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DETROIT-A firm that makes parade floats and other related entertainment equipment has decided to branch out to become a destination location in Downtown. The Parade Co. is moving into a 218,000-sf warehouse next door and plans to open a tourist attraction/manufacturing center.

The company already works out of 60,000 sf on Mt. Elliott Road, making floats, costumes and animated characters for Detroit-area events such as America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the International Freedom Festival and others.

“We’re going to make it a state-of-the-art parade studio,” says Susie Gross, president of the company, about the building.

Her non-profit company is raising almost $6 million to complete the move, including just more than half that to buy the warehouse and renovate it.

The company now gives tours through its small studios in its existing building, bringing in 5,000 visitors a year. The current facility operates out of part of the former Lynch Road Assembly Plant, designed by Albert Kahn.

“We plan to bring 50,000 visitors with this new building,” Gross says. “We’ll show families how we build the floats, it will be interactive and fun.”

She said the building will also include museum space to display old floats and animated characters.

Gross says the new studio could run like Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World of New Orleans, which makes the floats for the Mardi Gras parades. Kern’s has thousands of sculptured props and giant figures on display, and where artists and sculptors actually create the images and figures of Mardi Gras in full view of visitors throughout the year. Parties are also held at night.

“We could make this another convention center for Detroit,” Gross says. “We’re just glad we can make this possible, we’ll be able to show children our history, and collection of nursery rhyme floats from years past. Plus, we’ll be able to revitalize an old building and contribute toward art and education in the community.”

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