Editor's note: This version corrects the title of city architect Michael Molinski
City officials have made the case about why the Hilliard Square Theater — at least the theater portion of the building — must be torn down.
The reasons have everything to do with safety.
Michael Molinski, the city’s architect, laid out some of the issues before the city’s architectural board of review on Thursday. The once-grand theater at the corner of Hilliard Road and Madison Avenue, now crumbling and abandoned, was deemed a nuisance last week.
Molinski also showed a photo slideshow, highlighting some of the structural issues from the inside of the building.
“The property is in a general state of disrepair,” he said.
The roof is torn open in a few spots; the shingles are falling off; masonry work routinely crumbles to the sidewalks below; and there’s no gas, electric or running water.
“I’d recommend that we not go back there ever, unless we’re wearing hard hats, because it’s unsafe,” said Molinski, adding that sunlight streams in through the holes in the collapsing roof and ceiling.
There’s a hole so large that “you could drive a Volkswagen through the roof without touching much of anything.”
“What it looks like inside was actually worse than what we thought it was going to be,” said fire marshal Tim Dunphy, noting that during the event of any incident, firefighters have been warned not to enter the building. “It’s in really, really rough shape.”
“There are some serious safety concerns,” he added.
Both the building and fire departments issued correction notices — more than 80 of them.
The apartments and storefronts portion of the building could be salvaged.
“We’d be very interested in saving that part of the building, but the owner has told us that he’s planning to tear the whole thing down,” Molinski said. “Obviously, that’s not good for Madison Avenue.”
The building’s owner, Bob Dobush, has expressed no interest in appealing the nuisance declaration, said city officials.
The cost to fix the violations is estimated at more than $1 million. And that’s not including a much-needed overhaul to update the structure.
The city will likely abate the issues, with demolition being the likely option.
It’s not been a big secret that small movie theaters have struggled to maintain viability in recent years. A serious lack of parking hasn’t helped the Hilliard Square Theater, built in 1927.
The Detroit Theatre on Detroit Avenue was demolished last year and replaced by McDonald’s.
City officials said they will know the fate of the Hilliard Square Theater on Oct. 17.