Former Radio Building in Oak Park, Designed by Albert Kahn to become…

ScottWrightadTOPFormer Radio Building indinos02sidelogo3 Oak Park, Designed by Albert Kahn, to become a Union Joint Restaurant

(Crystal A. Proxmire, Feb. 25, 2016)

Oak Park, MI – With a special passion for turning historical buildings into unique dining spaces, Curt Catallo has his heart set on his next big project: the former WWJ building at 12700 W. 8 Mile Road in Oak Park.

Catallo owns Union Joints, a group dedicated to good food and historical preservation, featuring restaurants like Clarkston Union (made out of an old church), Vinsetta Garage in Berkley (made out of an old mechanic’s shop), and Fenton Fire Hall (made from a historic firehouse).

Catallo’s plans were announced Thursday at the Oak Park State of the City Address, with City Manager Erik Tungate noting that attracting restaurants like Catallo’s would not be possible without the voters approving the City’s ability to issue liquor licenses. Mayor Marian McClellan said that SaharaNEW02the city still has 20 licenses available.

The name of the restaurant is yet to be determined, but for now it’s being referred to as 8MK, which are the original call letters of the radio station that opened in 1920. In 1922 the station became WWJ. Albert Kahn’s design came to fruition in 1936, and the imposing granite block structure remains, waiting for Catallo and his partners – wife and designer Ann Stevenson and managing partner Erich Lines to breathe new life into it. Quinn Evans is working as the architect for the project.

The building has been shuttered since the mid-1990s and will need quite a bit of time to explore and restore. Water fills the basement, and though some features of the broadcast era remain, Catallo still does not know what can be salvaged. One famous feature, which may or may not remain, is a mural near the atrium ceiling painted by a student of famed Mexican UrbaneAd_04muralist Diego Rivera, depicting the Greek God Zeus in front of a microphone before a cast of radio broadcasting characters.

“We want to preserve as much of the history as possible in the process,” Catallo said. Because of the attention to detail and the amount of restoration a timeline is not clear. “I default to saying 18 months, but 18 months goes quick. We don’t want to rush it.”

8MK will include outdoor seating, a DJ booth, and seating for approximately 100 people, and the food will be “the kind of American food that got us here.”

To learn more about other Union Joints restaurants, check out their website at http://www.unionjoints.com/.

The Oak Park State of the City address will be posted shortly at oc115.com.

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