Detroit: A City on the Rise: Renaissance Center

Detroit was crumbling after the 1967 riots.  The city was losing population faster than Usain Bolt in the 100 meter dash.  In the last decade alone, Detroit has lost 25% of its population.  It was worse back then as crime went up and population went down.  The city leaders were looking for something to reinvigorate the city, something to give Detroiters to look up to.  Their answer was the Renaissance Center.

So why talk about the Renaissance Center?  It’s not like it has done much to revitalize the city, right?  Wrong.  Since it opened, it has been one of the most important buildings in Detroit.  It is the face of the Detroit riverfront, and for the past year has been the face of bringing employees downtown from the suburbs.

The Renaissance Center on the Detroit River

“The Ren Cen,” as some call it, was built in 1973 and completed fully in 1977.  It is comprised of seven different towers on the Detroit International Riverfront, just off of Jefferson.  The main tower is 73 stories tall, and it isn’t an office tower.  It is in fact the tallest all-hotel tower in the Western Hemisphere.  There are four 39-story office towers surrounding the hotel and two other 21-story office buildings just a bit north, completed in 1981.  The main tower houses the “Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center.”  The other towers are called, “Towers 100-600.”

The complex was the idea of Henry Ford II to help revitalize the economy.  Ford Motor Company primarily funded the build, and became the largest private development in 1971 with a cost around $500 million.  Surprisingly, it generated over $1 billion in economic growth.  The city within a city opened officially on July 1, 1976.

Famous patrons of the hotel include presidential nominee Ronald Reagan when Detroit hosted the Republican National Convention, as well as former President Gerald R. Ford.

Since it was built, it was renovated in 2004 by General Motors after they purchased the buildings. General Motors owns the buildings, as the Renaissance Center is now their headquarters, moving from the New Center area, which is now Cadillac Place.  The company employs almost 5,000 people in the Renaissance Center.  They use Tower 100, along with Tower 300 and 400.  They share Tower 100 with HP Enterprise Services and the United States Post Office.  Tower 200 houses Ally Financial Headquarters and Deloitte, an accounting firm.  Tower 300 is purely General Motors, Tower 400 has OnStar, and the Consulate-General of Japan.  Finally, Towers 500 and 600 house Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, and Tower 600 also has the Consulate-General of Canada.

There are plenty of other tenants in the Renaissance Center.  The Food court there has an Arby’s, Burger King, McDonald’s and Subway.  Tower 100 also has the Bank of America, Chase Bank, Comerica Bank, Joseph A. Bank Clothiers, and Au Bon Pain Restaurant.  Tower 200 is a bit smaller and includes Gateway Newsstands, CVS Pharmacy, Riverfront 4 Theatres, and the Coach Insignia Restaurant access.  Tower 300 has a Hallmark store, GMAC Insurance, GM University, the Renaissance Conference Center, and Coach Insignia access.  Tower 400 has the Seldom Blues and Jazz & Supper Club, Dykema Gossett World Headquarters, and Pure Detroit Tourist gift store/The GM Collection Store.

The Wintergarden Atrium inside the Renaissance Center

The Ren Cen is famous for the Wintergarden Atrium.  The atrium faces the riverfront and our neighbor across the river, Windsor, Ontario.  The atrium is five stories tall, and was built during the renovation that was completed in 2004.  Opening up from the atrium is the Detroit International Riverfront.  General Motors contributed $135 million to the project, which we will talk about in a later article.  The GM Plaza and Riverfront gives a fantastic view of the Detroit River and Windsor skyline.

Coach Insignia, as you read earlier, has two access points.  That is because it is at the very top of the hotel tower.  You can take two different elevators to the restaurant if you have a reservation or to just walk around and check out the views.  Coach Insignia is one of the most expensive restaurants in Metro Detroit.  The food comes in courses and if you have the money to spend, is definitely worth it.

Blue Cross Blue Shield and General Motors have been working hand in hand to bring more workers downtown to revitalize the city.  Blue Cross Blue Shield has brought around 3,000 people downtown from their Southfield offices. Blue Cross Blue Shield and others have used housing incentives to bring workers to live downtown along with their jobs in the city.

The Renaissance Center is fairly new compared to many of the buildings in Downtown Detroit; it can be something that Detroiters look to become inspired.  As the city looks to face its budget problems, the Ren Cen is a city within a city, and can be used as an example.  General Motors controls the building, and after the bailout, they have handled everything very well.  By using the Ren Cen as an example, Detroit can look at something that was successful in a bad time, and hopefully do it again on a larger scale.


2 thoughts on “Detroit: A City on the Rise: Renaissance Center

  1. Its awesome to see all the activity in downtown Detroit. Not only has Blue Cross Blue Shield brought 3,000 employees down by Quicken Loans has done the same. Dan Gilbert keeps buying buildings to host new entrepreneurs turning Woodward in Webward. More and more young professionals are moving into the city indicating a turn for the better. Great stuff!

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