Posts tagged with "Historic Preservation":

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Cranbrook is gifted Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonian Smith House

Already the home of work by Eliel Saarinen, Albert Kahn and Stephen Holl, Metro Detroit’s Cranbrook has acquired the Melvyn Maxwell and Sarah Stein Smith House, a 1950 Usonian home in Bloomfield Hills designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for two Detroit public school teachers. The home comes to Cranbrook via a donation from the Towbes Foundation and provides the institution with ownership of the Smith House as an educational resource. The Smith house has been preserved exactly as it was when the Smiths lived in it. While studying at the City College of Detroit, now Wayne State University, Melvyn Maxwell Smith saw an image of Fallingwater during a slide presentation and was instantly hooked on Wright. With equal financial backing from his wife Sarah Stein Smith, the couple travelled to Taliesin, where they asked Wright to design a home for $5,000. Wright negotiated $8,000 and waited for the couple to save up to purchase a suitable piece of property. Deeply occupied by his work on the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, Wright communicated regularly with the Smiths once he delivered the design for the home and urged Melvyn Maxwell Smith to work as his own general contractor to keep costs down, and one that would allow Smith to control the quality of work. Smith gathered a team of contractors, journeymen and friends to work on the house, including those that agreed to work for a reduced rate in exchange for the privilege of being a part of the project. With the Smiths paying as they went, construction moved slowly. As the house was nearing completion, the Smiths found themselves without funds to purchase the windows. Real estate investor Al Taubman, another FLW super fan, found himself visiting the construction site just as Melvyn Maxwell Smith was boarding up the window openings with plywood. After listening to Smith lament that he was down to his last $500, and worrying that inclement weather would damage the house, Taubman had installers from the Pittsburg Plate Glass Window Company arrive the next day to measure and install the windows and sent the Smiths a bill for exactly $500. Over time, the Smiths filled the house with sculptures and designed objects by artists associated with Cranbrook. Melvyn Maxwell Smith lived in the house until his death in 1984. Sarah Stein Smith stayed until moving to California in 1991. The Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research is responsible for stewarding the Smith House and is also undertaking an oral history project to collect stories from artists and contractors that worked on the project.
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Old Chicago Main Post Office receives landmark designation

The Chicago City Council recently approved the landmark designation for the Old Chicago Main Post Office. Built in phases from 1921 to 1932, the 2.3-million-square-foot structure is located on the western bank of the south branch of the Chicago River in Chicago’s Near West Side. The building’s brawny nine-and twelve-story art deco design is the work of Chicago architectural firm Graham, Anderson, Probst & White, a successor to D.H. Burnham and Company. The Old Chicago Main Post Office was constructed with a 40-foot-wide rectangular hole running through the center of the building, intended to accommodate a provision of the 1909 Plan of Chicago for a Congress Street extension from the South Loop to Chicago’s West Side. While various plans were floated for the extension in the 1930s, the space wouldn’t come into full use until 1955, when the Congress (now Eisenhower) Expressway was completed, connecting the Loop to the western suburbs. The building’s main lobby sports lavish details like white marble and gold glass mosaics, but its original function was utilitarian in nature, with the majority of the spaces dedicated to feed conveyors, hoppers, mechanical tables, and chutes that supported a variety of mail sorting operations. The Old Chicago Main Post Office remained in operation until a modernized facility was completed in 1996, leaving the building vacant. While the Old Chicago Main Post Office was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2001, providing it with the opportunity to capitalize on Federal Historic Tax Credits, it is the local designation that provides a measure of protection from demolition and insensitive alteration, as a National Register listing is primarily used for planning purposes and is honorary. Local designation of commercial, industrial, and income-producing non-for-profit buildings also provides building owners with the opportunity to capitalize on Chicago’s Class L Property Tax Incentive, which reduces property levels for a 12-year period provided that half of the value of the landmark building is invested in an approved rehabilitation project. According to the City of Chicago, the property’s owner, 601W Companies, is implementing a $292 million rehabilitation of the building as retail spaces and offices led by Gensler. The interior and exterior spaces will be comprehensively updated. The work will also repair existing rights-of-way for the Eisenhower Expressway as well as the Amtrak railroad facility located underneath the building.
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Isn’t Brutalist architecture worthy of preservation?

On April 12, Boston’s Pinkcomma Gallery is opening its Brutal Destruction exhibition. In the context of contemporary demolitions of Brutalist buildings and complexes, such as Paul Rudolph’s Shoreline Apartments and Orange County Government Center, Brutal Destruction joins the growing reappraisal of maligned Brutalism as architecture worthy of historic preservation. Curated by Chris Grimley, of the Boston-based interdisciplinary practice over,under, Brutal Destruction is a collection of photographs of concrete architecture undergoing the process of demolition. By examining the widespread dismantling of Brutalist structure, the exhibit seeks to stir up debate regarding their disfigurement and society’s seeming incapacity to repurpose these half-century old architectural works. Grimley frames Brutalism within the larger narrative of the architectural conservation movement. Similar to Brutalism, historicist and classical styles such as the Victorian or Second Empire faced similar rhetorical and public attacks and were cast as outmoded and outdated forms. Grimley suggests that just as we regret the mass demolition of historic buildings in the mid-twentieth century, we should pause to properly assess America's concrete heritage before wiping it out entirely. The exhibition is part of the ongoing Heroic Project, a book and advocacy web archive cataloging Boston’s substantial Brutalist legacy.
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A retail district in Houston reimagines the strip mall, one building at a time

Caution and timidity have been the ruling traits of Houston’s commercial real estate market for the past three decades. But, in the last few years, local developer Steve Radom and his team at Radom Capital have been working almost single-handedly to bring architectural sophistication back with their recent series of commercial developments. From the 1970s through the mid-1980s, Houston was an international architectural mecca. During these years, developers famously competed with one another to commission the best architects to design ever more sensational projects in a crowded real estate market. Then, a collapse in oil prices wrecked the city’s economy. In the decades since, with its high-flying developers grounded, Houston’s architectural scene has stubbornly trailed that of its nearby neighbors, Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas. The recent fracking oil crash has only exacerbated the situation. Even Gerald Hines, Houston’s greatest modern developer, has turned away from the outstanding architecture that brought him fame and success. Today, his buildings are tasteful, yet completely unremarkable. In this milieu, Radom’s commercial retail projects are noteworthy. Radom and his team commission talented architects on the basis of their design excellence. They insist on rigor and quality in concept and execution. Rather than follow an established set of safe but boring development rules, their projects cleverly reimagine the most banal of building types: the strip mall. The results are exciting. The fact that they have leased immediately in Houston’s unsteady economic climate demonstrates again that good design is a good business practice. Radom’s largest project to date is Heights Mercantile, a low-rise retail center partially located inside the Houston Heights Historic District a couple of miles northwest of downtown. Austin-based Michael Hsu Office of Architecture designed the shell-and-core build-out and some of the interiors. Up-and-coming Houston architects Schaum/Shieh and Content Architecture designed additional interiors. The Houston branch of the international SWA Group was the landscape architect, while Houston-based graphic design firm Spindletop devised the graphic identity. Heights Mercantile includes a mixture of six new and remodeled buildings—two of which are protected historic landmarks— spread across eight properties that were acquired in four separate transactions over a 14-month period. From 1967 to 2007, Pappas Restaurants, a local restaurant group, used three of the existing buildings as their headquarters. Two of the former Pappas buildings were remodeled to include a suite of shops and a wine bar. The third Pappas building, a one-story prefabricated metal warehouse used for cold storage, was demolished and replaced by a two-story building containing retail and restaurant space on the ground floor and a fitness club and offices on the second floor. The two protected historic buildings are one-story wood frame bungalows. They were converted into a clothing boutique and an ice cream shop. A small one-story wood frame building was built behind one of the bungalows and houses a cafe. Although Houston lacks zoning, it has other methods of land-planning. Among the most onerous are its excessive off-street parking requirements, which forced the design team to be creative in organizing the site. By reusing instead of replacing the Pappas buildings, the developers were able to maintain the existing, but now illegal, head-in parking. The bulk of the additional required parking was fitted between the bungalows and the new two-story building. According to the developer, the city requested that the final property Radon bought directly north of the bungalows facing Heights Boulevard be devoted completely to parking. Fortunately, the 140 parking spaces do not overwhelm the development, thanks to creative landscape and siting decisions. Houston Heights, like the city of Houston, is a tattered collection of heterogeneous residential and commercial buildings. Platted in 1891 as a streetcar suburb, it actually contains very few pre-1900 Victorian houses. What remains of its historic architecture is mostly Queen Anne worker cottages from the 1910s and bungalows from the 1920s and ’30s. These are interspersed with garden apartments from the 1960s and ’70s and the occasional one or two-story postwar commercial building. Up until 2010, when the city’s preservation ordinance was changed to prohibit demolition in designated historic districts, the last Queen Anne cottages and bungalows were quickly being replaced by townhouse developments and lot-filling faux-Victorian houses. Heights Mercantile wittily addresses its motley neighborhood by providing its own assorted mix of buildings. Rather than replicating the same building across the site, as most recent strip developments in and around Houston Heights have done, the architects consciously worked to make each building look and feel different. Furthermore, they casually spread them across the site, which is split up in a very ad hoc Houston manner by an active street, a popular hike and bike trail, a drainage easement, and an abandoned alley. The results celebrate the mess that is Houston. And, along with some clever landscaping interventions, they feel inviting and fresh rather than chaotic and dreary. If this is the vision Radom and his team want to promote for Houston, then I’m all for it. And judging from its completely filled lease spaces, so is the real estate market.
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Seattle preservationists fight to grant Googie restaurant landmark status

It's an all-too familiar story: a beloved local institution bites the dust as a developer swoops in to build apartments. But one modest Seattle restaurant has found a number of advocates that are fighting for it to gain lazndmark status. The restaurant is Spud, a fish-and-chips spot with roots that date back to the 1935, and it's the restaurant's Green Lake location that's at the center of campaign (several other Spud restaurants exist, though they are run by different ownership). After a developer announced plans to raze the six-decade-old structure in order to build a four-story apartment building, representatives from Historic Seattle and Docomomo WEWA are speaking out in support of having the building designated a city landmark, with a Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board hearing scheduled for later this month. The current plan has Spuds reopening on the first floor the new building, but preservationists argue that demolishing the current structure would mean losing one of the finest examples of the modernist style in all of the Northwest, Seattle's Daily Journal of Commerce reports. Dating back to the 1950s, the 1,637-square-foot fish shack was designed by Edward L. Cushman in the playful Googie style of midcentury modernism. The popular postwar style was designed to attract the attention of drivers to roadside fast-food restaurants, gas stations, and motels, and, like many of the type, Spud features a distinctive butterfly roof and neon sign. So far, the developer of the proposed apartment building, Seattle's Blueprint Capital, is going along with the landmark process, even requesting the landmark hearing as a proactive measure. Meanwhile, local preservationists, citing the fact that the building has been occupied with a working Spud location ever since it was built, have proposed looking at alternative designs, such as a scheme that would incorporate the new structure into the existing site.
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Getty Institute to lead Le Corbusier conservation workshops

The Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) will host a workshop series on the three—and only—museums designed by Swiss architect Le Corbusier. The series will discuss the care and keeping of Sanskar Kendra Museum and the Government Museum and Art Gallery (in Ahmedabad and Chandigarh, India, respectively), as well as the National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo. Le Corbusier’s Three Museums: A workshop on their care and conservation is part of the GCI’s ongoing Conserving Modern Architecture Initiative, which is an international program to advance the conservation of 20th century heritage, specifically modern architecture. The conservation of modern architecture presents a number of issues outside of ideological constraints. Concerns stem from material and structural decay: Keeping it Modern, a conservation grant program associated with the Conserving Modern Architecture Initiative, notes that the innovational materials and structural systems found in modern architectural heritage were often untested, leading to their poor performance over time. According to the GCI, the three museums share a number of traits such as an exposed concrete frame, thick concrete pilotis, and surrounding public plazas. All three were designed around Corbusier’s “concept of a museum of unlimited growth,” a museum plan that allowed for the future expansion of the cultural institutions. The workshops, taking place from February 4–6 in Ahmedabad and on February 8 in Chandigarh, include representatives from all three museums and the Fondation Le Corbusier. Participants will discuss the potential paths of improvement for the architectural conservation and collections management for each building. Susan Macdonald, the head of GCI Field Projects, hopes the workshops will generate a conservation network for the three related sites. The events, she explained in a press release, are an opportunity for "museum participants to consider what is significant about their respective museums as individual buildings and as part of the larger collected work of a great architect, each can better develop the necessary conservation policies to care for these significant buildings and their important collections."
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Demolition of Paul Rudolph’s Shoreline Apartments stalled by single tenant

Demolition of the Paul Rudolph-designed Shoreline Apartments in Buffalo, New York, has accelerated, and the full destruction of the housing complex is being stalled by a single tenant. John Schmidt has refused to leave his unit in what remains of the brutalist buildings, despite having received an eviction notice, over what he feels are strong-arm tactics from developer Norstar Development Corporation. Finished in 1974, the waterfront development held 426 affordable units and was part of Paul Rudolph’s unrealized master plan for a revitalized Buffalo waterfront. Featuring sharp angles made of concrete and mono-pitched roofs made of heavy, serrated metal, the complex’s design was unmistakably Rudolph’s. Norstar, a private company, purchased the site with the intention of demolishing the state-built homes and overhauling the complex. The first phase of demolition and redevelopment began in 2015, and has already replaced five of Rudolph’s cascading buildings with seven townhouses and a short apartment block, for a total of 48 new affordable housing units. While the final phase of the project was slated to begin this spring, Schmidt’s unwillingness to leave has held up the rest of the process. His defiance is understandable, as Norstar had previously promised Shoreline residents that they would have time to relocate, before advancing the demolition timetable without warning. While Schmidt is now the last resident in what remains of his 300-unit complex, his reason for staying isn’t driven entirely by preservation. Schmidt is demanding an apology from Norstar for displacing the 222 families who have been forced to relocate, as they were told that the buildings had fallen into an unlivable condition. The local community has disagreed, and argues that the apartments are still structurally sound. Norstar has dismissed these claims, and reiterated that no one has been forced to move under false pretenses. “We are pleased that we can bring people very nice, new affordable housing in the downtown business corridor. We do have to relocate these people to rebuild housing, people will be able to come back, but they do have to qualify under that state's section 42 low income housing regulations. But at this point, all of our residents are income qualified,” Norstar representatives said in a statement. Many of Rudolph’s buildings have met ignoble ends in recent years, despite outcry from preservationists and architects. Earlier last year, one third of Rudolph’s Orange County Government Center was partially demolished and replaced with a more modern-styled annex. Judging from the type of buildings that have emerged from the first phase of the Shoreline’s replacement, the same process is repeating itself in Buffalo.
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Columbia GSAPP launches country’s first PhD program in historic preservation

The United States is home to numerous master degree programs in historic preservation. Until yesterday, though, there was nowhere that students could pursue a PhD in the subject. That's set to change with Columbia University's just-launched doctoral program in historic preservation, the first of its kind in the U.S. The Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation's (Columbia GSAPPJorge Otero-Pailos, professor and director of the historic preservation program, collaborated with Dean Amale Andraos and Dean Emeritus Mark Wigley to create the program. The doctoral program joins GSAPP PhD tracks in architecture and urban planning. The school explained the goals of the new program in a press release: "The Ph.D. in Historic Preservation will equip scholars to think laterally and make connections to other disciplines, as they articulate a more complete historical understanding of their own discipline, develop new theoretical frameworks, advance experimental practices, probe alternative modes of disciplinary engagement, and take part in GSAPP’s critical scholarly culture." This is not the first time Columbia GSAPP has led the field in academia. In 1964, professors at GSAPP established the nation's first master in historic preservation program. Doctoral candidates will receive a stipend and tuition remission for the five-year program. Brazilian billionare José Roberto Marinho kicked in $675,000 to endow the first fellowship. Interested? The deadline to apply for that first fellowship is March 15, 2018.
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A rare Art Moderne church in Chicago is slated for renovation

Faced with a declining congregation, Chicago’s First Church of Deliverance had fallen into a cycle of deferred maintenance. Luckily, on January 11, the Chicago Department of Planning and Development announced a $228,000 grant from the Adopt-a-Landmark fund to renovate the historic structure. In exchange for zoning bonuses, Chicago-based developers provide funding for the Adopt-a-Landmark program. Located in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood, the First Church of Deliverance was designed by Walter T. Bailey in 1939, and has been a Chicago landmark since 1994. Bailey, Illinois’ first licensed African-American architect, redesigned the church in the Streamline Moderne style with sweeping curves, smooth finishes, strict horizontality, and the use of glass-block windows. It is one of the few, if not only, church structures in Chicago designed in this style. According to Southside Weekly, the core of the church came into being in 1929 with the conversion of a defunct hat-lining factory into a house of worship, with Bailey’s work formalizing the building’s use. The twin towers found on the primary elevation were added in 1946, and were colloquially referred to by the congregation as the “Old Testament” and “New Testament.” The renovation will restore Bailey’s terracotta façade, doors, and the church’s interior murals. Chicago-based artist Fred Jones designed the surviving murals located on the church interior. Jones studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, and his work is described by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks as containing a “slightly abstract, neo-romantic vision,” one seeped in the subject matter of the “urban African-American community.” For the last 80 years, the First Church of Deliverance has broadcasted its gospel music, establishing itself as a regional nexus and laboratory for the genre. According to Curbed, the national exposure of the church’s radio program led to the involvement of prestigious African-American musicians such as Louis Armstrong, Dinah Washington and Sallie Martin. The church’s long-standing role in gospel music has certainly benefited from it being one of the first houses of worship in the country to install a Hammond electric organ. As reported by the Chicago Tribune, Frederick J. Nelson Jr., as organist and music director of the First Church of Deliverance, taught organ to hundreds students from the church and surrounding community. Although Southside Weekly reports that the First Church of Deliverance’s congregation is unlikely to grow, the future renovation will cement the building’s place in Chicago’s architectural and social history and insure the aesthetic integrity of the city landmark.

Pasadena Architectural Legacy Tours

Two tours are available this day: the Pasadena Hillcrest Neighborhood Tour and the Pasadena Playhouse District Tour. Pasadena Hillcrest Neighborhood Walking Tour The Pasadena Hillcrest Neighborhood tour will allow tour goers to discover one of the most prestigious neighborhoods of Pasadena. With an extraordinary collection of architect designed homes, the tour explores various architectural styles such as Mediterranean, Victorian and Craftsman inspired homes. Showcased on the tour are numerous grand estates including Craftsman homes such as the Freeman House, designed by architects Arthur and Alfred Heineman, and the Blacker House, designed by Charles and Henry Greene. The southern terminus of the neighborhood is the Langham Huntington Hotel, an iconic landmark property since 1907. Pasadena Playhouse District Walking Tour The Pasadena Playhouse District tour includes buildings of diverse architectural styles along Green Street and Colorado Boulevard. The tour will also include the Pacific Asia Museum which was modeled after buildings in Beijing’s Forbidden City, the First Church of Christ Scientist, which was the first church in Pasadena to be constructed of reinforced concrete and the Pasadena Playhouse, a Spanish-Colonial Revival building with Mission elements designed by Elmer Grey, designer of the Beverly Hills Hotel, the Huntington Library and Art Gallery, and buildings on the Caltech campus.
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Chicago’s DuSable Museum of African American History converts a horse stable into a powerful space

Situated just one block west of the archi­tecturally rich University of Chicago, the DuSable Museum of African American History is undertaking a major preserva­tion effort. Located directly across from the Daniel Burnham–designed DuSable, the Roundhouse, a former horse stable also designed by Burnham, has laid vacant for over 40 years. Yet over the past de­cade, the DuSable Museum has worked to convert the heavy timber and stone struc­ture into additional exhibition space. The DuSable Museum began work­ing on converting the building in the mid- 2000s only to have the project stall thanks to the economic recession in 2008. By 2009, a renovation of the building’s exte­rior was complete, but the interior was left far from the museum-quality space the DuSable was hoping to achieve. To bring the 61,000-square-foot space up to mu­seum standards, it would cost upward of $35 million. Unable to raise those funds, the project has taken a new direction, which will see scaled-back goals complet­ed in the coming years. Starting with a $582,000 outdoor space, the Roundhouse is now able to host events and exhibitions for the first time. Designed by Chicago-based Site Design Group, the outdoor area is the first step in connecting the Roundhouse to the mu­seum’s main building with a pedestrian-friendly landscape. At the same time, the interior of the building has been cleaned, and has already hosted its first major art event. Though the original plan to convert the interior into white-wall galleries has been put on hold, crowds happily flocked to catch a glimpse of one of Burnham’s most utilitarian projects. Much to the joy of architects and pres­ervationists alike, the soaring heavy timber dome has survived in excellent condition. The web of large pine timbers is support­ed by the limestone walls and cast-iron columns, which all look as though they were recently constructed. At 150 feet across, the space is a welcome addition to Chicago’s catalogue of impressive civ­ic interiors. The Roundhouse was the site of this year’s edition of EXPO CHICAGO, which hosted large-scale installations curated by Paris’s Palais de Tokyo. Coinciding with the opening of the Chicago Architecture Biennial, the exhibition, Singing Stones, commissioned Chicago- and Paris-based artists to create massive works. The height of the space allowed for tall hanging piec­es, while the round walls intensified an­other work, which utilized ambient sound. Yet another installation addressed the few windows, a clerestory near the dome’s pin­nacle, with colored films, filling the room with rainbow light during the day. While the Roundhouse may never reach the level of museum refinement and environmental control previously planned, it will continue to be updated and made ready for more exhibitions and events. It is currently scheduled to be complete by the time the Barack Obama Presidential Cen­ter opens on the other end of the University of Chicago’s campus in 2021. The DuSable has already begun conversations with the center to ensure exhibitions in both insti­tutions are complementary. Until that time, architects can only hope the museum will occasionally open as it has for EXPO, let­ting the world in to see just how architec­tural a horse stable can be.
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Detroit’s historic National Theatre to be scrapped for $800 million development

On December 26, commercial developers Bedrock Detroit released conceptual drawings for its proposed incorporation of Albert Kahn's decaying and vacant National Theatre into their $800 million Monroe Blocks redevelopment. According to The Detroit News, the project would add a 35-story office tower and four mixed-use buildings within the city center. Kahn designed the Moorish Revival-Beaux Arts hybrid National Theatre in 1911, but the structure was abandoned in 1975. While the building has been allowed to decay, it remains the last in Detroit’s historic theatre district. The ongoing struggle to reverse Detroit’s economic fortunes has led to an increasing appreciation of historic structures within the city, as demonstrated by the ongoing restoration work of the Shinola Hotel, and the Albert Khan and Fisher Buildings. A critical asset behind Detroit’s renewal is the preservation of its architectural past. Although the development of unused land within the city center has few opponents, Detroit News reports that only the white-glazed terra-cotta facade and gold-domed towers of the National Theatre building will be preserved by Bedrock Detroit. This leaves the rest of the theatre space subject to demolition. Additionally, the facade will be dismantled piece by piece while undergoing restoration, and will subsequently be returned to a location within the Bedrock’s redevelopment scheme. While Preservation Detroit has voiced support for the Monroe Blocks redevelopment, the organization has expressed concern that only saving the facade compromises the district’s history and  removes an opportunity to restore the existing building within the development. Bedrock is presently involved in a number of ambitious projects in Detroit, such as the restoration of the iconic Book Building and the development of SHoP Architects-designed 1206 Woodward Avenue. For now, the restored facade of the National Theatre will only serve as a pedestrian portal for the upcoming project.