SHoP Unveils Plans for Detroit’s Tallest Tower on Historic Downtown Site

SHoP Unveils Plans for Detroit’s Tallest Tower on Historic Downtown Site
© SHoP Architects PC

For nearly 100 years, the JL Hudson's Department Store in downtown Detroit stood as a mecca of shopping – the 25-story structure at one point holding the record for world’s tallest retail building. Then in 1983, following a downturn of the Detroit economy, the department store was closed. Its implosion followed in 1998. In the years since, the important site has laid mainly vacant, save for an underground parking structure inserted into the store’s former underground retail levels. But now, plans have been revealed to return the site to its former glory.

Announced yesterday by Detroit-based development group Bedrock, the site is set to receive a brand new 1.2 million-square-foot development designed by SHoP Architects and consisting of a nine-story retail podium and a 52-story, 734-foot tower that would claim the title of Detroit’s tallest building.

SHoP Unveils Plans for Detroit’s Tallest Tower on Historic Downtown Site - More Images+ 3

© SHoP Architects PC

“For long-time Detroiters, we remember what Hudson’s represented. It wasn’t just a department store – it was the economic engine of Detroit. It drew residents and visitors downtown, where they spent a day shopping at Hudson’s and visiting the retail, restaurants and theaters around it,” says Dan Gilbert, founder and chairman of Rock Ventures and Quicken Loans and founding partner of Bedrock.

“Our goal is to create a development that exceeds the economic and experiential impact even Hudson’s had on the city. We believe this project is so unique that it can help put Detroit back on the national – and even global – map for world-class architecture, talent attraction, technology innovation and job creation.”

Image is in the public domain. Uploaded to Wikimedia by user Ttacit . ImageA postcard image of JL Hudson's Department Store from 1951.

Aimed at re-energizing Woodward Avenue and its surrounding downtown area, the massive complex would constitute one of the largest construction projects in the city for several decades. An economic impact study conducted by New York based WSP-Parsons Brinkerhoff has estimated that the development has the potential to attract three million unique visitors per year, while generating $560 million per year for the area.

© SHoP Architects PC

The mixed-use development, envisioned by SHoP in partnership with Detroit-based Hamilton Anderson Associates, would contain a full range of program elements, including retail, residential, parking and what Bedrock refers to as “an experiential destination focusing on technology, arts and culture.”

The 52-story tower would hold the residential component of the project, consisting of 250 units  totaling 441,500 gross square feet. The podium below would house 733,823 gross square feet of mixed use, commercial, office, technology, arts and culture space. Three below grade levels would provide one additional commercial floor and two levels of parking with space for 700 vehicles.

© SHoP Architects PC
© SHoP Architects PC

“The driving force behind our design for the Hudson's site is to create a building that speaks to the rebirth of optimism in the city's future and an experiential destination that positively impacts Detroit in a meaningful way,” said William Sharples, Principal, SHoP. “The building is conceived around a huge and inspiring new public space, a year-round civic square that, both in its architecture and its culture, will foster and convey the feeling we all share when we work together to imagine what this great city can become.”

The site of the former JL Hudson's Department Store has laid mostly vacant since its implosion in 1998.. Image © Flickr user gab482. Licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

“In its heyday, Hudson’s was a premier destination in the heart of downtown. After the flagship store closed in 1983, the structure would bring back fond memories of a vibrant downtown,” says Sandra Laux, Project Architect, Hamilton Anderson Associates. “We now have the opportunity to be a part of creating unique, new architecture in one of the few vacant sites downtown.”

The project represents the second partnership between Gilbert and SHoP in recent months, following the unveiling of plans to renovate Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena, home of the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers.

To learn more about the project and to see photos from JL Hudson’s demolition, visit

News via SHoP Architects, Bedrock.

SHoP + Rossetti to Complete $140 Million Renovation of Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland

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About this author
Cite: Patrick Lynch. "SHoP Unveils Plans for Detroit’s Tallest Tower on Historic Downtown Site" 24 Feb 2017. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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