Bedrock hires ODA for restoration of Detroit’s historic book Tower; downtown’s most ambitious adaptive reuse project

Long-time readers of REVITALIZATION are, no doubt, already familiar with Detroit-based Bedrock. It was founded by Quicken founder Dan Gilbert, who recently stepped down as CEO of Bedrock.

Bedrock is a full-service real estate firm specializing in acquiring, developing, leasing, financing and managing commercial and residential buildings. No other firm has done more to further the rebirth of Detroit’s city center.

Since its founding in 2011, Bedrock and its affiliates have invested and committed more than $5.6 billion to acquiring and developing more than 100 properties. Many of them are historic, and almost all are strategically important to downtown Detroit’s revitalization.

On September 4, 2019, Bedrock appointed ODA as Design Architect on Book Tower, which the most ambitious adaptive reuse project in their portfolio. Known throughout the global architecture community for their innovative work on historically significant renovations like Rotterdam’s POSTKantoor and New York City’s 10 Jay, ODA will apply their expertise to designing a revitalizing mix of residential, hospitality, retail and office space at the Book Tower.

The 486,760 square-foot structure, which was designed by Louis Kemper in 1916 in an Italian Renaissance style, was originally built as an office tower and took a decade to complete.

Acquired by Bedrock in 2015, the extensive exterior restoration was recently completed, including the replacement of 2,483 historically-accurate windows and full restoration of the ornamental cornice complete with caryatid statues. A historic art glass skylight will be brought back to its original splendor as part of Bedrock’s work with ODA.

The Book Tower has been an iconic part of Detroit’s skyline for nearly a century, and throughout the meticulous exterior restoration process it became clear we needed to partner with an architect that understands how to leverage modern uses in a way that preserves the unique historic details that has endeared this building to Detroiters for generations,” said Melissa Dittmer, Chief Design Officer at Bedrock.

We are excited to work with ODA to add to the momentum on Washington Boulevard, which is already home to thriving local businesses and a well-established residential community with destination dining and hospitality options,” she added.

ODA’s strategic role is to update and expand on Book Tower’s programming and existing structures, creating nearly 500,000 square feet of downtown residential, hospitality, retail and office space.

The restoration of this 38-story landmark will provide an opportunity to create a cohesive civic vision for Washington Boulevard; bringing people, place, and events together.

The building’s residents and guests will share amenity spaces throughout the different levels as well as awe-inspiring entertaining spaces on the roof of the Book Building portion of the property.

The objective is to add a forward-looking mixed-use program to Detroit’s growing downtown that will meet the needs of businesses, visitors and residents alike. Bedrock has been an important catalyst, understanding the important role that architecture plays in the systemic evolution of cities,” said Eran Chen, founding principal of ODA.

Restoring, designing and engineering the conversion of a legacy structure requires the utmost reverence for the remarkable history of the Book Tower, but also the vision and ambition to deliver a civic hub that complements the movement happening in Downtown Detroit,” he concluded.

ODA’s plans include a blend of public and private space, including a variety of public amenities in the form of retail, galleries, restaurants and cafe – many with open sight lines to Washington Boulevard and Grand River Avenue – adding to the city’s pedestrian experience.

Accessible from multiple sides, the building will once again serve as a point of engagement in the city center, a link between Grand Circus Park, all the way to the Cobo Center. Detroiters will be offered a renewed take on a building full of memories, plus the chance to enjoy several modern leisure spaces in the building.

In addition to ODA, Bedrock has engaged the expertise of the following local Detroit firms to round out the comprehensive restoration of Book Tower:

  • Brinker / Christman, A Joint Venture, construction manager;
  • Kraemer Design Group, historic preservation;
  • Giffels Webster, civil engineering;
  • Buro Happold, MEP, structural, lighting, façade; and,
  • ARUP, acoustics, IT/comms, security, sustainability.

Bedrock and its affiliates also invest in significant public art installations and placemaking initiatives throughout the city.

All images are courtesy of Bedrock.

See Bedrock website.

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