The Hudson Site Development: Spring 2021 Update

Have you seen this— have you heard about this?? The Hudson Site in Detroit is rising out of the ground. —Hey I’ve heard about buildings being haunted, but wow!

In the fall of 2017, Bedrock Detroit broke ground on the city’s largest development since Ally Detroit Center (then Comerica Tower) was constructed a quarter of a century earlier. Now well underway, when completed the Hudson Site Development (name TBD) will be a mixed-use tower-and-block complex, filling the city’s most notorious demolition gap.

It’s been a long time coming so I wanted to recap what the site was and what it soon will be.

– The Rise –

The Hudson Site gets its name from the iconic retail giant that once occupied the 2-acre block. The J.L. Hudson Department Store on Woodward Avenue was the tallest department store in the world and only the second largest behind Macy’s in New York. For a hundred years, Hudson’s served Detroiters downtown, expanding its structure at 1206 Woodward every few years until it reached 2.2 million square feet and 439 feet tall.

– The Fall –

In 1983, as suburban malls were besting Main streets, Hudson’s flagship store closed its doors. Over the next 15 years, developers and politicians debated new uses for the structure but could never find a solution. Then on October 24th, 1998, the 29-story building was brought to its knees via controlled demolition. Knowing that the site could one day reassert its commercial dominance, the city constructed a 1,000-spot underground parking garage in its place with the infrastructure to support a 23-story building above it.

– Bedrock Detroit –

For over a decade, the parking garage served its purpose but its building-ready street-level pylons remained bare. Then in 2013, Bedrock Detroit was granted development rights to the iconic site. Following a fun-spirited public design competition, Bedrock landed on an architectural partnership between Detroit-based Hamilton Anderson Associates and New York-based ShoP Architects.

– Development –

In 2017, demolition crews started tearing into the once ‘Premier Parking’ and began making interesting discoveries like an uncapped sewer line that had given the garage a special odor as well as massive chunks of century-old foundation, slowing the project by over 1,000 hours. Still, nothing could stop construction— not even a global pandemic (although progress was halted for several weeks). Today, the site is well on its way to the sky as indicated by its two rising elevator cores.

– Rise Again –

When complete, the complex will boast 1.4 million square feet of space, comprised of 150 residential units, a 200+ room hotel, 400,000 square feet of office space, 18,000 square feet of retail space, a 1,200-person event space, and automated parking. Still years away from completion, the site’s commercial mid-rise is expected to be finished in 2023 while the skyscraping tower should wrap up in 2024.

With an estimated price tag north of $900 million, you can bet that the development will live up to the name and fill the shoes of its iconic predecessor.


Jeff Brown is a Program Manager for Rock Ventures. Ann Arbor raised and East Lansing educated, Jeff has lived in Detroit since 2013. Follow him @motownjeffbrown for his Motor City exposés and digital shorts.

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