The Wellington building is a prime example of Detroit’s accelerated form of urban decay.
Seemingly overnight, the former Seward Hotel went from being a fairly nondescript 10-story brick apartment building to a windowless, gutted shell. Water pours through holes in the roof, walls have been smashed open by scrappers, and paint peels of the ceiling in giant sheets. It’s not uncommon to see this level of decay in buildings after 5 to 10 years; in the Wellington, it took less than one year.
59 Seward Street has gone by many names: It opened in 1909 as the Seward Hotel, later becoming Wellington Place, Wellington Plaza, Wellington Condominiums, and lastly Wellington Commons. The building at one time featured an ornate cornice, but these appear to have been removed during a renovation.
The neighborhood around The Wellington changed too. Seward street has a reputation for being a rough area in an already rough part of Detroit, with high rates of prostitution and drug trafficking. I’ve watched drug deals going down in plain daylight on several occasions while scouting the location.
By 2009, conditions at The Wellington had declined to the point where the building was practically uninhabitable. Many apartments that were beyond repair had been boarded up or plastered over by the property managers; the remaining units were infested with bedbugs and other pests. Wellington Commons LLC went bankrupt in July of 2009; residents were given 30 days to vacate before the power was turned off due to unpaid bills.
It is unlikely that The Wellington will ever be renovated. The building is unremarkable, most of the notable architectural decorations are long gone, it has been scrapped heavily, and there are other properties on Woodward Avenue that are better candidates for rehab.
The Wellington is one of several apartment buildings on Seward that has been purchased by a commercial property group looking to offer market-rate apartments in midtown. According to Curbed, work on The Wellington could start in a few years.