By the time CRW moved into 210 East Huron, the building was very run down and needed lots of work. It was also bigger than they needed—they were able to afford a serious renovation only after signing up a major tenant, the pioneering urban planning firm Johnson, Johnson, and Roy. JJR had outgrown its space in the Hutzel Building at Liberty and Main, where it had a view out the second-floor bay window.
The oldest part of the building, in front, underwent the most drastic change: the architects added a second story, a new roof, and of course a new facade. In the 1960s “modernizing” old buildings was still in vogue, and Don Wright designed an eye-catching slab of brown brick, boldly bisected by a recessed vertical bay.
Wright is modest about his effort. “There were two senior partners,” he says. “While they kept busy, I played with the building.” But JJR cofounder Carl Johnson thinks its “elegant simplicity” was a strong statement of the firm’s identity. “It was compatible with the direction of what they did,” Johnson says. “We thought it was pretty cool—or, as we would have said then, pretty sharp.”
“They were infatuated with the modernist movement,” says architect Rick Hermann, who rented space from CRW and was later part of a group that bought it. With its flat brick surface, gray-painted tubular columns, and framed entrance, he says, “the exterior is not unlike Mies van der Rohe.” Asked about the comparison, Wright agrees that he may have been influenced by the great German-born modernist.