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Hudson’s Site Tower Will Not Be Tallest in Michigan After All, CEO for Gilbert’s Bedrock Says

January 29, 2020

Crain’s Detroit Business

Kirk Pinho

The state’s tallest building is not under construction after all.

Envisioned at one point to be up to 912 feet tall, the development on the site of the former J.L. Hudson’s department store in downtown Detroit isn’t going to top the 727-foot Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center on the Detroit riverfront, said Matt Cullen, CEO of Dan Gilbert’s Bedrock LLC real estate company. The RenCen hotel is the tallest building in the state.

“It will not be the tallest,” Cullen said of the Hudson’s tower in response to a question from the Detroit Free Press. He said a determination will be made by June on the precise height as well as a hotel operator.

“I think what we concluded is we wanted an iconic building, we wanted to have a lot of characteristics relative to retail and public space and a world-class hospitality component and other things, and the need to be the tallest wasn’t on our list of highest priorities,” Cullen said.

Cullen’s revelation came following remarks and a question-and-answer session with Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber, at the Detroit Policy Conference on Wednesday afternoon. Bedrock executives first hinted at the possibility that the Hudson’s tower may not be the tallest in the state last summer during a meeting with the media.

At the time of a December 2017 groundbreaking ceremony, the project was expected to be complete in 2022 and have 330-450 residential units; 103,000 square feet of retail, food and beverage space, plus a street-level market; 168,000 square feet of event and conference space; and 263,000 square feet of office space. Another 93,000 square feet of exhibit space was planned, along with at least 700 parking spaces in a below-ground garage.

The development, still a hole in the ground, is now anticipated to be complete in 2023. Kumar Kintala, director of development for Bedrock, said earlier in the day that the project is expected to reach ground level by the middle of this year.

The first conceptual rendering came in March 2015 when it was inadvertently leaked in a YouTube video discovered by the Detroit Free Press. Then, rumors began swirling about precisely how large the building would be, eventually with multiple sources confirming to Crain’s discussions of a building reaching 60 stories in October 2016.

By February 2017, the first incarnation of the plan was revealed, with a tower reaching 734 feet, eclipsing the RenCen Marriott by a mere 7 feet with a total cost of $775 million. In September 2017, another 66 feet were tacked on, bringing the tower to 800 feet, adding a public skydeck (since scrapped) and other features, which brought the project cost to $909 million.

A year later, in September 2018, Bedrock publicly confirmed it was considering an increase in the tower height to up to 912 feet, saying a decision would be made by January 2019 just how tall the building would be. However, to date, a final height has not been revealed.

The architecture firms on the project are Detroit-based Hamilton Anderson Associates and New York City-based Shop Architects PC. The general contractor is Southfield-based Barton Malow Co.

The project is one of four Gilbert has underway that, at the time that a public incentive package was approved, totaled about $2.14 billion. Combined, they received a total of $618.1 million in so-called “transformational brownfield” tax incentives from the state.

The other projects are the $830 million Monroe Blocks project immediately east of the One Campus Martius Building, the $311 million redevelopment of the Book Tower and Book Building on Washington Boulevard, and the $95 million addition to the One Campus Martius building where Gilbert has his Quicken Loans Inc. headquartered.

The Book Tower/Book Building project is expected for completion in 2022 and the addition to One Campus Martius is under construction, expected to be completed this year. The design on the delayed Monroe Blocks project is now to finish by the middle of this year, bumped back from the first quarter as was envisioned in August.

Cullen said Bedrock is moving the Monroe Blocks project back in the development sequencing because of the planned Detroit Center for Innovation project announced in October with billionaire developer Stephen Ross, a Detroit native, as well as the University of Michigan. Bedrock expects to prioritize that project, which could top $750 million on the site that was to house the Wayne County Consolidated Jail, over the Monroe project.

“I think the decisions that go into those first two projects, the Innovation Center and Hudson’s, will start to inform what we are designing for Monroe,” Cullen said.

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