Construction on Bedrock's Hudson's site now above ground

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News

Passersby on Woodward Avenue downtown will soon see a structure rising from the site of the former Hudson's department store.

Workers are now pouring concrete at ground level of Bedrock's mixed-use Hudson's site project, which broke ground at the end of 2017.

Construction milestone at the Hudson’s site as concrete is poured at grade, bringing the landmark development to ground level. Construction will now be visible from the street and will continue to go vertical in the ensuing months in Detroit, Michigan  on December 10, 2020.

Since then, construction crews have demolished an old parking structure and dug the foundation, hitting an unexpected number of obstructions from the old Hudson's building as they went, which slowed progress. Over the summer workers began building underground. The start this week of grade-level work marks another step forward.

"It's a long time coming to get to this point," said Joe Guziewicz, vice president of construction at Bedrock. "As we get to street level across the top, the next stage is things start going vertical in view of everybody. We've all been excited that it's going vertical in the hole; now everyone driving down Woodward is going to start to see (it)."

Guziewicz expects erection of the development's steel frame to begin this summer: "That means quickly we're going to start to see a big shell of a building, and that's the next big milestone."

The project's timeline has seen some disruptions due to COVID-19, project leaders said Thursday. Construction statewide was shut down for 45 days from March to May as part of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's orders to help stop the spread of the virus. 

Concrete is now being poured at at ground-level on the Hudson-site project. Construction will now be visible from the street and will continue to go vertical.

Four construction workers on the project have tested positive for the virus, project leaders said, but the bigger factor in slowing work down as been having other workers off-site for contact tracing and quarantine purposes after they've come into contact with COVID-positive coworkers.

At one point, as many as 28 people were off work at once. So far, the construction crew has been made up of about 80 people per day, according to Southfield-based general contractor Barton Malow, though that number will increase as construction ramps up.

Bedrock, the commercial real-estate firm founded and controlled by billionaire businessman Dan Gilbert, has said it now expects the "block" portion of the site to be complete by the end of 2023.

The planned 1.3 million-square-foot development will be made up of a block-like building and a tower that's slated to stand 680 feet tall, making it Michigan's second-tallest building behind the Renaissance Center, which stands at 727 feet.

Guziewicz said the fallout from the pandemic hasn't had a major impact on the block portion of the site, which is slated to feature 400,000 square feet of office space, two floors of event space, and retail and restaurant components.

Construction on the Hudson-site development on Woodward has reached a milestone as concrete is poured at street level.

"The larger impacts probably are with the tower, largely because COVID has decimated the hospitality industry, and we need to have the hospitality industry here to engage in the design process," he said. Bedrock plans to bring a hotel operator on as a tenant for the tower, though none have yet been named.

"It's just the programming inside the tower and the final mix and all those things, are going to be very dependent on the selected operator," said Guziewicz.

Bedrock also has yet to announce any tenants for other portions of the development. 

Guziewicz declined to comment on current cost estimates for the project, though previous estimates have put the cost at about $1 billion.

The project continues amid uncertainty over the future of the office market, as businesses face an ongoing recession and potential long-term shifts in how office workers do their jobs in the age of social distancing.

Hudson's, formerly a downtown retailer, opened its Woodward Avenue location in 1891. In 1946, additions extended the store over an entire city block. The store closed in 1983; it was demolished in 1998.

Twitter: @JGrzelewski