Russell Industrial Center's closure has surprise impact on Metro Detroit churches

Multiple fire safety code violations uncovered at Russell Industrial Center

DETROIT – A Local 4 Defenders investigation exposed the Russell Industrial Center in Detroit as a potentially dangerous building.

The city found multiple fire safety violations at the complex and announced it would shut down the operation and chase away the large artisan community that works there.

It turns out the closure had a far more expansive ripple effect, as a Metro Detroit church and even the Archdiocese were caught short by the center's closure.

The distance between Downtown Detroit and St. Patrick Church in White Lake is significant, but a 50-year-old pipe organ that needed replacement has tied them close together.

READDetroit officials blame landlord for closing of Russell Industrial Center due to safety violations

St. Patrick's Church started seeking a replacement for their pipe organ 18 months ago and found not one but two classic organs to do the job. One is from St. Benedict's Highland Park; and the other is from a Cambridge, Massachusetts, Catholic church.

The two pieces were carefully stacked up and are getting a painstakingly hand-crafted overhaul to combine the best pieces into one musical masterpiece inside the Russell Industrial Center.

"We had not planned for this at all," said Rick Helderop, who runs Covenant Organs.

Helderop said his heart stopped when he heard about the complex's impending closure.

"We had ... two weeks to actually look for a building," Helderop said.

Father Tom Meagher of St. Patrick's said he was worried.

"If they decided to lock down the building, it would be a big problem," Meagher said. "We wouldn't be able to get the instruments out of the building and wouldn't be able to work on them."

While it'll take two weeks and five semi loads to move the organs, the St. Patrick's instrument will be finished.

It's great "to see organs that have lived for probably 80 years, and now breathing new life into them, that'll last another close to 100," Meagher said.

Since the people involved were proactive, it appears they'll have a place to rebuild the pipe organ, which will be in place by June.

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