Forgotten Detroit
The Kales Building
An early postcard


Prior to 1914 the S.S. Kresge Company, the forerunner of today's Kmart, had its headquarters in a few offices above their Detroit store. Deciding that a separate office structure was needed the retailer the services of famed architect Albert Kahn to design an 18 story office building on the corner of Adams and Park Streets. The Grand Circus Park location would put Kresge in the center of Detroit's new central business district.

Kahn created one of Detroit's best early 'skyscraper' office towers. The new Kresge Building was built according to the principles of the the Chicago School of Architecture. The steel frame was expressed by the thin tiers of white brick. The building was relatively plain in comparison to other corporate headquarters buildings such as those of New York. The building's only decoration were some window frames along the lower three floors and the upper arched windows. The interiors reflected the times. The floors were open for development as the tenant saw fit. Limited artificial lighting technology required that the entire building have large windows wrapped around the facade to allow in the maximum natural light.

Another early postcard..

The Kresge Company only occupied 9 of the 18 floors. The remaining floor space was leased out to doctors and dentists. The storefronts included a pharmacy. In 1930 the Kresge Company built a new headquarters on Cass Park. This building currently holds the Kresge name. The old headquarters was renamed the Kales Building and remained a prime location for medical offices. As downtown Detroit began its decline in the 70's the Kales began to lose tenants. The last moved out in 1986 when utilities were disrupted. The building failed to gain new tenants and it would remain empty for nearly two decades.

In the mid nineties demolition seemed certain when plans for new sports stadiums were on the west side of Woodward. The Kales' land was needed for parking. Thus the property was acquired by the city. The Kales' future was put in limbo when the stadium plans shifted to the opposite side of Woodward. The city, wanting it off their hands, requested the Greater Downtown Partnership to try to sell the property to developers. During the summer of 1999 the GDP held 'request for proposals' for the Kales and the nearby Statler Hotel. The hope was to attract bids from developers interested in redeveloping  the building into loft apartments. This has apparently occurred and the building's future renovation was formally announced. Initial cleanup work began in 2000. Financial difficulties halted progress on the plan. However, work resumed in late 2003. The building opened in 2005.

Copyright 1999 - 2005, David Kohrman
Last updated on November 5, 2005