Detroit’s Blue Bird Inn gets $1.9M grant

The historic Blue Bird Inn on Detroit’s west side is getting closer to reopening.

The building at 5021 Tireman Ave., once a renowned music venue where jazz legends like John Coltrane and Miles Davis performed, was abandoned by the early 2000s and faced the threat of demolition.

In 2019, however, the Detroit Sound Conservancy purchased the old neighborhood jazz club and has been advocating for its rehabilitation ever since. Now, the nonprofit has received a grant of $1.9 million from the Mellon Foundation to help fully realize the vision over the next four years.

“We are profoundly grateful to Detroit’s legacy of cultural champions who have paved the way for this substantial philanthropic support,” Jonah Raduns-Silverstein, DSC Director of Operations, said in a press release. “After years of work and advocacy, The Blue Bird Inn will once again become a welcoming home for Detroit’s ongoing musical story. These resources allow us to fully restore the Bird to its historic, sonic, and cultural excellence.”

When restoration is completed, the Blue Bird Inn will not only serve once again as a music venue, but will also become a cultural heritage center and space for community programming. The rehabilitation will merge historic character with modern updates, including recreating the original seating layout and lighting, reinstalling the salvaged stage, rebuilding the bar, installing archival shelving, and detailing historic finishes.

While originally an acoustic-only venue, the new space will integrate a state-of-the-art sound system to amplify the full spectrum of Detroit music.

“We will support community-based activism and tell untold stories,” Michelle Jahra McKinney, DSC Director and Director of Collections, says. “We will empower our community and support our partners to join with us, supporting our efforts to preserve, make accessible, and secure Detroit’s true gift to the world: our music!”

DSC plans to complete the renovation, reopen the Blue Bird Inn, and hire new full-time staff members over the next four years, plus grow programming and communications. The nonprofit encourages community members to get in touch to learn more about their work and ways to get involved.

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