What would legendary architect Mies van der Rohe say about fencing Lafayette Towers?

November 12, 2019, 1:40 PM

Fencing at the towers would block easy access to the city park and a retail plaza at bottom left. (Photo: Fourmidable)

The top agenda item at Wednesday's monthly meeting of a low-profile City of Detroit review board has a potentially big impact on Lafayette Towers tenants and nearby residents.

Before the seven Historic District Commission members hear routine homeowner requests for OKs to add solar panels, replace windows, change siding or alter exterior colors in historic preservation areas, they'll consider a request from the Lafayette Towers owner to add fencing around three sides of the 1963 landmark just east of downtown.

The metal barriers would block direct routes to Lafayette Park, which comes up to the apartment complex on Orleans Street, just north of East Lafayette Boulevard and east of I-375.

Curbed Detroit editor Aaron Mondry, who tweets that he has "yet to find someone in favor of this," sets the scene:

The proposed six-foot wrought iron fence, which management says is necessary for safety, would block tower residents from easily accessing Lafayette Park. It would also put a barrier between the rest of the residents of Lafayette Park and a shopping center to the south. . . .

Because Lafayette Park is a local Historic District, the proposal must go before the city’s Historic District Commission. . . . The two-building, 22-story Lafayette Towers are part of the Mies van der Rohe–designed neighborhood.

The commission's four-member staff suggests that commissioners not allow fencing. "Pedestrian access through the development was a major tenet of its historic design," says a research recommendation Curbed quotes. "The fence installation is in direct conflict with the design and historic significance of Lafayette Park."

Attached to the report were 18 emails and voicemails from residents of Lafayette Park. All expressed opposition to the fence. . . .

Jackson Land Holding, which bought the towers in 2012, . . . did not respond to a request for comment.

Public meeting: 5:35 p.m. Nov. 13, Coleman A, Young Municipal Center, 13th floor auditorium.

Read more:  Curbed Detroit

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