401 North Main goes from rough to diamond in downtown Royal Oak

What was once blighted rough is now Royal Oak’s newest architectural diamond — 401 N Main.

The
2-story office building literally blings in the sunlight with its new
stainless steel exterior and large glass windows. It’s about to open as
the new home to two of the city’s prominent law firms, Corey and Flood,
and Lanctot & Connor, next week.

“We did a lot of work, but
it’s a great showpiece now,” says Jim Schneider, president of Royal
Oak-based Schneider+Smith Architects, which designed the renovation of
401 N Main.

That’s the first time anything so complimentary has
been said about the building that sits across the street and a few
blocks up from the Main Art Theatre.
For years, 401 N Main was the biggest blight in downtown Royal Oak,
suffering through failed redevelopment plans time and again as it sat
half-done with weather-worn building materials flapping in the breeze.

The
city finally had enough. It condemned the building and hired a
contractor to raze it, but at the eleventh hour, local preservationists
lined up a new developer to save it from the waiting dumpster.

“It
was pretty close,” says Schneider, one of the proponents for saving 401
N Main. “The city was pretty adamant about taking it down.”

That
was the easy part. Schneider and his crew had to figure out how to
revive a building that had wandered far from its original plans. It was
originally built as a single-story storefront in the 1920s. In 2003, a
developer started to add a second story for condos. This project
basically served as his learning curve before he ran out of money.

The
crew had to replumb, replace walls and do a host of other structural
work to shore up the 5,800-square foot structure. The subsequent
rebuilding was no easy task. Part of the roof was rotted out and the
second floor was covered in several inches of pigeon poop.

More
than one year’s worth of work produced a moderne-looking structure that
complements downtown Royal Oak’s new building stock, like the Fifth at Royal Oak and the Center Street Lofts. Its interior is part modern office and part loft-like office space for about 15 attorneys and support staff.

The
ground floor has dark wood flooring and modern finishes, which
contrasts with the exposed X-bracing and large windows. The east-facing
windows utilize Solarban 60 Low-E Glass
and are lightly tinted to control the ample morning sunshine and to let
occupants put their eyes to the street, making for a more walkable
block.

The second floor contrasts with a more traditional-loft
look. Exposed wood rafters, duct work, wood beam posts and a corner
balcony make the second floor feel almost more like a luxury loft than
a place of business.

“It’s sort of what we were going for,” Schneider says. “We wanted a high-degree finish below.”

401
N Main adds a big shot of energy to Royal Oak, one of Michigan’s best
downtowns, by extending walkability and vibrancy beyond its traditional
northern border of 11 Mile Road.

The refurbished building is a nice new little jewel that now sits at the top of downtown’s crown.

Source: Jim Schneider, president of Royal Oak-based Schneider+Smith Architects
Writer: Jon Zemke