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New life planned for the Vanity Ballroom in Detroit

Posted at 4:42 PM, Aug 25, 2016

The Vanity Ballroom was once host to many Jazz greats, but now is in disrepair.

A new effort is underway to breathe new life in what once was a gem of a building that sits on Jefferson Avenue Near Chalmers Street.

From the outside, the building looks like it needs a little TLC, but inside is much different.

Lots of work will be needed to repair the Vanity Ballroom, but many folks are determined to make it happen.

Joshua Elling is the executive director of Jefferson East Inc.

"We just have to bring this back," he said. "It's such an important piece of who we were, who we are and who we are going to be as a city."

The Vanity Ballroom was a popular jazz and blues spot.

Built in 1927, the ballroom could fit up to 2,000 folks ready to dance the night away.

"It's heart breaking," he said. "The building needs a lot of work. I think we are looking at a phase approach, total to bring it back will be $8 million."

Inside there is debris everywhere, holes in the roof, rotted floors and the air smells slightly musty.

The structure is sound but it will need to be gutted and repaired.

The organization, Jefferson East, is looking to have the city transfer the building to them.

And with grants, donations, private equity and other types of financing, they hope to breathe new life into the Vanity Ballroom.

They want the street level to be retail space and the second floor to be a community performing arts center.

"This building has such a pull on Detroiters both here and all over the country," Elling added. "I really feel that bringing this building back would be such a statement for supporting Detroit's neighborhoods."

Once the city will finalize the transfer, the first phase will begin later this Fall and major construction plans set to begin this time next year.