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Seen in panorama, Detroit's waterfront shows a variety of architectural styles. The post modern neogothic spires of the Comerica Tower at Detroit Center (1993) were designed to blend with the city’s Art Deco skyscrapers. Together with the Renaissance Center, they form a distinctive and recognisable skyline. Examples of the Art Deco style include the Guardian Building and Penobscot Building downtown, as well as the Fisher Building and Cadillac Place in the New Center area near Wayne State University. Among the city's prominent structures are the nation's largest Fox Theatre, the Detroit Opera House and the Detroit Institute of Arts.

While the downtown and New Center areas contain high-rise buildings, the majority of the surrounding city consists of low-rise structures and single-family homes. Outside of the city's core, residential high-rises are found in neighbourhoods such as the East Riverfront extending toward Grosse Pointe and the Palmer Park neighbourhood just west of Woodward. Neighbourhoods constructed prior to World War II feature the architecture of the times with wood frame and brick houses in the working class neighbourhoods, larger brick homes in middle class neighbourhoods, and ornate mansions in neighborhoods such as Brush Park, Woodbridge, Indian Village, Palmer Woods, Sherwood Forest and others. The oldest neighbourhoods are along the Woodward and Jefferson corridors, while neighbourhoods built in the 1950s are found in the far west and closer to 8 Mile Road. Some of the oldest extant neighbourhoods include Corktown, a working class, formerly Irish neighbourhood, and Brush Park. Both are now seeing multi-million dollar restorations and construction of new homes and condos.

Many of the city's architecturally significant buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places and the city has one of the nation's largest surviving collections of late 19th and early 20th century buildings. There are a number of architecturally significant churches, including St. Joseph Catholic Church and Saint Anne de Detroit Catholic Church.

There is substantial activity in urban design, historic preservation and architecture. A number of downtown redevelopment projects have revitalised parts of the city. Grand Circus Park stands near the city's theatre district, Ford Field, home of the Detroit Lions, and Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers.

The Detroit International Riverfront includes a partially completed three and one-half mile riverfront promenade with a combination of parks, residential buildings, and commercial areas from Hart Plaza to the MacArthur Bridge accessing Belle Isle. The riverfront includes Tri-Centennial State Park and Harbor, Michigan's first urban state park. The second phase is a 2-mile (3 km) extension from Hart Plaza to the Ambassador Bridge for a total of 5 miles (8 km) of parkway from bridge to bridge. Civic planners envision that the riverfront properties condemned under eminent domain, with their pedestrian parks, will spur more residential development. Other major parks include Palmer (north of Highland Park), River Rouge (in the southwest side) and Chene Park (on the east river downtown).

Theatre & Performing Arts

Detroit has a long theatrical history, with many venues dating back to the 1920s. The Detroit Fox Theatre (1928) was the first theatre ever constructed with built-in film sound equipment. Commissioned by William Fox and built by architect C. Howard Crane, the ornate Detroit Fox was fully restored in 1988. It is the largest of the nation's Fox Theatres with 5,045 seats. The city has been a place for operatic, symphonic, musical and popular acts since the first part of the 20th century. Portions of Leonard Bernstein's music for Westside Story, produced by Detroit's Nederlander Organization, were composed on the piano that resides in the library at Cranbrook in the Detroit suburb of Bloomfield Hills. James T. Nederlander's career began after purchasing a 99 year lease on the Detroit Opera House. His son, the organisation's chairman, James M. Nederlander, also a Detroit native, coproduced over one hundred famous theatrical classics, including West Side Story, Hello, Dolly!, the King and I, and Fiddler on the Roof. Today, the Nederlander Organization operates Detroit's Fisher Theatre, the Detroit Opera House, and several theatres in other major cities on the Broadway theatre circuit.

During the late 1980s the great old motion picture screens and live performance stages began to be restored. The Fox Theatre, Detroit Opera House (formerly the Grand Circus Theatre), and The Fillmore Detroit (formerly the State Theater) are notable restorations. Other venues were modernised and expanded such as Orchestra Hall, the home of the world renowned Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Next to the Detroit Opera House is the restored 1,700-seat Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts (1928) at 350 Madison Avenue, designed by William Kapp and developed by Matilda Dodge Wilson. The Detroit Institute of Arts contains the renovated 1,150-seat Detroit Film Theatre. Smaller sites with long histories in the city were preserved by physically moving the entire structure. In a notable preservation, the Gem Theatre and Century Theatre were moved (off their foundation) to a new address across from the Music Hall Center in order to construct Comerica Park. Detroit's 1,571-seat Redford Theatre (1928), with its Japanese motifs, is home to the Motor City Theatre Organ Society (MCTOS).

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