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Detroit breaks ground on "transformational" development at former Hudson's site

An artist's rendering of the as-yet-unnamed planned development on the former Hudson's site.
An artist's rendering of the as-yet-unnamed planned development on the former Hudson's site.

Detroit is “going vertical.”

That’s what developer Dan Gilbert said Thursday at the groundbreaking for a project set to transform the city's skyline.

The $1 billion dollar project is going up on the former site of Hudson’s Department Store. The store closed in 1983, and the building was imploded in 1998.

The new development includes an 800-foot glass residential tower that will become the city’s tallest building. It will be topped with an observation deck, as well as a 12-story adjacent development that will include ground-floor retail and other offerings.

Gilbert noted Detroit already has some beautiful buildings.

“But they’re mostly from a long time ago. In this building, we want to bridge the past to the future,” he said.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan recalled how iconic Hudson’s once was in downtown Detroit’s landscape, and how the site — which has been a city-owned underground parking garage for nearly 20 years — symbolized Detroit’s failure to redevelop.

But now, Duggan said, “We are going to have the largest building in the city of Detroit. Detroit’s finally going vertical, and instead of this site being a sign of our decline, this site is a site of our recovery.”

This is just one of a number of projects Gilbert's Bedrock commercial real estate arm has going that are re-shaping downtown Detroit.

Duggan and Gilbert both praised Gov. Rick Snyder and Lansing lawmakers for new state lawsthat increased tax incentives for “transformational brownfield development.” They said the project wouldn’t have been possible without the new incentives, which expand the taxes developers can capture to include new sales and income taxes.

But not everybody’s happy with the plan, including some protesters who showed up at the groundbreaking to decry what they called “corporate welfare.”

Credit Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio

Amina Kirk is with Detroit People’s Platform. She says Gilbert’s Bedrock group didn’t make a good-faith effort to negotiate a community benefits agreement with downtown residents.

“Bedrock has not given the residents anything they wanted from the Neighborhood Advisory Council,” said Kirk.

She says that included things like on-site affordable housing and below-market-priced retail space for Detroit small businesses.

Bedrock representatives have said the company took the community benefits process seriously, and incorporated a number of suggestions from residents into the development plans.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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