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Bedrock to invest $2.1B in downtown Detroit development projects

Bedrock, the real-estate and development firm headed by Dan Gilbert, has already reshaped downtown Detroit by buying and redeveloping dozens of historic buildings and populating them with tenants. But its project of remaking downtown Detroit has just begun.

Bedrock just announced that it plans to invest an additional $2.1 billion in large-scale downtown developments. The projects include: the Hudson's Site, Monroe Blocks, Book Tower, and One Campus Martius expansion. 

"Detroit is going vertical," said Gilbert in a press release. "In fact, that is the only way to create any type of significant expansion in the city because we are virtually at full occupancy for residential and commercial space in both downtown and midtown. Transformational projects like these are necessary to both accommodate the expansion of current downtown businesses as well as making Detroit a legitimate competitor for new businesses and massive opportunities (like Amazon's HQ2), and attracting vital talent from all over the country and world."

The biggest development will be the 1 million-square-foot development on the Hudson's site, and cost an expected $900 million. Bedrock also claims it will have the tallest tower in the city. 



This publication is especially excited about the $313 million redevelopment of the Book Building and Tower, which Bedrock describes as "one of the most significant historic rehabilitation projects ever undertaken in Detroit." The Book Building has been abandoned since 2009, but was acquired by Bedrock in 2015 and got a power wash to its dirty limestone earlier this year. 

[Check out this Model D article on a Detroit company that specializes in historic restoration and worked on the Book Building]

Downtown architecture exhibit to showcase the future of design in Detroit

September is filled with dozens of events relating to design in Detroit. We detailed many of the ways the city is celebrating its history of design, plus current and future efforts, which are all part of the Detroit Design Festival spurred by UNESCO endowing Detroit with its prestigious "City of Design" designation.

Much of this work is to determine what Detroit's urban environment will look like and how design can contribute to it. And that's exactly what an architecture exhibit opening downtown hopes to showcase. 

Called "Detroit Design 139," the exhibit will highlight 38 development projects throughout Detroit's 139 square miles. It is presented by Bedrock and the city of Detroit. The architectural designs on display include a mix of redevelopment efforts, like the David Whitney Building downtown, the Fitzgerald Revitalization Project in northwest Detroit, and the redesign of the East Riverfront. 

The exhibition also put forth "10 Design Principles" to demonstrate what kinds of designs will lead to a healthy, attractive city. They're interesting and worth listing in full:
 
  1. Advance design as a means to improve the quality-of-life for all people
  2. Balance function and beauty
  3. Advance a thoughtful design process rooted in meaningful community engagement
  4. Seek creative solutions to solve long-standing urban issues
  5. Honor context and history through contemporary design
  6. Activate the public realm
  7. Balance community cohesion with aesthetic diversity
  8. Impress the value of design on all projects and all audiences—emphasizing equity, design excellence, and inclusion
  9. Explore new ways to live, work, and play together in the 21st century city
  10. Celebrate Detroit's design legacy, while contributing to the city's design future
"Detroit Design 139" will be on display at the ground floor of 1001 Woodward in Campus Martius starting Sept. 14. It is free and open to the public from noon to 7 p.m., seven days a week.

Pure Detroit offers public walking tours of Packard Plant

For years, the Packard Plant has been a kind of mecca for urban explorers. It's no wonder—the 3.5 million square foot ruin has been abandoned for decades and is a marvel of might and blight. 

But soon, you won't have to be a trespassing explorer to see in inside of the Packard Plant. Pure Detroit, in partnership with Arte Express Detroit, will offer public walking tours of the historic Packard Plant on Saturdays, beginning August 12. 

The tours will last 90 minutes and cost $40. With space limited to 30 adults per tour, you'll have to reserve your spot in advance.

"Pure Detroit is excited to help highlight the extraordinary history of the Packard Plant with our partners Arte Express Detroit and the Packard Plant Project," said Kevin Borsay, owner of Pure Detroit, in a press release. "Our walking tours will offer a unique and enriching experience that focuses on the plant's past, present, and future contribution to the vitality of the city."

There have been rumors floating around about redeveloping the Packard Plant for years. Developer Fernando Palazuelo had said he plans to invest $500 million into the project. According to an article in Curbed Detroit, the first phase, a $16 million renovation of the Administration Building, will be completed by the end of 2018. "The building will be renovated for offices, with restaurant, gallery, and event space on the first floor."

Register for a tour of the Packard Plant here

Unique community of quonset huts near Woodbridge ready for residents

Of all the distinct new housing being built in the city—tiny homes, shipping containers—perhaps none is more distinct than the quonset hut. A number of these horizontal, cylindrical structures made of corrugated steel have been built in a neighborhood near Grand River and 16th that's being called True North.
 
A recent Curbed Detroit article provided details and took some photography of these minimalist huts that are 620 to 1,700 sq. ft.
 
"Some of the spaces will be dynamic and activated, while most will simply be residences," writes Robin Runyan. "They've planted 30 trees and more wild grass and a clay court is yet to come. Of the residences, all seven are occupied or will be rented shortly. One of the huts will be rented out as an Airbnb, while the largest one (the tall one with the ladder) will have a gallery space and an apartment above it."
 
Another notable feature is that each hut is distinct in size and arrangement. According to True North's website, "each unit was designed with a specific trade in mind." All except one of the structures are two stories. 

Artist Charles McGee, 92, paints 11-story-tall mural and opens exhibition

One of Detroit's most accomplished contemporary artists, at 92 years old, is still searching. 

That's the theme for his latest exhibition, "Charles McGee: Still Searching," which is presented by the Library Street Collective and opens on June 1. According to a press release, the exhibition "traces McGee's 70-year-long career through an array of works that encapsulate two of the artist's most enduring themes: chronicles of the black experience and a love of nature. The retrospective also reflects McGee's evolution across mediums, with works ranging from charcoal drawings and photography to avant-garde three-dimensional and multimedia pieces."

One block from the gallery, coinciding with the exhibition, McGee's 11-story-tall mural "Unity" will also be unveiled at 28Grand, a new micro-loft apartment building constructed by Bedrock. 

McGee has accomplished much over his 70-year career in art. His work is on permanent display at the Detroit Institute of Art and Museum of African American History. He's also one of the founding members of the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit. 

"Charles McGee: Still Searching" opens June 1 at 1505 Woodward Avenue, a pop-up gallery, with an artist reception from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. 

Massive Herman Kiefer development progressing

Just because no shovels have hit the dirt, that doesn't mean there hasn't been progress at the vacant Herman Kiefer Hospital complex development near Detroit's Boston Edison neighborhood. 

According to a Detroit News article, head developer Ron Castellano is set to take over the site this spring as part of a $143 million, "multi-year development agreement to rehabilitate and reuse the seven medical complex buildings and 462,605-square-foot main hospital, the former Hutchins and Crosman schools, as well as the JTPA nursing school."

The deal was approved in 2015, but because of the complicated funding package and phased development plan, it took time to transfer the properties. "Castellano explained each piece of the project should raise enough money to support itself and also help fund another piece of the development," writes Christine Ferretti. 

An important piece of the total funds will come from potential brownfield development reimbursements totalling $47.7 million to clean up waste from prior developments. 

Also noteworthy, the project may be the first in the city to operate under Detroit’s new community benefits ordinance. "The law, approved in November, lays out a process for engaging the community to negotiate job guarantees and other factors for projects worth at least $75 million. The multiphase project is expected to produce at least 1,067 jobs."

Read the full article here.

Detroit Collaborative Design Center wins prestigious architecture award

The Detroit Collaborative Design Center (DCDC) has worked on some innovative projects since its inception in 1994. The University of Detroit Mercy's architecture and urban design firm that's partially composed of students has worked on bigger neighborhood strategies like RecoveryPark, and specific designs like The Alley Project.

And now they've been recognized for these efforts. The DCDC has been named the 2017 winner of the American Institute of Architects' prestigious Whitney M. Young Jr. Award. Named for the civil rights leader, the honor is given to an architectural organization that "embodies social responsibility and actively addresses a relevant issue, such as affordable housing, inclusiveness or universal access."

"For any architect or organization committed to public interest design, this is without a doubt the highest honor one could hope to receive," said Will Wittig, AIA, dean of the School of Architecture, in a press release.

The award will be officially presented at the AIA national convention in Orlando Florida in April. 

Bedrock Real Estate to spend an estimated $400 million on restoration of Book Tower

In one of the more surprising stories about redevelopment in a city full of them, the Book Tower and Book Building will get an estimated $400 million worth of restoration, according to a recent Crain's Detroit Business article.

It's all part of Bedrock Real Estate's massive investments along Washington Boulevard and downtown generally. "The projects range from new apartments, to retail, to renovated housing for low-income seniors in what developers predict is going to build upon the brothers' original vision," writes Kirk Pinho for Crain's.

The price tag is so high for the Book Tower, vacant since 2009, because of the numerous features in need of repair, from the windows to the comically-long fire escape to its mansard roof.

Here's a great description of the building from Historic Detroit: "No skyscraper in Detroit, let alone the Midwest, looks quite like the Book Tower on Washington Boulevard. It's a rather awkward-looking building, whether you look at its unusual maze of an external fire escape or the intricate, over-the-top details on its crown that are tough to appreciate without a pair of binoculars. It's an undeniably unique piece of the city's skyline and a rare breed of classical Renaissance-style architecture and skyscraper."

In surprising turn, classic Detroit venue may reopen

John Gallagher of the Detroit Free Press opens his article on the potential reopening of the Vanity Ballroom with these hopeful words: "Whenever I get discouraged about Detroit's redevelopment efforts I think about all the projects we once thought utterly impossible that eventually opened and thrived."

The glorious venue on the far east side of Detroit, whose facade is adorned with Aztec-influenced tiles, hosted many seminal musicians throughout the years before closing in 1988. Today however, it's "in rough shape," according to Gallagher. "Scrappers have been working, the ceiling is open to the sky, debris litters the floor everywhere. But it's still possible to glimpse the former glory."

Jefferson East Inc., the economic development organization supporting neighborhoods in and around East Jefferson Avenue, is putting together redevelopment designs and a funding packaging for the ballroom.

The plan is to have mixed retail on the ground level with the whole project as the centerpiece for much bigger development efforts along the Jefferson corridor.

Article explores overlooked beauty of east riverfront housing

Former Model D managing editor Matthew Lewis wrote an article for Hour Detroit about the attractive, and relatively overlooked housing on the Detroit River. Titled "Strait Outta Downtown," the article profiles apartments and houses in The Jeffersonian, "a 30-story, 410-unit midcentury masterpiece," and the Joseph Berry Subdivision, "a small neighborhood consisting of just four streets and fewer than 90 homes."

"But the beauty of its residences—and the influence of its residents—are outsized," writes Lewis.

The article notes that the East Riverfront is a potential growth spot given the skyrocketing real-estate values in downtown and midtown, and its location along Detroit's most distinctive natural feature.

The Jeffersonian, Lewis writes, "features views of cityscapes that are uniquely Detroit—the downtown skyline, blocks of the near east side that are lush with greenery and sparse of houses, Chrysler's sprawling Jefferson North assembly plant, Waterworks Park, and the tidy Berry sub immediately below."

The article then profiles the 5,200 square foot Georgian Colonial located in the Joseph Berry Subdivision and owned by the Linn family since 1983. The houses in the subdivision Lewis writes, "rarely go on the market. A non-waterfront, 5,200-square-foot Tudor described as a 'renovation opportunity' sold last year for $220,000. The Linns' newest neighbor, Kid Rock, moved in two years ago to a house on the west end of Dwight Street."

The article also lists other housing options along the riverfront and is accompanied by attractive photographs of housing, owners, and views of the river and city. 

Fort Street drawbridge over Rouge River reopens


In May 2013, the Fort Street drawbridge that spans the Rouge River in southwest Detroit closed for repairs. Built in 1922 by the Bethlehem Steel Corporation, the bridge serves as an important connection point between Detroit's Oakwood and Delray neighborhoods, as well as between the Downriver region and southwest Detroit. Yet its closure might have proven only a minor inconvenience to area motorists and pedestrians had the West Jefferson Avenue bridge two-thirds of a mile to the south not closed in the same month. That bridge was damaged when its operator, who was suspected of being intoxicated, lowered the span on top a passing ship.

Since then, people in the area have had their options for crossing the Rouge cut in half: they could either take the Dix Avenue Bridge in Dearborn or the I-75 bridge in Detroit, making their journeys more circuitous.

That changed, however, on Thursday, Dec. 31, when the bridge finally reopened after 31 months of repairs that cost the Michigan Department of Transporation $46 million. The Detroit News reports that the repairs were completed nearly a year behind schedule because of the complexity of the job and interference by river traffic. Currently one lane of traffic is open in each direction, but MDOT told the News that it expects to open the bridge's three other lanes by the end of January.

The West Jefferson Avenue drawbridge is expected to reopen in August.

Check out this time-lapse GIF of the reconstructed Fort Street Bridge in action:



Read about locals' reactions to the reopening of the Fort Street Bridge: Inside Southwest Detroit.

Read more: Detroit News
 

Lafayette Park receives National Historic Landmark status

 
The largest collection of buildings by famed German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is located in Detroit's Lafayette Park neighborhood just east of downtown. Architecture buffs and local residents long have held the neighborhood in high esteem, and now so does the U.S. Department of the Interior, which designated the neighborhood a National Historic Landmark earlier this month.
 
"Lafayette Park is Michigan's 41st National Historic Landmark and one of only 2,564 nationwide," writes Dan Austin of the Detroit Free Press.
 
While Lafayette Park is cited as a shining example of Mid-Century Modernist architecture, the neighborhood's origins are controversial.
 
Writes Austin:
 
"The Housing Act of 1949 ushered in the urban renewal programs of the 1950s by giving cities federal money to acquire and clear neighborhoods that were considered slums. And Lafayette Park was the first large-scale clearance urban renewal project in the country, taking out the city's Black Bottom neighborhood. This was one of the poorest areas in the city and home to a large number of African Americans. Their ramshackle homes were razed to make way for the gleaming modern towers that were inhabited by wealthier people."
 
Nonetheless, Lafayette Park has remained a racially integrated neighborhood since its construction, and its townhouse residences are some of the most sought after pieces of real estate in the city.
 
Read more: Detroit Free Press

RIP Park Avenue Hotel, 1924-2015

 
For 91 years, the 13-story Park Avenue Hotel stood tall in the lower Cass Corridor neighborhood of downtown Detroit, an outer extremity of the city's skyline. The building, once a luxury hotel that eventually went vacant in 2003, was imploded on Saturday, July 11, to make way for the loading dock of a new hockey arena currently under construction in the neighborhood.
 
Read more about the building's 91-year history on HistoricDetroit.org, then watch the building crumble in seconds on the Detroit Free Press.

Tour homes in two of Detroit's most iconic historic neighborhoods, Corktown and Palmer Woods


This summer, historic homes in two of Detroit's most iconic neighborhoods will open to the public thanks to a concert series and a home and garden tour.
 
On May 30, the Palmer Woods Music in Homes series kicks off for the 8th year with a performance by Orquesta La Inspiracion, an Afro-Caribbean Latin Jazz ensemble. According to a press release, the event will take place "in the gardens of a historic Streamline Moderne home." The exact location of the event will be revealed with the purchase of tickets ($45 each or $40 for groups of 10 or more). Tickets can be purchased at palmerwoods.org or by calling 313-891-2514.
 
The May 30 concert, which begins at 8 p.m., will be the first of several musical events hosted in different Palmer Woods mansions over the course of the summer. For a complete list of performances, click here.
 
Additionally, a Palmer Woods home tour is being planned for the fall in conjunction with the neighborhood's centennial celebration.
 
Palmer Woods is located north of 7 Mile Road at Woodward Avenue and is home to an eclectic mix of historic homes, from mansions of industrial magnates dating to the 1910s and '20s to mid-century modern residences.
 
On the other side of town on Sunday, June 7, check out some more modest, but equally interesting historic homes during the annual Corktown Home and Garden Tour. Detroit's oldest neighborhood, Corktown is home to charming workers' cottages and row houses, as well as a variety of new and historic businesses.
 
The Corktown Home and Garden Tour will take place June 7, from noon until 5 p.m. Tickets, which cost $15, can be purchased the day of the event at the Gaelic League, located at 2068 Michigan Ave. Take a break from the tour to catch a vintage baseball game at 2 p.m. on Navin Field, the site of the old Tiger Stadium.
 
To learn more about the tour, click here.

Detroit Modernism Week kicks off April 16

Eames, Yamasaki, Wright, Saarinen, and van der Rohe.
 
These are the names of just a few of the many modernist masters who have made their lasting mark on southeast Michigan in the 20th century. Next week, you have a chance to learn about and celebrate the region's modernist heritage thanks to the people at the Detroit Area Art Deco Society.
 
Starting April 16, Detroit Modernism Week, the first 10-day period "structured around events celebrating the Detroit area's 20th century modernist architecture," will salute Michigan's contributions to the Modern Movement.
 
Events range from lectures to exhibits to tours, including an April 16 bicycle tour of Palmer Park ("Detroit's most modern neighborhood") and an April 18 tour of Mies van der Rohe's Lafayette Park. For a full schedule of happenings, click here.
 
Learn more about Detroit Modernism Week here.
126 Architecture Articles | Page: | Show All
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