GM Tech Center named national landmark

David Shepardson and Melissa Burden
The Detroit News

Washington — The U.S. Interior Department and National Park Service named General Motors' Warren Technical Center a National Historic Landmark.

The Interior Department said the Warren Technical Center "is one of the most significant works of architect Eero Saarinen, who was among the most important modernist designers of the post-World War II period in the United States. The GM Tech Center marked Saarinen's emergence onto the national stage and was the first of his four influential suburban corporate campuses that represented a sea change in American business facilities. The GM campus represents Saarinen's work not just as a creator of buildings but also as the planner/designer of total environments."

GM’s Warren Technical Center.

The center is home to 19,000 employees and contractors.

Last month, the Tech Center was damaged significantly in flooding.

Shortly after the flood, Warren officials told The Detroit News that GM had reported an estimated $75 million in damage — about one-third of the city's total flood damage. It's possible the figure has shifted as GM has continued its assessments, but GM would not confirm the figure and said last week it does not plan to release its damage total.

Parts of the basements in the GM Design Center and Research and Development buildings had an estimated 6 to 7 feet of water due to the flood. An early estimate said more than 30 million gallons of water were pumped from basements and tunnels that connect buildings.

GM has said many archival items in basements at the Tech Center were destroyed.

GM is insured and insurance is expected to cover the majority of damages, GM spokesman Patrick Morrissey said. "Beyond that, we're not going to apply for any other assistance," he said.

Before his ouster as GM's CEO in 2009, Fritz Henderson proposed moving GM headquarters from Detroit's Renaissance Center to the Tech Center, arguing it would save money and symbolize a commitment by the company's leadership to be more hands-on.

Henderson proposed donating the iconic headquarters on the Detroit River to the city.

The White House even commissioned an outside analysis of the impact a move would have on Detroit property values, former auto czar Steve Rattner wrote in his 2010 memoir. The answer: an estimated "double-digit hit on already deflated real estate prices."

Former GM chairman Ed Whitacre said in his 2013 book that he found out about a planned move of many executives to Warren — even though the headquarters would remain in Detroit in name only — and vetoed it. Whitacre canceled the planned move of nearly all the company's workers from the Renaissance Center a week before it was to take place.

Last year, the Detroit Institute of Arts' "Detroit Industry" murals were designated as a National Historic Landmark.

The National Historic Landmarks Program, established in 1935, doesn't create any new legal protections for sites.

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