Everyone always has a ton of questions so here is the low-down…
“What’s the deal with the building? What’s the history?”
There are several rumors surrounding the building. City records are of no help, but our theory is that construction between 1908 and 1914, based on papers found and on markings on the elevator equipment. It was built by pouring concrete floors and pillars inside of huge wooden molds. Even today you can see the markings left from the wooden frames throughout the structure. Also, another rumor is that the building was designed and built by the legendary Albert Kahn. The building’s architecture and design fits the Kahn-design but there’s no proof.
The building was built for the Leonard Warehouse Company for fire-proof business storage. There is another almost identical building at the corner of Tuxedo anfd Woodward in Highland Park. That building has not fared as well as this one and looks like it may be on its last legs if something isn’t done to save it. Interstingly, it’s first floor is only about 7 feet tall – rendering it almost useless for today’s needs.
4731 was then occupied in the 1940s by the Michigan Furniture Company (or something to that effect) who operated a furniture sales center and warehouse. During the 1960′s and 1970′s the building was used by a motorcycle gang for gatherings and parties. Its rumored that club initiations and hazing were done in the basement, now haunted, according to a psychic that came through the building several years ago. The building was then purchased by Chuck Roy, who now owns the Cass Café. Ric Geyer purchased the building in 2000 to build workshops for he and Chris Turner, a renowned local artist. Over the last 12 years, it was developed into art spaces for local artists and creative businesses. In October, 2010, Geyer hired Derek Weaver, “the real estate guy”, to manage the building. Derek has completely revamped the management process at the building, and has created or furthered a number of important initiatives.
4731 is an arts incubator, a place where creative people come together to share ideas, enjoy camaraderie and advance their art. We are dedicated to a philosophy that promotes mutual respect and inclusion, and exploits the notion that diversity of thought, of background and of preference is our greatest asset.
Where did the idea come from?
The idea came from a discussion at Honest John’s Bar on Field Street on Detroit, across from Belle Isle. The bar has since moved to Selden near Wayne State, but back in the day, it was the place on the near east side to meet people in the city. The discussion was between Chris Turner and Ric Geyer. Chris is a great welder and designer and was actually the co-designer of the Millennium Bell in Grand Circus Park. Chris was also responsible for bringing in the first wave of artists who helped build the building. Jake Ferretti, Taru Lahti, Dave Krieger, and host of others helped in the process. Chris also believed the building could start a new idea – a way to house artists who could co-create because they were all in the same space – and – support a gallery and be able to show the work of these same artists. He didn’t call it an incubator, but he was clearly on to the concept. Ric bought the building and he and Chris worked there and began the slow process of bringing the idea to life. Chris eventually left to pursue other projects, but Ric stayed, and the rest is history.
Who the heck is this new “Country Club Looking Guy” and what does he know about Art and Entrepreneurship?
Managing 4731 today is the “real estate guy”, Derek Weaver. Derek is an avid art-lover, entrepreneur, and pure Detroiter who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. Derek’s passion for Detroit, arts, and entrepreneurship is obvious, but if you need proof, you need look no further than the Grand River Creative Corridor, which Derek created and implemented along with several extremely talented artists along Grand River in beginning in 2011. Derek is exactly what the building needed to move it forward.