Can You Write a Happy Ending for Detroit’s $3.5M Book Mansion?


It will take a lot of work and plenty of money, but a Michigan mansion could be a showplace once again.

The hulking 12,000-square-foot Book Mansion sits just a few miles from downtown Detroit.

“The current owners have owned it for about 12 years. It was run-down, and just a mess,” says the listing agent, Steve Katsaros with KW Metro. “They have spent a total of $4.2 million remediating, remodeling, and renovating this property, and it’s still not done.”

It’s now on the market for $3.5 million—nearly 20% less than what the owners have spent on the project thus far. Recouping the full cost isn’t in the cards.

“It’s a shame, but it’s reality—and the owners are in tune with reality,” Katsaros says.

Exterior of mansion in Detroit

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Aerial view

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Interior

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Floor

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One of the owners is a principal violinist, and the vision was to transform the mansion into a facility where an orchestra could practice, gather, and sleep if needed.

“The owners reached a point where because of COVID, their dream did not materialize. [An orchestra] could not gather, and they could not practice, so that kind of took the wind out of their sails,” he explains.

Much of the money spent went toward restoration of the exterior and the remediation of several environmental issues, both inside the house and on the grounds.

“The dirty work and the hard work are done. It has a clean bill of heath from the city and the state,” Katsaros says.

There’s also a certificate of occupancy, and the structure is zoned for residential or mixed use.

Staircase

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Stairs

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Bedroom

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Bathroom

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Kitchen

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Inside the main home, there are seven bedrooms, five bathrooms, as well as several reception halls and living rooms, many of which have 12-foot ceilings.

Most of the rooms have elaborate trimwork, much of which has already been restored. Other design highlights include mosaic floors and elaborate ceilings.

The marble grand staircase in the entry is a focal point.

“It really jumps out at you. At one point, there was probably carpet on the steps, and the carpet was held down with brass rivets. The brass is still in the marble,” the agent says.

When the home was built, in 1911, materials were sourced from all over the world, including flooring from Greece, wall hangings from France, and wood from Italy.

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At one point, the home was an office building, but it eventually fell into disuse, and sat abandoned and boarded up before its rescue by the current owners. They took down many of the walls used to divide the space into offices and made it into a residence again.

James Burgess Book Jr., a Detroit businessman and developer, built the home over a century ago, as a private residence. His family developed many properties in the city, including the Book-Cadillac Hotel.

The architect, Louis Kamper, modeled the mansion on Marie Antoinette‘s palace at Versailles. Kamper also designed the Book-Cadillac Hotel and dozens of other buildings in the area.

Katsaros says the neighborhood of Indian Village used to be filled with auto and other executives, and the street is lined with large homes.

“Some of the houses are very spectacular,” he says. “This house is by far double anything here. It’s a mansion—where the other ones are homes.”

Because the home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the exterior can’t be altered.

Carriage house

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On the property is a carriage house with a four-car garage and a living space above it. Katsaros says that it is not habitable right now, but adds that it has been gutted and remediated.

A buyer will also acquire an additional lot behind the house.

“It’s of high value. You could build one spectacular house or maybe even build two homes,” he says. “If it sells as a business, it could be used as additional parking.”

Although the project is far from over, the current owners are living in the home and have updated three of the bathrooms.

“It’s a work in progress,” Katsaros says, as far as the decorating is concerned. “It’s ready for someone to pump some more energy into it.”

Interior

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Exterior

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