Historic Detroit

Every building in Detroit has a story — we're here to share it

Merchants Building

The Merchants Building was part of a flurry of buildings erected by John J. Barlum in downtown Detroit during the 1920s.

This building replaced the Abend Post Building, erected for a German-language newspaper that was built in 1890 and was one of the first commercial buildings erected on Broadway - back when it was still called Miami Avenue.

The eight-story, reinforced-concrete mid-rise is sheathed in white terra cotta and was built with four storefronts on the ground floor fronting on Broadway and Grand River Avenue. The builder was Otto Misch Co. Among the early tenants were the Merchants Credit Bureau, a grocer, furriers, and the New York Life Insurance Co.

"Careful attention has been given the matter of lighting, assuring sunlight for all floors," the Detroit Free Press reported on March 5, 1922. "No detail in the matter of safety or fire prevention has been overlooked, the architects say." The building was outfitted with two high-speed elevators and the building was said to be fireproof.

The Merchants Building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on Nov. 25, 1983. The Merchants Building is similar in appearance and style to the nearby L.B. King Building, which is also on the National Register.

The building was sold in 1996 to an entity called Broadway Merchants LLC, which was registered to Joan Primo in Bloomfield Hills.

The building's upper floors have been vacant in for a good part of the 2000s, though the ground floor has been occupied by a juice store, a doughnut shop and a taqueria.

In May 2022, Detroit-based Method Development bought the Merchants Building for $5.9 million. The purchase came after the slowing of renovations and conversions following the COVID pandemic that began in 2020. Method Development had completed several other rehabs of historic Detroit buildings in Brush Park, Corktown and Milwaukee Junction.

In October 2022, Crain's Detroit Business reported that Method planned to seek approvals to convert the Merchants Building into a 135-room hotel with a rooftop bar. The cost of the conversion was estimated at $21.5 million in hard costs and $16.6 million in soft costs, according to a Detroit City Council analysis of the project. The analysis said that the project would be financed with $16.7 million in equity and $27.3 million in debt. Method hired Kraemer Design Group, the leading renovation firm in Detroit, was hired by Method as the architect of record.

A year later, on May 10, 2023, Method got approval from the Detroit Historic District Commission to turn the Merchants Building into a hotel, but news reports said at the time that it would be "more than 100 rooms."

"We are committed to delivering an inclusive and best-in-class hospitality experience," Amelia Patt Zamir, a principal and co-founder of Method, told the Detroit Free Press for a May 13, 2023, article. “Our company is mission-driven, and our mission is to adaptively reuse historic buildings that are obsolete.”