Historic Detroit

Louis Kamper Apartments

Where prosperous bankers once kicked back their heels in gilded splendor, the Industrial Stevens Apartments today is home to low-income senior citizens.

In the 1920s, Detroit’s Book brothers were turning Washington Boulevard into the Fifth Avenue of the west, erecting skyscraper after skyscraper designed by architect Louis Kamper. This Art Moderne-Art Deco skyscraper was yet another part of their plan, rising 22 stories on the northeastern corner of the boulevard and Grand River Avenue.

Work on what was to be called the Industrial Morris Plan Bank Building began in March 1926, the same time work was wrapping up on another of the Book brothers’ Kamper-designed projects, the Book Tower. “The Industrial Bank building will follow completion of the Book Tower, and other projects designed to improve the boulevard are under way and will follow in order,” J.B. Book Jr., whose corporation owned the building, told the Detroit Free Press in February 1926. “As soon as the bank building is completed another structure will be started, and so on until the thoroughfare assumes a similarity to the Grand Central development in New York.”

“With completion of the bank and office building, Washington boulevard becomes the center of every kind of business, retail merchandising, specialty shops, hotels, office buildings, banks and financial institutions,” Book boasted. “This concentration in one location means convenience and accessibility, prosperous business, and and increased realty values, all tending to raise the character of the boulevard development.”

Kamper was the Book brother’s architect of choice and is responsible for many of Detroit’s landmarks, including the the Book-Cadillac Hotel, the Broderick Tower, the Washington Boulevard Building and the Water Board Building.

The Free Press wrote in February 1926 that the building was “another epochal undertaking associated with the modern development of Washington boulevard” as it ushered in “the first of the financial institutions to seek a permanent home in the midst of Detroit’s new center of concentrated business enterprises.”

Including land, the structure cost more than $2 million to build, about $24.7 million when adjusted for inflation.

While the exterior looks much like it did when it opened, the interior has been heavily modernized. That’s because, in 1981, having struggled with low occupancy, the Industrial was one of four office buildings downtown that were converted into senior and low-income housing.

On March 21, 2016, it was announced that the 127-unit Industrial was sold along with the Stevens Apartments next door to a joint venture between the Roxbury Group and Invest Detroit, which vowed to keep them affordable senior housing even though downtown’s renaissance is seeing skyrocketing rents and similar low-income buildings converted into trendy apartments and lofts.

The pair of historic skyscrapers began renovations in early 2018.

More history, photos and artifacts of this building coming soon.