Bedrock Selects New York’s ODA as Architect for Book Tower Rehabilitation in Downtown Detroit

Bedrock has appointed New York-based ODA as the design architect for its Book Tower rehabilitation project, the most ambitious adaptive reuse project in the Detroit real estate firm’s portfolio.
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Book Tower interior
Bedrock has appointed ODA as the design architect for its Book Tower rehabilitation project. // Rendering courtesy of Bedrock

Bedrock has appointed New York-based ODA as the design architect for its Book Tower rehabilitation project, the most ambitious adaptive reuse project in the Detroit real estate firm’s portfolio.

Known throughout the global architecture community for its work on historically significant renovations like Rotterdam’s POSTKantoor and New York City’s 10 Jay, ODA will apply its expertise to designing a mix of residential, hospitality, retail, and office space at the Book Tower.

The 38-story, 486,760-square-foot structure, designed by famed architect Louis Kemper in 1916 in an Italian Renaissance style, originally was built as an office tower and took a decade to complete.

“The Book Tower has been an iconic part of Detroit’s skyline for nearly a century, and throughout the meticulous exterior restoration process it became clear we needed to partner with an architect that understands how to leverage modern uses in a way that preserves the unique historic details that has endeared this building to Detroiters for generations,” says Melissa Dittmer, chief design officer at Bedrock.

“We are excited to work with ODA to add to the momentum on Washington Boulevard, which is already home to thriving local businesses and a well-established residential community with destination dining and hospitality options.”

Acquired by Bedrock in 2015, the extensive exterior restoration recently was completed, including the replacement of 2,483 historically accurate windows and full restoration of the ornamental cornice complete with caryatid statues. A historic art glass skylight in the three-story lobby will be brought back to its original splendor as part of Bedrock’s work with ODA. It had been covered up for decades.

The restoration will provide an opportunity to create a cohesive civic vision for Washington Boulevard; bringing people, place, and events together, Dittmer says. The building’s residents and guests will share amenity spaces throughout the different levels as well as entertaining spaces on the roof of the neighboring Book Building portion of the property.

“The objective is to add a forward-looking mixed-use program to Detroit’s growing downtown that will meet the needs of businesses, visitors, and residents alike,” says Eran Chen, founding principal of ODA. “Bedrock has been an important catalyst, understanding the important role that architecture plays in the systemic evolution of cities.

“Restoring, designing, and engineering the conversion of a legacy structure requires the utmost reverence for the remarkable history of the Book Tower, but also the vision and ambition to deliver a civic hub that complements the movement happening in Downtown Detroit.”

ODA’s plans include a blend of public and private space, including a variety of public amenities in the form of retail, galleries, restaurants, and cafe – many with open sight lines to Washington Boulevard and Grand River Avenue – adding to the city’s pedestrian experience. Accessible from multiple sides, it is hoped the building will once again serve as a point of engagement in the city center, a link between Grand Circus Park, all the way to the TCF Center (formerly Cobo Center).

In addition to ODA, Bedrock has engaged the expertise of the following Detroit firms to round out the comprehensive restoration of Book Tower:

  • Brinker/Christman, a joint venture, construction manager
  • Kraemer Design Group, historic preservation
  • Giffels Webster, civil engineering
  • Buro Happold, MEP, structural, lighting, façade
  • ARUP, acoustics, IT/comms, security, and sustainability

The public is invited to tour the Book Tower as part of Detroit Design 139, an exhibition focusing on projects in Detroit that embody inclusive futures, Saturday, Sept. 7 from 1:30-6 p.m. Click here for more information.

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