DIA buys nearby midecentury building; site’s future unknown

Leveling the building for a parking lot is one option the museum is considering.

The Detroit Institute of Arts has purchased the home of the Detroit Behavioral Institute at 5250 John R., prompting rumors that the 55-year-old building may be torn down surface parking.

But the DIA says it has not decided what to do with the site.

The midcentury-style building was owned by Matrix Human Services, which sold the facility to the DIA last week. Pamela Marcil, the museum’s public relations director, confirmed the purchase to BLAC as well as a representative from Matrix.


“Whatever we do, we will do in consultation with our Cultural Center neighbors,” Marcil says.

Local architecture and design aficionados who caught wind of the sale raised concern that the DIA planned to demolish the building to make way for a parking lot for the art museum and other nearby cultural destinations like the Scarab Club, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History and the Michigan Science Center.

Marcil said the building’s current tenants, the Detroit Behavioral Institute, will have the first opportunity to buy the building or extend their lease, but Marcil did confirm that leveling the building to add more parking is still on the table.

The John R. corridor has seen its fair share of demolition plans in recent years. The Children’s Center Headquarters at 110 East Alexandrine Street and John R was demolished in 2014 and became a parking lot.

The Hammer and Nail Building that sits on Woodward and Selden and stretches back to John R. was initially scheduled for demolition in 2013, but the mid-century modern building was spared and is now slated to become high-rise apartments.

The building at 5250 John R. was initially built for the League of Catholic Women, which later evolved into Matrix Human Services. The facility is a 98-bed treatment center that "treats youth who are struggling with mental health and co-occurring disorders," according to DBI's website.

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