Detroit's Grande Ballroom could get new life — as a church


  • Photo via Wikipedia Commons, by Arthur duce
  • 2009

The future of legendary venue and rock 'n' roll palace, the Grande Ballroom, has teetered on unstable ground since its closing in 1972. 

For nearly 45 years the Grande, located at 8952 Grand River Ave., has remained synonymous with the sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll of 1960s Detroit. The venue hosted the likes of the Who, Fleetwood Mac, Cream, and Led Zepplin. MC5 served as the venue’s house band, and even recorded its debut album Kick Out the Jams there. 

Now, historic preservationist Leo Early and his cohorts have launched a fundraising campaign with hopes of securing enough cash to pay an engineering report fee as well as inspection costs that would determine the viability of the building's structural stability.

Early hopes the structural engineering report would give the green light to move forward on restorative efforts. He, along with a grassroots organization called Friends of the Grande, have partnered with the property's owners, Chapel Hill Missionary Baptist Church to address and hopefully rectify a slew of building safety issues — starting with the roof.

“The hope is that we can do secondary fundraisers. A roof fund would be the first stabilization effort,” Early says.   

Should the property be deemed fit for restoration, the Grande will not reprise its role as a live music mecca. The owners have other plans.

“You can’t go back home,” Early says. “The church wants to retain the building for their use. The lower level was originally retail space so it would likely be retail or other lower level tenants. The upper level, which was the original ballroom, has been envisioned as a possible sanctuary or event space for the church.”

Early says the church is also open to renting the space out to the public for weddings, art events, and even concerts.

While the Grande is certainly old enough, it has not yet earned a place on the list on the National Register of Historic Places. That may all change soon, though. Chapel Hill Missionary Baptist Church has given Early the go-ahead to secure a nomination for the list.

The campaign launched on Nov. 12, and as of Nov. 20, has raised $3,245 of its $5,000 goal. Large donations have been made by Grande elite and MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer as well as Tony D’Annunzio, the director of Louder Than Love: The Grande Ballroom Story.

“If anyone has ever been impacted by the Grande Ballroom, it’s important to know that every dollar counts,” says Early. 

Check out Detroit's own the Stooges’ 1969 Grande performance below:

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