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Newberry Hall renovation preserves history, goes green

Historic nursing school, residence hall turned into energy-efficient studio housing

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Posted: Thursday, January 26, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 11:59 am, Fri Apr 5, 2013.

Another piece of Detroit history was saved through the residential renovation projects in Midtown. Newberry Hall, located at 100 E. Willis St., was renewed with attention to historic detail but also updated with energy-efficient features. It is now accepting leasing applications for those interested in moving into the 28-unit apartment building.

“We wanted to save a neighborhood landmark. It’s really a beautiful building that sits on a major street across from the hospital (Detroit Medical Center),” said Lis Knibbe, a principal at Quinn Evans Architects.

Newberry Hall originally opened in 1898 as a school for nurses and residence hall. Helen Hardy Newberry advocated for the proper training of nurses, so she commissioned the building, which was built by Elijah E. Myers – who also designed the capitol building in Lansing.

Quinn Evans Architects and development and finance firm Zachary and Associates worked together to decide how to combine the old with the new.

“We tried to restore the important architectural features of the building, so we restored the exterior and also the beautiful entry lobby,” Knibbe said. “The improvements we put in are pretty contemporary, but sensitive to the historic style.”

The original building featured a training area in the basement, a large social hall near the entrance where nurses could entertain guests and small dormitory-style rooms with one big marble-lined bathroom shared by the nurses.

“We salvaged the marble from the bathroom, and it’s now going to be used as the countertop for a tea shop,” said Diane Van Buren, a consultant at Zachary and Associates.

Van Buren worked on much of the deconstruction side of the renovation, including removing historical material so that it could be preserved rather than thrown in a landfill.

“A lot of the walls had to come down, but there were very valuable materials there, so we helped bring in a job training program to deconstruct those important pieces and store them,” Van Buren said.

Zachary and Associates also worked on the recycling plan for materials, using recycled hardwood flooring from a house in Hamtramck for the floor in the lobby.

In addition to its traditional decor, Newberry Hall is also home to a long list of “green” features. Each unit controls its own geothermal heating and cooling system, has its own washer and dryer – which are combined into one energy-efficient machine – and uses all Energy Star appliances to help keep utility costs low.

All of the units range in size and cost. For about 900 square feet, the cost would be roughly $1,000 per month, which includes utilities for the first year but not parking costs. The units are also pet friendly for both dogs and cats less than 35 pounds, but a pet deposit is required since units are carpeted.

Newberry Hall is within walking distance to popular Midtown locations such as Union Street Saloon, the Majestic Theatre, People’s Records and the future Whole Foods.

Van Buren said there are five studio units, 18 one-bedroom units and five two-bedroom units. Rooms on the third floor have their bedrooms and bathrooms in the attic, which is connected by stairway to the third floor. Those that face John R. Street come with the building’s original leaded-glass windows, she said.

“In Midtown,” Knibbe said, “we’re really trying to save the interesting, old architecture to help make the neighborhood attractive to new residents.”

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