“United Sound Systems ought to be the linchpin, the centerpiece of a 21st-Century Detroit soundscape,” said Carleton Gholz, 37, who founded the Detroit Sound Conservancy. “It is Exhibit A of Michigan and Detroit’s impact on global sound. It should be alive and cooking.
“Preserving it is going to take a lot of money and a lot of imagination and a lot of people.”
The Michigan Department of Transportation has preliminary plans to use the land for an off-ramp for the widened interstate. A service drive would run down Antoinette, the cross street just after the freeway.
But MDOT spokesman Rob Morosi said the plans could change as the project moves forward.
“We have not designed this project,” he said. “What we did was a study, justification that this is needed. But we have not completed it. This is the worst-case scenario. Either we can alter the design of the service drive, or we could move (the recording studio). We’re not just putting our hands up and saying, ‘It’s got to go.’ ”
Gholz said he learned about a year ago that the building’s land was in the cross hairs of MDOT’s plans to reconstruct the freeway.
The building, which was purchased and made into a studio in 1933, doesn’t have a historical marker or designation to protect it. Wood is now covering the windows on the front, and it hasn’t been used regularly for more than a decade.
Gholz said the owners are aware of the historic relevance but seem hesitant to save it. According to property tax records, the building is owned by Danielle D. Scott. Efforts to reach Scott at her Detroit home were unsuccessful.
Gholz said he has spoken with MDOT representatives about finding a way to keep the building. He laments what he calls a lack of effort by others to preserve Detroit’s musical history.
“We’ve got to have an overall plan,” said Gholz, also a postdoctoral teaching associate at Northeastern University in Boston. “This is Motown. Do we care about the musical history or don’t we?”