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Jim Renberg on preserving Detroit's historic architecture

Say Detroit to non-Detroiters and too often the worst images of blight will come to mind. That’s not what Jim Renberg sees. He sees a business opportunity.

Renberg launched Brush Park Studio with Tom Atkinson with the idea of preserving the grand architecture in the marquee neighborhood next to Detroit’s Central Business District. It has grown over time to preserving historic architecture across the U.S., but it has recently returned to Detroit with the idea of focusing on local housing renovations.

"The suburbs were not an option," Renberg says. "We were either going to go full force in the city or not come back at all."

The Sherwood Forest-based business concentrates on preserving some of the architecture that defines Detroit’s built environment: single-family homes. The Motor City is the happy hunting ground when it comes to working on beautiful historic houses in need of some tender loving care.

"Detroit is the largest American city that has the biggest number of single-family homes," Renberg says.

So every blighted house is not only a business opportunity for Brush Park Studio but an opportunity for a family to make a home in a beautiful, unique piece of architecture that is uniquely Detroit.

"All of them are worth saving," Renberg says. "Detroit has a substance in its architecture that just can’t be matched."

Brush Park Studio does renovations and restorations, but also new construction. The company works to integrate vintage materials into its new projects to bring more character to the building and also give it a longer life. Renberg points out that historic houses were built to last centuries. Too often new construction today is built to last only a few decades.

"It's all prefab construction with vinyl siding and Wallside Windows," Renberg says. "Everything that goes into them (Brush Park Studio projects) is vintage material."

- Written by Jon Zemke

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