Rehabilitation of Detroit’s Historic Jazz Club, the Blue Bird Inn, Enters Next Phase | Music News | Detroit

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Courtesy of Detroit Sound Conservancy

Residents and community partners stand in front of the Blue Bird Inn on Labor Day 2019.

Detroit’s historic Blue Bird Inn gets a new lease on life.

Once a jazz venue where legends like John Coltrane and Miles Davis performed, in the early 2000s, the building at 5021 Tireman Ave. on Detroit’s west side was abandoned and then threatened with demolition. But now the building’s prospects are looking up.

The nonprofit Detroit Sound Conservancy acquired the building in 2019, and it earned a city historic district designation in 2020. The DSC put a new roof in place late last year, allowing the non-profit organization to move into the next phase of life. to the building.

“Replacing the roof entirely was a big step in really bringing it back,” said Jonah Raduns-Silverstein of the Detroit Sound Conservancy. Metro timetables.

How bad was that? “You could see daylight!” adds Michelle Jahra McKinney, also from the DSC.

“Not just with the bluebird, but with any building that’s there, every day is a day closer to its own destruction,” says Raduns-Silverstein. “So the roof itself was a really big step for us.”

The roof repair was made possible through an internal fundraising campaign, says Raduns-Silverstein. “We found great support from some known places and some unknown places,” he says. Now the DSC has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise $30,000 to take the project to the next phase. The funds will be supplemented by a grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

To make this vision a reality, the organization turned to Saundra Little of Quinn Evans Architects. “She’s an award-winning black architect,” McKinney points out.

Little’s renderings depict a venue with a cafe and performance space. McKinney says the DSC could use the space for musical performances, art exhibits, educational workshops and other community events.

She says the design was the result of many conversations with community members to ask what they wanted in the space.

“I think what’s pretty ingenious about the design is this flexibility and its ability to serve many uses, while still being Detroit’s only music archive,” adds Raduns-Silverstein.

The rear of the building will house the Detroit Sound Conservancy Library, which includes books and other materials on Detroit’s many contributions to the world of music.

Click to enlarge An interior rendering of the Blue Bird Inn shows a performance space with a cafe.  The venue's original Art Deco stage was salvaged.  - COURTESY OF DETROIT SOUND CONSERVANCY

Courtesy of Detroit Sound Conservancy

An interior rendering of the Blue Bird Inn shows a performance space with a cafe. The venue’s original Art Deco stage was salvaged.

Thus, the new Blue Bird Inn will not only be a jazz space.

“Our organization is cross-gender,” says McKinney. “I think it’s probably going to be mostly jazz and blues, but we have Motown just down the street, all kinds of black music… we have techno and reggae, there’s the African folk community. There are so many different communities that could use these archives. …I was hoping we could develop it into a place where [people from] all genres felt comfortable coming to discover the archives.

“It will surely be a kind of cross-genre and gender-agnostic performance venue and space,” Raduns-Silverstein said. “But I think the philosophy will probably go back to the kind of legendary jazz days of close listening and intimacy, and peer-to-peer mentoring of young people, but in terms of the type of music itself, it will be extended to n’ any and all music that is made, played and enjoyed in the city now.

Raduns-Silverstein says the hope is the project will be ready to go by the end of the year. “The truth is, there are a lot of pieces that need to fall into place,” he says.

The building’s iconic blue exterior will be preserved. The hall’s small Art Deco-style stage has already been salvaged and used by the DSC for on-site activations elsewhere. When the space is ready, it will be returned to the Blue Bird Inn.

Otherwise, there wasn’t much else left to salvage.

“When you leave a building vacant for 5 to 10 years, every year and every day, there’s less to salvage,” says Raduns-Silverstein.

Beyond the building itself, the DSC says the hope is that the resurrected Blue Bird Inn can help them attract more traffic and development to the community. “They need groceries and stuff there,” McKinney says. “And something like that, I think, might attract that.”

But Raduns-Silverstein sees the project as an important way to preserve Detroit’s musical heritage.

“It’s much more about how to support our culture in a way that can really last and last, and usher in the next generation in a way where, you know, kids growing up on the streets actually know that the techno was invented here, or know what the Blue Bird Inn was like down the street where they live,” he says. “We’re so driven by this project because it’s the physical version of that deep commitment to this work, celebrating, defending and preserving Detroit’s music history – the most important innovative music city in the world, but the people of Detroit don’t even know that.”

More information about the project is available detroitsound.org/give/bird.

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