The Fisher Building is evidence of an era in Detroit's history when grandeur was within reach. It also is a landmark that speaks of the greatness of the Fisher Brothers and architect Albert Kahn. The ultimate dream of making a New Centre area into competition for downtown fell victim to the Great Depression from 1929 - 1939.
The Fisher Building is a landmark skyscraper located at 3011 West Grand Boulevard in the heart of the New Centre area of Detroit, Michigan. The ornate building, completed in 1928, is one of the major works of architect Albert Kahn, and is designed in an Art Deco style, faced with limestone, granite, and several types of marble. The Fisher family financed the building with proceeds from the sale of Fisher Body to General Motors. It was designed to house office and retail space.
The building, which contains the elaborate 2,089-seat Fisher Theatre, was designated a National Historic Landmark on June 29, 1989. It also houses the headquarters for the Detroit Public Schools.
Initially, architect Joseph Nathaniel French of Albert Kahn Associates planned for a complex of three buildings, with two 30-story structures flanking a 60-story tower. However, the Great Depression kept the project at one tower.
The Fisher brothers located the building across from the General Motors Building, now Cadillac Place, as General Motors recently purchased the Fisher Body Company. The two massive buildings spurred the development of a New Center for the city, a business district north of its downtown area.
The building's hipped roof was originally covered with gold leaf tiles, but during World War II these tiles were covered in asphalt because it was feared that the reflective surface would attract enemy bombers. After the war, the asphalt could not be removed from the gold tiles without harming them, so they were replaced with green tiles. Since the 1980s, these tiles have been illuminated at night with colored lights to give them a gold appearance. On St. Patrick's Day, the lights are changed to green and, in recent years, to celebrate the NHL playoffs, the tower is illuminated with red lights in honor of the Detroit Red Wings.
In 1974, Tri-Star Development purchased the Fisher Building and adjoining New Center Building for approximately $20 million.
In 2001, Farbman Group, a real estate firm based in Southfield, purchased the two buildings from TrizecHahn Corporation for $31 million. Farbman Group lost the buildings to its lender in 2015.
In 2002, Detroit Public Schools (DPS) paid the owner of the Fisher Building $24.1 million to purchase five floors to house administrative offices, citing the high cost of renovations needed at the Maccabees Building, the previous headquarters, to comply with building and safety codes.
In July 2015, Southfield-based developer Redico LLC, in partnership with HFZ Capital Group of New York City and Peter Cummings of The Platform, a Detroit-based development company, taking advantage of the general decline in Detroit real estate values, purchased the Fisher Building and adjacent Albert Kahn Building, plus 2,000 parking spaces in two parking structures and three surface lots in New Center for only $12.2 million at auction. Redico said the partnership plans to transform the two buildings, which are connected by an underground pedestrian concourse, into what it called a "true urban" mixed-use development, with a mix of office, retail, residential and entertainment uses. The multi-year project has a potential cost of $70 million to $80 million in addition to the purchase price. The Redico interest was purchased by Cummings and his partner in The Platform, Dietrich Knoer, in 2016.
The Fisher Building rises 30 stories with a roof height of 428 feet (130 m), a top floor height of 339 feet (103 m), and the spire reaching 444 feet (135 m). The building has 21 elevators. Albert Kahn and Associates designed the building with Joseph Nathaniel French serving as chief architect. French took inspiration from Eliel Saarinen's Tribune Tower design of 1922, seen in the emphasis on verticality and the stepped-back upper stories. The building is unlike any other Albert Kahn production. It has been called "Detroit's largest art object".
In 1929, the Architectural League of New York honored the Fisher Building with a silver medal in architecture. The opulent three-story barrel vaulted lobby is constructed with forty different kinds of marble, decorated by Hungarian artist Géza Maróti, and is highly regarded by architects. The sculpture on the exterior of the building was supplied by several sculptors including Maróti, Corrado Parducci, Anthony De Lorenzo and Ulysses Ricci.