Albert Kahn Collaborative

Hudson's Redevelopment Proposal

Executive Summary

• Introduction

The Hudson's Building not only has great historical significance in the city, it also represents a major landmark element in the center of the business district. Its ongoing vacancy and deterioration is symbolic of Detroit's past regression and decay. By the same token, its redevelopment and rebirth can herald the much anticipated rejuvenation of this major midwest city. The impact of this project to the Woodward Avenue Core and the City of Detroit as a whole cannot be overstated. The development coupled with the emerging Theatre District and the new Tiger Stadium will create the synergism and critical mass to re-energize downtown and establish a vital, attractive living center for the city.

• Historic Overview

Initially constructed as an eight-story retail market in the late 1890's, Hudson's was further developed on the site in the early 1900's as a series of retail outlet buildings. The complex continued to grow through 1924-1929 with four fundamental base buildings on Woodward Avenue and Farmer Street at the corner of Grand River, separated by a transverse north/south alley. Over the ensuing 50 years, the building developed into a single integrated unit through a series of horizontal and vertical expansions, until the mid 1960's, by which time the 25 story main tower overlooked almost 2,100,000 sq. ft. of office, retail and community amenities. Below its expansive ground floor plane are four basement levels, encompassing over 380,000 sq. ft. of usable space. The building enclosure, a unique red brick, pink granite and limestone historic enclosure, is in sound and usable condition. The building structure, reinforced concrete, provides great flexibility for adaptive re-use. Therefore, the building is poised to act as a catalyst for the redevelopment of the Woodward Avenue Core and the City of Detroit.

• Urban Context

The ultimate success of the City Center Building will depend on its ability to embrace the Central Business District. Elevated walkway ties to the People Mover Station and across Woodward Avenue will encourage pedestrian access and provide a gateway into the Kern Block Park. Pedestrian linkages along the radial street pattem of the downtown area will be enhanced to integrate the buildings to the Theatre District, Greektown, and the Financial Business District. The proximity to other potential developments such as the new Tiger Stadium, Indian Casinos, the upgraded Harmonie Park area, Michigan Opera Theatre and Music Hall all contributed to the overall emergence of the Central City as the fourth cornerstone in the redevelopment of the Central City Building, considering the Fox Theatre (at Columbia and Woodward), the new Tiger Stadium (at Columbia and Brush), Greektown (at Brush and Monroe), and Hudson's (at Monroe/Grand River and Woodward).

• Development Program and Context

Three distinct alternative approaches have been made to the redevelopment of the Hudson's site. The first is for a comprehensive redevelopment of the facility for mixed use occupancy. The second is for total demolition, site remediation, land banking and the interim creation of an attractive park site. The third is for total demolition and construction of a replacement building of equivalent area to the reconstructed building. Its historical value (and associated tax credits) and its flexibility for adaptation makes the redevelopment of the building easily the most effective and beneficial option.

The program for redevelopment considers a variety of uses that complement each other and fits totally within Mayor Archer's Land Use Task Force recommendations for high density mixed-use occupancy for this part of the city. Based upon market feasibility analysis, the building will encompass residential development, off1ce space, possible collegiate/teaching areas as well as hotel and retail components with a total net usable area of approximately 1,200,000 sq. ft.. Self-contained parking will be provided by conversion of the basement levels with access ramps and service areas.

The balance and interaction between these occupancies coupled with the accessibility of the building to the Central Business District and the People Mover System makes this a tremendous and potentially exciting place. The retail and restaurant component has the potential to draw the community back into the central city. Through its location (between the Central Business District & Theatre/Entertainment District) it also has the capability to not only serve the inherent residential, hotel and off1ce workers, but also to accommodate the southern business districts, as well as the nighttime sports and entertainment market.

While maintaining the principal historical character of the building's facades through active preservation and restoration, this program anticipates opening up to the south side of the building to directly link into the Kern Block Park area. The opening up of the south facade will be accomplished through selective demolition of the infilled alley. The removal of the infill will begin to restore the historic features of the Woodward & Farmer Street Buildings. The restored link will provide a direct connection between the Kern Block Park and the interior courtyards.

Because the building is so large, with massive floor plates relative to external exposure, the opportunity is there to open up the building with dynamic atriums, courtyards, multi level balconies and features that transcend the exterior and interior environment. Approximately 400,000 sq. ft. of internal core area would be demolished, leaving much of the original steel structure intact. Following the path of the original transverse (north/south) alley, major internal courtyards and interaction atriurn spaces will provide an exciting backdrop for office, retail and hotel room outlook.

• Alternative Development Approaches

The program for redevelopment has been estimated at a total development cost of $173,800,000 including design and development fees, permits, etc., but excluding connecting pedestrian linkages and Kern Block Park development. As a coordinated team effort, this program has been thoroughly researched for both engineering and financial viability. The balanced program of occupancy for this City Center Building is its own assurance of success.

The alternative program for total demolition of the building, environmental remediation, land-banking and interim park site development has been estimated at a cost of $24,000,000. Given the intrinsic value of the structure and its inherent historical tax credits, demolition does not seem justifiable.

The final option for demolition and construction of a replacement building of equivalent area to that programmed for reconstruction has been estimated in excess of $250,000,000 and is not at this time considered economically viable.

• Project Understanding

Detroit's downtown has passed through a number of development cycles. There have been times when it has boomed and times when it has suffered. In the last twenty years we have seen the obsolescence of its retail center. Now, once again, downtown has begun to change. Two high rise buildings have been added to the skyline, Cobo Hall has been expanded into Cobo Center, Historic Harmonie Park has begun to emerge and the Fox Theatre is having great success. Punctuated by plans for Foxtown and a new Tiger Stadium, one of the most aggressive periods of expansion and revitalization ever experienced is about to take place, setting the stage for redevelopment of the Woodward retail core.

Woodward Avenue, Jefferson Avenue and the Lodge and Chrysler Freeways give downtown Detroit excellent transportation corridors. Inside this framework is a reasonably sized downtown based upon a unique radial street pattern. Among the key activity generators are the Fox Theatre, Greektown and the Civic Center. There is strong potential for connecting these assets with Hudson's-City Center, Foxtown and other activity points at the street level where pedestrian interaction is encouraged and the viability of all is enhanced.

The Hudson's Building is the most significant structure in the central core of downtown. It dictates the mood of downtown by it sheer size, and as a result it is often blamed as the prime deterrent to redevelopment of the retail area In this sense, it is a key ingredient of the uses (both current and planned) for the entire downtown, and it remains an important part of the emotional attachment many people have to Detroit.

This is the opportunity that redevelopment should respond to. It will help explore what can be, which blend of uses is right, and what should be done first. It is the understanding that mass is not a liability, but a dynamic asset. One that can be utilized to great lengths.

Because the building is so large, concepts normally limited by space can be explored beyond restrictions of conventional thought, and the floor can reach out to the street in all directions. The bond that people have with the Hudson's Building can be stirred by all of this, and this will help to feed its evolution and success.

The program for the redevelopment of the Hudson's Building will consider a variety of uses that complement one another. This includes components for residential development, office development, a hotel and retail center. The success of this program will be influenced by the building's flexibility and its potential to become an exciting place. One key is the opportunity for self-contained parking, a tremendous amenity for a mixed-use development located in the center of downtown. The design should explore the advantages of locating parking as conveniently as possible to the corresponding use, even to the extent that residential units might feature same floor parking. Also, the vast potential of the Hudson's Building's basic structure needs to be explored for opportunity to create dynamic atriums and corridors, with multi-level balconies and features that transcend exterior and interior environments.

The mix of residential, hotel, retail and office development will be determined by the market feasibility study. Offices are not likely to drive this program, unless large single tenants are identified. More realistically, retail development will emerge as the critical element, with residential as the second major market. This retail component has some intriguing possibilities. Certainly, establishing a retail market for the downtown area requires creative thought. To a degree the residential, office and hotel use within the building will feed the retail component, but the potential for retail success will be greatly influenced by the ability to draw in the daytime office worker market to the South and the developing nighttirne sports and entertainment market to the North. This is why the linkages along the radial street pattern of the downtown area are essential, and determining the mix of use should focus on capturing these markets.


Atrium Demolition

May 6, 1998

Floor Plans

Ground Floor


Mid Levels

Upper Levels

Use Analysis - Multipurpose / Hotel


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