Albert Cobo was not fond of Black residents he was elected to serve. The republican mayor was a proponent of urban renewal, which displaced thousands of Black residents in Detroit in the 1950s and 60s, and he neglected civil-rights initiatives that would have integrated the city’s black population. The convention center that sits along the Detroit River has been named after theformer racist mayor of the city for the last 60 years.
Tuesday, the Cobo Convention Center was given a new name. Now that the merger between TCF Bank and Chemical Bank became official as of August 1, the downtown Detroit venue will be called TCF Center. The bank bought the 22-year naming rights to Cobo Center for $33 million.
Rained moved the press conference and sign unveiling inside, but the new name and signage were still revealed by TCF Executive Chairman Gary Torgow and Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority (DRCFA) Chairman Larry Alexander, with the help of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Detroit Branch NAACP President Rev. Wendell Anthony, and a host of the bank’s and DRCFA’s top leaders and other city, state, and community dignitaries.
“Today has been a long time coming and is a good day in the City of Detroit,” said Mayor Duggan. “For the last three years, I have been pretty vocal with Larry Alexander about changing the name of this facility. And we need to be honest about some things. This center has been named after an individual that was responsible for policies that moved large numbers of African Americans out of their homes and businesses with no place to go, in the name of urban renewal. The pain caused in that time still reverberates today.”
Against the backdrop of 10 million visitors whovisit the greater Detroit area and the 1.5 million visitors to the convention center annually, officials said TCF Center will continue to grow its book of meetings, conventions and event business as it has continued to set record-breaking numbers since its $279 million renovation. In fact, TCF Center had an unprecedented year in 2018 with 244 events and a 564 percent increase in revenue since 2009.Some of the center’s more well-known events include the North American International Auto Show, and the NAACP Fight For Freedom Fund Dinner.
“We couldn’t be prouder or more honored to partner with the authority on this unique opportunity to support our hometown and state. It helps ensure a continued strong, vibrant future for the world-class Detroit convention center that connects our city to the world,” Torgow said. “It’s an important part of our larger, intentional effort to marry inclusion with investment across the city and its neighborhoods, region and state. We look forward to reaching new heights.”
Calls to remove Cobo’s name from the convention center increased as cities across the country began debating the fate of controversial statues in public places. Cobo, who served as mayor from 1950 to 1957, was known for his racist policies, and ran on a platform of segregation, aiming to keep African Americans from living in predominantly white neighborhoods.
The native Detroiter was heavily criticized for spearheading urban renewal projects that razed black neighborhoods, most notably Black Bottom, which was replaced with the I-375/I-75 freeways. He was condemned throughout his career by civil rights groups that accused him of moving too slowly in response to harassment and police brutality against the city’s black residents and for continuing the city’s longstanding housing segregation policy. Cobo was Detroit’s mayor until he unexpectedly died of a heart attack on September 12, 1957, while completing his final two-year term. He was 63.
The former Cobo Hall or Cobo Center, has a special place in the heart of Detroiters. From the Detroit Pistons playing games there from 1961-1978, to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. first delivering his famous “I Have A Dream” speech there in 1963, the auto show, and the Detroit Public School League basketball playoffs and championships. But all good things come to an end at some point.
“Today marks a new beginning and a new chapter in the novel of Detroit’s history,” said Rev. Anthony, who gave the closing remarks. “Today is historic and important, because it serves as a bridge from a very negative and divisive past, into a positive and constructive future. The name Cobo reminds us of an era that we seek to want to keep in the past, never to be resurrected in the future, even though there are those today seeking to take us back to a place of division and discrimination.”
Opened August 15, 1960, Cobo is the 17th largest convention center in the United States,and is among many other notable national and international convention and event centers.Every sitting U.S. president since 1960 has addressed a convention or attended an event there.
Following the press conference, the bank hosted a block party outside the convention center’s entrance. The day-long celebration featured free food catered by Slow’s BBQ, Centerplate, and frozen treats provided by Detroit Water Ice Factory. There were interactive games and several musical performances, including The Temptations and Selected of God Choir. DDOT city busses on 23 routes downtown for the event were also free.