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Downtown development news: Fines issued at Penobscot, Hudson’s scales back [Updated]

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Though renovations at the David Stott Building are complete

The exterior of the Penobscot building in Detroit. The facade is tan with a large red orb on the top. Photo by Michelle & Chris Gerard

In the past few days, a lot of news has surfaced about downtown developments and buildings in Detroit. Unfortunately, most of it isn’t positive.

Here’s a recap of what we’ve learned about some of Detroit’s most iconic and in-progress skyscrapers.

Dangerous conditions at the Penobscot

The situation seems dire at one of Detroit’s most beloved buildings.

Click On Detroit took photo and video of conditions inside the Penobscot Building and found it in “disarray” and potentially dangerous. On some of the abandoned floors, reporters discovered exposed wires, water dripping from holes in the ceiling, and mold.

In September last year, Penobscot tenants complained of malfunctioning elevators. Then earlier this month, an electrical fire broke out in one of the elevators.

Update: Crain’s Detroit Business reports that the city of Detroit has issued fines totalling $5,015 in misdemeanor and blight tickets for the unsafe conditions. It’s also trying to force the building’s owner, Andreas Apostolopoulos, to enter a consent agreement and commit to maintenance of the property.

Tenants are leaving the poorly managed building in droves. Late last year, Strategic Staffing Solutions, the building’s second largest tenant which occupies three floors, announced that it would be moving to the Fisher Building.

Apostolopoulos—who bought the Penobscot in 2012 for $5 million—has been a controversial figure in Detroit real estate, demolishing or threatening to demolish other buildings in his portfolio. We hope he comes to his senses and invests in this essential Detroit building.

A huge glass building with several layers separated by metal frames. A large tower on one side grows taller than the image.
Rendering of Hudson’s from 2018.
Courtesy Bedrock Detroit
Hudson’s tower won’t be the tallest

Well, it’s official. The Hudson’s tower, part of the large Bedrock Detroit development on the site of the former Hudson’s Department Store, will not be the tallest in the state.

In October 2018, the plan for the Hudson’s site called for a 912-foot tower with an observation deck, exceeding the height of the now-tallest skyscraper in the state, the Renaissance Center. But by August last year, Bedrock began to scale back, saying that the tower might not be the tallest and that there wouldn’t be an observation deck.

Yesterday at the Detroit Policy Conference, Bedrock CEO Matt Cullen finally admitted that “It will not be the tallest.”

According to Crain’s Detroit Business, he added,

I think what we concluded is we wanted an iconic building, we wanted to have a lot of characteristics relative to retail and public space and a world-class hospitality component and other things, and the need to be the tallest wasn’t on our list of highest priorities.

In conversation with Detroit Regional Chamber CEO Sandy Baruah, Cullen also said that the recently announced Detroit Center for Innovation—a massive project to be done in partnership with the University of Michigan and billionaire developer Stephen Ross—will be pushed forward in the development pipeline.

The Monroe Blocks, however, has been delayed since breaking ground in late 2018. New designs for the project—expected to bring around 1 million square feet of office, retail, and residential space across multiple blocks downtown—should be announced around the middle of 2020.

Update: Crain’s Detroit Business conducted the first media interview with Dan Gilbert, owner of Bedrock, since suffering from a stroke in May last year. While the interview covered a lot of ground, he did mention that the Hudson’s building is his “No. 1 priority,” and that the final height and programming should be finalized by June.

Tall, brick Art Deco skyscraper with a square base that narrows as it gets taller. A row of smaller buildings and a plaza is in the foreground. Photo by Michelle Gerard
David Stott renovations complete

In one piece of good news, Bedrock did wrap up renovations of the historic David Stott Building downtown in the summer 2019. It had been slowly opening floors and leasing space for over a year, but never had a grand opening announcement.

Check out our article on renovations at the Stott to see the full story and photos.

David Stott Building

, , MI 48226

Penobscot Building

645 Griswold Street, , MI 48226