly the world's) musical history as Hitsville, U.S.A., the place where Motown artists recorded hundreds of hit records. Located at 5840 2nd Ave. in Midtown Detroit, just over a mile away from Hitsville, are the United Sound Systems Recording Studios, the oldest operating independent recording studios in the country."

That year, thanks to the efforts of the Detroit Sound Conservancy, the legendary recording studio was granted historic district status by Detroit City Council. United Sound has hosted recording sessions by a bevy of famous artists, including John Lee Hooker, Aretha Franklin, Keith Richards, George Clinton and Funkadelic, and Isaac Hayes. 

Even with the historic designation, the studio has had a difficult path to survival. With I-94 expansion plans regularly up for discussion, demolition was always a potential outcome. 

After being listed for sale last year, the studio did find a savior: The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), which purchased the building and adjacent parking lot for $1.7 million. 

MDOT still has preliminary plans to expand I-94, but also to preserve United Sound Studios. 

"The physical structure will be relocated to the adjacent parking lot, increasing the distance from the proposed retaining walls that will be constructed in conjunction with the modernization project," said MDOT in a press release. 

In an interview with Michigan Radio, MDOT spokesman Rob Morosi said the department then plans to resell it in a public auction after the relocation. 

Read more articles by Aaron Mondry.

Aaron Mondry is a Detroit-based freelance writer. Visit his website and follow him on Twitter @AaronMondry.
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