Going Going Gone: Demolition of the 40-year old North Park Plaza

On the gloomy overcast morning of December 14th, 2014, the former North Park Plaza Hotel and Office Building was razed to a pile of pulverized concrete and twisted metal in 8 seconds.

Owned by Oakland Community College and deemed unfit for renovation, the 40+ year old building on 9 Mile Road in Southfield, Michigan, was worth less than the land upon which it stood.

At 8:31am, a series of explosions could be heard echoing inside of the cavernous hulk as support beams were being weakened and severed by thermite explosives. Explosives were detonated on floors one, four and seven of the 17-story building. Then, after several paired explosions on the east side of the building did it quickly succumb to gravity and settled into a two-story lump.

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Positioning myself and my cameras in an OCC parking lot just east of the building, I figured I would have the ability shoot a good ¾ side shot of the building. Plus, considering that the studios of WJBK Fox2 were directly north of the building, with an IBM operations center to the northwest and occupied structures to the west, this would be one of the best places to witness the demolition as the demolition company would want the debris to fall this way. But I did not factor in the wind blowing in from the west until it was too late. Nonetheless, the encompassing debris cloud made for great images and for a moment I was thinking – despite the horrific chaos – that this must have been what is was like to be Manhattan on September 11th. 2001.


North American Dismantling Corporation had already removed portions of the building before the implosion to ensure a safe and easy demolition. They had weakened key parts of the building and removed windows and many inner walls. Wedges were cut into the steel beams in order to weaken them upon collapse and to force the building to fall in on itself. The Oakland Press reported that 376 packages of explosives were used to implode the 340,000 square-foot building.

Oakland Community College had auctioned off the “right” to press the detonation button on eBay. The winning bid was reported to have been around $10,000, all of which was going to be used to benefit student programs at the college. The winning bidder chose to stay anonymous, so a student who had just graduated from the OCC Police Academy got the honors.

Following the implosion, everyone in the OCC parking lot was eager to leave. I had figured that there was no way that we were going to be going anywhere for some time due to the dust cloud that had formed and that I had assumed that NADC was going to need to secure the site before any cars would be able to drive past it. We sat for over an hour waiting for the all clear.


Video of the demolition can be viewed on YouTube in over a dozen videos including this one . From my vantage point, I could see two camera drones in operation and have – at this time – seen only one camera drone video on YouTube.

Oakland Community College has not yet indicated what plans it has for the property once the rubble has been cleared.

Michael Kuentz
Photographer/ Cinematographer