The Russell Industrial Center is a genuinely fascinating place to spend an afternoon. Fifteen minutes from Downtown Detroit, the hulking seven building complex looks to the uneducated eye to be another abandoned building waiting its turn to be put out of its misery. But once inside, you soon understand it’s magic and why the centre sums up all the positives – as well as challenges – that are present in the Motor City.
In true Detroit style the center opened in 1925 to immediate problems, with motor industry entrepreneur John William Murray commissioning the construction of the premises to house his growing manufacturing business, Murray Body Company. However the company hit financial problems before the centre was fully completed, resulting in ownership changing hands a number of times before it was eventually forced to close. 1998 saw a tornado hit the center, causing damage to the windows and transformer, which would see it remain shut until 2003 when Dennis Kefallinos stepped in.
Kefallinos, a Michigan-based entrepreneur, quickly opened the doors of the newly purchased Russell Industrial Center to creatives, start-ups, non-profits and fellow entrepreneurs – with over two million square-foot of studio space available to rent.
The center now houses a diverse crowd of musicians, performance artists, furniture designers, printers, photography studios, candlestick makers and pretty much every other creative pursuit you could imagine.
A reoccurring theme of many of the conversations that we’ve had with Detroit natives throughout this series has been the idea of available space in the city, is there actually as much as you’d think? And what options are there for the new generation of businesses making their mark in the city? To find out more we made our way into the depths of the center to speak to some of its residents.
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