The building was constructed in 1917 as The Peoples State Bank of Redford, a stately building at the prominent intersection of Grand River and Lahser Road in Old Redford. It closed in 1931, likely the victim of The Great Depression, and was later re-opened as Stein's Department Store. The building sat vacant for some time before The Platform purchased the property in 2016.
Years of neglect and deterioration led many to question whether the building was beyond repair. A collapsed roof had caused significant water damage, a fallen staircase, and a flooded basement. In order to preserve the building, a new structure was built inside the walls. Outside, decades of resurfacing materials on old storefronts were peeled away to expose the limestone block that was replastered to create an even façade. In addition, 20 feet of the building cornice – its most prominent architectural element – was rebuilt. Throughout construction, great care was taken to rehabilitate the building and preserve historic architectural and design elements.
The design for The Obama celebrates the building's original architecture while providing a stark contrast between past and future uses. This dichotomy inspired Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects (LOHA) to select a minimal material and color palette of white and black that gives the building presence while allowing flexibility of use.
Planning affordable developments requires ingenuity in design, but the same purpose – to create elevated living experiences. Thoughtful design focuses on open floor plans, natural light, wide corridors, public space and connectivity to the community. In this way, beauty and simplicity can be found in everyday materials resulting in inspired spaces that offer equity in access and opportunity.
The commercial spaces support budding entrepreneurs and small businesses by minimizing upfront investment. Spaces are organized around centralized shared amenities such as bathrooms and an employee kitchenette, and come with a higher degree of finishing compared to standard white box space.
In a community where arts and culture abound, preserving the building's namesake mural was paramount to the project. The Platform worked with the mural's artist, Chazz Miller, to restore the mural and relocate it to a public gallery on the first floor. The exhibition space is an extension of an existing art loop in downtown Old Redford where murals adorn buildings and live music, poetry jams, art camps and celebrations are regularly hosted by the Artist Village.
The Obama building is a manifestation the community's pride, determination and hope. The building's name was informed by these attributes and memorialized through a participatory design process with local businesses, residents and civic leaders. The community's voice is also heard through the Neighborhood Advisory Council that approves building tenants.