3-D Exploration of Downtown Detroit Development

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By Joshua Long, Data Program Director

Maps can be extremely helpful tools, but sometimes dots, lines, and polygons on a flat sheet of paper or screen do not convey all the necessary information or the complete story. Because of the two-dimensional nature of maps, they are great at conveying distance and shapes on the ground, but not at visualizing elevation and building context.   

For these reasons, for the past several years, visitors to the Downtown Detroit Partnership’s Datascape have had access to an interactive, three-dimensional model a. This year, though, we have added a new format through which the public can view and better understand the size, scale and relationships of new projects constantly being added to the existing urban fabric of the Downtown.  

For this quarter’s Datascape Trends article, join us as we apply the Downtown Development Report 3D interactive application. This tool will help visualize how the face of Downtown will change by the various new developments that DDP is tracking.  

In the 2023 Downtown Detroit Community and Development Update, DDP featured 10 major projects that were completed in the last year. These 10 projects represent more than $738,100,000 in total investment Downtown.  Notable projects completed this year include the renovation of the long-vacant Book Tower on Washington Boulevard. The renovation of this building took seven years after having sat vacant for decades. It includes the new 117-key Roost extended stay hotel, and 229 new residential units. This project, along with a new promenade under construction within the boulevard right-of-way and a refresh of the Book Cadillac Hotel, should soon make Washington Boulevard one of the more active streets Downtown.  

As the demand for office space worldwide decreases with the increase remote work arrangements, Central Business Districts throughout the country are trying to fill office space vacancies with a pivot to residential uses. Downtown Detroit has a high concentration of office spaces and has lagged other Downtowns in the number of residential units. However, this year’s completed projects include four residential developments and1,022 new units, which represent a substantial increase and meaningful impact toward transforming Downtown to a more balanced residential community.  

There are currently 12 major projects under construction Downtown (in or near the Business Improvement Zone). The largest, and most visible of these projects is the sizable Hudson’s site development, which will be the second-tallest building in Michigan (685 feet tall, just behind the Renaissance Center) and will be visible from practically every part of Downtown. Because of its height, and its location at the center of Downtown, just a block north of Campus Martius Park, it will serve as a strong marker for orientation, while navigating among Downtown’s irregular streets. The new Hudson’s building represents an investment of over $1.4 billion and includes 1.5 million square feet of new space. The new Hudson’s site project is scheduled to be completed sometime in 2024.  

In addition to the Hudson’s site, there are other extremely important sites, both physically and psychologically, due to be completed next year. First, Ford’s remarkable renovation of the long-blighted Michigan Central Station and nearby buildings will bring more than 640,000 square feet of office, hotel, residential and commercial space to historic Corktown. The new development, along with its contingent of Ford and other employees, has already spurred the redevelopment of Roosevelt Park, and new construction, such as the Godfrey Hotel and The Perennial Apartments within the vicinity of the Michigan Central campus. 

Finally, the Residences at Water Square is a new, ground-up development at the site of the former Joe Louis Arena, where generations of Detroiters watched their beloved Red Wings play hockey. The new development will bring 500 apartments to the riverfront along with unbeatable views across the river.  

DDP is tracking 25 Downtown projects currently in the future development pipeline.  In the years to come, Downtown should expect to see several significant, transformative projects that will significantly alter both the look and feel of Downtown.  

First, Ilitch Companies, along with Related Companies, is planning to build-out The District Detroit which will fill in sites near Comerica Park and Little Caesars Arena. In total, 10 projects are being proposed, including a 500,000-square-foot office tower and 287-unit apartment building which will overlook Comerica Park. Also, a 290-key hotel is planned adjacent to Little Caesars Arena.  

The University of Michigan is partnering with Ilitch Companies and Related Companies to build the University of Michigan Detroit Center for Innovation, a satellite of the Ann Arbor campus that will specialize in technology education and partnerships with the business community. Located on Grand River west of the Fox Theater, the new campus should help enliven an area of Downtown currently dominated by surface parking lots.  

Finally, a new plan was recently released for the stalled Monroe Blocks/Development at Cadillac Square project. Now planned in three phases, the first phase is scheduled to get underway in 2024. Located next to Cadillac Square and Campus Martius Park, the new mixed-use development will span 1.5 million square feet at completion and include office, residential, commercial and event spaces.  

Taken together, these recent and future developments will dramatically transform the skyline and change the character of several Downtown districts. Scroll through the projects and navigate the 3D scenes in our interactive application to get a better understanding of changes to come.  

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