The synagogue with colorful windows in Detroit’s Capitol Park neighborhood is expected to get a big renovation.
The Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue at 1445-1457 Griswold St. is targeted for an overhaul to every floor, including opening up the first-floor facade, a new elevator, rooftop deck, stair extensions to the roof and other improvements, according to documents submitted to the Historic District Commission, which has to sign off on the changes because the building is in the Capitol Park historic district.
Commission documents say the 1930 building received its “exuberant rainbow of colored acrylic windows” in the mid-1960s after the synagogue purchased it but before its designation as part of the district in 2012.
“This expression, as much as the pre-war historic building itself, has become a local landmark,” the document says.
Vadim Avshalumov, president of the synagogue’s board, said the windows will remain
“It’s a comprehensive renovation with improvements from the basement to the rooftop,” Avshalumov said. “We are going from this fortress-like brick on the ground floor that in many ways is uninviting, to glass.”
The building is about 10,500 square feet, according to CoStar Group Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based real estate information service. It was originally occupied in 1930 by William Apel & Son Coal Inc., the company run by the son-in-law of its developer, Joseph Lucking. Among its other tenants over the years were a women’s clothing store, beauty salon, a medical office and a finishing school before the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue bought it.
The synagogue’s website says it has nearly met a $4.5 million fundraising goal for the project.
According to Avshalumov, lead funders were the William Davidson Foundation; the Jewish Fund; the D. Dan and Betty Kahn Foundation; the Gilbert Family Foundation; and the Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation.
Construction is expected to begin in December and take a year to complete, Avshalumov said.
“We are the last free-standing synagogue in the city of Detroit,” Rabbi Ariana Silverman said in a video posted to the synagogue’s website. “It’s a building that needs a lot of work. Judaism has been evolving for thousands of years and we are at a point in Jewish history in which we recognize that people want to connect of Judaism in a myriad of ways, including the tremendous Jewish organizations that are doing important work in our community and are going to have a presence in our building.”
The third and fourth floors would also serve as space for various Jewish organizations. Those floors are currently unused, Avshalumov said.