Dan Gilbert plans to have cranes in the sky for the next five years, redeveloping the former Hudson’s site, the Book Tower and the area around the Compuware Building.
PHOTO GALLERY OF RENDERINGS by SHoP ARCHITECTS PC, NEW YORK
People and companies from every part of the world could find themselves welcomed to Detroit, playing a role in the throngs of people in the street, the apartments, and the office buildings rising in the city, thanks to a $2.1 billion package of projects underway.
“We’re changing the game about Detroit’s competitive standing,” says Kumar Kintala, director of development for Bedrock Detroit, the real estate firm owned by billionaire visionary Dan Gilbert.
Currently, Bedrock has invested $2.2 billion in Detroit real estate, building, leasing and/or rehabbing 15 million square feet with more than 15,000 team members working for the real estate, mortgage or other industries the firm owns and/or operates. Gilbert is about to invest $2.1 billion more with the help of city taxpayers and a new state funding resource.
Four new projects will redefine the Detroit skyline: the redevelopment of the former J. L. Hudson’s department store; ground-up construction on a two-block area of Monroe Avenue east of One Campus Martius; doubling the size of the Compuware Building, now the Bedrock headquarters; and rejuvenating the 36-story Book Tower.
“Dan Gilbert will have cranes in the sky for the next five years,” promises Kintala. He anticipates 24,000 new jobs coming to Detroit and $673 million in tax revenue they would generate.
“The economic impact this project will have on our city is larger than anything we’ve seen in generations,” said. It will reshape the city’s skyline and attract even more re-investment in Detroit.”
The first hurdle Bedrock overcame was a “yes” vote by Detroit City Council in late November to give the firm a $250 million tax abatement on the targeted developments. The next is attaining a “yes” from the Michigan Strategic Fund that would put MiThrive tax increment financing for brownfield developments in motion.
MiThrive, a program championed by the Michigan legislature and the Michigan Economic Growth Coalition, seeks to close financial gaps that make it impossible for big projects to move forward. Too often, buildings are too costly to rehab at market rate or the project too risky for corporate financing.
Vacant buildings offer no tax benefit or revenue, according to Kintala. But new, exciting structures reaching skyward could attract cosmopolitan millennials and keep the state’s best and brightest close to home.
The state would back $250 million in bond funding of brownfield projects in a Downtown pocked with open space and shuttered real estate. The new vision includes restoring the Book Building with its 12 nude statues basking in the sun. Shuttered in 2009, it will take a stew of corporate and state investment to be reborn as apartments and retail.
Getting from brownfield to grand opening will mean a significant use of local labor. At least 15,000 construction jobs will be created, according to Bedrock literature. The firm already subsidizes construction and vocational training at Randolph Vocational High School in Detroit to bring more minority and low-income youth and adults to high-paying jobs.
The big idea, according to Kintala, is to populate the city with companies and job seekers in real estate that people couldn’t find anywhere else in the nation. They will build templates that tech companies want and need. This will be flanked by pre-eminent shopping that will rank amid the best in the Midwest.
“Companies will consider Michigan because so much they encounter is brand new and very urban,” Kintala added.
Mark Nickita, a board member of the Michigan Chapter of the Congress of New Urbanism and a Birmingham city council member, believes a combination of newly configured office space, modern hotels and street-level retail could help Detroit become as enticing as Paris.
“Retail in cities is increasingly about an experience. That goes for all goods as well as food. That experience has a lot do with great presentation — so visually attractive that you almost can’t pass by without stopping to at least look,” Nickita says.
For those who already look at the imaginative Z garage with its colorful graphics, the stupendous patio above the Madison Building or the sweeping makeover of the Detroit News building, the future will be brighter and more welcoming than any Detroit regional resident can imagine.
“Detroit can be internationally and nationally competitive without stealing jobs from the suburbs,” Kintala said. NS
Redeveloping the Hudson Site
Birmingham-based architect Mark Nickita says the plans for housing and retail on the Hudson’s site in Downtown Detroit pierces “the collective memories of community” and becomes “an inspiration for future urbanists and architects.”
The site of Hudson’s former flagship store on Woodward Avenue will rise out of the ashes of demolition to become a $900 million, mixed-use development to open in 2023, with 1 million square feet of space rising taller than the Renaissance Center. Groundbreaking began in December.
“This is the intersection of muscle and brains,” says Gabrielle Poshodlo, spokesperson for Bedrock, the engine behind the Hudson’s project. The building will feature a residential tower, office and retail space as well as public space, including an indoor-outdoor mezzanine for eating and gathering.
“People are ready for something to happen; there’s not much pushback,” says Lee Carter, an architect for Detroit-based Hamilton Anderson, the architect of record. New York City-based SHoP is the design architect.
Kumar Kintala, director of Bedrock’s development, hopes to recruit premier retailers and tech companies from around the globe who could find rental space cheaper here than in New York City or Silicon Valley.
Retail spaces will fill the first couple floors, just a sampling of what had been 25 stories of retail in old Hudson’s, which closed in 1983, leaving a vacant spot in the hearts of Detroiters.
The development calls for a 700-car, below-grade parking deck. All but a couple retaining walls of the current garage will be demolished. Guests will enjoy a public observation deck at the top of the residential tower. People will have keen views of Campus Martius and an amazing light show put on by cars and buildings at night.
As the “next” Detroit is clearly being built, Nickita, also a Birmingham council member, said re-establishment of the historical “heart” of the city is critical. “I appreciate the fact that the Bedrock team recognizes this goal,” he added.
Learn more about the project at hudsonssitedetroit.com