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The condition of a building today has a a big impact on its future potential. The historic schools in this study have all been vacant for several years. Many of these schools are approaching 100 years old (or more!) and were already in need of repair when they closed. As you can imagine, time and neglect has taken a toll on the condition of these buildings.

Luckily, Detroit's historic school buildings were built to last a long time. Even if a school looks like it is in rough shape, its "bones" may still be solid. And, even schools in rough shape can be fixed—but it will just cost a lot more money.


For this study, a team of engineers spent four hours at each building surveying three critical parts: the structure (the "bones"), the envelope (the "skin"), and the roof.

Next, the team gave each building a score based on how much distress was observed​, and how serious the issues were. Buildings with low scores have fewer issues (better condition), while buildings with higher scores have more issues (worse condition). ​

Last, the team estimated the cost to repair each building in order to make it ready for reuse. These costs include things like:

  • cleaning and clearing out debris

  • removing hazardous materials like lead and asbestos

  • repairing the roof and drains

  • repairing bricks and masonry

  • replacing windows

  • replacing plumbing and mechanicals

  • finishing the interior

  • fees for engineers and architects

  • buffer for surprise costs.

It is important to keep in mind that the estimates are only rough guesses—the real cost could be higher or lower.

The 10 schools in best condition are:

  1. Weatherby

  2. Healy

  3. Higginbotham

  4. Kosciusko

  5. Parkman

  6. Macomb

  7. Hutchinson

  8. Courville

  9. Holcomb

  10. McFarlane

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