Russell Industrial Center

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Russell Industrial Center, Detroit, Michigan

The Russell Industrial Center is a complex of studios and shops is located at 1600 Clay Avenue in Detroit, Michigan. The Russell Industrial Center is a 2,200,000-square-foot (200,000 m2), seven building complex, designed by Albert Kahn for John William Murray in 1915. The Russell Industrial Center, sometimes abbreviated as R.I.C. [or RIC], it contains studios and lofts and serves as a professional center for commercial and creative arts.

In 1925, Murray completed the factory to accommodate its growing auto-body manufacturing business (Murray Body Company); but before the plant was completed, business decreased. In an effort to stay afloat economically, Murray formed various mergers to expand his production. A series of difficulties led previous owners of the Russell to close.

The factory has become another of Detroit's renovated buildings. In 2003, Dennis Kefallinos purchased the building and converted it into more than one million square feet of studio space and lofts for various artists, creative professionals, and businesses. The Russell Industrial Center works with non profits, local colleges, and businesses. Kefallinos is owner to several Detroit businesses, such as Nikki's Pizza in Greektown.


John William Murray, born 1862, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, was known for his company, Coach Work by Murray.[1] In 1913, he formed the J.W. Murray Mfg. Co. and supplied sheet metal parts for the automobile factories in the Detroit area.[2] The first plant was located in Detroit, at 1975 Clay Street, which is next to the Grand Trunk Western Railroad line and borders Fordyce, Morrow, Marston and Clay Streets. Murray Manufacturing began manufacturing automobile bodies, stamped fenders, hoods, cowls and frames. The growing demands from customers, such as the Dodge brothers, Ford Lincoln, Crosley, Willys, Hudson, Hupmobile, King and Studebaker, led Murray to expand his operations.

In 1915, Murray hired architect Albert Kahn, to design a larger industrial center to meet the demands of Detroit's growing automotive industry. Kahn was one of Detroit's foremost industrial architects, known for his large concrete-reinforced automobile factories. His design was strong, fireproof, inexpensive to construct, and opened up by eliminating heavy obstructive columns. Another characteristic was providing a large amount of windows and gaslight to give factory workers an ample amount of natural light.[3]

Murray's company began having financial problems during the economic recession in 1924-1925. During that time he formed a merger with C.R. Wilson Body Co., one of Henry Ford's major suppliers. After the merger, the company's newly elected president, Allan Sheldon, made a series of costly mistakes; the first was supplying Hupmobile, which was located 400 miles (640 km) from Detroit, which resulted in high transportation costs; next the overproduction of parts in 1924 for the anticipated 1925 sales resulted in the layoffs of factory workers. Next the stock market crash of October 1929, and the Great Depression negatively affected the automobile industry. The Ford plant eventually had to shut down and the Murray Corporation continued to struggle until 1934.

In the 1940s, Murray maintained a lucrative printing business, and began manufacturing military supplies, airplane wings and other components of the fighter/bomber planes, and washing machines for Montgomery-Ward. When the war came to an end, expressways opened up the city of Detroit to the surrounding suburbs. This led to suburbanization, and another recession for Murray. He continued manufacturing automotive parts for a short time, but eventually had to close operations.[4]

In 1960, Murray began leasing out space to printing companies and change the name of his company to the Michigan Stamping Plant and eventually it began to be called the 'Russell Industrial Center.[5] Another owner the Russell Industrial Center was Leona Helmsley, who purchased the complex in 1970 and sold it in 1991, to printer, Wintor-Swan. In 1998, the Russell was damaged by a tornado and storm that flooded and destroyed the building's transformer and many of the windows. The Swan Company experienced financial difficulties and could not afford to stay in business.[6] The building stood vacant and in disrepair until its purchase by Dennis Kefallinos, owner of Boydell Development Company, for one million dollars.[7]

Due to safety violations the building has been ordered vacated as of Feb. 21, 2017.[citation needed]


Since the structure of Kahn's building was made of concrete and was covered in windows, Kefallinos decided that it would be suitable for art studios and began plans to create several lofts for studio space. His efforts are an example of Urban development in Detroit. His plan to transform an industrial building into lofts, and promote the arts is recognized as one of the many urban renewal efforts in the city of Detroit.

In 2010 artist Kobie Solomon painted the Detroit Chimera Graffiti Mural on building number 2.[8]

Commercial tenants[edit]

The Russell Industrial Center contains more than 150 creative and commercial tenants; such as architects, painter, clothing designers, photographers, musicians, filmmakers, and art galleries.[9]


  • The Russell Bazaar, is an indoor marketplace, open the first week end of the month, where more than 150 local merchants and artists sell their wares.[15] Booth rental is available for a small fee; final approval by management ensures customers have a variety of goods to choose from with preference given to booths selling original or unique merchandise. Each month a booth is offered for free to raise money for the non profit group The Russell Industrial Center for Creative Studies.
  • The annual People's Art Festival, is open to the public and features a variety of art, entertainment, food and merchandise for sale in the complex courtyards. Some of the tenants open their doors within the complex to welcome the public to visit their studios. In addition to art and merchandise, entertainment is provided on a number of stages on the complex grounds, featuring a variety of music from local musicians. Admission to the event is free to the public, sponsored by non profits and local businesses, where more than 200 visual artists, film makers, musicians and other performers can give back to the community and integrate the city with Detroit's creative community and promote the arts in the city.[16]

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Coordinates: 42°22′38″N 83°03′39″W / 42.37735°N 83.06089°W / 42.37735; -83.06089