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  1. #1

    Default Taller Buildings - When and where will we see them?

    There's some disappointment that Gilbert's development on the Hudson's site probably won't be much taller than the surrounding buildings. Rather than hijack that thread, I thought I'd start a new one with my thoughts on new skyline-changing buildings.

    We're in such a weird position with regard to height right now. The market has turned around to the point where there's a lot of momentum to fill our most prominent vacant lots. But the proposals for the Statler and Hudson's sites don't have much height to them. The Monroe Block tower that was cancelled had some height, but was not skyline-redefining. My guess is that something will get built there by the end of the decade, but again will only be 15-20 stories at the most.

    If Statler City and Ilitch's proposed Adams-Madison wedge building get built, that leaves only the Tuller site and the Fine Arts facade as vacant spots on Grand Circus. My guess is that both get filled as part of the "late 2010s mid-rise boom." Likely no major height on either one.

    If Brush Park, Cass Park, and West Foxtown participate in the turnaround (through Ilitch or whoever), they will probably all be low-rise townhomes and small apartments.

    Meanwhile, almost all the vacant lots fronting Woodward all the way up to New Center are going to be filled soon, with the Arena, that big Brush Park development, maybe the Queen Lillian building if that really happens, etc. But again nothing with much height.

    If current trends continue and Greater Downtown continues to be a popular place to live and work, and we renovate our remaining major vacant structures (Book, Metropolitan, Wurlitzer, Detroit Life, UA, Freep, Park Avenue and, sigh, the Stott), at that point there will be demand for more height. It's a little ways off, but I think we will get there eventually (10ish years probably).

    But where will the height go? There will be no space on Woodward or on Campus Martius and there is unlikely to be any space on Grand Circus. My thoughts:

    1) The Joe Louis Arena site. It's riverfront, and they will need to build up a little bit so residents or hotel guests or whatever aren't looking at a freeway or the Cobo loading docks.

    2) Larned and Shelby. Squeeze another tall building in the Financial District.

    3) North side of Lafayette between Washington and Cass. This building will have a lot of pressure on it architecturally because it will serve as a visual terminus of Washington Blvd.

    4) The Bagley/Grand River area. Lots of parking lots there now. If Rosa Parks Transit Center becomes the terminus of several regional BRT lines, this will suddenly be a popular place for office space. There could be some really cool buildings here with all the oddly shaped lots.

    5) Midtown. The "height" here may only be 10-15 stories, but eventually the housing crunch is going to result in some taller apartment buildings. My guess is mainly in the area bounded by John R/Warren/Alexandrine-ish/Third.

    6) New Center. IF (and it's still a big if) all the planned transit investments come to fruition, and New Center becomes the meeting point of Woodward BRT, MiTrain, Amtrak, and M-1 Rail (plus several other bus routes), that will be a major economic driver, and likely result in some tall-ish office buildings. The lot beteween the Argonaut Building and Woodward seems especially ripe for something. Hopefully nothing that obscures the Fisher.

    Thoughts? I don't want this thread to turn into another debate about whether current trends will continue. Just kind of asking - since we're not getting height on the Hudson's site, where will we see it? And when should we realistically expect it?
    Last edited by Khorasaurus; March-06-15 at 10:28 AM.

  2. #2

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    7) Monroe Block

    8) Whole block at Randolph @ E. Fort

    9) On top of garage on NW corner of Randloph-Larned (opposite end of block from ODC)

    10) Triangular block at Larned at St. Antoine by U-D Law cries out for residential high rise.

  3. #3

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    Maybe you are unaware there are many tall building's in Detroit that are still in disrepair or near empty? The Scott, Book, Metropolitan, Free Press, Peobsot, Fisher, and many others all need work
    and tenants before anything new is built.

  4. #4

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    I'd much prefer to see spaces filled in with decent buildings of any size, either residential or commercial than see a "need" for height. We can create density and "canyons" with any building size so long as it caters to an urban landscape and streetscape.

    That being said, East Jefferson would be ideal for more mid to high rise residential buildings fronting it. That entire area along W. Jeff from Rivard to Mt. Elliott could become an urbanist dream of dense housing, businesses, and shops ala Boston's North End. Not as tight of course, but with as much density.

    Edit: I do second what Wheels says, but I'm a dreamer too...

  5. #5

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    8 and 9 would help fill the gap between the Ren Cen and the rest of the skyline, as viewed from the river. 10 I hadn't thought of, but I like.

    There are several other surface lots in Bricktown, but would we be concerned about a tall building not fitting with the existing historic structures and narrow streets?

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wheels View Post
    Maybe you are unaware there are many tall building's in Detroit that are still in disrepair or near empty? The Scott, Book, Metropolitan, Free Press, Peobsot, Fisher, and many others all need work
    and tenants before anything new is built.
    I specifically listed the major vacant structures in my original post. I also said we're 10 years out from seeing any new height because we need to fill buildings like the Fisher and Penobscot (and the vacant buildings, of course) before that happens.

  7. #7

    Default

    in addition to the monroe block fronting campus martius i wouldnt be surprised to see some of the lots along cadillac square fill in with mid to high rise structures. some of gilberts renderings of campus martius and cadillac square show buildings on those lots, so im sure it is on his radar.

    there are also some lots and buildings along washington boulevard that are ripe for residential high rises. im still keeping my fingers crossed that the continued strength of the of the residential market, coupled with both of gilberts recent high quality announcements, will have the statler city folks reconsidering their design for the block possibly adding more units or some extra height to complement the other buildings along washington and grand circus.

  8. #8

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    Rehab-needed list:

    Stott Tower
    Book Tower/Bldg.
    Metropolitan Bldg.
    Free Press Bldg.
    Wurlitzer Building
    Vinton Building
    Park Avenue Building
    Hotel Eddystone
    Hotel Park Ave.
    (Plus Strathmore and Hammer-Nail in Midtown)

    Wheels, you make a good point, but I wouldn't include Fisher and Penobscot on the list. Yes they are not full and will/should change hands, but they aren't in need of the sort of capital that would have to be diverted from new development under any circumstance.

    As, I only take your point so far, because there is at least an argument that the buildings built around Campus Martius in the last decade have helped the area along and spurred nearby rehabs on Woodward, Capital Park, etc.
    Last edited by Mackinaw; March-06-15 at 10:50 AM.

  9. #9
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    Default

    There is no market for any unsubsidized new construction in Detroit. If you want taller buildings (and I'm not sure why this should be a priority), then you need even deeper subsidies, simple as that.

    You can build the tallest building on earth in Highland Park if it suits your fancy. Just come to the plate with massive subsidies.

    As to the Hudson site, Gilbert has never built anything in his life. He isn't a developer. If something is eventually built there, it will be deeply subsidized regardless of building type.

  10. #10

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Bham1982 View Post
    As to the Hudson site, Gilbert has never built anything in his life. He isn't a developer. If something is eventually built there, it will be deeply subsidized regardless of building type.
    What does him not being a developer have to do with building a building? You probably said this about Walter P. Chrysler too? He wasn't a developer but he sure built himself a legacy. If Gilbert builds a building using his owns funds, what subsidies will he need? Has he asked for any?

    Bham, we're just dreaming here. You don't like to daydream, fine, but let us continue on. It's not hurting anyone.

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bham1982 View Post
    Gilbert has never built anything in his life.
    The Z-Lot? I mean, it's only a parking garage, but he did build it.

    Also he built a casino in Cleveland.

    And that's just taking your statement literally, and not including the many renovations he's done in both Cleveland and Detroit as "building" something.
    Last edited by Khorasaurus; March-06-15 at 11:09 AM.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    May 2009
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    3,501

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Bham1982 View Post
    There is no market for any unsubsidized new construction in Detroit. If you want taller buildings (and I'm not sure why this should be a priority), then you need even deeper subsidies, simple as that.

    You can build the tallest building on earth in Highland Park if it suits your fancy. Just come to the plate with massive subsidies.

    As to the Hudson site, Gilbert has never built anything in his life. He isn't a developer. If something is eventually built there, it will be deeply subsidized regardless of building type.
    I agree with no need for taller buildings.

    i'd rather see rehabs and when new buildings built: three 12 story buildings rather than one 36 story.

    Downtown Detroit would be well served by trying to "eat up" as much vacant land as possible in downtown and Midtown....

    more buildings = less vacant land.

  13. #13

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by emu steve View Post
    I agree with no need for taller buildings.

    i'd rather see rehabs and when new buildings built: three 12 story buildings rather than one 36 story.

    Downtown Detroit would be well served by trying to "eat up" as much vacant land as possible in downtown and Midtown....

    more buildings = less vacant land.
    I realize my original post was probably TL,DR, for a lot of people, but this was actually my point. It appears that we are in the early stages of filling our vacant lots (at least the high-profile ones), but the buildings aren't tall because the market doesn't support that yet. So my question was, if that continues and we do eat up a lot of our vacant space with mid-rises, townhomes, smaller mixed-use buildings, etc, then when will we start to see buildings get taller? And where will those tall buildings go, considering the spaces we thought were going to be our next tall buildings (Statler, Hudson's, etc) will already be built on?

  14. #14

    Default

    If the new proposals for the Hudson and Statler sites (both of which previously had tall buildings) are any sign, we won't be seeing taller building anywhere in Detroit, at least not for a long time.
    Last edited by 313WX; March-06-15 at 11:37 AM.

  15. #15

    Default

    One thing to remember about tall buildings is that they often come about through ego, not economics. That said, as soon as some rich person decides they need to impress someone, we could have our next Ren Cen.

  16. #16

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by 1953 View Post
    One thing to remember about tall buildings is that they often come about through ego, not economics. That said, as soon as some rich person decides they need to impress someone, we could have our next Ren Cen.
    A couple things:

    1. Maybe what you say was the case in a good economy, when things were booming and everyone had money to throw away (I.E. 1990s). In 2015, everyone's clutching for their purse strings and is a lot more careful about what they spend their money on and where. Building for the sake of building simply going to happen these days. Even in the Great Depression, a lot of propsed skyscrapers in Detroit prior to the 1929 crash were never built.

    2. The Ren Cen was proposed in 1971, when the auto industry was rolling in dough, Ford/GM/Chrysler were the biggest companies in the world and prior to the oil embargo and hyperinflation in thd early 1980s. Even so, once Henry Ford Ii realized how big of a loss the Ren Cen would be, he didn't want any part of it and quickly sold it to the city of Detroit.

  17. #17

    Default

    When? Many years, so many it seems silly at this point even be talking about it. The market here is just starting to support new low to mid-rise construction. I certainly wouldn't expect a skyline changing building in the next 10 years

    Where? There isn't exactly a lack vacant land downtown and the same goes for most of midtown and new center ripe. I would also point out Woodward filling that doesn't mean that existing shorter building can't replaced. But as I said above this isn't happening anytime soon and this topic has been kinda been beaten to death here
    Last edited by MSUguy; March-06-15 at 12:03 PM.

  18. #18

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    As much as I'd love to see some new towering beauty hovering over our city, I think we are a decade away of strong growth in downtown before we see it. And as the poster said, he fully understands that we are currently going through the motions of filling in space with low to medium sized buildings.

    Having said that, I think there is a multitude of spaces to erect a new skyscraper, but there are a few that I think would be better spots than others:

    Likely

    1) JLA site. This one is fairly obvious. On the water, great location, easy to conceive a 30-50 story tower/towers on that site.

    2) Uniroyal site. Who knows if Jerome Bettis is still planning on building here and what would be built here? Plans change, and this site would also be a nice eastern bookend for the area with a large tower of cluster of towers.

    3) Brewster Douglas site. Has the potential to become an iconic gateway into downtown. You could put up 25-30 story midrises with one or two larger towers in there.

    4) Statler/Tuller sites. Obviously going to be filled in someday soon, but I'm guessing low/mid rise as has been proposed.

    5) The parking lots behind the Fox. Part of the new entertainment district. Potential to house a lot of housing and office space in there. Could a large tower or 2 be in the mix? Maybe.

    Pie in the Sky Dreams

    6) The Fisher Complex. The pie-in-the-sky dream. Someone has the cash and balls to resurrect the original plan and complete the 81 story tower. Hey, as long as were dreaming, right?

    7) Book Tower. Again, someone dusts off the blueprints and builds the massive tower that was supposed to go along with the current Book Tower. For shits and gigs.

    In reality, none of us has a goddamn clue what is going to happen or be built. But it's fun to image what could be someday.

  19. #19

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Bham1982 View Post
    There is no market for any unsubsidized new construction in Detroit. If you want taller buildings (and I'm not sure why this should be a priority), then you need even deeper subsidies, simple as that.
    Depends on what you mean. 30 story buildings aren't more expensive than 10 story buildings per square foot, and rents tend to be higher, so you should not need more subsidies per foot. But if you build more square footage, then you would need more subsidy.

    I agree that there isn't any particular reason we need taller buildings. What we need are land values high enough to start making surface lots uneconomic downtown.

  20. #20

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    I actually think we may get some new construction sooner than later, because not every firm wants a renovated 100 year old structure, but prefers the all glass, high ceilings look of new builds. Moreover, downtown actually could use some Class A office space for a big user. As it stands, there are not a ton of options if someone needs 250K plus of square footage.

    As for the Stott, Free Press, Book and Metro...those would make great residential rehabs, which is most likely the direction they are heading (assuming the Chinese sell). The Penobscot is the only one with large enough floor plates that could actually stand for a commercial renovation. I actually think one of the suburban banks (Flagstar, Telmar ect..) should look at this for their flagship regional HQ. I also think One Detroit Center could end up as a bank flagship too.

  21. #21

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    I really don't see enough potential demand on the near-term horizon for office space so that we would be likely see any big investment in tall office buildings anytime soon (absent the "ego factor" mentioned above). In fact, it may just be that the day of big office building and dense office-based workspaces is slowly drawing to a close. The rise of personal technology seems to be making them much less important and necessary, and I already know of several fields (including my own) where they have become the exception rather than the norm.

    However, I think there is a lot of potential for new residential construction in the city, including high rises. I like Southen's idea of creating more residential space along Washington Blvd. And I really like Dtowncitylover's idea of a residential corridor on East Jefferson, which is an area that been gaining amenities and seems perfectly situated and already primed for such development.
    Last edited by EastsideAl; March-06-15 at 03:29 PM.

  22. #22

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    In a much different Detroit there could be realistic talk of tall buildings - I personally would enjoy seeing the Statler/Tuller sites straddled by something like NYC's Time-Warner Center - but the greatest imperative is to get the existing vacant or underutilized buildings fully occupied. This would bring enough added activity to downtown to justify more retail, entertainment and restaurants - and make new construction attractive and viable. Even the Book Tower could be revamped with the fire escape moved inside, the top-heavy upper pavilion removed and the grimy surface cleaned or reclad.

  23. #23

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    If you want to go high and sell views with new construction there is one formula that has worked all around the country and it is condominiums. The inventory of high end condos in Detroit is dwindling and with the current economic expansion in the downtown area they could be coming sooner rather than later.
    Last edited by ABetterDetroit; March-06-15 at 04:04 PM.

  24. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by A2Mike View Post
    Even the Book Tower could be revamped with the fire escape moved inside, the top-heavy upper pavilion removed and the grimy surface cleaned or reclad.
    Goodness, other than the fire escape, I sure hope that no one follows your recommendations and permanently defaces a rare, unique, and irreplacable Louis Kamper design for the sake of fleeting architectural or commercial fashion. That's the sort of thinking that screwed up the Whitney Building.

  25. #25

    Default

    Build out not up. Detroit has a lot of space

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