After noticing heavy equipment onsite at the vacant Pizza Hut building on Woodward Avenue in Ferndale the night before, crews on Thursday made quick work demolishing the iconic red-roofed restaurant. The real estate firm offering the site says it’s slated to become a 7,200 square-foot retail plaza.
The “Shoppes @ Cambourne,” as the development is marketed by CMP Real Estate Group LLC, will be split into four retail spaces, with the largest topping 2,100 square feet. Lease rate for the trapezoid-shaped building is $35 per square foot, triple net.
Corbin Yaldoo, senior associate with CMP in West Bloomfield, said the developer, whom he declined to identify, opted to redevelop the site rather than sell it, and paid for the demolition.
The rendering for the new development recalls the two brick-and-glass retail buildings constructed across Woodward a couple years ago that now house businesses including Verizon Wireless, fun novelty shop The Rocket and — oh yeah, Pizza Hut.
Bad corporate rebranding
I had been sort of eyeing the empty red-roofed building for a while now, imagining some other creative reuse as a new restaurant. And why not? The building had a kitchen area, a dining room with plenty of windows, parking and a good location in a thriving area. I had even mentioned it to a friend who was sniffing around for a place to open his own restaurant.
What’s most interesting to me is how Pizza Hut has turned its back on its iconic architectural heritage.
Now, I’m not one to wax rhapsodic about corporate food, but Pizza Hut’s ongoing rebranding saga is interesting to me. For one, Pizza Hut was one of those chains — Taco Bell and Chi-Chi’s are two others that come to mind — whose architecture was synonymous with its brand. Everyone remembers the red shingled rooftops with the raised spine, like a cartoon character’s hat, capping a building seemingly made of trapezoids. The Ferndale branch moved a year or two ago across the street, to a much smaller and more anonymous carryout location.
Secondly, I confess a certain fondness for Pizza Hut. I credit it for helping me discover pizza, which was like a gateway drug for me into the world of food. I have fond memories of dining there with my grandparents, playing Asteroids and Rally-X in the lobby while we waited for our order. While my pallet has certainly evolved, I remember those pizzas actually being pretty good, with those weird but wonderful canned mushrooms and the nice caramelized Sicilian-style crusts. Plus they had good-for-the-’80s salad bars and those tall, red plastic cups with crushed ice that made Coke taste so good.
Now, under the ownership of Yum! Brands, which also owns not-so-yummy brands Taco Smell and KFC, Pizza Hut seems to be losing its identity in a series of clumsy rebranding efforts. First, company brass jazzed up the logo and font to be edgy, or something. There was that time when they were going to change the name to The Hut … or not. Then they started to target millennials with all kinds of crazy crust flavors, toppings and other menu items and now there’s that whole barf-in-your mouth hot dog crust thing.
It all reminds me of the fatal rebranding blunder of Bill Knapp’s, another place I associate fondly with my late grandparents.
New life for former Subaru dealership?
And so, Ferndale continues to modernize.
And in fact, the former Pizza Hut site isn’t all that CMP is working on in the neighborhood.
Right across Cambourne Street, the Hodges Subaru dealership just decamped at the end of last month for renovated new digs a mile south on Woodward near 8 Mile. That left a 6,533 square-foot showroom, office and maintenance garage building vacant.
Yaldoo said the same unnamed developer is also representing that building and its 22 parking spaces. The lease rate is $25 per square foot, triple net, with the bonus caveat that “New ownership will make renovations to the building suitable for general retail use.”