Historic Detroit

Every building in Detroit has a story — we're here to share it

Detroit Life Building

Designed by architects Arnold & Shreve, the Detroit Life Building, with it's neoclassical style opened to the public in 1923.

Detroit Life Insurance occupied the top four floors. Other original tenants included the Library Bureau and Zimmer Keller Institute.

The building was also occupied by real estate, insurance and construction agencies and retail shops lined the street level space. It officially closed it's doors in 1977 and became a part of the Park Avenue Historic District in May of 1997.

This 10-story, building designed by F.B. Arnold and Ralph F. Shreve in the Neoclassical style was completed in 1923. It was built as the Detroit Life Building, named for the Detroit Life Insurance, which was the original tenant.

Detroit Life occupied the top four floors of the building upon completion. Other tenants present in the building at the time were the Library Bureau and the Zimmer Kelly Institute.

"Life" was dropped from the name, likely after the Detroit Life Insurance vacated the building. Ilitch Holdings has since slipped "Life" back into the name, however.

The building was occupied until it closed in 1977. It remains abandoned to this day.

In the late 1980s, as Mike Ilitch took on the renovation of the Fox Theatre, he also bought the Detroit Life Building and planned to demolish it for development or parking. Preservationists argued that the building was architecturally significant and structurally sound. In October 1988, Ilitch announced that he would spare the Detroit Life, Varney Apartments and Blenheim Apartments building.

At the time, Ilitch said he would use taxpayer money set aside by the Downtown Development Authority for razing buildings in the area -- about $180,000 remained at the time -- to rehabilitate the three into housing. He didn't.

In 1997, the building was included in the Park Avenue Historic District.

A new roof was installed in 2005. On Jan. 12, 2006, Atanas Ilitch of Ilitch Holdings announced that the building would be renovated into office space.

In early 2018, work finally started on a $12 million renovation of the building, almost 12 years exactly to the announcement. Detroit-based Kraemer Design Group was performing the work. Among the changes was the removal and replacement of the building's original stone cornice, unquestionably its most outstanding feature. Olympia said the work was “being done in anticipation of future development," but did not elaborate on what that could be.

As of January 2023, the building remains closed.

Last updated 08/04/2023