The Detroit area has a well-known (and likely well-deserved) reputation for not preserving many of their historical structures (mention Tiger Stadium and one will grasp the frustration). Tear-downs in the name of "progress" have also permeated some structures Downriver in the last thirty years.
The most-known potential site for historic demolition is currently the old Neisner building in downtown Lincoln Park, ironically located across Fort Street from the recently restored Park Theater; itself located just a few blocks north of the historic (though demolished) Mellus Newspapers building.
In these cases, some of the biggest pains felt lie in watching a building deteriorate with disuse until demolition becomes the only answer. I am definitely one who believes more care needs to be used on these older buildings, ones filled with design thought and façade details from the moment they go dormant.
One big exception looms, though, north of downtown Trenton: the old Riverside Hospital.
Old, abandoned medical facilities have long been revered by "ruins" experts and ghost hunters and do have a fascinating draw about them (examples of such include Eloise in Westland, and the Northville Psychiatric Center). However, Riverside does not meet this criterion.
Progress on the property is stalled yet again, due to ownership issues and lack of responsibilities being met in a city agreement. The only demolition to this point has been to the central administration building (the original red-brick structure, which may have contained the "ghosts" cited) and the power plant. These were arguably the only real historic buildings on the site. What remains dates only from the 1950s forward and does not present anything we can judge as "historical".
The complex appears to be nothing more than a crazy maze of buildings and wings to nowhere. The interior deterioration is especially noted, but was to be muted following guidelines of the above agreement, in hopes for a successful re-use.
The owner shifted his sites instead to the long-dormant plaza at Fort & King Roads, which looks golden on the surface. There is more space, more potential customers due to more traffic, and bigger plans could be forthcoming. Yet as of this writing, even this space stands idly, as forlorn as the riverfront site due east.
Whether the properties' owner is a man of his word or not is not debatable fodder for this column, as we try not to question peoples' motivations. But the "bottom line" continues to deteriorate before our eyes. Agreements can be long and drug-out, and things do take time. But we don't believe the timetable for a resolution is moving fast enough; not only for Riverside, but for the McLouth Steel property due north of the medical complex.
Does Riverside merit saving? In my opinion, it does not. Years ago, it was determined the old VA Hospital in Allen Park was not worth saving, in spite of all it did for the veterans in our area for generations. As perfect as its architectural greatness fit the area and its sheer imposing factor lent a sense of royalty to the purpose, the building was simply too outdated from an infrastructure standpoint to have a cost-conscious renovation... nor was it worth the potential of spending years in a mothballed state.
Riverside has been out of service for a longer period of time, and without the true emotional appeal that other sites such as the VA merited.
The time cannot come soon enough for some progress to be made on the Trenton waterfront. Such an idea is not a pipe dream; we never believed a Detroit Riverwalk would ever come to fruition, for instance... and now its recovered lands & condition are astoundingly positive - and believable.
History needs to step aside in this case, and let adaptive reuse dominate an area needing it the most. This also will allow for "one owner, one site" in Riverview, where plans can more realistically be achieved.
Riverside Hospital needs to go.