The City Council is looking into designating the Reynolds Aluminum building, 16000 Northland Drive, as a historical site.

The City Council is looking into designating the Reynolds Aluminum building, 16000 Northland Drive, as a historical site.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Southfield looking into making Reynolds Aluminum a historical site

By: Kayla Dimick | Southfield Sun | Published June 5, 2019

 Built in 1959 by world-renowned architect Minoru Yamasaki,  the building was once home to the Reynolds Metal Co. but now sits empty.

Built in 1959 by world-renowned architect Minoru Yamasaki, the building was once home to the Reynolds Metal Co. but now sits empty.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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SOUTHFIELD — A midcentury staple on stilts may soon be designated as a historical site.

Built in 1959 by world-renowned architect Minoru Yamasaki, the Reynolds Aluminum building, 16000 Northland Drive, was once home to the Reynolds Metal Co. but now sits empty.

At a May 20 meeting, the Southfield City Council voted 6-0 to approve a study on the building, performed by the Planning Department. Councilwoman Tawyna Morris was not at the meeting.

During a committee-of-the-whole meeting prior to the regular meeting, staff from the Planning Department discussed the process of enacting a historical district designation for the building.

“We want to protect and preserve the building for future use. The historic designation helps pause a developer who wants to demolish it and protects its historical character,” City Planner Terry Croad said.

Croad said the building is considered architecturally significant for a number of reasons.

While Yamasaki is most known for designing the World Trade Center, he had deep Detroit roots. Yamasaki moved to Detroit in 1945, and in the area most notably designed One Woodward Avenue and the McGregor Memorial Conference Center at Wayne State University.

In addition to its midcentury modern design, the Southfield building features anodized aluminum screens on the exterior of the building, along with skylights and open atriums.

“The architect is significant, and then Reynolds Aluminum used (the building) as their regional headquarters,” Croad said. “They used their own products on the outside and throughout the building, which showcased the products for their potential clients.”

Currently, the building is empty, but it was once home to several tenants.

“Part of the problem is it’s been converted a couple of times, and (tenants) made several changes to the interior. … It’s vacant and had flooding issues,” he said.

Croad said the Planning Department will study the building and prepare a report to present to the council.

“We are going to do a study, and we needed approval from the City Council to start the process,” he said. “We’ll have a public hearing and ultimately bring the reports back to council for their approval. And then, if they find it worthy, they can designate it a historical place.”

Councilman Donald Fracassi said he was given a copy of the June 25, 1984, council minutes, which unanimously approved a health club at the then-vacant building. At the time, Fracassi was serving as the mayor of Southfield, and he had voiced his concerns about a health club using the space.

“Mayor Fracassi stated that the Reynolds building is listed as (among) Mr. Yamasaki’s great buildings, and he would hate to destroy the pride and meaning which it has created for the city,” the 1984 council minutes state.

Fracassi said that during that time, he met with Yamasaki to discuss the plan.

“It’s very important to save it. I felt (that) then and I feel that now,” Fracassi said.

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