Crain's: Detroit's Penobscot Building needs a rescue, and owners should sell

March 18, 2021, 7:29 AM

It seems an obvious sentiment, but someone had to say it to the suits of Detroit's business community: It's time for the absentee owners of the once-glorious, now-decaying Penobscot building to unclench their Canadian fists from the deed and let someone with capital rescue it. 

Sell this treasure to someone who cares. (File photo)

Kirk Pinho of Crain's Detroit Business lays it out

If the surviving children of the Penobscot Building's late owner Andreas Apostolopoulos truly cared about Detroit, they would sell the iconic building and never buy real estate here again.

For at least the second time in 14 months, the Detroit Fire Department was dispatched to the building today as a result of a suspected building fire in the basement that turned out to be an overheated boiler that damaged electrical equipment, creating a burning smell.

That may or may not have led to two women, one 87 years old, being stuck between floors in one of the building's elevators Wednesday. As Pinho points out, it was the second such incident in a little over a year. 

However, the owners of the Penobscot, Triple Properties of Toronto, have made it clear they won't budge from an asking price of $100 million for the Art Deco skyscraper, even though they paid just $5 million for it in 2012 and even though the building now needs tens of millions in repairs. The building has been plagued by such humiliating system failures as the loss of heat and overflowing toilets. 

Tenants tell Pinho:

"That place is a death trap," Barbara Dmoch, who works in a law office in the building, wrote me in an email last month. She is the wife of my former editor at an Oakland County weekly newspaper where I worked for five years in my 20s.

"I'm not exaggerating. I've been dropped multiple floors in elevators to the point where I instinctively cram into a back corner and brace myself whenever I get in one. Had to go down 42 flights of unsafe stairs for a fire, water constantly not working, intermittent heat/air, vermin, mold, etc. It's such a shame because it's a beautiful building. I hope the family sells it, or at least puts some money into it."

The city has issued multiple blight tickets to Triple Properties -- blight! In a building once considered one of the most prestigious addresses in the business district! -- but so far, they appear to have no interest in repairing the Penobscot. 

Let's see if shaming works. (Don't bet on it.)

Read more:  Crain's Detroit Business

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