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Petition calls to save bandshell at the old State Fairgrounds in Detroit

Construction underway for $400M Amazon site
Posted at 6:52 AM, Dec 21, 2020
and last updated 2021-01-25 15:06:02-05

(WXYZ) — Construction is already underway at Detroit's old State Fairgrounds, a portion of the 142-acre site to become an Amazon distribution site, promising more than 1,200 jobs and millions in tax revenue over the coming years.

For many city leaders including Mayor Duggan, it's a symbol of economic resurgence for District 2 and the City of Detroit; the city council voted 6-2 in October to approve the sale.

But there's a portion of the Amazon site drawing calls for a pause, the old bandshell. It once welcomed acts like Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald and later Alice Cooper and Three Dog Night.

The bandshell's roots in the city's music history run deep and for many, demand the venue is somehow saved. Currently the bandshell sits on what will serve as a parking lot for the Amazon distribution center.

Action News viewer John Hardy wrote on the Channel 7 Facebook page: "So so many many memories of that place! All the groups that played there during the State Fairs when people around here were growing up! It was the original concert venue in Detroit..."

"So much history has taken place at the iconic bandshell," Kathleen Moore of Waterford wrote on a Change.org petition to save the bandshell, expected to be demolished soon.

“You have performers that broke color barriers and musicians that broke different barriers for social issues. Everything from the history of Rock N Roll and protest music and beyond," David Gifford of Transit Guide Detroit said.

Gifford recently wrote an opinion piece on the bandshell's impending destruction. He thinks there's too much history there to bulldoze.

"To lose this site, it would be a great tragedy in Detroit," he said.

The site hasn't been used since 2009 and the bandshell itself is in visible decay, but Gifford, who is also a musician, said with local music venues struggling right now, an outdoor venue like this one still has great potential.

“It seems to be kind of split 50/50 some people just think we should have the progress, we should move on if it hasn’t been used that we don’t need it anymore," Gifford said.

Amazon has promised 1,200 jobs starting at $15 an hour on the site. The distribution center is expected to generate $77 million in tax revenue over the next decades.

The company did release this statement to 7 Action News: "Amazon appreciates the sentimental and historic value of the bandshell to the Detroit community. We are working closely with the developer to assess every possibility to try to preserve the structure," it said.

Action News reached out to the developer, Hillwood Investment Properties for specifics. We have yet to hear back.