Recent announcements of new developments are continuing to fuel Detroit’s rebuilding movement. Plans for new downtown mixed-use buildings and construction of neighborhood multi-family residential complexes represent types of projects that have not been seen in the city for decades.
Mixed-use development downtown
Denmark-based Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects announced that its first U.S. project is a mixed-use development in the heart of downtown Detroit. Located at the center of the spokes that connect greater Detroit, the Monroe Blocks development is expected to have an impact far beyond its surrounding context; it will become a destination, an icon for the future development of Detroit, the firm said. The new development will combine downtown Detroit’s first high-rise office tower in a generation with more than 480 residential units.
Schmidt Hammer Lassen has been working in close collaboration with developer Bedrock Detroit, local architects Neumann Smith, engineering firm Buro Happold, and landscape architects SLA to imagine a development that re-establishes historic alleyways, introduces new public plazas and green space while prioritizing the public realm both indoors and out. The new office tower will offer a combination of large floor plates, tall ceiling heights, and access to sunlight currently unprecedented in downtown Detroit.
A mix of uses allows space for varied activities complimenting each other to make safe, vibrant 24-hour public spaces. Functions include office, residential, high-street retail, grocery stores and food markets, entertainment, sport and leisure facilities, and the potential for exhibition spaces and performance venues.
Kristian Ahlmark, senior partner at Schmidt Hammer Lassen, emphasized the context of the project: “Detroit is a unique place, I believe everyone living in the Western World has at some point been influenced or touched by Detroit. We all know or can relate to its legacy — the U.S. automobile industry, the architecture of Albert Kahn and Woodward, and obviously the music. We are honored that our first U.S. project is happening in this great city. From our earliest visits, we experienced the unique optimism, energy, and entrepreneurial spirit that defines Detroit. This project is very much a part of that movement. The challenge has been to create a new way of defining central business districts as a diverse and multifunctional area for the benefit of the wider community.”
The Monroe Blocks project is an important piece in the puzzle for downtown Detroit’s development, connecting some of the city’s key central public spaces — Cadillac Square, Campus Martius, Library Square, and Woodward. These new connections will not only bind the city center but will also enrich, strengthen, and unify the already popular public spaces.
“What we’re doing from a public space standpoint within the development is going to be special,” said Dan Mullen, president of Bedrock’s real estate arm. “It’s not just a big, tall building. It’s a big, tall building that interacts with street level and public spaces throughout. There’s going to be different pods and nods of great spaces to hang out and for people to get together.”
“From day one, we have been working alongside a team of cross-disciplinary experts — both local architects, engineers, historical experts, and many others,” Ahlmark said. “We try to gather as much relevant information and feedback as possible early in the process. By doing this open process, we aim to establish a sense of ‘best practice’ amongst all stakeholders.
“Our Scandinavian heritage has a strong influence on the way we approach city building on this scale. We always try to think urbanism, city space, and the built environment in that order. In Detroit, we found many existing spaces that held a great amount of urban qualities, but laid undefined due to the vast amount of open space. Our project is very much about stitching together and re-establishing some of the indisputable qualities of the original master plan. At the same time, we aim to frame a new contemporary approach to city life — build on some of the keywords that Detroit is made of: density, dynamic, and diversity.”
The Monroe Blocks development is set to break ground in early 2018, with completion in early 2022.
New ground-up communities
For 22 years, McIntosh Poris Associates has been on a mission to transform buildings, communities, and urban centers to meet the demands of a modern-day Detroit. Now, it’s working with local developers, private companies, and community stakeholders to design new, ground-up, multi-family residential complexes in Detroit-area neighborhoods. The architects’ expertise in leading creative redevelopment programs has been sought out as a result of successfully revitalizing, building, and strengthening Detroit communities. With one new building complete, and three anticipated for completion this year, McIntosh Poris Associates is contributing to the city’s upswing.
“Ground-up buildings are new territory for Detroit,” said Michael Poris, AIA, principal of the award-winning architecture, interiors, and urban design firm. “Many people associate Detroit with renovations and adaptive re-use developments, but the market is changing and revenue finally supports new construction.”
McIntosh Poris Associates said it has collaborated with developers to deliver multi-tenant complexes designed with high value and uncompromising quality to attract tenants seeking urban living, while ensuring projects are built on time and clients receive a return on investment. An influx of young, educated creatives and professionals has inspired a reinvention of lifestyle communities to provide walkable access to work, shopping, dining, and entertainment.
Additionally, residents unable to afford rising housing costs in surrounding neighborhoods desire market-driven prices with comparable amenities. McIntosh Poris Associates’ four new multi-tenant developments — 3909 Woodward Garden Apartments and DuCharme Place in Detroit, and Floyd Lofts and 750 Forest in Birmingham — provide solutions to these city-wide dilemmas with intelligent planning, humanistic design, and market-rate values.
These ground-up residential complexes add to McIntosh Poris Associates’ portfolio of multi-family developments. Throughout the years, the firm has helped save many of Detroit’s 20th-century landmark buildings, historic districts, and iconic neighborhoods. The restoration and preservation of Detroit sites has led to successful conversions of many vacant, historic buildings into mixed-use and multi-tenant living units.
Revitalizing Detroit’s main boulevard
The five-story, mixed-use 3909 Woodward Garden Apartments was completed as part of the final phase of a 15-year-long development to bring new life to the 3900 block of Woodward Avenue in Detroit’s Midtown District. The building features 11,000 square feet of commercial, retail, and educational space on the ground level, including the Michigan Research Studio and Comcast XFINITY store and business center (both designed by McIntosh Poris Associates), and 61 market-rate rental apartment units consisting of studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom units on floors two through five.
The light-filled units feature high ceilings, abundant windows, exposed steel columns and ceilings, bamboo floors, and open plans. The architects developed a loose interpretation of a “masonry exterior” and designed the façade with a fiber-cement rainscreen panel system. The façade introduced the use of color and a panel joint composition. The building’s amenities include access to an outdoor terrace located on the second floor, which provides a private retreat and ensures all units benefit from natural light.
First lifestyle community in 40 years
The 185-unit, $45 million luxury apartment complex DuCharme Place, adjacent to Detroit’s Mies Van der Rohe Historic District in Lafayette Park, will be the area’s first new community in more than 40 years. The complex will comprise four mid-rise buildings, with luxury residences, totaling 188,500 square feet. It will include studio, one-, and two-bedroom rental apartment units ranging from 500 to 1,100 square feet. DuCharme’s location in one of Detroit’s most venerated examples of modern architecture and urban planning, Lafayette Park, inspired the architects to continue Mies’ legacy by choosing materials, such as brick, metal, and glass, that recall the modernist palette.
The contemporary and energy-efficient design will feature an exterior insulated rainscreen, locally glazed brick cladding, and the largest live green roof terrace in Detroit, complete with Zen garden, fitness center, lawn, and swimming pool. The organization of buildings around courtyards and nature are based on Mies’ plans at Lafayette Park.
The two-and-one-half-story, 8,905-square-foot Floyd Lofts in Birmingham, Mich., about 20 miles from downtown Detroit, will be designed as a multi-family apartment residence, featuring eight one- and two-bedroom units, with balconies in each unit offering scenic views to the adjacent park. The market-rate rental apartment units, ranging from 800 to 1,140 square feet, are designed to have a loft-like feeling with large windows and an open floor plan. The first-floor one-bedroom units will have a private entry, while the second-floor units will feature 16-foot-tall ceilings to accommodate a 400-square-foot mezzanine for an additional bedroom, office, or den.
The building addresses housing needs for young professionals and millennials seeking new construction apartments under 1,200 square feet. Its contemporary design — combined with the walking distance to downtown Birmingham, park view, and surrounding neighborhood — provides residents the amenities they need for enjoyable urban living in one of the most walkable communities in Michigan.
The 37,400-square-foot, mixed-use 750 Forest, also in Birmingham, Mich., will include 22 for-purchase condo units with terraces and balconies. The mid-rise building will be divided in two zoning classifications with three stories on the east half and five stories on the west half. First-floor amenities will include 850 square feet of retail space, as well as the residential lobby, fitness room, package room, and utility areas. The building will feature common areas for residents on the third-floor rooftop, which will include a seating area, fire pit, social space, and dog run. A small basement under the residential lobby will provide individual storage units.