Stoking a Hearth of Black Music and Community

Left to Right DSC Director, Michelle Jahra McKinney; Operations, Jonah Raduns-Silverstein; Board President, Larry Williams; Board Vice President Alyson Jones Tuner

Updated Summer 2022

You can give today and support our efforts to rehabilitate The Blue Bird Inn here.

Detroit Sound Conservancy is rehabilitating the Blue Bird Inn, a birthplace of bebop jazz and a working-class a hearth for the Black community before Motown, into a music venue, gathering space and Detroit’s only music archive.  All uses will be welcoming, accessible, and intergenerational with an emphasis on preserving our heritage for an innovative collaborative future.

Closed in the early 2000s through neighborhood disinvestment, The Bird’s significance to African American history and culture is both sonic and social. Sonically, The Bird was an epicenter of creative expression and schoolhouse of the Detroit sound. Socially, The Bird was a hearth of the Black community. 

Now, Detroit Sound Conservancy will The Blue Bird Inn once again as a neighborhood hearth for the community while helping to re-energize one of Detroit’s cradles of Black ingenuity. 

In 2016, Detroit Sound Conservancy salvaged The Bird’s Stage from the then blighted and abandoned club, rebuilt it, and have been curating it ever since. In 2018, DSC received a grant from The Kresge Foundation providing the needed funds to purchase the abandoned but structurally sound property and provide for community planning and engagement. In 2019, the The Bird was made an interim Historic District by the City of Detroit and on October 6, 2020 The Blue Bird Inn was official designated a Historic District.

In 2021, we fundraised and replaced the aging roof on the building and began design work with our architect, Saundra Little of Quinn Evans Architects.

In 2022, we have raised nearly $300,000 in capital funds  with grants from  The Kresge Foundation, Detroit Regional Chamber and The National Trust for Historic Preservation African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund.

You can read and learn more about The Bird’s legacy here.

You can give today and support our efforts here.

You can read more of work with the Blue Bird Inn Stage here.

To learn more or get involved please contact us at info@detroitsound.org or call direct at 313-757-5082

UPDATES

2022 July

DSC and the Blue Bird Inn receive $100,000 from The National Trust for Historic Preservation through the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund for The Blue Bird Inn Rehabilitation. 

2022 June 

DSC and the Blue Bird Inn receive $150,000 from The Kresge Foundation through the KIP:D+ grant program for The Blue Bird Inn rehabilitation.

2022 March

DSC receives $30,000 from Detroit Regional Chamber through the NeighborHUB grant program for The Blue Bird Inn rehabilitation.  

2021 Fall 

We replaced the aging roof of the building to seal it in from the elements. This project was supported by the Michigan Arts and Culture Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. We also finished initial schematic design with architect, Saundra Little and the team from Quinn Evans Architects.  

2020 December

Received Notification of Enactment!

You may read the final report here.

2020 October

Full City Council vote on October 6, 2020. 8-0 to make the Blue Bird Inn a  Historic District!

Notice of Public Hearing on a Proposed Ordinance to amend Chapter 21, Article II of the Detroit City Code to establish the Blue Bird Inn Historic District. This hearing will take place on Thursday, October 1st, 2020 at 11:20am.

2020 March

Voting Action: Proposed Blue Bird Inn Historic District -> Draft Final Report/Draft Ordinance. The meeting of the Historic Designation Advisory Board will be held on Thursday, March 12, 2020 at 4:00 PM in the 13th Floor, Auditorium, Coleman A. Young Municipal Center, 2 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, Michigan 48226. If you have any questions, please contact the office for further information. Email: historic@detroitmi.gov

2020 January

City of Detroit CITY COUNCIL
HISTORIC DESIGNATION ADVISORY BOARD
218 Coleman A. Young Municipal Center, Detroit, Michigan 48226
Phone: 313.224.3487 Fax: 313.224.4336
Email: historic@detroitmi.gov

NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING The Historic Designation Advisory Board of the City of Detroit will hold a public hearing regarding the proposed Blue Bird Inn Historic District located at 5021 Tireman Avenue, Detroit, Michigan 48204. The hearing will be held on Thursday, January 9, 2020 at 4:00 PM at St. Stephen AME Church, 6000 John E. Hunter, Detroit, Michigan 48210. The boundaries of the proposed Blue Bird Inn Historic District, outlined in heavy black on the attached map, are as follows: On the north, the centerline of Tireman Avenue; On the east, the east line, as extended north and south, of lot 32 of the Beech Hurst William L. Holmes Subdivision, Liber 17, Page 40, Wayne County Records; On the south, the centerline of the east-west alley south of Tireman Avenue; and On the west, the west line, as extended north and south, of lot 32 of the Beech Hurst William L. Holmes Subdivision, Liber 17, Page 40, Wayne County Records. Any interested party can make comments on this proposal at the hearing or by mail to the Historic Designation Advisory Board, 218 Coleman A. Young Municipal Center, Detroit, MI 48226, prior to January 9, 2020. NOTE: If interpretation or translation services are needed please call the office of Civil Rights, Inclusion & Opportunity. Ryan Crigle, office number is 313-224-1516 and the main office number is 313-224-4950. Notice of at least 48 hours in advance is required. This meeting is open to all members of the public under the Michigan Open Meetings Act Proposed Blue Bird Inn Historic District 5021 Tireman, Detroit, MI (Boundaries are indicated by heavy black lines.)

You can read DSC’s letter to HDAB here.

The Legendary Blue Bird Inn – Drone Footage Fall 2019 from Detroit Sound Conservancy on Vimeo.

Winter 2019

We are gearing up for a capital campaign to carry out necessary preservation work at The Bird early in 2020, including completing construction documents, and putting on a new roof. More info coming soon! In the meantime, you can give today and support our efforts!

Fall 2019

We held our first ever Neighborhood Preservation Resource Day.

Summer 2019

On June 18th, BSEED carried out an initial safety inspection at 5021 Tireman. As of the end of August, BSEED has yet to notify us in writing that we passed our inspection.

In July, City Council approved a study to determine whether the Blue Bird Inn (5021 Tireman Ave) meets the criteria for historic designation in accordance with the Michigan Local Historic Districts Act and Chapter 25, Article II of the 1984 Detroit City Code. This means that BSEED cannot issue a demolition permit.

A Great Day on Tireman event will be held on August 31st.

Our Director will discuss our progress at the 40th Annual Detroit Jazz Fest on Labor Day, Monday, September 2nd.

Spring 2019

On April 24th, we celebrated the completed purchase of the Blue Bird Inn with a lock-cutting ceremony with Marion Hayden, De’Sean Jones, and fellow community members.

We immediately applied for a deferral of demolition order with Buildings, Safety, Engineering and Environmental Department (or BSEED).

Winter 2019

In February we learned that the Blue Bird was put on a dangerous buildings list in October 2017 and has been slated for demolition. We have notified a number of people in the City of this situation and our working as best we can to complete the purchase of the property so we can actively get the building off that demo list. However, there is little we can do until the Detroit Building Authority gets back to us on our purchase agreement. You can read more about the situation via this article in Crain’s Detroit Business.

On February 26th, our purchase agreement was approved unanimously by City Council. We do not yet own the property but this is a big step.

On February 21st, our purchase agreement was voted out of P.E.D. (Planning and Economic Development) Committee.

On January 3rd, we submitted our purchase agreement and made a deposit on the Blue Bird Inn!

Fall 2018

DetroitSound5: Reimagining the Blue Bird Inn from Detroit Sound Conservancy on Vimeo.

We held DetroitSound5 in November.

We are excited to announce our new #KIPDetroit community engagement intern Rukiya Colvin. Colvin is a Masters Student in Urban Planning with a focus on community and housing development at Wayne State University. She will be hosted by Detroit City Council Member Raquel Castaneda-Lopez at her office in Detroit District 6 and sponsored by The Kresge Foundation. Among other initiatives, Rukiya will be gathering data for an historical musical asset map of sites within a roughly 2-mile radius of the Blue Bird.

Summer 2018

As of June 2018, the building at 5021 Tireman has entered building purgatory. It has been foreclosed on and we have put an application in with the Detroit Land Bank, and now we wait. Sometimes people just need to see that a building is empty so that they will leave it alone so we are going to leave this hole for now. The damage has been done. The building is a shell. We will continue to monitor and hope for a speedy process to ownership. In the meantime, we are attending local meetings and engaging our potential future neighbors.

Spring 2018

We are very grateful to The Kresge Foundation for believing in our sonic vision for The Blue Bird neighborhood and community. The planning begins now thanks to their support. With this grant we will conduct community engagement and initial design for the redevelopment of the Blue Bird Inn, an iconic jazz club on Detroit’s west side, into a neighborhood hub for music performance and community connection. Our hope is that future performances will elevate the legacy of the club, on Tireman near Beechwood, which closed in the early 2000s.

About our supporter: The Kresge Foundation was founded in 1924 to promote human progress. Today, Kresge fulfills that mission by building and strengthening pathways to opportunity for low-income people in America’s cities, seeking to dismantle structural and systemic barriers to equality and justice. Using a full array of grant, loan, and other investment tools, Kresge invests more than $160 million annually to foster economic and social change. For more information visit kresge.org.