Book development site building to house retail, office, penthouses

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

A two-story building intended to be a placeholder for an 81-story tower for the Book Building development nearly 100 years ago could be home to retail, office space and two penthouses.

The plans for the 30,000-square-foot building at 1201 Washington come as its owner, Dan Gilbert's Bedrock LLC, rehabilitates the adjacent Book Tower and Book Building. 

“As the restoration of the Book Tower and Book Building nears completion at the end of 2022, Bedrock is excited to continue its work to preserve historic and architecturally significant projects by restoring 1201 Washington to its original character; preserving the structure and creating space for future programming," Kofi Bonner, Bedrock CEO said in a statement Tuesday.

According to a rehabilitation application submitted to the Detroit Historic Commission, the building is a wood-framed structure faced with limestone. The site has significance as it was intended to be a south tower to bookend the Book Building prior to the onset of the Great Depression in 1929. That project never materialized. The application was first reported by Crain’s Detroit Business.

This two-story building was meant to be a placeholder for a skyscraper that didn't end up getting built because of the onset of the Great Depression in 1929. Now its owner, Bedrock LLC, plans to rehabilitate the Washington Boulevard structure to house retail space, offices and two penthouses.

Kraemer Design Group LLC, working on behalf of Bedrock, described the rehab project, which the commission will consider during its meeting May 11. 

"In general, this project is looking to completely rehabilitate the existing building to accommodate a new retail layout on the first floor, provide open office space on the second floor, and create rooftop infrastructure to support a prospective roof deck and penthouse," Brian Rebain of Kraemer Design Group wrote in the application. "The sidewalks on Washington Blvd and State St will be completely replaced and a new paving design will be provided in the extended alley, replicating the alley work proposed for the Book Tower rehabilitation project."

The firm is well underway renovating the long-unoccupied Italian Renaissance-style 38-story Book Tower, which it bought in 2015. Bedrock's $313 million project includes the adjoining 13-story Book Building structure designed by Louis Kamper. The spaces have sat empty since 2009. 

Work includes restoration of the original limestone and masonry façade and replacing more than 2,400 historically accurate windows. Former office space will become more than 200 residential units. 

As for the two-story structure, a former community center, the rehab project would include repairing the facade's Indiana limestone that is in fair condition, damaged by former signage and awnings.

"If any stone is too badly deteriorated to repair or reset and in those locations where original stone cladding was previously removed from the building, the pieces will be replaced—new Indiana limestone will be selected to match the existing in color, profile, and finish," Rebain wrote in the application. "All stone will be cleaned with a light duty detergent and low-pressure water rinse prior to any masonry work to allow matching of stone and mortar color."

Two structural bays at the rear of the building were demolished last spring for an alley to continue behind the Book Tower building. A new façade on the western portion of the building will have buff colored brick to match the alley brick. The second floor will have window openings, according to the application.

The first-floor storefronts, which are mismatched, will be replaced with storefronts "appropriately compatible with the historic character of the building."

Twitter: @CWilliams_DN