New owner of historic SW Detroit building seeks to honor its cultural past

Louis Aguilar | The Detroit News | Published January 7, 2024

A 103-year-old building in southwest Detroit that’s been a cultural hub for groups ranging from Lithuanians, exiled Spaniards and the Latino diaspora is being revived by an Argentine immigrant who hopes the venue can be a prime spot for international Latino bands as well as community events.

Paula Anderanin, a College for Creative Studies graduate, has a professional track record of bringing a wide range of Latino acts to such Detroit venues as the Aretha Franklin Amphitheatre, El Club, Majestic Theatre as well the DeVos Performance Hall in Grand Rapids.

Last fall, she became the majority owner of the Lithuanian Hall, a three-story, 17,000-square-foot building at 3564 West Vernor for $1.3 million, public records show. West Vernor is the main commercial strip of southwest Detroit, which is the center of the city’s Latino community.

“It was actually built for the same thing I’m trying to do,” Anderanin said about the historic building. “There’s a much more cosmopolitan audience for Latino acts and events than I think most people realize. “

In recent years, Anderanin has brought to the area Grammy-winning acts with international followings, such as the Gipsy Kings, a flamenco-based group, to the Aretha and Molotov, a Mexican rock band, to El Club. She hopes in the future she can book such acts as Tropa Magica, an East Los Angeles-based band that plays “psychedelic cumbia punk” and gets rave critical reviews, according to the band’s website.

“They play like a fusion of cumbia and rock en espanol. That’s the kind of stuff I want to bring. I know there is an audience; I’ve seen it over and over again,” Anderanin said.

In addition, she plans to book weddings, quincea├▒eras, dance and food-based events at the space.

“It’s the whole package of music, food and community space that makes her venture very exciting,” said Laura Chavez-Wazeerud-Din, president of the Southwest Detroit Business Association. “She understands that there is an audience for Latino culture that goes beyond Latinos.” Southwest Detroit is home to roughly 44,000 residents, many of Latino descent.

The Lithuanian Hall has a decades-long history of being a cultural hub, though not lately. The building was in bad shape and vacant for several years when the nonprofit Southwest Solutions bought it in 2004. The group led a $2.1 million restoration of the facility.

At the time, it became the first building in Detroit to achieve “LEED Green Building” certification for its core and shell development by the U.S. Green Building Council. That means the building is efficient and cost-saving in its mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems.

The lower level became a commercial retail and office space, and Southwest Solutions used the upper floors that holds the stage as its office space.

Anderanin will keep the ground floor as office space. It’s been an Allstate Insurance office for years. The upper floors will become a live venue and community space, again.

She’s renaming the space Candela, Spanish for candle, and slang for something that is lively or “on fire.” She aims for the formal opening this spring. She’s adding a commercial kitchen, a VIP area, and parking spaces in the back of the building.

“The building has an illustrious history,” said Osvaldo “Ozzie” Rivera, a longtime cultural activist who teaches Afro-Latino history at the University of Michigan and Wayne State University.

Rivera recalls seeing many national acts such as salsa legend Tito Puente perform there decades ago. In the ’80s, Rivera was part of an arts and cultural group called Casa de Unidad that was based in the Lithuanian Hall for a while.

“There’s always been an audience for a wide range of Latino culture in the area. I’m so glad Paula, who’s a very sharp, talented person, recognizes that,” Rivera said.

laguilar@detroitnews.com

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