Detroit is building a $1 billion 'city within a city' on the site of a dead department store

SHoP ArchitectsA rendering of the J.L. Hudson site redevelopment in Detroit, Michigan.

Detroit, Michigan, is in the midst of several redevelopment projects that are quickly transforming its streets.

One of the largest is happening downtown. For nearly a century, a J.L. Hudson Company department store had dominated the corner of Farmer Street and Gratiot Avenue. After the city demolished the building in 1998, it built an underground parking garage on the site, which has stayed vacant until now.

Developers have now begun building an 800-foot-tall tower with 1 million square feet of retail, office, residential, and public space on the site of the former department store. Due to the project’s array of uses, its architects are calling development – which is expected to cost around $US1 billion – a “city within a city.”

“The idea that all of these different activities happen on the site on an ongoing basis means that the development is not just one thing, but many,” said Bill Sharples, Principal at SHoP Architects, one of two firms that designed the tower.

Take a look below.


Detroit is building a $US1 billion, 800-foot-tall skyscraper. It will be the tallest tower in the city.

SHoP ArchitectsA rendering of the J.L. Hudson site redevelopment in Detroit, Michigan.

The development will feature 425,000 square feet of residential space, 240,000 square feet of office space, 120,000 square feet of event space, and 100,000 square feet of retail space.

SHoP ArchitectsA rendering of the J.L. Hudson site redevelopment in Detroit, Michigan.

There will be at least 700 underground parking spaces, according to Detroit News.


The project’s real estate firm, Bedrock, is behind many recent redevelopments in Detroit.

SHoP ArchitectsA map of the J.L. Hudson site redevelopment in Detroit, Michigan.

Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert launched Bedrock in 2011, two years before the city would file for bankruptcy.

Getty ImagesA woman and young child cross the street in downtown Detroit July 19, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan.

Gilbert-owned businesses employ about 17,000 people in downtown Detroit today.

Late last year, Gilbert dismissed criticism that his redevelopment efforts are examples of “corporate welfare.”


The new tower will sit at the site of the iconic Hudson’s department store, an eight-story building completed in 1891.

The Detroit NewsThe J.L. Hudson department store in Detroit, Michigan, 1965.

“The building is undoubtedly the finest business structure in Michigan and one of the finest in the country, while few, if any in the world, can surpass it,” The Detroit Free Press reported at the time.

The Detroit NewsThe J.L. Hudson department store in Detroit, Michigan, 1977.

Source: Curbed


But in January 1983, largely due to falling sales in the downtown shopping district, Hudson’s closed its doors. The state seized the property in 1996, and two years later, the city of Detroit imploded the structure.

The Detroit NewsHudson’s implodes in Detroit, Michigan, October 1998.

Since the new tower will feature plenty of places to eat, shop, work, and live, its architects are calling it a “city within a city.”


New York-based SHoP Architects and Detroit-based firm Hamilton Anderson Associates designed the complex. To lower the probability of it becoming a “ready-made” development — a project with an inauthentic sense of community) — the teams conducted a yearlong study that asked residents what they would like to see.

SHoP ArchitectsA rendering of the J.L. Hudson site redevelopment in Detroit, Michigan.

Sharples hopes that the city welcomes the tower as “an authentic product of Detroit.”

SHoP ArchitectsA rendering of the J.L. Hudson site redevelopment in Detroit, Michigan.

The project broke ground in December 2017. The exact timeline is not set, but developers say that it will be complete some time after 2020.

SHoP ArchitectsA rendering of the J.L. Hudson site redevelopment in Detroit, Michigan.

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